Author Archives: rachel white

The Terror

This chapter and its contents were extremely shocking to read. The level of violence across so many different countries in Latin America is a very tragic anomaly. It was interesting to me that basically all of the government who were leading vicious and unfair attacks on civilians were not in office because they had been voted in- but were there by corrupt force. Of course there is a connection to note there- that when your country is being run by somebody who doesn’t unanimously deserve to be there, violence will ensue.
I looked more into the “dirty war” that happened specifically in Argentina and found the details of this conflict specifically, especially disgusting- for lack of a better word. The Junta would use freeze the bodies of their victims and then use those bodies to stage attacks by their enemies. Thats pretty crazy.
Its surprising to me that this violent era ended so recently and Argentina is one of, if not the most successful and well functioning countries in Latin America (well as far as GDP goes, and from my very limited knowledge of the region as a whole) today. I wonder how they made such a big turn around. And i wonder if there is still a big divide to be felt in the country today.

Research Assignment: Sources for Video Project

My first source is a book called “Caudillos in Spanish America 1800-1850” written by John Lynch in 1927. This book will be extremely helpful in adding information and insight into our video project about Juan Manuel De Rosas and caudillism in Latin America.  Chapter 6 in the book (pages 241 to 274) is titled “Juan Manual De Rosas: Argentina 1829-1852.” This chapter is filled with details about Rosas’ personal and political life. The chapter begins with Rosas’ early life and how it contributed to his rise as the most infamous caudillo in Argentina. It goes on to paint a clear picture of what Argentina was like while Rosas led. The chapter concludes with the collapse of Rosas and his power: “at the end, Rosas found himself isolated in a situation where personal sovereignty and individual allegiance were not enough, and where his own client groups, conscious of a new balance of power, did not have the commitment or the will to save him” (Lynch 1927, 274). By examining his experience as a caudillo, it will shed a light onto the bigger picture of caudillism in Latin America and allow our group to create an organized and educational video. “Rosas proved the limits as well as the strengths of caudillism.” (Lynch 1927, 274) “Caudillos in Spanish America 1800-1850” will also be helpful as it looks at three other famous caudillos in depth: Jose Antonio Paez of Venezuela, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna of Mexico, and Rafael Carrera of Guatemala. Being able to contrast these caudillos will be helpful in understanding the details of caudillism and creating our project.

My second source is called “Problems in Modern Latin American History” by Joseph Tulchin. Narrowing down the content of this book, chapter 2 is called “Making Sense of Caudillos and “Revolutions” in Nine-teeth Century Latin America.” This chapter attempts to do exactly that.
Tulchin states that “historians either sang the praises of caudillos, or vilified them, depending on each author’s political allegiance” (Tulchin 1994, 37). It is interesting that caudillos were either loved or hated depending who you asked. Knowing that caudillos can be contraversial depending on your political view- My group will try and remain as neutral as possible when examining the actions and endeavors of caudillo leaders in Latin America in our video project.

On top of these two sources, we will also use chapter 2 “Caudillos Versus the Nation State” (Pages 45-71) in our textbook by Alex Dawson. There are some great insights in there about Rosas, and Esteban Echeverria’s opinion on Rosas, that will be helpful.
Work Cited:

Dawson, Alexander. “Latin America Since Independence: A History with Primary Sources.” 1967.

Lynch, John. “Caudillos in Spanish America 1800-1850.” 1927.

Tulchin, Joseph. “Problems in Modern Latin American History.” 1994.




Week 10: Power to the People

It was very cool to learn about the effect that radio had on Latin American politics when it was introduced. I think the radio helped to propel populism because it was a method of media that was easily accessed by everybody- regardless of where you were from or your level of literacy. The radio allowed the working class and lower class to feel united. And in a way, the radio kind of broke the wall between the elites and the lower class. If the elites wanted to feel part of the nation- they had to listen to the same radio stations as the rest of the country.
It’s interesting to think about the time when radio was introduced into the world. It must have been an amazing innovation for people who had never before been able to have an opinion about politics or access to information. We have never experienced living in a world without mass media- I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have radio…or television or Facebook. Even though it is sort of an illusion, it’s always nice to go on Facebook and feel a connection to other people who are feeling and thinking similar thoughts to your own.
I also liked learning about Cardenas. The way he lead in Mexico seemed very impressive to me. The way he lead is how I imagined government worked before I was old enough to know better. The fact that he gave up his a lot of his hard earned salary to people who needed it more, went and visited different regions in his giant country and did his best to make sure everyone, especially the most oppressed feel heard and respected- was very admirable.

Week 9: Commerce, Coercion and America’s Empire

This chapter covered the influence of the United States on Latin America.
Although, that’s a massive topic and probably impossible to cover entirely- but I think Dawson gives a pretty good overview with a few different focuses: Bananas, Media, US funded projects.

The in depth explanation of bananas and the UFCO and it’s importance in LA history was very interesting. I specifically liked learning about Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. Arbenz had dreams for Guatemala and noticed that America and the UFCO specifically, were getting in the way of those dreams. Through further research on this topic, I learned that in the 1950’s, the UFCO was earning twice as much money annually than Guatemala, the country itself, was producing in revenue.  Essentially, Arbenz noticed that the USA was exploiting Guatemala and he wanted to stop them. Unfortunately, the USA has intense power and ended up over throwing Arbenz.
In learning about this specific piece of history, I can’t help but think about how so many people in North America view Latin America as a place that needs help and often receives help from the first world, like the USA. The stories about Latin American people rising up and fighting for independence, whether it’s sovereignty for a whole country, or just trying to make the banana trade more equally beneficial for everyone, don’t really get told in North America.
I’d like to learn more and up to date info about how fruit trading works today in Latin America. I know that still, the largest fruit companies operating in LA are US owned and operated. Human rights, workers rights and land rights are still controversial and unjust in a lot of areas in LA where fruit trading happens. I wonder how everything that played out in Guatemala with Arbenz in the 50’s affected what goes on today.

Also, I liked learning briefly about Carlos Finley, the Cuban doctor who figured out that malaria & yellow fever could be attributed to mosquitoes. Later in that specific paragraph, Dawson explains the methods in which cities made improvements to help combat these diseases. It’s amazing to read how effective it was, how this discovery by Finley and innovations implemented in LA reduced the spread of disease and ultimately has saved tons of human life.

Week 8: Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

Reading about Zapata and Villa leading the way through the Mexican revolution was pretty neat. These two were key players in the Revolution, and wanted to fight for the people and for rightful land ownership. Yes, some will argue that these leaders were violent. I guess I can overlook the violence, because I’m a super humanitarian and believe in equal rights for everybody- and since this was the cause that was being fought for, it might have been necessary to be violent. It’s inspiring to see individuals over throw unjust governments and do whatever it takes to make real change happen.

I can’t help but think about all of the issues regarding land that are still prevalent in today’s world. It’s interesting that even in Canada, there are tons of issues with the government overthrowing and abusing the land of indigenous communities. This issue has been going on since colonization, and I think it’s only a matter of time before Canada has a little revolution of it’s own.
Today, in a lot of Latin American countries, land ownership is respected and indigenous rights are more valued and upheld than here in Canada. I think we can attribute that feat to some of these LA leaders, like Villa and Zapata.

It was also interesting to read about workers rights in Latin America. It is very sad to read about the workers in Argentina trying to fight for their rights and being murdered for it. I can’t help but think that even though there has been progress in the last 100 years, workers ESPECIALLY in rural areas of Latin America still don’t experience adequate rights. It seems to be an ongoing issue that unless you are middle to upper class, and close to the city limits, it is always going to be more difficult for you to experience equality when it comes to your livelihood.

Week 7: The Export Boom as Modernity

This chapter was about the export boom and development of Latin America. I found it interesting when Dawson mentions that even today in Latin America, there is a mix of the traditional old world and the modern new world. I noticed this myself while traveling in Central America last year. Some Latin American people are completely devoted to tradition, while others are not. I guess this is common everywhere in the world, but the divide was certainly more noticeable in Latin America. Especially from place to place and person to person.

It was interesting to discuss this topic in class, as I had never considered the difference between agricultural exports vs technological exports. One point made by Barbara, was that even though most Latin American countries have an export economy, usually they don’t do as well as Canada for example, because of their “monoculture.” Exporting only one or few types of goods can be great for the economy when the world is after the product- but devastating as soon as the world doesn’t need that product. This helped explain to me why a lot of Latin American countries don’t have a consistently booming economy.

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.