Latin America studies – stale of two worlds - Sample Essay

In addition, often times negative stereotyping is preached in school textbooks as well as in the media. Therefore, imperative and rigorous awareness must be given to these two key areas: education and the media, with the aim to dampen the prejudices and harm created by the discriminating social values that pertain in these regions. Furthermore, among indigenous groups, the rank of women alternated: in fairly egalitarian communities (hunters and gatherers, for example) men and women had significant parity; in more elaborated and hierarchical societies, women’s position was below that of men.

The imposition of colonialism abridged the status of women. Legal, economic, and social privileges and rights for women were denied or harshly limited (this varies by class and race). Catholic Church carried a strong responsibility in enforcing women’s subordination. Despite the fact that indirectly gender inequality still persists in Latin America, there have been several women’s rights movements to set pressure on these conventions. The protagonists in “House of the Spirits” are all woman who work in different and subtle ways to assert their rights.

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Aside from Nivea’s commitment to female suffrage, the women rarely explicitly condemn gender inequality. Each woman’s life is, however, marked by it. All of the women in the novel are strong women who do not bow to mistreatment. Instead of outright revolt, they chose subtle responses to the everyday exposure of so called machismo. 3 These include teaching literacy and basic health care, setting curses, and like Clara, refusing to speak. Political & Economic

Throughout much of Latin America, the economic, social and political legacies of colonialism still menace the hopes of people struggling to guarantee their welfare and to resolve their future. Widespread poverty and inequality within these countries have aroused many questions about possible development theories that could help them on its feet. Pendulum swings between democracy and dictatorship in the region have triggered macroeconomic instabilities, such as inflation, economic crises and tremendous income inequalities. What is the possible origin of this underdeveloped state of economy?

Why haven’t Latin American countries yet been able to break through and make the leap towards developed and modern nation states? Modernization theory argues that traditional values and institutions that originated in the Iberian colonization of the regions in the sixteenth century blocked efforts toward economic and sociopolitical development. They singled out in particular the behavior of Catholicism, of the large Indian populations, and of the aristocratic landed elite as detrimental to development in the region. 4 This becomes evident in Garcia Marquez’ political messages exposed in “Big Mama’s funeral”.

To illustrate this with an example, we can recall Big Mama’s three hour dictation of her material inheritance but also her ethereal ownerships that solemnly satire despotism. Mama’s intangible possessions and the sigh at the end of her enumeration create a tension and anticipation throughout the story as it is implied that Mama was a stifling, iron-fisted aristocrat. The breath of fresh air breathed by Macondo at the end of the story and the rush of pure wind blowing through its streets implies the end of a seemingly endless era in the corrupt and credulous realm of Macondo.

Just as Esteban Trueba in the “House of the Spirits”, Big Mama becomes an emblem of the aristocratic, feudalistic form of political power, which Seymour Martin Lipset argued to be responsible for the lack of entrepreneurial ethic nowadays. 5 As in the case of Sisyphus from Greek mythology, many Latin America nations have attempted to push the rock up the hill just for the rock to fall again down on their feet. One can question whether the transition to economic development is simply a matter of time or not. What those nations often times need is not only time but also some self-assessment and a full reflection of their own identity.

Mexico’s future, for example, depends not only on vast amounts of foreign direct investments, which on the other hand are vital to implement economic projects in the region. These investments could eventually determine the entire path to national development. From historical evidence such as Brazil’s huge foreign debts, or Argentina’s national crises, the challenge still persists in how to keep this money inside the nation’s boundaries. The state of Mexico began with the Spanish occupation in early 16th century and was always considered as a nation caring principally for its own wellbeing.

Revolutions have toppled governments just to face another dictatorship or totalitarian regime. The Mexican state representatives still act as if they don’t speak for the people’s government but for foreign invaders. In order to keep foreign investments in, the Mexican government should start to tackle the problem of estrangement between the government and the people in order to work on the principles of national identity, which at the end yields a strong base for every citizen and ultimately, economic development and democracy. 14

The world is portrayed as divided into a developed “center” and an underdeveloped “periphery” 6. According to dependency theories, the causes of the low levels of development in less economically developed countries are their reliance and dependence on more economically developed countries such as the United States and Europe. 8 Latin America’s integration into the developing world economy during colonial periods was fundamental to the region’s economic stagnation. The sugar industry, for example, which was implanted in Latin America in the colonial period, was one of the first globalized industries.

It synthesized productive elements and experiences of three diverse continents: the technology and means of production of Europe, the Latin American land itself and the hand of African workmanship. Primary products, such as silver, gold and sugar were produced in Latin America and were then shipped to the European markets. When colonial structures were abolished, Latin America’s main sustaining column has been the exporting sector of primary goods to the west, importing in turn manufactured wares from Europe and the Western World, thus destroying noncompetitive domestic manufacturing and restricting also potentialities of reinvestment.

In other words, Latin America is thus reduced to an inferior position in the global system as solely a producer of primary goods. 9 In present day Brazil and other Latin American countries, however, “incubators” provide investment and growing incentive for technology-based start-up companies. In this way entrepreneurial skills are fostered by means of shared resources, management expertise, and intellectual capital. Other nations follow the same example and are most probably capable of moving up the value-added chain.

However, there still exist some nations where primary production of goods remains the main economic drive. Asian countries seem to have been more triumphant in materializing those money inflows into innovative and promising technology and expertise development thus moving up the value-added chain. The discrepancy might lie in the fact that despite the evolving market-oriented setting in Latin America and gradual attainments in macroeconomic stabilization, investments in infrastructure and proper types of human capital (with more emphasis on science and engineering) are still unsatisfactory.

The latter problem is aggravated by the existence of significant inequalities in terms of access to valuable education and a superior weight given to tertiary education. The solution is not to isolate oneself, but rather focus on education, encourage foreign trade thus opening up to new technologies and investment, and motivate the research and development sector of the economy in order to unlock the potential of science and technology. This is the key to speed up economic growth in Latin America.

It is therefore argued that the roots of underdevelopment in Latin America are not minted by archaic institutions such as feudal systems, but lie in the development of capitalism itself. As an example, Andre Gunder Frank draws on historical examples such as Brazil: this country and including many other Latin American nations were transformed into exporting economies after the sixteenth century, and were soon integrated into the world capitalist system.

During its golden age, each of those regions experienced a period of development and prosperity, but as soon as foreign and domestic interest and investment in the market subsided, they were left alone to deal with their problems and underdevelopment they are facing this present day. Frank emphasized the consequences of this sort of “satellite development” and suggested that Latin America should weaken their ties to their metropolis and basically isolate themselves in order to initiate market independent industrialization and growth.

10 Beginning in the early 1980s, the region underwent a “dual transition” toward freer markets and freer politics. With the exception of Cuba, all of the regional countries have moved in some measure toward democratic political systems, market economies, free trade, human rights, and a more dynamic civil society. These developments are an important breakthrough from politics that just a decade ago was characterized by vicious dictatorial regimes, state-led economic growth, poverty and inequality, and revolutionary aggression.

Yet despite the many successes of the 1990s – recent events and trends such as the political-economic crisis in Argentina, the “Chiapas” revolt in Mexico, “narco-terrorism” in Colombia, political turmoil in Venezuela and Ecuador, persistent inequality in Brazil, food riots, “autogolpes”, and corruption – raise serious questions about whether the dual shift toward democracy and free markets is real and sustainable. 11 This shows that the accomplishment of self-sustaining development and both economic and political stability in modern Latin America requires far more than purely economic processes of production, investment, and consumption.

But rather, as Talcott Parsons argues, it requires a much deeper understanding of cultural imprints such as people’s values and patterns of society. 12 These cultural issues were already discussed before, addressing the issue of national identity versus the transition to a more democratic system and economic development. One can argue to what extent the above mentioned turmoil in the continent can indeed be attributed to colonial legacies. For example, aggression is an ever present danger in Venezuela, where society is sharply polarized between supporters and opponents of President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez manipulated the position of the poor and disenfranchised for his personal gain. He hamed the masses against the middle class, sacked the whole legislative and judicial division, rewrote the constitution (that he has crushed several times), and has presided over the most fraudulent and corrupt administration in the country’s history. 13 The transition from colonial legacies to such economic and political mismanagement often based on a corrupt government, can be explained from the fact that although Boli?? var, O’Higgins, San Marti??

n and Sucre among others liberators, fought courageously to free their nations from Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule, they did not put much emphasis on establishing a solid and stable government afterwards. In the course of history, Latin America was confronted with “Founding Generals” rather than “Founding Fathers”. The consequence is that the continent today lacks the institutions and the morals of a true democracy in the service of freedom devoid of corruption. That might be a possible explanation on why development in this continent is so shaky and so delicate.

Another example we can draw upon would be Argentina, whose economy has not grown for more than four years. The country is struggling with its worst ever crisis involving both financial chaos and violent street protests. Part of the country’s crisis was attributed to corruption and mismanagement of the economy rather than colonial legacies people argue to shape the region. These examples, amongst many other similar cases in Latin America, show that colonial legacies do not play a role any longer in determining a country’s economic and political current situation and future development.

Rather than blaming past conquistadores, alternative solutions have to be laid on the table in order to get the continent back on its feet. All of the above-mentioned economic- and political instabilities and the never-ending cycle of violence that perpetuated itself from generation to generation throughout the continent become again evident in the “House of the Spirits”: Alba finally manages to break this permanent cycle in the doghouse with the help of her mother Blanca, thus creating a new beginning for her daughter.

Metaphorically, this serves as a beautiful example and forms a preliminary step toward breaking the vicious circle of hate and revenge thus setting the milestone for a possible new phase in Latin America – both economically, politically and culturally.

Bibliography  (Same texts under “Footnotes”)  Isabel Allende, “House of the Spirits” Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “Big Mama’s Funeral” Footnotes: 0 Peter Winn, “A view from the South” and “Legacies of Empire,” in Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), p59 1 (same as above), page 66.

2 Peter Winn, “A Question of Color” in Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), page 298 3 Peter Winn, “A view from the South” and “Legacies of Empire,” in Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), page 56 4 Peter F. Klaren, “Lost Promise: Explaining Latin American Underdevelopment,” page 12 5 (same as above) page 13 6 (same as above) page 15 7 (same as above) page 4 8 Teodoro dos Santos, “The Structure of Dependence”, page 232 9 Peter F.

Klaren, “Lost Promise: Explaining Latin American Underdevelopment,” page 18 10 Andre Gunder Frank, “The Development of Underdevelopment”, page 115 11 Neil Harvey “The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy”, (Paperback – October 1998) 12 Peter F. Klaren, “Lost Promise: Explaining Latin American Underdevelopment,” page 11 13 http://www. plataformademocratica. net 14 Arturo Valenzuela, “Chile: Origins, Consolidation, and Breakdown of a Demovratic Regime,” in Larry Diamond, Juan Linz, and Seymour Martin Lipset, Democracy in Developing Countries: Latin America (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1989), page 212 15 http://www. worldbank. org.



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