It emphasizes the post-colonial period. He developed this book as a textbook with the intention of using it in his history course, and it has since become a valuable tool for many instructors in Latin American history. The introduction begins with a discussion of what "Latin America" means. The author is emphasizing the notion that the Latin American identity is not a racial or ethnic construct so much as a cultural construct developed in part to resist both the initial colonial powers and subsequent attempts at cultural and economic dominance by other powers including the United States. Chapter 1, "Encounter", provides a brief but concise overview of the three great empires that existed on the American continent prior to European invasion: the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan empires.
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It emphasizes the post-colonial period. He developed this book as a textbook with the intention of using it in his history course, and it has since become a valuable tool for many instructors in Latin American history. The introduction begins with a discussion of what "Latin America" means. The author is emphasizing the notion that the Latin American identity is not a racial or ethnic construct so much as a cultural construct developed in part to resist both the initial colonial powers and subsequent attempts at cultural and economic dominance by other powers including the United States.
Chapter 1, "Encounter", provides a brief but concise overview of the three great empires that existed on the American continent prior to European invasion: the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan empires. Chasteen provides linguistic and cultural notes on the different distinct societies present in modern South America, Central America, and Mexico.
He then discusses the European invasion and the influx of people from Europe and Africa the African people having been transported to the New World as slaves. He emphasizes the effect of the slave trade on the demographics and culture of the region and discusses the collapse of the Aztec and Inca empires the Mayans having long since faded into obscurity, leaving only ruins.
From there, the beginnings of a Spanish and Portuguese dominated South America began. Chapter 2, "Colonial Crucible", describes the colonial period with emphasis on both the influence of Catholicism and the economics of the silver and sugar trade the cattle industry in Argentina came later between the colonies and the respective mother countries. This chapter discusses the role of women in colonial society and also introduces the discrepancies between life on the frontier and life in the more settled cities.
Independence in Latin America, unlike in Haiti, did not destroy much of the social order: the people at the top remained there, and the slaves remained slaves. The governing minority stayed in power partly because they succeeded in convincing the other occupants of the nation that they were on the same side.
Chapter 4, "Postcolonial Blues", describes the economic and social conditions after independence. Lacking the economic and industrial infrastructure of Europe, the new nations at first attempted to imitate European political and social systems. The notion of patronage politics and the "caudillo" are introduced in this chapter. Brazil alone remained a monarchy during this period, and enjoyed greater stability as a result. Chapter 5, "Progress", describes the resurgence of liberalism.
As various nations started to participate meaningfully in international trade and developed industrial, transportation, communication, and other infrastructures vital to their growing business interests, the caudillo style of rule became gradually more obsolete and the more prosperous Latin American nations were in a position to modernize their governments.
This triggered a struggle between liberal and conservative factions throughout the continent, with occasional eruptions into open war particuarly in urban centers.
The Roman Catholic Church took sides in the conflict, aligning itself with the conservative leaders and becoming increasingly antiliberal and reactionary. Chapter 6, "Neocolonialism", describes the growing economic interaction between the USA and the new Latin American nations. Culturally, the wealthy elite in Latin America tried to emulate European nations in fashion, architecture, and art however their closest and largest trading partner was the USA.
Beef and cattle became significant export commodities, and after the Civil War a number of American business interests arrived to invest in crops such as bananas and rubber. This was not entirely beneficial to the local people, although it created vast profits for traders and resulted in extreme economic inequality between the poor agricultural workers and the wealthier landowners or corporate shareholders.
This economic inequality helped set the stage for subsequent rebellion and created a great deal of resentment against foreign capitalist interests. The resentment helped to build national identity in various regions along with production capability in more diverse products such as cotton and guano, but when US Marines were occasionally brought in to forcibly pacify local workers and protect American business interests.
Their concern had a solid basis in fact. Chapter 7, "Nationalism", presents what in retrospect seems like the predictable result of widespread economic inequality, mistrust of local rulers, and reaction to the pervasive threat of foreign invaders.
People in Latin America started to develop a desire for economic independence, strength, and unique identity. They did not wish to exist as puppet states or "banana republics". Many of the revolutionaries were influenced by the writings of Marx and Lenin and hoped to create a leveling initiative to redistribute wealth and opportunity more fairly, or if that was not possible, to at least make the economic inequality a little bet less pervasive.
The Great Depression in the United States, which lasted through most of the s, caused a collapse in international trade in South America. Suddenly, the wealthiest trading companies and their owners had nobody to buy their goods, and many nations that relied on raw materials export had to face the limitations brought on by relying excessively on a single crop and a single customer.
Economic diversification and industrialization became a matter of life and death. With the oligarchs in serious trouble, it was suddenly possible for rebels of the Marxist or even Fascist persuasion to seize power.
The United States discreetly stepped in to try to keep at least some of the oligarchs in power, but the balance of populist power was shifting. Chapter 8, "Revolution", describes the culmination of the nationalist movements discussed in Chapter 7. After World War II, social needs such as medicine, health care, and education became prominent topics of discussion and effort.
Revolutionary wars also started to break out in an attempt to dismantle neocolonial power and economic structures. The Cuban war was particularly successful and resulted in a Marxist government that actually made significant progress in improving sanitation, education, and infrastructure in the rural parts of the island.
The fact the new government nationalized many foreign-controlled assets such as hotels, casinos, and businesses made it easier to accomplish these goals but it earned Cuba the lasting enmity of the USA. The Marshall Plan was to be partially reactivated, emphasizing economic development and political reform in Latin America.
Many nations, such as Argentina, were being governed by military dictatorships that, due to their extreme paranoia, had no problem imprisoning, torturing, and executing tens of thousands of people. It also describes the various guerrilla movements that developed when unhappy people finally got their hands on modern weaponry.
Chapter 10, "Neoliberalism", describes the s and a gradual movement away from the violent nationalism and guerrilla warfare in favor of free market capitalism and globalism. Foreign lenders such as the IMF invested heavily and helped deal with some of the hyperinflation and currency problems that plagued many of the Latin American countries.
But the resulting national debt problem placed some of the smaller nations in near-permanent debt to foreign lenders and created cash flow problems that made it difficult to invest in their own development. The influx of foreign money also triggered irresponsible expansion and environmental damage particularly in the rain forests of Brazil.
Besides these chapters, Chasteen provides short discussions between chapters. Each discussion focuses on a particular person, concept, or event that illustrates the larger trends discussed in the major chapters. Update this section!
Born in blood and fire : a concise history of Latin America
Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America