United States Superheroism on Latin America
Pow! Wham! Boom! The superheroes punched and kicked the villains. Many kids were overjoyed with the exhilarating fights on the television. A parent grabs the remote and pressed the buttons without alerting the kids. With a sudden change between the channels. Build. The. Wall! People exclaimed in the media, in the rallies, in everywhere. They are echoing the words of President Trump since 2015. That is nearly five years ago when he started off his presidential run.
Theyre bringing drugs. Theyre bringing crime. Theyre rapists. And some, I assume, are good people, disparaging at the Mexican immigrants. Are the Mexican immigrants actually just Mexicans? Why are they marching to the US? Is United States a hero or a villain?
From Colonization to The Haitian Revolution
Latin America is defined as a group of nations and territories that are located in the Western Hemisphere. They cover areas from Mexico to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
These nations predominantly speak Spanish, Portuguese, and French – the Romance languages derived from Latin. It is widely known that in 1492, Christopher Columbus had sailed from Spain to the Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic). Hernan Cortes arrived in Mexico, later on in the 1500s. From there, the Spanish (and the Portuguese/French) have colonized Latin America for the three Gs: gold, God, and glory. The Latin American colonies were ruled by the Spanish, the French, and the Portuguese for 200 years, up until the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). That revolution was the first and only successful slave rebellion, (Haskins). Under the brutal rule with slavery, many slaves were furious and decided to revolt against the Grand blancs; the wealthy, white plantation owners. Toussaint LOuverture, a former slave with no prior military experience, quickly found his leadership and led the army of slaves to overthrow the whites in Saint Domingue.(United States and the Haitian Revolution, 1791-1804).As it turns out, the revolt was successful for the slaves, but a devastating blow to the French. Why? Haiti was a key in producing sugar, coffee and indigo and the French did not want to lose that colony, so Napoleon sent his army to Haiti to fight off the slaves whilst he fought with the Prussia, (Haskins). The United States, on the other hand, saw this as an opportunity to acquire the Louisiana Purchase for trade. In 1795, Pinckney Treaty was signed to establish borders with Spanish Florida and insured the US right of deposit in New Orleans (French territory). In other words, New Orleans was a part of the French territory, allowing the United States to be one step closer to acquiring Louisiana Purchase without meddling in the Spaniards affairs, just yet, (Slatta). The Pinckney Treaty marked as the beginning of the interactions between Latin America and the United States. Without the revolution, none of such impactful events like these would not have occured. Slavery would be still practiced without the constant worry of slaves chances to revolt in the eyes of the white settlers. Slaves and Native Americans would never gotten the chance to overthrow the colonial rule without Haitian Revolutions inspiration and hope.
Monroe Doctrine makes America…Great?
After the Haitian Revolution, many other Latin American countries began to revolt against the Spanish rule in the 1820s. The US, now owning the Louisiana territory, noticed this trend and decided enforce a foreign policy, better known as the Monroe Doctrine, in 1823. The policy allows the US to defend the newly independent Latin American nations from recolonization and aid those new nations by aiding them to be better nations in the American way. However, the foreign policy was only effective to some extent. For instance, there were no recolonizations from Europe; however, several events have occured: In 1833, the US sent troops to the the Falklands islands (claimed by both Argentina and Great Britain) …to protect US interests and property, (Slatta) Between 1835-36, Peru was having a revolution, as US claimed, and sent its US forces to protect the trade interests in Callao and Lima. Lastly, as many people are aware: the Mexican-American War in 1846-48. The war started due to the Manifest Destiny, the American ideal of greatness via expansion. To put it together, the Monroe Doctrine was used as an excuse to intervene to protect their own self-interests, not so-called defending and aiding those new nations. This was evidently seen in the early 20th century when President Teddy Roosevelt re-enforced the Monroe Doctrine, but, with a different theme: acting as a policeman for the Latin America. Between 1904 and 1923, in this order, US had sent troops to Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Mexico, Haiti, and Guatemala, (Slatta). Some of the reasons for these actions can be altered from one another, such as sending troops to Panama for business protection, the United Fruits Plantations for instance, or sending troops to Nicaragua to protect innocent American lives. Unfortunately, deep down, the main reason remain the same: protecting only their own self-interests.
US Empire Thrives on Amnesia.
Ever since President Teddy Roosevelt declared a similar-yet-different foreign policy, the Roosevelt Corollary in the 20th century, the United States have intervened in many countries. Those interventions might not be significant to the Americans…up until the recent years, where the Americans have witnessed a sharp spike in immigration stemming from the US-Mexico border. Many of the immigrants came from Central American countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Knowing how insignificant and under reported the US’ interventions were, it is no surprise that many Americans cannot comprehend on why so many criminals are coming to their country.
In 1932, there was a peasant rebellion, led by the Communist leader Farabundo Mart?, challenging the authority of the government for its unfairness with wealth and land distribution. Unfortunately, under the military leader Maximiliano Hern?ndez Mart?nez, 10,000-40,000 people, mainly indigenous, were killed. Both the US and the UK had sent the forces to El Salvador to surpass the rebellion due to both of them controlling the nations economy and owning the Salvadorian coffee plantations. A couple coups and political tensions later, the civil war emerged between el FMLN guerilla, the rebel group, and the military-led government over the land ownership between 1984-1992. Prior to the civil war, Saint Oscar Romero called to end the USs funding to the military government. However, DAubuisson, the US-backed dictator, had Saint Romero shot while celebrating Mass in 1980, (Carlos Motta, Artist). During the Salvadoran Civil War, the military-led government was funded by the Reagan administration with the Cold War policy (to minimize communism in nations). The US forces were sent to train the Salvadoran army and their death squads to kill 85% of the 80,000 civilian deaths, as reported by the United Nations. In 2006, El Salvador joined the Dominican RepublicCentral America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), a neoliberal export-economy model that gives global multinationals increased influence over domestic trade and regulatory protections, (Carlos Motta, Artist). CAFTA-DR is a group of nations including US, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Thousands of unionists and farmers have protested against the trade and this trade has hindered the domestic development in El Salvador. As of 2016, the country had a negative trade balance of $4.18 billion, (Tseng-Putterman).
In 1911, An American entrepreneur Samuel Zemurray partnered with the Honduran President Manuel Bonilla and U.S. General Lee Christmas to launch a coup against President Miguel D?vila. Afterwards, Bonilla awards the US with banana plantations. One of the businesses currently functioning from Honduras is Dole Food Company. In 1980s, Reagan administration have stationed its troops in Honduras to train US-backed rebel group, Las Contras, to fight alongside with the brutal Nicaraguan military-rule. In 2005, Honduras entered the CAFTA-DR. As of the result, Honduras suffers from the same fate as El Salvador: poverty, leading to rural migration. In 2009, there was a military coup against the elected President Manuel Zelaya after he called for the rewriting of the 1980s Constitution, which was written by US-supported dictator, Policarpo Paz Garc?a. Under Hillary Clintons supervision in the Obama Administration, she allowed the coup to be complete, leaving Zelaya in the dark. Then, she stabilized the control and called for the elections, (Morris) Unfortunately, in 2017, protests broke out for the rigged election and 34 protestors were killed.
Prior to 1954s CIA-backed coup, Guatemala had both the Ladinos (mixed European-Mayan heritage) and the Mayan people living peacefully in the freely-elected democratic government, despite the division among two groups. The Mayans were poor while the Ladinos were wealthy and owned most of the fincas (plantations). This is similar to what had happened with white-owners and black slaves during the 1800s in the United States. Also, Guatemala was economically dominated by the American-owned United Fruits, thus allowing the Mayans to suffer with no protected workers rights, risking their lives to earn almost-nonexistent living wages. In 1940s, 2% of the population owned about 72% of the lands. In 1944, Juan Jose Arevalo, the President of Guatemala, was elected. He was seen as progressive leader: reformed education, built Guatemalas first Social Security and saw the Mayans as a part of the solution for the first time. Most importantly, he had a solution to alleviate the severe land-owning issues: by giving away most of uncultivated lands (owned by the United Fruits) to the large population. Arevalos successor, President Jacobo Arbenz, help up complete the land distribution. Though it was not necessarily equal amounts of lands to each person. Unfortunately, at the time, the US had taken the land redistribution as a Marxist communism idea turning into reality, hence the 1954s coup. Guatemala was not the only country to be mistaken for becoming a communist country with no ties to Russia whatsoever. The Dominican Republic had a dictator, Rafael Trujillo, but he was assassinated. After that, DR was plagued with a civil war in 1964-65 for presidential powers between Juan Bosch and Donald Reid Cabral. President Johnson viewed DR as the second Cuba, and sent the American troops to contain the communism until Bosch became the president, (Dominican Civil War). In the 1960s, several guerrillas in Guatemala began to emerge to fight against the corrupt US-supported government with the help of the Mayan peasants. In 1970, Carlos Arana took power and quoted, If it is necessary to turn the country into a cemetery in order to pacify it, I will not hesitate to do so. 7,000 civilians had disappeared in just three years after Arana assumed the power. Up until the civil war ended in 1996, 200,000 civilians have died and most of the Mayan population had been eradicated, (Perrigo). Guatemala still suffers from political and economic instability. Just like both Honduras and El Salvador, Guatemala entered the CAFTA-DR trade in 2006 and, as of the result, Guatemala had fallen deeper in poverty, (Tseng-Putterman)
Many of the unfortunate events had happened on the US watch and both countries are still currently suffering in the political instability and poverty that eventually drove many migrants out to the US, or also known as the Land of Opportunities.