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[1J Latin Americans Define Themselves Nationalism is a force with tremendous potential to reshape Latin America. From the sixteenth century onward, the Latin Americans struggled to identify, define, and interpret themselves, most often in terms of their relationships with the peoples and nations of the North Atlantic. Nation building in the nineteenth century accelerated and diversified those struggles. Domingo F. Sarmiento urged latin Americans to Europeanize, to re-create Europe in the New World. Geog. raphy, racial diversity, and historical experience challenged his prescription. They ordained uniqueness. As latin Americans gained confidence and better understood themselves and their own best interests, they celebrated that unique. ness. They more closely identified with their fledgling nations, equating national well-being with their own. Nationalism intensified. The efforts of Latin Americans to define themselves and their cultures pro. vide useful insights into the motivation and psychology of the peoples of the region. Such insights partially explain causation, the perplexing "Why?" in his- tory. An awareness of these Latin American self-perceptions and the nationalism they both fortify and draw from contributes to a better understanding of a com- plex region. LATIN AMERICANS DEFINE THEMSEL VES 107 An Early Effort to Define Latin America 856, the Chilean intellectual Francisco Bilbao (1823-1865) issued a strong- early-statement about latin America's uniqueness. The aggression of the States in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America (the u.s. filibus· under the leadership of William Walker occupied Nicaragua at that mo- prompted Bilbao to urge South American unity in response to Yankee Imansion. Fears of foreign aggression always excite the most basic political na- , the conflict pitting "us against them." The situation requires a clearer ition of "us" in order to differentiate "them." like many Latin Americans, found much to admire in the North Americans. At the same time, he that his compatriots must emphasize their own distinct characteristics. referring to racial harmony, he highlighted the spiritual qualities of the Americans. Attention to that harmony and spirituality evolved into domi· themes among these Latin Americans who sought to define their societies in the process to distinguish themselves from the ever more powerful north· metropolis. IT WAS TEXAS. then it was Northern Mexico and the Pacific that hailed master. the skirmishers of the North are awakening the Isthmus with their and we see Panama, that future Constantinople of America, doubtfully over the abyss and asking itself: Shall I belong to the South or to the 'here is the danger. Whoever fails to see it, renounces the future. Is there self-awareness among us, so little confidence in the intelligence of the race, that we must wait for an alien will and an alien intellect to us and decide our fate? Are we so poorly endowed with the gifts of that we must surrender our own initiative and believe only in the
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This note was uploaded on 08/30/2011 for the course LAH 2020 taught by Professor Victoruribe during the Fall '11 term at FIU.

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