Contested Sites of Dependence and Independence in Latin America
Bill Richardson and Lorraine Kelly Introduction
Two hundred years ago, within the context of widespread regime changes taking place in Europe and North America, the movement to liberate Latin America became more intense, and, by the mid-1820s, the region had largely freed itself from its colonial masters, Spain and Portugal. But, both at that time and ever since, the nature and quality of the ‘independence’ achieved was and has been open to question. The male criollos who were the leading figures in the independence movement – San Martín, Bolívar, O’Higgins – behaved heroically in pursuit of their cause, but were limited in their vision of what independence and freedom should mean. The ideals of the independence movement may have encompassed notions of Latin American unity, universal suf frage, the improvement of the lot of all the peoples of the region and a commitment to equality, but neither at the time of the ‘liberation’ nor since have those ideals been translated into practice, except patchily. Injustice, deprivation, social inequality, discrimination against women and indigenous people, and racist attitudes towards those who are non-white generally, have been hallmarks of the social order established in the various countries of the region during much of the intervening period. Despite significant advances made, economic dependence – especially on Britain and the USA – combined with corrupt governance and chronic militarism have meant that a pattern of exploitation and neglect has been evident during most of the last two centuries. This has ensured that con- cepts such as independence and freedom have been constantly...
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