Week 8: Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

This week’s readings were hard, and I honestly had a hard time keeping up with everything that the documents were saying (and that’s only if I actually managed to understand what they were saying…) So, I’m not going to go into much detail with regards to all the documents + the video, and rather, I’m going to talk about what stood out for me the most. “The Problem of the Indian” from Seven Interpretive Essays on the Peruvian Reality by José Carlos Mariátegui will be my topic of discussion today.,

As I mentioned earlier, the readings were hard. As I read this document, I was confused about what point he was trying to get across. However, after reading it over again, I understood a little bit more. Here, Mariátegui expresses what he believes is the root of the problems which Latin America, and more specifically, Peru, faces. He argues that the problems do not come from racism, nor religion, nor the lack of education, but rather, due to the land tenure system. He states that “the servitude oppressing the indigenous race cannot be abolished unless the latifundium is abolished”. I thought this was an extremely interesting point, and I found it very different to what I had originally thought, as it seems that the oppression Indians faced was largely due to factors such as greed, hunger for power, and corruption. Nevertheless, I also don’t fully agree with Mariátegui, because I believe that any problem a nation/village/anyone faces is actually a chain of events or a dynamic relationship between different factors, and in this case, a dynamic relationship between education, religion, education and the way that land is owned.

Mariátegui does bring up another very good point – “The colonial regime disrupted and demolished the Inca agrarian economy without replacing it with an economy of higher yields.” One could say that the Inca was an extremely organized civilization prior to the colonial period, especially if one considers that over 10 million people lived in the nation prior to colonial rule. This success, Mariátegui believes, is due to the concepts of agrarianism which the Inca adopted which “combines communal ownership of land and the universal religion of the sun.” This system lead to an efficient ruling over the large territory. Post independence, about 300 years later, there was no more sign of this system, leaving the Peruvians to start over again, and hence, the arising problems of the land tenure system, with so many opposing views on how land should be used, divided, or owned. It is saddening to think that a nation of 10 million was reduced to 1 million, especially when the 1 million nationals are treated like inferior beings.

Which leaves me with my question for today – Considering that the Peruvian national population was decreased from 10 million to 1 million, how do you think the Inca would have developed if Spain had never arrived? Do you think that the Inca Empire would’ve been able to extend to the extremes of South/Central America? If so, do you think that their agrarian ideologies would’ve been enough to keep their territory under control?

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