Author Archives: madeleine deis

Week 13 – Towards an Uncertain Future

This week had a lot of information about many different countries and organizations, in which things are happening today or have been happening in the last 20 years. Many of the government policies and decisions seem to have similarities to some of the authoritarianism regimes from earlier years, and the slight undertones of caudillo ideals. It is interesting, in the “exit” portion of the reading, that elites from Latin America chose to invest their money elsewhere in the world, or just moving abroad for a majority of the year and coming back to Latin America every now and then. All of this because the economies were so bad and their money could go so much father in other places in the world.

I think that the issue of the gas extraction and export is a really important topic to discuss, especially in the state of the world today. I wonder what is going to happen to the economies that are exporting the gas products once the gas runs out. As we as a global community try to search for alternatives for power, I think that the thinking about gas needs to change. Even here in Vancouver with many gas stations closing, gives us the visual of the issues that are happening around us, with a very real sense of the question of what will we do without gas? How will we adapt to a more environmentally friendly mindset, and come up with real solutions to the problems that the gas industry is currently facing?

On another note, about giving rights to nature and helping conserve the environment. I visited Ecuador a few years ago now, and what I learned about jungle conservation and the increasing awareness of clear cutting and destroying ecosystems, was hopeful. It seems like real steps are being taken to conserve one of the most important things that we have on this planet; our forests and jungles. I think that we can take a few notes from these kinds of attitudes over here in Vancouver. We are destroying valuable areas of land and killing off species, ruining ecosystems and life sources for animals. A solution for all the environmental issues we have today will have to be a radical one. We are coming close to a point of no return with our earth and something must be done.

I suppose this is the uncertain future Dawson is talking about.


Week 12 – Speaking Truth to Power

Once again, another chapter filled with violence, corruption and injustices. Of course, it is very interesting to learn about, but as I read this week’s readings, I can’t help but wonder why this violence is so deeply engrained in Latin America. We’ve learned a general sense of Latin America’s history and founding, and what happened as the area was developed and became its own place with its own unique identity. Are all these wars and violence due to how Latin America came to be? From the very beginning in 1492 when Columbus came and just took things he wanted? When exploitation was rampant and many many people were taken advantage of for the good of another country? Has this pattern of corruption and injustice just trickled down, decade after decade, rearing its ugly head but in different environments and situations because of Latin America’s origin story? Of course, what we are reading absolutely does not encompass all that Latin America is, it is simply one small part of its history. I just can’t help but feel sad for the people that were stuck on the bad end of things. The mothers that had to deal with losing their children to the government, or all the people that have lost loved ones in the drug wars. The story of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo is so heartbreaking yet powerful in the way that it perfectly describes the innocent people that had done absolutely nothing, standing up and saying “enough is enough”. And the question comes up yet again in my mind, how and why is this kind of corruption and violence so deeply engrained in these countries?

Juan Manuel de Rosas

Juan Manuel de Rosas can be described in many ways. An evil man filled with violence and corruption, who terrorized his province and its people for 23 years. Or, as a man that came into power during a time when Buenos Aires was in extreme disorder with Unitarian rule, and saved it. As a man that heard the voices of the lower class and provided what Argentina needed in order to stay strong — a strict and orderly leader. These opinions on Rosas’s rule and legacy has created deep divisions in Argentine society, even to this day.

Rosas was born in 1973 to a family of wealthy landowners, where he grew up learning about the land. He was then recruited into the military and fought in the wars of independence. He was inclined towards business, but the country was in need of political help, and he was able to see the link between business and politics. He found that the country was in need of political help and therefore became governor of Buenos Aires. His regime provided social and economic stability that allowed people to slowly make the transition from the mindset of Argentina as a colony to a nation.

Rosas’s main enemies, the Unitarians, would have said that his regime used extreme examples of authoritarianism, violence and censorship, and a “backward social system” that impeded national progress. This group was strongly a liberal political party, embracing a more European view on politics, with the mindset that traditional Argentine culture was standing in the way of modernization. One of Rosas’s main policies was to punish his opposers and reward his supporters, further increasing the divide between the Federalists and the Unitarians.

To the people that supported Rosas, he gave many benefits. He returned land to the lower class who’s land had been taken from them in previous conflicts. Additionally, he gave the lower class people a voice, and in exchange for this they gave him their loyal support. His supporters see him as the protector of Argentine identity, a practitioner of culture and an opponent of the liberal mindset. The Federalist political mindset was one that spoke to Rosas, and therefore he took over as a Federalist power.

The rule of Juan Manuel de Rosas was that of terror and violence. He regularly ignored the rule of law and used extreme violence and intimidation to exterminate the resistance against him. Being a follower of Rosas was the safest option for the people, and that is what many people did.

This source has an interesting position on the situation in Argentina during Rosas’s regime. It is neither ‘for’ or ‘against’ him, it simply puts all the facts into perspective and aims to explain both mindsets on this caudillo. It is important to understand both sides of the regime and Juan Manuel de Rosas’s ideas because he was an extremely important part in Argentina’s history, and furthermore an important part in Latin America’s history.

Week 11 – The Terror

It was refreshing last week to learn about a positive experience in Latin American history, but yet again, this week we return to violence and fear. The terror is a dramatic yet fitting title of this chapter, a chapter filled with revolutions and wars, murders and torture. This chapter was filled with a lot of information about many different countries, with many different issues and many many different wars and acts of revolt. As I was reading, my mind kept wandering to the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, in which enemies of the revolution were terrorized. It was a period of extreme violence and bloodshed, much like the Terror all over Latin America. In school, we were only taught about the history of Canada, the US and some information on European history, so reading things like this about another part of the world opens my eyes and helps me expand my understanding of the world. I wish that we had learned more about Latin America and its rich yet complicated history.

Something that stood out to me and disturbed me in one part of the reading was that pregnant women would be held in prison by the military and when they gave birth, their children were given to couples that supported the regime and their birth parents would be murdered. It just puts into perspective how brutal and unforgiving the violence was; the fact that they would take newborn babies from their mothers in order to create more support for the regime, puts into perspective how ruthless this time was.

It just seems like people can’t catch a break from the violence. And reading about it kind of removes you from the situation, it was just another world and another time. But imagine being in the midst of these dirty wars. Imagine being involved in a shootout or a bomb going off. This was a terrifying reality for so many people for so long and I think its extremely important that we’re learning about it. It goes to show that peace does not come easily, and war seems to be an easy fix to things. I wonder what would have happened if multiple leaders had just sat down together and tried to have a discussion? I know that probably seems unrealistic, but sometimes I think about what would have happened, and what situations/wars could have been avoided had people just sat down and talked. I understand that sometimes war and acts of revolution have to be the answer in order to be heard, but I just think its something interesting to think about.

Week 10 – Power to the People

Two things about this week’s reading really stood out to me. First, the idea of the radio, and how quickly it became an extremely popular and necessary item in Latin American households. And second, of course, Evita. So to start off with the radio. I really like this notion that the radio was a way in which lower class people had a choice in their likes and dislikes. They were able to dictate what songs became popular and what singers rose to the top and which ones did not. They could choose to listen to different stations based on their likings and the way that Dawson describes it “poor Brazilians had more power as consumers of popular music than they did as workers or as citizens” is an extremely powerful statement, and puts things into perspective about how little control these people had over their lives. I also really like the idea of how the radio “blurred the boundaries between the classes”, and was able to bring people of all social and economic classes together. The radio was a way for the people of Latin America to take more control of their lives and dictate what was popular and what really was not. Its a little comical how little control the government had with the introduction of the radio. How they tried to get people to listen to their ideologies, but if people didn’t like what they had to say or simply did not want to listen, they could just change the station!

Second, I loved leaning more about Evita. We have only really heard from a few women with a strong voice throughout the history of Latin America, and it was refreshing to learn about such a fierce and passionate woman such as Evita. How she was able to appeal to huge amounts of people by simply listening to their needs and validating their struggles is something that is unique in a leader I think. The fact that Peronism “became a romantic longing for better times” speaks volumes about the kind of leader that she was, and how much she was cherished by the people of Argentina. Did Eva Perón inspire other women to become involved in politics? Was she able to spark change in some other woman’s heart to follow in her footsteps and break boundaries just like her?

Week 9 – Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire

The whole  history of “the Banana Republic” is an interesting concept! I didn’t know that bananas had to be scientifically altered in order for them to grow effectively and create a fruit that we see as a staple in most homes. It’s interesting that there was a whole company dedicated to fruit (UFCO), and that a simple thing like bananas could cause such a stir in the world.

It just seems to me like when the US saw something it wanted in Latin America, it just decided that it would do whatever was in its power to have that thing. Dawson’s words were “U.S military interventions are typically explained to North American audiences as exercise in the spread of democracy, but to the victims of those interventions American militarism means the naked use of violence in the defence of U.S interests”, and that “outright opposition to U.S interests means war”. Personally, this doesn’t exhibit to me that the relations between the two places were being improved, or that the U.S was trying to better this relationship for genuine reasons. This just seems like the U.S doing whatever they wanted and fighting anyone that opposed them, and trying to make Latin America a compliant trading partner.

The thing to think about here also, if we’re speaking about modern day trading and exploitation, is that this only happens because there is a market for it. We love having our coffee in the morning with a spoonful of sugar! Oil and gas is another example of not so great relations between the U.S and other countries. As long as there is a demand for these goods, the negative trading and corruption will continue. Is there a remedy for this? What solution is there to fix the trading corruption and exploitation of other countries and foreign workers? I don’t know.. do you?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Week 8 Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

Whenever I learn or hear about revolutions, and people actually putting their lives at risk for what they believe is right, I am always impressed by that. I think that in order for people living in a country to revolt against the government, bosses, whoever is oppressing them is extremely brave. It also makes you think about how bad the situation actually was, in order for normal people like you and I to grab guns and fight against the most powerful group of people in a country. This radical yet vital act takes bravery but I think it also takes desperation. Desperation for a peaceful society? For more independence? For freedom from the upper hand? Whatever the reason, it makes you think about the kind of change that ordinary people can make by standing up for what is right.

If you look at history, all the most radical change in societies has come from revolution, and I think that in order to make an enormous change (whether thats politically, economically or socially) sometimes a revolution is the last resort and the only thing that is going to make a big enough statement for change. Unfortunately revolutions almost always come with violence, death and imprisonment, but if we look at this in a different way, these people are paving the way for generations to come. Giving the people of the future a better way of life.

I think that my question this week is, what kind of situation nowadays in North America would render people a reason to revolt in an extreme and violent way? When Trump became president there were marches and protests all over the world, which is a revolt in a way, but I’m not sure how much change came from it? Are revolutions like the Mexican revolution, only a thing of the past? Because the situation in the US has some awfully similar parallels to situations in the past that have ended in revolution. I’m not suggesting a violent revolt from the American people, I’m just wondering what is different nowadays from the time of revolutions?

Thanks for reading!

Week 7 The Export Boom as Modernity

Once again, I am absolutely fascinated by what we’re learning this week. I think that it is so interesting learning about the history of Latin America, especially because in high school all I was taught was the history of Europe, Canada, and a little bit of the United States. My education has been very focussed on the western world, the “developed” part of the world. The picture was painted with the western countries at the top, the most advanced and “modern” and all the other countries either not mentioned, or explained as trailing behind, at the heels of the west.

It is completely incorrect and extremely ignorant to think in this manner, and I am glad that my knowledge on the subject has increased drastically. Personally, I loved Creelman’s essay focussing on Porfirio Diaz, Mexico’s beloved president for 27 years. First of all, I enjoyed the poetic nature in which this article was written. It adds to the emotional appeal, and creates quite a lovely image for the reader to picture. Second, I enjoyed how the modernity of Mexico was really accentuated, and as you read, you understand just how much Diaz had done in order to create the strong and modern nation that Mexico had become. It is incredible, just how much work Diaz had put in, in order to make the country that he loves a better and more developed place. It’s amazing to learn that extreme measures were taken by the government in order for Mexico to prosper, for example, members of the government giving up a salary for many years in order to help pay off Mexico’s debts. The passion and authentic love that these people have for their country is truly heart warming and inspiring.

Another interesting thing I liked from this week, was in the interview with Alec Dawson when he explained what exactly modernity means. It is the mixture of innovation, emancipation, secularization and universalism, and once everyone catches up to these ideas and ways of thinking, then a society can be classified as modern. Its interesting to learn what actually goes into the logistics of a society being able to be under the category of modern.

So this week my question is, how do governments aid their people in moving into the mindset of modern? We as human beings don’t like change very much, so how can governments help their people move out of the older and more traditional ways of thinking and doing things, and into an era of modernity?

Week 6 – Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

This week I would like to directly comment on the questions that Jon asks in his lecture video.

  1. How does a history of slavery affect the Americas today?
    • Even though in a perfect world, there would be no prejudice, hate or discrimination against different races, this is sadly not the case in the current world that we are living in. With the situations of police brutality against young black men, to the misrepresentation of people of colour in hollywood, (two vastly different issues, but both based in racial prejudice) it is very clear that we as a society have a long long way to go when it comes to settling racial differences. In slave times, black people from Africa were brought to the americas and treated as sub-standard human beings. In ways, this mind set has absolutely carried over to modern times. Recent events in Charlottesville Virginia with white nationalist neo-nazis marching with torches just exemplifies how backwards some people’s way of thinking is. The struggle for acceptance and equality for people of colour is still very much going on in the 21st century.
  2. Are there other examples of unresolved conflicts or tensions that linger on into the present?
    • Yes of course. Recently, a new show came out on Netflix called “Dear White People”. This show is a brilliant look into the lives of black students in a University setting, touching on so many important issues such as the ignorance of white students to black issues, interracial relationships, black lives matter movement, and university administration denying that there is a problem with equality and discrimination on its campus. I think that this show is an extremely important commentary on how racism is still very much alive and well, even though it may not look like the “traditional” sense of racism. Even with the new Trump administration, I believe that his message and attitude incites violence and hatred. Neo-Nazis marching with torches should absolutely not even be an idea in people’s minds in this day and age, but look where we are.
  3. How might we do justice to such histories? 
    • I think that to some extent, there is a certain amount of denial that there is racism still going on today. In order to remedy this, I believe that education is the key. Its white people learning about histories of different cultures and races, and just being better in the future. I am not going to say that “I don’t see colour” because of course I do. Everyone sees colour. What I am saying though, is that we must notice that we all have different skin tones and colours, and that we all have different cultures associated with our colours, but the next step is to acknowledge the differences, be aware of the differences, but still move past them. I have enough faith in humanity that we can eventually find the love and patience in our hearts to truly try to understand one another and move forward into a place of peace and inclusion.

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 naïve 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?