Conflict: the Basis for Latin American Change (Born in Blood and Fire: a Concise History of Latin America)

Topics: United States, Americas, Latin America Pages: 5 (1774 words) Published: March 16, 2008
The expansive empires of the Aztecs and Incas, came crashing down, upon the arrival of Spaniards in the New World. The birth of colonial nations came about in the same stride that death came to indigenous populations. Modern Latin America has conflict built into its system because that is what it has mostly seen for the past five hundred years. In Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America, John Charles Chasteen supports the argument that Latin America's problems developed due to its violent origins and history of conquest. From the conquest, through colonialism and revolutions, to modern day, violence has always been a main player in the advancement of Latin America. Chasteen has left me with a greater comprehension of our neighbors' history and our influence in its maturation from colonial seed to what we have today. Cortes and Pizarro were both the masterminds of conquest of the largest empires in Latin America. Cortes' conquest of the Aztecs was rife with luck, due to local legends and biological reasons unbeknownst to him, and violence. Through a capture-the-leader strategy that was very popular with the Spanish, Cortes and his men were able to topple the empire that at the time, its capital had a larger population than Madrid or Lisbon (Chasteen 31). Pizarro also had the same results with the Incas, killing tens of thousands with his miniscule arrangement of conquistadors. But once their swords were sheathed and their guns holstered. The native populations continued to disappear due to their vulnerability to foreign germs. This decimation of the New World's population would not end Western Europe's tyrannical exploits in the New World but would only shift their focus to another socially despicable act, slavery. The purpose of settling these lands was for profit, so with no large working force available from indigenous populations the Europeans turned to African slaves. Any country that has had slavery, as our own, sees that even after the abolishment of this institution racist attitudes and social structures remain. Slavery only added to the spirit of repression in the colonies which throughout history usually leads to rebellion. This division, and setting up of classes with whites on top, then mestizos, blacks, and indigenous people would shape the next few centuries in the Latin America.

With the Enlightenment spreading across Europe, a period marked by revolutions sprung up across the world. With news of the American Revolution, the French Revolution spreading throughout the world, everyone started examining their own governments. With the first revolution in the Caribbean happening in Haiti, the spread of this revolutionary anti-colonialism thinking reached the shores of Latin America and would mark the nineteenth century with revolutions.

We can see Chasteen's argument that Latin America's origins shaped the way its history unfolded clearly in the case of Mexico. The class system model was such a great part of the environment at the time that cousins could become enemies. The divisions between poor and rich have always been apparent, and in the case of Latin America race played an important role also. Creoles and peninsulares both were at the top of the food chain in Mexico; their differences very slim as only one generation in America would turn a peninsular into a creole. The need for the division was also brought about by the conquest period, to separate the whitest of the white from those who already lost some of the "Spanish-ness" in the New World. The creoles did not like that peninsulares got the best positions in the New World over them, though not always qualified. This problem arose over materialism, which had been the sole reason for Latin America's conception in the first place, and throughout its history led to conflict. The division between parties you would think to be allies was all that was needed for the first revolutionaries to take to the streets and inspire lower...
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