Book Review: The Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli

Note:  This review covers only a section of this book.  I write about Belli’s exile.  

With Gioconda Belli being involved with the Sandinista and being ordered to go to Europe for safety while her organization tried to pull off an operation against the Somoza – that ended up failing, when she came back to Nicaragua – against her boss – whom she was having an affair with wishes,. When she came home and finally reunited with her family after so long, she began to read some of the newspapers her dad saved for her and realized that her oddly easy return to her country had to be part the Somoza’s plan to use her as some kind of decoy. She began talking over her limited options of what to do now with her mom, dad, and husband. She was thinking her option was to seek political asylum her dad agreed to take her to the embassy, but after she talked to Dr. Baez who had seeked asylum and she could find out how that worked, what to do and what embassy she should go to. When she went to talk to him he told her to wait, and that to seek asylum was like going into a world of uncertainty. She stayed put in her house for two weeks out of fear. After that she started doing low-key things for her political organization like driving different Sandinista members to different meeting places and picking them up. Letting a few of them stay at her place. But she realized that the Somoza dictatorship was catching up to her, the doctor she was confiding in was captured. As soon as she found out another one of her bosses sent word to her to leave the country immediately. And that she had one week to tidy up her affairs and leave. Under the Sandinistas code of honor it was expected that the doctor would remain silent for a week before succumbing to the torturing of the Somoza.  With that being said she began preparing to leave for Mexico. A week after she left she found out that the Somoza’s secret police went to her job and took all her papers and a few months later her name was added to the list of the hundreds of people who were to b e tried by the Military Tribunal. After a month in Mexico she was indicted by the Military Tribunal, and she now knew there was no way for her to go back to Nicaragua until the dictatorship fell. In 1975 this is how Gioconda began her life in exile. While living in exile she lived in both Mexico and Costa Rica – most of her exile she lived in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Her first three months of living in Mexico she wrote a book of poems called Linea de fuego- Line of Fire, which won the Casa de las Americas prize in Cuba in 1978. Since she no longer had to hid or worry about disclosing her political views she was able to write her poems freely.   While in Mexico  she and her husband divorced, and at first her husband didn’t want to send her kids to her so she kind of threaten him and he then sent her two daughters to her. By this time she was living in Costa Rica. Though she was in exile she was still very helpful to the Sandinistas, she became more of runner for them and housed different members when they came for meetings and hosted meetings at her home. When I mean she was more of a runner that meant she was used to take weapons, money letters, tapes to different drop off locations, or met and exchange information with different people, due to her upper class look she wasn’t suspected hardly at all. She mostly went on these runs between Costa Rica, Honduras, and panama. She gave a few accounts on how she was able to pull off some close calls.

It was almost like it was straight out of the movies, once she was carrying a doll in the air port with its legs stuffed with letters and other important documents with plans and ideas for other members of the Sandinistas, she had it on conveyer belt and she realized that of she left it there the letters would look like bags of drugs and she would get caught. So before it could get scanned she grabbed it and hugged it and went through the metal detectors with the doll in her hands.

Another way she described how she would trade information with other members of her party was she would sit and wait till someone came and talked to her and left a suitcase at her feet then she would take it on the plane get to her destination and then someone else would be waiting and she would leave it next to they so they could take it.

The most memorable smuggling tricks she used were box of money. Her job was to deliver a sum of money to members of the Sandinistas who were in Panama approximately $10,000, however, when she got the money it was given to her in small bills didn’t know what to do, then came up with an idea to carry it as a wedding gift so she wrapped the money up in individual bundles and but it all in a big box and decorated the box as if it was a big wedding gift and she dressed as if she was on her way to a wedding.  When she got to Panama the airport had all the Nicaraguans form line and everyone else in another. This is when she started to panic trying to think of a plan. The she happened to see a Panamanian leader who was a sympathizer for the Sandinistas she then stepped out of line and started talking to him as if he was an old friend. She asked him for help and he was able to help her get out of there without being searched.

Later on she decided remarried to a man named Sergio.  Here is the story of how her son Camilo was born. She went through some complications. Due to political anxieties and other issues her doctor put her on bed rest. Guest started to come to visit and they had to hold meetings in her home so she was only on bed rest for a few days, so during one of her task as a runner, she was the driver to take care of little details and figure out where the safe house would be for their new leader Modesto. So being in the car sitting from morning till 5 in the evening when she got out of the car and finally ended her day she started to have really bad contractions and so her husband Sergio took her to the hospital, since she was only 5 months pregnant they gave her something to stop contractions and she had to stay in the hospital. She talked about how the doctors and nurses there were rude, treated all the mothers as if they were stupid and hardly gave them any information on how they were doing. She ended up getting an infection at the hospital so they gave her antibiotics and she said they kept referring to her baby as “the product” as her infection got worse they had to do an emergency C-section and when the baby was delivered they told her it was a boy and it died. Then right after he said that a few minutes past and a nurse came back into the room and called for the doctor, the baby was alive. Of course she was relieved that her baby was alive.  The doctor finished sowing her up and then went to see the baby and came back and told her that it was a mistake her baby was dead. When they took her back into the room to recover another nurse came into the room and was like “oh I just saw your baby boy” she was like “no my baby died” so they kind of went back and forth. She was like what is going on is my baby dead or alive? So the head nurse came and confirmed that her son was alive.

How she was able to finally come back to Nicaragua after 4 yrs of exile was a few things. The Sandinista had a new operation under way called Operation Eureka. How they prepared for this mission was cool, for example through their pirate radio station broadcast for Costa Rica they would air ingenious songs that Carlos Mejia Godoy a popular Nicaraguan singer would sing the lyrics composed by the leader of her group. The lyrics were nothing but step-by-step instructions on how to use assemble and disassemble riffles that people were capturing from National Guards in street battles. However the biggest catalyst for the ending of power of the Somoza was when Bill Stewart, an American journalist was brutally assassinated. It was filmed by his camera man who then sent the tape back to America, and it was shown all over. With this and pictures from American photographers pictures of what really was happening in Nicaragua started to become know thus leading to America withdrawing their support to Somoza. News then spread about a Red Cross medic driver being shot by the National Guard. The international community reacted again. Then in 1979 Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama broke their diplomatic relations with Somoza. Thus ending the 45 yrs of dictatorship from the Somoza. It was all over the radio and she was in such disbelief that not only is the dictatorship over but she is actually free to go back to her country. Her team then set out to write a special newspaper talking about the events there in Costa Rica b/c the newspaper office in Nicaragua was bombed they titled their special report Free Country. This is how she finally goes back to her country Nicaragua.

– Posted by A. Chambers (2011)

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Book Review: “The Country Under My Skin” -by Gioconda Belli

In Nicaragua 1979, after years of dictatorship, the Samoza dynasty came to an end when the Samozas fled the country along with their followers. The nation was euphoric, but still in chaos since the state had been quickly and completely dissolved; no courts, police, army, or government ministries. Suring the dictatorship, the newspapers were also discontinued. The author herself, and the rest of the Sandinistas (revolutionaries) created headlines to provide the people. They shouted “Freedom” while passing out the papers and the people cheers “or death” completing the Sandinista war cry, now a symbol of victory. By 1980 the Allied troops had taken over Nicaragua. The people were happier without the dictatorship, but the country still needed many improvements. The country was starting over from scratch. At the same time Belli was placed in charge of the State Television station. As a Sandinista with past experience and an education in advertising, she was perfect for the job. She tried to move away from American Sitcoms like “I dream of Jeanie” and air things like science and nature documentaries or shows they could create themselves: interviews with guerilla leaders and a news hour. They also aired Jack Cousteau and Charlie Chaplin films, but eventually due to limited resources the shows grew repetitive and the sitcoms were returned. The birth of Nicaragua didn’t impact Belli the way she had anticipated. She wasn’t as excited and found her new obligations tiresome. She had told her daughters that after the revolution she would be able to spend more time with them. Instead she had even more responsibilities that demanded her time. The Sandinistas had so much too with little money and resources. They began planning ways to improve living conditions for Nicaraguans. They quickly formed a sort of military and these new police were so friendly the people referred to them as compitas (buddies). The Sandinistas were also able to improve general residential housing. Since so many people fled the country with the Samoza’s there were numerous houses and land available for redistribution to the people. The same year of the revolution, Cuba held the 6th summit conference of the non-aligned movement and Nicaragua applied for membership to the non-aligned countries. The purpose of this program was to “ensure national independence sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security”, since Nicaragua had been left vulnerable without the protection of an established government. Many Sandinista leaders attended the conference and while visiting Cuba, Fidel Castro expressed his concerns regarding the direction Nicaragua was headed. Partially due to those close ties with socialist Cube, the United States labeled the Sandinistas as communists. That was not what the revolutionaries were fighting for. Their main goal was to end the oppressive Samoza dictatorship and improve overall living conditions for all Nicaraguans. They also wanted to minimize the gap between the rich and the poor. The Sandinistas tried to move away from Cuba’s and Russia’s ideals and looked for a new kind of socialism that would work for their country. After the conference the Sandinistas visited many other socialist countries, Russia, East Germany, Bulgaria, Algeria, and Libya where they met guerilla leaders like Vo Nguyen Giap. The purpose of these visits was to secure several allies in defense against he National Guard and the United States. These efforts had the opposite effect and just instigated aggression. The Sandinistas had already drawn too much attention to themselves and Nicaragua, so when they met with fellow revolutionaries and guerillas in countries not on good terms with the United States, of course they would take action. Another way the Sandinistas tried to help the people was by forming the national crusade for literacy. Thousands of teenagers left their homes and spread across the country to teach people how to read, of which 70% were illiterate. The people would be able to read labels, directions and could gather new knowledge for themselves. The program wasn’t just about illiteracy. It was also a way to show the country would change though “Solidarity and generosity, not weapons.” To make things worse for Nicaragua, President Reagan canceled the final loan Carter granted them and also a loan the nation was going to use for wheat. Additionally, Reagan cut off all lines of credit after learning Nicaragua was providing Salvadorian Guerillas with arms. The United States funded the previous National Guard of Nicaragua as well. These events influenced the rapid decline of the relationship between Nicaragua and the United States. In response, the Sandinistas provoked the Reagan administration, toughened their stance and executed more laws creating more enemies within the nation. In 1982 the U.S. demanded Nicaragua establish a fully functioning democracy within two years, but Nicaragua didn’t have experience in this area since they had been under a dictatorship since 1934. They were also extremely low on resources and money. Things like toilet paper were scarce and the grocery stores were empty. The only way to bring money back into the country was through farming; all the prime agriculture was exported. Nicaragua was headed down hill. In 1983 the United States’ CIA got involved. They bombed an airplane that damaged the Managua airport, and also attacked Nicaragua oil reserves. These events caused the public to lose faith in the Sandinistas and the developing nation. “They had brought the country head-to-head with the United States and the people were paying the price.”

– This post written by Amanda Treadwell (2011)

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Book Review: Chile: The Other September 11

September 11, 1973, was the day democracy died in Chile. “Both in Chile and the United States, terror descended from the sky to destroy the symbols of national identity,  the presidential Palace in Santiago, the icons of financial and military power in New York and Washington.” Salvador Allende was the first democratically-elected Marxist leader of any nation. ” Marxism is an economic and socio-political worldview that contains within it a political ideology for how to change and improve society by implementing socialism. Allende was elected to power with 36.2% of the vote in 1970 – his term was to be cut short less than three years later by General Augusto Pinochet. Both Allende and Pinochet were dogmatic men, each believing his cause was the right one and neither left room for compromise – when two men of this disposition clash, tragedy is the only outcome. This entry chronicles the events of the day that democracy died in Chile.” During this time Chile was struggling economically because of the lack of foreign investment. At 6:20 A.M. president Allende was notified that the military were going to capture the port of Valparaiso. Allende was given the chance to flee but he refused and said “I am ready to resist by whatever means, even at the cost of my life, so that this may serve as a lesson to the ignominious history of those who use force not reason.” At 9:30 A.M. president Allende made his last address to the nation. “There have been claims that he killed himself and other people say he was killed by the military’s weapons. There has been much conjecture as to whether or not Allende was murdered or took his own life. the photos were never published and stories abound of chest and abdomen wounds that would indicate murder – and then there is Guijón’s dubious testimony (how could he be close enough to see the skull blow off but not hear the shot?). However President Allende died, one thing remains – by mid-afternoon on 11 September, 1973, Chile had lost its President, Democracy had been dealt a blow that it would take 25 years to recover from and the world was about to witness one of the worst cases of political cleansing.” No one knows how many people died but it isn’t a mystery that many people lost their lives during this time. “Chilean liberals of all walks of life were rounded up and were either executed or ‘disappeared’. One such example is Victor Jara, the celebrated folk singer, who was executed in the very stadium where he had played to great critical acclaim. Victor Jara’s wife wrote the story of how her beloved husband passed away during his captivity. Victor Jara unfortunately got held hostage in the Technical University. There were around 600 students that day waiting to her the presidents last words. The whole school was immediately surrounded by tanks and troops. While they were kept hostage Victor sang songs to lift his fellow captives spirits during this frightening time. The military personel had everyone line up and while they were being checked one guard recognized him and confronted him saying “You’re that (f-word) singer, aren’t you?” Victor was then hit on the head, kicked on the stomach and was left with broken ribs.” As he managed to recover he requested paper and a pen and wrote his last poem.

“Estadio Chile” by Victor Jara

There are five thousand of us here in this small part of the city. We are five thousand. I wonder how many we are in all in the cities and in the whole country? Here alone are ten thousand hands which plant seeds and make the factories run. How much humanity exposed to hunger, cold, panic, pain, moral pressures, terror and insanity? Six of us were los as if left into starry space. One dead, another beaten as I could never have believed a human being could be beaten. The other four wanted to end their terror – one jumping into nothingness, another beating his head against a wall, but all with the fixed stare of death. What horror the face of fascism creates! They carry out their plans with knife-like precision. Nothing matters to them. For them, blood equals medals, slaughter is an act of heroism. Oh God, is this the world that you created, for this, your seven days of wonder and work? Within these four walls only a number exists which does not progress, which slowly will wish more and more for death. But suddenly my conscience awakes and i see that this tide has no heartbeat, only the pulse of machines and the military showing their midwives’ faces full of sweetness. Let Mexico, Cuba and the world cry out against this atrocity! We are then thousand hands which can produce nothing. How many of us in the whole country? The blood of our president, our compañero, will strike with more strength than bombs and machine guns! So will our fist strike again! How hard is it to sing when i must sing of horror. Horror which I am living, horror which I am dying. To see myself among so much and so many moments of infinity in which silence and screams are the end of my song. What I see, I have never seen what I have felt and what I feel will give birth to the moment…”

This was Victor Jara’s last poem. After he wrote it the little paper was passed around and the prisoners memorized it. Not only was this person a famous singer but he was a loved one that belonged to Joan Jara. She explains what she was going through while she was worried about her husband. Joan described what she saw when she saw her husband’s body: “His eyes were open and they seemed still to look ahead with intensity and defiance,  in spite of a wound in his head and terrible bruises on his cheek. His clothes were torn, trousers round his ankles…” Lastly Joan says “part of me died at that moment too. I felt a whole part of me died as i stood there. Immobile and silent, unable to move, speak.”

There were many heartbreaking stories written in this book by many others that were affected that day. Just as people lost their loved ones in 9-11- (in the US), people lost theirs a long time ago in Chile, the original September 11.

–Blog Post by A. Felix (2011)

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Book Review”Living to Tell the Tale” Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez would have to be one of the most recognized authors in Latin America. His writings have reached people on a world level and up to this day, many people all around the world are reading his books and are being inspired by his work. Gabriel José García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928 in Aracataca, a town in Northern Colombia. Márquez is a novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. Marquez is considered one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. In 1982, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and is the earliest winner of this prize to still be alive.

Márquez started as a journalist, and has written many non-fiction books and short stories, but is best known for his novels. Márquez style of writing has been labeled as magical realism, which uses magical elements and events in otherwise ordinary and realistic situations.

Márquez was raised by his maternal grandparents, Dona Tranquilina Iguaran  and Colonel Nicolas Marquez Mejia. His grandfather whom he called “Papalelo” was a Liberal veteran of the Thousand Days War. The person that Márquez became was shaped by the influence of his grandfather. Most of his childhood was with his grandfather so he respected him greatly. Márquez lived with his grandparents up to when he was nine years old when his grandfather died. García Márquez political and ideological views were shaped by his grandfathers stories. In an interview, García Márquez told his friend Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, “my grandfather the colonel was a Liberal. My political ideas probably came from him to begin with because, instead of telling me fairy tales when I was young, he would regale me with horrifying accounts of the last civil war that free-thinkers and anti-clerics waged against the Conservative government.”

Back when Márquez was a young man, politics were very important. His father was as we know a Conservative. The clash of ideologies within the families existed because Márquez grandfather was a Liberal which thought completely different. In this memoir “Living to Tell the Tale”, Márquez gives an account of when his parents first met. His grandfather did not approve of his daughter marriage with this man because his soon to be son-in-law was a Conservative and believed that he was a womanizer. Politics were very important then,which Márquez helps us see as an important element to him growing up.

In “Living to Tell the Tale”, Gabriel García Márquez expresses a lot of detail about his life. He shares stories and memorable moments of him growing up and the people that surrounded him. One of the people that he talks the most about is of course his grandfather. He talks about him teaching him simple tasks like learning how to read words. After his grandfather died, Márquez moved to his parents’ home in Sucre where his father owned a pharmacy. Through this account, it is clear that Marquez wanted to be a writer. He loved it. In the beginning of the book, Márquez talks about his account with his mother as they were going to go sell their home when he was around twenty years old. His mother asks him why he had dropped out of school. Márquez response was that he wasn’t dropping out of school, he just wanted to become a writer instead. His parents had supported him to go to school to study law where he was studying at the University of Cartagena but he was writing on the side. While he was in school in 1948 and 1949 he wrote for El Universal in Cartagena. Later, from 1950 until 1952, he wrote a “whimsical” column under the name of “Septimus” for the local paper El Heraldo in Barranquilla.

The environment in Barranquilla gave Márquez a world-class literary education and provided him with a unique perspective on Caribbean culture. Since Márquez was about eighteen, he wanted to write a noble based on his grandparents’ house where he grew up. He had never found the right theme until one day it hit him on a family vacation as they were driving down to Acapulco in Mexico. Márquez turned around and drove back home to write the novel. When they got back, he sold the car so his family would have money to live. The novel took longer than what he expected and he wrote everyday for eighteen months. His wife had to ask for food on credit from the butcher and baker as well as nine months of rent on credit from their landlord. When the book was published in 1967, it became Márquez most commercially successful novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien Años de Soledad). The novel was widely popular and led to Márquez’s  Nobel Prize as well as the Rómulo Gallegos Prize in 1972. William Kennedy has called it “the piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race,” and hundreds of articles and books of literary critique have been published in response to it.

Gabriel García Márquez became a well-known author around the world but many people if not the majority of the people in the United States did not know Gabriel García Márquez up to the early nineties. It was very difficult for anyone from Latin America to get visas to come to The United States and so that was also the case for Márquez. After Bill Clinton was elected U.S. president in 1992, he finally lifted the travel ban and claimed that García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude was his favorite novel.

In 1999, García Márquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He went through Chemotherapy which helped his illness go into remission. This led García Márquez to begin writing his memoirs. In 2002, three years later, he published this memoir Living to Tell the Tale which was the first one out of three that he was going to write. In 2004 he published his second memoir Memories of My Melancholy Whore. In May 2008 it was announced that García Márquez was working on another novel that was to be published by the end of the year. In April 2009 his agent, Carmen Balcells, told the Chilean newspaper La Tercera that García Márquez was unlikely to write again.

Carlos Fuentes recognizes García Márquez as “the most popular and perhaps the best writer in Spanish since Cervantes”. García Márquez was the first Colombian and fourth Latin American to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. Márquez will always be remembered as the author who brought us a unique style of writing in his work. In Living to Tell the Tale, Márquez gives us a picture of his life that brings us to relate to him. I believe that Gabriel García Márquez’s writings will continue to inspire other young writers as well as his readers because what Gabriel García Márquez offers in his work can only come from him and his unique life experience.

—A post written by: Oscar S. Bustillos

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“Autos and Progress: The Brazilian Search for Modernity” by Joel Wolfe

Juscelino Kubitschek (also known as JK and is what I’ll call him) ran for president in Brazil, 1955. As a presidential Candidate he had hopes for the country; He had a vision of a modern Brazil.  His campaign slogan was “Fifty years of progress in five”.  JK fueled Brazil’s desire to become a modern nation.  Modernity would help change the way class, race, and gender were viewed. In their eyes it would help make responsible citizens of the poor. He knew the key to this progress was automobility.

JK attempted to radically, but peacefully transform Brazilian society. He pushed foreign automobile industries to move production to Brazil. The companies that moved production, prospered. Ford was reluctant to expand to Brazil at first, which ended up hurting the company. Some of the industries that expanded were, Mercedes, VW, Willy-Overland, Jeep, GM, and Ford. First they focused on meeting local demand  and eventually exported to other nearby countries in South America. This separated Brazil from the rest of Latin America. It helped Brazil’s Economy and elevated the nation’s status in the world.

These foreign industries grew rapidly. They developed credit facilities so now middle class could afford vehicles. These industries also created a new working class. Other industrial workers were going on strike for increased wages and improved working conditions. Because of this Brazil started losing home for it’s modernity, but since so many new auto industries were being developed it created a large job market. These companies didn’t require any experience and offered exceptional training. They also had the highest working class wages and best benefits available in Brazil. Wolfe quotes “No job in metropolitan San Paulo was more desirable than one in the foreign auto factories. Second in value was a position with a nationally owned auto parts company.” These high wages and great benefits brought peace to the work force and kept attracting job seekers from all over Brazil.

Ford Industry is a great example of this. The company had amazing benefits for all of their employees. The offered a discount and special financing on their vehicles, company transportation to work, medical and dental benefits, sporting club membership and many others.

People migrated from the suburbs, which grew and prospered with the auto plants. In 1959 most Brazilians believed the auto industry was the most important factor of the nation’s strengthened nation and it’s economy. Things were looking so well for Brazil and JK still had more plans to carry out. He and many other politicians wanted to move Brazil’s capital inland. Now that there were ways of traveling far in shorter amounts of time, this made it possible. They knew this new Capital would draw Brazil’s diverse regions together… “integration through interiorization”. The coastal regions were years ahead of the inner regions and this would help unite the vast areas. People were skeptical at first, but soon favored the idea and recognized how much the new capital would help Brazil.

This new City, Brasilia, contained modern architecture and was specifically designed to discourage pedestrian traffic. This was the kink to integrating Brazil. JK had successfully accelerated progress and the people agreed.

After WWII Brazil focused in building key highways. The country still had far less highway distance than most Latin American Countries, which are much smaller than Brazil.  The masses needed a national transportation network, so JK set a goal of 5,800 km of highway distance to be built in 5 years.  This system helped spread development throughout the country and united regions that previously relied on river systems. JK had made Brazil Latin America’s leading industrial power.

The auto Industry now had higher sights. The now directed their focus on exporting. They sent cars to Mexico, Spain, Chile, Paraguay, and sent part to the United States. They hoped they could make cars that would pass United States Standards so they could be exported there as well. After 5 years in office, 1960 CE, it was clear JK had delivered 50 years of progress. His plans had allowed Brazil to rapidly merge into modernity, but the government and economy wasn’t as stable as they had hoped.  In 1962 Quadros was elected president. He was not well prepared for the position and made poor choices. He altered the exchange rate, which affected wheat and oil prices. They rose dramatically. He also tried to renew relations with the Soviet Union and establish a relationship with Cuba and China. This alienated Brazilian conservatives.  After only 8 months, Quadros resigned due to increased unpopularity. This left the government controlled by the vice president Jaoa Goulart.

At this time Fidel Castro seized control of Cuba and established a communist government. Brazil had a history of insurgency so the event felt too close and uncomfortable to Brazilian middle-class and elites. This influenced military leaders to overthrow Goulart , and the United States government backed them up. This military dictatorship instilled doubt of JK’s efforts to modernize the nation. The new government was only interesting in boosting the economy. They did not make an effort to continue building roads or to improve them, they cut budgets which slowed the countries progress.

During the Castello Branco administration in 1965, they government officials embraced development and re-implemented plans to pave highways and roads. In the late 1960’s the Medici government developed a program to integrate the North, South, East, and West regions of Brazil. They built more roads and highways to facilitate internal migration; an Amazonian highway. This created some conflicts between old and new residents, but the migration path was successful. There was a steady increase of poor populations in Sao Paulo and Rio de Jeneiro. This frightened the elites and Carlos Lacerda, Rio’s governor, declared war on the Favelas (extremely poor community). He removed inhabitants and would destroy their homes.  Still populations increased.

The rise in population also created higher demand for public transportation, especially buses. Some cities developed bus routes to help reduce congestion and continued to update other means of public transportation. This aided the populations growth even more.

Now with automobility in such high demand, oil prices sky rocketed which threatened to compromise the economy. The government encouraged alternate fuel programs and they found a solution.  An entirely new industry was emerging, ethanol fuel, and this boosted auto sales in the 1980’s. This also helped Brazil’s agriculture since this new fuel was made primarily from sugarcane. This new industry allowed Brazil’s economy to somewhat stabilize, and the nation could maintain its independence.

With the help of JK and other officials Brazil was able to find the Modernity they were searching for. Though the country did not achieve everything they has hoped for they certainly made a lot of Progress.

Article written by Amanda Treadwell

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The Americas: A Hemispheric History by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

Fernandez-Armesto tells the history of the Americas wholistically–including pre-Columbian societies. Below is a summary of his story of some of the pre-Columbian Peoples of the Americas:


Lived in what is now the southern part Mexico. The name Olmec means “rubber people”. The name refers to the rubber ball they used for their ballgames. The ball game is compared to volleyball and racquetball these ballcourts vary considerably in size, but all have long narrow alleys with side-walls against which the balls could bounce.

To many they are known to me the “mother of civilization” however others including Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, doesn’t agree with this claim. He believes that the Olmec people were just 1 of the many civilizations.

They had writing, mathematics, and a calendar system. Their religion was Shamanism – the supposed ability to assume the powers of animals.

In the Olmec era they are known for their huge sculpted heads that were carved from stone and columns of basalt –(which is a type of volcanic rock) these sculptures weighed about 40 tons and normally were either dragged or carried over long distances of up to 100 miles.  The types of sculptures were jaguar like masks or squat heads with almond eyes, parted lips and sneers of cold command. They also had jade face masks. Jade was one of the many stones they used to trade along with greenstone and marine shells.

Although it was is not clear why the Olmec population declined and their eventual extinction it is assumed that since they depend on agriculture to survive some believe that some type of environmental change accord.


The Mayan people were the next widely known civilization during this time. They mostly lived in tropical lowlands and dense rainforest. For example in the jungles of Belize and Guatemala you would come across huge Mayan temples. The temples were there to announce their presence and show off their wealth and splendor.

Their society was one that had Hierarchy where the kings had Shamans’ power to commune with gods and ancestors. The elites were people who were able to have skill in war and access to the divine world.

Like the Olmec they had pictures carved into stone and put on display.  Most of the Mayan’s carvings were placed on display in the plaza’s where the people would gather during the times of rituals, which during these rituals the elites would wear their divine disguises and engage in a ritual called blood-letting, which is where they would drain large quantities of blood from a person to induce visions.

The Mayan people were very competitive when it came to war. Wars were fought by who could be more terrifying. For example they would boast about the amount of captives they had that were being sacrificed. In their art work they would have scenes of sacrifices that included torturing to death and dismemberment alive.

The way of life for the Mayan people could be described as urban. They were like a city-state type of communities. Everything important happened in the cities. The countryside was there to support and sustain the cities. How the cities were designed by having these massive buildings that were the homes of the elites, and display rites of divine propitiation. Then surrounding those are the markets and peasants. Then surrounding them were the fields that were used to provide food or used as cash crops.

Cash crops were crops that were highly luxurious and in demand that they would use to sell or trade to get profit then biggest one that was used as a cash crop were the cacao pod. One Mayan community that was considered the biggest and the most powerful city called the Tikal helped their economy by changing into a cacao production city, so much so that their symbol is the cacao pod.

Most of the Mayan history is carved into stone, thus making it able to withstand the harsh conditions and decay. Most of their writings were of one of 2 things: either records of astronomical observations or time keeping. Most of it found on alters or buildings.

Ex: in northern Honduras on one building’s stairway had the records of ruling dynasties, records of the different wars fought and alliances made.

On the alters of the Tikal they have different stories on them.

Their writing system was design to keep secrets because it is so hard to decode it that it is said that it is so mysterious that only the person who wrote it could interpret it to others.

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“The Americas A Hemispheric History” Felipe Fernandez Armesto

When we study the Americas, it is very important to understand every aspect of it including the people, the culture, traditions and influences that make up this continent. The Americas have been evolving culturally, socially and economically throughout the years. Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, author of The Americas: A Hemispheric History believes we can trace a lot of this change to the time when the Conquistadors first came to the Americas. But how much influence can one nation have on another? Is it possible that a culture so well established be completely removed from its foundation and made completely different? I want us to think about these questions because as we learn more about the Americas, we discover that “Influence” both positive and negative was introduced to the Americas by many European nations that have resulted in the nations and continent that we have now, a culturally diverse continent with many different customs, beliefs and traditions.

We learn that for thousands of years, the people of the Americas lived in isolation and away from any foreign influences. There were many different civilizations established all across the continent. When the first settlers and explores came to the “New World” around the 15th century, the natives from the Americas suffered in many different ways because of the “New People” that were establishing here. We will look at some changes that the Europeans brought to the Americas and how they have impacted how things are today.

The word Conquistador comes from the word Conquistar which means to conquer. The sole purpose of the Conquistadors or Conquistadores was to conquer and nothing else really mattered. It is believed that the reason why many of the civilizations in Latin America disappeared was because of the Conquistadores. The Aztec civilization disappeared within three years from the moment the first Conquistadores came in contact with the civilization. Conquistadores such as Hernando Cortes were responsible for destroying the temples and finishing with the Aztec people. It has been documented that in August 15, 1521 the last Aztec was killed. Other civilizations were also disappeared such as the Mayans, the Olmecs and the Incas, all by men who wanted the riches of the land. The Conquistadores were interested in Gold and would do anything to get their hands on it. The Spaniards wanted to export Gold back to Spain and the result was the death of thousands of natives. The native people fought back against the Spaniards but although they out numbered the Spanish people, they still lost because their weapons still consisted of sticks compared to the Spaniards development of steel swords.

The European nations at the time when the conquest began in the Americas, wanted to establish their ideologies, traditions and have their flags represented in any territory possible.  This eventually led to the establishments of European traditions. Felipe Fernandez Armesto points out how the Spaniards built printing presses. Spanish architecture was introduced and old homes were either destroyed and rebuilt or modified. This is one reason why many of the temples were destroyed because the Spaniards wanted their European architecture. In the northern hemisphere, European nations such as England established their customs as well introducing their English architecture building Victorian style homes. The change in the Americas occurred very quickly. One would think that it took hundreds of years to begin but everything started taking a different spin a few years after the Conquistadores arrived.

The new expansion and building of new homes required labor and a lot of it. The introduction of slaves was a tradition brought to the Americas by the English taken from the Romans and other nations. Most of the slaves were brought from Africa by the hundreds. The slave trade soon became a business. Ships that were bringing goods from Europe soon started shipping slaves as part of their business. In Virginia at around the 18th century, Tobacco was introduced and required many labor workers to work the lands so the English brought these slaves to work the fields in North America. The Spanish in the south needed workers as well to cultivate their crops and build their homes so many slaves were shipped there to work those lands. Slaves mastered these fields and were very good at it. I am curious to ask though. How do you keep so many slaves in control? This is a question I asked myself and I was intrigued on how they managed to control so many slaves. They wouldn’t give slaves Bibles. If the slaves ever figured out that there was a God who loved everyone the same and that equality was an idea that surrounded Christianity then the slaves would revolt and not work.

American civilizations vanished slowly after the arrival of Europeans to the Americas. What was the cause of so many deaths? Massacres and diseases.  The Spaniards massacred many natives in order to get what they wanted. But what did they want exactly? They wanted land and riches like Gold. There has been many writings describing the torture that the natives received from the Spanish which was the cause of many deaths. Diseases also played a big part. The native people were not immune to any sickness that Europeans brought with them so they died. Historians believe that more people died in the Americas due to diseases than that of the Black plague in Europe and Asia between 1347 and 1351. Historians call this “The greatest Human Catastrophe” because millions of people died. The diseases brought by the Europeans were common diseases like smallpox, measles, influenza and malaria. It wasn’t so much that people died from one sickness but getting all the sicknesses all at once is what killed most people. They call this the “Colombian Exchange.” Felipe Fernandez Armesto explains that when Spaniards first explored the Amazon they found villages along the river where thousands of people lived. Twenty years later when other explores came to the same region all the villages and people had vanished. The cause of many displacements was due to the Europeans interacting with natives and them fleeing someplace else. This caused natives to move from their natural homes which resulted in natives not having children and a higher death rate. Eventually villages and cities vanished and were never restored again.

Throughout the years, Europeans established their languages, writing, and ideologies which flourished into what we have now. They instituted politics, rituals of public life, marriage, enmity, peace and war. The institutions that we now have and follow, all came from European influences.  A lot of the original traditions that were first here have now died out and are no longer seen in cultures. One of the newest influences that have penetrated through the years that were very important has been religious influence. In the 16th century, the Portuguese and the Spanish conquered a lot of territory and prohibited natives to worship how they originally did and imposed Catholicism on everyone. Catholicism up to the 19th century was the religion of the state which meant that it was imposed on everyone that lived under that government. Through the years, the church became a political movement rather than a religious institution and the number of baptisms was more important than moral and religious teachings. Today, we have moved from that in some states who now practice freedom of religion but some state governments like Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Venezuela still hold Catholicism as the religion of the state. Religion has played a key role in the lives of Latin Americans for centuries and religion is still one of the biggest movements in Latin America today.

The Americas have changed and have progressed throughout the centuries. It has flourished and flourished to what it is now. Great people lived here and cultures, traditions and life styles have slowly changed. Whether it be positive or negative influence that has lead us to this change, it has shaped the Americas to become what they are now. All we can hope for is that this continent continues to flourish  in the right direction.

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