From A (Allende, Che, and Evita) to Z (Zedillo, Chamorro, Menem and Fujimori): The Transformation of Latin American Culture at the End of the Twentieth Century

By Macune, Charles W., Jr. | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

From A (Allende, Che, and Evita) to Z (Zedillo, Chamorro, Menem and Fujimori): The Transformation of Latin American Culture at the End of the Twentieth Century


Macune, Charles W., Jr., Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Algunas veces profundos, frecuentemente estimulantes y otras veces amenzadores son los cambios que a finales del siglo XX estan ocurriendo en el mundo. Gracias a los medios de comunicacion es ficil estar informado de acontecimientos como la caida de la Union Soviotica, los cambios de Europa del Este y Asia; pero, aparentemente, estamos menos concientes de los cambios que se estan dando en America Latina.

El fin de la Guerra Fria, el triunfo de la democracia, el colapso del comunismo, la revoluci6n tecnol6gica en las comunicaciones, la economia global, los sistemas de libre mercado y el impacto mundial de la cultura popular de los Estados Unidos, son factores externos que han influido de manera muy profunda en los cambios de America Latina. En esta investigacion pretendemos analizar brevemente algunos de los cambios ocurridos en Latinoamerica y discutiremos cuales fueron las causas de dichos cambios.

It appears widely sensed that the world at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first is experiencing a profound and rapidly accelerating transition, politically, economically, socially, and culturally. The changes, both positive and negative, are so fundamental that this may well be the end of one of the great ages of history and beginning of another, perhaps comparable to the conclusion of the Classical or Ancient periods of Western Civilization and the start of the Medieval or the end of the Medieval and the beginning of the Renaissance and Early Modern.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Barbara Tuchman in 1986 described the present era as an "Age of Disruption."' She considered the fourteenth century, a century of so many disasters and violence, to be a mirror of the twentieth century because the former, just as the latter, was so distinctly an age "where everything was [disappearing], everything that people believed in." The three greatest problems confronting the world on the eve of the twenty-first century were, in her opinion, the threat of nuclear war, the destruction of the environment, and the deterioration of public and private morality. The third was the most significant, she was persuaded, for it was "the ultimate disruption." To her the world had "lost belief in certain kinds of moral understanding of good and bad," in part because of the absence of "religion as a major force in everyday life" and of the absence of taking personal responsibility for one's behavior.2

One's assessment of the contemporary world and humanity's prospects may or may not be quite as gloomy as Tuchman's, but the popular perception of profound, sometimes exhilarating, but in other instances, ominous change, seems increasingly widespread and no less intense than hers. This change occurring in the former Soviet Union, Europe, the United States, Asia, the Pacific Basin, the Middle East and elsewhere is fairly well-documented in the U.S. media. Consequently, the U.S. public appears broadly aware, if not very systematically and precisely, of the global changes, especially at home and, because of historic orientation, in Europe and Asia.

It is not so evident that the U.S. citizen is equally conscious of a comparable transformation occurring simultaneously in Latin America. But one suspects that the changes in Latin America are no less profound and disturbing, both positively and negatively, than what is found in other continents and societies.

This paper thus attempts to note briefly some of the changes in Latin America at the end of the twentieth century. Explaining why they are happening is more subjective and speculative. Obvious domestic factors include a weariness with dictatorship, a desire for personal freedom and opportunity, and economic aspirations for a better life. External influences undoubtedly include the end of the Cold War, the triumph of democracy and collapse of Communism, a global revolution in communications, a global economy and free trade systems, and the world-wide impact of American popular and consumer culture.

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From A (Allende, Che, and Evita) to Z (Zedillo, Chamorro, Menem and Fujimori): The Transformation of Latin American Culture at the End of the Twentieth Century
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