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Guevara and Chavez
There are several ways that politicians throughout Latin American history have used links to various traditions and traditional values to gain legitimacy and popularity in the eyes of their supporters. One way is to continue the legacy of Simon Bolivar, legendary liberator of several South American countries who dreamed of a united Latin America.

Augusto Sandino was one such leader. A Nicaraguan guerrilla leader beginning in the late 1920s. He managed to divert the conflict between Nicaraguan Liberals and Conservatives into a battle for national independence from an overbearing and damaging US military presence. Explicitly drawing on Bolivarian rhetoric he urged his fellow countrymen to throw off the shackles of US imprisonment and create a free, unified Latin American nation. His name was used in the 1970s as Sandinistas once again fought US influence as they toppled the US-backed Somoza regime and began implementing policies of increased literacy, improved health care, and gender equality*. Another way for politicians to link themselves to Latin American tradition is to draw on connections to an indigenous history or to profess the rights of indigenous peoples.

Among the first to start this wave were Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, who were influential figures during the tail end of the Mexican Revolution, taking Mexico City in December of 1914 in the name of regaining peasant land and lost freedoms. Although both were eventually killed their names are still referenced as national heroes. The tradition continued with Juan Peron in Argentina in the 1940s and 1950s. While he may not have explicitly referenced indigenous culture, he was vastly different from other politicians at the time in that he was from humble origins, used slang expressions and tango lyrics in his speeches, and courted the working class as the true Argentine People. The current wave of left-leaning leaders in Latin America also draw on their indigenous roots for support. Evo Morales in Bolivia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela both flaunt their ethnicity and both became wildly popular leaders. Morales was the head of a powerful coca growers union and emphasized a pan-indigenous approach to a Bolivian identity, being Aymara himself. Chavez also courted the working class and more importantly, when he came to power in 1999 created a new Venezuelan constitution that granted indigenous languages the same official status as Spanish and emphasized the rights and protection of indigenous cultures**.

ReferencesEdit

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