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Neocolonialism And Scientific Racism: Post Independence Latin America

2288 words - 10 pages

Neocolonialism and Scientific Racism: Post-Independence Latin America

People can be ranked in hierarchies scientifically and certain races are superior, these simple concepts make up the base of scientific racism. This theory became popular in Europe in the 19th century. It classified people through hair texture and skin color. Arthur de Gobineau, known charmingly as “the Father of Scientific Racism”, created a further theory out of these basic concepts called “degeneration.” It was the idea that the mixing of bloods causes a race to “degenerate” or lose its purity and thus its strength and superiority. Of course all races degenerated from the pinnacle, European whites. After a brief ...view middle of the document...

Despite the promises of core republican principles like citizenship, popular sovereignty, and equality by these same leaders, powerful individuals held firm against equality for women, slaves, and indigenous peoples, scientific racism provided their necessary reasons. Too quickly in the larger more powerful Latin American countries that resisted the full force of neo-colonialism, progress became synonymous with “white”. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento provides an excellent example of the attitude of Latin American elites toward “progress.” He states in “Facundo” (translated as “Civilization versus Barbarism”) that, “In the cities there are laws, ideas of progress, means of instruction, municipal organization, and regular government. Outside the city everything changes.” He goes on further to reveal his disdain for the “struggle between European civilization and indigenous barbarity.” Not surprisingly under Sarmiento’s Presidency the infamous, “Campaign of the Desert” began in 1879. This was a military campaign to exterminate indigenous in the barbaric countryside. The result was the massacre of thousands of people in the name of “law and progress,” which roughly translates to “land and whitening.” This move to exterminate indigenous people did nothing to promote progress but instead cast aside the same people who had fought for independence from Europe, for the very ideals they fought against. It was a truly backwards arrangement that caused Argentina to remain a fractured nation for a further seventy years.
It is no coincidence that Argentina’s powerful Latin American neighbor, Brazil, adapted similar “progressive” policies. Aluísio Azevedo, an important Brazilian novelist tries to capture the degeneration that results from race mixing. He tells the story of how a Portuguese villager, Jeronymo, falls for a Brazilian mulata, and the subsequent negative transformation this has on him. Azevedo describes a “slow but relentless transformation in progress within him, hour by hour, and day by day…” Eventually concluding, “the turbulent Brazilian atmosphere, with its savage gaiety, no longer disconcerted him. Jeronymo had become Brazilianized.” The description of the local culture as one of little work, dancing, drinking, and the way it seduced Jeronymo and took away his hard working Portuguese mentality sums up the kinds of reasoning that the “Stain of Ham” became such a threat to progress in Brazil. Contributed to embracing of the ethnical principle, that a whole nation could degenerate, this quickly lead to the extinguishing of the “Indianismo” movement that had captured early Brazilian nationalism. That fact alone is proof of how little this represented “progress” or any kind of nation state unity. Men like Nina Rodrigues went even further claiming a “Latin race” existed and that it was not white enough. African slaves and indigenous peoples became the target of harsh “whitening” campaigns under the new liberals. This left Brazil without a national...

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