The Americas, from 1200 to 1450 CE
The Global Tapestry AND Networks of Exchange
1200 CE → The Acoma Pueblo and Middle Mississippian cultures were established, strong examples of advanced native societies.
1325 CE → The Aztecs occupied the island of Tenochtitlan, which they later developed into a prosperous capital and center for agricultural development (further expanding their empire).
1350 CE → The Inca Empire entered into a sporadic “period of growth” in the western portion of South America (“Andean South America”), facilitating further socio-economic diversification.
1400 CE → The Mexica/Aztec people gained dominion over the majority of Central Mexico through conquest and subtle coercion.
1450 CE → The Iroquois Confederacy was founded by a tribal chieftain called the “Peacemaker” in the northern and western regions of modern-day New York, to encourage tribal cohesion, and to allow for a centralized coalition against outside force (if ever it was used).
From 1200 to 1400 CE, the Americas were quite diverse socially, composed of hundreds of tribes spanning the breadth of this vast region. In South America, these tribes were more uniform, with each culture identifying with at least one of the famed “Three Sisters”: maize (corn), beans, and squash. Amongst these crops, corn was the most proliferate, based upon its ability to be stored and preserved during harsh winter months, its importance centered around the wide variety of goods that the natives could produce from this one crop.
In Central America, there was a good deal of cultural exchange between the Mayan City-States and the political centers of central Mexico, the Aztecs and their predecessors. For example, the Mayan Mathematical System (Base 20 System) was adopted by the Aztecs along with a number of Mayan deities, though with some Aztec modifications. Additionally, the practice of Human Sacrifice, which was practiced by the Aztecs on a scale never before seen, has its origins in the Mayan City-States (who adopted it from an older culture, the Olmecs). To some extent, most cultures in the Americas practice human sacrifice, but sometimes it was on a small scale (in the Inca) or only upon the death of a ruler or important person (the Mississippi).
In North America, tribes tended to share some other similarities in the way that they ate. Many regional identities fit together through the hunting of buffalo (not on horses….yet) and seasonal agriculture in some capacity; spearheaded by the Native Americans residing in what we call the “Great Basin” of North America.
As a basic cultural element, most Native American tribes within the continent of North America remained geographically local, within a single tribal group. This paralleled the heavily integrated Central American and Andean Regions. One reason is simply because maize cultivation had only recently spread from Central America to North America, which meant population levels and integration remained lower.
Prior to European contact, South America retained a high level of political development, which most resembled Afro-Eurasian State. The Aztec (Mexica) and Inca Empires dominated their respective regions in Central Mexico and the Andes respectively after 1400.
The Aztec Empire, centered around the “floating city” of Tenochtitlan, was a highly sophisticated state; at the head of the government stood an all-powerful emperor and the priest class, backed up by a class of warriors, all of who ensured that the strict laws of the Aztec empire remained in place. The Aztec Empire was a large, multi-lingual realm that grew to span upwards of 8,000 sq. miles. But this was not an integrated empire, the Aztecs demanded Tribute from the conquered peoples (the tribute sometimes included humans for sacrifice), but did not incorporate them. This is evidenced by the fact that Aztec Armies were made up predominantly of Aztecs.
The Inca Empire, centered around the prosperous city of Cusco (the remains of which still exist today) was a complex body that was headed by an all-powerful monarch, the Sapa Inca. The Inca Empire spanned 770,000 sq. miles (which would put it #13 on the list of largest countries today by land size), and stood home to 10 million multi-lingual residents, there was a high level of intergovernmental coordination, championed by numerous officials serving under the Sapa Inca, and a system of provinces to ensure that command was distributed.
A harsh system of punishments and a mandatory system of taxation referred to as the Mita System led to great prosperity in the empire. The Mita was unique as it was a tax paid in labor not in goods or precious metals, creating infrastructural works such as the famed Inca road system (which spanned 20,000 sq. miles).
Relationship with other groups
Integrated Conquered Peoples
Demanded Tribute from conquered people
Built large road system, Qhapaq nan
Built agricultural system, Chinampas
Centered on the Solar System and stars
Centered on gods of War, Maize and various animals
North America, however, was less centralized, in part due to the slow spread of maize cultivation northwards a. Albeit, evidence of North American political sophistication did exist, shown through accounts of the Mississippi Culture of mound-builders, the Iroquois Confederacy, and the famed Pueblo Culture in the southwest.
The elaborate mounds built by the Mississippians such as at Cahokia in modern Missouri hints at both a complex and effective political system capable of mobilizing the populace. And indeed they did; the Mississippians employed a hierarchical system of command, similar to that of the Incas, which was based on the concept of blood inheritance.
The Iroquois Confederacy was probably the most sophisticated and efficient coalition between native tribes in the continent of North America, consisting of a highly-advanced military alliance between five tribes: the Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, and Onondaga.
Politically, the Iroquois embodied elements of a participatory democracy in which its citizens were directly involved; a bicameral legislative system employing the use of tribal representatives was also put in place, with the Onondaga tribe’s representatives acting as a permanent executive branch, holding veto power over the remaining bodies involved.
Such a complex political system was produced and instigated by the Constitution of this confederacy, which also served to establish the laws (albeit simplistic) of this nation and the rights of its people. In 1987
the U.S. Congress acknowledged the contributions of the Iroquois to political thought.
The Pueblo Culture in the southwest was remarkably advanced for its day and age and embodied a political structure that was very close with contemporary ceremonial practices. Before colonization and the “Age of Columbus”, the Pueblo people were autonomous, governed by a council composed of respected religious leaders around regional communities. In conformity with the Pueblos’ (highly patriarchal) society, men constituted the majority of governmental positions, and held a strong grasp upon politics, as the major “breadwinners” in such a society.
Economically, the pre-Columbian natives were quite involved in interregional trade, to facilitate their societal needs. Though not as well documented as say, the Silk Road, nonetheless the presence of non-local items such as Rubber in northern Mexico or Turquoise in the Andes demonstrates some level of regional integration. This network of sorts must have existed for some time considering the spread of Maize, from its origins in southern Mexico, was complete by 1000 CE.
In terms of state-organized trade, the Aztecs did have a class of merchants known as Pochteca who did business for the ruling classes. The Pochteca had numerous ranks within their own group. Additionally, the Tribute Lists, which document the tribute demanded by the Aztecs of their conquered peoples can be considered a type of economic development as it demonstrates the movement of materials.
The Inca Empire did not have any organized class of merchants, but the large network of roads no doubt promoted the expansion of exchange within the empire.
The Americas, from 1450 to 1750 CE
Land-Based Empires and Transoceanic Interconnections
1455 CE - Aztec expansion is checked by the Tarascan state, who deal them a devastating defeat destroying perhaps 90% of their force
1470 CE → The Inca State begins conquering the Chimor Kingdom, solidifying their control over the Andes Region.
1492 CE → After receiving funding from Spain’s newly crowned rulers, Christopher Columbus sails west, encountering the Bahamas, opening up the “New World” to European expansion.
1494 CE → The Portuguese, unhappy with the settlement that Pope Alexander VI reached one year earlier, worked directly with Spain to draft (and eventually sign) the Treaty of Tordesillas, which gave the Portuguese dominion over the territory of Brazil.
1497 CE → Italian-born explorer John Cabot sailed, contracted by England, into Central North America--more specifically, the Canadian Labrador Coast--spearheading English land claims in the “New World”.
1519 CE → The Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés began his expedition to conquer the Aztec empire in central Mexico, finishing his task with a relatively tiny army through subtle coercion a unique bio-weapon: disease.
1530 CE → Inspired by the successes of his predecessor, Cortés (who’d become somewhat of a legend in Spain, by this point), Francisco Pizarro began an expedition to the Andean region of South America, targeting the Inca Empire.
1531 CE → Several Aztecs report seeing the Virgin Mary in central Mexico, dressed in Aztec garb, which would become the Virgin of Guadalupe.
1550s CE → The introduction of sugar to Brazil and other colonies in the Caribbean kicks off the sugar trade which would increase European consumption of sugar in Europe but also the number of enslaved Africans working in the Americas
1608 CE → Samuel Champlain founds Quebec, the center of French Canada
1610 CE → Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America, is founded
1619 CE → The first enslaved African arrived in North America at Jamestown.
1675 CE → Led by a man known as Metacomet (King Philip to the English), an alliance of northern Native American tribes destroy half of all English colonies in New England before being defeated.
1680 CE → Led by a man only known as Pope, the Pueblo People revolt and drive out the Spanish for 12 years.
1697 CE → Spain ceded the western portion of Hispaniola to France, and the colony is renamed Saint-Domingue.
1739 CE → British attempts to crush the power of the Maroon Communities in Jamaica lead to the first Maroon War which ends with a draw and return to the status quo
The most critical social and cultural changes were brought about by the Columbian Exchange. This term refers to the exchange of goods biological and material between Afro-Eurasia and the Americas immediately following the Voyages of Christopher Columbus. Though this refers to the trade of goods this had an impact on culture and social organization.
The most notable impact on social organization in the Americas was the decimation of native populations by European Diseases (The Great Dying) such as smallpox. While it is not known exactly how many Native Americans died from these diseases it is estimated anywhere from 50 to 90% of Native Americans may have perished from these diseases. This had a notable social impact, depopulating once densely populated areas such as the Mississippi Delta and parts of Central America.
It also prevented Native Americans from being incorporated into European systems of colonial government which resulted in lifestyle changes such as coercive labor practices (Encomienda or Hacienda Systems) or a sedentary lifestyle in general which was another stress on Native Americans.
Additionally, the introduction of the horse via the Columbian Exchange impacted the way certain tribes were organized. For example, Great Plains natives had a hard time hunting Buffalo before the horse however after the introduction of the horse buffalo hunting became much more common. The horse also allowed Native Americans to resist European and later American encroachment more effectively.
Another interesting cultural development was the syncretism of several religious traditions. Though the Europeans imposed Christianity on the Natives, most Americans continued to practice their own beliefs either in secret or incorporated into the new. The most well-known example is the Virgin of Guadalupe, which was the appearance of the Virgin Mary to Aztec people wearing Aztec clothing. A fusion of Christianity and the Aztec religion. Today a location where this occurred is the holiest site in the Americas. Another excellent example is that of the Vodou practices from the Caribbean which combined West African, Native American, and some Christian elements and was practiced by the slaves of the Caribbean.
How Native Americans interacted with Europeans depended on the colony. Both Brazil and the Spanish Colonial Empire maintained a sort of racial hierarchy where one's place in society depended on how much Native American (African) “blood” someone “possessed.'' This entire system is referred to as the Casta System. In part, the system was the result of a few European women settling in Spanish colonies and resulting in a large mixed-race population referred to in this system as Mestizos.
In British colonies, the English strove to remain strictly separate from Native Americans resulting in very little intermarriage between Europeans and Native Americans, and numerous wars for Native American Land such as the Pequot War.
Additionally, the vast importation of 11 million enslaved individuals from Africa over 300 years changed the cultural makeup of the Americas. They introduced new food such as okra and contributed to the development of maroon cultures as well as the cultures of future Brazil and the United States with their songs and religious practices. The sheer scale of imported individuals from Africa has led scholar Charles C Mann to describe the colonization of the Americas as “a black (Africa) migration for the small white (European) layer on top.”
These two units are overshadowed by one major political development in the Americas. The destruction of indigenous American forms of governance and states and their replacement by European colonies or other forms of control. This was not complete of course, as we will see, however, any large political state-organized before 1492 was by the end of the 1700s eliminated or subjugated.
The most notable of these is the toppling of the Aztec (Mexica) Empire (1521) and the Inca Empire (1533) by Spanish conquistadors. These were the largest states and most similar to what Europeans recognized as States in the Americas. Spanish conquest was aided by military technology such as guns and horses, disaffected rivals, especially those opposed to the Aztec, and the diseases that decimated the populations of Native Americans.
Military conquest by the Spanish resulted in the incorporation of some of their governing practices into Spanish Colonial Administration. For example, the Spanish relied on the Mita labor system developed by the Inca Empire to help run their colonies in South America, and in Mexico the new Spanish Capital was built on top of the old Aztec capital, Mexico City over Tenochtitlan.
Strong Royal Control
Mild Royal Control
Weak royal control
Relationship with the Natives
Segregation from Natives in higher social classes
Integration with natives in lower classes
Segregation from Natives in higher social classes
Integration with natives in lower classes
Segregation from Natives in all classes.
Colonial Administration in the colonies depended on which colonial power ruled. The Spanish colonies largely utilize something called the Encomienda System. This system provided a grant of land to a European sometimes a conquistador, sometimes a noble who in return could use the labor of all the Native Americans living on that land for whatever project they deemed necessary in return, they would protect and convert the natives to Christianity. This system would set the tone for the large land estates that were common for much of the history of Latin America.
This contrasts with the English colonies which were much less directly controlled. Most of the English colonies were granted to a private company such as the Virginia Company (Virginia) or individual nobles, such as the Duke of York (New York) and developed on their own outside of royal control. Only towards the end of the 1700s did the English government attempt to assert more direct control over their colonies and this would part Inspire the American Revolution.
The French colonies in Canada were somewhere in between. While these were officially Royal colonies they never exercised anywhere near as much control as the Spanish did over their colonies. In fact, the French did not even make much of an attempt to defend their colonies during the Seven Years War.
It is worth noting that European colonies were not the only political states in the Americas if only the dominant ones. Native Americans outside the reaches of European Powers such as the tribes of the Amazon or the nomads of the Pampas in South America or the Comanches on the plains of North America continued their existence as before, though now they had horses. The Comanches in particular built a political organization that resembled an empire known as Comancheria. Resistance by those enslaved on plantations also resulted in the formation of Maroon Societies, communities of runaway slaves, and Native Americans who lived on the fringes of European Control, in mountains or in jungles or forests, and sometimes raided European settlements. The most famous Maroons were in Jamaica and Brazil, but Maroon Communities existed throughout North and South America at this time.
It is worth noting that the Voyages to the Americas by Columbus had an economic element from the outset. The goal to find a direct sea route to Asia was for the purposes of making the Spanish Crown rich.
As Europeans established colonies in the Americas, with the exception of some of England's colonies in what is now the northeastern United States, these were founded with profits in mind. Initially, this came from plundering the existing states in the Americas, Aztecs, and Incas.
Afterward, however, it became about mining as well as sugar and other cash crop production. Sugar production predominately took place in the Caribbean. The most famous Caribbean sugar colonies were Saint Domingo ruled by the French and Jamaica ruled by the English. The tropical climate of the Caribbean was perfect for growing sugar, and when the native population died off from violence and overworked and disease it was possible to import laborers from Africa via the Slave Trade, though England at first tried to import laborers from the British Isles to work the sugar colonies on Jamaica this eventually proved unprofitable. This practice has helped develop the Afro-Caribbean cultural identity of today.
On the mainland of the Americas, other profitable ventures took place. In North America, the growth of cotton and tobacco for export to Europe was extremely profitable for the large plantation owners there. In South America, the Spanish with the help of local Native Americans discovered one of the largest silver deposits in history at a mountain called Potosi, and in Brazil, a combination of sugar textile dyes made from local insects and timber continues to be valuable exports and enrich the Portuguese crown.
It cannot be overstated the economic dimensions of the colonization of the Americas. Most of those who came to the Americas (again not all), either by force such as slaves or willingly such as colonists were there for economic opportunity or to serve another’s economic opportunity.
The Americas, from 1750 to 1900 CE
Revolutions and Consequences of Industrialization
1754 CE - Beginning of the French and Indian War/7-Years War which expels the French from the Americas and sets the stage for the American Revolution
1764 CE - Charles III of Spain sets up Secretary of State for the Indies, which tightens Spanish control of their colonies and would later inspire revolts against Spain
1776 CE - In the midst of the American Revolutionary War, the American Declaration of Independence is published, a day which the United States considers its official founding
1780 CE - In South America, a Native American, claiming to be the descendant of the last Inca Emperor launches a revolt against the Spanish, the Rebellion of Túpac Amaru II. This movement gains a large mestizo and Native American following before being crushed
1784 CE - The defeat of British forces at the Battle of Yorktown signals the end of the American Revolutionary War
1791 CE - What begins as a small slave revolt on the French Sugar colony of Saint- Domingo evolves into a massive uprising that will become the Haitian Revolution
1792 CE - The Buttonwood Agreement, between 24 New York-based bankers and stock trades establishes what will later become the New York Stock Exchange
1804 CE - Despite reinforcements from mainland France, the Haitian Revolutionaries finally defeat the French forces and France withdraws from Haiti. Haitian Independence is shortly thereafter declared
1811 CE - Father Hidalgo leads an uprising of Natives and Mestizos against the Spanish in Mexico
1813 CE - The creation of the Lowell Mills in Massachusetts signals the beginning of Industrialization in the United States
1815 CE - Simon Bolivar, in an effort to gain support for the independence of Venezuela, publishes the Jamaica Letter in which he lays out a case against Spanish Rule
1825 CE - Jose de San Martin, who had been fighting Spanish authorities in southern South America, defeats the last Spanish Army in Peru, ending Spanish Rule in the Americas
1832 CE - The Cherokee Nation, a collection of Native American tribes in the southern United States sue the government of the United States claiming the right to their land. They win the case but the next year the Federal Government forcibly removes them anyway.
1837 CE - Charles Darwin examines Finches on the Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador and begins to formulate his Theory of Descent with Modification. This would later become the Theory of Evolution, and when applied to cultures would be known as Social Darwinism
1840s CE - Chile and Argentina begin expanding their territory south to the tip of South America, in the process attempting to exterminate the Native Mapuche peoples
1860 CE - The American Civil War erupts over the question of Slavery as an economic and moral institution between the northern and southern halves of the country, with the eventual abolition of slavery at war’s end.
1869 CE - The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in the United States links both halves of the nation together promoting unity and a common identity
1885 CE - The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in Canada links both halves of the nation together promoting unity and a common identity
1876 CE - Porfirio Díaz becomes president of Mexico in a coup, and invites foreign investment into Mexico with the goal of industrializing the country
1882 CE - The United States passes the Chinese Exclusion Act in response to fears that Chinese Immigrants would take American Jobs
1883 CE - War of the Pacific between Chile on one side and Peru and Bolivia on the other is fought in part over control of Guano supplies and Saltpeter deposits, both resources in demand in the Industrializing World.
1888 CE - Brazil becomes the last country in the western hemisphere to Abolish Slavery, and encourages immigration from Europe to make up for the loss of economic production
1890 CE - The United States Army suppresses the Ghost Dance movement by massacring Native American practitioners at Wounded Knee.
1892 CE - Ellis Island opens in New York, and is a major entry point for immigrants coming to the United States from Europe
1898 CE - The Spanish American War ends with the United States claiming control of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in the Pacific
This time saw great changes in terms of the social and cultural structures of the Americas in part due to the political revolutions, but also in part due to industrialization.
The social and cultural consequences of the revolutions and Independence movements were to mix up the social order although it was different by region. In the United States Democratic institutions gradually opened up to more and more people and by the end of the 19th century all white men could vote unconditionally. slavery had not been abolished in the American Revolution that would come after the Civil War. However by the end of the 19th century officially, though not in practice, former slaves in the descendants of slaves could also participate in democracy. This change and ability to participate in government was a major cultural shift. The United States developed a culture of fierce Independence in part because of the nature of its revolution, testified to by Alexis de Tocqueville.
In the former Spanish colonies, the situation was different. Spanish colonial law had divided people into classes based on perceptions of race. While the Spanish themselves had been removed, individuals of European heritage known as Criollos took their place at the top of societies, and those of mixed, Native American or the descendants of slaves remained on the lower rungs of society. Although natives slaves and those of mixed Heritage had played a large part in the revolutions and in the case of Mexico inciting the first revolts, those who established the new governments in Latin America did not see fit to incorporate them on equal footing.
Jose de San Martin famously said that Native Americans would no longer be Native Americans, but Peruvians. And this is another important shift in the creation of national identities in South America. Prior to the movements for Independence, most individuals had identified with their local village or town or occupation or possibly their Church. However, over the course of the 19th-century political leaders, some democratic, some not, in South America built identities and histories around their new nations.
This type of Nationalism helped hold together the new nations of South America, an example of this would be the nation of Brazil which built-in identity as unique among South American nations, and identified the Amazon Rainforest with a frontier legend similar to the United States and the Wild West.
Within the United States and Canada, the rapidly industrialized nations underwent social changes of their own. As factory life begin to take a larger and larger share of life in the industrializing regions of these nations social organization of life begin to change extended family is gave way to smaller nuclear families, women began to work outside of the house and in order to care for children the first school system was set up in the 1840s and by the end of the 19th century, almost half of children would be enrolled in some sort of primary education in the United States.
While the populations of cities continue to grow it would not be until the 1920s when the majority of those in the United States would live in cities. This trend occurred in other nations in the Americas though not to the same extent large cities such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Mexico City also saw a large population increase and the social changes that go along with urbanization. These nations also saw large-scale immigration to their nations from both Asia and Europe. These immigrants often formed ethnic communities to preserve some of their cultural traditions in a new country, most famously the Chinese in the United States and Italians in Brazil and Argentina.
The largest political developments during this time were the revolutions that saw almost all of the Americas achieve independence from European domination. These movements include the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and the various Wars of Independence in South America.
These movements were inspired by European Enlightenment Ideas such as political freedom and natural rights however they also took on a uniquely American flavor. For example, the Haitian Revolution was also a slave revolt and though some of its leaders utilized Enlightenment ideas, such as the Haitian Soldier sound with a copy of the “Rights of Man and Citizen” their primary objective was political and social from Slavery. That soldier was also found with gunpowder.
Another example is the Wars of Independence in South America, Simon Bolivar who wrote the Jamaica Letter, made the case that Spain's administration of the colonies went against Enlightenment principles by denying them self-government. However, Bolivar was not opposed to slavery initially, only later agreeing to abolish it. Bolivar’s vision of a new South America being dominated by European descended Creoles which speaks to the social element of these revolutions. Though it should be noted that even to this day Simon Bolivar holds a high place in the minds of political revolutionaries in South America.
The American Revolution was probably the one most closely linked to Enlightenment ideas Thomas Jefferson paraphrasing and borrowing ideas of Enlightenment thinkers in the US Declaration of Independence (Self-Government and Natural Rights) and the later US Constitution (Limited Government and Division of Power). However, these ideas were not extended to everyone which represents the limits of Enlightenment thinking during this time.
The second series of major developments during this time are the political consequences of and efforts to industrialize in the wake of the Industrial Revolution in Europe.
The United States had been blessed with pre-existing industrial capacity from its time as a colony and rapidly developed into an industrial Power by 1900. Though this was not without sectional tension as could be seen in the question of slavery as an economic institution and the American Civil War. Large-scale industrial growth such as that of railroads and the development of factories predominantly on the East Coast and the Midwest testified to the growing economic power of the United States. These projects were often in part funded by or protected by the United States government which played an active role in early industrialization most notably in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.
The nations of South America and Latin America struggled to industrialize and struggled with political stability following Independence. Efforts to form a United South American Nation crumbled in the face of geographic barriers and local leaders who did not want to give up power. Even within nations various factions sometimes fought for power, and those who took the most power have become known as Caudillos, such as Lopez de Santa Anna of Mexico. Oftentimes these rulers discarded the democratic intentions of the revolutionaries, for military authority. And while these Caudillos protected many of the new nations from reconquest by Spain or total political domination by Europe, their heavy-handedness prevented economic development.
The nations of South America had large deposits of natural resources that were in demand by the industrializing nations of Europe and the United States such as guano, copper, bananas, and saltpeter. However European nations would not simply be able to take over South American nations because the United States would not allow that under the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. However European and American financial interests did dominate most of these countries such as the United Fruit Company And would intervene militarily if their interests were threatened such as the French intervention in Mexico (1861) or the American intervention in Panama (1885).
These units are overshadowed by the economic changes of industrialization however it came differently to different places in the Americas.
The United States, under British rule, had developed some localized production industry. Most notably Shipbuilding in the northern part of the 13 Colonies as well as Financial Industries in the Mid-Atlantic of the 13 Colonies. These early industrial and financial Roots would help the United States to grow into an industrial superpower. In addition, other factors such as the protection of property enshrined in US law, an abundance of Natural Resources, and large internal markets (basically a large enough population to sell their own stuff too), meaning that by the end of the 19th century that the United States was the largest steel producer in the world.
Though these economic developments also had a political end, the United States would expand its territories at first in the Americas and then overseas to Hawaii and the Philippines in the Quest for markets and additional resources.
The nations of Latin America each face a different situation, however, in general, none of these nations managed to fully industrialize by the end of the 19th century. Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina had partially industrialized, they had some local production of manufactured goods but still relied predominantly on imported manufactured goods from Europe or the United States. However, these nations much like the other nations of Latin America relied on exporting resources like Oil (Mexico) Guano (Chile) or Beef (Argentina) to the industrializing Nations.
This reliance on exporting of materials meant that infrastructure was not evenly developed, for example, railroads were not designed to promote internal development, but rather to link the source of the resource to the shipping port. Additionally, the political instability or repression of some Latin American states prevented economic growth or investment by local individuals, and as a result leaders such as Porfirio Diaz of Mexico sought outside investment from European or American investors, who then held large influence over the economic life of the nation.
For comparison, the Transcontinental Railroad in the United States helped link the source of food in the west to the great industrial centers in the east and this promoted internal industrialization. By contrast in Guatemala where the United Fruit Company built and operated most of the railroads they merely went from the banana plantations to the coast.
The Americas, from 1900 to 2000 CE
Global Conflict, The Cold War, Decolonization and Globalization
1455 CE - Aztec expansion is checked by the Tarascan state, who deal them a devastating defeat destroying perhaps 90% of their force
1910 CE - the Mexican Revolution begins against Porfirio Diaz and would end with the establishment of the Mexican Constitution of 1917.
1917 CE - both the United States and Brazil, as result of the constant sinking of their merchant ships by Germany declare war against the Central Powers and enter WWI
1920 CE - Though the United States stayed out of the League of Nations, the nations of Latin America joined the League as a pathway to play a larger role in the world stage.
1928 CE - The Great Depression impacts the Americas grinding american industry to a halt and ending demand for resources from Latin America such as Copper from Chile.
1930s - The government of Brazil encourages settlement of the Amazon Rainforest by Brazilians which leads to conflict with the Natives of the region
1935 CE - Diego Rivera finishes his mural The History of Mexico in Mexico City that promotes the values of the Mexican Revolution
1941 CE - Both the U.S. and Brazil again find themselves involved in World War II. Brazilian Troops would fight alongside the Allies in Italy and Latin American natural resources would be crucial to the American War Machine.
1950s - A movement of churches knowns as the Latin American Episcopal Conference lays the groundwork for ideas that would later become Liberation Theology
1962 CE - The Cuban Missile Crisis lead the world to the brink of Nuclear War and is the most intense confrontation of the Cold War in the Americas
1973 CE - In Chile a coup overthrows the elected government and installs the military leader Augusto Pinochet who introduced market reforms.
1980s - Across Central America the United States funded governments resisting communist movements, most famously the Contras of Nicaragua
1990s - Immigrants from Latin America make up the largest minority in the United States and Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States
1994 CE - NAFTA or the North American Free Trade Agreement is signed between the U.S. Mexico and Canada.
1995 CE - Shortly after the signing of NAFTA a movement opposed to it as well as the Mexican Government known as the Zapatistas launched a revolt in southern Mexico.
The largest cultural development during this time was perhaps the increased migration but not into Latin America rather emigration from Latin America primarily to the United States and Canada. While Latin Americans have existed in the United States since the U.S. annexed large portions of what had been Mexico in 1848, this new wave had initially begun during the Mexican Revolution, individuals fleeing violence. It continued during World War II with a large number of guest workers brought into the United States referred to as the Braceros who worked the farms while American soldiers were fighting overseas.
The violence and political instability that swept through Central and South America during the Cold War sometimes as a result of communist insurgencies or American support for the government that fought them, further increased immigration. By the 1990s Spanish was the second most spoken language in the United States after English and individuals from Latin America made up the largest group of immigrants to the United States.
The United States began to see a change in its own immigrant profile. Immigration from Europe effectively came to an end during the 20th century with brief spikes in the 1930s, 1950s in the 1990s, whereas immigration from Asia and Latin America increased, in part due to the end of race-based immigration policy in the 1960s.
Throughout the Americas, groups and individuals challenge old assumptions about social organization. In the United States, the Civil Rights Movement which would become the model for future social rights movements challenges racial segregation across the country with such prominent leaders as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
In Latin America, resistance to American economic and cultural domination took many forms. One was the artwork by muralist Diego Rivera which sought to emphasize the history and unique culture of Mexico, but Latin America more broadly, and critique American economic imperialism. Beginning in the late 1950s a religious movement referred to as Liberation Theology, which emphasized the plight of the poor, and combined Marxist language with Christian theology became a rallying cry for those seeking to reform Society throughout Latin America in response to growing economic inequality.
Throughout the twentieth century, the nations of the Americas intensified their economic and political interdependencies. However, the nations of South and Central America, in particular, sought to modify their relationship with the United States with some political groups arguing for more distant relations and others for a closer relationship.
The first major political development of the 20th century would be the Mexican Revolution of 1910. It was a long struggle but when it ended the Mexican Constitution of 1917 would be one of the most Progressive constitutions in history up to that point. Incorporated many ideas that would be considered socialist (such as banning child labor) in addition to familiar ideas from the enlightenment era (limiting the power of the church) in this way it continued the tradition of revolution in the Americas.
A trend that had begun at the end of the 19th century, the United State's economic domination of Latin America, Would continue into the 20th century with American companies such as the United Fruit Company or Standard Oil playing ever-larger roles in the economies of some Central American nations. These companies have such influence with the United States government that they prompted a number of American Military interventions into Central America and the Caribbean. These were resisted in a variety of manners, for example, Augusto César Sandino was a militant leader who led rebels against the U.S. backed government in Nicaragua in the 1920s and 30s. This policy of American intervention would be temporarily halted in the 1930s and 40s under the American Good Neighbor Policy but would resume during the Cold War, in the interest of fighting communism.
During the Great Depression, the governments throughout the Americas adopted policies that gave them more control over their economies in the United States this took the form of the new deal. However, in Mexico and Brazil, two additional examples, the government also pursued policies directed at the welfare of their citizens. the government in Mexico under Lázaro Cárdenas Continued the legacy of the Mexican Revolution by Distributing land to landless peasants. This peaked under Cárdenas, with almost half of the land in all of Mexico being held by previously landless peasants.
In Brazil under Getúlio Vargas, The government developed large infrastructure projects and encouraged Brazilians to claim land in the unsettled Amazon Rainforest. This move did give poor Brazilians a chance at land ownership, but it generated conflict with the natives still living in the interior of the rainforest. In Argentina, Juan Peron established himself as head of the government and modeled his country very much like fascist Italy, investing large sums in public projects and social welfare, but also antagonizing Argentina’s neighbors, suppressing dissent and imprisoning political opponents.
During World War II both of the United States and Brazil found themselves fighting fascist powers with Brazil even sending troops to fight in Italy. Mexico had also supported the anti-fascist government in Spain prior to World War II. Due to worldwide disruption of supply lines, South America became a major supplier of food to a starving Britain and it's raw materials helped fuel American factories to build war tools.
After World War II, the nations of Latin America became some of the founding members of the United Nations along with the United States, much as they had the League of Nations before then.
The Cold War affected the Americas as much as any other place. The United States as the leader of the Free World meant that the nation's Latin America would be heavily influenced by U.S. foreign policy.
Several notable Cold War episodes occurred in the Americas. One was the Cuban Missile Crisis in which communist revolutionaries in Cuba which had overthrown American-backed military dictatorship invited the Soviet Union to construct nuclear missiles on Cuba. The United States blockaded the island until the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw the missiles in exchange for the US withdrawing missiles from Turkey.
In 1973 the United States secretly dated the Chilean military in overthrowing the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. Augusto Pinochet, who would take over in Chile and implement free market reforms, along with a reign of political violence against communist sympathizers, was supported by the United States. In the early 1980s, a civil war in Nicaragua prompted the United States to intervene and support the anti-communist group known as the contras, who opposed a socialist government backed by the Soviet Union.
For the first decades of the 20th century, the economic situation remained mostly as it had before: the United States remained the dominant industrial power, and the nations of Latin America still primarily exported raw materials or semi-finished goods.
Beginning in the years before the Great Depression was continuing into the 1950s some nations of Latin America began to take larger roles in the economic life of their people. For example, the Cardenas government of Mexico nationalized Mexico's oil supply under one company PEMEX under the auspices of redistributing the profits to the people (via infrastructure development). Following World War II import substitution industrialization, the idea that nations should use their export of raw materials to promote their own Industries and restrict the import of outside industrial goods was adopted by several states in Latin America such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Ecuador. This was a response to the Great Depression, which demonstrated the weakness of relying on exports of raw materials as well as the desire to escape economic domination by the United States who was the largest purchaser of those raw materials. For example, in Brazil, the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional, aided by the government, became the largest steel producing company in South America.
In the United States, the Great Depression also brought about a change in the relationship between government in the economy. The inability of the free-market to effectively end the crisis led to the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who spearheaded the New Deal a series of programs that would see the United States government more directly involved in the lives of Americans than ever before, programs such as Social Security and unemployment. This increasing role of the government would also play a part in World War II much as it had during World War 1. This arrangement would persist until the 1980s
Throughout the 1950s 60s and 70s, the economies of most Latin American nations grew along with their populations and shares of Industry. Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina became semi-industrialized nations. However, the general economic slowdown of the 1970s hit both the United States and Latin America. This slowdown was caused by the rise in the price of oil and in part by the rise of manufacturing economies in Asia and led to the dismantling of government regulations across the Americas and an emphasis on free markets (neoliberalism). In the 1990s, a number of trade deals were signed between nations - the most prevalent being NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, the United States, and Canada, as well as Mercosur 1991 which included all of South America.
Though not solely caused by the rise of free trade agreements, the United States’ share of manufacturing declined precipitously during this time (deindustrialization) and at least some of it was relocated to Latin America, where environmental and labor regulations were weaker and his production was cheaper. However, things were not good in Latin America either - the opening of markets had led to the destruction of many local farmers in Mexico and Central America who could not compete with the agricultural efficiency of the U.S. Push backs against neoliberal reforms in Latin America included the Zapatista, a military rebel group in southern Mexico as well as the rise of several left-wing governments such as that in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.