4- Independence Narratives, Past and Present

Before starting this course I did not fully appreciate the complexity of Latin America. This week really stuck out for me in this sense because there are multiple narratives for events that are often times generalized.

I remember in high school my history teacher made us do an exercise in which we wrote down a paragraph describing our day. Then she showed us a much more generalised paragraph of her day, and then one of the day through the perspective of the school administration and then one that could have been local news stories for that day. The point was for us to see how much each of the paragraphs differed although they were each describing the exact same day. This lesson really stuck with me because when I studied history from that point on,  I took more into account the perspective of the author. This is clearly something that must be done when studying Latin America.

For example, I found it very interesting how each country had a different narrative for their independence—how many places were fighting for their freedom from slavery whereas others were fighting for other sorts of freedom. It was also interesting how Mexico seemed to be heavily reliant on the Catholic Church and other countries were not (at least from my understanding). However what seemed to tie all of these people and locations was there condemning of the Spaniards. Is this what really unites these countries into the formation of Latin America?

This week, the political and social power struggles were obvious. It is evident how the elites held much power and how oppressed some of the other people were. I believe this really facilitated the rising of certain leaders. It also facilitated the idealization and romanticism of them. Something I wonder is if they actually did help the people. Something I once heard was that in Latin America it was not so much a fight for independence; it was more a fight for a shift in power which would essentially explain why there continues to be so much conflict.

Since this week was so complex, I learned a lot but I was also left with a lot more questions. Do you think revolution and a fight for independence were the only way to fix the problems in Latin America? Would there have been a different solution had the indigenous people been taken more into account? Do you think the Spaniards were at fault and are the still at fault today? Are the problems of Latin America rooted in inclusion? What is the best way to judge whether a source is accurate in its depiction of the events? Or if it is accurate to the individual author or to a more generalized group?

3- The Colonial Experience

I was standing at a museum in Mexico when I learned for the first time of the names and titles given to all the mixture of races. I remember being baffled while I stared at the chart of names that seemed to continually grow. My mom explained that after the conquistadores came, the Spaniards and the Indigenous people started to mix. They would get names as they mixed, and then more names as the mixes became more complex. Eventually, it got so complicated that they decided to name everybody Mexican. That is how I learned of the birth of “the Mexican race”.

I thought this explanation was kind of poetic and beautiful. I liked how all of these races mixed to become one. After that trip I became more interested in my heritage. Whereas before I had just been Mexican, now I was mix of lots of different races.

When I was doing the readings and watching the videos I realized there was a darker side to it that I had not grasped when I was younger. I learned that the names given were a kind of classification—an attempt to maintain a social order. I can imagine how being one race made one more important than the next. Honestly, this type of thing never fails to amaze me. Why is it in people’s nature to attempt classifications? Is being unorganized a cause for social unrest? Do people give themselves these titles to feel superior to others?

Nevertheless, these paintings are extremely interesting to look at. It is interesting to see these people through the eyes of that time period or through the eyes of the artist. However, I wish there were candid pictures or paintings of that time. I would have loved to see how they actually lived (without bias or stereotypes) and how they interacted within society. I wonder how important it was for people to be white and when it stopped or if it continues to be an issue.

Regarding the story of the lieutenant nun, I was very surprised to see how she got away with her deception. She kind of reminds me of a Spanish Mulan. The stories she told made me wonder if that is what life was like for young men of the time. It also made me feel as if the people of that time were very selfish. Similarly to Columbus, Catalina only seemed to worry about herself (or at least that is the way she depicts herself).

2- The Meeting of Two Worlds

This week the readings were based on what we may consider, today, the beginning of Latin America. For me Latin America has always been full of culture and history. I had never considered the beginning of it; I had only ever considered it as it is today. Hence, I found 1942 an interesting but logical time to pin point its start.

Over the years, I had learned of the arrival of the conquistadores in Latin America and more specifically in Mexico. I was born in Mexico so I was always interested in the stories my parents would tell me about the pre-hispanic times and how Mexico came to be. As I grew, I came to understand the deep impacts that they had on the people and their society. My heart always sank knowing that these indigenous cultures had been lost because of the actions that the Europeans took. It was no different this time when I watched the videos and did the readings.

It never fails to amaze me how people can be ignorant to other’s cultures. In Columbus’ journal, he mostly talks about increasing his wealth. He fails to explore a new culture. Instead he seeks gold, manipulates the people, and plans a future using the resources with the people as slaves.

I think Poma’s piece does a better job of describing both sides of the story. For me, it really depicts the misunderstandings between the Europeans and the indigenous peoples as I imagined it to be. Although I have a general idea of what happened to the indigenous cultures in Latin America, I was still shocked when I read this story. I was surprised that Poma wrote of the horrible treatment towards the Incas.

What interests me most in all of these stories is the role that religion had to play. It intrigued me that when Columbus thought the people were incapable of much, he wrote that they could be easily converted to Christianity, and when he thought they were intelligent, he believed they would find reason to convert to Christianity. He assumed that they had no religious beliefs because he saw no signs that were familiar to him. Even then, he failed to recognize that they must have beliefs because they believed Columbus himself was sent from the heavens. In Poma’s writings, he illustrates a more instantaneous effect of religion. When the emperor unknowingly disrespected Christianity, the Inca’s were immediately killed and the emperor captured. In this course, I would like to learn more of the impact that religion had during the colonization and what role it plays in modern Latin America.

From these readings, I concluded that wealth and religion were two of the biggest driving forces. That being the case, which if the two plays a more significant role? Could one exist without the other? Would the treatment have been different if religion had not been involved?

1- Introduction and Student Video Reviews

Hello everybody and welcome to my blog! My name is Ximena Diaz Lopez and I am a first year student. I wanted to take this course because I am very interested in Latin America. I was born in Mexico but I moved to Vancouver when I was very young. I have always wanted to have a deeper understanding of the history and issues in Latin America.

The Meeting of Two Worlds III (by Angela Pope, Ishan Gill, Deone Young, and Francisco Botero)

This video focuses on Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the Americas. I enjoyed how the video used animations with the explanations. I found them to be engaging and unique in comparison to the historical paintings and pictures that are shown in other videos. I thought the video was quite informative as it provided some interesting facts that I had never heard of. For example, I did not know that the indigenous people had killed some of Columbus’ men. I also liked how the video talked about Columbus’ views and observations on the indigenous people. A minor detail that I did not like was that they repeated some of the information.

Towards an Uncertain Future (by Hanna Dandarell and Cody Alba)

This video was very informative but I did not find it to be very coherent. The video went from economic crisis and an earthquake in Mexico, to protests in Peru and Venezuela, to environmental issues in Ecuador. As the video presented many ideas, it became increasingly harder to follow. I think the video should have narrowed their focus. This would have also enabled them to provide more background information on each issue, which would have made the video more interesting and easy to follow. From my knowledge, I believe the issues around each country are quite different. This made me feel as though the video tried to group issues that were unrelated. Maybe I simply do not have enough information to understand the general idea of the video.

Modernity in Latin America (by Thamer Farjo, Nicole Gross, Nicola Cox, Austin Chang and Allysia Lam)

This video was clear and easy to follow but I found it to be quite dull. I did not enjoy watching each student speak as they did not seem comfortable in front of the camera. I wish the video would have had more engaging imagery. They could have provided more photos, paintings, videos or even highlighted key words. I find that with this type of video it is hard to retain the information.

War on Drugs (by Diane Keyes and Michelle Nzioki)

This was my favourite video from the ones that I watched. I enjoyed this one the most because all of the ideas connected well and the video maintained a good narrative. I thought all the issues were well explained and I think they could be understood by somebody with little to no knowledge on the drug war. The makers of the video were creative as they added an interview. I found this very interesting. My only critique would be that I wish they had not kept some of the images for so long. Other than that, I found this video enjoyable and informative.