Monthly Archives: October 2016

Week 6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republic

This week the reading was heavy. The title of the chapter is misleading, as the majority of folks did not experience anything close to equal human rights in the New Republic.

Something that stood out to me was the 100 year span between when the first country in LA abolished slavery to when the last country finally abolished slavery.
Another part of the text that stood out to me was the fact that there are little to no first hand accounts from slaves themselves during this time period. Of course it makes sense because of the lack of rights & iliteracy rates, but I’m sure it worked in the slave owners & governments favor to have not had the slaves be unable to communicate their feelings and experiences. I guess that is why it took so long for slavery to be abolished. If the general, world population could have had access and knowledge about the true human rights abuses going on during the time… instead of only seeing written accounts from white men talking about how “primitive” and “destructive” people of color are… I’m sure slavery might have come to a close sooner.

The different accounts and anecdotes about how systems and slavery worked in Latin America during the 17 and 1800’s was so shocking and horrifying. Slaves in LA and in Brazil specifically were so indispensable- Dawson explains the difference in white and black life expectancy, and describes the working conditions in the fields and in one excerpt explains how slaves usually died within the first 3 years of arriving on a plot of land in Brazil. Reading about human life being so invaluable was extremely unsettling.

Dawson states that slavery is a “stain” in the region’s history- and I just think that’s not nearly a powerful enough metaphor to describe the atrocities committed by whites during the period of slavery. I feel the same way about how little attention the USA gives to their slave history, and even how much Canadian history is curved to overlook how forceful and brutal colonizers were to indigenous people. It’s sad to say I wasn’t surprised by the fact that I had never heard anything about how brutal the system of slavery was in Latin America. It seems as though if a tragedy happens to people of colour, it’s simply not talked about as much or as important as tragedies that affect white people.

We live in a time period where slavery has been formally abolished- However, even though it has technically been abolished, it still very much exists today in many different regions, in many different forms. I’m not super well versed on the topic, but I know that in some Latin American countries, labor laws are still sooooo loose, and only selectively enforced… Governments and landowners still very much take advantage of their workers. I’ve done some work with an NGO called OXFAM, which does a lot to call attention to these injustices today, and make sure that workers know their rights and can escape bad situations if they need to. It’s interesting to read about LA history in the 17 & 1800’s and see that though there has been progress- prejudice and injustice is still being dragged into today’s world.

Week 5: Caudillos Vs The Nation State

To be honest- I waited this week until after class to write my blog post because I had a hard time making sense of the readings on my own. I guess it was difficult for me to distinguish a “Caudillo” from any other politician, whether in the 19th century, or any time period.

The concept of a Caudillo seemed almost theatrical to me. When I was reading the textbook chapter, I was thinking about a mix of: vibrant, ex-military, outspoken men… Bright colors and bribes, walking around the countryside making deals with farmers… Shaking hands with locals and back stabbing their enemies. Flash back to week 1 in this course where we challenged our own bias’ and stereotypes about Latin America… And I was wondering if I was imagining theatrical images because I was stereotyping, or if Caudillos are portrayed in this light on purpose by historians. It’s true- It is hard to see a distinction between what most Caudillo’s were doing compared to what every politician since the beginning of time has done.

I find it is hard to make one generalization about Caudillo’s since there were so many, in many different regions, with so many different styles and tactics. Even after the readings and lecture today, I don’t know if I have an opinion on Caudillo’s being “good” or “bad” for Latin America. It was interesting to learn about them and I’m sure we’ll see the historical importance of this system as we continue on in the course.


Week 4: Independence Narratives: Past & Present

I loved the readings this week.
It seemed like Latin American countries were for the most part, itching for independence- but didn’t quite know how to go after it. Then, Simon Bolivar appears, and makes some big moves to start to gain and demand independence in Latin America.
I think by Bolivar’s time, the lines had blurred between Spanish/European identity and Latin American identity. In his Letter from Jamaica, Bolivar is reminding himself and his people, that Spain has been unjust, and just because Spain has been the most powerful force in Latin America for centuries, doesn’t mean that it has to continue that way. I like when he refers to Spain as Latin America’s “unnatural stepmother,” as it really highlights this idea, and empowers Latin America to break free.
Bolivar’s resilience and bravery shaped Latin America in a big way. He was only 27 years old when he began to lead uprisings against the Spanish rule. What really stood out to me about the story of Bolivar was how many times he was almost defeated, and how each time, he would return and fight again. Through this stubbornness and desire for independence- Bolivar was able to achieve so much in a relatively short time. Bolivar also started the movement to abolish slavery, starting with his own slaves- Which could arguably be one of the most important endeavors Bolivar undertook- In my opinion.
After learning more about Simon Bolivar, it makes perfect sense to me why he is celebrated and loved throughout Latin America.

It is very clear to me why the textbook contrasts Bolivar’s Letter From Jamaica, with Hugo Chavez’ speech in 2004.

While Chavez lived in a much more distant time than Bolivar, his vision for Latin America remained very much the same. In reading his speech, and doing some brief further research, I find Hugo Chavez to be an incredibly inspirational political leader. Chavez wasn’t afraid to GET REAL with his message, or to ruffle some feathers, and he demanded equality for not only just his people, but for oppressed people all over the globe. It is rare to see such a firecracker politician who isn’t animated because he is trying to push some type of political propaganda… but he was animated because he was legitimately enraged by the unfairness shown to his nation- and was legitimately passionate about working towards a brighter future for all human beings on earth. That is pretty great.

Just like any other nation on earth, Latin American countries still have (in some ways) much progressing to do- But with leaders like Bolivar and recent leader’s like Chavez, at least the dream of Latin America as an independent and thriving region, continues to live on, and people will continue to fight for it.