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Week 5 – Caudillos Versus the Nation State

Esteban Echeverría, El Matadero, is a piece of conflicting persuasion. Though the way of Caudillos was not in any way appealing, I still shy away from the Unitarians due to the degrading tone in which the others are referenced. Insults such as, bestial and ugly are prevalent throughout the story, which rather than siding with the author’s view, makes me critique it. 


Towards the start of this week’s lecture, Caudillos Versus the Nation State, Professor Beasley-Murray mentions a quote from Bolivar, “governing Latin America is like trying to plough the sea” in which not only does it comment on the instability that came with independence, but also restates the struggle of identity. That struggle of identity may have also played a part in the conflicts that were to occur between neighbouring countries, different nations, and civil wars. As I was bitterly comforted by learning that Latin America was not the only one experiencing violence, I became quickly disillusioned to realize that North America and Europe began to change as liberalism was accepted. While Latin America receded from it. 


To explore a bit of the questions posed in the video, “Why was post-independent Latin American grounds fertile for Caudillos, especially for the poor and powerless?” I thought that with independence, comes the chance to create a new governing system that is different from the colonizers. In an attempt of something that goes against the norm in Spain, of a different structure, the Caudillo structure was imposed. And perhaps the poor were told that if they worked hard, they would be able to reach a position of importance, and thus, fuel their compliance. So instead of seeing the Caudillo as corrupt or disadvantaged, it was seen as something to esteem. 


As I read in greater detail about Caudillos in Alec Dawson’s “Caudillos Versus the Nation State” I initially thought that Caudillos was a broken/corrupt system that rejected liberalism and European principles. But it turns out that it actually provided connection to the colonial past, and that that was one of the reasons it was supported. Which again I find noteworthy to think that the poor supported Caudillos, assuming that they were the ones that suffered under colonial rule. 


Also, just a quick thought. On pg 52, Alec Dawson writes that communities fought with outsiders in defence of their local customs the following years of independence. Is it possible that this is one of the roots from which pride grew for Latin Americans? (Dawson uses as examples the Argentine cowboys[gauchos] and the mestizo ranchers in Mexico[rancheros]) Dawson wrote, “that the things that made them particular were also qualities they had a right to defend.” Taking into consideration how Latinxs are respectfully prideful of the countries and regions they are from, as I am proud to not only be from Venezuela but specifically caraqueña. 

Discussion Question:

Where did the scepticism of  liberalism in Latin America begin?

What made Latin America different in the way that they wanted “concrete and immediate rewards” in comparison to North America and Europe that in turn was “abstract and seeming”?


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