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Struggles in Latin American Nation Building

Towards the 1850s, after the wars for independence, there were many similarities between the newly emerged Latin American Nations. Many of them shared language, religion and cultural features. However, the two biggest similarities were the instability in their political systems and the lack of capital. The new governments needed money to build and maintain the new institutions and to help their independent nations with health, industrialization and other issues. The urgent situation forced these countries to ask for credit with European and North American banks. But, when the time came to pay those credits back, they had no money to do so; this way, Latin American countries began their historically long debt to the industrialized and powerful nations. In Latin American countries, commerce could have activated the economy; however, people didnt have money to buy any products and, besides, there were still few means of transportation for goods. Plus, Latin America was in debt with the USA and Europe, meaning that they were at the will of these powerful nations. The United States and Europe established the prices at which they would pay raw materials to Latin American countries. Politically, the majority of Latin American nations were governed by oligarchies, that is, only a few rich people that controlled politics and economy. These oligarchies were supported by each countrys military corp. However, these oligarchies couldnt make up their minds about choosing a political system liberal (democratic, that guaranteed human rights) or conservative (most likely a monarchy, based on the beliefs of the Old Regime). This lack of decision led to many uprisings: the armies rebelled against the oligarchies and there were many civil wars. These conflicts cost the governments MORE money (that they did nt have) and extinguished the possibilities of economic growth. Although there were many constitutions established, few of their main laws were actually respected. In some nations, the establishment of democracies was a very difficult task. This happened in Mexico, where Benito Juarezs liberal reforms (a quest for democracy and secularism) took decades. Activities: 1. Make a list of Latin American countries. 2. Other than language and religion, what other cultural traits do these countries share? 3. With your partner, write a short definition for the underlined words. You may use your book, notes, or infer from the readings context. 4. Do you think Mexico could be an industrialized and powerful nation nowadays? What do you think impedes it? 5. Are you familiar with Benito Juarez and his legacy? What can you remember about him?

February 12 2014