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

The United States has been and is commonly  called an empire, and in this week’s lecture it is referred to as an “informal” one. Out of curiosity I decided to search the definition of empire and came across this google generated answer: 

Interestingly I seem to connect the idea of America being an empire to the second definition, linking it to commercial relationships. Secondly, I noted the thought of the United States as having a large commercial organization impacting other countries, not just necessarily affecting solely their own. Why is that? Well perhaps because of how they act to gain their particular interests that come from other countries. 


For example, in this week’s lecture video, Professor Jon asks us to write down our answers to numerous questions of the movie where Carmen Miranda, a brazilan singer stars.  There were a couple things that I noticed, the first one being how her character is intrinsically merged with merchandise. She’s an image of Latin America, shown to be excotic, lively and colourful in comparison to “grey” North America, which can be appealing on an aesthetic level. 

Also, she seems to be virtually inseparable from the array of exotic and colourful fruits and vegetables, as they make up her appearance. The produce can be connected to farmers and farming, almost implying that Latin America isn’t capable of contributing anything else other than exoticism. Instead of such things like technology, medicine etc; very basic. Although, to this day Latin America has contributed greatly in the richness of culture. 

Personally, I think this provides a window to how the United States viewed Latin America and their relationship, as one where they profit. And if they viewed Latin America as such, there wouldn’t be much stopping them from making sure they gain the most, even if it means overstepping another nations sovereignty(?).  

One last point I noticed was what was being exchanged? In the movie, Carmen gives the man coffee, but what does she receive? The chance to live in America with an admired lifestyle? Suggesting that just the opportunity to share the United States is great enough. However, as mentioned in the lecture, in reality she pocketed a big cheque. 


Discussion: Most countries in Latin America can be defined with corrupt governments and poverty ridden. Is it fair to blame these struggles  on the United States or appreciate the “positives” as a result from their interaction?

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