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.


4 thoughts on “Week 5: Caudillos Vs The Nation State

  1. Dione

    I also had the same feelings about the Caudillos after reading the chapter, it doesn’t seem like there was a definite saying whether or not they are “good” or “bad”. However, after thinking about it for a bit, I felt like the caudillos that were mentioned in the book doesn’t seem all that “good” to me. It felt like as if they were pretending to be a part of the poor in order to gain support, and to finally gain power among the majority. I am sure there are probably “good” caudillos figures out there, but after the overall impression that i got from the reading is that they are a violent political figure that gains power from the poor. Just my opinions though! thanks for sharing yours!

  2. maria saldana

    Hi Rachel,
    It’s difficult to categorize the caudillos as good or bad they were both in many ways. Your point regarding how they’re viewed in history books was really eye opening for me. In some lights, I did view them as heroic compared to the state, but I think that’s just because that’s how they’re often painted. Yes, they shook hands with farmers and stabbed their enemies, but a lot of them had secret agendas and led in brutal ways. I had to read more about the caudillos from external sources to truly understand what kind of people they were. You’re right there’s not much distinction between what the caudillos did and what every politician has done. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and talking about a point I hadn’t previously considered.

  3. Nicole Gross

    I agree with you that generalizing caudillos is ill-advised – I never quite realized this until you pointed it out. Was every single caudillo corrupt and violent? Surely there were caudillos with more pure intentions and more moral methods.
    I have a question though: if the caudillos were not so bad, then would their system have worked in the long-term? I think the one big downfall of the caudillo system is that it is very short-sighted and doesn’t leave much space for progress since it has no morals, no long-term agenda, and no thought for the future at all. While the apparent violence and ‘barbarianism’ of the system paints it in a poor light, I think this overarching theme of temporary short-term leadership is perhaps a more harmful consequence. Down the road, when Latin American countries needed long-term political structures focused on long-term needs, the only structure available to use was the caudillo’s short-term and highly-corrupted system. This of course did not work out, and the issues associated with short-sighted and corrupt governments are still evident today in Latin America. For this reason, I would say that the overall impact of the caudillo system was negative.

  4. karen rocio poveda rincon

    I agree with you, at first, I also imagined caudillos like you did, with an unclear distinction with politicians. Definitely, caudillos through Latin America are really diverse and in different regions, they set up a different basis for what was to come. However, I still think that they all have this important characteristic in common, and that was being leaders of a rural portion of land. Not sure if entirely positive leaders, but I think the idea of having a representative of the rural areas is not that bad, after all, the rural areas in Latin America are constantly the ones that are neglected by the government. I really liked how you thought about the possible stereotypes.


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