The Latin American History

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The Latin American History

After having gained independence, Latin America obtained neither civil liberties nor prosperity because of archaic methods of managing in agriculture, elimination of the local colonial elites, and militarization of societies; nevertheless, in the nineteenth century, the European Industrial Revolution was changing the lifestyle in the region and forming the new market relations in economies. The whole history of Latin America development is a history of dependence on economic, political, or religious conditions, which have impacted the lifestyles, political systems, and international relations of the countries. The European industrialization had the most significant impact on Latin America; it caused the emergence of the capitalist relations and further development of the market economy. At the same time, the socialist ideas of totalitarian rulers led to the decay of economies. The dependence of the Latin American countries on the world’s powerful states exists even nowadays. The paper considers all the changes in Latin America in religious, economic, social, cultural, and political scopes of life from 1810 till 1930 when the Industrialization was spreading all over the world. As a matter of fact, Latin America made a great progress by eliminating slavery and transforming its feudal economic into the capitalist system of the market economy, which impacted the further development of the countries in the region.

Latin America is rich in mineral resources, gold, and silver. It is one of the richest regions in the world. Two European countries, Spain and Portugal, divided its territory in the fifteenth century; for many years, they had been taking away all possible resources. Before the European colonization, three empires of Inca, Maya, and Aztecs lived here. They had own religions, traditions, and cultures, but Spain and Portugal put an end to their existence, turning the nations into their colonies. Indigenous peoples became the workers in mines and slaves on fields and plantations. The Christian religion, namely Catholicism, became the main religion in Latin America. The European colonists called the natives the Indians. Both notions, the Indians and Latin America, were mistakes because neither India nor ancient Rome had anything even remotely resembling the peoples that lived there. Most likely, the European conquerors tried to fit everything into their scope of mind. In fact, the two largest nations of the Quechuas and Aymaras lived in South America. According to Cleary and Steigenga, only the Mayan civilization had “twenty-two major languages.” Nowadays, however, “estimates for the total number of indigenous people living in Latin America and the Caribbean generally fall between 35 and 40 million, making up from 8 to 10 percent of the total population of the region.” For example, in Guatemala, they make up to 50 percent of the total population; in Mexico, only 14 percent; in Bolivia, 56 percent; in Peru, 40 percent; and in Ecuador, 29 percent. Of course, in the first half of the nineteenth century, these figures were higher.

From the very beginning of the European colonization, the Catholic Church had tried to spread Christianity among the indigenous peoples of Latin America. Moreover, some Catholic bishops: Bartolome de las Casas, Antonio de Valdivieso, and Juan Zumarraga became real protectors of human rights of indigenous peoples in Latin America. They considered the natives the Christians in need. Nevertheless, at the end of Spanish colonization, the indigenous peoples were considered inferior beings. They suffered “repressive labor conditions on the estates and in the mines.” At the same time, the European landholders had to provide all his indigenous workers with provision and housing; nevertheless, food was not enough for living and working hard in the fields and mines. Moreover, the workers’ dwellings were in rather bad conditions. In the result, “exposure to European diseases, harsh conditions, and maltreatment led to a severe decline in the indigenous populations throughout Latin America,” and over 90 percent of them died because of different reasons.

At the same time, all indigenous peoples had to observe all the Christian virtues, rituals, and traditions strictly just like it was taught in the Holy Bible. Any deviation from the Scripture was considered a sin and reason for persecution by the church. Therefore, indigenous peoples had to become Christians and leave their pagan traditions and customs in the dark. They prayed in secret to their deities. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Latin America became independent, and indigenous peoples got the opportunity to pray according to their national customs and traditions. The Catholic Church did not prohibit these rituals as it used to do before the independence. Consequently, a “new form of Catholicism in most of Latin America, a folk or popular Catholicism that pooled elements of indigenous and Christian religion” was created. In such a manner, the Christian traditions became a part of the Latin American culture. The peoples built altars in their homes for praying and formed the Christian brotherhoods in their villages, which became the centers of local communities. After the wars for independence, a lot of Christian priests had to leave Latin America. It caused the emergence of the so-called domestic churches; people had to pray God at their homes because of the lack of priests. At the same time, the independence caused the separation of the religion and state. It gave an opportunity for the emergence of many other religious groups because of the religious freedom. Consequently, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Protestant missionaries came to Latin America. Before that time, the traditional celebrations of the natives had already become a part of the Christian masses.

After having gained independence, the capitalist relations began to develop in Latin America. At last, the region entered the global market. Therefore, the new independent countries had to develop certain branches of their economies, which would be able to integrate into the world’s market. Therefore, the Central American countries had to grow bananas instead of other plants (for example, corn), which were more necessary to their citizens. Unfortunately, most Latin American countries remained in the very bad economic conditions because of the severe competition. For this reason, after “winning their independence, the new Latin American states began a long, uphill struggle to achieve economic and political stability.” After independence, Latin America did not experience significant changes in the economic and social life; it retarded its further development. The lower classes, for example, did not obtain any land because there was no redistribution of it at that time. The landholders, in turn, continued using primitive methods of cultivation. The slaves and peons remained the major working force in agriculture. Moreover, the landholders played a significant role in the life because they had initiated and supported the wars for independence. At the same time, the independence split aristocracy and its supporters into two groups: those, who wanted to live in the old order, and those, who desired democracy and reforms. Therefore, the first half of the nineteenth century witnessed a struggle between these two groups.

The new political forces of artisans and gauchos emerged in Latin America; they took initial subordinate positions, but some of their leaders joined the political elite. Of course, both artisans and gauchos were unable to achieve this height when Latin America was a colony of the European countries. In addition, the ports of the region became not only the source of different goods from European and other countries but also a necessary condition for developing a free market. At the same time, the new European studies of “utopian socialism, romanticism, and positivism entered Latin America to propose solutions to the continent’s problems.” They became a basis for the further development of the political thought in Latin America and further introduction of social changes.

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The new countries issued their constitutions in order to declare equal rights for all their citizens irrespective of their race, ethnicity, and social origin. Nevertheless, the abovementioned divisions in the societies remained. At the same time, some changes in properties were introduced. While the whites continued to enjoy all the power and wealth, in Venezuela and some other countries, the colored citizens managed to take higher political and social positions because of their own courage in the wars for independence or other valor deeds. The indigenous peoples remained the most humiliated social category in Latin America. The forced labor was abolished during the wars, after which, however, it was introduced under another name. Therefore, the natives felt even worse after the independence than in the colonies because the Spanish law had protected them at that time at least somehow. The liberals understood the whole threat to progress posed by racism in Latin America. After 1870, the social conditions of indigenous peoples became much worse because “the rapid growth of the export economy, the coming of the railroads, and the resulting rise in land values and demand for labor caused ‘white’ and mestizo landowners” led to the expropriation of land from these peoples. Therefore, the indigenous peoples had to either live in serfdom or die. In some regions of Latin America, they had to work both on the masters’ fields and their haciendas. The masters often sold them or gave them to their friends like things or presents. This state of affairs remained even in the twentieth century.

In order to justify the serfdom, the masters invented a theory of “relations and role-playing that assigned to the patrones the role of benevolent figures who assumed their peons […] of a livelihood and protected them […] in return for their absolute obedience.” The masters decided the whole fate of their peons including their marriages. Moreover, the peons had to ask permission to speak and be without hats before their masters, bowing. In some regions, the situation caused bloodshed conflicts, for example, in Mexico in the 1870s. At the same time, the indigenous peoples became more civilized because of living with the mestizos in the same haciendas.

Some white elites considered that the people of mixed races posed a real threat to the whole post-colonial Latin American society because many of their representatives became the leaders of the riots and rebellions against the ruling forces. At the same time, the whites “exploited them politically and failed to fulfill their pledges.” Nevertheless, the racist ideology developed in the 1870s, though all countries had declared the elimination of slavery in Latin America by that time. By the 1870s, all Latin American families were patriarchal; the husband was considered a master of the whole family. The wife, in turn, was an obedient servant of her husband without any right to thoughts or judgments. The woman had to ask her man for doing or buying anything.

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After having analyzed the life in Latin America in the period from 1810 till 1930, it is necessary to conclude that the European Industrial Revolution brought some changes into the region. By that time, the Latin American countries had become independent, but capitalist reforms had not been introduced yet because of certain political and economic reasons. At the same time, religion was separated from the state; this step brought religious freedom. Moreover, the national indigenous traditions became a part of the Christian messes. Even though, slavery was abolished in all countries of Latin America, serfdom emerged soon afterward. The landholders did not want to use more progressive methods in their fields and plantations. The major working force was peons and slaves instead of machines. The racism developed in Latin America in the mid of the nineteenth century and aimed at justifying serfdom and preventing the mixed-race people from taking part in the political life. The women remained one of the most violated in rights social groups because patriarchal families did not want to change their lifestyle. At the same time, some changes were brought to the properties, economic relations, and political life; the social groups of artisans and gauchos emerged. The white landholders exploited the natives violating own promises. The Latin American societies failed to become democratic at that historical period.