8-Signs of Crisis in the Gilded Age

Based on the reading from last week, it is no surprise that Latin America encountered problems. Whenever issues are ignored they tend to grow; and when people are ignored they tend to get agitated and demand attention. This is more or else what happened in latin america.

I enjoyed reading about the Zapatista movement that followed Diaz’s time in power. It goes to show how those with “less power” can actually cause big disturbances. Something interesting that I found was that the Mexican revolution was fought by many but for different causes. Most of the times that I have learned of a revolution it has been a group of people fighting for a joint cause. However, considering all of the issues they faces, it makes sense for them to be fighting for different causes. I believe this may have been one of the reasons that the revolution was not successful for the Zapatistas (in terms of them not being able to coordinate and constitutionalists ending up in power). I think that for a revolution to work, everyone must be fighting for the same cause.

In a way this embodies the problems in Latin America–people not being able to compromise on different opinions and views. In theory, this should be simple to do, but considering the history and state of Latin America it was not. So in the end, we are left with the ongoing problem of “It’s complicated.”

The readings this week were also very interesting because they showed different view points surrounding similar issues. Once again, this illustrates the discrepancies between people’s ways of thinking. That being said, there does seem to be an overall feeling of anger or desperation or maybe just a need for change. What type of change? I don’t know and maybe they did not either; and maybe that is what was the real problem. It seems that they all knew something was wrong and wanted to fix it but no one approached it in a completely functional way.

My questions for this week are: Do you think these revolutions were successful? and do you think there would have been a better way to approach them?

7-The Export Boom as Modernity

Before this week, I did not know much about this time period in Latin American history. The way that it is illustrated in our readings make it out to be the time when Latin America really grew. There were several aspects that I found interesting that I would like to address.

First of all, I liked reading about the women’s roles in the work force. It is quite different from other countries where woman only entered the work force when there was an absolute need (like the world wars). However for the most the most part, it seems as though the woman worked at the factories out of financial need when they would rather be experiencing the married family lifestyle. I wonder if this is because of a culture that believes the man should be the provider.

Our reading also illustrate a difference between the wealthy and the poor. The elite living in the cities compared to the peasants living in rural areas mark a stark difference. It is crazy to think that there were so many technological and cultural advances happening in the cities while the people in more rural areas struggled. I believe this is still felt today. When you visit mexico for instance, there is amazing architecture and culture but there is also evident poverty and people struggling to make ends meet.

It surpprised me to read about the school where the indigenous people were taught mechanics. It made sense that they would want to stay in the city once they started attending school and after completing their studies. It provided them more opportunities to better their lifestyles. They were participating in the modernization of their country and also being productive members of society.

Finally, with regards to Diaz’s interview, he made an interesting comment about democracy being for the middle class. His mindset was that the wealthy were too preocupied with their own earnings to care much for the less fortunate and the less fortunate were not educated enough to make a reliable decision. This brings up a key issue to when democracies work and when they do not. He believes that there needs to be a majority middle class that will address some of the issues from both of the sides. So my questions for this week are: Do you think this is true for our world today? Do you agree with his point of view?

6- Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

What stood out  for me this week was the quantity of slaves that came into Latin America. I always thought that slaves in Latin America were mostly the indigenous people and I did not know that a great number of slaves were people of colour. It surprised me to have never heard about it in my studies, considering how much I have learned about the slaves in the United States. What really surprised me was the amount of people of colour that lived in Brazil, and more so that only about a quarter of them were slaves. For me, this is hard to understand because whenever I learned about slavery it was always a marginalized group of people. I do not understand how slaves could have worked the same tasks as free people. Would this not have caused conflicts and encouraged them to fight for their freedom? At the same time, this makes me question the freedom of the people. Were the people really free if they worked the same jobs as the slaves?

Overall, it seems that slavery in Latin America was very different than in the United States. First of all, I think that in the states the fight for freedom is more widely known because it was an entire group of people that was being discriminated. This made their fight for freedom a difficult yet straight forward task. In Latin America, it seems their fight for freedom was more complex as there were different streams to consider. It was not as if an entire race was being discriminated as there were people of colour that were already free. However, in both cases there is evidence of harsh racism. It was interesting to learn that in an attempt to create racial categorizations they came up with a scientific method. This reminded me of the Casta paintings and their attempt at categorizing a complex situation.

One last thing I wanted to address was liberal ideas in Latin America. I think for the most part liberal ideas are very attractive to anyone. The freedom to do what you want is not easily denied. The reason that I think Latin America had a hard time adopting these ideals was because the way it was formed goes completely against these ideals. The ideas of racial purity and a social or economic elite were deep rooted in Latin American societies; Religion played a big role dictating the way many people acted. In essence, the way that colonial life was forced, completely contradicts liberal ideals (such as equality and free speech). No wonder it would have been hard to implement these ideas during that time.

5- Caudillos Versus the Nation State

After this week’s video and readings, what come up most prominently in my head is political turmoil and social unrest. It seems to me that after having acquired their independence, the people of Latin American were directionless. I do not mean that individually they did not know where they wanted to go. Surely, each individual or small group had an idea as to what they wanted to do (or what they wanted to improve). Rather as a whole (or as a larger entity), they did not share the same vision. In my eyes, this created an inefficient pushing and pulling.

This was only worsened through social and geographical divisions. For one, within regions there was always a sense of the superior and inferior which would not allow a full compliance. I believe this is important because based on the readings; it seems that the people were focused on their own wellness. That being the case, for the majority of the time, the rules were set, enforced or removed locally. On the other hand, I found that I had to remind myself that the people within each state did not modern communication means. This would have made it difficult for people of the same state to agree with each other.

Because of this, I understand how these circumstances facilitated the rise of Caudillos. They represented an order that did not exist before. They gave the people direction and it seems they appealed to the local culture. The Caudillos offered the people temporary solutions and rapid recompensation.

When I read parts of this, I remember thinking, “How could the people support behaviour that encouraged corruption?” When I thought about it, due to the people’s complicated history, I thought that the majority of these people must have felt cheated, tricked, or even abandoned. After all, most of the authority that came with colonialism had been violent and unfair. I can see how the Caudillos would have been compelling to follow.

Yet, the Caudillos were not the solution to the problem. I believe the problem was much too complex for a solution as simple as a new leader. I believe that regardless of what would have happened, there would always have been political turmoil and social unrest. For me it comes down to the fragmentation of societies and people that came with colonialism. Colonialism engrained strong beliefs in some and in others a strong hatred. It created a strong divide between the people. Their beliefs were so strong that it would have been hard for any authority to assert an order in which all would be content.

My question for this week is, do you believe the Caudillos made the situation better or worse? And would there have been a better alternative.