Part 1: Roots, Chapters 2–3 Summary

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Last Updated on June 24, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1266

Chapter 2: The Spanish Borderlands and the Making of an Empire (1810–1898)

Gonzalez argues that, contrary to popular historical myths about the United States’ expansion in the nineteenth century, Anglos relied on the annexation of Spanish colonies. Settlers, mercenaries, and businessmen alike took advantage of the weak governments in the last Spanish viceroyalties.

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By the time of the Spanish-American war at the end of the nineteenth century, the US had amassed land in the Southwest—including Texas—Florida, the Caribbean Basin, and Central America. Four US Presidents supported this territorial growth, despite the negative effects it had in Latin America. Thus, Anglos seized control of their new territories’ land rights and resources, allowing them to exploit Latinos for cheap labor to fulfill the demands of the mainland. Gonzalez says this process is responsible for the eventual swell of Latin Americans migrating to the US.

Gonzalez then delves into the factors that contributed to Latin America’s independence from colonial rule. Criollos, a term that refers to whites born in the colonies, like the famous soldier Francisco de Miranda, pushed for better treatment by the Spanish crown, who bestowed most of the economic and political power on peninsulares, or those born on Spanish soil. At the same time, tensions rose in the colonies among its racially diverse population, which led to a splintering of rebel groups who sought independence from the motherland.

Furthermore, international wars for independence in the US and France served as ideological inspiration among Latin Americans, who formed juntas and militias to seize local control. Unwilling to relinquish control, Spain responded with force, leading to prolonged and deadly wars that nearly halved the populations of the colonies. Once the fighting ended, Latinos attempted to ally themselves with Anglos, yet the United States only saw Latin American nations as a source of financial and political gain.

Gonzalez asserts that many Latinos who had aligned themselves with the US during its revolution were shocked when the Anglos did not reciprocate. However, Gonzalez claims that this lack of support should have been anticipated. Many Latin American countries abolished slavery immediately after their independence, stoking fears from US slaveholders who worried that supporting Latin America would be an endorsement of anti-slavery sentiment.

In the Spanish borderlands, Anglos and Latinos frequently clashed with one another over control and policy. As white settlers migrated farther into Florida, they began a system of filibusters to gain control. This process entailed a band of Anglos capturing a town, then declaring its independence from Florida. Over time, the increase in filibusters convinced Spain to cede control of the colony to the US, hoping it would satisfy the Anglos’ obvious desire for Spanish territory.

The loss of Florida signaled the decline of Spanish influence in the Americas. The Monroe Doctrine prohibited further European colonization, while the US continued its expansion. In the rest of the chapter, Gonzalez discusses in depth the various success of these expansion efforts in Texas, the western frontier, Cuba, the West Indies, and other territories. The eventual result was American economic and political monopolization of Latin America.

Chapter 3: Banana Republics and Bonds: Taming the Empire’s Backyard (1898–1950)

Gonzalez notes that American territorial annexation ceased after 1898, but “gunboat diplomacy” and financial exploitation allowed the US to continue dominating Latin America. War or military occupations provided the opportunity for US banks and businesses to take control of major industries throughout Latin America as well. To further its interests, the US...

(The entire section contains 1266 words.)

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