13-Towards an Uncertain Future

For this week’s content, I have some stuff I want to talk about but they don’t really go together so you will have to bear with me as I skip around different topics.

First off, I moved from mexico about 14 years ago precisely for some of the reasons that the book outlined; or maybe I should say my parents moved us out of mexico. In any case, as they saw the uncertainty that lay in Mexico, they decided the best ting to do would be to move out. They did not want to get caught up in what was happening and they wanted to provide a better future for their children (my brother and I). I think, that if they had not had kids it may have been different and they may have chosen to do something different because after all it is different to have to worry about yourself than to have to worry about someone else as well.

Next story is actually about my dad as he was in some of the areas of Mexico city where the 1985 earthquake hit the hardest. He has told me stories that have really shocked me and I could never have imagined experiencing something similar. I remember him telling me about all the buildings that had collapsed and of all the people that got trapped in the rubble. He told me how unorganized everything was and that it took a very long time to get some people out (a lot of them not making it out). One of the building in his area, he told me had sunk several floors so the people in the lower levels were trapped underground. According to my dad, the official numbers of those died in the earthquake was actually far larger than they officially said. That being said from 1985 till now, there have been clear improvements. This year an earthquake hit Mexico pretty hard on the exact same day. The difference being that there were less collapsed buildings, although there were still a bunch. And people were a lot more organized and people were able to get a great number of people out safely. They were able to minimize the loss of human life compared to that of 1985.

Finally I wanted to say that I am glad that Dawson talked about the positive effects of migrants in the United States as there seems to be a strong negative stereotype around the, Often times these people move there out of necessity and not maliciously. Something quite sad that happened a while ago was that there was a huge influx of children illegally migrating (passing through extremely dangerous routes like “el tren de muerte”) with the hopes of finding their parents. I would highly recommend watching the movies Under the Same Moon, Which Way Home and Desierto. They all are about illegal immigrants.

Anyway, to finish of my last blog post, I would like to say that I have learned a whole lot through this course which has weirdly left me feeling more confused and wanting to learn more about Latin America.

12-Truth to Power

The information is plentiful and more detailed as we get closer to today’s Latin America. In a way this brings you closer to understanding because the details are more complete. On the other hand, it is also harder to grasp because the general overview of what was happening blurs as stories, regions and view points differ.

In any case the violence continues to grow; or rather I should not say grow because looking back there has always been violence just now it is better documented. And once again, there is a group of people that try to take control of their own lives. In these cases it is the Madres or the drug traffickers. The mothers protest to fix a wrong and the cartels form in order to provide what could not be provided in the current economy. As we have seen before, since they are a marginalized people, the government tries to stop them which causes yet more violence. But this time the end results are different. I would account this difference due to the power of the media. The madres continue to use their voices thanks to the media whereas the Zetas cartel in Mexico uses the bad media attention to establish fear and dominance.

On a different note, I found it very surprising that originally the cartels provided schools, hospitals and other community services. I think this is a side of the story that we rarely get to hear about. I always found it odd that the war on drugs was fought on the front of the traffickers. In my opinion this elevates the problems rather than fixing them as the cartels must then rely on more drastic tactics. I believe that to solve the problem they would need to stop the need for drugs. That way the cartels would be an nonviable business. After all, the users are kind of the root of the problem. It is a lot harder to try to stop it on the supply side because a lot of the people that go into it start because of need. Sometimes it is because they are terrorized and sometimes it is for financial reasons.

Something else that I found kind of confusing was that the government would shut down informal markets. From the reading I understood that most of these people were just trying to make a living without doing as much harm as the cartels would go on to do. Were these markets really causing that much harm? Could the officials not have looked the other way? My guess is that they would not look the other way because they were not directly getting payed. Sometimes it astounds me how people can be so shortsighted. Do they not realize that helping other people up will not harm them? From my point of view, when you help others you are helping yourself. Maybe if people did not try so hard to repress others then there would be less violence; hence they would be benefiting. My final point is work on creating a better community for everyone not just for yourself.

11-The Terror

I found this week’s readings hard to follow because the chapter talks about a number of Latin American countries all with different stories; and all of the stories have different backgrounds which made it feel as though I did not have enough context. This could be partly because I have a general view of Latin American history which is harder to contextualize in terms of specific countries.

This chapter talks about growing violence in Latin America. As with most of the issues that we have studied, this weeks guerrilla groups grew with people’s discontent. The growth of guerrilla groups also led to a growth in military groups. In general they would fight with each other which led to massive losses of lives. All of this led to fear coming from many different areas in people’s lives. This is different from before because know it is harder to identify what they should be scared of. It is also different because it is hard to tell who is right and who is wrong as both sides feel justified in their doings.

I feel that all of the violence pushed people away from some cause and towards others. The more violence there was, the more the people felt validated to support their side which only strengthened the ongoing violence. In turn, the existence of a middle ground was almost gone. From the readings, it seems as though people were either radically right or radically left; and if they were neither, then they were scared to support anybody.

Something that surprised me this week was that there was a significant amount of students that were radically left. Previously, I had always imagined student protesters as more peaceful than they were depicted in this chapter. It was also interesting to read that a large amount of them had been motivated by their professor Guzman. It goes to show how far education can motivate and shape people.

Taking into consideration how complicated the situations were in these Latin American countries, I wonder if violence was the best course of action. Would there have been anything else they could have done?

Research Assignment: Marti and the Threat of Imperialism

In “Marti Anti-Imperialist,” Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring uses a number of Jose Marti’s works to illustrate the threat of imperialism in Cuba and in Latin America. Around the end of the 19th century—which is when Marti’s works were being written and published—the threat of imperialism was double ended. That is to say, it was coming from the existing presence of Spain and the looming presence of the United States.

Notably, the main focus of both Marti and Roig de Leuchsenring’s writing is the threat of imperialism from the United States and not from Spain. By the end of the 19th century the fight for Cuba’s independence from Spain was strong, thus the majority of the people (unlike Marti) failed to perceive the potential threat of the United States. Roig De Leuchsenring explains that at this time, “the Spanish market was gradually disappearing from Cuba… and was being replaced almost entirely by the United States, which was rapidly becoming the only one” (6). The United States was helping remove the Spaniard’s power in Latin America by replacing it with their own. Roig de Leuchsenring shares a multitude of Marti’s work in which Marti pleas for Latin America to resist the Americans’ imperialism. However, Marti’s work is in vain because shortly after his death, the Americans intervened in Cuba (54).

Roig De Leuchsenring believed Marti had a deep understanding of the Americans since Marti had lived in the United States (22). In hindsight, Marti’s knowledge allowed him to correctly predict the true ambitions of the United States in Cuba. Marti admired and mistrusted the United States. He admired their ability to grow independently from other states. At the same time, he mistrusted them because of their capitalist and imperialist ambitions. Roig de Leuchsenring points out that Marti never relies on the support of the United States, to gain Cuba’s independence: Instead, Marti wishes to grow Latin America independently. Marti believes the strength of Latin America lies in their culture—in what makes them unique (23). He wishes to use this strength to socially, economically and politically grow Latin America, and to give them freedoms they had never had before.

Regardless of his death, his vision would have been a difficult accomplishment. For one, Cuba was in a delicate balance between the power of Spain and the United States. In comparison to both of those countries, Cuba had a limited amount of power. Therefore it would have been difficult to gain its independence without the support of the United States. Additionally, Spanish power was actively being rejected in Cuba. The people would have wanted the quick solution that the United States offered and they would not have viewed the United States as a threat. After all, the United States was not physically conquering. In the end, there would have been no way for Marti to prove the United States self-interest until it was too late.

Works Cited

Roig de Leuchsenring, Emilio. Marti Anti-Imperialist. Ministry of Foreign Relations, 1961

9-Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire

This week, I was very entertained with the readings as I never would have imagine reading about the effects of the banana market. Thinking about it, I never realized how much banana is available for consumption today in america. Since bananas are only grown in warm climat, it is almost miraculous that they are available to us all year long. That being said, since they are available (and they are easier to handle than other fruits) it is no wonder that there was a sudden boom in this market.

It is undeniable that the United States played a crucial role in this market. It is equally undeniable that they helped make advancements in terms of commerce and even employement. But I wonder what would have happened if the United States had not been the ones in control. Would these Latin American countries have been able to tap into the industry and prosper? Or would they have been unable to benefit from the potential? Considering the problems that Latin America faced, I believe they would have been unable to. Mainly because I feel they lacked the cooperation from the various people (in different social classes) that would have been necessary to make it work.

On another note, I had never before thought of the United States as an empire. I realized this week that this is probably because the United States does not have colonies. Instead they either incorporate the land/people into their country or they form beneficial ties with them.

In any case I feel like they do have imperialistic tendencies because they tend to want to have control. Other countries, like Canada, adopt policies to protect their economy and culture from that of the united states. In Canada’s case, it is more about remaining seperate and being able to identify themselves without the United states. For Latin America it seems different. Through the readings, I get the feeling that it is a fear for their power as well as respect for it. I find that Latin America has a hard time deciding whether they want to be like the US  or be completely seperate. When they talk of technology it is more likely the first option but in terms of culture it is more likely the second. In any case it is nearly impossible to completely eiminate the United states presence in culture as is demonstrated through disney’s cartoons. During this period in time, it is also economically hard to seperate from the United states as the countries become dependant on them.

My question for this week is; are ties with the united states more beneficial or more harmful?

10- Power to the People

The radio in Latin America really illustrates the effect media can have. It is astounding how much the radio influenced society in Latin America. It enabled them to grow their culture (through music) and more importantly it granted them the ability to more actively participate in social changes and politics. Power to the people- that is what radio brought to the people of Latin America, specifically those of the lower classes.

I found myself being entertained by the state’s attempts of controling the media. It is almost humourous to read how much effort the state would put in, just to be widely ignored and even mocked by the people. In a way, the ability for the lower classes to choose when they wanted to listen was the most power they had ever been granted. Before, they were often constrained by the people in power and subject to whatever changes the people in power made. The poorer Latin Americans may not have been up to date as to what was going on as they may not have had access to the information–or they may not have been able to read. Seeing that, it is not surprising that the radio became a popular media. After all it was a Rich source of information and culture.

Overall the radio also brought unity to the people–they all had access to the same information. That being the case, I find it interesting how the recounts of the speech in argentina are different. Everyone having access to the same information could lead us to believe that people would think similarily. However, the retelling of the speech in various diffeent perspectives goes to show that it was not necessarily the case.

Since differrences in latin america are deeply rooted, it would be hard for any media or person to really unite everybody. What the radio allowed, was for people that shared similar views to rally up against those that did not. In the era of the radio, people who had previously been ignored were the centre of the stage. In a way, the radio allowed for a more democratic state and for an overall improvement for the way of living for many. Even so, the radio to me is clearly not a sustainable solution for alot of the problems thst Latin America faced.

My question for this week is; would Latin America have socially and politicaly advanced as much as they did with the radio, if they did not have it? What would the consequences be if there was no radio?

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.