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The Humungous South and Central America Question.

 
 
dlowan
 
Reply Mon 11 Aug, 2003 03:53 am
OK, I know I should know the answer to all these questions - but I was reading today about the Guatamalan death squads. I knew about them - I was horrified by them - but I don't know WHY they were killing all those people.

This led me to think about how enormously much I do not know about South America.

Just a few examples of many:

Why is so much of the continent so poor, when old colonial places like Oz ad Canada and the USA are so rich, and it seems the place has far better natural resources than places like Australia?

Why DID the death squads in Guatamala kill so many - or in Argentina, for that matter, or the US backed Pinochet government in Chile? Why are the politics and repression often so very savage? Why do some countries have such unstable governments? How come the USA has got away with so many casual shows of power there? Why did the US fight the government of Nicaragua so bitterly and brutally?

As you can see, I do not expect anyone to answer al these questions - though any pearls anyone feels like dropping will be gratefully received - what I AM wondering is if anyone has some resources available on the net, of good quality, where I can explore these issues - or some books that they consider good histories, or modern analyses.

Thank you - any who come and help!

(Oh, and don't be sneering, if you can help - I KNOW I should know all this!)
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Aug, 2003 04:28 am
Ima bout two goe to bed sow Ima goan a maik this quik. Ai uil ownli anser da hard won cuz smarter peepul kan get da other wons fer yew.

Ai hav oftin writtin about da issue of whai sum nations r rich an' other wuns r por. Two no that iys two no da million dolur question. Lots of kuntrys wana no uai they iys por.

It iys indeed an inerestin' question when yew posit iyt in terms of da Americas. Bein' that thei wur colonized around the saim time,

There r literally millions of reasons that Latin America iys por while Amrica and Canadan land is richerer. Butt the main reasons, IMO, r the following.

  • Climate
  • Colonization differences
  • Not bringing something to have sex with


I won't go into great detail about climate but for several reasons hot temperatures are not conducive to productivity. Colder regions also have advantages in terms of health for several reasons (e.g. certain pathogens doant like the cold and with winter there is a cleansing in cold temperatures while in hot regions the pathogens stick around).

Some of the other reasons hot climates are less conducive to productivity is that a) heat makes one lazy and b) in cold climates you ahve to build better buildings and also store food for winter while in hot climates you ahve to work less for food.

This is a controversial theory and it's far from a universal one. But cold climates generally produce more productive cultures.

You speak of natural resources but in modern economy that is not the biggest factor. Industrialization is. Selling steel to Japan to buy it back as a watch kills nations like Brazil who have lots of natural resources but less inductrialized culture.

Climate is a big part of inductrialization as it helps force it through necessity.

I'll start another discussion on this when I have mor taim.

but the main factors are related to the way in which the lands were colonized. In the case of the US people went there to live. Not to exploit. They were there to build a nation, not to reap the riches.

The colonization of Latin America was largely characterized by the attempt to rape the land and not to establish a foothold.

It is telling that the most prosperous cities and regions of Latin America are usually the ones that were first colonized by Europeans who actually wanted to stay.

Other factors of colonization made a big difference as well. The US's land rushes were hugely beneficial. It spead the populace and got the US a huge head start. In South America you will see that the colonization followed the old "get all the coast you can" strategy. This is an easy way to conquer large areas because if you ahve the coast the inland is hard to get.

But the next step, the push to the interior, never materialized for some Latin american nations. E.G. by the time Brazil got around to making a push inland all their cities were concentrated on the coast and their efforts to make an inland push were too little too late. Brazil tried things like moving their capital inland but all they accomplished was a capital isolated in swampland.

And lastly there is not having something to have sex with. It sounds like a joke but it's not.

In the colonization of the US the colonizers brought their wives and families. In south america they didn't bring it so they raped slaves and indians.

This had an effect because at the time they didn't even consider Indians to be human, so the children of these unions were, of course, left uneducated etc. In the US the children got a head start in terms of education because they were not always the product of rape and such.

Anywho you can pretty much sum it up like this: In the colonization of the US people went there to live. In South America it was for conquest and then to take the natural resources to Europe.

There are literally millions of other factors but thems be the main ones.

Factors like having fierce Indians to slaughter or not made a difference. The differences in the slave trade etc etc.

And while it's tempting to sneer I won't. Less than 5% of the world (think about literacy rates to make that less of an outlandish figure) knows the answers to the questions you are asking so it's no big deal.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Aug, 2003 04:53 am
Thanks craven - I figured that about the rapine/colonization - but why the difference, I wonder?

I will have a good look at what you wrote later.

Hope Fbaezer comes...
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Aug, 2003 04:57 am
It took a lot to get the pilgrims to move. There simply werent people with the same motivations moving to South America.

The land rushes etc brought the next waves of immigrants and Sout america was late on that.

I'm holding out on the other questions waiting for fbaezer as well. I had him in mind when I skipped those questions.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2003 10:51 am
Tough, complex, questions for a tough, complex, subcontinent.
Generalizations are too easy.
I will go about generalizations first.

For who knows what reasons (the US vicinity), Latin America is often seen as a very poor subcontinent.
Not true. Some regions are very poor. Some are not poor (for example, the standard of living index of Mexico City is equal to that of Hong Kong).
Latin America's average income, at purchasing parity, is slightly above the world's average.
This means all of Africa, most of the Middle East, some of Eastern Europe and most of Asia are below Latin American standards.

It is OK, though, to generalize about political instability. Every Latin American country, with the exceptions of Costa Rica and Mexico (and we had a one party government for 7 decades) has lived some amount of instability in the last half century.

------------

Why didn't Latin America have the fate of Canada, Australia and the USA?

Craven gave the most important answer: colonization as rape, in both senses.
Some countries (Mexico, Peru) used indians as serfs. Other countries (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Brazil) used blacks as slaves.
This gave way to economical systems based on the export of raw materials: gold, silver, timber, cattle, sugar, in the old times. Crude oil, fisheries, natural fertilizers, in more modern times.
The other rape gave way, in several countries, to a sort of a racial cast system: spaniards, criollos (whites born in America), mestizos (white & indian), mulatos (white & black), indians, blacks.
[I must say that Spaniards did bring women, but they were thinking too much about God, while the indian women had true interest in the flesh]

After independence from Spain, all Latin American nations saw the struggle between Liberals and Conservatives. Civil wars.
In some, like Mexico, Liberals won. In others, like Peru, it was the Conservatives. In another, Colombia, Conservatives and Liberals went to a lengthy truce and alternated governments.
This outcomes shaped the countries differently. Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay have a lot of mestizos, but significant "pure indian" population, while Mexico or Colombia are widely mixed.

Latin American may not be that poor, but income is very badly distributed. Brazil, Panama and Peru are among the countries with worst income distribution in the world.
A noted Brazilian economist, Edmar Bacha, described his country as "Belindia": Belgium + India.
The three "almost entirely white" countries of the continent have the best income distribution: Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. They are accompanied by Costa Rica.

In the middle of the XX Century, the struggle was between looking into the internal market and keeping on depending on exports (for the benefit of the exporting upper class). Populists looked inward for nationalistic industrialization (Mexico's PRI, Argentina's Perón, Brazilians Vargas and "desarrollistas"). Conservatives looked outward (notable the Argentinian landowners and their military hands).
In countries striken with bad income distribution, left wing ideas are popular. Part of the left wing was taken by populism (co-opted) in several countries. In others, left wingers were simply repressed.

In that period, several American companies were associated with traditional exporters while others were associated with national industrialists looking for the expansion of the internal market. The worst cases of US help to repressors are associated with American exporters interests (Chiquita Banana, Kennecott Copper, Exxon).

This can be too long. There are two seminal books about this problems. One is by Osvaldo Sunkel and Pedro Paz "El Subdesarrollo Latinoamericano y la Teoría del Desarrollo". Another by Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto "Dependency and Development in Latin America" (University of California Press).
0 Replies
 
Sugar
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2003 11:03 am
I really do look forward to another discussion on Craven's explaination of cold countries and wealth. The boy and I discuss this from time to time and I'm really looking forward to reading others opinions.

I'll obviously be keeping an eye on this thread as well!
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2003 04:05 pm
Fbaezer! Thank you! I need to leave for work very soon - but I will read you properly after work.

re the cold and not exploiting the hinterland things of Craven's, though - Oz is hot (though only the top bit is tropical and none is really equatorial) - and our hinterland is desert, in the main. We have traditionally exported raw materials - more so now, as globalization has destroyed many of our manufacturing/processing industries.

Oz was settled with brutality and rape - and the USA had slaves.

I shall enjoy reading properly......
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2003 04:42 pm
Cold vs. hot is a generalization of what can be put as "nature gives little for free vs. nature is prodigal".

In Mexico we have both the semidesert and the tropical plains, yet the people and the level of development are different.
In the semidesert we have thriving cities (Torreón, for example, ugly as hell, is called "the city of great efforts"); in the tropical plains we have beautiful, old fashioned, decadent cities and towns. Some States who were among the richest in my childhood now are among the poorest (not that they became poor, mind you, but didn't grow as much). There, you lie in a hammock and a mango falls into your hand.

Brutality and rape against the natives (be them Sioux -USA-, Mohawk -Canada-, Aboriginal -Australia-, Tainos -Cuba- or Ona -Argentina) is one thing; brutality and rape against the country is another.
When colonizers arrived to the Americas, they either found "medieval" empires in or near their climax (Aztecs in central Mexico, Incas in Perú), former empires in their decadence (Mayans is southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras) or less developed tribes (North America and northern Mexico, the Antilles, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Brazil).
The pattern was: Melt the colonial culture with that of the existing indian empire, with the Spanish as hegemonic and the Aztec/Inca as subordinate. Use the indians from this empires and also the Mayans as serfs. Exterminate the less developed tribes or send them to impossible enclaves, and find some other labor force (slaves in the Antilles, Brazil and the US).
IMO, Southern USA would have had a quasi Latin American situation, had seccession succeded (what a phrase!). Luckily, the industrialized North needed free labor.
Free labor was the key to the economic successes of Canada, USA and Australia. Lack of land reform in export-oriented Argentina -who had free labor and lots and lots of land- was the key for its falling from a European-like development in the 1920s to its sorry state today.

Slaves were brutalized in the US, in Cuba and in Brazil. But the US cotton was for the internal market, while the sugar cane was for exports, in exchange of consumer goods for the upper classes.

There are historical periods in which it is best for a country to look inward, and other periods in which it is best to grow through exports. Some Latin American countries took too long in understanding this. The ones that went to the internal market in the early XX Century and opened their economies towards the end of the Century are faring better.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2003 04:47 pm
The slave thing is very interesting, Fbaezer (I am gonna be SOOOO late!) - oz had convict indentured labourers in the very early days - but most of them could earn their freedom, and there was no racial thing happening...hmmmm.

Still gonna look properly when I get home....
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maliagar
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Aug, 2003 05:33 pm
Re: The Humungous South and Central America Question.
Just a few thoughts...

I think the question is not why Latin America is comparatively poorer than Anglo America or much of Western Europe at this specific point in history. The question is how and why the richer countries of the world got richer.

For those who think that British colonialism was better than the Spanish variety, go and take a look at Jamaica, India, Guyana, Belize, and others... or think about the better integration of the white, black and native races in Spanish America (most of Latin America abolished slavery well before the U.S.).

The path towards wealth and political stability is not the normal, default, given type of path. In time and space, it's been the exception, not the rule. In this regard, Latin America has not been an exception. Most of Europe hadn't been an exception either (until after World War II), for the living standards of such countries as Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece were not higher than in Latin America. [Even today it's does better on some indicators than Eastern Europe]

At the beginning of the 20th century the European poor where NOT migrating only to Anglo America. Far from it: Poor Italians, Spaniards, Russians, and even Germans were going by the millions to Argentina, southern Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Paraguay, etc. After World War II, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica and other nations were also receiving european immigrants... (not to speak of the numbers of Chinese and Japanese immigrants to Brazil and Peru).

The U.S. would be a very different country if the Civil War had ended in a split of the new nation--or worse, in a total victory of the South over the North, and an impostion of Southern mores over the Yankee view of the world.

Now, regarding the Guatemalan death squads, the reason is simple: a combination of Cold War politics and (fair or exaggerated) local grievances. During most of the 20th century, Communists and Capitalists were killing each other all over the world (while avoiding a direct confrontation that would obliterate mankind). Guatemala was one of those stages in which the war took place at a safe distance from the centers that promoted that war (Washington and Moscow).
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Aug, 2003 05:48 pm
Maliagar notices, correctly, that British colonialism was no better than Spanish colonialism.
I wonder what would have happened had the Spaniards become the colonizing empire of India. At least one thing for sure: more mixed race. Even counterreform Spaniards were not as prudish as Victorian Englishmen.
Another possible development: syncretic Catholicism-Hinduism.

On Guatemala, Maliagar is also right.
Let us remember that, unlike the zone formerly controlled by the Aztecs, the Mayan empire was in decadence when the Spaniards arrived. This meant a worse kind of exploitation of the indian population.
In fact, Guatemala, Honduras, and the rest of Central American countries -with the exception of Panama, a US invention- were Mexican provinces right after our independence. The ruling classes of those provinces resented Mexican central control (anti-slavery stuff, and such) and secceded in the early XIX Century. One of the provinces, Chiapas, of recent fame, returned to Mexico in 1833; the others, broke their confederacy amid bitter bickering and became independent nation-States ( or "banana republics", if you are totally politically incorrect).
With the exception of Costa Rica, they are all characterized for having a very conservative militant right wing, and with the exception of Honduras & Costa Rica, they also have strong, radical, left wing movements.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Aug, 2003 05:49 pm
It's not a matter of British colonialism versus Spanish. It's a matter of self-determination versus the lack of it.
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maliagar
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2003 05:42 pm
Craven de Kere wrote:
It's not a matter of British colonialism versus Spanish. It's a matter of self-determination versus the lack of it.


I don't see here any reference to self-determination... Question

Craven de Kere wrote:
...Butt the main reasons, IMO, r the following.

  • Climate
  • Colonization differences
  • Not bringing something to have sex with




Craven de Kere wrote:
It took a lot to get the pilgrims to move. There simply werent people with the same motivations moving to South America.

The land rushes etc brought the next waves of immigrants and Sout america was late on that.

I'm holding out on the other questions waiting for fbaezer as well. I had him in mind when I skipped those questions.


fbaezer wrote:
Craven gave the most important answer: colonization as rape, in both senses.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2003 05:44 pm
Self-determination was referenced in that the pilgrims who founded America did so out of the desire for self-determination.

The colonization of other places was not nearly as driven by the desire to establish a nation so much as the desire to exploit resources.
0 Replies
 
maliagar
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2003 06:01 pm
You're indeed talking about colonization differences... and we go back to the (real or imagined) differences between British and Spanish colonialism... In your view, one style led to self-determination, the other didn't.

Now, of course, we can stick to conventional history or to "revisionist" history about both colonialisms' pros and cons. We can repeat the golden legend of British colonialism, and the black legend of Spanish colonialism, or we can go beyond them.

Craven de Kere wrote:
Self-determination was referenced in that the pilgrims who founded America did so out of the desire for self-determination.

The colonization of other places was not nearly as driven by the desire to establish a nation so much as the desire to exploit resources.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2003 08:10 pm
No Maliagar, I am not back to stating differences between British and Spanish colonialism. I am talking about the difference between people migrating to live or landing to conquer. They are not the same thing as evidenced by other British colonies in which British imperialism did not further Britain or the colony by much. The successful examples of colonization were not differentiated from the less successful by the nation colonizing but rather the difference between the will to make a home (be it of necessity or force) and the desire to profit. Where the British were successful in establishing a foothold to plunder their colonization was less fruitfull.

So again, I am not talking about the difference between British, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese colonization. On a smaller scale this played out for the other imperialists as well.

Colonization in Brazil by the Jesuits was more successful than the conquistadores. etc etc
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Aug, 2003 05:39 am
Hmmmm - then it may be relevant that Oz provided little, or nothing, in the way of plunder....and that people abandoned (to all intents and purposes) there had little choice but to farm and produce, or starve...

Why the extreme right wing parties in so many places?

'Tis all very well to say that the cold war was particularly brutally fought out in parts of the continent - why? What was the USA's role in this?

Maliagar, if you think I was claiming a superior role for Brit colonialism, I wasn't.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Aug, 2003 12:43 pm
Extreme right/ extreme left comes usually when the social tissue is not well knit, when education is scarse and when institutions are not strong enough to hold it (when I'd rather knock my opponent than argue, because neither of us is capable of arguing with much reason or of arriving at a compromise).

As for the US... well it didn't want Communism in the back door, or in the patio. And ANYTHING with the slightest smell of Communism was dismissed as such.
From the late 40s to the late 80s, the US did not care about democracy in Latin America; it cared about avoiding a Socialist Latin America. It favored dictators -except at the situation when their repressive regimes finally strenghtened the left-. Democratically elected presidents Arbenz, Bosch and Allende were all ousted thanks to American support.
For decades, the Latin American left felt that the dictators' brutality and the US involvement were all one. "Luchamos contra el Yanke, enemigo de la humanidad", said the Sandinista anthem: "we fight against the Yankee, enemy of mankind".
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Aug, 2003 12:56 pm
"Onward we march, comrades,
we march onto revolution,
our people are owners
of their history,
architects of their liberation

Combattants of the Sandinista Front,
onward to our future,
we are protected by a red and black flag,
Free Fatherland! To win or to die!

The sons of Sandino
do not give up, do not sell themselves.
We fight against the yankee,
enemy of mankind.

Today, dawn
is not a temptation anymore,
tomorrow a new sun shall rise,
and lighten all the land
that our martyrs and heroes willed to us
with plentiful rivers of milk and honey".


Oddly enough, the son of Carlos Mejía Godoy (the author of the "Anthem of Sandinista Unity"), fought in Iraq, as a member of the US Armed Forces.

Oh, Latin America!
0 Replies
 
maliagar
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Aug, 2003 01:52 pm
Craven de Kere wrote:
No Maliagar, I am not back to stating differences between British and Spanish colonialism. I am talking about the difference between people migrating to live or landing to conquer.


And "people migrating" were the colonists, right? And they brought with them different views about the natives, the land, law, right and wrong, and the like. Unless of course you think that British and Spanish colonialism is only to be defined by the imperial policies designed in Europe, as if they were something altogether separate from what the colonists actually thought and did.

Migrating "to live" or "to conquer"... Those who came to the east coast of North America "to live" had no room for the natives in their radical utopian projects. Therefore, they had to expell the natives westward or kill them.

The Spaniards "conquered", which meant incorporated the native nations into their empire, as kingdoms legally equal to other parts of the empire in Europe or elsewhere. This meant putting in place laws and institutions that were designed to take care of their concerns. It is not by chance that America's first universities were located in Lima, Sto. Domingo, and Mexico City (16th century), and that they provided degrees in law, theology, and other subjects. Binding institutions and a new legality were being built for all. Very much unlike anything we saw in Puritan North America.

Quote:
The successful examples of colonization were not differentiated from the less successful by the nation colonizing but rather the difference between the will to make a home (be it of necessity or force) and the desire to profit.


The Spaniards were in America for more than 300 years. Maybe the first conquistadores had the dream of becoming rich and going back to Spain. But afterwards they just came to stay.
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