Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Throughout this time, many artists and writers illustrated Mexican nationalism through paintings and stories that spread worldwide and shed light on what was occurring in Latin America at this time. The artwork became very popular in other countries as well and really brought outside attention to Latin American issues. Some of the most influential artists included Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera, and one of the most influential authors was Jorge Amado. Rivera was known as, "huge, ugly, magnetic, and brilliant" (Chasteen 226). He painted huge frescos, or murals that covered the actual walls, and represented many things, and namely, Mexico's vast indigenous heritage. All of his works shine a more positive light on the native Mexicans, and they demonized the conquistadors. He portrayed the Spanish conquistador Cortes as almost a monster in one of his works; "Cortes, resembling a troll, looks on as the conqueror's slaughter, enslave, and count gold" (Chasteen 226). Kahlo, on the other hand, painted on a much smaller scale doing tons and tons of self portraits. Her paintings expressed herself especially through all of the hurt she dealt with growing up. The nationalist theme can be seen through her use of, "fancy traditional hairstyles, pre-Columbian jewelry, and the folk Tehuana dress of southern Mexico" (Chasteen 226). Then came the 1920's and 1930's when the nationalism of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo was widely shared in Mexico. "Everything national had become fashionable - folk music (corridos) and dance (jarabes), traditional dishes (tamales and moles), old-style street theater (carpas), and artisan objects" (Chasteen 227). "Nationalists did not take power everywhere in Latin America, but nationalism showed its political potency even where it did not rule. In many countries conservatives managed to co-opt nationalist influences or hold them in check (Chasteen 232). That was the case for places like Colombia and Venezuela, where nationalist reform had to wait. But in other places in Latin America, nationalism shined. In Mexico, with the Revolution in full swing, the Constitution of 1917 showed nationalist inspiration. "Article 27 reclaimed for the nation all 

Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

mineral rights, for instance to oil. It also paved the way for villages to recover common lands (called ejidos and for great estates to be subdivided and distributed to landless peasants" (Chasteen 224). The Constitution of 1917 also put into play protections such as wage and hour laws, pensions and social benefits. As well as limiting the privileges of foreigners and curbed the rights of the Catholic Church. The Revolution, which had been going on for seven decades, had been a profoundly formative national experience. With a new government in place, major improvements were happening in Mexico. A road-building program was put into place as well as improvements to public education, reducing the country's 80 percent illiteracy rate. Effects of the nationalist movement were shown all around in Mexico but far away in Argentina and Uruguay, nationalism showed a bit differently. 

Argentina & Uruguay

Argentina and Uruguay were urbanized, literate and mainly middle-class. Here nationalism was stronger than most other Latin American countries due to the fact that it was more widely accepted. So, in Argentina and Uruguay, nationalists were able to take control without revolting, and Uruguay "had one of the most progressive governments" (Chasteen, 227) around. In

José Batlle y Ordóñez - president of Uruguay (in office 1903-1907)

 comes to play Uruguay's great nationalist reformer Jose Batlle y Ordonez who launched a reform movement known as Batllismo. Batllismo was more of a civic and economic nationalism that brought a great level of government involvement to the Uruguayan economy. "Uruguay became the hemisphere's first welfare state, complete with a minimum wage, regulated working conitions, accident insurance, paid holidays, and retirement benefits" (Chasteen 228). This newfound level of government involvement in the economy of Uruguay led to the citizens becoming more united under their president. This shift to nationalism was different than Mexico's because it was more focused on the economic prosperity of the country and not the cultural well-being of the people. The effects were not only felt in terms of worker benefits though. "Nationalism made the most striking changes when stable governments were able to combine mass mobilization with economic transformation. That transformation involved a rejection of the basic neocolonial model of export-oriented economic growth, which brings us to the Great Depression" (Chasteen 233). Nationalist movements throughout Latin America were energized by The Great Depression of the 1930's which saw neocolonialism subside to nationalism. As the 1930's progressed ISI (import-substitution industrialization) began to occur which gave the nationalist critics of economic imperialism a persuasive case against the old import/export trade. As Latin American industrial production increased, so did the nationalist's pride for industrialization.



Getúlio Vargas - president of Brazil (in office 1930-1945)

As far as nationalist politics in Brazil are concerned, Getulio Vargas was a hero in his own right. Getulio Vargas - who some called the Franklin D. Roosevelt of Brazil - had his first period in office from 1930 - 1945, then later returned for a total of nineteen years as Brazilian president. "Vargas, like FDR, made famous the use of the radio and vastly expanded the national government" (Chasteen 236). Although Vargas did not exactly match the exact definition of a machismo leader, what he lacked in stature, he made up for in character. "Both men were masterful politicians, but physically unimposing: FDR paralyzed by polio, Vargas short and jolly. Both exuded a contagious optimism" (Chasteen 236). He was a political mastermind indeed. "Vargas deftly negotiated the political tangles of the early 1930s, playing liberals, conservatives, communists, Tenentes, and Intergralists against each other. Then, in 1937 he seized dictatorial power with the support of the army and went on the radio to announce a nationalist institutional makeover for Brazil: the Estado Novo, or New State" (Chasteen 237). Even though Estado Novo basically blocked all political opposition to Vargas, he was still supported by the people  because of his paternalistic attitude. Varagas had this charismatic appeal like the caudillos had in the past, so he was able to manipulate the people of Brazil into thinking that he wanted what was most beneficial for them. In reality, it was strictly about the authority for him, not about the Brazilian people. He truly played up the nationalist theme and used that to rationalize his actions while in power.


      As several of these Latin American countries began to turn towards nationalism, there were some countries that attempted and failed. Peru is one such example of this. Peruvian nationalists tried to spread the word of nationalism throughout their country in hopes of eliminating foreign influence from their lives. One man, Haya de la Torre, founded the Popular American Revolutionary Alliance (APRA), which was a pro-nationalist organization with indigenous roots, which later transformed into indigenismo. Indigenismo focuses on native roots to unify the Latin American nationalists. Unfortunately in Peru, "indigenismo was less successful as a unifying force" (Chasteen, 230) due to its extreme ethnic differences, where the coasts were mostly inhabited by blacks and whites and the indigenous people were located on the highlands. The blacks and whites were most likely located on the coasts because they were the closest areas to inhabit once they reached Latin America from Spain and Portugal during the conquest and during the African slave trade. After the APRA attempted to lead an uprising against imperialism, the Peruvian army annihilated them by killing a majority of their members. The Peruvian government forced the APRA to dissolve. Their attempt at spreading the ideas of nationalism failed. Had the people of Peru not been so segregated, it's entirely possible that nationalism may have thrived, but due to their circumstance, nationialism didn't stand a chance. This banning of the APRA proves that the governments in Latin America had so much control over everyone that it was completely normal to have "managed elections" (Chasteen, 230), which is why the APRA lost their election. This corruption is common in Latin American elections, which is part of the reason why Latin Americans revolt against the governments so often. Their voices are never heard and all the people wanted was to eliminate foreign influence and imperialism by spreading the word about nationalism. The government had given them no choice but to revolt. However, this also proves that one man can cause an uproar and ignite a passion in many people that gives them a reason to feel important and influential in society. Haya de la Torre was viewd as a hero by the nationalists for creating a lasting interest in Peru after the banishment of the APRA. This sudden interest in nationalism in Peru caused one person, Ciro Alegria, an ex-APRA member, to write fictional stories based on indigenismo. This led to many authors writing about the daily lives of indigenous people and what they had to go through in Latin America. Such stories can be found in the other book written by Chasteen called "Born in Blood and Fire: Latin American Voices". These authors helped to spread the word about the lives of the natives and their struggles that they had been through. After the Cuban Revolution, when the citizens of the U.S. began to read about Latin America, they came across such stories and realized the hardships of the natives. So, later, when groups such as the Zapatistas formed, they received support from people from the U.S. Therefore, the authors that spread the word about  indigenismo described in their stories what the ideal Latin American would have been from the perspective of the natives.

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