Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire

I was aware of the extent of American influence over Latin American countries (especially in Central America and northern South America) but never really thought about the collaboration that existed to develop vaccines and treatment of tropical diseases. I found American and Latin American scientific collaboration really interesting particularly because the vaccines they developed were mostly used by people affected by this disease. Yes, the US had other reasons behind the development of medicine that treated tropical diseases but the people that got the most out of this medical campaign were Latin American citizens living in areas plagued by diseases such as Yellow Fever.

I also found that the extent of the scope that the United Fruit Company (UFCO) had over Central and northern South American countries was several magnitudes above what I had expected. The UFCO managed its own ports, towns, and railways. The company essentially acted as an independent governmental entity of its own, and having established deals with many of the governments at the time, the United Fruit Co. established itself in a position where it held legal immunity. While they advertised their bananas as great products, the story behind each fruit included political treachery, abuse of workers rights, and acts of imperialism.

Overall, the extent of US intervention in Latin American countries pre-1950’s can be seen as one of mostly economic advantage. The United States seemed to only intervene in Latin America if they saw anything that seemed to bring economic benefit to either country or individual investors. The United States sought to establish an extractive relationship with the Americas much like the one the Spaniards held in the colonial period. Although intervention often brought development and infrastructure investment, most of the time, once the Americans left, it became expensive to maintain and brought more trouble than good.



  1. I do understand where you are coming from when you say that U.S.A. brought more trouble than good to Latin America, but you have to keep in mind that the evolution of Latin American culture was severely effected by the American ideal of what it should be. If it wasn’t for the U.S.A. Latin America would be different than we know it to be.

    1. I agree that the US brought change to Latin American culture and values. Criticizing some of the things the US did in some of the countries in Latin America doesn’t really mean that everything they did was bad. I was just pointing out some of the things happening. eg. The medical collaboration was great in my perspective.

  2. I like your point that the UCFO kind of acted like an independent government in Guatemala. I was definitely surprised by how much power and land they held.

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