Unit 4: Latin America in the Global Economy
From the postcolonial era to the present day, the nations of Latin
America have played a significant role in the global economy. Under
colonial rule, these nations primarily produced agricultural commodities
for export to Europe and served as markets for goods manufactured in
Spain and Portugal. In the postcolonial era, the economic situation
remained similar. Newly independent Latin American nations had few
resources for internal economic development and
industrialization. Instead, they continued to grow and export major
agricultural commodities such as coffee, sugar, and livestock to
Europe. These monoculture export economies placed Latin American nations
at the mercy of the global economy. When commodity prices were high,
growers reaped handsome profits. When commodity prices fell, growers
went out of business or defaulted on loans. European and American
investors provided much of the capital for business development in the
region. Similarly, Europeans and Americans served as technical experts
for development projects such as railroads, factories, and other
high-skill industries. Consequently, outsiders exercised great control
over local and regional markets and transportation systems. The slow
rate of industrialization and outside control of local industries proved
to be a major source of political tension in the region. Populist
political parties agitated against European and American influence in
various Latin American nations. These groups argued that Latin American
nations needed to develop their own internal technical experts through
the creation of institutions of higher education and grow their own
economies through the diversification of agricultural and industrial
In this unit, you will study the ways in which the politics of economic development shaped the nations of Latin America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and you will examine some of the development projects that took place across the region. You will also look at export industries such as coffee and sugar production and see how these global industries shaped working and living conditions for Latin Americans.
Unit 4 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 4.75 hours.
☐ Subunit 4.1: 1.25 hours
☐ Subunit 4.2: 1.5 hours
☐ Unit 4 Assessment: 2 hours
Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - assess the role that Latin American nations played in the global economy in the 19thand 20th centuries; and - analyze and interpret primary source documents from the 19th and 20th centuries, using historical research methods to garner a more profound understanding of Latin American history.
4.1 Monoculture Export Economies 4.1.1 Coffee and Labor in Brazil - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Modern History Sourcebook: Pierre Denis’s Excerpt from The Coffee Fazenda of Brazil, 1911”
4.1.2 Agriculture, Biodiversity, and Biotechnology in Latin America - Reading: Chico Mendes’s Excerpts from Fight for the Forest: Chico Mendes in His Own Words
Reading: Electronic Journal of Biotechnology: Enrique Galindo's “Biotechnology in Latin America: High Activity, Low International Visibility”
Link: Electronic Journal of Biotechnology: Enrique Galindo’s “Biotechnology in Latin America: High Activity, Low International Visibility” (HTML)
Instructions: Read this article. Enrique Galindo, President of the Mexican Society of Biotechnology and Bioengineering, analyzes the role of biotechnology as a way to economically develop Latin America.
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
4.1.3 Mining - Reading: War Resistors International: César Padilla’s “Mining and Resistance in Latin America”
4.2 Economic Development and Institutional Change in Latin America - Reading: Journal of Politics in Latin America, Volume 1, No 1: Kurt Weyland’s “Institutional Change in Latin America”
Unit 4 Assessment - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Primary Source Analysis: The Brazilian Coffee Industry”
Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “[Primary Source Analysis: The Brazilian Coffee Industry](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/HIST-222-Assessment-4.FINAL_.pdf)” (PDF) and “[Answer Guide](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/HIST-222-Assessment-4-Answer-Guide.FINAL_.pdf)” (PDF) Instructions: Please consult Pierre Denis's brief excerpt from *The Coffee Fazenda of Brazil *in subunit 4.1.1 as you answer the questions. This assessment is not a reading test, so you should not try to answer the questions from memory. Rather, this assessment is designed to help you closely read and analyze a primary source. You are encouraged to be specific and detailed in your answers, and the best way to do that is to go back to the text. When you have finished answering the questions, you can check your work against the Answer Guide. Completing this assessment should take approximately 2 hours.