Simon Bolivar And Progress As A Hegemonic Idea In Latin America

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Simon Bolivar

After three centuries of colonial rule, independence came rather suddenly to most of Latin America. Napoleon, who led the Napoleonic wars, spread liberalism throughout Europe, and invaded Portugal for refusing to declare war on England. The Napoleonic occupation of Spain resulted in The Peninsular War, which caused Spanish Creoles to second guess their allegiance to Spain. This stoked independence movements in Latin America. Spain’s crisis of political legitimacy with the Napoleonic invasion ignited reaction in their overseas empire. The result was that a vast majority of Latin America achieved its political independence and initiated the creation of sovereign nations. Simon Bolivar, president of Venezuela, also known as the liberator, was introduced to the ideas of enlightenment philosophers while in Europe, which gave him the ambition to replace the Spanish as rulers. Taking advantage of the disorder in Spain prompted by the Peninsular War, Bolívar began his campaign for Venezuelan independence and ignited the independence movement. Despite the obstacles faced during his campaign, the revolutionaries eventually triumphed, ending in a nationalist victory that effectively made Venezuela an independent country. Following this victory over the Spanish monarchy, Simon Bolívar partook in the foundation of the first union of independent nations in Latin America. The conservative reaction to liberalism in the nineteenth century was that they believed in class rank and opposed the radical change in government in Latin America. Conservatives wanted to keep the dominance of the Catholic Church, class rank, and slavery. Latin American conservatives favored existing systems and hierarchies and believed chaos and social disorder would break out if the political system was liberalized. Caudillos, conservatives, soon came to power in some Latin American societies and promised protection and restoration of traditional ways to the people.

How did Progress become a hegemonic idea in Latin America, and what was the consequence?

Progress is a technological advancement that was made in the nineteenth century. Material was imported from European or US culture. This transformation embodied Latin American Societies more like their European or US models. Latin American countries became so fixated on technology, that by the mid-19th century, they had managed to implement a laissez-faire economy that ran on new machines and was centered around modern factories and an urban working class. Progress became a hegemonic idea in Latin America because only those at the top benefited economically from Progress. This meant that liberal parties rode a wave of power. In Chasteen’s, Born in Blood and Fire, he states, “In a world where Progress seemed unstoppable, well-informed elite Latin Americans wanted to be part of it. [..] they worried about modern materialism eroding traditional values[…].” Though Latin America made this technological advancement, it left a great gap between social classes and consequences following this. The middle class grew, which called for greater and higher demand of exportations. The deepened relationship between Europe and America, created new wealth. This indicated that this new wealth produced an unequal distribution among these Latin American countries. A new technological advancement that affected indigenous lands were the steam powered trains and railroads. Railroads displaced indigenous lands, meaning that it took away communal lands. The people native to these lands had to work in order to maintain and live on them (which was something they never had to do before). Despite the consequences Progress created, it was overall an impactful result to society and helped only those who had access to money to afford this new notion of technological advancement.

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