Progress in late 19th century Latin America
“To develop to a higher, better, or more advanced stage” is how progress is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. During the late 19th century, Latin America, in particular, was striving to do just what this definition states. From copying other countries ideas to living more luxurious lives, the majority of Latin America was ready to progress and thrive as a whole. However, in opposition, a number of people resisted progress because they were content with the lives they lived and did not see a reason for change. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado is a prime example of progress in the 19th century. While reading the novel, the reader can see the resistance, as well as the push for progress, and understand how different sectors within a town in Latin America reacted to change. This was an exciting time in Latin America, due to a flourishing economy, technological advances, roads being built, newspapers published, and much more. However, many people did not know how to change as quickly as society was changing. A good example of this is gender determination, which is defined as, “in the realm of work and employment, the way in which jobs and professions are determined based on the sex of those involved”. Men were in charge and as a wife, a woman obeyed. Men lived based off of a strong sense of masculine pride, power and strength, while women were seen as inferior, almost like a prize. Many men did not want this role to change, so as progress happened materially, some aspects of society did not progress as quickly. Even though sectors of society resisted change, progress was being discussed everywhere and anywhere. “Progress was the word heard most often in Ilhéus and Itabuna at the time. It was on everyone’s lips. It appeared constantly in the daily and weekly newspapers. It came up again and again in the discussions at the Model Stationary Store and in the bars and cabarets… ‘It’s progress!’ They said it proudly, for they felt they all were contributing to the town’s modern appearance and way of life.” (Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, 11-12) Progress was an exciting thought that became a reality during the late 19th century. The two main aspects of the progressive period as a whole were advancements and gender determination.
Within the novel, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, progress was symbolized through a politician named Mundinhao and all of the exciting advancements that enriched llhéus. Ilhéus is a small town in Latin America, where the economy began to flourish thanks to the cultivation of cacao. In combination with the town progressing, Mundinhao moved from Rio and became a politician within the town. He was a huge proponent of progress and was full of new ideas regarding technology and growth. Some of these included the new bus line, the Progress Club, publishing a newspaper and removing the sandbar problem to ensure ships could come into the harbor. Allowing ships to come into the harbor helped exporters increase profits. Mundinhao took ideas he had seen in other places and used them to better the small town of Ilhéus. Many citizens were very excited about the progress in which Mundinhao talked about in the beginning of the story, but were a little taken back when big changes did not happen so quickly. However, with time, changes were made and Mundinhao gained more and more respect. This was eminent in the statement, “The transformation that has taken place is llhéus is far-reaching and profound. It embraces not only the harbor and the town; customs, too, have changed and the character of our men has evolved.” (Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, 227) Mundinhao even became allies with Colonel Ribeirinho, this was surprising to the reader because the majority of the colonels resisted change. The colonels, including Colonel Ramiro Bastos, Colonel Melk Tavares, and Colonel Amancio Leal, were the most powerful men in town. They were...
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