The Cost of Contrarianism

Year 1898 was a very painful time for Latin America. It was the year when everything changed. Spain went away for good, and the US made it known that it would dominate the hemisphere from now on.

The fear and the humiliation that Latin Americans experienced in 1898 (and every year since then) gave birth to contrarianism. What is the US associated with the most? Democracy and capitalism. To many people this meant that Latin America had to be against both to continue existing as something other than a US backwater. Almost immediately after the devastating blow of 1898, Latin American philosophers, scholars and artists began to argue that democracy and capitalism were for primitive, stupid people incapable of any intellectual or artistic achievements.

Latín America spent the next 100+ years trying to cling desperately to socialism and authoritarianism. It still wasn’t spared an ounce of the US’s meddling or overbearance, of course. Contrarianism can’t effect a separation because it draws you inexorably towards the very thing you try to flee.

For everybody else, the twentieth century ended in 1991. For Latin America, it goes on. The pouting against the US is still the favorite pastime and its costs are still high. These things go both ways, though. Latin America got its revenge by making its victim cult fashionable everywhere in the West.


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