Latin American Economy and Environment
1 - Latin American Economy and Environment introduction. From the time Latin America was colonized, its economy has been largely based off of agriculture. This was also true of North America, but only up until the late 1800s. The problem with Latin America has always been timing. After independence became a new trend in Latin America, these countries were left to fend for themselves and develop their own economic strategies. Unfortunately, the development of these strategies took too long and happened too late for them to be able to follow the international trends in trade.
Since independence, there have been three phases of economic development in Latin America: export-led growth, inward-looking development, and the promotion of nontraditional exports. During each phase, certain countries have fared better than others based on what was emphasized in each strategy as well as the never-ending effects of the commodity lottery. During colonial times, agricultural trade and development of Latin America was controlled by Europe.
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Unfortunately, the countries were very isolated because they could often only export their agricultural products to the country that had colonized them. This was especially true of Brazil, who only was allowed to trade with Portugal during colonial times. When these countries began to gain independence, they failed to make their own industry truly competitive because they lacked the capital with which Europe had always provided them. Unfortunately, this meant that Latin America continued to be highly dependent on Europe because they began borrowing money from them, especially from Great Britain.
Any agricultural development in the 1800s resulted from slavery, because Latin America lacked the labor force necessary to cultivate some of its key products such as sugar. Due to the commodity lottery, which basically means that each country cultivated certain things just because of their location, certain countries produced and exported certain products. For much of Central America, this product was and is the banana, which has directly resulted in the poverty of Central American countries.
In other countries, it was wheat and nitrates (Chile), tobacco (Colombia), hides, salted beef, and wool (Argentina), guano (Peru), sugar (Cuba and the Dominican Republic), coffee (Brazil), and cacao (Venezuela). This greatly differed from North America because the large land mass allowed them to cultivate a large variety of key products instead of just one or two. North America also followed the economic strategies (listed above) that Latin America did, but the difference was that they began to follow them first and had more success with them because of their abundance of capital.
Latin America had bad timing when taking on these strategies because 1) the export-led growth was a good strategy but not appropriate for Latin America by the end of the 1800s because industrialization was already occurring in other parts of the world 2) inward looking development began with the Great Depression and they spent too long focusing on this and 3) they didn’t decide to begin the promotion of nontraditional exports until after their giant financial crisis of the 1980s.
Due to this lack of appropriate economic strategy, agriculture has greatly suffered in Latin America and it has been extremely difficult for them to industrialize and keep up in technology with North America and Europe. In recent years, Brazil has become one of the leaders in agricultural exports due to no-till farming and university input aided progress. When speaking of “land reform” in Latin America, this refers to the call for providing the lower classes with land instead of allowing all of the land to the stay in the hands of a few powerful elite members of each country.
This would allow for a renaissance in subsistence farming and provide the lower classes with the opportunity for social mobility, therefore lessening the outrageous gap between the richest and poorest members of Latin American society. Today, this dream is finally coming true for some of the poorest Brazilians. They are being provided with plots of land by the government that originally belonged to the elite but were left unused. This has given many poor Brazilians a sense of renewed hope.
Another example is the colonization program, where Latin American governments use irrigation projects to allow the reuse of dry land in countries such as Mexico and Peru and then send agrarian peasants to use this land. Another example of land reform is the government regulation of shantytowns, or favelas as they are known in Brazil. Originally, when peasants began settling on the outskirts of towns and building their own communities it was considered illegal, but now many of these shantytowns are government regulated.
Although the most famous shantytowns are found in Brazil, they now exist all over Latin America including in countries like Peru and Mexico. Unfortunately, the majority of land in Latin America continues to be owned by a small number of people. The supermarket revolution is a drastic increase in the purchase of basic goods from the supermarket in Latin America which occurred from the early 90s to 2000. In the early 90s, only 20% of food was bought from supermarkets in Latin America, while in 2000, 50% of food was bought from supermarkets.
This occurred because refrigerators are much more accessible to the general public than they were a few decades ago and also because many women work now and can’t go to the store every day. As a result of the supermarket revolution, there is less of a demand for small farmers and they are suffering more than ever before. Also, sophisticated producers were needed for this, which means commercial operations, because supermarkets need a certain higher quality and regular delivery that isn’t required of the typical corner store.
As a result, small farmers need to join together to form co-ops in order to be able to compete with commercial operations for supermarkets. Just as the commercial operations, the small farmers must ensure a high quality among other things so this puts even more pressure on them. There has been a recent remarkable expansion of commercial agriculture in Brazil resulting from no-till farming. This has taken place with the help of university input aided progress. Although this is good news for Brazil economically, there are many problems with this system.
No-till farming is very hard on the land, so one must wait a long period of time after cultivation to use the same land again. In order to have enough land to keep the economy going, this will mean increased deforestation so that more land is available to the farmers. Increased deforestation means increased runoff and the depletion of native species, which means that this type of farming has enormous environmental consequences. 3. There are many environmental obstacles in Latin America, such as eforestation and habitat construction in places like Brazil, traffic congestion and air pollution in places like Mexico City, social erosion and global warming. In order to raise awareness about these problems in Latin America, they must first increase environmental education. One country that is attempting to do so is Cuba. Their Eco Cuba Exchange group supports the end of the U. S. trade embargo on Cuba in order to promote a more sustainable environment. Their goals for this include environmental education and grassroots environmental activism.
In Mexico, the government is trying to educate the farmers and the civilians about the many consequences of deforestation. They are currently pushing for more funds to be invested into environmental awareness, but unfortunately it is a slow process. Another major environmental problem is deforestation. For example in Mexico, deforestation has only become a serious problem in recent years. Mexico’s tropical forests are currently being depleted in order to provide more cattle-raising land. This results in another environmental problem, which is soil erosion.
One group that is working to change this is CONAFOR, a government agency that has set initiatives for 2007-2012 regarding the decrease of deforestation. Another country where deforestation is a problem is Costa Rica, where forests are also being depleted due to agriculture. One way Costa Rica has fought deforestation is by promoting their natural habitat as a tourist attraction. However, the main influence on forest preservation is the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, which has provided pharmaceutical companies with funding so that they can collect plant and animal samples that might have some medical significance.
A portion of any profit made by these companies as a result of these discoveries is donated to funds for forest preservation, so this arrangement has been a great success in Costa Rica. Yet another problem is air pollution, which is particularly seen in Mexico City, where the majority of the year the city’s air is not healthy to breathe for its inhabitants. This is because of traffic congestion, industrial processes, and decomposition of waste. One initiative that was taken by Mexico in recent years was to restrict the days that citizens of Mexico City were allowed to drive, but this was not very successful.
In Puerto Rico, other steps are being taken to reduce air pollution. The EPA has donated 517K to Puerto Rico in order to decrease diesel pollution, which is being used to rebuild the engines of the country’s two passenger ferries to decrease their emissions and make them cleaner. Although I have only examined few of the major environmental problems existing in Latin America, there are still many others that could be addressed and Latin America has a lot of work to do if it wants to produce a sustainable environment in its countries. . To be indigenous in Latin America means having dark skin, being of a smaller stature, and generally being poor and “backwards”. At least this is the way they are viewed by the mestizo population. In much of Latin America, the story of the indigenous peoples is a sad one. They are marginalized from mestizo society and live in small communities with little education or government support. When they attempt to integrate into mestizo society, they are looked down upon and often treated as inferior.
In Mexico, for example, there are 62 indigenous language still spoken today. In these indigenous communities, it is 15 times less likely for a woman to learn to read or write, and the infant mortality rate is at 60%. Three quarters of the Mexican indigenous currently live in extreme poverty – many of them not earning more than $6 US a day. On the bright side of things, in places like Mexico the government has at least attempted to improve the infrastructure in indigenous communities, where 9 out of 10 of these communities have roads or highways.
Currently, the Mexican government is dedicating more money than ever to improvements in the indigenous communities including infrastructure and also education and health care. Some indications of advancement towards full recognition of the rights and dignity of the indigenous are organizations like CONAIE, which is an Ecuadorian organization run by and promoting the indigenous Andean peoples. Another country where steps are being taken is Bolivia, where there are serious social gaps between the small European or mestizo population and the indigenous population, which represents around 80% of the Bolivian people.
Here, advancements are being made as a result of the indigenous president, which the fact that he is indigenous is a serious advancement in itself. He was first elected in 2006 and ever since has been promoting the rights of the indigenous in Bolivia. Due to the fact that he was elected, the indigenous here now feel that they have more power and more of a voice than ever before, especially when the government was traditionally dominated by the small mestizo population. Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, has pushed for changes to the Bolivian constitution in favor of the indigenous.
In addition, indigenous organizations in Bolivia have begun to hold workshops for indigenous women in order to increase their awareness about general issues in Bolivian society and in some cases, prepare them to run for public office. These workshops teach them how to run a successful political campaign and how to address the needs of the community. In the 2009 elections, the number of women holding parliamentary positions raised from 14% to 28%, and 6 of the indigenous women who attended the workshops were elected. In Latin America, the countries with the largest African populations are Brazil (6. %), Cuba (11%), Dominican Republic (7. 7%), and Puerto Rico (15%). The countries with the largest Mulatto populations are Brazil (39. 1%), Colombia (21%), Cuba (51%), Dominican Republic (75%), Panama (27%), and Venezuela (37. 7%). In these countries, no one wants to be considered black. Many would rather just say that they have dark skin or say that they are mulatto or mixed. For many, there is a complete aversion to being considered black, and “black pride” doesn’t really exist. This is why many people support the process of blanqueamiento.
This is where a man or a woman that is dark-skinned tries to marry a lighter-skinned person so that their children turn out whiter, and in turn these children marry even whiter people. To this day, this is a very popular process. In Latin America, many people that would be considered black in the United States are actually mixed. Here, there is more of sensitivity towards blacks. In the United States on the other hand, someone who would be considered mixed in Latin America would be considered black. Here, people are proud to be black and the process of blanqueamiento definitely does not occur.
If anything, some blacks are reluctant to procreate with someone of lighter skin because they feel that their children would be losing part of their heritage. In Brazil, the idea of racial democracy is the belief that Brazil has escaped racism and racial discrimination because Brazilians do not view each other through the lens of race. I can definitely see the validity in this point because if no one considers himself black, then it is hard to prejudiced against anyone. They have a very different definition of black, so this is what results in a sort of racial democracy.
At the same time, I am sure that some racism still exists because there are probably some lighter-skinned people of African descent that look down on others that have African descent but are darker. Affirmative action programs in Brazil have not been very successful because many Brazilians have some African blood in them, so it is hard to distinguish who is black and who isn’t. Besides this, many Brazilians don’t even want to identify with the African race even though they might have African blood, which therefore negates their opportunity at affirmative action.
In my opinion, the situations of the indigenous and the Afrodescendents in Latin American societies are very different for many reasons. First of all, there is overwhelming evidence that racism exists against the indigenous, where there is not as much to support racism against blacks. Also, blacks are not all marginalized and poverty-stricken as the majority of the indigenous are. In addition, there is no attempt seen by the indigenous to escape what they are or to lighten their color – this only exists within the Afrodescendent community.
There are also many organizations in Latin America supporting the indigenous, where there aren’t as many supporting blacks because most don’t want to admit to being any type of black. 6. Unfortunately, machismo continues to play a strong role in Latin America especially in countries like Mexico. A common refran that sums up machismo in Latin America pretty well is “Los hombres para la calle y las mujeres para la casa”. Feminism first began to take hold in Argentina in 1905, when the opening of university preparatory secondary schools began and women were first allowed to attend the university.
The 25 women who studied from 1905 to 1910 were all strongly in favor of social and economic advancement for women. When Eva Peron came along as the first lady coming from a modest background, the working class women were astounded. They felt empowered and for once they believed in themselves. This is when things truly began to change for women in Argentina. Later on, in 1977, 14 women marched into the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires and demanded to know where their missing children were. Although the government did not take them seriously at first, they turned out to be a strong political force that led to increased protests by women.
All over Latin America, organizations supporting women and run by women have popped up. An example of one of these groups is EICAIM, which means the Ecuadorian Institute for the Research and Training of Women. EICAIM promotes the social position of women in Latin America as well as their political awareness. Another example is the Junior League of Mexico, which looks to improving communities through volunteering and building civic leadership skills. One other organization is AMNLAE, which was established in 1977 during the Nicaraguan revolution.
The organization is named after Luisa Amanda Espinoza, the first woman to die in the war against Somoza during the revolution. The Nicaraguan revolution represents an important time in women’s rights in Latin America. During the revolution, they were not only fighting for national freedom but also for their own equality. They were united by their suffering during the Somoza regime, which was brought down in 1979. Many of these women joined the Sardinistas beginning in 1967 and went on to become active participants and leaders.
Their extended involvement in the revolution, making up 30% of the revolutionary army, was unprecedented – never before seen in the American revolution or the struggles in Asia or Africa. Overall, many accomplishments have been made by the feminist movement in Latin America. In regards to suffrage, it was granted in Ecuador in 1929, 1932 in Brazil, 1939 in El Salvador, 1942 in the Dominican Republic, 1945 in Guatemala, and 1946 in Argentina. Recently, many women have been elected into important public offices in Latin America.
Ironically enough, the first female president in the world came from Argentina: Isabel Peron. Since then, we have seen Lidia Gueiler Tejada, who was Bolivian prime minister in 1979, Violeta Chamorro who was president of Nicaragua in 1990, Beatriz Merino who was Peruvian prime minister in 2003, Michelle Bachelet who was president of Chile in 2006, Christina Kirchner who is currently president of Argentina, and most recently in 2010, Laura Chinchilla who is president of Costa Rica. Although the feminist movement began in the late 1800s in the U. S. and ended with suffrage in 1920, we have still yet to see a female president. Hilary Clinton has come the closest to achieving this feat, but this is still nothing compared to Isabel Peron who was elected in the 70s. Unfortunately, even though Latin America has seen many more high public offices filled with women, machismo still exists in many places and in the hearts of many Latin Americans. This type of attitude in the U. S. towards women began to diminish in the 1960s and 70s especially with Betty Friedan’s book, “Feminine Mystique”.