Prior to its independence Latin America had been controlled by external forces for hundreds of years. To be freed of control from these outside interests did not in any way guarantee Latin America a return to the status quo. In fact, the inhabitants of Latin America had done very well in assimilating their in house controllers. They adopted European language, religion, color, and just about everything else that the European culture had to offer them. Although they were free to do as they please and run their own affairs in the global neighborhood as we know it, they struggled to create an entity for themselves.
They embody too much of what is not native to their region, yet the people that used to represent their land 500 years earlier were a truly unique culture. Let us go back to that point in time and trace the route Latin America has taken, from an isolated civilization with a unique, independent culture to a Europeanized puppet continent with little cultural identity. Latin America began as a secluded land of aboriginal inhabitants that was cut off from the rest of the world. It was first discovered by Europeans while trying to find more efficient trade routes to India and China.
These Europeans noticed the vast resources present in Latin America and smelled money. Europeans are very greedy and would do anything for their country if it meant higher social status when they returned. Soon the monarchs of their respective countries were sponsoring conquests and colonization of the Latin American lands in turn for profits and goods from the lands they took. Due to the tropical climate that encompasses most of Latin America, colonization meant growing sugar on plantations in the coastal regions of the continent.
Labor was the main expense of this operation, so enslaving the natives and putting them to work on these plantations seemed like the most economically sensible thing to do. This was the first step to sterilizing the identity of the continent. Diseases introduced by the immune Europeans took their toll on the natives and killed many off. Coupled with the stress of working in the fields and in other aspects of enslaved life the aboriginal population soon dwindled to next to nothing. Looking at just the aboriginal population, there was a traumatic fall.
Birth rates were very low, especially given that the newer mixed children as a result of crossed marriages took genes out of the native pool and into the European pool. Extreme blood mixing was going on. Between the Europeans, the natives, and Africans brought in to replace the dead natives, new races were popping up in Latin America. Right then the population in Latin America was undergoing vast changes. Population growth is usually due to either high birth rates with low death rates or heavy immigration. During this time there were normal birth rates, high death rates, and heavy immigration to compensate for the death rate.
This caused a slight increase in the population during this time, but the demographics changed drastically. Over a short period of time an independent group of people had their identity erased only to be replaced by a mixed European culture with varying skin colors. Changes in population are usually analyzed using the demographic transition model. This has four separate categories in which countries may be classified according to their situation. The category is countries with extremely high birth and death rates.
This category has become unneeded due to the medical revolution. Death rates are lower because medicine can keep people alive longer than before. Common diseases dont have people dropping like flies anymore. There are no countries fitting this description in present day countries. If they were before, they have probably moved into the second category, which is high birth rate and low death rate. Several Latin American countries are in this group today, including Venezuela and Peru. The third category is characterized by midrange death rates and lower birth rates.
Countries having this classification are more developed countries that have both the medical institutions of the medical revolution and developed economies. The highest grossing economies are not in rural based areas. They are in urbanized countries. Most developed Latin American countries underwent a rural to urban migration before the present date. Those with the most developed cities and booming economies have the most blue collar workers. If you are working for a living you do not need to turn your wife into a child machine as can be seen in rural areas, where the children are needed for help on the farm.
Actually, excessive children are harmful to the blue collar worker on his limited income, and thus one reason for lower birth rates. Another is a direct result of the Medical Revolution. This is a drop in infant mortality. Again, this is just the product of better medicine and general health care. The Medical Revolution also produced better contraception, which lowered birth rates and made life less stressful for teenagers, resulting in less suicide. Given the choice of unprotected sex and no sex at all, I think we know what most people will choose.
Brazil and Mexico fall into category three with their large metropolitan centers and advanced economies. Category four is characterized by low birth and death rates. This results in a slow population increase. Basically, it is caused by high amounts of contraception and medical care. Many of the smaller countries with localized and socialist governments have this classification. In these countries immigration, and even tourism, can cause major population fluctuations. Cities grew in the first years of colonialism due mainly to mining. Cities grew up around mines to distribute supplies to miners and to manufacture finished products.
Soon industry was developing in cities around mining centers, creating jobs for more people to move in on. Rural areas were less densely populated with basically the same family structure until social security and child labor laws came about. Once it was not profitable to have many children, people slowed down on their procreation. Today, each country basically has one huge metropolitan area which holds the bulk of its industry and a large part of the population. In fact, Mexico City and Buenos Aires are two of the largest cities in the world.
Latin America has one of the highest populations of the six populated continents. Its mode age is less than thirty years old, meaning that the birth rate is far exceeding the death rate. Hence, rapidly increasing population. There is however a major discrepancy in the distribution success in the cities. Survival of the fittest was the name of the game in industrial support. The big got bigger while the small were left behind. Hence we have the city structure present today. In the underdeveloped areas outside of cities, there were very few luxuries afforded by the inhabitants.
There was seldom plumbing or electricity in smaller cities. Thus the wealthier individuals who preferred a better way of life moved to the cities, along with the workers who wanted jobs. The inhabitants of the smaller cities have to fend for themselves and finance any improvements that may come. The disparity in the interests of the individuals and groups in Latin America contributes to their lack of a cultural identity. As before stated, the identity which once characterized the area was obliterated by European conquest several hundred years ago.
What has grown in its place is the extension of what we know as Eastern European. The main focus of a colony is to serve the Mother Country. They are basically appendages of the original. They take on the same values, culture, and run their economy to better the mother. Thus they assimilate the people who first settle and exterminate the natives. Next, the caste system of racism as a class has divided some areas of Latin America for ages. How can a group have an identity if the are made up of distinct social classes that refuse to be associated with each other?
To gain an identity, this practice must be broken and free reign of all the races must be put into effect. Even though the countries in Latin America are now free from European rule, they have not totally broken the ties left from earlier years. They still need to develop their own being, they need to lose the tag they have received after so many years under the European rule. Granted they may not lose their Spanish language, Catholic religion, and other inherent legacies left from before, they need characteristics to set them apart in the open world.
They still have not been able to unify in that effort. Holding them back for a while was the United States and the Monroe Doctrine. This was a declaration to intervene in Western Hemisphere affairs that forbade Europeans and criminals from their space. One prime example was the Red Scare that put Cuba into a communist government. The Americans got all up into that one. Another example is that of Manuel Noriegas drug cartel. The United Stated is too often seen as a police officer for its neighbors when it can not take care of problems on the home front.
Latin America can due without our intervention. Maybe Latin America needs cocaine and marijuana to make itself a unique entity. In the video we saw that many famous figures in Latin America are voicing their opinions toward a unified movement for cultural independence. Artists such as painters and singers use their means to inspire natives to stay the way they are, to absorb the surrounding they are in and spread it as their identity. One painter said that he didnt sell much to other countries because his art depicted the local color.
He didnt care because his painting comes from the heart, it is his existence which he portrays in his art. Individuality not as a person but as a country is an important thing. If all Latin Americans had the same feelings that this man did, they would have an identity. Instead, Latin America is full of individuals, a bowl of fruit. In some areas government holds the individual back from expressing their views. Sure, Cuba is one of the only communist governments around, but was communism actually a Cuban idea? I do not think so.
Any radical ideas expressed by the individual in Cuba is however put down. The government in Cuba and Mexico try to keep people from returning to their roots. In Mexico there is a lady who puts on plays which call for social reform. The Mexican government is all over her case too. When the government tries to tell you who you are and what you do, you cannot identify with anything but an institution you have no desire to be a part of. Hence, you become something else. For Cubans, they are a raft ride away from becoming Americans.
They do not want to identify with something they do not believe in. Why force it upon them? As long as the governments are poor in Latin America, there will be no unity. To be one as a people they need to be able to go back to their roots and start again. They need to overthrow the governments in their areas and install democracies that work for the people. Or else they can progress at the snails pace which they are right now and have an identity later. When things change drastically all over the place. As things stand right now, they will be Euro-American clones.