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Neocolonialism Born in Blood and Fire, Chapter 6
Opera House, Manuas, Brazil“When [companies] pulled out – because of a banana blight or new corporate strategy –all that these multinational installations left behind was ex-banana choppers with nojob, no land, no education and a lot of missing fingers.” 189
“….’If one rubber baron bought a vast yacht, another would install a tame lion inhis villa, and a third would water his horse on champagne.’ And nothing wasmore extravagant than the opera house, with its Italian marble, Bohemian glass,gilded balconies, crystal chandeliers, Victorian murals, and a dome bathed inthe colors of the national flag.Prefabricated in Europe and costing an estimated ten million dollars intaxpayers’ money, the opera house was shipped in pieces more than a thousandmiles up the Amazon River, where laborers were deployed around the clock toassemble it, working at night under Brazil’s first electric lightbulbs.It didn’t matter that almost no one from Manaus had heard of Puccini or thatmore than half the members of a visiting opera troupe eventually died of yellowfever. This was the apotheosis of the rubber boom”. The Lost City of Z
EXPORT BOOM“The direct beneficiaries of this exportbonanza were the largelandowners, whose property valuessoared with the approach of therailroad tracks.” 183“The arrival of the railroad benefittedthe owners of large Mexican estates byraising property values. But it drove alot of peasants off the land, allowingthe landlords to extend theirholdings, make landless peasants theiremployees, and multiply their profits.”184“Bananas were a neocolonialnightmare for the palm-studded coastsof the Caribbean.” 187
PORFIRIATO • Positivism = “order and progress” A funny thing happened to the liberals of Latin America during their comeback of the 1860s and 1870s. Once in control, they forgot about the political freedoms they had demanded under the conservative caudillos. Democracy now took a distant second place, in their thinking, to the material Progress associated with export growth. 193 [As a result of import/export tax revenues funding armies and police forces]… Now national presidents commanded far moreDavid Alfaro Siqueiros, From the Dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution firepower than any regional caudillo. 193For the most part, the majority had little say in the matter [of authoritarian governance]. The political influence of therural majority was limited by income and literacy requirements for voting, and limited even more by the practice ofmanaged elections. The authoritarian governments of neocolonial Latin America made electoral management into anart form. 194Oligarchies and dictatorships provided stability, the virtue always most desired by foreign investors. 195
Rurales and Pan o PaloAs the value of Mexico’s import/export tradeexpanded by roughly ten times during the Porfiriato,Diaz used the new revenues to strengthen theMexican state.He curbed regional caudillos by crushing them orpaying them off. He created public jobs formiddle-class townspeople by vastly enlarging thebureaucracy. Diaz offered just two alternatives:pan o palo, meaning roughly “carrot or stick.” Forexample, he subsidized the press to keep itfriendly, then jailed journalists who spoke againsthim. Mexico acquired a national rail system andgraceful, monument-lined avenues in its capitalcity. But as Mexico approached the centennial ofHidalgo’s 1810 uprising, the Mexico City policehad orders to hustle indigenous people awayfrom downtown, so that the foreign investorswould not get the “wrong impression” of Mexico.195-6.
“In ideology and values, as in trade and finance,neocolonialism meant the absorption of LatinAmerica into an international system dominatedby Britain and the United States. It is here, infriction with powerful outsiders, that LatinAmericans began to feel the colonial inneocolonialism.” 200
The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine made the US Marines a sort of hemispheric policeforce to prevent European military intervention in Latin America. He believed incompetent LatinAmerican governments would occasionally need correction “by some civilized nation.” 206
REACTIONSAugusto Cesar Sandino“Come on you pack of drug fiends, comeon and murder us on our own land. I amwaiting for you on my feet at the headof my patriotic soldiers, and I dont carehow many of you there are. You shouldknow that when this happens, thedestruction of your mighty power willmake the Capitol shake inWashington, and your blood will reddenthe white dome that crowns the famousWhite House where you plot yourcrimes.”
“Although neocolonial Latin America had growneconomically, it had developed much less.” BBF, 208