Quebec and Latin America Reaffirm Priorities

Article excerpt

Differing Views of Quebec and Latin America

In April 2001, the Summit of the Americas was held in Quebec City and was attended by representatives, high-level politicians, and civil servants of the United States, Canada, and all nations of Latin America save Cuba. The object of this meeting was to continue discussing the principal aspects of a Free Trade Agreement for the Americas, to be negotiated and concluded by the thirty-four countries on the Latin American continent before the year 2005. The fact that the province of Quebec was the meeting place for this summit meeting was not a random choice, since Latin America has been a point of political, social, cultural, and economic reference at different levels of Quebec society for more than seventy years. Added to this line of reasoning is the fact that, when building its identity imagery, Latin America has always been a referential concept for Quebec (Gay 1983; Saragossi 1996).

Most analyses of the character and history of relations between the province of Quebec and the countries of Latin America affirm that such interest has appeared even more clearly since the Quiet Revolution. In fact, many principles of Quebec's international policy were born during this period and it is logical, therefore, that Latin America should hold an important place within this vision (Mace 1989,1993; Therien, Belanger, Gosselin 1994; Donneur 1994; Balthazar 1993). But, as I will show here, the origins of this relationship go back to the middle of the nineteenth century when, in 1867, four of Britain's North American colonies--Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island--disputed in Quebec City "the possibilities offered by the Mexican market as a commercial alternative to the expansionism of United States' markets" (Gutierrez-Haces 1997). Even so, Quebec's presence in Latin America cannot be characterized as a continuous one, nor can it be said that its presence has touched most of the countries on the American continent, much less can it be affirmed that it has always manifested the same impetus, or that it has always carried the same weight. This is explained when we take into consideration the traits characterizing its own history, as well as the degree of Quebec's political and economic development during its transit within the confederation of Canada.

The purpose of this paper is to draw up an analysis and at the same time a re-reading--from the point of view of a Latin-American intellectual--of the significance of the impact Latin America has had on Quebec in four aspects considered as key to developing its international policy.

-- The right justifying Quebec's claim as a province for extending its internal sphere of competence to Latin America.

-- The inclination shown in Quebec, both individually and as a society, to consider Latin America, Latin Americans, and everything Latin American as a real space and image, in which it can test its ideals and values, and reaffirm its identity.

-- The way Latin America has inspired political and social discussion in Quebec on oppression and its exclusion.

-- The possibility Latin America offers Quebec to test its discussion of Quebec as a modem and more aggressive society economically than the rest of Canada.

Because other authors in this same issue are analyzing Quebec's international policies and its relations with the United States, Europe, and Asia, my focus here is limited to examining what has occurred in Latin America. Paradoxically, the large bibliography of Canadian and Quebec authors proved to be greater than that existing in Latin America, when counting papers devoted to this type of analysis (Mace and Goulet 1996). In fact, the intellectual interest aroused by Quebec in Latin American circles has been limited mainly to literary and cultural aspects, which for decades have been widely supported, thanks to Quebec's Francophone-linked policy. …