Social Network!

Hello All:  I posted a comment on the Participant Submission page earlier today….but I wanted to put it on the main page too.

A possible education social network for a facebook style project is : www.edmodo.com  It can be in Spanish or English so either History or Spanish teachers can use it.  It is free, students do not need an email account to create a profile and it is very secure.

I checked with my TRT and it has been approved by Loudoun County and is already in use at Potomac Falls in some way.  Check with your school’s TRT for more ideas/ways to incoroporate it!

Good luck!
Melissa

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Final Presentations

Tuesday Feb 8th

  • Presenters: Michele, Holly, Susan, Louise, Allison, Dora Lee, Nicole, Lisa, Edwin, & Diana
    • Drinks: Kim & Adam
    • Fruit/ Veggies/ Appetizers (or dish): Eneida, Julie, Kelly R., Kelly M.
    • Napkins/Plates/Forks/Spoons: Maritza, Andrew
    • Dessert: Sofia, Melissa

Tuesday Feb 15th

  • Presenters: Kim, Sofia, Melissa, Maritza, Eneida, Adam, Julie, Kelly M., Kelly R., & Andrew
    • Drinks: Dora Lee, Lisa
    • Fruits/ Veggies/Appetizers (or dish): Louise, Allison, Diana, Holly
    • Napkins/Plates/Forks/Spoons: Susan, Nicole
    • Dessert: Michele, Edwin
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China’s New Role in Latin America or a Global Take Over?

Week 14/B

China’s New Role in Latin America ~ could it be another step toward Global Take Over?

While reading about the various problems in Modern Latin America, globalization and the Republic of China radical ways to engaged other countries, the following questions kept pounding into my brain: Are we really missing something? Could it be simply another step toward Global take over Ninja style?

Ninjas were members of a class of 14th-century Japanese mercenary agents. Ninjas were highly trained in the martial arts. My perception of a modern day Ninja is not necessarily linked to Japan, China or to any other nation. I dare to define a “Financial Ninja” as a highly trained and skilled individual who combines movements in battlefields such as Wall Street/ U.S. Stock Market, International Stock Markets in the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, among many others. These “Financial Ninjas” accurately use their cognitive powers in moves to seize, assassinate and sabotage international stock market performances. “The relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and nearly all Latin American countries blossomed during the first half of the first decade of the twenty-first century. China fever- gripped the region. Latin American presidents, ministers, business executives and journalists “discovered” China and its rapidly growing impact on the world’s economy and Latin American itself” Jorge I. Dominguez Problems in Modern Latin American History, (page 293). 

Recently, we can clearly see how some Latin American countries relate to Asia, and particularly to the Republic of China as their source of hope, financial and technological aid in desperate times. Of course, Mexico has managed to diversify its economy in sharp contrast to Venezuela (another oil-exporter country). To support this statement I would simply quote Michael Reid “Mexico trains more engineers each year than the “United States, China or India, according to Rafael Rangel, the rector of Monterrey’s Instituto Tecnologico. A nonprofit university, the Tec, as Mexicans call it, had thirty campuses across the country in 2006, many of them linked to small business incubators.” The Loneliness of Latin America, (page 295).

Elsewhere, China fever continues to climb up throughout Latin America. President Hu Jintao visited Argentina, Brazil and Chile seven years ago (2004). China’s president promised then massive investments of billions of dollars to build up larger infrastructures, thus facilitating the import of the commodities that the Republic of China craves. Soon after, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez traveled to Beijing. It is recorded that in that visit, Chavez stated that: “Improbably Simon Bolivar would have felt great affinity for Mao Zedong and added that China would invest heavily in Venezuela’s oil industry. Partnership with China, the assumption seem to be, was a liberating alternative to depending on the United States.” Forgotten Continent, (page 301)

China craves Latin American raw materials, and interestingly enough, marvelous clothing or apparels articles, house wares, an endless list of goods are massively produced and distributed around the globe. Just a walk to the nearest mall, would confirm what is happening all over our beloved United States of America. In most of our shopping centers, supermarkets, convenient stores and outlet malls, from upper class Nordstrom to my Sterling neighborhood Dollar Store. It is easy to find what you are looking for, at a better price with a simple common denominator: “Made in China”! Could it be another step taken “Financial Ninja” style?  Eneida Headley.

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What goes around…

Latin America, just like the other parts of the world, continues to struggle with the legacy of its past. In 2011 and beyond, social movements continue to gain momentum. Judging from our study, a probable course for Latin American societies will be one that continues to ebb and flow under the influences of conservative and liberal influences. Just as colonialism was followed later by neo-colonialism, imperialism was followed by neo-imperialism, and liberalism was followed later by neo-liberalism, so perhaps will nationalism be followed by neo-nationalism, etc.
Some of the interesting passages in our most recent readings was once again the popularity of Marxism in Latin America in the 20th century and the United States’ aggressive responses. The United States definitely used democracy as a buzz word, and sought to overthrow “non-democratic” governments in Latin America because they were a threat to the safety and security of the Western Hemisphere. However, democracy is not a legitimate form of government, if it is being imposed by another country, in order to be a true democracy, it has to be organic and be supported wholeheartedly by the consent of the governed. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that the United States did not learn from in its interventions in Latin America, because it continues to be an issue to this day.
The other major issue that continues to be a point of contention in many Latin American societies is equality for all racial groups. Specifically the MNU in Brazil, and mestizo and indigenous cultures in many Latin American countries continue to struggle for acceptance, preservation, and equality.

Posted in Uncategorized, week 14 Group A | 2 Comments

Waiting for Peron

Many challenges have faced the nations of Latin America over the past thirty years (US power-plays during the Cold War, years of oppressive military governments, Argentina’s “Dirty War”, and  NAFTA to name a few) and many more are ahead (first amongst them being the aftereffects of many of the former challenges as Latin America’s nations move into a new, more democratic era).  Out of all that has been and all that will be, however, I believe that the one trend which continues cyclically throughout Latin America’s history is the single, charismatic ruler motivating the people and taking power for good or ill.  This legacy is handed down from Bolivar, Santa Anna, Diaz, Peron, Allende, and dozens of others, but as of yet in the 21st century, there have not seemed to be the same sort of legendary, internationally-noted leaders as we have observed in the past.

I would think, however, that such a leader must be on the horizon- or is possibly already present, but has not yet been fully realized and recognized by his/her people and the international community.  Just as leaders of this nature seem particularly present in Latin American history, they seem to rise from times of great conflict and turmoil to take command.  Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s went through just such a period, shaking off the military dictatorships that dominated most of the region.  Following the trend, now is the time when the next great generation of freedom fighters, caudillos, or populists should rise to the fore and chart the course for their nations into the 21st century and through the hazards and opportunities it contains.  Perhaps, as I mentioned above, they have already done so- and there will be a new era with new great historical figures detailed in the next publishing of Born in Blood and Fire and other surveys of Latin American history.

((I should point out from a historical perspective that this dark times lead to heroic leader model is hardly a uniquely Latin American phenomenon, but I have been struck over the course of this class by just how frequent and cyclical such an event seems in Latin American history.  The sheer population density, if you will, of powerful, charismatic leaders taking control of people and nations in Latin American history- and the ease and speed at which the people seem to fall behind each- is just stunning in comparison to almost any other history I have ever read.))

Posted in week 14 Group A | 2 Comments

Who knows what would happen in the future?

The history of Latin America has been filled by a lot of events that have affected the developing of the society. Before the colonization period, indigenous people had their own societies, rules, economy, political ideologies, and religion. There were changes that affected the New World after Spain and Portugal arrived: A new culture, language, religion, society, political ideas, and economy spreading into the natives Latin American lives. This was not an easy process for the Iberians but also for the indigenous.

As time passed, indigenous s and creoles leaders started to revolt against the Iberians and Latin America started a new political, social and economical crisis. Wars of independence were a proof that “el pueblo” did not want to continue to follow more rules from Foreign countries. Countries that gave them a lot but took them most of they had. Caudillos with their Liberal ideas started to fight against all the laws that remembered all the oppression from Spain and Portugal and Conservatives wanted to stay how they were at that moment. The result of this: New Revolutions against political parties. The violence has grown more and more in all Latin America: Kidnappings, political leader assassinations, moms crying in the streets asking to the government for their children (Las Madres de la plaza de mayo, Argentina), lower class workers asking for their rights, governments promising to defend the rights of the disadvantaged, and the hope that all this political war will end soon.

First world countries watching all these problems in Latin America placed their Internationals Companies in order to “help to solve the situation”. First, USA spread its companies throughout Latin America.  Gradually, the new rules and changes brought by the US were seen as Spain and Portugal rules and changes when they colonized Latin America in 1492. It caused a new revolution. Leaders as “Che” Guevara, Fidel Castro with Marxism ideologies stood against US. Some countries followed their ideologies some did not, but each Latin American country did not want to be “colonized” again. Now everything is made in China, even if the country that processes the product is in Latin America or other part of the world.  And the war starts again….. Latin American History is a cycle that closes and opens again and again. It does not happen because we are not smart, it happens because First World countries think they can solve all the problems in the world… Maybe if we could live by ourselves, the history would be different? Who knows what would happen in the future?

Posted in week 14 Group B | 4 Comments

the wheel is going to spin again

Once Iberians touched the floor of The New World, the problems of Latin America started. A boat full of ambitious and many ignorant men looking for their own benefit and with the desire of conquest was not going to transform the indigenous people’s land in the perfect Latin American dream. Undoubtedly, we received some valuable benefits such as the language and Catholic religion, but at the sacrifice of the indigenous people‘s society and culture.

As time went by Latin Americans could face the side effect of being under the power of Spaniards. They lost their lands; they were forced to follow the laws implemented by the caste system, and became slaves in their own territory.

Even after independence, post colonialism and nationalism the problems, rather than the progress, were always on top of the table. Latin American countries were under the rules of many presidents for better or for worse. Some governments were more mature and stable but rarely more democratic. They were supposed to be created to improve people’ standard of life, and to listen to the village voice, but once the politicians were in the power their rhetoric was a simple lie. When some people disagreed with the politics of their government they were subject to keep quite or the worst, to disappear like in Argentina during the 1980s.

The US has always been present in Latin America behind the decisions of our presidents. That is why the economy of our nations depends on the big North American monster. Naturally, the poor become poorer and the rich richer.

Nowadays, there is a tendency to transform Latin America in a place where equality and equity hold the hands together, raising the standard of life of people, of course, apparently. While the nation is starving, the president is wearing Italian suits like Chavez in Venezuela.. Many political leaders are forcing people to face a sort of new socialism. Nobody knows where the wheel is going to spin because Latin America is living a vicious cycle.

Posted in week 14 Group B | 1 Comment

Instability

Looking back at the previous thirty years in Latin America the word instability is one that stuck out.  To me that word applies to more than the last thirty years as Latin America has had numerous periods of instability in the past.

US intervention and rebel groups helped bring about much of the instability in Latin America.  For any nation to be stable it cannot have violence and fighting taking place within its borders.  The US supported Contras fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the Zapatistas in Mexico, and the Argentine miltary during the dirty war are all good examples.  Violence hurts the political system and creates drastic change which does not promote stability.  Foreign interevention also hurts stability because the people of a nation with heavy foreign influence might not support their government due to its ties to another nation. 

During the 90s many governments entered a period of neoliberalism.  Nations such as Mexico worked with the United States and developed NAFTA.  A connection with the remaining world superpower was made to help them improve their nations economy.

More recent political figures such as Hugo Chavez have spoken out against United States imperialism, going as far to call George Bush the devil during a speech at the United Nations.  To me this shows how Latin America has struggled to find a way to deal with the United States.  Sometimes asking for help and sometimes getting “help” it did not want or need.  This has caused leaders and citizens to continue to be suspicious towards the intentions of the US, and rightfully so.

In the future I believe periodic instability will continue.  This pattern has repeated throughout what we have learned in the class and it will take long periods of stability to help bring that trend to an end.  Latin American nations need to build stronger political systems and have increased political participation from their population.  They also need to find a way to improve their economic standing.  As the population gains confidence in their government and their economic situation improves stability can take hold in Latin America.

Posted in week 14 Group B | 2 Comments

Latin America

From the beginning Latin America has experienced a turbulence of interference from all over the world. We can go back to the great “encounter” and the intentions of the conquistadores and the role the natives played during and after this ordeal. It appears that every area of Latin America has had its own unique experiences and battles to become fully independent, democratic, or whatever their intentions might have been. One thing is clear they have wanted independence and equality but have struggled with outside influence but mostly within themselves. After acquiring independence life was not any better in for many of the new Latin American countries. This trickled a series of revolutions except for Cuba and Puerto Rico. The two islands remained colonies of Spain. Subsequently, Latin America enters the neocolonialism era. Based on the information provided by Chasteen, this has to be the beginning of a major set back for Latin American, which still faces today with regards to truly defining their own identify. Latin America knows they have an enormous wealth of natural resources and begin to deal with some very savvy countries that in the end all they want is control. Some of the leaders in Latin America allowed this “control” for the benefit of their own financial and political success at the expense of the masses. Except others are not going to allowed foreign “control” again.

The liberalism movement took place and some Latin American countries are able to come together and expel foreign “assistance/control” by expropriating all foreign owned land and businesses. Once again we see different movements taking place throughout Latin America. We have the Castro/Guevara revolts. Castro’s dislike for the United States ends up in joining forces with Russia. Che Guevara’s ideals are great on theory yet not practical enough to be implemented.  However, Cuba does gain independence and those Marxists believes traveled like wild fire throughout Latin America. These movements made the United States extremely nervous and concern that there was a possibility for Latin America to become communist. United States hidden agenda and influence has become more predominant since the neocolonialism period and has affected the economic, political and social identity of Latin America. Not to say that some Latin American countries were not already corrupt however, U.S.A influence fed that evil even more.

Today, most of Latin American struggles with maintaining stability in their government, economy and human rights. Nonetheless, this is not a new discovery since lack of stability has occurred from the conquest on to the present. Still, Latin America possesses some of the wealthiest natural resources in the world and some of the most patriotic and passionate people. In spite of that, Latin America still continues to endure poverty, exploitation, corruption, crime, drugs, and discrimination from within. Yet its citizens appear to have become more complacent to their destinies. And instead of fighting back, some tend to travel north for a better life. I often wonder what Latin America’s founding fathers and heroes would do if they were alive today. At some point, Latin America needs to “cowboy-up” and take charge of their destiny. By that I mean, each Latin America country needs to work together for the benefit of each country and eventually Latin America as a whole and not for the well being of the few elite. Otherwise, it will continue to be a vicious cycle of unfortunate events.

Posted in week 14 Group A | 3 Comments

Instability still reigns supreme

Overall, the theme that emerges in Latin America over the last 30 years is instability.  Instability in the economic and political arena, which is often influenced by outside sources.  According to many of the readings, the economic instability comes from various places, one of which is lack of control of production by the citizens of Latin America.  Another is that outside countries, starting with the Europeans and switching to the U.S., established and controlled the profitable businesses, such as mining, bananas, and coffee, preventing the Latin Americans from making money off products from their own regions.

Another problem with Latin America over the last 30 years is political instability.  The political instability came from a couple of places – one was lack of citizen participation and the other was outside influence.  One of the the themes throughout the readings was that there is lack of participation in politics – things as simple as turning out for voting.  However, the reasons for this lack of participation are not very clear.  The other issue has been outside interference.  Countries, such as the U.S., have tried to prevent communism and in theory promote democracy, which in reality has lead to dictatorships.  It must be hard for countries to adopt and participate in a political tradition when there is a constant history of governments being undermined by outside forces. 

Based on the readings, the predictions for the future in Latin America are continued instability, unless a successful tradition can be modeled in several countries and then used in others.  However, this tradition must be established by Latin American countries rather than outside forces so that the Latin American citizens feel as though they have some ownership in the government.  Without ownership, there is no motivation for participation because the people feel as though others are ultimately going to control the government.  Until outside influences allow Latin America to create its own economic and political system, with guidance from rather than control by others, it will continue to remain unstable.

Posted in week 14 Group A | 2 Comments

Failure of Enduring Political Systems In Latin America

Latin America has been challenged with political instability and accompanying violence in the last 30 years.  The power and authority of the military has fluctuated wildly in each country.   The inability to implement liberal ideals into firm governmental policies and the inability to bring about social change for the working class has caused upheaval in their governments.  Corrupted democracy and unrealized liberal ideals has led to oligarchic and authoritarian rule instead of the election of more viable candidates.   When communism has failed, the military has taken over establishing dictatorships. Much of the political instability over the past thirty years has been due in part to U.S. intervention in backing non-communist candidates and training military leaders.    But it is the failure of enduring political systems that has caused upheaval in Latin America.

 

How must Latin Americans today feel about their governments?  Do they have any trust in politicians who come forward and promise change? How fearful are they to speak out or demonstrate opposition to government policies when they have seen or experienced the loss of a loved one at the expense of military or political factions?

 

I predict that Latin America will continue to experience political instability unless new democracies or governments are free from corruption and U.S. intervention.  Without trust from the people, government systems in Latin America are vulnerable.   Economically, the underlying problems of social inequality will remain unless the standard of living rises for the working class.   Social security must be addressed because the past demonstrates that social inequality has led to revolution and communism.

 

One question that stands out in my mind:  Is communism working in Cuba?  Has Fidel Castro brought about social equality?  The education and health sectors sure look as though social equality has been realized to some extent.  Are Cubans happy with their government?   Were it not for the U.S, embargo, would Cuba be competitive economically and enjoying some measure of prosperity?  It is interesting to consider what will happen when Fidel Castro dies.  Human rights issues aside, I think Cuba has leveled the playing field socially which has been an underlying cause of political instability in Latin America.

 

My thoughts turn to the idea of a Latin American EU to provide political stability, trade, pooled resources for improved infrastructure and authority to enforce human rights.  The OAS serves this role but I think a look at the EU model would strengthen the OAS and bring about political and economic stability in Latin America, providing security for new governments and enforcing human rights.

Posted in week 14 Group A | 1 Comment

Marxism as a Lens

In reviewing the readings for this week and in light of what we’ve discussed in class this semester about the role of individual perspective in how we view history, I think it is very difficult for citizens of the United States to separate the labels of “Marxist” and “communist” from the Cuban Revolution and the state that grew out of it- not necessarily because the two are inextricable, but because those terms have become the lens through which Americans have come to understand those events.

This is not a new phenomenon; throughout Latin American history, we have seen the attempts of (mostly non-Latin American) historians to apply names and labels to periods of Latin American history (Neocolonial, for example) in an attempt to help students of history understand those periods better from an outsider’s perspective.  It is not even necessarily a bad thing- provided that our study of history and our understanding of these time periods doesn’t stop with the label.  Indeed, such categories are vital tools for us as teachers, because it helps our students to group information and package it into useful units.  What we have to be sure of is that these terms, categories, labels, or whatever you prefer to call them are used as starting points for discussion, not be-all and end-all roadblocks.

For example, in Cuba’s case, using the “Marxist” and “communist” terminology is helpful to get students engaged in the topic, because those are terms they know and understand.  Once engaged, however, students must be challenged to look more closely at the individual motivations and ideologies of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution, their actual goals in creating the subsequent government, and the sequence of events that led them to align with the Soviet Union- which are not necessarily those of the automatic “communist alliance” that they might assume.  The point, again, is not necessarily to debunk the label (some of them are apt and useful), but to challenge students to examine them critically and either dispute conventional thinking or understand why such terms are applied in the first place.

Posted in week 13 Group A | 2 Comments

Marxism for the Masses…

After completing this week’s readings, I do not think it is possible to separate the term Marxism from the Cuban Revolution. First of all, the leaders of the revolution, mainly Che and the Castro brothers espoused Marxist ideas. Separating Marxist rhetoric from the Cuban Revolution would be as difficult as separating Enlightenment rhetoric from the American Revolution. I could see how the Marxist view of history, mainly the exploitation of the working classes resonated with some Latin Americans. It was interesting that in Che’s selection, he spoke of the importance of aligning guerilla movements with the rural agrarian poor, that without their support, success was not possible. The language that Che used reminded me of The Art of War, in the way that he had a systematic analysis of military strategy. While the Cuban Revolution was successful in that there was a transition of power and the revolutionaries took power, whether it truly benefitted Cubans is up for much debate.
I thought it was interesting that while the United States became more staunchly anti-Communist, Communism became more popular in Latin America. And that in the United States, capitalism became increasingly synonymous with Christianity, while Communism became more separated from religion. It is telling that “one nation, under God,” was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until the US was in the midst of the Cold War. Liberation Theology was an interesting development, a reaction to elitist religion and government. But apparently some people, including Pope John Paul II believed the community outreach projects, like day care co-ops, were too socialist.

Posted in week 13 Group A | 2 Comments

Latin American Revolution: National Achievements and Countless Executions. Group B Week 13

Latin American Revolution: National Achievements, Countless Human Executions and still many more to come.

Current week’s topic about finding common elements between revolutionary options taken by Mexico, specifically Tlatelolco Massacre (1968); Cuba, an ongoing social revolution openly declared since 1959; and the Liberation theologizing movement, is as rich and relevant as ever. While reading about their causes, I found a common denominator to all: the popular agitation and encouragement to the masses. “El Pueblo” the people was directed and indoctrinated into challenging authoritarianism, private and openly held protests against imperialism and foreign financial structures within their nations. Massive foreign debt explosions gave Latin American countries financial asphyxiation. Every revolutionary cause needed an idol, a person to be admired, and a source of inspiration propelling the most intense human passions so that their followers would gladly embrace death itself if needed be.

For instance, Mexican Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI) and The National Strike Committee (CNH) and their violent demonstrations provoke the government’s response with tanks and military vehicles to a students’ demonstration staged in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the District of Tlatelolco. Not an accurate number of executed students and civil people alike have been determined. “Human rights organizations placed the number at four hundred or higher”. The land vomited the blood of its children. The government, not foreign invaders killed the children…massive executions.

Cuba found not one, but two idols: “El Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara” and Fidel Castro. Argentinean Guevara, killed in 1967 by his country’s troops in Bolivia, rose from the death in the minds of many Latin American men and women even before his earthly burial. Guerrilla warfare, struggling people trying to redeem themselves surged into an ideological and popular manner to express discontent with their governments. The revolution moved across the countries from the far Southern Argentina, to the warmth of the Caribbean. “La Causa Revolucionaria”-The revolutionary caused had two front lines. One armed with guns, and all kind of arms ready to attack after crafty study of their targets. The other, and the most effective in my opinion, was and still takes place in the houses of learning at all levels. Revolution breaths and lives through songs, poems, newspapers, magazines, underground printings. The power of ideas into actions, innocently written as love stories such as “My body leaves you drop by drop. My face leaves in a deaf anointment;  My hands are leaving in loosed mercury; My feet leave in two tides of dust” excerpt from “Absence by Gabriela Mistral. Yes, we heard a lot of Marxism and Leninism, but frankly, growing up in South America I heard a lot more, much more about Mao Zedong.

A huge difference is that although Mexico appears to have a stable political democracy, the “Gospel” of Cuba is still thriving and infecting other nations right back to South America. Quoting our American Maya Angelou “…People do what they know…When they know different – they do different…”

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Cuba

If I were to take the label “Marxist” from the events in Cuba it probably wouldn’t change my evaluation of the transformation of Cuba starting the 1959s on to this date. Cuba like many other countries wanted political and economic freedom. The Castro brothers and Che Guevara see the injustice that has occurred in their respective countries for a long time and of course they want their countries to break away and truly be independent and do not want some other countries policies or influences to dictate the way they should be living. I do think that such revolutionaries are angry at their neighbor to the North and do not want to have anything that resembles the United States. Thus, they begin by turning against the Untied States and almost causing a threat to the future safety of the U.S.A. However, in the process of doing this, they want to form an alliance with Russia because Russia at that time was a threat to the U.S.A. Little did Cuba know that in the end it would not benefit Cuba at all to have ties to Russia because simply Russia could not afford to take such a serious stand against the U.S.A. Thus, Fidel Castro becomes the dictator to Cuba and its citizens have not have the prosperous live and dreams that they thought they would accomplished under Castro’s regime.  It is ironic that the country that he has hated the most is the country that has housed thousands of people claiming political asylum.

Posted in Uncategorized, week 13 Group A | 3 Comments

Cloudy is the Forecast

There are two things I remember distinctively as a young student. Foremost is the shock and horror I felt when I learned about WWII, Nazism and the peril of the Jewish people. Secondly, I recall feeling scared and frightened when studying the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war. In particular it was the images/photos/news reels of the Bay of Pigs that were most distressing to me.  It was an extremely tense period of time between the United States, Russia and the country of Cuba.  

Revolutionary change is indeed scary with respect to all things social, economical and political. In 1959 the world theater was indeed cold. The term marxism (think German/WWII) and the term communism (think USSR/nuclear war) invoke the negative. The United States stance on anticommunism was at an all time high and additional concepts such as the Leninist theory and socialism certainly did not help matters either.

Once in power, Castro continued with Latin America’s policy of anti imperialism especially with respect to the U.S.  And we clearly did not want a Communistic country within such close range to America’s soil. Therefore the stage was set and the players were pitted against each other from the very start. Or as Chasteen refers to as a Cuban David standing up to a US Goliath. These ties still exist between both countries and are only now beginning to thaw.  

While the revolution did bring about great change within Cuba, its foundations certainly clouded America’s understanding of recent Cuban history.  Communism took away individual freedom and was viewed as a deadly sickness.  Of course we were scared!  The beast was in our very own backyard.

Posted in week 13 Group A | 4 Comments

The importance of Che

I learned a lot from this week’s readings.   I had no idea that Che Guevara was involved in the Cuban Revolution.  I’ve seen Motorcycle Diaries but that is about all I knew of Che.  His influence on all of the revolutions that we read about was very important.

Similarities:

I found it interesting that Che was actively involved in the Cuban Revolution, referenced as almost a god in Liberation Theology, and appeared in newspaper articles chronicling the events that took place in Mexico.  To this day, Che is a major figure around the world, I have students that wear t-shirts with his face.  It makes me wonder how much of his ideals these students are aware of.  I didn’t know that he wanted to eliminate the use of money and to create a truly socialist society in which all was share for the good of the group.  I think all three of these events were based on his ideals, but realistically none of them could carry them out.  As Che himself learned in Cuba post-revolution, much of his ideology was easier to speak of than to act on.

Differences:

The methods of creating a revolution was very different in all three of these cases.  In Mexico, it was a youth, student based movement that focused on speaking in public arenas.  In Liberation Theology, it was based on the poor, rural peasants that needed improved living situations.  And in the Cuban Revolution, it was based on almost waiting for the right moment and creating a group of revolutionaries that would be regarded as heroes and leaders.  Sadly, only Cuba can be considered a success story, if we can call it that.  They were able to accomplish some of their goals initially, but in the long run they have never became the idealistic society that Che and Fidel Castro had envisioned.

Posted in week 13 Group B | 5 Comments

Comparing Social Revolutions–group B

Just as in most revolutions for change we have read about in Latin America, the Cuban revolution, the Liberation theologists, and the Tlatelolco share a common theme–the movement will make life better for the poor and disadvantaged.   Because this is the majority of the population, without the support of the poor, it is not likely any of these movements would have any success.  They share the ideals of  Marxism ( the ideals, not necessarily the realities), that institutions oppress the masses and thereby create hunger, disease, ignorance and lack of control over people’s own lives.  Unfortunately this association with Marxism in the years when fear of communism was at its height may have cost these movements support.  Jose A. Perez Stuart’s “Opinion” piece left little doubt that invoking the idea of Marxism was a good way to frighten  middle and upper class citizens who might have otherwise been sympathetic to the cause.

The religious revolutionaries of Liberation Theology movement equated Latin American problems similarly to the Marxist revolutionaries except most believed that good works and faith had more power than violence.  Father Camilo Torres, like Cuban revolutionaries, believed that fundamental change could not be accomplished without violence.  However, many of the clergy felt that Paulo Friere, who advocated consciousness-raising through community bible study and education to give people the opportunity to take control over their lives, was on the right track.  Though the revolutionary movement in Tlatelolco, was even less successful than the Cuban revolution and Liberation theology, it too was addressing the dissatisfaction of the state spending money that could be better used to help the poor and suffering and the repression of rights.  The Cuban leader, Castro, flew the same banner that removing a repressive regime would allow his country’s resources to be used by government to improve social conditions for the poor.

The biggest difference between these movements was in the way they played out. The Catholic church repressed the Liberation theologists comparatively quietly though political clout.  John Paul II, due to his experience with communism, and conservatives in the church used Vatican power to appoint hostile bishops and the threat of excommunication to silence the liberation theologians.  The Mexican state responded with extreme violence to silence the dissenters.  The Cuban government, after taking power through revolution, continued to oppress its citizens under Castro’s communist regime.  Is it too cynical to remark that it looks like we will always have poor and disenfranchised citizens to give power to movements who want change–for whatever reason and for whomever it actually benefits?

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Ghosts of the past, Demons of the present, what lies in the future?

                Into the twentieth century the countries of Latin America and its peoples continued to struggle against the ghosts of their past- colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism. These “ghosts” left behind a legacy of hegemony by the elitists and social and economic injustice of the lower classes. But as the countries let go of the past they only faced new demons- or so it seemed- by the new totalitarian governments, dictators and capitalists that ended up taking their place.

            But there was a movement for change rampant throughout the world and it caught on in Latin America. This movement fought against the inequities and injustices for the people and called for fundamental changes in leadership, government, the Church, and social and economic conditions. The movement was spirited by a Marxist-Leninist theory and protest against the capitalists.

            It was this spirit for change that led to the Cuban Revolution, the massacre in Tlatelolco and the Liberation Theology. However, it was only a small group of people- guerillas in Cuba, students in Tlatelolco and fundamentalists in the Church prompting the move against a totalitarian leadership that was unresponsive to change. What was similar about all three is that they all wanted a better quality of life for the people and they fought against the inequities of class struggle.

            Class struggles and the inequities led the students in Tlatelolco to protest the allocation of government funds for Olympic preparation in which they saw would only benefit the few, the government and the capitalists.  If money was available for this capitalist venture then why had they not allocated any of that money before to the poor people of Mexico? Little did they expect for their protests to become exploited by government officials and the military leading to the massacre and in a way outing the dictatorial reign of the PRI. 

            The guerillas in Cuba led by Castro and Che wanted much of the same for Cuba. They wanted to dismantle the hold of power on Cuba by Batista, but more importantly, the United States. The Liberation Theology movement wanted change but on a smaller scale. It wanted the Catholic Church to be more responsive the lack of human rights and social justice for the poorer people in Latin America. However, theirs was a more peaceful movement. They felt that faith and good works were more powerful that guns to make socioeconomical change.

            As much as these three groups fought for fundamental changes in society their outcomes were very different. The students of Tlatelolco made little headway in stopping funds from going to Olympic preparations, but they did oust some problems with the government, Castro forced out a dictator backed by the US (or was he?) only to put himself in as a communist dictator suppressing his people, and the changes wanted by the Liberation Theology movement were just too grand to amended by such a small group of people.

            What then lies in the future for Latin American when it still strugles with the ghosts of its past?

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Red – Anger of US rather than Communist Revolution

The Cuban Revolution is easily labeled as Communist or Marxist, primarily because it was trying to improve conditions for the its citizens.  According to Castro’s speech, Causes of the Cuban Revolution, Cuba, since colonization, had not been an independent country.  Once freed from Spain, it became in reality, a colony of the US due to the addendum which gave the US political influence and lease rights of Cuba.

Castro really wanted to bring better conditions to his country.  He wanted to ensure that the Cubans had a chance to make it into their own country and to improve their own situations.  Interestingly, Castro had no desire to be Communist.  He does not talk about equal distribution of land and wealth, which is the principle behind Marxism, or government owned means of production and total control, which is how Communism played out in the Soviet Union.  He simply discusses advancing the cause of the Cubans.

Ultimately, the label of Communist came from the U.S.’s anger at losing their economic benefits, such as the revenue, from losing control of the oil refineries and sugar cane production, as well as the public utilities, telephone and electric companies.  The act of expropriating that land was not something that was going to endear the new Cuban government to the U.S.  Rather than identify that in a lot of ways, Cuba was doing to the U.S. what the U.S. had done to Britain during the American Revolution and applauding that effort, the U.S. chose to villify the actions of Castro as being anti-capitalistic, which it was for the U.S., but not necessarily for Cuba.  However, the fact that the Cuba government did not grant personal liberties, such as freedom of speech, gave the U.S. an easy vehicle by which to perpetuate this “injustice” that the Cubans were being handed by their new government.  Amazingly, the economic and social injustices propagated by the U.S. were never mentioned during this villification of the new government.  As Castro stated, “We began to be painted red, simply because we had clashed with the interests of the U.S. monopolies.”

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Cuban Revolution – Week 13 Group A

During the Cold War era, it seemed that any country that wanted some type of economic or political change was easily classified as turning communist by the United States. However, the Cuban Revolution was much more than that. I think the Cuban revolutionaries like Fidel and Raul Castro along with help from Argentine Che Guevarra were sick of being controlled and/or taken advantage of by outsiders. The Cubans had gained their independence from Spain in 1898, but the United States hung around acting like Cuba’s protector when in reality they were protecting their own businesses and taking advantage of the Cuban people. By the 1950’s, Cubans were fed up, which is why the Castro’s had enough support to finally rid the country of U.S. backed Batista.

Chasteen writes that “never….was Catro close to the Moscow-line Cuban Communist Party. Nor had the Communist Party played any substantial part in the overthrow of Batista.” But the U.S. was quick to jump the gun and claim that a communist leader had taken over a country so close to the United States. And when the U.S. asked the new leaders to align with the U.S. as part of a pact to combat communism, Castro saw this as once again being used by the United States. Only with the U.S. embargo and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion did the Cubans begin aligning themselves with the Soviet Union and their allies. The Cubans needed someone to sell their exports to, especially with the hope of bringing all Cubans to economic and social equality.

Rarely when studying the Cuban Revolution in U.S. history do we learn the positive effects it had on the country – better education and health care, improved housing for poor Cubans, equality of black Cubans, etc. What we see instead is a threat of communism so close to home.

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Similarities vs. Differences (Cuba, Liberation Theology, and Tlatelolco)

There are several similarities within these three events: Cuba Revolution, Liberation Theology, and Tlatelolco.  These revolutions showed marxist influences, they were national movements seeking for justice, land reform laws, increment of educational opportunities, full equality, improvement of conditions for workers, public health, and public benefits like housing, electricity, and so on.  Art, Literature, Folkmusic were affected in the whole Latin America by these revolutions. Protest themes were used by many poets, novelists, artists, folksingers, social scientists, and outspoken students in public universities from Mexico to Argentina.

Some of the differences were that Guatemala being a small country closed and obedient to US, tried to organize a revolution, but instead of attack them back when US army attacked from Honduras, they joined them.  After announcing “Democracy in Guatemala” by the US State Department and the intervention fo US diplomats by 1954, the tragic overreaction showed that US was wrong. It was not the best for the country. Opposite to what happenend in Guatemala, US sent force to aid Bolivia instead of attack them. Anyways, Bolivia is too far away from US. What was happening there “would not affect their business” in the same way that it would happen if  Guatemala and Cuba raised against them.  Cuban Revolution leaders attacked Batista in Cuba due to his support to US anticommunist in the OAS.  Fidel and Raul Castro, and Che Guevara were against “economic imperialism” and expropriated foreign companies. US Department of State asked them to agree with it and fight against “National Liberation”. It did not happen and Fidel started to make arrangements with Russia, and he continued expropriating US owned properties. Nowadays, Fidel ideas continue and they still go against any imperialism ideas.
Church did not participate directly in this revolution. Revolutionaries religious considered that teaching to read and write to illiterate people, good works, faith, and defend the rights of the poor were the key to avoid what they called ” institutionalized violence”. Liberation theology brought for and against interest from revolutionary religious and conservative ones.

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Cuba, Liberation Theology and Tlatelolco

The Cuban Revolution, Liberation Theology and Tlatelolco have many similarities.  Each of them involves going against hegemony and advocating for basic human rights for all people, not just the few elite privileged.  The Cuban Revolution was founded on Marxist ideology and led by Castro and Che Guevara.  Just as was the case in the massacre at Tlatelolco, the uprisings were initiated by young idealistic youth.  In all 3 situations the cause was to try to equalize the resources and help the poor.  And in all three situations it was the more educated, middle class (or even upper class as was the case of Torres of Colombia) people that were advocating these changes, not the poor.

The major differences between the Cuban Revolution and Liberation Theology was that few religious revolutionaries joined guerrilla armies because they believed “that faith and good works were more powerful than guns”.  However, both sides agreed that there was a sense of urgency and that “sweeping, fundamental change” was essential for Latin America.  The students that had gathered to protest and demonstrate in the square at  Tlatelolco had meant to do so peacefully to publicly demonstrate their disapproval of the money being spent to host the Olympics, and they were met with their own government shooting them.  They were not armed as was the case with the guerrilla fighters that were using military and violent tactics to achieve their goals.  The big opposition to Liberation Theology came from none other than the Catholic Church and the Vatican threw its weight against it and it worked.

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The Marxist Label

I think that using the labels of communism and marxism, can, to a certain extent, help a student of history understand the global perspective of a post war world, yet, it seems to oversimplify the major changes that took place in Cuba in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Cuban Revolution of the 1950s was more anti-imperialism than pro-communism.  As the post World War II Era ushered in the Cold War, marxist-based beliefs began to infiltrate the mindset of Latin American intellecutals. Marxism was the antithesis of the capitalistic nature of the United States, after all. Marxist-themed literature appeared in Latin America. The rapaid urbanization and continued widening of the rich-poor gap in Latin America alligned with marxist ideology. The Marshall Plan and other measures did not noteably assist Cuba; Cubans would have to redefine their global role, which meant a emphasis on national liberation and a separation from economic imperialism.  This required a revolution, rather than a reform movement. Whether or not the intension was to have a Marxist Revolution, Cuba did indeed experience one, in part, because of unequal relationship between Cuba and the U.S.

The marxist emphasis on class exploitation and the bourgeoisie class benefitting from U.S. imperialism in Cuba seemed to highlight the desire for self-determination.  Rather than overthrow the upper class (the “traditional” Marxist notion), Castro took over U.S. owned utilities and put them under Cuban control.  Land reappropriation came next, and with it, the U.S. fear that it would “lose” a neighbor (and economic “colony”) to communism.  When the U.S. tried to force the hand of Castro and Che and make them to choose between self-determination and capitalism, they chose self-determination, and with it, the ability to choose who they would and would not trade with.  The national pride associated with that choice was significant.

Studying the Cuban Revolution can be complex due to its timing coinciding with the Cold War. The U.S. wanted the new Cuban government to pick a side in the Cold War, and while Castro wouldn’t have considered himself communist initially, he certainly couldn’t side with the same government that had endorsed Batista. He couldn’t side with the government that had controlled the economics of his country for so long.

So, I’d incorporate the marxist label but only after adding anti-imperialism to the description as well.

Posted in week 13 Group A | 1 Comment

Similarities & Differences

It’s easy to find similarities in the three major events covered this week — Cuba, Liberation Theology & the massacre at Tlatelolco.  The charisma and ability of the leaders to motivate the people is one.  Cuba had Che Guevara and Fidel Castro while Liberation theology had Father Ernesto Cardenal.  With regards to Tlatelolco, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz was able to motivate the people, specifically students, against him and his government, but still motivating nonetheless.  Another similarity has to do with the demand for change  — from guerrillas on behalf of the people, from a minority in the Catholic Church, or from students.  All these people were fed up with the status quo.  This demand for change also ties into two other similarities — groups or people moving against the established government and anger for the legacies of colonialism and foreign imperialism that Latin America has never been able to shake off.  A final similarity has to do with economics.  In Cuba the acts of Castro and the revolutionaries redistributed wealth and expropriated the property and land of foreign companies.  They also invested in agriculture (i.e. sugar) & job creation.  The priests who supported liberation theology focused on eradicating hunger, ignorance and disease which would have an impact on an individual’s socioeconomic status.  The students who protested and were massacred at Tlatelolco were protesting the Mexican government’s economic actions like the suppression of unions.

When it comes to differences the Cuban Revolution was a success.  Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and other guerrillas were able to drive out the U.S.-backed dictator, Batista, and take over the government.  The minority within the Catholic Church that supported liberation theology were unsuccessful.  Pope John Paul II was able to totally crush their movement before it really gained any momentum.  While Tlatelolco might have opened the eyes of some to what Diaz Ordaz and the PRI were doing in Mexico, the deaths of protestors and the cover-up by the government  doesn’t seem to make it a success for the students or anyone else.  Also, Tlatelolco had the influence of the Olympic Games which could have played a part in how the entire affair played out.

Posted in week 13 Group B | 1 Comment