Why Latin America?

Latin American nations, because they achieved political independence early on steered a different course than asian and african nations into the modern world. But the outcome, prolonged dependency, was mostly the same. Why do you suppose this is? why was latin america unable to match national independence with economic development? was the political, social and economic environment really so much different from that of asian and african countries after independence?

It has been discussed before on the board. Main problem, that the way Spanish and Portugese colonial regimes and economies were set up, and the social culture that grew around that socio-politico-economic setup over 300 years, were NOT favorable for the development of dynamic, progressive societies (tiny latifundist upper class and large underclass in virtual serfdom; static social stratification; mercantilist/semifeudal economies centered around raw material/commodity resource exploitation; political and religious centralism; discouragement of dissent and critic). Heck, Spain itself remained politically and socioeconomically backward relative to the rest of Europe until barely a generation ago.

Although if you will pause for a moment – a majority of the whole world did NOT become industrialized, capitalistic and socially “modernized” at the rate NW Europe and Anglo North America did anyway.

One could argue that the lack of democracy in Asian nations initially helped them spur economic development after their recent independence. Whilst Latin America has been floundering under corrupt and lazy elites… unwilling to open up a bit and lose their privileges.

And then, of course, there’s the Protestant work ethic … :slight_smile:

Could geography also have had something to do with it? Did pioneering Canadians and (United States of) Americans have better lands available for homesteading than was the case in Latin America? This would have given poorer people in the earlier-settled areas an escape hatch, so to speak. The advent of rail transportation would have made it even easier.

Whereas in Latin America, much of the land was too mountainous, or too dry, or tropical rainforest, and without easy transportation to markets. I realize I"m generalizing a lot here and there must have been many exceptions.

Hardly. Scholars knew that was much overestimated when it was first claimed.

There is some of that, but it’s much less a problem because there are so many great resources in Latin America. Africa, for instance, has relatively few natural resources. South America is fantastically well-endowed.

Well, there’s one thing right off the bat: homesteading. The notion never flew in the South. One, because indeed there was not so much “open” land – relative to North Am, sustainable agricultural land in Latin Am was mostly already identified and inhabited, with the exceptions of the Pampas, Two, because hey, what’s that talk about free individuals working privately owned farms? What are you, some modernist masonic liberal subversive? Everybody knows that when land opens, the government is supposed to grant huge haciendas to a select few of the right kind of people and everyone else should be tenants and sharecroppers!

Spain colonized in a very different way than the other colonial powers

England, for example, colonized to create new markets. It was in England’s best interests for her colonized lands to have strong economies and a strong basic social order. They also tended to set up minature English communties wherever they colonized.

Spain was intrested primarily in plunder. They wanted to strip mine their colonies and any human factor there was incidental. They had no interest in maintaining native economies in their colonies. In fact, in order to make enslavement easier, they worked hard to break up existing communties and realms of social order. They did not lay any long-term foundations.

Not true - Africa is well endowed with natural resources (specifically, mineral and fossil fuel resources; examples include oil in Nigeria and Gabon, copper in the Katanga region of the Dem. Rep. of the Congo, and, of course, diamonds and gold in S. Africa). Granted, these resources aren’t distrubuted evenly across the continent, but the same can be said for Latin America.

  1. “Spain was primarily interested in plunder.” Cite? It was a reason, a big one, but so was Christianity.
  2. “They wanted to strip mine their colonies and any human factor there was incidental.” Montesinos, Las Casas, the Salamanca School? Again, it is not my intent to gloss over the atrocities commited during the conquest, but it is simply incorrect to posit that there was no attempt on Spain’s part to question their actions.
  3. “They had no interest in maintaining native economies in their colonies.” Uh, no. In Steve Stern’s book on Huamanga, Peru’s Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest, he describes the situation at Potosi - the great South American silver mine. The situation was not nearly as black and white as you suggest - again, it is not my intent to be an apologist, but to point out that overly reductionist readings not only paint an imaginary view of the conquest for the Spaniards, it reduces the indigenous population to non-entities. Anyway, as to Potosi, quoting Stern: “The fabulous mines of Potosi (Bolovia) set of a silver rush after 1545. For many a Spaniard, the utopia of riches seemed imminent, and colonizers indeed harvested enormous wealth. But they also found themselves locked in competition with Indian laborers and entrepreneurs who appropriated ores in the mines, controlled th esmelting process, set up their own ore markets, labor customs, and ancillary enterprises, and diverted a substantial share of Potosi’s riches into Indian hands.”
    In addition, the Spanish appropriated the Incaic system of allyus and kurakas and tribute labor - attempting to adopt a similar system of work cycles divided between groups with representative leaders. The colonial project in general was far less absolute and coherent. Local officials were torn between contradictory demands of their home areas and the Crown; the casta system was not the neat, fixed pyramid as it is often presented.
  4. “In fact, in order to make enslavement easier, they worked hard to break up existing communties and realms of social order.” This may very well be true for the Caribbean encomiendas - I haven’t studied much on the Caribbean. But I can tell you that again, this is an oversimplification when talking about Peru/ Bolivia, again, because it ignores indigenous and creole agency. For example, when the first monasteries were opened in Cuzco, the nuns quickly developed a mode of differentiating those that were mestizas and those that were Spaniard: such ‘segregation’ was prohibited by the orders in Spain but persisted nonetheless.
    In the end, despite the absolutist rhetoric of the conquistadors and creole apologists, the colonial project was much more dependent on compromise and flexibility than the sort of rigid structure you describe, sven.
    Other suggestions for reading (since I am currently researching the idea of flexibility and the construction of authority in the conquest:
    Anthony Pagden, Spanish Imperialism and the Political Imagaination
    William Taylor, Drinking, Homicide and Rebellion in Colonial Mexican Villages
    Lewis Hanke, The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America

OK, I’m totally outclassed. I’m basing most of my assertions off fifth grade “The Golden State and You” history class. If you want, I can show you how to build a model mission out of sugar cubes.

Bullshit! You’re gonna try to tell us that swishy, flamenco-mincing bitch South America is “well-endowed” compared to Africa? :wink:

Fact: I recall our history master at school (this was in the 1950s) telling us that the reason North American colonies did so much better than the South & Central American ones is that the English did not cohabit with the Indians to so great an extent as the Spanish, Portuguese, etc!

There are really three Spanish colonization efforts.

  1. The Conquerers (ofen Conquistadores). They came, they saw, they conquered. Then they plundered. They “converted” the natives, but didnt’t really care about teaching them in Christian ways. Their priests were often not actually priests at all, but failed or expelled members of Spanish religious orders.

  2. Ordinary folks. These were involved in building up nations and states in the colonial period and key players. They were and are not particularly good or evil people, though they had their glories and prejudices. They mostly just wanted to live their lives.

  3. Missionaries. These were often sympathetic to the natives, although not their religion or culture per se. They were instramental in education and fighting for the natives. Unfortunately, it was hard to balance their distaste for native culture (and religon) and fight for them; they were certainly not wealthy or influential enough to do it.

All joking aside, Africa isn’t actually that rich in resources, and it tends to be substantially poorer than South America in land as well. It is true that it has good ore deposits, but not awesome ones.

Of course, South America is a lot poorer now that much of its precious metal deposits have been mined. Its soil is mostly better, IIRC.