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Latin America Fucking Itself Over

Published August 20, 2020 in Paraguay , Personal Stories & Opinions - 1 Comment

Back when I was in college many years ago…

I studied history and Spanish.

Where the history I focused on was Latin American history.

Involved also a lot of courses on the politics and economics of Latin America also…

Among other things..

Well, I remember very vividly in my freshman year of college, I had a professor who was not really a Latin American expert from what I remember.

I think she never really specialized in Latin America when she did her PhD dissertation but I could be wrong.

But she did have experience traveling to Latin America – I think only Mexico and only for a few trips of a few weeks each.

So, in best case scenario, maybe she had about a month to two months of experience down here.

But she was teaching a course that had to do with Latin America as a whole – where we looked into the reasons for why Latin America was relatively more undeveloped than the rest of the world.

The central message – because Latin America is the great victim of the US and Europe!

Now, let’s break that down..

Did the US and Europe fuck over Latin America throughout history?

Absolutely.

Wasn’t there a thing called Spanish and Portuguese colonialism?

Among other things…

However, this is what I would call the “ivy tower” perspective.

The perspective of someone who has not really spent that much time down here.

Who hasn’t lived a single fucking day in Latin America.

And, in my opinion, it’s a lazy and ignorant perspective for that reason as it doesn’t involve any real perspective on how life is down here.

Of course, you also have some Latinos who think this way as well and I call it the “perpetual victimhood” mentality.

Where, instead of taking a good look in the mirror, you simply blame all of the problems on someone else.

Though, to be fair, not all Latinos who think like that were actually born in Latin America or spent any significant time down here.

But yet, the Latinos I have met who take this “perpetual victimhood” mentality to heart are usually either young ones who have spent 99% of their lives in the US or a fraction of upper class Latinos who live down here.

And, if we are being honest, it’s a perspective that I feel is mostly meant to strip any agency or responsibility from Latinos in Latin America.

Where you strip any accountability that the locals have for improving their own community or holding others down here accountable and instead just blame all of society’s problems on others.

I was first introduced to this perspective back when I was in Paraguay for a very short time period…

A Bar in Asunción, Paraguay

Back when I traveled to Paraguay for a short time period, I was traveling with a group of other Americans, a Canadian and a few Argentine folks.

Mostly for some academic reasons as you can read about here.

Either way, I left the hotel by myself at one point at night because I wanted to meet some of the locals who lived there.

Often more than not, I usually have a habit of escaping any gringo bubble I walk myself into in order to meet local people down here.

Nothing against other foreigners but I just have a preference for meeting people down here.

Well, I show up to basically the first bar I can stumble upon.

I walked in and up some stairs..

And it was a pretty dark, small space inside.

Just a few tables.

I ordered around 4 to 6 beers for myself that came in a bucket.

And, unfortunately, I was not able to meet any of the locals.

The bar tender was mostly on his phone and there was some couple sitting at another table by themselves.

And sitting close to me was another white looking guy sitting by himself on his phone and having a drink.

Well, after drinking few beers, I order some more.

And I guess that is when the other guy noticed my accent or something because he looked at me and striked up a conversation.

As sometimes happens down here, when someone hears your foreign accent, they get interested in you.

Mostly because you will sometimes meet a local Latino in some non-touristy area that has never met a gringo before.

But, in this case, it was another American!

I forgot his name but let’s call him Frank.

He wasn’t too old – probably late 30s or maybe early 40s.

What was he doing in Paraguay?

Well, I explain to him that I am here mostly for some academic work reasons.

He nodded and went “you do look young.”

And he went on about his time down there..

“I started my time in Paraguay years ago as a Peace Corps. And I got used to life down here, I decided to stay after my time with the Peace Corps was over.”

“That’s cool” I responded while taking down a little more beer.

“And now I am mostly doing remote consulting work. I got into doing business down here with a local partner but that didn’t go down so well.”

Which, by this point, he had my interest as I was contemplating what business or job opportunities I could do while down here to support myself long term.

“What type of business?” I asked.

“A bar. I got partned up with a guy I met during my time during the Peace Corps and took some of my savings and money I earned after completing my Peace Corps to get started.”

He stopped for a second to drink a bit of his beer.

“Then I got fucked over. The guy scammed me for my money and ran off with what I invested.”

I figured it would be rude to ask him how much he lost but I assumed it had to be, you know, maybe 15,000 to 20,000.

Never having started a business myself, I couldn’t imagine the loss he must have took.

“I was in a real pinch when that happened. Thankfully, I still had money laying around but had to get off my ass quick to find a way to support myself.” He went on..

“And what about the money you lost? Did you ever get it back?”

Frank had a good laugh at that – “what are you fucking kidding me? In Paraguay get my money back? The police didn’t do jack shit and I never got it back. He took off with the money and fled to some fucking point of the country. Maybe Ciudad del Este or wherever..”

Of course, this is all paraphrasing what he said – I don’t remember the exact words but that’s how it went on.

He then looked at me and had some more beer before asking --- “so what’s your long term plans down here?”

I went on about how I am living in Argentina for the time period and thinking of settling down here.

He shook his head.

“Just be real fucking careful who you deal with in life. Maybe I’m a bit jaded but I can’t emphasize this enough – be real fucking careful. Life isn’t as formal down here. Things just don’t fucking work like you would expect. People can fuck you over easy, especially as you are a foreigner and ditch.”

“But where down here you thinking?” he asked.

“I don’t know yet. Maybe Colombia. I’ll be going there soon after Argentina and maybe I will like it enough. But I don’t know.” I replied.

He nodded – “never been to Colombia myself.” He said before having more beer.

At any rate, the conversation basically ended there.

He looked at his phone and concluded that he had to get going.

“Take care. And have a good time in Paraguay while you are here.”

Reflecting on Frank’s Words

Ultimately, the case of Frank getting fucked over and not being able to do anything about it is not unusual.

You read about similar things in the news.

Just the other day, I read in the newspaper down here in Mexico about some government agents abusing their power by harassing restaurant owners for money to reopen their business after covid-19 restrictions were partially limited.

Even though they supposedly had the official approval to do so.

And this one guy I read about apparently had to close down his place again and focus his attention on getting a lawyer..

Every other day or so, I see similar cases of crime going on posted on Facebook.

Some local Mexican posting “this person fucked me over! His name is Rodrigo Rodriguez Sanchez del Diablo y es de Tijuana!!!”

And how the person claims that they were fucked over on 20,000 dollars in Mexican pesos investing in a land or property that wasn’t owned by the thief!

Or how they were somehow fucked over in another way.

In many cases, the victim isn’t really able to do much. They got fucked over and that’s how it’s going to be.

Maybe in some cases, to be fair, they can do something about it but I hear more cases of people getting fucked over than not and not being able to get justice.

Like this example here below of recently how a few foreigners got fucked over by the police and had to pay a few hundred bucks.

Similar to my situation here where the police extorted me for some money.

Or this situation here of getting set up to get shook down and pay some money to some crack head pimp when I wasn’t expecting nothing.

Or how I know a guy in Colombia back when I was there that ended up losing some of his shit to a few dudes with guns on motorcycles…

To a guy you can read about here who I know lost a few thousand bucks to a thief.

And, in the end, there is nothing any of them can do anything about it.

As I wrote about here, there is a risk to investing in Latin America.

Where, if you are like Frank, investing in a business, especially one like a bar, can open you up to getting fucked over by thieves, the police, corrupt government agents or whoever the fuck it might be.

“oh si si, un gringo! Ya veo dólares!!!”

But how does this all play out in regards to the original topic of this article?

In regards to why Latin America is relatively more poor than other regions of the world?

Let’s get to that..

More Nuanced Perspective

Obviously, Latin America has been exploited before by more powerful countries like Spain or the US.

There is no denying that.

However, there is a certain degree of blame to be shared among the locals for fucking things up also.

Let’s take Chile.

Critics will say that the US had a heavy hand in overthrowing Salvador Allende!

But what about the local military, the generals and Pinochet?

Who, last I checked, were all Chilean when they overthrew Salvador Allende.

What about the good ol’ Chilean economists?

Who, as critics will point out, were trained in the US.

But, uhhh, last I checked, were Chilean.

What about the School of the Americas?

Critics often point out this US military institute often trained generals and people in Latin American militaries that ended up commiting human rights atrocities.

But, again, last I checked, those Latin American generals and other military professionals who did the human rights atrocities were….

Uhh….Latin American.

It’d be like if I gave a dude a gun and he ended up shooting a bunch of people.

Now even if I knew that he was going to shoot people (which may not always be true), he still has the responsibility to not shoot people.

So we can both perhaps take some blame here..

But the issue with folks like the professor mentioned in the start of this article is that they, for whatever reason, don’t want to apply responsibility and agency to people in Latin America.

To not fuck over their own communities.

Be it an evil Latino Dictator who kills lots of people like Pinochet or Stroessner of Paraguay…

Or the evil military general who orders a policy of massacring an entire village like in El Mozote of El Salvador…

Or perhaps the drug lords like Pablo Escobar who killed a shit ton of people..

Who, by the way, these people who often blame the US for the faults of Latin America always seem to blame the US for consuming the drugs but never the Latino drug lords for making and distributing them and killing their own people.

A bit odd…

You know, let’s blame people addicted to drugs like crack or heroine who need professional help to get clean but not the fuckers who distribute those drugs that ruin whole communities.

Oh, right, right, we can’t criticize the drug dealers because they are from Latin America and that would make us uncomfortable!

Because, you know, applying responsibility and agency to Latin America isn’t very woke.

And outside of those drug lords..

You then have the locals who fuck things up in smaller ways…

To the locals who attack indigenous villages in the Amazon and kill innocent people because they need the land for cutting down trees, agriculture, or whatever..

Or maybe the locals who extort businesses and cause businesses to shut down, which hurts the local economy and kills jobs…

Or maybe the fucker just scams a foreigner who can invest in the local community and create a successful bar!

Which would also bring investment and jobs to the community.

But, you know, let’s blame the foreigner for wanting to do something nice and not the local who fucked up a good thing.

Or the local police who are too fucking incompetent to do anything about it.

Or maybe they were in on it – sometimes these police do fucked up things as well

So to put it shortly…

On one hand, I agree entirely that Latin America has had a rough history of being mistreated by outside countries.

On the other hand, this perspective by said professor anyone who thinks this way is not very nuanced as it doesn’t take into account the vastly different ways that the locals fuck up their own communities.

Which ultimately is a factor in life down here that makes a lot of communities down here not as successful or wealthy as they should be.

And, I just want to point out, obviously not every local person in Latin America is fucking up their communities.

The bigger issue stands with those at top – the politicians, dictators, presidents, drug lords, etc.

And then on the bottom who fuck things up in smaller scales – cops, judges, criminals who can get away with their crimes, etc.

Most local people are not at fault for what happens down here and I don’t want to place the blame on them as most are just trying to live through the fucking mess they sometimes experience with shit that happens down here.

Just so we are clear on that.

Anyway, if you have any thoughts your own on this subject, let me know below in the comments.

I really do appreciate the comments by the way – makes me think I’m not just yelling into the wind lol.

And if you like this article, follow my Twitter here.

Thanks.

Best regards,

Matt

1 comment

Ed - September 26, 2020 Reply

Nice article. I don’t think there is a simple explanation as to why Latin America is underdeveloped compared to North America. However, I think most would agreed that corruption is one of the biggest issues holding back the region today.

I recently read that the average cost to build 1km of road in Russia is seven times that in USA because of all the extra bribes and kick backs that you have to pay to corrupt officials. Obviously, Russia isn’t Latin America but it demonstrates just how detrimental corruption can be to economic development.

Some academics attribute the high levels of corruption in Latin America to the influence of Catholicism. Protestants rejected Catholicism because they didn’t agree with the way that rich people could simply make a donation to the church to guarantee their place in heaven. Apparently, this ideology may have percolated Latin culture to the point that bribery and kickbacks are seen as just another business cost without any ethical repercussions.

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