Tag Archives: Mexico

Week Twelve

Violence is yet again present in week 12 and Dawson can’t help but agree that there has always been violence in Latin America. This time however, drugs become a major part of the multitude of issues.

I found it really interesting to read about the war on drugs but was not surprised to read that the “successive U.S. administrations declared that they would not approve aid or favorable trade agreements for regimes that did not take an active (some would say militarized) role in disrupting the flow of illicit drugs” (Dawson, 334). The United States has often resorted to the military to “solve” problems and it wasn’t any different in this case. Millions of US dollars in military aid have been sent to countries such as Colombia, Israel, Egypt and Mexico in 2007. As a US citizen I have often wondered where all of our tax money goes and in Mexico and Colombia’s cases, most of the money was used on military equipment. In Mexico, a lot of the money was spent on Blackhawk helicopters and in Colombia, millions of dollars were funneled “to paramilitary groups, many of which have close ties with the military” (Dawson, 335).  I found it terrifying to read that the paramilitaries have attacked many people, especially those trying to establish some order. Also, this is just proving that people will do anything, including harming other people, for money. Money is what motivates people. In this case, the revenues are more or less “$40 billion annually” (Dawson, 335). This is not shocking when considering that “one kilo of cocaine sells for $1,000 in Colombia’s interior, $25,000 in the United States, and $60,000 in Britain” (Dawson, 335). Because this is such an enormous sum of money, I wonder if the drug cartels helped Latin America’s economy in any way.

Another part of this week’s readings and videos that I found intriguing was the massive “No” campaign. It was fascinating to see how many people did not want Augusto Pinochet to continue his rule for another eight years. I really enjoyed listening to the song “No Lo Quiero, No” by Isabel, Javiera and Tita Parra, because I feel like it really shows how powerful this movement was. “Chile la Alegria Ya Viene” was also produced during this time. These songs must have had a really large effect on everyone who listened to them. In the end, General Augusto Pinochet was not reelected because the “No” side won 56% of the vote.


Short Research Assignment – The Meeting of Two Worlds

Excerpt from a letter written by Hernan Cortes to Charles V in 1519.

Hernan Cortes’ letter describes his stay in a city in Mexico where he and his men were welcomed with open arms by the Indigenous people. We see evidence of this in the first paragraph when Cortes states that the people “came out of the city to greet [him] with many trumpets and drums.” We can also really see that he is an outsider looking in when he continues to describe what he’s observing regarding the priests. He talks about the “many persons whom they regard as priests in their temples.” When I read this phrase, I felt like he was demeaning the Indigenous people because Cortes doesn’t seem to care much about their status amongst the citizens. It sounds as if Cortes isn’t recognizing their status as priests, and rather that he’s saying that they are simply viewed as priests. We also learn that he and his men stayed in very nice living quarters, but that they were unfortunately not being fed very well and that the elites of the city barely came to see and talk with them. I was slightly confused when reading this, but continued to read in hopes that maybe I would better understand if the events were playing out this way for a reason.

In the second paragraph we learn that an Indigenous woman told his interpreter, Marina, that she should escape because Cortes and his men were about to be killed. During the short time Hernan Cortes and his men had been in the city, women and children had escaped with their belongings, and roads leading to the city had been blocked off. Cortes found out about this plotting through Geronimo de Aguilar, who let him in on the conversation that occurred between Marina and the other Indigenous woman. To be 100% sure of what was going on, Cortes questioned a random man he found walking down the street. This man confirmed everything.

Cortes quickly planned an attack. He summoned the elites to his room and left them bound up before the fighting started. Once he left, he had them killed. Cortes then explains to Charles V how well they fought; “…in two hours, more than three thousand men were killed” and that they were “easy to disperse” of. It is in statements like these that Cortes appears to think very highly of himself compared to the Indigenous people. (In regards to my earlier confusion, I think the city elites wanted to weaken Cortes and his men, and to keep them in the dark about what was going on in the city).

Source: Cortes, Hernan. Hernan Cortes to Emperor Carlos V., 1522. In Hernan Cortes: Letters from Mexico. Translated and edited by Anthony Pagden, 72-74. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986.

Personal Account, Bernal Diaz del Castillo

Bernal Diaz del Castillo was with Hernan Cortes during his travels and recalls his story in this personal account.

The first part of this document talks about the relationship between the Spaniards and the Indigenous people in a town called Tabasco. Diaz del Castillo also recalls how kind and welcoming the Indigenous people were upon their arrival, similarly to the first source I discussed. They were given many gifts when welcomed, but the best gifts they received, according to Diaz del Castillo, were twenty women (one per captain), including Dona Marina. During their time in the Americas, they converted many people to Christianity. In this particular case, the Spaniards introduced Christianity through an image of “Our Lady” and by explaining her importance. Within a short period of time, many were baptized and crosses were being carved and put up everywhere. It’s interesting to read about how easily influenced and manipulated the Indigenous people were in this particular account, when it came to converting to Christianity. Going to mass became quickly popular and was attended by everyone. The town of Tabasco was also renamed Santa Maria de Victoria. At one point there was even a procession that everyone participated in.

The second part of this document goes into more detail about Dona Marina who played an enormous role in the Spaniards conquest. Dona Marina was from a town called Paynala, and the daughter of chiefs and Caciques. Her father passed away when she was still a child and her mother remarried and had a son with her new husband. This son was adored by her mother and step-father ad they decided that he would be their successor. Because of this, they gave her “to some Indians from Xicalango and pretended she passed away. From there she was given to the Tabasco people and finally to Hernan Cortes and his men. She was officially given to Alonzo Hernandez Puertocarrero, but lived with Cortes once he returned to Spain. She had a child with him named Don Martin Cortes. Cortes always took her with him on expeditions and during a religious speech one day, Dona Marina’s mother and half-brother were there and “were in great fear of Dona Marina, for they thought that she had sent for them to put them to death.” Instead, she forgave them and gave them gifts.

The reason Dona Marina was so vital for the Spaniards wasn’t because she could speak Spanish, but because she spoke Cuatzacoalcos and Tabasco with the Indigenous people. The tabasco language was in turn, translated to Spanish by Jeronimo de Aguilar who also spoke Tabasco.

Source: Diaz del Castillo, Bernal. Chap. 22-23 in Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, 1517-1521. 1585. Translated by A.P. Maudsley. Noonday Press, 1965.

Week Eight

This week we listened to another lecture by Professor Alexander Dawson regarding the Mexican Revolution and the Plan de Ayala. He claims that when revolution is discussed, it is “an attempt to shape a view of the past, that organizes power in the present” (Dawson). In the Mexican Revolution there were three major groups that were trying to “win” control of the political system:

The Old Guard: These were the people who were benefitting during the Diaz regime and who want to continue to maintain such privilege.

The Villa and Serrano Revolutionaries: These were the people who wanted to be free outside authority, whose lives were turned upside down because of modernity.

The Zapata and Agrarian Revolutionaries: The majority lived in central and southern Mexico and were primarily indigenous or mestizo. Most of their land had been illegally taken from them and so a priority for them was to get their land back.

In the end, there was no ‘official’ winner in Mexico’s Revolution however the product of this revolution was new political order.

Something that interested me in the lecture was this idea of “revolutions legacy.” Dawson specifically discussed Poncho Villa and Emiliano Zapata who were both assassinated and became ‘good’ symbols because “they didn’t live long enough to disappoint” people (Dawson). Even though both of them were closing doors on politics (Poncho Villa retired and agreed to not reenter politics and Emiliano Zapata was negotiating a peace with the government of Mexico) their influence was powerful enough to prompt people to kill them. This led me to start thinking about whether other martyrs in the world are viewed in a similar manner which does, in fact, seem to be the case.

I also found it intriguing that the contemporary Zapatistas were the first guerrilla movement to effectively use the internet. The impact technology has had on the world is revolutionary and is continuously growing. The world is becoming more and more connected and information is constantly in our reach. Professor Dawson admits that because of the Zapatistas’ effectual use of the internet, they have been more taxing for the Mexican State to deal with. This is compelling because it leads me to wonder if people can actually keep up with a world that has been overthrown by modernity. Everything (communication, wars, politics, the overall spread of information) has taken on a new level of complexity might be too great for our own good…



Week Seven

Alexander Dawson, a history professor at the Simon Fraser University considers modernity to be a concept with four different elements:

  1. Innovation: societies that are constantly innovating will, by default, be constantly improving.
  2. Emancipation: modern societies are continuously becoming freer, slavery doesn’t exist and all humans have equal rights.
  3. Secularization: modern societies aren’t defined by religion
  4. Universalism: modern values are shared by everyone once they’re discovered.

Of these four elements, the one that intrigued me most was secularization because looking back at history, religion has been the rationale for many different events such as the holocaust, and even the expansion of the United States (manifest destiny). It’s interesting to recognize that religion is being snuffed out of modern societies, so much so that it’s considered an element of a modernity.

Mexico’s yearn to be a modern society (like Europe in the late 19th century and the United States in the early 20th century) was so immense, that modern armies were created and new government systems were introduced. The issue Mexico ran into with modernity didn’t simply resolve itself once boulevards and underground sewers were created nor when electricity was installed. Mexico’s society didn’t become modernized like the Europe because Mexican people did not believe that liberal democratic values were “appropriate”. (A liberal democracy being the “ultimate modern society” meaning rights should be invested in individuals rather than corporations and various kinds of groups). There are two reasons these values weren’t appropriate: there was too much political chaos at the time (late 19th century) and, like Professor Dawson said, people were “racist” and not open-minded. Democracy, thus modernity, could only be achieved if order and progress came first.

On a different note, James Creelman’s article “Porfirio Diaz, Hero of the Americas” was unique because rather than being shocked by how repressive Mexico was, he was impressed by the physical progress he saw. To me, this physical progress was a façade to trick people into believing that Mexico really was becoming a modern player along with Europe and the rest of North America. I think it’s understandable that Creelman was wrong about Diaz because the future can only be predicted based on what we know, that being said, I wonder what Creelman would have written about Diaz after he was kicked out of power. If he had written another article after, how would this have affected Mexican history as we know it today? Would it have had a similar effect on people that “Porfirio Diaz, Hero of the Americas” had?