The year 2010 came to an end. It was a year in which most of Latin American countries celebrated the revolutions that led to their independence from the Spanish kingdom (1810). This bicentennial found this South American region with more hope and optimism to face the recently-started 21st century.
These two hundred years should be connected to the currently demonized date of October 12th, 1492. According to Jorge Abelardo Ramos, that date is Latin America's birth date, and this is an irreversible fact, regardless of whether that date is known as “…The Discovery of America, The Double Discovery, The Encounter of Two Worlds, or a genocide, based on different viewpoints and, above all, based on different interests, which are not always clear…”(1). As of that date, this continent entered into world history and, together with the race-mixing of the aborigine and the European, a new category of American rose: the “criollo category”, which was based on four values in America: the sense of Freedom, the value of the Word given, the sense of Hierarchy and the Preference for oneself. This was and still is the soul of Spanish America: the soul that contained us and contains everyone (aborigines, gauchos and immigrants), and that constituted this new American (2).
But this new “criollo category” came into conflict with the hegemonic interests of the new global power that prevailed over Spain: Great Britain. This was the beginning of numerous civil conflicts all over America, as we changed from the visible domination of Spain to the invisible domination of Great Britain. We had a flag, an anthem and an army, but England chained us to its feet with the Baring Brothers' loans and the subtle cultural colonization. That is the reason of the dominant classes' disdain in America of everything that is criollo and Latin American. That was the struggle during the 19th century and most of the 20th century, except in some moments of history when that domination “model” was disrupted: in Mexico, with its revolution in North America; Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama in Central America, and only Cuba barely survived with great difficulties; and in South American subcontinent: with the Peronist revolution in Argentina; Bolivia with the National Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario, MNR) under Paz Estenssoro; Peru with Velasco Alvarado; Chile with Allende, or Brazil with Getulio Vargas.
But in the deepest parts of America, the criollo category was still beating, in spite of the lost decades and defeats, and it comes alive in this century in a clear and overwhelming way.
In the past 10 years, South America experienced one of the major turns in its history. Heterogeneous, with ups and downs, plural and dissimilar; but with the same aim: To turn the fate. Two hundred years has now elapsed since our births, and there is no doubt this has been the Decade of the South.
Nowadays, South America has its entire region governed by democratic administrations that, despite its contradictions and limitations, allow the dissent and the fight for a better future for everyone. This subcontinent is governed by presidents of different backgrounds: a woman is president of one of the emerging powers, Brazil, and before that, a worker was at that position; a person of mixed racial background is president of Bolivia; a former guerrilla fighter in Uruguay; a Perón follower in the 70s in Argentina; a third-world former bishop in Paraguay; a former left-wing military man in Venezuela; an anti-neoliberal economist in Ecuador; a businessman in Chile, who succeeds a woman; a liberal economist in Colombia; and a former left winger in Peru. As we can see, it is a heterogeneous South America. In spite of this and by its own means, it was able to avoid both internal and regional conflicts that were holding back the consolidation of the democratic majorities assaulted by the rebellious minorities. For instance, Bolivia was threatened by separatism, or Ecuador by an attempt of coup d'etat. Also, this subcontinent could do away with the danger of confrontation between Colombia and Venezuela, or between Colombia and Ecuador, or the Argentina-Uruguay conflict.
From the beginning, this decade was characterized by an insubordination to the mandates of the traditional values, and to a globalization that was increasing the dependence. Once more, the State appears as a social regulator over the market monarchy, and tries to overcome the consequences of neoliberalism. Latin America has a diametrically opposed scenario compared to the one reported in the United States and the Eurozone. The South American leaders responded with celerity and soundness to particular events that could have turned into serious conflicts; and it is important to highlight the maturity and unity achieved.
In this short article, we cannot fail to mention the strengthening of the Union of South American Nations (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas, UNASUR) (and all its collateral organizations), resulting from Latin American founding insubordination (3) to the attempt of incorporating into the subcontinent the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) with George Bush, in the Summits of the Americas in 2005.
The World Bank's Chief Economist for America, Augusto de la Torre, recently pointed out that this has not been another lost decade for Latin America, as the 80s were, but rather a return to the 60s. From 2000 to 2010, South American 100-year trend of slower-pace growth compared to developed countries has been broken (4), and, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast, this year's growth will report an average pace of 5.7%. Furthermore, Latin America needs to consider its strengths and weaknesses in order to correct them: More than 70% of South America's growth this year accounts for the demand of the emerging world (China / India). The terms of exchange of South America are the best ever. Therefore, the South American region needs to consolidate a new system of international alliances, which is already happening due to its economic imprint (China, India, Russia), as well as diversify its primary production, add value to our exports, increase its technical/scientific skills, implement a South American bank, and establish a strong and flexible regional defense system.
Although: “We clearly are in what I would call the Latin American Decade.” A statement made by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) President, Moreno Mejía, which we agree with. However, we do not have to let things slide; instead, we have to follow the path of integration of our autonomous development, consolidate our regional agencies, and foster this plural, heterogeneous and somehow undefined trend, but a transforming trend in the end. And that is another reason to celebrate. As almost all South America celebrates the end of the decade.
- Malvinas de Cristóbal Colon a Juan Perón(Falklands from Christopher Columbus to Juan Perón): http://licpereyramele.blogspot.com/2010/12/malvinas-en-ell-bicentenario-ii.html
- Pensamiento de Ruptura: El Orden criollo(Breakthrough Thinking: The Criollo Category), Alberto Buela; Theoria Publishing House, Bs. As. (2008)
- La Insubordinación Fundante(The Founding Insubordination), Marcelo Gullo; Biblos Publishing House, Bs. As. 2008