Panel 1: Genealogies of Environmental Science
Keywords: Scientific Institutions, U.S.-Latin American Relations, Scientific Expeditions, Naturalists
The work of Alexander Wetmore, the sixth secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, is a revealing case study to understand the place that expert knowledge occupies in the history of 20th century U.S.-Latin American relations. Between the 1910s and the 1960s Wetmore travelled widely and carried out scientific expeditions throughout Latin America. He created a vast network and held an extensive correspondence with Latin Americans, from field assistants to naturalists and prominent political figures, and also helped consolidate the presence of the Smithsonian in the Panama Canal Zone, among many other activities.
This paper recreates Wetmore’s story in dialogue with recent literature on the cultural history of U.S. international relations and the history of science, medicine, and imperialism. In particular I would like to convey what I believe are some of the most important variables at play when thinking about the place of knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge, in U.S.-Latin America relations. Imperialism, nationalism, cooperation, gift giving, and power relations, are some of the variables I would like to propose as key in understanding the influence of expert knowledge in North-South relations. In the end, Wetmore’s connections with Latin American naturalists, landscapes and natives, as well as the forms in which Latin Americans perceived Wetmore, allow me to show the many levels involved when thinking about the place of expertise in international relations.
Keywords: Peru, Amazon, Field Stations, Conservation, National Parks
The trails at Cocha Cashu Biological Station are laid down according to legacy. The system of trails demarcates the lowland rain forest extending out from a small set of buildings that make up the station. Set against a cashew-shaped lake, a remnant from the rapid movement of the Manu River, the station exists as one of the premier sites in the world to study an intact tropical ecosystem with a full suite of fauna. The trails were laid down to measure one hundred meter transects of forest leading to and from the station. Each trail received a number, starting with one. Over time, trails extended further, filled in gaps, and meandered around tree fall, but each still received a number based on chronology rather than geography. This system allowed researchers to communicate with each other over the exact location of an animal or to evenly measure areas of the forest for species abundance.
This talk situates how scientific expertise has been produced within and around Manu National Park, in Peru (est. 1973). The development of ‘residential knowledge,’ of the sort produced in Cocha Cashu, situates the ways science became significant to conservation activities, themselves occupying nearly one-fifth of South America today. Rather than a fully-fledged discipline developed in museums and laboratories, tropical field science and conservation biology have been place-specific, expansive, and transformational processes developed in conjunction with field stations in remote, sparsely-populated natural areas. The ways science took place created compelling arguments for the protection of large, contiguous natural areas.
“Yearnings for Guácharo Cave: Affect, Class, and Science in Venezuelan Speleology”
Keywords: affect, co-production, materiality, fieldwork, speleology, science, caves, Venezuela
Keywords: Chile, Environmental Politics, Scientific Institutions, Democratic Transition
In the 1980s, Chile’s military government saw science and the environment as so unthreatening that scientists were granted permission to hold large public meetings to discuss environmental issues. To an audience of several hundred people, a prominent scientist asked, “how should we, as scientists, participate in that ‘other Ivory Tower’ [the government]”, to which so few then had access? After 1990, Chile transitioned back to democracy and two models of scientific capacity —one public, the other private— emerged in response to his question. Japan’s aid agency funded a new National Center for the Environment, CENMA, to advise the country’s new environmental protection agency. In a separate initiative, the Italian government funded another environmental science laboratory, EULA, to help “Chile think Chile”. A variety of factors transformed EULA into a successful environmental science laboratory, while CENMA has struggled.
In this chapter, I draw on legislative debates, scientists’ writings, and a comparison of EULA and CENMA’s trajectories over time to reflect on how Chile’s environmental scientists transitioned from dictatorship to democracy and from a Cold War context to one characterized by globalization and neoliberalism. The chapter examines changing conceptions of “fundamental” and “applied” science and relationships between scientists and technocrats, just as the environment also shifted from being a “safe” area of research to becoming a highly conflictive issue.
Panel 2: Bodies and Organisms as Circulating Technologies
Keywords: Livestock, veterinarian medicine, public health campaigns, vaccines, Mexico
From 1947 to 1954, the joint US-Mexican campaign against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) inspected, quarantined, slaughtered, and vaccinated millions of head of livestock across central Mexico. Involving thousands of veterinarians and ranchers from both countries, and many battalions of Mexican troops, the campaign was unprecedented in scale and in the degree of cooperation across national borders, hugely controversial, but eventually successful. This paper traces the global repercussions of this campaign by exploring the interconnected histories of four laboratories dedicated to animal disease in four different nations: Mexico, the USA, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. The paper argues that the Mexican campaign, by demonstrating the apparent threat FMD posed to national security and the viability of new vaccines, inspired the creation of the three American laboratories, and shaped all four laboratories’ roles, resources, and relationship to emerging US-led global institutions governing animal disease. Two broader methodological conclusions emerge from this story. First, it shows how the neglected history of animal health illuminates Latin American states’ strategies for coping with US power. Second, it illustrates how global politics and scientific networks intersected with and shaped hemispheric relations.
Keywords: Seeds, Agronomy, Green Revolution, Mexico, India
In the mid-1960s hybrid wheat seeds grown in Sonora’s Yaqui Valley made their way to Uttar Pradesh in northern India, where they flourished and were ceremoniously credited with (eventually) halting a raging and deadly famine. Improved seeds, and not local Mexicans, who helped develop the strain, became the focal point of inquiry and the pivot for historical narratives about the power of food and scientific agriculture to develop the world’s languishing regions.
While the role of the Rockefeller Foundation in the Green Revolution is well documented this paper examines instead the parallel history of the development of high-yielding hybrid wheat seeds in Mexico from the perspective of local farmers, India-based diplomats, and Mexican agronomists. By placing the events of the 1960s within the longer history of crop improvement in Mexico we gain control of the definition of scientific “expert.” Moreover in examining the forgotten role of Mexican seed experts in India this paper encourages us to ponder whose knowledge travels and which practices, despite visible movement, are seen as remaining static and ‘backward.’
Reinaldo Funes Monzote (Visiting Professor CLAIS, MacMillan Center, Yale University; Universidad de La Habana; and Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation)
“Challenging Climate and Geopolitics: Intensive Livestock, Exchanges with Canada, and the Dilemma of Animal Protein in the Cuban Revolution, 1959-1989”
Keywords: Cuba, Livestock, Canada-Cuba relations, Animal protein, Milk consumption
The transition from extensive livestock production systems to an intensive model was one of the policies prioritized by the agricultural projects of the Cuban revolution after 1959. Nevertheless, in a general way, it is a less-studied topic, compared with other economic, political or social issues. At least, there is a marked contrast with the number of articles and books dedicated to the sugar industry, the country’s main export product during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This paper proposes an analysis of the great transformations in bovine breeding and other livestock activities, with the goal to increase the consumption of animal protein from local production on the national diet.
Although the center of attention will be cattle, this work also studies other achievements in relation with the production of eggs, poultry, and pork; and with the fisheries. In particular, it emphasizes the relationships with Canada in this field, through the so called Cuba-Canada Cattle Plan. This represented a very interesting collaboration in the context of the Cold War, especially in the Western Hemisphere. On the other hand, this paper analyzes the role of foreign technicians, experts in agricultural or animal sciences, who came to the island in those decades, some of them from the allied countries of the Communist bloc, but mostly from Western Europe, the United States or Latin America. They not only made important contributions to the efforts toward livestock intensification, but in some cases criticized the results of these politics.
Keywords: Colombia, Rockefeller Foundation, Agronomy, Masculinity, Agricultural Modernization
Colombian agronomists often divide the history of their profession into two phases: pre- and post-Rockefeller. According to this narrative, prior to the Foundation’s seventeen year-long collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, agronomy in Colombia was entirely theoretical, involving little field experimentation or dirtying of agronomists’ hands. After the Rockefeller Foundation’s Colombian Agricultural Program began in 1950, the profession became more practical and centered in experimental fields rather than classrooms. Yet, ample evidence shows this narrative to be an after-the-fact construction, a myth partly propagated by the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) itself, often in contradiction to its own experiences with Colombian agronomists. So why does this myth exist? What purposes did it serve? What broader narrative does it still support? Using archives, newsletters, and journals from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Colombian Agricultural Engineers Association, and the Colombian National University’s Faculty of Agronomy, this paper shows how this myth was constructed through feats of masculine prowess involving plows, tractors, and long days in the field, which all purportedly characterized the active engagement of an expert agronomist. The paper argues that this myth served two complementary purposes. First, such performances proved RF expertise. Many Colombian agronomy students had farming backgrounds and showed more respect for agronomists whose expertise derived from more than just “book-learning.” Second, Colombian agronomists themselves hyped RF expertise in their quest for enhanced public support for agricultural research. This paper ultimately shows how this narrative became enmeshed in Cold War era modernization theories, which assumed that expertise originated in Europe and the U.S. and ignored already-existing forms of expert knowledge in Latin America.
Panel 3: Rural Development and Community Mobilization
Mary Roldán (Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center)
“‘Communication for Change’: Mass Media, Economic Development, the Catholic Church and the Cold War in Colombia’s Radio Sutatenza/ Popular Cultural Action Network, 1947-1974”
Keywords: radio, mass media, technology, rural development, anti-communism, Catholic Church, family planning, transnational peasant leadership training
What did Alvin Toffler (author of Future Shock, The Third Wave, etc.), rural sociologist and US Department of State consultant, T. Lynn Smith, Vatican Secretary of State official and head of the Papal Commission for Latin America, Antonio Samoré, French Dominican social scientist and philosopher, Father Louis Joseph Lebret, UNESCO, managing senior partner of the NYC white shoe law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell (the Dulles brothers’ and UFCO law firm), Arthur Dean, and several notable Colombian modernizers and technocrats such as former President Carlos Lleras Restrepo (in the words of Albert Hirschman, “reform monger par excellence”), all have in common? At one point or another during ‘Latin America’s Long Cold War’ they drew expertise from, served as consultants, collaborated with, raised money for, influenced or were influenced by Latin America’s largest, transnational, Catholic-affiliated, anti-communist, mass media based education and community development network, Colombia’s Radio Sutatenza/ Acción Cultural Popular (ACPO).
Founded in 1947 by a recently ordained auxiliary parish priest and amateur radio enthusiast assigned to the largely illiterate, geographically dispersed, and violence- prone parish of Sutatenza, Boyacá in the early years of la Violencia, José Joaquin Salcedo transformed Radio Sutatenza/ACPO from a village based, radio-centered rural adult literacy and catechetical project dependent on peasant and diocesan donations, into a multi-pronged (publishing, recording and broadcasting), mass-media juggernaut with transnational influence and support by 1962. This essay explores the complex and shifting dynamics of transnational technical expertise exchanges, ideology, financing, secular/religious collaboration, the use of mass media technologies for the promotion of rural economic development (including gender-based, family planning and educational campaigns) and anti-communist propaganda during the Long Cold War in Colombia.
Keywords: Housing, Urban Planning, Colombia, Pan-Americanism
This paper traces the rural and national trajectory of the urban and transnational planning ideas of experts at the Interamerican Center for Housing and Planning (CINVA). Established in Bogotá in 1951 by the Organization of American States, the CINVA was intended to be a laboratory and offer a new model of Pan-American cooperation, though its early proposals largely mimicked the state-led, city-focused, top-down approaches to housing then dominant across the hemisphere. This approach was also consistent with the faltering attempts by the Colombian state to reestablish its authority, beginning with the cities, in the last years of the Violencia. But the focus on housing soon led CINVA to turn its attentions to the countryside, and to a series of innovative projects that rethought the relationship between community mobilization and technical expertise. Looking more closely at CINVA projects offers a new angle on the connections between city and countryside, between state and community, and between expertise and politics at a decisive moment in Latin American urbanization. Drawing on archival research in the papers of leading planners and the CINVA itself, this paper is a first attempt to explore the actions of this important but forgotten institution in the context of a vigorous new body of work on housing, development and urbanism in Cold War Latin America.
Keywords: Agrarian Reform, Peru, State Formation/Knowledge, Cooperativization
Agrarian reform in Latin America structured the way the region experienced the global sixties. Joining a wider world of social and political unrest in the “south”, largely defined by waves of decolonization, manifold proposals for reforming the internal structures of landownership articulated the politics of state making throughout the region. Furthermore, as Cold War politics and policy settled, Latin American states wielded agrarian reform as a quintessential device for depressing internal unrest. Previously perceived as the ultimate result of post-revolutionary politics, agrarian reformism became a US-sanctioned, hemispherically consensual mechanism for undermining the insurrectionary capacity that enduring land inequalities nourished. In turn, a dominant paradigm arose. Land needed to be distributed on the basis of its productivity. “Tierra para el que la trabaja” as a political aphorism linked together distinctively different national experiences of agrarian reform. In most circumstances, the aphorism highlighted a critical and yet largely overshadowed tension, that of agrarian reform as theory and as practice. While agrarian reform intended to carry a sense of a restructuration of agrarian property rights among rural populations progressively labeled as campesinos, states also became concerned about the erosion of national agrarian productivity through parceling and other forms of economic and spatial reorganization. Fulfilling both goals demanded the creation of state projects of spatial and socioeconomic engineering. As agrarian reforms were decreed, Latin American states promoted, encouraged and allowed the circulation of agrarian knowledge related to socioeconomically governing reformed land.
Mapping the issuance of agrarian reforms through the hemisphere and using the Peruvian experience that led to the 1969 agrarian reform as a scope, this article looks at two largely overlooked aspects in the rise of Cold War-influenced agrarian reformism. Ever since the making of the post-revolutionary Mexican state, rural expertise emerged as a quintessential component of state knowledge. The rural countryside was no longer a space of elusive governance and fugitive landscapes. This chapter explores the importance of the acquisition of state knowledge related to governing rurality and its role in informing Cold War agrarian reformism. I argue that rural expertise as state knowledge was informed by both domestic problems and by rural conditions abroad. By the time an agrarian reform paradigm had settled, rural expertise linked geographically distant regions and politically disparate processes. Additionally, rural expertise became increasingly bureaucratized as the countryside was effectively incorporated into the state structures of power and production. Engineers, agronomists, technicians, and other rural policy makers stood at the forefront of manifold state endeavors pertaining to the countryside. More importantly, national agrarian technocracies also experienced a great degree of transnational exposure. Offices of agrarian reform served as primary hubs for the exchange of both knowledge and technocrats throughout the region, best representing the consolidation of a bureaucratized rural expertise. The cooperative-based formula followed by the Peruvian agrarian reform of 1969, the chapter concludes, represented the culmination of decades of nurturing bureaucratized knowledge.
Agrarian reform became a process of social engineering, informed by previous hemispheric experiences and carefully crafted by domestic technocrats. Politically, rural cooperativization allowed Peru to successfully navigate Cold War times, claiming a non-aligned identity. Materially, agrarian reform proved to be another ill-fated attempt at social engineering, a major economic disaster for the state, and a deeply disenchanting experience for the countryside as a whole.
Panel 4: Design, Material Culture, and Cold War Imaginaries
Keywords: Puerto Rico, Nuclear Threat, Representations, Urban Landscapes, Security
Almost fifty years after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 a significant number of buildings in Puerto Rican cities are marked with a peculiar sign that contains a black circle with three triangles within it. These signs were installed by the United States Civil Defense during the early 1950s and 1960s, with the purpose of designating those buildings as fallout shelters that will protect the population against radiation in case of a nuclear attack. To those born during the post-Cold War world these rusty signs have no meaning and they are not frighten by them.
However, these aging marks are reminders of a time when the world was dangerously close to nuclear Armageddon and the island of Puerto Rico was a considered a potential military target. This proposal explores the seminal role played by Puerto Rican and U.S Civil Defense technical personnel in designing and negotiating a security utopia that offer a sense of safety to a population concerned with the effects of nuclear war in the Island. In order to accomplish this objective these experts proposed representations of the apocalyptical consequences of nuclear war through the re-designing of the urban landscape, trained personnel, and a carefully crafted plan detailing the purpose of the domestic fallout shelters that ultimately re-engineer a society that have to face the challenges posed by the uncertainties of the Cold War.
Keywords: Dams, Engineers, Knowledge Circulation, Representations/Imaginaries, Media
The twentieth century experienced what Christopher Sneddon called the “concrete revolution” as more than 50,000 large dams were built with this material throughout the world. This revolution reached its peak in the Third World during the early years of the Cold War.
Circulation of technological knowledge was fundamental to the development of the concrete revolution. This paper focuses on this important movement in three South American countries (Chile, Colombia and Peru). It analyzes the different sectors and the engineers and technicians that made up circuits of expertise and spread globally the knowledge acquired in specific places as they informed the rest of the world about the construction of dams.
This paper also looks into a less-explored dimension related to the parallel circulation of ideas and representations of dams, electricity and technology in the mass media (press, magazines, advertisements), which impacted the way socio-cultural imaginaries were set up that were characterized by direct associations among dams, electricity and modernity.
The article hypothesizes that it is impossible to entirely understand the success of the “concrete revolution” in South America during the Cold War if one isolates the circulation of purely technological knowledge from the wider circulation of ideas and representations of it spread through mass media teeming with Cold War ideological and political elements.
To develop these ideas, I will analyze the different agents and forces involved in thevprocesses that created interesting local, national and international dynamics and frame them within the context of the Cold War.
Keywords: NASA, South America, Minitrack Network, Archaeology, Technology
During the Cold War, a number of technological exchanges between Latin American countries and the United States took place within the context of the political, ideological, and economic disputes of the period. These exchanges included the 1957 installation of a U.S. satellite tracking station in Chile as part of the Minitrack Network, a chain of nine stations along the South American continent intended to track radio signals from what was then the United States’ Vanguard project, for satellites crossing the 75th West Meridian on each orbit. Cutting through South America, this initial north-south line was nicknamed ‘the fence’ by its creators at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Although it was built and administrated by the U.S. Army, this series of stations was installed in 1957, under the banner of science, in the context of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) celebrated between July 1, 1957 and December 31, 1958. As the IGY was coming to a close, the stations were transferred to a new scientific and civilian agency established in October 1 of that year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
One long discarded physical reminder of this history is a round concrete slab, 207 cm in diameter and 16 cm thick, which bears on its surface the NASA acronym and a red slash representing aeronautics, stars representing outer space, an orbit path representing space travel, and a sphere representing a planet. A closer look at the slab finds that its surface consists of a 3 cm extra layer of mortar and little tiles, meaning that the icon is in fact a mosaic. Scattered around the discarded sign are fragments of concrete and tiling that are the remnants of the portion of the slash design that had extended outside the circular geometry of the emblem and broke into pieces when the logo was removed from its original location at the former U.S. satellite tracking station in the rural site of Peldehue, about 41 km northeast of Santiago, Chile (33o, 08”South, 70o, 40”West).
Although the history of NASA has been extensively studied, this archaeology of the abandoned NASA icon will uncover, from a design perspective, the effort invested by the United States to portray the Peldehue station—and the Minitrack Network in general—as a scientific venture, thereby (according to Jennifer S. Light) ‘diverting attention from the nation’s other growing space program dominated by military and intelligence data-gathering concerns.’ Despite the tangible scientific breakthroughs achieved by these satellite tracking networks, an examination of the actual and rhetorical transition from the military-industrial complex to NASA reveals that this insignia was in fact an integral component of a well-staged U.S. strategy that deployed design to shape the agency’s desired image for international mass consumption. By examining NASA’s abandoned logo from an archaeological perspective, this paper attempts to advance our understanding of the Chilean station in terms of its place within a much larger global network by analysing it within the intersection of design, military economies, technologies, ideologies, and cultural and geospatial considerations.
This archaeological investigation analyses this derelict sign as a node in which a number of seemingly disparate elements (including U.S foreign policies, military strategies, Latin American history, the Cold War Space Race, and political branding) come together. Instead of looking for definite and stable classifications for this object, we present it as reflecting a tension between the multiple actors involved in its iconic and unprecedented appearance in Chile. The concreteness of the abandoned logo allows us to provide a critical view of the history of U.S strategic operations in South America. This examination of the logo therefore turns NASA design history into an archaeological subject, attesting to the role of graphic design in the creation of a scientific image associated with operations of a military and strategic nature.
Panel 5: Traveling Experts: State and Non-State Actors
Keywords: Agricultural Economics, Development, Southern Cone, Knowledge Circulation, Regionalism
In 1941 Theodore W. Schultz was a “potato economist,” that is, an “agricultural economist”, concerned with the costs and prices of grain, with patterns of land-tenure, and with the effects of technology and markets on farmers’ incomes. Thirty years later he would become a renown development economist at the University of Chicago who pioneered in the economic demography, the theory of human capital, and the role of agrarian change in development. For all these contributions, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1979, a reward he shared with W. Arthur Lewis. In 1941 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commissioned Schultz to travel to the Southern Cone and report on agricultural conditions there. He carried with him not only the “tool box” of his profession but also the progressive values of the Mid-West: he had grown up in a farm in Iowa, studied in an agricultural college, and spent much of his professional life (he was 39 then) dealing with farmers and their associations (the Grange).
In his travels across the prairies of southern Brazil, Uruguay and the Argentine pampas, Theodore Schultz was surprised by what he observed: large landed properties, the poor condition of tenants, excellent conditions for land productivity, and the absence of a sociability proper of small-scale farming communities, such as those of Iowa or the US Mid-west. He observed and reported about agricultural schools, technical extension services, and the knowledge local farmers displayed about farming techniques. In southern Brazil, Schultz found a thriving frontier society, a melting-pot of races and cultures, where every crop flourished, and with an enormous potential for cattle-raising.
The technology was rather primitive (slush and burn, no tractors) reminded him with nostalgia of the early days of farming in the Mid-west. In Argentina, by contrast, he found rich landowners earning unimaginable fortunes (for a Mid-westerner), who paid little taxes and exploited their tenants and ranch laborers. These absentee landowners spent most of their time socializing in Buenos Aires. Upset by the social inequality he encountered, he was also disturbed by the insistence of Argentine government officials that US should by more cattle from them, and lift the ban on cattle imports based on “aftosa” (foot-and- mouth disease). He found Argentine “meat nationalism” intolerable, particularly since it was enunciated by cattle-ranchers who seemed in control of government. Argentine officials paid little or no attention to more valuable crops in world markets, such as corn, wheat, and line-seed. While a key observer of agricultural conditions and a critique of social inequality, Schultz failed to observe and report on political divisions (between pro-German and pro-Allies) that informed also the world view of Argentine farmers and cattle-ranchers.
This paper deals with the transfer of knowledge and values from the US Mid-west to the Southern Cone through the view of this agricultural economist from Iowa. The exercise implies de-constructing the different elements of Theodore Schultz’s reportage and advice: the technical, the normative, and the prospective. The wealth and productivity of Argentine agriculture had developed into a rentier economy with major inequality problems; southern Brazil, on the other hand, appeared as a vigorous yet primitive frontier economy with great future potential. About Uruguay, he had less to say: here the problem was trying to combine a productive cattle-ranching economy with an emerging welfare state. To the Southern Cone, the “potato economist” carried the progressive values of the Mid-west and it was through these lenses that the enormously productive prairies of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil were judged. Schultz’s reports also convey key information about the new interaction among science, markets, and state planning in the United States and how this power-knowledge configuration was imagined to expand to South America in the coming years.
Keywords: Economics, Import Substitution Industrialization, Development Theory, Dependency, Alliance for Progress, United Nations
At the end of the Second World War, Latin American diplomats, economists, and policymakers coalesced around a vision of the global economy that through the lexicon of center and peripheries gave rise to the idea of “Latin America” as a region. Defined by its vulnerability to the external sector, to the prices and volumes of exports of primary products, Latin America, as a category, mobilized institutional, intellectual, and political projects for economic development throughout the early postwar years. As the institutional fulcrum of the category, the Economic Commission for Latin America championed a policy toolkit that included import-substitution industrialization, larger and more stable export markets, and international cooperation and foreign capital. This paper focuses on how these development experts confronted the demise of the category and the failure of policies and set the ground for a new conceptual paradigm about the region. In Cold War narratives, the Alliance for Progress represents the pinnacle of development as the road to social transformation and political stability and thus, a convergence between Washington and Latin America. Instead, this paper shows how, for Latin American economists and policymakers, development was in retreat. By the time that the Unites States with Alliance for Progress attempted to leverage on the category of Latin America to advance a set of development coordinates that resonated with ECLA economics, Latin American development experts were already shying away from the category and calling its policy prescriptions into question. This paper shows that despite its lack of traction the Alliance for Progress triggered a reflexivity process that finally undid Latin America. On pursuing the question of foreign capital, Latin American economists dismantled the notion of Latin America and made ISI history, both of which had underpinned the notion of development in the region and laid the foundation for dependency theory to make development its object of analysis.
Keywords: U.S., Mexico, Tennessee Valley Authority, dams, development, water, hydraulic engineering, regionalism
In 1947, Mexico’s ruling party unveiled an unprecedented campaign to transform two of its southern river valleys into hubs for regional development. The wild and untamed Papaloapan and Tepalcatepec rivers, declared Mexican President Miguel Alemán that year, would be harnessed into engines for economic growth and agrarian social change. While that massive, multi-decade campaign was frequently promoted as a nationalist project, its origins were hardly contained by such boundaries. This paper explores how Mexican politicians, technocrats, and the press rationalized the Papaloapan/Tepalcatepec projects with explicit comparisons between southern Mexico and the southern United States, particularly the seven-state Tennessee River Valley. Looking to the example of the Tennessee Valley Authority – which attracted visitors as politically diverse as Alemán and former President Lázaro Cárdenas alongside countless engineers and social scientists – Mexican proponents of regional development frequently made reference to the shared social and environmental problems of U.S. and Mexican river valleys. In their eyes, Alabama and Veracruz confronted similar dilemmas, and similar solutions might therefore be neatly exchanged between them.
This exchange suggests two departures from the standard narrative of Cold War expertise in Latin America. First, the “traveling technocrats” here were Latin American, not U.S. American, and were motivated by contradictory political agendas. Secondly, they looked to the American South, a U.S. region known not for wealth and success but poverty and failure. Grappling with U.S. regionalism implodes the neat North-South binary that characterizes most scholarship in U.S.-Latin American relations, as indeed the United States was a patchwork nation marked by both growth and stagnation.
Keywords: Indigenous groups, Mapuche, Chile, Augusto Pinochet, FAO, Cold War, state formation, race, gender.
Scholars have long contended that the indigenous reform programs of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) were part of the larger economic policies that the former students of Milton Friedman, collectively known as “los Chicago Boys,” enacted in the late 1970s. Recent archival research and ethnographic work, nonetheless, demonstrate that this assumption is overstated. One of the primary architects of the Pinochet regime’s indigenous policies was Italian-born Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) consultant Cristobal Unterrichter.
Unterrichter’s story reveals that the dictatorship’s indigenous policies did not develop in a vacuum, but rather in an international context with various officials who were beholden to no one state or policy. By the late 1970s, Unterrichter was a seasoned and stateless cold warrior whose policies were not the simple handmaidens of the Chicago Boys. Unterrichter’s emphasis on the formation of male-headed nuclear families that engaged in the market economy echoed agrarian reform initiatives that had taken place in Chile, and elsewhere in Latin American, long before the start of the Cold War. The Pinochet regime was ultimately vulnerable to the whims of international experts like Unterrichter who designed policies that not only existed in direct contradiction with the military regime, but also defied the dictates of Unterrichter’s host organization, the FAO. Unterrichter’s participation in a pilot project for indigenous Mapuche integration, known as Plan Perquenco, specifically demonstrates how his policies opened unintended spaces for Mapuche cultural revival in the 1980s.