HIST 1112 – Formation of Latin American Civilization

HIST 1112 – Formation of Latin American Civilization


Lecture 19, we call it Latin America. If you want to sort of think of a theme to
go along with this lecture, think of the long 19th century and the big issues that we discussed
in our lecture of last week. So what are we going to be talking about here? Latin America and the context of the long
19th century; the world economy; Western military dominance by this time; nationalism; modernization
– ideas that we’ve talked about recently. How do these broader patterns work in Latin
America? Latin America characterized – Is it the
worlds’ newest civilization? The economy is dependent on Western Europe
through Spain and Portugal – at least, of course, in the beginning; a long colonial
period that will end in the 19th century and parts of it in the 20th century; a long tradition
of what we call landlord power, local power bases of large land owners who collect rent
over their tenants; how to establish powerful central governments in regions ruled locally
by powerful agricultural or industrial interests. These are some of the themes and the long=running
historical ideas that we can apply to Latin America. Latin America in the Colonial Period – Well
it exports raw materials to the core, so Latin America was then and even remains today – in
part – part of the periphery responding to the core’s interest. Latin America imports manufactured goods from
Europe and elsewhere. It imports artistic and agricultural forms,
primarily from its colonizers – the great imperial powers in Europe. Of course, Catholicism is a key feature of
Latin American culture, also imported from Europe. Veneration of local deities transformed into
saints. Here again we see syncretism, a key term we’ve
talked about before, whereby local traditions are blended with a world religion to create
something unique for that particular culture. And of course, in the colonial period, many
illegitimate children are fathered by the European colonizer. Wars of Independence, 1810-1820 – this period
of course whereby Spain – the mother country – is weakened by the Napoleonic Wars in
Europe; Spanish colonies in the Americas take advantage of this diminishment of Spanish
power. New states seek to curb or to co-opt the power
of the Catholic Church, and of course, this is a very tricky proposition. You either get the church on your side to
legitimize your power, or you try to diminish the power of the church – a very tricky
proposition because the vast majority of the people may hold the church, the church’s
legitimacy, much higher than your own. Latin American leadership class confined to
the Creole, this is the mixture, those of mixed blood – especially European blood,
as opposed to the indigenous people. You don’t see indigenous people rise to
the top of these societies. The Wars of Independence did not overturn
the basic ruling classes of the church, the landlord class, and then the military that’s
organized to protect these interests. News nations in Latin America – Well the
colonial period will end. Now how to form a state afterwards – economic
hardship follows independence; political difficulties arise over legitimate rule – like we just
talked about; the territorial integrity of these new states is open to question. Border wars will ensue as these new states
try to establish themselves. Conservatives tend to defend landlords and
the church. More liberal elements tend to fight for reform
– labor reform and otherwise. And then of course, you have dictators, dictatorial
power, arising in Latin America. Of course, the U.S. has similar problems with
slavery, that will not be resolved until 1865. So Latin America doesn’t exist in isolation. Latin American culture, of course, is directly
impacted by Europeans, the colonizers. Latin American cities look like European cities. Latin American elites travel to Europe to
soak up these Western cultures, which they take back with them. Indigenous styles are often blend with Western
styles. The Latin American economy, again, a peripheral
region of the world; it’s sort of locked into a production of exports – raw materials;
food; precious metals; silver; coffee; copper. Large multinational corporations organize
local economies in South America. Cheap labor, natural resources are exploited
by the core nations, the great industrial powers. How to escape peripheral status? How to industrialize – Machinery in factories
costs money; where will the foreign currency come from to purchase machinery and expertise
from the core? Latin American nations will borrow money from
the core. This establishes a cycle of indebtedness,
which in the end makes things worse. More exports are required to pay back the
loans, and of course, the more you produce the lower the price of these commodities. So you’re caught in a vicious cycle here. Let’s draw some conclusions. Latin American development demonstrates the
variety of development across the globe. Latin America, a Western civilization – socially
and economically Latin America doesn’t look particularly Western because of its peripheral
status. The power of the Catholic Church is obviously
a Western feature. I’m going to quote here from the McNeill’s
book again, The Human Web. He says, quote, “The independent states
of Latin America – after 1826 – usually adopted republican institutions, although
Brazil styled itself an empire until 1889. But often as not, they were run by their armies
because in most cases the army, and in some cases the church, was the chief institution
that survived and prospered during the Wars of Independence.” It was not until about 1950 that the principle
of representative government became so generally accepted that almost every state at least
pretended to adhere to it, yet more of its history and even today, much of Latin America
remains in the periphery – a distinctly non-Western status. So this is a very tricky proposition here. Latin America, geographically, of course,
is in the West; it’s part of the sort of American system. Economically – it’s much less Western,
isn’t it? Because of its more peripheral status in the
sense that it exports raw materials – food; various commodities – to the core; the core
then fashioned these things into finished products, which are then sold back. The long-standing sort of cycle of indebtedness
also makes Latin America less Western. The Catholic Church, of course, makes it very
Western. So Latin America is a very complex issue with
regard to these themes in world history. So we’ll stop there. Thank you.

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