Week 5 Caudillos Versus the Nation State

In my mind, the most fair and just way to rule a state is by means of an elected official with a democratic system. This is probably the way that I’ve been brought up; on the West side of Vancouver in a fairly liberal area, with parents that taught me about fairness and equality along side with manners and the alphabet. I have always believed that no one should, by any means, feel fear with their government, and that freedom of speech, movement and access to basic human rights is always something that every person in the world should have. Of course, I am not na├»ve in thinking that everyone in the world has these rights and freedoms, I am very aware that a majority of the world barely has their fundamental needs taken care of (housing, food, water, a safe space to call home).

However, it seems in Latin America that this liberal way of thinking wasn’t the ideal in any way, shape or form! After so much trauma that these countries went through, first with being colonized and taken over by the Spanish, and then liberated, but then going to war and fighting in revolutions for many years. It seems as though chaos was the only thing that was a constant factor in Latin America during this time.

It is interesting that the caudillos were, in a way, a good thing for the people of Latin America. That they were the ones to bridge the disconnect between the people and their government, and that the “dictator-like” way of ruling seemed like the most popular and most effective way to rule. Even though they were violent, unpredictable and in my opinion, untrustworthy, the caudillos still managed to remain the model of government in Latin America for years.

The last thing that I would like to mention is Clientalism; a system in which if you give your support to your leader, they will protect you and do favours for you. Just based on the definition of it, its clear that this system is extremely corrupt and comes with a lot of violence. But an interesting line that Jon mentioned in his lecture was that “sneers from the liberal elite only helped drive people towards local strongmen who promised community and the feeling that someone had their back”. Interesting. So were these people supporting the caudillo system solely in spite of the liberals? Or was it truly more than that?

1 thought on “Week 5 Caudillos Versus the Nation State

  1. LiviadeOliveira

    To answer your question, I think the belittling by the liberal elites definitely played a part in the driving people to support caudillos. However, I think a big part of the reason the system had support was because of the immediacy of the rewards received from the caudillos in exchange for political support, especially in the context of post-independence Latin America, lacking in an authority figure and leaving the space to be filled by people such as the caudillos.


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