A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.

Friday, October 31, 2008


For this paper students must compare/contrast three different books written for three different audiences (or grade levels). I am not sure specifically what grade level or audience Baum's book is written for, although from my experience a high school student or astute middle grader (probably in a suburban school) could comprehend the vocabulary and ideas that Baum puts forth. The manner in which she puts forth ideas leads me to believe that Baum wrote this book for people with minimal insight or background knowledge into the political history of Latin America.

For example, in Chapter 1, "The Birth of the Strongman," Baum delineates the differences between democracy in North America and Latin America. The epigraph for the chapter is a quote from Simon Bolivar, one of the great liberators of Latin America in the 19th Century. In the quote Bolivar says, "There is no good faith in America. Treaties are scraps of paper, constitutions are printed matter, elections battles, freedom anarchy, and life a misery...American cannot be ruled". At first, I was deeply troubled by Baum's claim that "In reality, democratic government was to prove itself unworkable in Latin America" (1972, pg. 8) But, Baum does do a great job of explaining her reasons and to some degree they make sense.

The first obstacle to Latin American democracy mimicking North American democracy is the fact that the colonizers that came to North America came to "make a new life and find religious freedom. To Latin America flocked the conquistadors--penniless noblemen, soldiers of fortune, debtors, desperados, even thieves and murderers--all hoping to find wealth" (1972, pg. 9). In addition, the indians that North Americans encountered were nomads, whereas the indians that colonizers in Latin America encountered were "much larger and were sedentary. Some had built well organized empires and great cities" (1972, pg. 9) Thus, the Europeans "grafted themselves onto the existing Indian civilizations and began exploiting the Indians" (1972, pg. 9).

The second obstacle to Latin America democracy mimicking North American democracy is the fact that the colonizing land owners in Latin America exercised feudal control over the people that worked for them; these land owners created little fishbowls or petri dishes of existence that contained all the conditions necessary for society: "Each had its elegant manor surrounded by barns, stables, and shops, and often a church and a schoolhouse" (1972, pg. 10). This only made these landowners seem like demi-gods and the peasants that tilled the land for them expendable and discardable: "Between the rich elite and the poor masses there developed an insurmountable gap" (1972, pg. 10)

The third obstacle to rule was the fact that the North American colonists erected their legislative buildings as replicas of what was in existence in Europe. But in Latin America no such thing happened because "All the real governing power in these Latin colonies remained firmly in the hands of a few officials appointed by the mother country" (1972, pg. 11). Whether this was done intentionally or not is not as important as the lasting effects that it had on the populace. All aspects of civil life were in the hands of these land owners and they exerted so much power that they "precluded the development of significant local government" (1972, pg. 11). Likewise, many of the haciendas that were controlled by these land owners were cut off from other settlements and major cities by "impassible jungles, high mountains, and scorched deserts" (1972, pg. 11). Therefore, the people in these settlements usually placed all their trust in the hands of a few strongmen, or caudillos; they did this at the expense of placing their trust in a strong, central government which was the case in the U.S.

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