Harvest of Empire Characters

Harvest of Empire does not feature traditional characters. Instead, the book traces the histories of various countries and ethnic groups.

  • Spain: The Spanish colonials arrived before Great Britain, bringing with them their Catholic faith and monarchical leanings.
  • Britain: British colonials were Protestants and preferred democratic governance.
  • The United States: The US swallowed up territories from other powers and exerted distant control over Latin American nations.
  • Puerto Rico: A territory of the US, Puerto Rico struggles with its ambiguous, state-less status.
  • Mexico: A significant source of labor, Mexico has been exploited by the US through trade deals like NAFTA.
  • Cuba: Cubans have long enjoyed special treatment by US policies.


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Last Updated on June 24, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1202

As a work of nonfiction, Harvest of Empire does not have characters in the traditional sense. Instead, it discusses the relationships between various countries over the course of several centuries. 

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As a colonial power, Spain settled many regions of South, Central, and North America. These regions make up the majority of what is now collectively known as Latin America. The Spanish took an aggressive approach to colonization, forcibly converting the native inhabitants of the region to Catholicism and imposing the Spanish language onto them. This, combined with generations of intermingling and intermarrying, resulted in a much stronger cultural tie between the inhabitants of Spain and the Spanish colonies. The Catholic faith continues to be prominent in many parts of Latin America, and the widespread adoption of Spanish language and customs has led to a decline in traditional cultural knowledge amongst native Southern and Central Americans.


Unlike the Spanish, the British did not intentionally intermingle with the native inhabitants of the Americas. Furthermore, the British colonies were settled with significantly less centralized planning and authority than the Spanish colonies, and most of the North American colonies had no binding religious or linguistic ties to Britain. However, the expansionist mentality of Britain did influence the behavior of the United States in the wake of the revolutionary war, leading to the establishment of the United States as a major regional power.  

The United States

Once a group of British colonies, the United States won its independence and became the major hegemonic power of the Western Hemisphere. Rather than supporting its Latin American neighbors in their pursuit of independence, the United States took an opportunistic approach and accumulated large sections of land for itself. As the twentieth century began, the United States stopped its pursuit of territorial expansion, but it continued to leverage its economic and militaristic power over Latin America. More specifically, the United States helped dictators who supported its economic interests maintain power in their countries, leading to the development of politically unstable and financially dependent “banana republics” such as Guatemala and Honduras. The United States also granted Puerto Rico commonwealth status, which gave Puerto Ricans citizenship within the United States but also gave the United States greater control over Puerto Rico’s political landscape. 

The United States’ one major failure as a hegemonic power is Cuba, which became a communist dictatorship under Fidel Castro in 1959. In response, the United States offered favorable incentives to Cuban refugees in the hopes of undermining the Cuban government. 

Though there has always been racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States, Gonzalez notes that it escalated in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. The subsequent restrictions on immigration and enhanced xenophobia from white Americans has resulted in a tense and divisive...

(The entire section contains 1202 words.)

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