I found this weeks topic very thought provoking. I feel as though the closer we get in terms of time to the present day, the more I can see the relation between what we study, and what I can see in life. The general topic of stability is one that I see reflected in the conflicts of politics to this day.
The draw that Latin American countries felt towards ‘Order and Progress’ appears to have bettered the lives of many, yet worsened it for more. It seems there is a recurring theme of privilege and opportunity only gifted to the white males of society – we saw this with the topic of citizenship, and now again with the wave of the export boom and industrialisation. I find it interesting, however, that it was more in this period perhaps, than in the last, whereby the Latin American feminist movement solidified its foundations. The reverence of chastity and purity excluded most qualified women from workforces in which they had been members before the boom. Stability and instability both seem to present benefits and disadvantages for the marginalised people and the growing middle class; a quote which stuck with me was referring to stability in the sense of ‘stability in the interest of those who would direct the project of modernisation’. Modernisation and stability could only be considered successful if it matched the ideals of the elite. The idea that the export boom improved all people’s lives equally is one that can easily be disputed – as Dawson explains, often times, the workers could be subjected to treatment comparable to cruelty. Yet, there was not total monopolisation – many workers lives did emprove, and, as Dawson highlights, some were even so empowered as to be able to make demands from their employers, something that many could not even do in North America during the same period.
It appears that whatever Latin America was trying to achieve, they always looked outside, as opposed to inside for inspiration. They copied European, and later North American, infrastructure, architecture, fashion and even policy in the hopes of being recognised as an equal on the world table. Perhaps this was the first downfall of their aspirations. The countries of Latin America attempted to replicate countries world’s apart from them in terms of landscape, demographics and social history. These actions would come to restrict most of Latin America in the years to come. Their dependence on foreign export and lack of internal growth is evident – 50% of Chile’s government revenue between the years of 1890 to 1914 came simply from export tax on nitrates. This can again show the danger of the export boom, whereby countries’ economies and revenues relied on one or two high result crops.
I cannot make my mind up about Porfirio Díaz . Obviously the interview, the main source of character that we are given, is not representative of the man as a whole – it is mostly his own, and that of James Creelman. He was acting President, yet, could his enormous term not be considered to be a dictatorship, albeit a successful one? I can read that he is very smart with his actions – knowing that the interview was directed to an American audience, he wisely spend a substantial amount of time praising Roosevelt before moving onto himself. My personal conflict is that throughout the entire interview, it feels as though Creelman takes every opportunity to praise Díaz’s ‘wide-open, fearless, brown eyes’ and ‘sensitive, spread nostrils’, to the point that I feels as though I am being described a work of art as opposed to a person. This ethereal glamour that Díaz presents cannot, however, completely cover up his other side:
‘It is better that a little blood should be shed that much blood should be saved. The blood that was shed was bad blood – the blood that was saved was good blood’
Statements such as these leave me wondering about the presentation of the political leaders of the era as heroes by media intended to present positive bias, whilst their true natures and actions need to be dug out of the ground.