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Article

Economic Integration in 19th- and 20th-Century Central America  

Dora María Téllez

Throughout their history, the countries of Central America have attempted several forms of political and economic integration. After declaring independence in the 19th century, the region lacked its earlier cohesion vis-à-vis Spanish colonial governance. The former provinces aligned themselves in favor of either centralizing regional power in a federal republic or establishing complete political autonomy through the formation of new nation-states. Forces in favor of the latter eventually prevailed. An attempt at economic integration began in the mid-20th century. It was actively backed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and eventually led to the creation of the Central American Common Market (CACM). Despite favorable economic conditions in the Post-World War II period, a number of complications undermined integration efforts: war, political crises, and interests that ran contrary to those of the United States. Integration was postponed until the end of the 1980s, after the Esquipulas II Accord reestablished peace in the region. After the countries of Central America signed the Guatemala Protocol in 1993, economic integration was promoted under the banner of free trade. This was done by regional economic groups with the goal of reconnecting the region to global commerce under the most advantageous circumstances possible.

Article

Mexico and the New Neoliberalism  

Kathleen C. Schwartzman

Neoliberalism swept over Mexico like a tsunami. It swept away the country’s edifice of economic nationalism and left in its place an economy based on principles of neoliberalism. These neoliberal practices go by the names of the structural adjustment programs (SAPs), or the Washington Consensus. In 1982, when Mexico declared its lack of adequate resources to meet external debt service payments, it (like other Latin American countries) entered into debt renegotiations. These renegotiations required Mexico to implement reforms such as the privatization of state-owned enterprises, currency devaluation, and state budget reductions. Later agreements expanded upon the neoliberal reforms (the 1986 adherence to GATT; the 1992 revision of Article 27 of the Constitution, the 1993 signing of NAFTA, and the 1994 peso devaluation). Multiple iterations of the Foreign Investment Laws opened up Mexico to foreign investors. The goal of the neoliberal adjustments was to stabilize the economy and make it attractive for foreign direct investment. FDI, as well as open trade, promised to bring economic well-being and political stability to Mexico. The evaluations of the post-1982 reforms are mixed, but by the 21st century, tend toward “disappointing.” Increasing globalization has further marginalized Mexico. Neoliberal globalization is essentially about Mexico’s integration into the current global economy and the interaction of the global and the local. Mexico has been integrated into the global economy since Cortez, but the tsunami of neoliberalism has left Mexico with fewer armaments for successful development.

Article

The Dominican Colmado from Santo Domingo to New York  

Christian Krohn-Hansen

The colmado, or the small village or street-corner store, is a Dominican institution. It is typically a general store for basic foodstuffs, cleaning products, toiletries, soft drinks, beer, and rum. When Dominicans from the early 1960s onward started migrating to New York City in large numbers, they took with them a version of the colmado. On the way, they altered the original colmado. The result became the “Dominican” bodega or corner grocer’s in New York City, a new type but nevertheless not so unlike the colmado on the island. This essay explores the making and remaking of Dominican colmados and bodegas. The goal is twofold: firstly, to provide some answers to the questions “How have these businesses been created and run?” and “What are their most important and most striking characteristics?” and, secondly, to demonstrate that the Dominican colmado can be good to think with—more specifically, the hope is to show that the problematic of “the Dominican colmado / the Dominican bodega” offers a window for tracing and understanding in which ways the Dominican social formation has changed since the mid-20th century, that is, since the last years of the Trujillo regime. The patterns of the colmados and bodegas have mirrored broader historical transformations. But these businesses have also helped give the latter processes their form. Businesses and social configurations have been two sides of the same historical process.

Article

Commodities and Consumption in “Golden Age” Argentina  

Eduardo Elena

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the global trade in commodities forged new economic interconnections and contributed to the emergence of modern ways of life. As one of the leading exporters of temperate goods such as wool, beef, and wheat, Argentina was at the forefront of these trends, and the country underwent remarkable expansion between 1875 and 1913. Although export goods linked Argentina to consumers in Europe and elsewhere, these vital relationships were often obscured by the malleable nature of commodities, the far-flung scope of overseas trade, and the perceived divergence between rural and urban worlds. Within Argentina, similar dynamics were also at work, but commodities became referents in disputes over economic distribution, social inequality, and national development. The tensions between the export sector and an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society geared toward mass consumption raised questions as to how to manage the nation’s wealth—conflicts involving commodities that parallel those of other Latin American societies. By placing the economic history of commodities into conversation with recent research on the social, cultural, and political history of consumption, this article reconsiders Argentina’s “Golden Age” of expansion and its aftermath. The connecting and distancing power of commodities reveals how populations in Argentina and abroad experienced modern capitalism, including its signature transformations of the natural world and everyday life.

Article

Muslims in Brazil  

Omri Elmaleh

Muslims have been settling and integrating in Brazilian colonial, slaveholding, and democratic societies for almost half a millennium. The chronicles of Islam in Brazil and its enduring heritage are less defined and more unknown to many audiences. Greater scholarly attention is needed, not only to enrich and develop the study of Islam in Brazil but also to better disseminate the premise that Islam is not new to Brazil, as previously thought. In the early 21st century, although only 0.09 percent of the total population, Muslims have become an integral part of the multicultural landscape of modern-day Brazil. Despite the small numbers, studies have shown that for five hundred years Islam has been present, forgotten, revived, and reclaimed in the chronicles of colonial and contemporary Brazil. Thematically and chronologically, Islam took shape in Terra do Brasil during four time periods spanning over five centuries of distinctive historical, social, political, and cultural contexts. Islam in Brazil—and the Americas as a whole—follows four different historical moments: pre-Columbian and early colonial contacts, the transatlantic slave trade, Arab immigration, and conversion to Islam.

Article

The UN Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL) and the Development Project  

Margarita Fajardo

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA in English and CEPAL in Spanish and Portuguese) was more than an economic development institution. Established in 1948, at the height of post-World War II internationalism, CEPAL was one of the first three regional commissions alongside those of Europe and Asia charged with addressing problems of postwar economic reconstruction. But, in the hands of a group of mostly Argentinean, Brazilian, and Chilean economists, CEPAL swiftly became the institutional fulcrum of a regional intellectual project that put Latin America at the center of discussions about international development and global capitalism. That Latin America’s place in the periphery of the global economy as a producer of primary products and raw materials in exchange for manufactured goods from the world’s industrial centers, combined with the long-term decline in the international terms of that trade, constituted an obstacle for economic development, was the foundational tenet of that project. Through regional economic surveys and in-depth country studies, international forums and training courses, international cooperation initiatives, and national structural reforms, cepalinos located themselves at the nexus of a transnational network of diplomats and policymakers, economists and sociologists, and made the notion of center–periphery and the intellectual repertoire it inspired the central economic paradigm of the region in the postwar era. Eclipsed in the 1970s by critiques from the New Left and dependency theorists, on the one hand, and by the authoritarian right and neoliberal proponents, on the other hand, the cepalino project remains Latin America’s most important contribution to debates about capitalism and globalization, while the institution, after it reinvented itself at the turn of the century, still constitutes a point of reference and a privileged repository of information about the region.

Article

Silver Trade and Transportation in the Spanish Atlantic  

Leonardo Moreno-Álvarez

Silver was the lifeblood of Spain’s early modern transatlantic empire. Transatlantic silver transfers affected the nature of shipping, credit, and trade in the Iberian Atlantic and, eventually, across the entire globe. Large-scale silver mining in Mexico and Perú began in the mid-16th century. To sustain trade and bullion transportation across the Atlantic, the Castilian Crown developed a convoy system known as the Carrera de Indias. This system of armed fleets that sailed between authorized ports on a regular schedule began in the 1560s and peaked between 1580 and 1620. During this period, Spanish silver peso coins of eight reales (known in English as pieces of eight) became a de facto international monetary standard because of their high proportion of high-purity metal. Silver circulated in the American colonies before departing for Spain, whether through trade or inter-colonial transfers. Bullion and coins also moved through channels beyond the Castilian monarchy’s control, most notably through unregistered remittances and unauthorized trade with other European interlopers. During the Habsburg era, the Castilian monarchy’s obligations to foreign bankers, particularly the Genoese, increased. By the 1650s, the convoy system’s efficacy, as well as the profitability of several mines, had significantly diminished. Although mining production slowly recovered during the second half of the century, silver smuggling out of Spanish American ports further reduced the volume of bullion remittances going through authorized channels. After 1720, the combined effect of administrative reforms, increased production in American mines, and the resurgence of Spanish power under the Bourbons revitalized transatlantic bullion transfers. The last peak in silver transfers from the New World to the Old began in 1780 and lasted until 1808, when the beginning of independence movements across the Spanish Americas dissolved the world’s largest monetary union. Estimates of the total volume of metal remittances and their effects on the global economy have been subject of historical debates for almost a century.

Article

The Birth Control Pill and Family Planning  

Karina Felitti

World population growth became a major topic of international discussion after World War II and in the context of the Cold War. According to some analysts, academics, politicians, and representatives of international organizations and private foundations, the fall in birth rates was essential to avoid the depletion of natural resources and, in geopolitical terms, would stimulate economic development in the developing world and thus prevent and mitigate social conflict. This analysis gained strong support and met with some resistance. In 1968, the United Nations defined access to family planning as a human right. That same year the encyclical entitled Humanae Vitae criticized family planning programs, not only in moral terms but also in defense of personal freedoms and the sovereignty of each country. Additionally, and contrary to the expectations of a large part of the Catholic community, the document only considered natural contraceptive methods legitimate, thus creating a deep division between those who supported the contraceptive pill and those who would abide by this decision. Studies of recent history that compare global and local dynamics, as well as new perspectives on the Cold War (in terms of the questions, sources, interpretative frameworks, and methodologies they propose), examine local organizations and the different ways in which each country negotiated and took on this issue. The United States played a key role in promoting family planning in different countries around the world and particularly in Latin America, given its geographical proximity and the anxiety caused by the success of the Cuban Revolution. In this region, the distribution of the birth control pill and the first family planning programs also sparked debates, support, and resistance at the governmental level and in different political, academic, activist, religious, and media contexts. In several countries, health professionals came together to develop family planning programs to reduce the high number of clandestine abortions in illegal contexts and their consequent effects on public health. This context also saw a budding recognition of the right women had to make decisions about their own pregnancies. The distribution of modern contraceptives was aligned with the agendas of Second Wave feminist groups, who demanded access to the means that would allow them to have a sexual life that was not tied to marriage or reproduction. In some cases, they faced the limits and repression of authoritarian governments and resistance from some left-wing writers, politicians, groups, and organizations who thought the current sexual revolution was a distraction imposed by imperialism. Given the importance of the Catholic Church in Latin America, the encyclical Humanae Vitae was welcomed by conservative actors who opposed the model of sexuality proposed by feminists, secularized enlightened middle classes, and other countercultural movements that supported the ideas of the sexual revolution. However, this document also found support in more radical sectors of the same Church that, in conjunction with some leftist groups, especially those involved in the armed struggle, rejected US interference in population issues. According to documents from these organizations and member testimonies, the sexual revolution, the pill, and feminisms hindered the birth of new generations of activists who could support the ongoing social and political revolution. Given these circumstances, the history of the birth control pill’s distribution and the implementation of family planning programs in Latin America must be considered in the context of regional and country-specific political, demographic, cultural, and religious issues.

Article

Culture in Mexico during the Miracle and Beyond, 1946–1982  

Eric Zolov

Mexican national culture in the period from 1946 to 1982 can be understood by recognizing three overlapping transformations. The first was the consolidation of various national archetypes rooted in Mexican revolutionary and prerevolutionary mythologies of national identity and that were disseminated via state-sponsored cultural institutions as well as through global marketing campaigns related primarily to bolstering tourism. A second was the commodification of national popular culture through local cultural industries, namely radio, cinema, the recording industry, and television, and the competitive engagement of these industries with external cultural flows deriving, primarily though not exclusively, from the United States. The third was the invention of new forms of urban response to inflation and the cascading crises of political legitimacy that characterized the decade leading up to economic collapse in 1982. Across the body politic, one discerns a resilience of shared points of cultural reference—sonic, visual, culinary, and otherwise—derived, often in great measure, from governmental policies and discourse. At the same time, and increasingly over the course of this historical period, one finds movements characterized by an irreverent reappropriation of many of those same reference points, carried out by a diverse range of social actors in pursuit of individual and collective strategies of resistance to both state and patriarchal forms of authority. By the early 1980s Mexican national culture had become a rich and playful bricolage made up of iconic markers over which the state experienced a diminishing, though not yet exhausted, capacity to define.

Article

Mexico in Spain’s Oceanic Empire, 1519–1821  

Christoph Rosenmüller

On August 13, 1521, the Spanish conquistadors and their native allies seized Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. The Spaniards succeeded because they had forged alliances with the Tlaxcalans and other indigenous self-governing communities (altepetl) to fight the Aztecs. After the conquest these communities continued their traditions, and the Spaniards largely replaced Aztec leadership with their own. In addition, the friars and the secular church converted the natives to an extent, and together with the crown they foiled the conquistadors’ attempts to become liege lords with jurisdiction. The process culminated in the New Laws of 1542, which curbed the encomienda, a grant to Spaniards that comprised several Indian towns paying tribute. A society of social bodies evolved, composed of municipal councils, lay brotherhoods of churches, and others, complete with their own laws and jurisdictions. Then a series of silver strikes beginning at Zacatecas in 1546 drew settlers into the Bajío north of the former Aztec and Tarascan empires. The local natives resisted initially, and when peace came, they and the settlers created a dynamic early capitalist economy that invigorated other regions. The frontier expanded when animal herds moved further north beyond the mines, and the zone of Spanish influence grew to the south as well. In 1540 Spanish conquistadors and their indigenous allies began occupying the northwestern Yucatan Peninsula, and they took Tiho/Mérida in 1542. The Yucatan, the Bajío, and the other regions that composed colonial Mexico successively integrated into a global commercial network spanning Europe, Africa, and Asia. The crown and the merchant guild (consulado) in Seville sought to capture the burgeoning Atlantic commerce within the fleet shuttling between Seville/Cadiz and Veracruz and restrict the silver flowing from Acapulco to Asia via the Philippines. Yet market forces defied most of the rules they put in place. Merchants from Asia settled in Manila; Peruvians docked in Acapulco; and the Dutch, French, and English competed with fleet merchants or operated contraband trade from the Caribbean islands to New Spain. In the 18th century, the crown loosened trade regulations within the empire and continue curbing the autonomies of social bodies. A series of investigations (visitas) shook New Spain, and more compliant viceroys and officials appeared, while the friars lost over one hundred parishes (doctrinas) during the mid-century. The king expelled the Jesuits in 1767; registered ships sailing individually replaced the fleet in 1778; and in 1786 José de Gálvez introduced the intendants in New Spain. As the empire transitioned toward a territorial state, Napoleon imprisoned the Spanish king (1808). In 1810 Miguel Hidalgo and a popular following unleashed the War of Independence. As the conflict unfolded, the legitimacy of the old order crumbled, and the empire dissolved in 1821.

Article

World War I and Brazil  

Stefan Rinke

When news broke of the war in Europe, there was talk of a catastrophe that, as a result of the close-knit global entanglements, would embroil the world in an unprecedented crisis. The world dimensions of the events were in evidence to contemporary Latin American observers from early on. Despite the region’s considerable distance from the battlefields, the First World War was felt more than any other previous event outside Latin America in Brazil, and it was clear that its repercussions would affect the lives of average citizens. The relative isolation from which people in the region had witnessed other conflicts in Europe prior to 1914 came to an end. Many Brazilians took an active interest in the war. They participated in the debates about the end of Western hegemony and the downfall of Europe, which took place around the world and would become emblematic of the 20th century. The perception of the war followed a global logic, as Brazil was entangled in the events because of the new type of economic and propaganda war. Modern historiography largely ignored the impact of the war in Brazil, although a number of treatises appeared immediately after the conflict. It was not until the advent of dependence theory that interest was rekindled in the significance of the First World War. The picture changed in 2014 when several important studies integrated new perspectives of cultural and global history. While the First World War may have long been a marginal concern of Brazilian historiography, it was even more common to find “general” histories of the conflagration devoid of any perspective other than the European and that of the United States. But in the total wars of the 20th century, even a neutral country could not remain passive. As a result of its natural resources and strategic position, Brazil was to become an actor in this conflagration.

Article

Brazilian Colonial Art and the Decolonization of Art History  

Maria Berbara

There are at least two ways to think about the term “Brazilian colonial art.” It can refer, in general, to the art produced in the region presently known as Brazil between 1500, when navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral claimed the coastal territory for the Lusitanian crown, and the country’s independence in the early 19th century. It can also refer, more specifically, to the artistic manifestations produced in certain Brazilian regions—most notably Bahia, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro—over the 18th century and first decades of the 19th century. In other words, while denotatively it corresponds to the art produced in the period during which Brazil was a colony, it can also work as a metonym valid to indicate particular temporal and geographical arcs within this period. The reasons for its widespread metonymical use are related, on the one hand, to the survival of a relatively large number of art objects and buildings produced in these arcs, but also to a judicative value: at least since the 1920s, artists, historians, and cultivated Brazilians have tended to regard Brazilian colonial art—in its more specific meaning—as the greatest cultural product of those centuries. In this sense, Brazilian colonial art is often identified with the Baroque—to the extent that the terms “Brazilian Baroque,” “Brazilian colonial art,” and even “barroco mineiro” (i.e., Baroque produced in the province of Minas Gerais) may be used interchangeably by some scholars and, even more so, the general public. The study of Brazilian colonial art is currently intermingled with the question of what should be understood as Brazil in the early modern period. Just like some 20th- and 21st-century scholars have been questioning, for example, the term “Italian Renaissance”—given the fact that Italy, as a political entity, did not exist until the 19th century—so have researchers problematized the concept of a unified term to designate the whole artistic production of the territory that would later become the Federative Republic of Brazil between the 16th and 19th centuries. This territory, moreover, encompassed a myriad of very different societies and languages originating from at least three different continents. Should the production, for example, of Tupi or Yoruba artworks be considered colonial? Or should they, instead, be understood as belonging to a distinctive path and independent art historical process? Is it viable to propose a transcultural academic approach without, at the same time, flattening the specificities and richness of the various societies that inhabited the territory? Recent scholarly work has been bringing together traditional historiographical references in Brazilian colonial art and perspectives from so-called “global art history.” These efforts have not only internationalized the field, but also made it multidisciplinary by combining researches in anthropology, ethnography, archaeology, history, and art history.

Article

Digital Resources: The Berg Fashion Library  

Stephanie Saunders

The Berg Fashion Library forms part of Bloomsbury Fashion Central, a digital lynchpin for research involving fashion and dress. Alongside the Fashion Photography Archive, Fairchild Books Library, and Bloomsbury Fashion Business Cases, the Berg Fashion Library tightly weaves together an interdisciplinary array of digital resources for those interested in the multifaceted inner workings of dress. Enriching both students and researchers of fashion studies, the vast visual corpus offers an abundant repertoire of benchmark texts in e-book format, and encourages cross-cultural study, especially through the digitalized ten-volume reference work, The Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, and the section “Museum Exhibitions,” dedicated to a global representation of fashion, dress, and the body throughout history. Specifically, for those interested in Latin American fashion, accessories, and textiles, the Berg Fashion Library facilitates an introduction into the subject while also delving into the particularities of Latin American fashion. Cognizant of the diverse cultures involved, the Berg Fashion Library provides a comprehensive platform to explore the geographical, political, and historical markers that interlace the complexities of Latin America.

Article

Indigenous Portraits and Casta Paintings in the Spanish Americas  

Dana Leibsohn and Meha Priyadarshini

For historians of the Spanish Americas indigenous portraits and casta paintings offer two distinctive lenses for understanding the relationships between indigeneity and colonialism. Both genres of painting anchor indigenous bodies and subjectivities in the racialized practices that were constitutive of, and crucial to, colonialism in the Americas. Indigenous portraits record individual biographies and family histories, offering scholars of the present insights into the lives of people whose desires rarely surface in prose sources. Indigenous portraits also document the economic and material investments people were willing to make in preserving images of lives well lived. In the colonial past, as in the present, indigenous portraits therefore speak to the ways social ambitions fueled identity formation. Cuadros de castas, or casta paintings, are a genre of painting invented and painted in the Spanish Americas in the late 17th and 18th centuries. Casta paintings, like indigenous portraits, describe status and economic wealth; their main aim, however, was to portray the ethnic mixing and concomitant racialized thinking in colonial society. According to the iconography and composition of casta paintings, the mixing of people from Europe, Africa, and the Americas could be ordered and organized such that everyone seemed to have a place and appropriate ethnic designation. Today, casta paintings are understood as persuasive works of art that presented an idealized, hierarchical view of urban life. The painters and patrons of indigenous portraits and casta paintings participated in networks formed by habits of material exchange, patterns of urban mobility, and practices linked to Catholic religious beliefs. Some of these networks stretched across the Americas; others were bound to trade and travel across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The histories referenced in indigenous portraits and casta paintings should be understood, then, as tethered to local concerns, global economies, and cosmopolitan ambitions.

Article

Capoeira: From Slave Combat Game to Global Martial Art  

Matthias Röhrig Assunção

Capoeira is a martial art that developed from combat games enslaved Africans brought to Brazil. It is systematically documented since the beginning of the 19th century in Rio de Janeiro and later in other port cities. During the 19th century capoeira was increasingly practiced by the poor free people, black and of mixed ancestry, and also by white immigrants. Capoeira gangs controlled their territories against intruders and allied with political parties until the Republican purge of 1890. Capoeira survived best in Bahia, where it remained more associated with other forms of Afro-Brazilian culture and acquired many of its features still extant in present-day capoeira. From the 1930s onward, capoeira masters such as Bimba and Pastinha modernized capoeira, leading to the emergence of the Regional and Angola styles. Bahian capoeiristas migrated to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in search of better opportunities during the 1950–1970s. There they and their students developed what later became known as “Contemporary capoeira” (Capoeira Contemporânea) which is the most practiced style today. Capoeira was and is practiced in various ways: as a friendly game or as a fight, as a combat sport, or as an Afro-Brazilian cultural activity. Since the 1980s, capoeira has undergone a process of globalization and is now practiced in many countries around the world. Capoeira is the only martial art of the African Diaspora that is known and practiced worldwide. Writing on Capoeira has rapidly grown in a number of disciplines, leading to the constitution of its own interdisciplinary field of study.

Article

Chile: A Center of Global Astronomy, 1850–2019  

Bárbara K. Silva

By 2020, it is expected that approximately 70 % of the world’s surface astronomical observation will be located in Chile, considering both optical and infrared telescopes, belonging to international institutions. How did this happen? Can we explain the overwhelming importance of astronomy in this southern country only because of its geography? This process began when scientists from Europe, the United States, and the Soviet Union went to Chile in the 1960s, and each one of them decided to build a massive observatory in the country. The atmospheric conditions certainly had a role in these decisions, but they were also related to Cold War politics and, indirectly, to the previous history of astronomy in Chile. The international dimension of astronomy in Chile had been preset since the mid-19th century, when the first modern astronomy initiative took place. An American expedition built the first observatory, which later became the National Astronomical Observatory. By the early 20th century, another American expedition had arrived in Chile, and this one stayed for more than twenty years. Decades later, the global dimension of astronomy took the decisive step in the southern country and set the milestone for the development in the hands of Europeans, Americans and Soviets. In the process, Chileans became involved with astronomy, trying to promote science, the country’s international relations, and to grasp the attractions of modernity.