I never really questioned the exact transition of power in Latin America. There always appeared in my head a simple divide between European rule and independence. Now I feel as though that line has blurred.
I also thought that I knew a lot about the people who moved for freedom in Latin America – not considering myself an expert, but still learned enough to hold a conversation. Again something has blurred.
Bolívar, Martí and Chavez all hold a unique position of power in my eyes. Whether we agree or not, they can be considered either the front runners in the push for independence, or, in Chavez’s case, representatives of a certain South American spirit. Their words united and divided people across two, possibly more continents, something that not many can claim to have done. To some they were seen as radicals, as stirring the pot. But who can blame them? Imagine your whole world is controlled by people an ocean away from you. You live your whole life being second-class to people you have never seen. I feel this is certainly the case with Bolívar. His ‘Letter from Jamaica’ reads simply and smoothly. How can Europeans hold back and claim the wonder that is Latin America. One can only sympathise with him – occupation is an issue still relevant today. Nowadays elections can be held, referendums taken, and the path to independence could be perceived as more straightforward – technology being a main component of this ease, however, we can assume that words were weapons in the time of Bolívar. One can only feel for him given his failed attempt of Gran Colombia.
I am further conflicted about Chavez. In the media at least he is constantly painted as a dictator-like ruler who pushed Venezuela into the state of decline that it is in today. But reading his speech, I feel his dream. His opposition of neoliberalism understandably would strike a chord with the people who felt uncomfortable with the increasing divide between rich and poor. He reminds me of Vladimir Putin in a sense. What we say in Russia is that Putin is smart – his decisions may not always be the best ones, but he always without fail puts Russia first. Perhaps Chavez was similar in a twisted way. We cannot forgive the misgivings, yet I think a new approach to understanding a political leader’s mind never hurts.
One thing that I would love to do in the near future is rewatch ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ about Che Guevara before he was Che Guevara. It’s been on my mind a lot recently, and I can’t help but recommend it to everyone.