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.