Latin America

Venezuela and the Caribbean

Alberto Gutierrez comments on the situation in Venezuela; "Yesterday Venezuelans spoke about an inminent military coup, something improbable because Chavistas and the Cubans sent by Castro control the key posts. Instead I anticipate a bigger clash sooner or later. Today demonstrations faced the Guardia Nacional in many places of the country to protest the disqualification of signatures seeking the ousting of Chávez. Even some relatives of the military were demonstrating. There were a few deaths, and about 300 people were wounded. Many demonstrators remain on the streets banging pots , while a few autos have blocked Avenida Libertador and some highways in Caracas. The Education Minister Aristobulo Isturiz is following the doctrines of the Italian Antonio Gramci in the public schools. There is a rumor about a book that links Chávez with Hitler and Satanic cults. but perhaps it is just part of a campaign to discredit Chávez.

In Haiti it seems that the departure of Aristide is only a matter of time. In the long run "Operation Restore Democracy" was one more failure of US troops, under orders from the UN Security Council. Aristide's inclination for "necklacing" was ignored since his restoration in 1994."The burning tire,what a beautiful tool! It smells good!" he said. Castro supported him. But now what?

I also worry about the comeback of Leonel Fernández in the Dominican Republican. When he was president he never hid his admiration for Castro. But probably next time he will be more open.

RH: I am especially interested in the reference to Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), the leader of the Italian Communist Party. He is little known in the US, but his writings, notably Prison Notebooks and Letters from Prison, had a profound influence on Italians. Since he was a Marxist-Leninist theoretician, his ideas on education presumably follow hat line, The must be some Communists active in the Venezuelan education ministry.

Meixo-Texas History

Mexico expert David Crow writes: "I visited the regional history museum in Monclova, Coahuila, when I was there in 2000. Monclova was the provincial capital of the Coahuila-Tejas territory before Texas's independence. Their version of the Alamo was that the Mexican Army had offered the Texans an honorable surrender, but that the Texans were too stubborn to accept it! An entirely believable account to one who has more than a passing acquaintance with Texas (I have lived here 4 1/2 years now), and not incompatible with the Texas version, except for the fact that the Mexicans claim to have taken prisoners of war, while the official Texan version is that the Texans defended the Alamo to the last man.

Several years ago, a journal of a Mexican Army officer was found that appears to validate the Mexican claim of having taken captives. The consensus among historians is that the journal is authentic. I remember having discussed this with a member of the Daughters of the Texas Independence, who surprised me with her even-handed view of history (an object lesson for me in liberal stereotypes!). She admitted that the official version of Texas history was probably wrong, but maintained that Texas's desire to win independence from despotic Mexican rule was justified. She then said that Texas's subsequent treatment of (former) Mexicans living in Texas, many of whom also supported and fought for Texas independence, was downright shameful--including massive land expropriation by rapacious ranching interests"

RH: This brings up the question of museums and history. The present capital of Coahuila is Saltillo, in the southeast corner of the state. Monclova is close to the center of the state, but Saltillo is closer to the important Monterrey area.

Linda Nyquist says: "The last textbook for elementary school children that I saw referred for the Mexican-American war as "the War of American Aggression". On my most recent trip to Oaxaca, in December, I heard young people discussing the possibility of the return of the lands that we usurped. This issue is much more real in Mexico than is realized by most estadounidenses, as they prefer to call us - when not using"gringo" or "gabacho"!" RH: This means that the idea of Aztlan is not restricted to young Mexican Americans. It indicates the dangers latent in Mexifornia.

Randy Black writes: "David Crow may be a "Mexico expert," but I reckon he has a ways to go before he'll be accepted as an expert on Texas. To wit: "I remember having discussed this with a member of the Daughters of the Texas Independence..." Oops. Mr. Crow may have meant to say "Daughters of the Republic of Texas." For more on that topic, go to The Handbook of Texas Online, a publication of the Texas State Historical Association.

Latin America: The Name

David Crow writes; "The meaning of "Latin American" is a subject of debate even among specialists in the region. It should be noted that, of course, the Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the protectorate of Puerto Rico are incontestably Latin American. On the other hand, the consensus excludes the English-speaking Caribbean countries. Most contested is the status of the French-speaking Caribbean nations. The argument for including them as part of Latin America is the origin of the term itself, an early 19th coinage of the Bonaparte regime, which dreamed of expanding into the Americas and saw all Latinate language countries as its rightful sphere of influence". RH: It is well-known that the French invented the term "Latin America", so the French-speaking Caribbean territories should be incuded. However, it is wrong to call them nations. They are French departments, and therefore France may regard them as part of France. Could David expand his reference to Napoleon? Napoleon III sponsored the empire of Maximilian in Mexico, and this may have been a continuation of Napoleon's plans. I repeat my inquiry about a study of Napoleon and Latin America. The Spaniards resented th term Latin America, and recently have been pushing the term IberoAmerica. The English-speaking countries were slow to adopt the expression "Latin America". The OED says "Until the early 20th cent. Spanish American was the preferred term. 1890 B. Harrison,Reciprocity Treaties with Latin America "Our tariff laws offered an insurmountable barrier to a large exchange of products with the Latin American nations". In popular usage, "Spanish America" included Brazil.

The Indians of Latin America

The Economist (2/21/04) has an excellent two-page article on the "political awakening" of the Indians of Latin America, beginning with Bolivia. Both Bolivia and Ecuador have movements called Pachakutik, which means "awakening" in quechua, but is also the name of a great Inca leader (so this takes us back to our "teaching history" project). The president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo, is described as an Indian, but he is really a cholo, a westernized Indian, with ties to the World Bank and the IMF. This is one cause of his great unpopularity. The Indians get support from anthropologists, the Catholic Church, and Hogo Chavez of Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez was a problem at a meeting of the Organized of American States convened last week to discuss the crisis in Haiti. Blatantly disregarding the request of the chairman to keep keep speeches short (three minutes), the Venezuelan delegate Jorge Valero made a long speech about Simon Bolivar and his friendship with Alexandre Pétion of Haiti, not mentioning that, after some nasty intrigues, Pétion in 1816 had himself proclaimed president for life, setting an example for Fidel Castro and possibly Hugo Chavez, Valero implied that Chavez, like Bolivar, would carry the revolution to the Bolivarian countries. All this did not contribute much to solving the Haitian problem.

Teaching History: Ecuador

The posting on the article in The Economist (2/21/04), "A Potential Awakening", erred is saying it was two pages long. On the third page is an item to include in our Teaching History project. In Ecuador, Auki Tituaña, the mayor of Cotacachi, two hours norths of Quito, and a dozen teachers and education officials from across Ecuador are meeting in Quito to draw up a history textbook in Quechua for older children. No date is given for its publication, and it is impossible to describe its contents. but certainly it will tell history from a native viewpoint. A methodical comparison of three versions of Ecuadorean history will be required., those in Spanish, in Quechua, and in English, the last presumably being the most impartial. To make the comparison would require a history scholar versant in the three languages. The American cultural attaché in Quito might have some ideas.


David Velez Osorno writes: "It is a mistake to hold the assumption that every writer has to be an active politician.
The fact that Vargas Llosa writes about every single political event in the world's most influential newspapers does not mean that Garcia Marquez has to do the same. Garcia Marquez' novels are about reflecting through a myriad of narrative methods the reality that Latin America has lived in the past seventy years. His interest lies in literature, and that's why he is not an activist or a manifesto writer. He understands that to politicize art is to corrupt it, even though the temptation to succumb to political activism is large, considering that every Colombian feels the necessity totake part of this debate. Gabo is one of the best Latin American writers in history, and he supports, even passively, his friends. Let's leave it like that".

Juan Mauricio Florez writes:: "I believe we should care very little about what Vargas Llosa or Alberto Gutierrez think about Garcia Marquez, as I think Garcia Marquez himself does. I don't know Alberto Gutierrez, and I don't like Vargas Llosa. Garcia Marquez is a great writer and Vargas Llosa just envies him because he does not have the "realismo magico", so he cannot write as good as Garcia Marquez does, and by the way I have read both authors, so I know what I am talking about. On the other hand, I have the impression that Garcia Marquez gives more value to the friendship than to the politics. He supported Pastrana's campaign because Pastrana's vicepresident was a very good friend of his. I did not like that, but I don't think this makes him an opportunist. I believe he did that because he sincerely thought that his friend could do some good in the government. He is a great writer and we colombians regard him as that, as one of the best writers in Spanish of all times".

Ronald Hilton -