Before I ever travelled and began living in Latin America, I never really gave this part of the world much thought.
It always seemed as “foreign” to me as the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa or anywhere in the world that isn’t Canada.
Just some part of the world with a very difficult culture, language and everything else.
However, as I began traveling through the region and have been here for over 6 years now, I have come to see the differences between the US and Latin America as not being THAT huge.
Perhaps, in part, you could argue that the shrinking of difference is due to all of the relationships I’ve made over the years down here?
After all, the more people you know and more time spent down here, the more familiar it all seems.
That’s an entirely fair point.
However, I would argue though that, despite some of the cultural, linguistic and historical differences, that Latin America isn’t CRAZY different from the US.
It’s hard to explain.
The people here don’t feel THAT different from people in the US.
Of course, Latin America in of itself is a huge region with its own noticeable differences that can make one part noticeably different from another part.
I’ve been to almost every Latin country and I can just name drop certain regions that are noticeably different from others.
Like Uyuni region of Bolivia to Tiera del Fuego of Argentina.
Or São Paulo of Brazil to Masaya of Nicaragua.
Perhaps Mexico City to Barranquilla of Colombia.
And Santo Domingo of the DR to Punta Arenas, Chile.
Maracaibo of Venezuela to Xela, Guatemala.
So on and so on.
And the differences from one place to the next have their roots in various origins like demographics (one area heavily indigenous to another heavily black) to language, culture, development and more.
Like how small town Iowa isn’t Manhattan of NYC.
Yet, despite the differences of small town Iowa to NYC, they are both part of the same country with the same nationality.
And, despite the differences being arguably even larger in Latin America given how much larger the region is compared to the US, you still have a concept of “Latin America” bringing the whole region together.
Of course, we all know there is a divide though between all of Latin America and the US and Canada.
Where both areas, despite being part of the Americas, are seen and see themselves as fundamentally too different.
Though, despite that, you obviously do have efforts to tie the regions together at times.
Some of those efforts being very one-sided though to be fair like the US enforcement of the “Monroe Doctrine.”
Or the Organization of the American States existing with its heavy American funding as you can see here.
"The United States is the largest financial contributor to the OAS, providing an estimated $68 million in FY2017—equivalent to 44% of the organization's total budget. The United States historically has sought to use the OAS to advance economic, political, and security objectives in the Western Hemisphere."
And you have the “Festival de la OTI” as you can see here that was meant to promote Ibero-American unity with US participation.
It was a musical competition that lasted for 30 years from 1969 to 2000 that was meant to be similar to the Eurovision Song Contest with each participating country contributing a song
You can see a little bit of that here.
Napolen Vive Festival OTI Mexico 1976
And, among all of the other examples we have, you also have the “Pan-Americanism Movement.”
What is Pan-Americanism?
Here’s a video describing it and here’s a quote from an article going into detail here.
“Pan-Americanism is a movement that seeks to create, encourage, and organize relationships, associations and cooperation among the states of the Americas, through diplomatic, political, economic, and social means.”
And there’s some history behind it all!
For example, the first ever Pan-American conference was held in Washington in 1889 to 1890 to discuss economic issues like tariffs with subsequent meetings held in South American cities as you can see here.
Then you had former US President Franklin Roosevelt who established the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs to promote pan-americanism as you can see here.
And while that was all a century ago or less, you have institutions and projects to this day that represent Pan-Americanism in a way.
For example, you have the Pan-American Highway.
Or the Inter-American Peace Force.
You also have economic institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank and human rights institutions like the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Among all of the other examples out there!
However, while these institutions do exist, it’s also a separate question as to if Pan-Americanism can develop culturally and not just institutionally.
Despite the similarities I have grown to recognize between the US and Latin America over the years living down here, I also understand that not everyone would agree with a “Pan-American” understanding of the Western Hemisphere.
The Historical Power Difference
Right away, we should address one of the bigger elephants in the room.
The topic of the historical power difference that has existed between the US and Latin America.
The basic argument being that, due to the consistent US interference in Latin America (coups, supporting dictatorships, economic sanctions and more), then the two regions could never see each other as one.
With Americans (and Canadians) seeing Latin America as a region of “third world peasants” with Latin America seeing the US (and Canada) as too exploitative.
And, in the real world, you can see examples of how this plays out.
For example, while living in the US, you do have people who see Latin America as “too third world” like Trump calling certain countries like El Salvador “shitholes” as you can see here.
Which, to be fair, El Salvador isn’t the best place to live if we are being honest but I get why people in El Salvador would be offended by that.
To Latin politicians exploiting “the big bad wolf of the US” to win over votes as I wrote more about here (even if their rhetoric isn’t always fair or accurate).
With plenty of Latinos agreeing with that and explaining their own perspective in written works like Eduardo Galeano's "Open Veins of Latin America."
Still, times change.
When Trump called certain countries “shitholes,” you had plenty who agreed with him but you also had A LOT of people who gave him shit for that.
Equally, not everyone in Latin America views the US or other exploitative countries as bad.
As you can see here, you even have those of the right in Latin America waving imperialist Spanish flags!
"Since June, Peruvians have been witnessing an unusual sight in the streets of Lima. Groups of people have been spotted bearing a flag with a little-known symbol called the Cross of Burgundy — it made its first appearance during post-election rallies against purported election fraud by current President Pedro Castillo and his party, Perú Libre.
More recently, on October 12, which is both Spain’s “Día de la Hispanidad” and Peru’s Indigenous Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue Day, the Peruvian Patriot Society (Sociedad Patriota del Perú) carried the flag in front of the statue of Christopher Columbus in Lima’s historical center.
The group claimed to be protecting the statue from demonstrators against the legacy of colonialism and violence perpetrated during the Spanish conquest against indigenous populations."
Also, there’ll never be a period in which there is never a power imbalance.
Every region has some countries that dominate some much more than others.
In Europe, a country like Germany is sometimes seen as overly influential in Euro politics but they still have the European Union (and, as we all remember, Germany wasn’t always the most friendly country in WW1, WW2 & the Holocaust).
Though countries like Japan have had crazy imperialistic abuses in the Korean Peninsula and China and China being seen as a bit aggressive by some Asian countries these days, you still have a united understanding of what is “Asia” over there from my understanding as you can see here.
So, just because you had historical abuses and power imbalances, doesn’t mean you can’t unify someday.
And, as we have seen, you already have institutions in place for Pan-Americanism to some degree.
It’s largely a cultural issue from my understanding.
But can culture change?
Changing Demographics & Cultures in the US
Many might point out how the US seems closer to Canada than Latin America.
They are right.
The US and Canada do have a much closer relationship (though, from the few Canadians I have met, it does seem like some of them can be snobbier towards the US than in reverse but that’s just my opinion).
Still, this isn’t the 1950s.
When Donald Trump called a country like El Salvador a “shithole,” (among other comments towards Latin Americans), I remember waking up to seeing a SHIT TON of people PISSED at what he said on Facebook.
With media institutions like CNN exploiting that for the ratings.
As a side point, I don’t think the anger over that comment was necessary.
If we’re being honest, even your hardest liberals would NEVER set foot in El Salvador because they’d piss their panties at the thought of being gangbanged and murdered over there.
We all know that they wouldn’t want to live there.
We all know that they see El Salvador as “less than ideal” for living.
Still, despite that and despite how many of Trump’s supporters agreed with that word choice of “shithole,” you had A LOT of people angry about it also as I said.
Of course, with Trump saying things to directly, that’ll obviously leave a bad impression to some Salvadorians and leave some of them with extra proof for their pre-conceived notions about us gringos.
That notion that we are all some 1950s Americans who think we are better than them.
Not that we have a better country (which is arguably true) but that we are a better people.
When, despite how even hard liberals really think about El Salvador, most don’t think they are better than your average Salvadorian.
In fact, most Americans don’t give a rats ass about El Salvador because they have rent to pay with 2 jobs.
But even more rural Americans who don’t live in urban cities and who aren’t always “PC” do not necessarily think that Salvadorian people are beneath them.
Plenty are humble folks who might have ignorant beliefs about Latin America as a whole but don’t wish ill harm on people there.
This isn’t some stereotypical 1950s America where non-white folks get hung from trees.
Similarly, you have demographic changes.
As we all know, you have plenty of Latinos moving to the US all the time.
Plenty who live there right now.
Latin culture has more prominence in the US (especially urban America).
It’s even slightly cool to be seen as Latino among some folks.
Well, assuming you pass as some suave Latino stereotype that could star in a Telenovlea or you are a college kid. Less so if you’re an average looking Latino working a construction site or the back of a restaurant.
And you even have linguistic changes as you can see here.
"With over 40 million native speakers, heritage language speakers, and second-language speakers, the United States has the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world after Mexico, surpassing Spain itself."
Still, demographically and culturally speaking, the US is changing.
As you can see here, the US will be a country where white people are not the majority.
Of course, not all of the non-white people will be Latino. Most won’t.
But I do think that, in general, those demographic changes will make it easier to a degree for more “Pan-Americanism.”
Mostly because, from my perspective, Latinos can sometimes be insecure about skin color like Americans can be.
In the same way that many of them stereotype all Argentines or “white Mexicans” as being arrogant cunts who think they are better than them.
While there is smoke behind that fire, not all Argentines or “white Mexicans” are like that.
And, to a degree, I think it’s representative of how some Latinos just see all white people as naturally being arrogant, racist and “higher than thou” due to some insecurity complex.
With the US becoming less white and soon to have white people no longer being part of the majority (especially with more Latino immigrant influence), I feel it would help bridge the divide between the two regions even more.
But let’s move on.
Always Power Difference Despite Demographics?
Let’s tie the last two points together though briefly.
While many argue that the US is declining (that is true in my opinion), I don’t see it declining so much that it becomes on equal footing to the rest of Latin America.
In some worst case scenario that doesn’t involve nuclear war, maybe the US somehow becomes a less nicer version of Brazil that can still dominate the region.
And, despite the demographic changes, I don’t see the US becoming necessarily nicer to Latin America when it comes to flexing its power over the region.
Just because you got more brown people doesn’t mean that exploitative practices aren’t enforced.
Though, with more non-white people in the US (especially those of Latin descent), you’d arguably have more reaching positions of power like AOC in Congress.
Just more of her perhaps.
With that said, I could see the US becoming more “understanding” of Latin America with more Latinos in Congress and other positions of power.
Be it political positions of power (like Congress or the Presidency) to financial positions of power (CEOs) to national security positions of power (like the CIA or whatever else).
Though really those in Congress do I see expressing more sympathy for Latin America in how we interact with the region.
And, even in Congress, you’ll always have Republican Latinos like Marco Rubio who calls for more action against Venezuela if their government does anything wrong as you can see here.
To probably some Latino Democrats who are more corporate center that don’t see as much issue with foreign intervention and “business as usual” politics.
Still, I could get the argument from some about how “with more Latinos and non-white people, the US will show more sympathy to interacting with Latin America in a fairer way.”
I think there’s room for that to happen at times in the future but every country acts in its best interest ultimately.
And, unless the US gets nuked off the map in a nuclear war with China or Russia, then I don’t see it becoming on equal footing with any Latin country anytime soon.
That’s the only way I see it becoming “on equal footing” when it comes to power within the next 100 years.
So we should understand that there’ll always be a power dynamic despite the demographic changes in the next 100 years (assuming no nuclear war happens).
And a power dynamic, to be fair, doesn’t mean that more of a “Pan-Americanism” push can’t happen.
Though the power dynamic is less strong, you have examples like Brazil or Mexico carrying weight in the region and still being seen as “part of Latin America.”
Or Argentina for example (despite its comments by presidents like this one here).
Argentine President: Brazilians from Jungle, Argentines from Boats Comment
Especially with changing demographics in the US and how the interest of Latin politicians (or even gringo ones) not always aligning with that of their voters…
I could see some “Pan-American” push by leaders of the Western Hemisphere where you still have a bit of power imbalance but one of which would likely bring at least some benefits to Latin America.
The Populist Question
For any real Pan-American movement to happen, you'd need to address the populists on both sides.
The Chavezs on the other side who blame every minor problem in their respective society on the US so as to deflect blame away from their own short-comings.
And the Trumps on our side who wish to blame immigrants for problems on our side.
But, more importantly, you can't just get rid of the populists but also the roots of where they come from.
Which, to keep it simple, you'd have to address the socioeconomic inequalities that exist on both sides that encourage voters to find the simple "strong man" more appealable.
Similarly, in the European Union, you have countries like Poland where leaders that are more populist than in other countries can rise to power and can equally find difficulties with being part of a continental group like the EU.
"We want to be part of the European family, but we want respect!" - Polish MP
Of course, to address these socioeconomic problems, you have to do so that "checks" the corporate leaders that favor financial and political elites over most of the people while not encouraging populist policies that make little to no economic sense.
Because, it's my opinion anyhow, that the policies of the elites (real populist talk here ironically enough) encourage certain conditions for people to vote in politicians like Trump to Chavez.
Like how, in the US, you had deindustralization that pissed off a lot of people. Someone like Trump can respond to that well as you can see here.
Trump's Team in Talks to Stop Indiana Company From Moving to Mexico
But someone like Trump or Chavez can also make things more difficult for uniting the two (or one if you're Latino) continents for a Pan-American movement given the rhetoric of both types of populists.
The Insecurity Complex
We already discussed the ignorance that some Americans and Canadians can carry towards Latin Americans.
And we'll be discussing it again soon in other ways later in this article!
Still, to extend beyond the "populist question," we also just need to say briefly that any "Pan-American" reality needs some Latinos in Latin America to drop their insecurity complex.
That insecurity complex in which they blame all of their life problems onto the US and other foreign countries.
Where they stop thinking that literally every single foreigner (or most) believes to be above them when, as I'll say later, most don't even think about them.
A "Pan-American" reality can't exist when such insecurity complexes exist.
In order to limit Chinese influence, it was announced some new security alliance recently by the US.
This alliance, as you can read here, involves the UK, Australia and the US.
Known as AUKUS.
When I saw the news on that, I thought it was funny and called it “the Anglo Alliance.”
Despite how all three countries have gone immigration changes that make each of them “less Anglo” in demographics than the past.
Especially the US and the UK from my understanding.
Of course, countries like the US do have other alliances out there (being a world power, how could they not?).
But some would argue that Latin America has similarities with this also.
After all, history always plays a role in how things play out now.
And Latin America is more “aligned” in a way with Spain and Portugal.
The Iberian peninsula.
History is history!
Of course, as more history is made, things change.
As I said, demographics in the US are changing and that could change things in the future.
But it is worth mentioning this way of looking at this detail also.
Could Conflict Bring the Region Closer?
From my limited understanding, one of the reasons for the European Union to exist was to help prevent future wars given its history prior to the World Wars.
There is no country in the Americas that could reasonably challenge the US alone without the help of a super power like China.
Like Europe that had various great powers that competed with each other and had little distance between them.
Some would argue that, due to the lack of risk over one great power fighting another in the Americas, that there’d be less need to promote any “Pan-American Union” like the European Union.
To me, that makes sense.
And, on top of that, it’s also a question of how changing geopolitics will impact any true “Pan-American movement” within the next 100 years or so.
With China rising and another Cold War likely on the doorstep (if not already here), you can argue that influence alone will eliminate any real “Pan-Americanism.”
As we saw in the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, you had changing geopolitics all the time that would’ve stopped any real Pan-Americanism.
Be it Cuba that almost got nuked off the map.
To civil wars in Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua.
The coup against Allende in Chile.
So on and so on.
With the next Cold War coming up, countries will likely pick sides between the US or China.
With side picking being done, I imagine that it’d be fairly difficult to have any real “Pan-Americanism” within the next 100 years.
Similarities Across the Region
Let’s keep this simple.
Though there are differences from Latin America to the US.
For example, both regions have had plenty of immigration with a mixing of people from various backgrounds.
And, as I said, the US has had PLENTY of that over the last century with possibly A LOT more in the future as there’s talk of having a “billion Americans” as you can see here.
Where would they come from?
Most not from Europe if I had to guess (and a majority not from Latin America either if I had to guess).
To both regions consisting of former colonies where their independence movements were inspired, in part, by the enlightenment.
Or how both regions have plenty of republics being the form of political governance.
And both regions have “Jus Soli” as their standard for citizenship.
So on and so on.
Despite the differences, you have similarities too!
Cultural American Influences into Latin America
This is one point in favor of some "Pan-Americanism" happening from a cultural perspective in the future.
That being how American culture does have strong influence in Latin America and the rest of the world.
In this article, we have discussed how Latin culture influences the US with the arrival of so many immigrants.
It goes both ways but differently.
While you do have Americans like me who move to Latin America, we don't move in numbers vast enough to change the culture down here.
Instead, the culture down here is influenced by the US for other reasons.
That being, among other reasons, the US being one of the most important countries globally and being right next to Latin America.
Our companies moving down here.
Our shows and movies being broadcasted to screens down here dubbed in Spanish.
Latinos learning English as much as they can.
Many who wish to move to the US temporarily or permanently and who share what they learn in the US back home.
Perhaps even marry a gringo or gringa (that they met up there or down here).
And all of the cultural influences that US institutions like the Peace Corps, State Department and others bring to the table.
Among any other cultural influences that are brought in somehow to Latin America from the US.
Suffice to say, I feel this does have some importance when it comes to considering any "Pan-American" potential.
Free Movement of People
If we were to take the idea of “Pan-Americanism” to the same idea of how the Europeans do it with the European Union, then we have to discuss the “free movement of people” that is seen in the European Union.
Could that happen in the Americas?
Well, to have a Pan-American Union, that also brings up the idea of “free movement of people.”
You do have Democrats in the US who want to have less consequences for crossing the border illegally as you can see here.
"Most Democrats promise to decriminalize border crossings during 2020 debate"
Of course, promises are always different from action they just want votes...
And with the changing demographics (with more Latinos and less non-white people in general), I can see MAYBE more open ideas to having a “free movement of people” among the Americas in the next 100 years.
Of course, this all completely ignores how LATIN AMERICAN countries would feel about such an idea.
With countries like Costa Rica having more negative opinions of Nicaraguans crossing over illegally.
To Mexicans being critical of the Central Americans doing the same.
Or anyone and grandma being angry about the Venezuelans in the region.
And Argentines not being happy with immigrants from Colombia, Paraguay, Bolivia, etc.
The Dominicans not happy with the Haitians.
So on and so on.
Much of which I wrote here.
Let’s not pretend that it’s JUST the Americans who don't want a free movement of people.
Much of this discussion has been about how the US would tolerate the idea but not too much about how Latin Americans would be open to it outside of their politicians exploiting the xenophobic knee-jerk reactions to “da yankees.”
For a true “Pan-Americanism,” we’d need Latin Americans to be more open to their own neighbors crossing the borders and, as we can see here, that’s not always the case.
They really aren’t that much better than the gringos in this regard.
As a side point, I’ve also wondered how this factor plays into it all?
As you can read here, I have caused a tiny conversation about the idea of if Latinos in Latin America should call themselves “American” or not.
The dispute basically boiling down to, among other issues, the topic of what is “America.”
With people in the US calling the US “America” and themselves “American.”
To Latin Americans considering both North and South America to be the same continent of “America” with themselves technically being Americans also.
Though the gap in opinion on this between both sides might limit any cultural understanding of Pan-Americanism, I’m not entirely sure that is the case.
After all, people in the US still see South America as “something America” so to speak.
And people in Latin America already see both North and South America as “America.”
I don’t see this difference of geography understanding as being the biggest issue but I suppose it’s something to bring up.
Lack of Shits?
Next, let’s mention one other obstacle to any idea of “Pan-Americanism.”
That being the typical American understanding of itself relative to Latin America.
Most people in the US don’t give a shit about Latin America.
They see themselves separate from the region minus certain issues that they see affecting their country (immigration, drug trafficking, etc).
But those issues typically (though not always) have to do with Mexico and a few Central American countries.
Sometimes said Americans will shit on Cuba or Venezuela.
And sometimes they might mention a comment about Brazil’s Bolsonaro if they are leftist and wish to talk shit about someone that gets trashed on CNN and compared to Trump.
Outside of that? No discussion.
No discussion about Paraguay to Nicaragua among the common folk.
That’s understandable – as I said, they got 2 jobs to pay rent!
Who had time to worry about issues in Bolivia when you got a family of 4 to feed?
I get it.
Though, to be fair, some of the examples of geographic ignorance regarding Latin America in the US is a bit laughable.
Fox and Friends -- 3 Mexican Countries
Though, to be fair, Latinos in Latin America have plenty of their own ignorance regarding the rest of the world but I've already beaten that topic to death and it's not relevant here.
Still, despite the demographic changes, I do wonder how this impacts any cultural affinity for “Pan-Amercianism.”
After all, not all Latino children of immigrants even identify with their roots and many don’t speak Spanish perfectly.
Their grandkids will be in touch with the roots even less!
So on and so on.
Of course, that doesn’t completely eliminate any cultural-diplomatic connections as, even to this day, both Italy and Argentina have strong relations from my understanding.
Argentina's Italian Bloodline
Still, most Americans in the future will not be Latino.
It isn’t just white non-latino Americans who don’t care about Latin America.
Most black, Asian, middle eastern and all else Americans don’t give a shit either unless they have Latino roots.
And most of the US will never be Latino in my lifetime.
Because of that, you’ll always have a disconnect, to a degree, between Latin America and the US despite the positive impact of the demographic changes mentioned that will, if I had to guess, push the two regions a tiny bit closer than before.
A Latin American Union?
Being honest with you, I see more of a possibility of a "Latin American Union" happening before a "Pan-American Union."
Mostly because of the issues mentioned above and how it'd be technically easier to unite Latin America into a union before uniting it with the US and Canada.
Of course, even uniting all of Latin America into a union would be difficult as you do have geographical and some demographic issues as mentioned before.
Plus, you have some cultural issues also.
The difference between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance for example.
Two Latin Americas -- Financial Times
Politics always changes though.
But, despite the political differences, I could see a "Latin American Union" first since it'd have less of the obstacles that come with a "Pan-American Union."
Final Verdict: Pan-Americanism?
Look, we already have some Pan-Americanism as I said in the beginning of this article.
Though the “Pan-Americanism” that exists is almost (if not entirely) institutional and not cultural.
We’ll always have “Pan-Americanism” as a concept institutionally in the same way that every region of the world seeks to have institutions (economic, diplomatic, human rights, etc) that serve to bring countries of the same region together.
That’s just common sense.
We are neighbors? We got common issues to work together on since we are so close together geographically along with the economic benefits that come with working together.
When we discuss the “Pan-Americanism” concept, it’s really a question of if it can translate to the cultural.
I would also argue that, in very small ways, it already has.
Be it the demographic changes mentioned above.
Or the cultural changes like this example here below.
Latin American Music Awards 2021
But then, going beyond that, we should ask how far will this go?
Well, time will tell.
As I said before, I don’t think the cultural changes will be so big that the US will feel so culturally aligned with Latin America that “Pan-Americanism” is imminent.
If I had to guess, I would say the US maybe becomes a little more closer to Latin America due to demographic changes.
More institutional changes along the way to support it.
But very slow progress on anything cultural.
And as for Canada?
Much of this article (almost all) has been on how the US changes.
I can’t comment on Canada.
I’m not Canadian and am not as familiar with that country.
Being an arrogant American, I always just assumed that Canada would follow the lead of the US if the US ever decided to become more “Pan-American.”
But that’s as far as I can take my guesimating when it comes to how Canada plays in with all of this given that I don’t know Canada very well.
Anyway, that’s all I got to say.
Got any comments?
Drop a comment below in the comment section.
Would love to hear your take on any “Pan-American” potential in the Western Hemisphere.
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Thanks for reading.