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Thread: Is Latin America Western?

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    Is Latin America Western?



    Is Latin America Western?

    Emily Monroy

    While surfing the Net recently, I came across a website that posed an interesting question: is Latin America Western or non-Western? Though the site did not give a definite “yes” or “no” to the question, it discussed some of the reasons why people might or might not consider Latin America part of the West.

    The term “West” is somewhat ambiguous these days. “West” and “Western” seem to have joined the ranks of words like “Creole,” “humanist,” and “liberal,” whose meaning varies according to where, when and by whom they are being pronounced. Most people would agree that Canada, the United States, Australia, and Western Europe are clearly part of the West. But they might disagree on where to place East Germany, for instance, which until the fall of the Berlin Wall belonged to the Communist Eastern bloc but which has strong linguistic, historical and cultural ties to Western Europe. Latin America’s status as part of the so-called Occident is also shaky. On one hand, a writer for Canada’s National Post Magazine referred to Colombia as the “most dangerous country in the West.” An Ecuadorian friend similarly tells me that of course his country is Western; after all, it was colonized by Europeans long before many areas of the United States were. Others, though, would hesitate to include Latin America in the Western fold. Some leftists, seeking to create a sense of Third World solidarity, lump the region together with Africa, Asia and the Middle East rather than with Europe and North America. Ironically, many right-wingers too would place Latin America outside the Western pale for the same reasons, even if not for the same purpose, not only because the region is not industrialized but because the majority of its inhabitants are not “white” (that is, of unmixed European descent).

    My answer to the website’s question is that yes, Latin America is Western. Saying that Latin Americans are not Westerners is, to my mind, a bit like saying that cats are not mammals. In other words, what else could they be? Just as cats possess all the physical features of mammals (hair, the ability to produce milk for their young, and so on), Latin American culture is largely based on that of Western Europe, more specifically Spain’s and, in the case of Brazil, Portugal’s.

    The first objection to classifying the Latin American countries as Western is that they are not industrialized, at least not to the same degree as those of Europe and North America are. But industrialization is not the exclusive domain of the West. Japan is one of the most industrialized nations in the world, yet it certainly is not Western. While the wish to promote solidarity between Latin America and other Third World areas is commendable, those who do so sometimes forget (or prefer to ignore) that culturally — even if not politically or technologically - the former resembles Europe more than it does Asia or Africa, for example.

    Another reason often cited for not including Latin America in the West stems from the fact that most of its people are not “white.” However, a “white” population does not a Western country make. Eastern Europe nations such as Lithuania and Estonia, for example, are almost entirely “white,” but they have never been considered part of the Occident, least of all by Lithuanians and Estonians themselves. Others might argue that large portions of Latin America, such as Bolivia and Guatemala, are inhabited by people with no European ancestry whatsoever. But the same thing could be said of Canada, where in the most northerly areas of the country the population is mostly Aboriginal and Inuit.

    Moreover, most Latin Americans have at least some European ancestry. The populations of some nations, like Argentina, Uruguay and Costa Rica are over 80% “white,” and many others possess substantial “white” minorities (including some people with no family ties to Spain; my last “white” boyfriend, for instance, was born in Peru to a German-Northern Italian couple). Nonetheless, even setting Latin America’s “white” inhabitants aside, the average mestizo [1] or mulatto [2] has more in common with his or her European forbears than Indian and/or African ones. He or she in all likelihood

    1. speaks a European language — Spanish in most of the region and Portuguese in Brazil — as his or her mother tongue;
    2. practices a religion that while not originally from Europe, took root on that continent more widely than on any other; and
    3. leads a lifestyle similar to that of Spain, Portugal and other Latin countries.

    From this standpoint, it’s hard to claim that Latin Americans are any less Western than Americans or Australians.

    Undoubtedly Native American and African customs have influenced Latin America. And it’s understandable that countries like Mexico, which broke away forcefully from their “motherland,” Spain, are now stressing their Indian roots over their European ones. Other nations emphasize their “mestizaje” — the term for “racial mixture” in Spanish — in an attempt to recognize their dual (or in the case of places like Brazil with a strong African component, triple) heritages. But the reality is that for most mixed-race Latin Americans — who, by the way, form the majority of the area’s population — their European heritage has played a far greater role in shaping in their world views, social attitudes, and daily lives than has their non-“white” ancestry.

    Indeed, the fact that miscegenation — generally involving Europeans and other “races,” though individuals of mixed African and Native American descent also exist — played such a major role in Latin American history is probably the principal reason for that region’s status as part of the West. It’s important to stress that not all Spanish and Portuguese colonies joined the ranks of the Western world. Spanish rule in the Philippines, for example, did not transform the islands into a Latin country. Though Spain did have considerable influence on the Philippines — in converting most of the people to Catholicism, in providing Spanish loan words to the local languages, and in giving the people Spanish first and/or last names — the Filipinos’ pre-colonial Asian culture remained largely intact even after three centuries of Spanish domination — roughly the same amount of time Spain controlled Latin America. Interestingly, miscegenation between Spaniards and Filipinos (or should we say Filipinas, because practically all such unions involved Spanish men and Filipina women) occurred on a fairly limited scale, as very few Spaniards settled in the islands. As historian John Phelan explains, the Philippines failed to become a Latin nation as Mexico did in part because the former lacked a mixed-race population to help Hispanicize the natives and by extension the country.

    A friend from Nicaragua, a man of mixed Spanish and Native American descent who would never have passed for “white” in the United States, admitted to me that he felt “at home” on a visit to Italy because Italy is a Latin country, like Spain and Portugal. Obviously Latin America is not a carbon copy of Iberia. [3] But neither is the United States a replica of England. And just as no one would ever classify my three cats as fish, amphibians, reptiles or birds, Latin America cannot be anything but Western.

    Notes

    1. The term “mestizo,” though it literally means “mixed” in Spanish, in Latin America generally refers to people of mixed European and Native American ancestry.

    2. A “mulatto” refers to a person of mixed European and African descent.

    3. “Iberia” refers to Spain and Portugal.


    Source: http://www.analitica.com/bitblio/emi...oy/western.asp
    http://www.allempires.net/is-latin-a...opic18783.html

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    This is a very good post. This topic will certainly bring many responses.

    I would say that Latin America has two sides to it; the one that has its roots in European culture, and the one which strongly maintains its native culture, language, and traditions. People from both groups have coexisted for so long that for me it is difficult to imagine a time when it was not like it is now.

    Spanish culture itself is very interesting as it existed for so long as a sort of frontier state. Since the early 8th century, when the remnants of the Christian Kingdoms fought to avoid being completely destroyed, the history of the peninsula has been one of continuous border warfare, raids, taking and retaking of cities, etc. I would estimate that the last two hundred years or so prior to the taking of Granada saw Spain and Portugal experiencing a reasonable amount of peace.

    The Iberian Peninsula developed its culture not completely apart from the rest of Western Europe, but with I think a little less influence. The rest of Western Europe saw armies marching to and fro and borders often changing. Spain saw borders changing, but they were those of other Iberians or that of Muslim states. Their culture appears to me to be very traditional and not normally inclined towards radical change.

    When the unified Spain bursts on to the scene, it still thinks of itself as a unified kingdom more than that of a nation. Those that are sent out to explore, etc., are typical frontier types- rough headstrong men. Those that follow have not been influenced so much by economic changes that much of Western Europe experienced. The trend towards the growing Burgher and merchant classes, etc. did not catch on in Spain very much comparably. Spanish in L.A. concentrated on land ownership as the main method of wealth, status, etc.

    I think that the concept of settlement in the Levant was similar to what the Spanish in L.A. pictured. They had just finished expelling the Muslims from Granada, and the idea of living in a crusading frontier status was very much alive at this point. They took up their positions as landowners and married mostly among themselves. (Although a number did of course marry native women and the barriers did begin to erode later)

    If they got what they needed from the natives (metals, work, etc.) they seem to have left them alone otherwise and did not embark on a across-the board program to move or force the natives to culturally become Spanish. This is quite different from the situation in the US.


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    Very great post! Shortly put but still giving a good overview over a complex matter! I've made some LA acquaintainces (Brazil and Cuba) and for me LA is Western for the same reason posted above. Personally I don't like the term "West", as it has brought already a lot of confusion about the four points of the compass. Nowadays, when we talk about "the West", it has nothing to do with actual directions anymore, which many people don't understand. Sadly there is no other equal term that recently exists.



    PS: Probably without intention, but transfered, this thread gives a good answer too to a another question in a different thread. It's about where to place a certain country in Europe. You know what I'm talking about.

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    The article sums up pretty well that being a western country is not just about being a developed country (otherwise such countries as Japan would be part of the western world) or ethnically european for the most part. So being part of the third world and having a non-european genetic heritage for the most part shouldn't put Latin America out of the Western World.

    Nevertheless, most of people in USA or Canada still refuse to consider Latin American as part the Western World... in many cases they even refuse to see Mexico as part of North America which I think is related with the previous premise.

    Greetings.

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    Please realize that the average person in the US has, at best, an
    horrific knowledge of geography and history. Even High School textbooks here seem designed to teach as little as possible

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    I'm not talking about illiterate or ignorant persons. Look at this map by Samuel P. Huntington:


    Huntington's map of major civilizations. What constitutes Western civilization in his view is coloured dark blue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_world
    http://s02.middlebury.edu/FS056A/Herb_war/clash3.htm

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    The map looks like the work of an elitist. I am surprised that he could not even come up with a shading for a hybrid western/native american culture.

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    Well, one of the main reasons provided for putting Latin American out of the Western World is their status as a Third-World continent... so yes, you may said that it is an "elitist" map somehow. Everything is perfectly explained in the first article I posted.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Huntington's map is really bad. Why on earth would he place the Philippines or Papua New Guinea in the Western World, but not Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Romania or Greece ? Why would he lump all Europeans together except the Orthodox without any regard for linguistic groups, genetics or culture ? Why isn't Japan in the same category as Korea and China ? What do Malaysia and Indonesia have in common with the Middle East and North Africa as civilisations besides having lots of Muslims ?


    Back to the main topic, I don't see Latin America as a uniform group. The only thing that countries like Mexico, the Dominican Republic or Argentina have in common is the Spanish language and Catholicism. Everything else separates them : ethnicity, values, lifestyle, climate, food, music, economy, criminality, you name it. Countries like Mexico, Peru, Bolivia or Paraguay have kept a major native Amerindian population, with a substantial European (mostly Spanish) component. Many Caribbean islands are over 90% Black African in origin. Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and southern Brazil are predominantly European (not just Iberian, but also Italian, French and German). Countries like Colombia or Brazil are huge melting pots.

    There is surely less difference between Portugal and Russia (or Greece and Finland) as civilisations than between Mexico and Argentina, or Barbados and Bolivia. Yet Huntington goes so far to put Italy and Greece members of a different civilisation !! Who did he think he was fooling when he put Russia and Poland in separate groups ?
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    It looks like he has Italy on the Western side, but your are right that leaving out Greece and the rest of the Orthodox was strange at best. Greece? A major portion of makes the West what it is comes from there.
    I had not even looked at that side earlier.

    These things are subjective by their nature, but he could at least have tried a shading that conveys a mixed or hybrid society.

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    latin america WAS westernized and "civilized" ()... we didn't ask for that, but we were westernized (partially). so yes, unfortunatly for us, we are (partially) western.

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    Wow, this account still works!!!

    Well, I will start by saying that I was also surprised not to see many post in this thread, so I think that the theory of the "undercover Latin American army" in Eupedia.com as to be reviewed a little.

    Little left to say about the objective facts that other users (specially Maciamo) have already stated, so I will not add any more in that regard.

    I will therefore go to say about my view that the partial and differentiated "westerness" of some regions and countries in Latin America, has to be well managed to create some national unity and patriotism, so important today, as always, in our countries.

    "The Mexicans descend from the Aztecs and the Argentineans from the Ships", it is said around here. This kind of gross generalizations do no harm, if you have a liberal point of view, and you are always open minded to admit that there are exceptions to rules.

    What is important, I guess, is to take counciousness that all Latin American countries are to some degree, multiracial and multicultural, and take this as a positive trait. So we see alliances between Argentineans and Venezuelans, Peruvians and Brazilians, etc.

    I see as extemely positive that this theme didn't developed into a gross, multy-page attempt to prove or disprove the "westerness" or "not westerness" of Latin America (even if the hidden Latin American army of tr.ol.ls really existed )

    These kind of classifications and discussions have value for Academicians or Anthropoligists, but it is not a very hot theme nowaday's for most Latin Americans.

    Regards.

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    I missed this important post...

    Quote Originally Posted by ^ lynx ^ View Post
    The article sums up pretty well that being a western country is not just about being a developed country (otherwise such countries as Japan would be part of the western world) or ethnically european for the most part. So being part of the third world and having a non-european genetic heritage for the most part shouldn't put Latin America out of the Western World.
    I think that even from a dispasionate scientific point of view, some people will trend to see L.A. as western or not, depending of the (necessarily arbitrary) importance that they attach to each of the factors.

    Nevertheless, most of people in USA or Canada still refuse to consider Latin American as part the Western World... in many cases they even refuse to see Mexico as part of North America which I think is related with the previous premise.
    If I remember well, in its book "Clash of Civilizations", Huntington classified precisely Turkey and Mexico as a kind of "transition countries" in the process to be "integrated" to the West. And as Maciamo said in its last post, "who do he thought was fooling?". This special classification was done based on pure political considerations. And said that, I believe that the whole book reflect just geopolitical values and a "diplomatic" agenda.

    Regardig the last part, about Mexico not beeing accepted as western by most North Americans, I think it is O.K., as long as we Mexicans ourselves don't become obsessed with that, and try to foolishly buy a "certificate of westerness", which at least for me is nothing, in exchange of something.

    Regards.

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    What year was the above map produced? It is amazingly ignorant, arrogant and inconsistant.

    In East Asia only Indonesia is Islamic (religiously not culturally) and over 80% of the population of the Phillipines is Roman Catholic yet it is listed as an Islamic country? And what is going on with the Orthodox section? It seems to be saying that Orthodox is not Christian therefore not Western? With over 80 different ethnic groups inside Africa and the map lumps them all together under "African"? There is no such thing as "African Civilisation". New Guinea is not culturally nor ethnically western but it is Christian so it gets the western colour? Japan is wierd also.

    It seems to be more a map of religious affiliations rather than political or cultural, the only exception is that the Christian sections have been titled "Western" instead. South America is Christian also but not quite "white" so it gets a colouring almost the same as Europe, but not quite?

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    Thinking further on the above map I've realised it must have been produced sometime between 1963 and 1975. Indonesia took control of Papua in 1963 which is why half is listed as Islamic. Yet the New Guinea side was still a territory of Australia until full independance was granted in 1975, which is why half of New Guinea is listed as "western". The map was produced when it was still under Australian control.

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    To summarize things, "Clash of cilvizations" is a very poorly thought-out book by a person who was rather uneducated about the world and just ad-hoc lumped together countries as he pleased and pretended they would obey to "rules" that he has drawn up. In any case, he forgot one simple little detail: Civilizations don't clash. People do.

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    Latin America is not a western or eastern civilization... Latin America has its OWN civilization. We are the remains of the aztec and the inca civilization, two of the greatest and most recognized civilization in the history of mankind, and we are proud of it. We don't need for the recognizion or aprovement of the "western world".

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Shame you've done nothing since then, being proud of achievements that are not your own is fairly useless.

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    So Greece is not a part of the West?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Huntington's map is really bad. Why on earth would he place the Philippines or Papua New Guinea in the Western World, but not Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Romania or Greece ? Why would he lump all Europeans together except the Orthodox without any regard for linguistic groups, genetics or culture ? Why isn't Japan in the same category as Korea and China ? What do Malaysia and Indonesia have in common with the Middle East and North Africa as civilisations besides having lots of Muslims ?




    Back to the main topic, I don't see Latin America as a uniform group. The only thing that countries like Mexico, the Dominican Republic or Argentina have in common is the Spanish language and Catholicism. Everything else separates them : ethnicity, values, lifestyle, climate, food, music, economy, criminality, you name it. Countries like Mexico, Peru, Bolivia or Paraguay have kept a major native Amerindian population, with a substantial European (mostly Spanish) component. Many Caribbean islands are over 90% Black African in origin. Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and southern Brazil are predominantly European (not just Iberian, but also Italian, French and German). Countries like Colombia or Brazil are huge melting pots.

    The bond among western countries is Christianity. From there comes the whole philosophy of life. West is not about technology

    There is surely less difference between Portugal and Russia (or Greece and Finland) as civilisations than between Mexico and Argentina, or Barbados and Bolivia. Yet Huntington goes so far to put Italy and Greece members of a different civilisation !! Who did he think he was fooling when he put Russia and Poland in separate groups ?
    The bond among western countries is Christianity. From there comes the whole philosophy of life. West is not about technology or science alone. As such why not Latin America being part of west? West and Latin America share also blood to certain extend.

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    0 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by alexbagniewski View Post
    So Greece is not a part of the West?
    I won't call Greece a western country. Greece is some mixture of Middle Eastern, East Europe, and West Europe. Culturally speaking they are the middle road between west and middle east

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    Quote Originally Posted by DuPidh View Post
    The bond among western countries is Christianity. From there comes the whole philosophy of life.
    "Interesting", like freedom, tolerance, renaissance, science, logic, democracy and free market economy.
    Be wary of people who tend to glorify the past, underestimate the present, and demonize the future.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    "Interesting", like freedom, tolerance, renaissance, science, logic, democracy and free market economy.
    Yep! All of the above you are mentioning! But you can't say Latin America is not western and Italy is, when Italian emigrants are governing most of Latin American countries. Or Spain for that reason. Or Portugal. The idea that Latin America is not western contains racial anxiety. I am not saying that christian Nigeria is western since they are locally run, but Latin America is different. Have you seen a picture of Pennia Nieto of Mexico? He is like came today from Spain. Why is not he a western men?

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    Definition of Latin America according to Wikipedia:

    Latin America[a] is a group of countries and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere where Romance languages such as Spanish, French and Portuguese are spoken; it is broader than the terms Ibero-America or Hispanic America.

    According to this, Quebec should be part of Latin America.
    And if it is not so ... why?

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    Quote Originally Posted by italouruguayan View Post
    Definition of Latin America according to Wikipedia:

    Latin America[a] is a group of countries and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere where Romance languages such as Spanish, French and Portuguese are spoken; it is broader than the terms Ibero-America or Hispanic America.

    According to this, Quebec should be part of Latin America.
    And if it is not so ... why?

    Whoever wrote that clearly doesn't know very much, yes?


    Non si fa il proprio dovere perchè qualcuno ci dica grazie, lo si fa per principio, per se stessi, per la propria dignità. Oriana Fallaci

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