Course:Hist105/Latin America

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Week 2: Movements for Democracy

Unlike in the United States, France or other countries, the most important democratic movements in Latin America started in the early 19th century with the independence of several nations from European powers. The 18th century was characterized by changes in the economic sphere, especially regarding international trade, which occured towards the end of the century. These reforms benefited the ruling classes of most Latin American countries while providing almost no change to the working classes, the indians and most of the population. Encouraged by the economic conditions, the discrimination and oppression amongst other factors, some revolts took place in the 18th century including the Comuneros in Paraguay and the movement led by the Indian leader Tupac Amaru in Peru, however both were unsuccessful. Nonetheless, the 19th century began with the Independence of Haiti in 1804, in part influenced by the French Revolution and the fight against slavery, being Haiti the only country in the area where an anti-slavery movement also resulted in independence, in this case from France. Later on, following this and the US example and led by liberators such as Jose de Sucre, Simon Bolivar, Miguel Hidalgo or Jose de San Martin, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Mexico and eventually most Latin American countries would achieve Independence from Spain and Portugal in the case of Brazil through the many wars fought for Independence.

Week 3: Abolition of slavery

Shortly after the discovery of the Americas, indians were used as slaves in many of the colonies however this was banned after a short period by the Spanish Crown, around 1530s. Just in the early 16th century all the European colonies participated in slave trade with many African nations including Senegal, Angola, Cape Verde and Sao Tome. Brazil and the Carribbean were the regions that received more slaves, approximately 9 million between the two. Throughout the years of slavery many slaves resorted to different techniques to try to fight this including peaceful and violent protests, sabotage or revolts in specific areas. It was not until the 19th century however that Haiti became the first country in Latin America (and the world) to abolish slavery after a civil war and about 15 years of fighting against this. Despite subsequent outlawing of slavery trade by most European countries, slavery still continued in Latin America for a brief period as this was abolished in most countries after Independence was gained, Chile, Bolivia and Mexico being the first countries to abolish it in their constitutions in the 1820s. Eventually, slavery was abolished in every country of Latin America, Brazil being the last one in 1888 in part because this was an important component of the economy.

Weeks 4: Movements for justice

Over the last centuries, something that has abounded in Latin America are movements in theory calling for greater social justice, virtually in every nation. Some have been bigger than others such as the Cuban Revolution, which resulted in the leader of the movement becoming president of Cuba for around 50 years, while many others have consisted of terrorist organizations fighting against the government and eventually society as was the Shining Path in Peru in the late 20th century. One of the many movements worth noting is the Bolivian 1952 Revolution, the only one in Latin America where the working class revolted and triumphed. Supported by the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement, the workers of Bolivia fought and defeated the Bolivian Army in La Paz, resulting in the presidency of Victor Paz Estenssoro, with mining workers also playing a big role in the government. Part of the change included universal suffrage, an agrarian reform and nationalization of many industries.

Week 5: Women´s Movements

Most movements for women´s rights in the past centuries in Latin America have not been very very far-reaching or big as in other parts of the world. Nonetheless, there have been many important women activists such as Elvia Carrillo Puerto, a Mexican woman born in the late 19th century. She participated in an armed revolution against the governors of Yucatan and became actively involved in social activism, shortly after carrying out a campaign for the rights of women and founding the first organization of peasant women in Mexico.She kept advocating for women´s rights through different groups and also joined the Socialist south-east party. She became a deputy in the regional congress, howevre she was not here for long due to pressure and threats. She kept fighting for women´s rights, especially political ones, throughout her life by founding and participating in more organizations and eventually the pressure led to women´s suffrage and equality of political rights in the 1950s.

Week 6: Peaceful movements

One of the most important figures for pacifism in Latin America was Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador in the 1970s. During these times, San Salvador was dominated by a military government, which was accused of violating human rights constantly and of perseuting the Cahtolic church and its members in the country. Romero however, first fought against the oppression of the church and eventually for the rights of the poor and the citizens of the country, demanding more justice in society, criticizing both the government and the armed opposition groups in what was soon to become a civil war between this two sides. Nonetheless, he was a very influential and popular figure in the country as he argued for peaceful solutions to this struggle, becoming a threat to the oppresive state and even being murdered allegedly because of this.

Week 7: South Africa Freedom Struggle

The most important figure of the South African figth against Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, established good relationship with certain Latin American leaders and also visited some countries in the region. Before becoming president, he visited Fidel Castro in Cuba, partly to express his gratitude for Cuba´s support of his movement. He also visited Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, and he was greeted with much enthusiasm and respect in all these countries.

Week 8: Civil RIghts

In most Latin American countries, indigenous peoples have been oppressed as long as back as the arrival of the Spanish and the Portuguese. In spite of the independence of all countries, they continued to be in many ways at disadvantage in society for very long, even in legal terms. However, their situation has gradually improved over time as can be seen in Peru in spite of certain downfalls. In 1919, the government of B. Leguia adopted in the Constitution the protection of lands of the indigenous and created the Office of Indigenous Affairs. Later on, in 1960, Peru ratified the ILO 107 Convention which aimed at protecting and integrating indigenous peoples, mainly in the economy. The Agrarian Reform led by Velasco Alvarado in 1969 also favoured many indigenous in Peru who gained more lands, however this changed after his government. The 1979 changes in the consitutions also included amendments allowing for further particiaption of indigenous peoples, mainly in the political sphere. Peru also voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and a major breakthrough was the consultation law approved in 2011, which gives indigenous communities the right to have a saying on projects on their lands, despite there have recently been many conflicts around this.

Week 9: Sexual revolutions

In the year 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize homosexual marriage. This was the result of a years-long campaign by the Argentinian Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bigender and Trans peoples. As far back as 1990, this and other LGBT groups in the country presented petitions or projects for civil union, however they were mostly not considered in the senate or not approved. In 2002 the first victory came for this minority as the Homosexual Argentinian Community pressed for civil union for gays and lesbians, which was subsequently approved in the state of Buenos Aires and later on in other places like the Rio Negro province and parts of Cordoba. Finally, in 2010 president Cristina Fernandez with the support of the gay community of Argentina, passed the law after this had been voted for in the senate by a small margin. Subsequently, Uruguay and Brazil, both in the year 2013, followed in Argentina´s footsteps by legalizing gay marriage, this 3 being nowadays the ontly countries in Latin America where it is legal.,8599,2004036,00.html

Week 10: Indigenous Movements

The indigenous people of Latin America have been exploited and abused for many centuries. However, they have not always ben subject to this without any resistance. In the 20th century, when things were at least better than under Spanish rule, Ecuador, a country with a considerable indigenous population (especially until the last century), saw the creation of the Ecuadorian Federation of Indians (FEI). This group was controversial because of its ties with the Communist Party, but it still was important in the struggle of the indians as it had participation in two land reforms in the country between the 1960s and 70s. The FEI also protested several times against the government and capitalism among other things and played an important role in educating many indians. Many other groups were also formed around this time such as the National Federation of Peasant Organizations (FENOC) who also had the agrarian reform as one of their main concerns, as well as better wages for rural workers and further political participation for the indians.

Week 11: Environmental Movements

The environmental movement has become very popular throughout the world since the past century with virtually every country having a number of organizations or initiatives to fight against "global warming", environmental destruction or pollution. Besides the presence of institutions such as Greenpeace or the World Wide Fund for Nature and many other NGOs in many Latin American countries, environmental activism has also been related to the indigenous peoples and their rights. This is because there are many projects of oil extraction, mining, construction of dams or others mainly for natural resource extraction which take place in the lands of the indigenous. These activities not only create many types of pollution and deforestation, but they sometimes force indigenous communities to be resettled or cause degradation of their environment. As a result, there have been many conflicts between indigenous peoples and corporations or governments supporting these projects. In many Latin American countries therefore clashes have occured between the indigenous whose community is threatened, against the corporations, and many environmental activists have even been killed, Brazil having the biggest toll with 365 killed between 2002 and 2011, while in countries like Peru, the police has faced indigenous activists because of their opposition to mining projects in recent years, including clashes over the "Tia Maria" mining project this year. KillingsGlobalWitnessChart.2002-20111.jpeg

Week 12: Democracy Redux

A recent case of movements seeking more democracy and justice is that of Brazil. For about 3 years now, there have been many nation-wide protests against current president Dilma Rousseff and her government, on the basis of many corruption scandals and economic recession as well as poor public services. People are still demanding anti-corruption measures and government officials including the president to resign. The approval rate of the president has even fallen considerably, meaning this government does not seem to be democratic as it does not have the support of the people nor is it responding to their demands or acting in a just way.