Monday, January 26, 2009

Latin America Reflection 3

It is interesting how much the United States’ history books leave out about Spain and Latin America. I was lucky enough to have an awesome 5th grade teacher who did happen to inform the class that the Spanish did help out the colonists during the American Revolution, but many people in this country are simply ignorant when it comes to the role that the Spanish and the countries that developed from the Spanish colonies play in U.S. history. Yes, my 5th grade teacher may have touched on Spain’s help, but it was never mentioned again in my years of U.S. history (including Advance Placement classes). I may have also had another advantage to understanding the relationship that Spain and Latin America have with the U.S.: my father is from Nicaragua.

It always slightly confused me that baseball is the top sport in Nicaragua. Stereotypically one would guess that soccer would be, but not in Nicaragua. It was interesting to talk to my dad about this and why he liked baseball so much. He had dozens of stories about American soldiers that would play games in the streets of Managua and teach the kids the rules of the game. Thus, creating a new favorite sport within the country (oddly enough, my sister and I did not play softball growing up, but soccer). But, how many people know about the presence of the United States in Nicaragua before the 1970s civil war? I can say for my generation, not many people at all.

In the reading I did this week it was even more prevalent how ignorant I was to the role the United States has played in the rest of the Central American histories. In both Latin America and It’s People and More Terrible than Death it was made clear that Colombia always saw the United States as a possible threat to the vitality of the country. During the tensions between Conservatives and Liberals it seemed as though the United States often played the role as the possible scapegoat for the violence and tensions that took place. The United States was and is still seen as a threat, but the people of the United States rarely acknowledge Colombia as anything but a country full of cocaine drug lords and poor coffee farmers. Both of which are often exported to the United States and happily and addictively consumed by millions of Americans.

All and all, I must raise the question: how can we, as citizens of the United States, continue to ignore our neighbors to the south? It is undeniable that the political and economic standing of the United States perpetuates great repercussions in Latin America, but the ongoing Latin violence and corrupt governments may have a larger affect on the United States than most people realize. More and more Central and South American immigrants are heading north, becoming U.S. citizens and bringing their culture right along with them with hopes of a different future. Internationally, Latin America as a whole may not be as powerful as the United States, but Latin American products, people and culture are a powerful presence from New York to San Diego.

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