How Colonization Breeds Inequality
The history of Latin America is marked by periods of colonization and conquest. Recently, society has followed a trend of denouncing the actions of those who have colonized Latin America as well as other lands which were once home to indigenous peoples. What some fail to realize, however, is that colonialist values still exist.
Eurocentric attitudes towards government continue to function in a way that discriminates against native people while elevating the status of the elite. Andrés Sosa Pietri, the former president of Venezuela’s national oil company, harbors this eurocentric sentiment and regards the history of the country as the product of purely european achievement, disregarding the influence native cultures had on a number of facets in society (Hellinger, 57). This is to be expected of someone with ties to oil in Venezuela, as they have benefited from this harmful narrative which serves to increase their personal wealth while the middle and lower classes see little to no benefit from the rich oil reserves of the country. With a gini coefficient of 44.8 (Hellinger, 52), it is clear that Venezuela is failing in its attempts to achieve a true democracy, which preaches values of equality. The same applies to other nations in Latin America which have actively excluded native populations from participating in government. Perhaps this is as a result of the model the United States has provided for these nations, which also has fallen short of its promise for equality.
The imperialistic tendencies of the United States as well as other industrialized powers not only impacts the lands in which they have colonized, but it also reflects in the values of the nation itself and how it functions. The US is wrought with systemic racism and exclusion, treating conquered peoples and other minorities as inferior and unworthy to participate in government. In many ways, the U.S. is not a democracy at all. The government functions much like an oligarchy, with a large concentration of power put into the hands of a few leaders. When the constitution was being drafted, almost all of the delegates tasked with creating it were wealthy landowners. In fact, the Bill of Rights was an afterthought. Therefore, the structure of their government is inherently biased towards the wealthy which has facilitated the level of inequality we see in America today, with the top 1% owning a majority of the wealth while the lower class grows and the middle class disappears. If Latin American nations are using the US for an example, they are setting themselves up for failure.
Moreover, developed nations continue to colonize countries through globalization. Often under the guise of humanitarian work or industry. Two of the main supports for globalization are that it promotes individual freedoms and decentralizes economic power (Hellinger, 30). In reality, it often happens that individual freedoms (such as the idea of democracy) are forced upon other nations, as seen via proxy wars between the US and USSR during the Cold War, which heavily influenced the governments we see in Latin America today. Also, while globalization does decentralize economic power, it disperses it elsewhere, often into third world countries where resources are exploited by corporations. During the Colonial Era, many nations justified their conquests of indigenous peoples as a mission entrusted to them by God (Hellinger, 83). This explains the influence Catholicism has on Latin American countries even centuries after the fact. Though this concept may seem outdated, this method of colonization is still prevalent today. Many mission trips to third world countries are thinly veiled attempts to indoctrinate the people living there while doing very little to actually help them with regard to education and economic stability.
It is apparent that while colonization does have some benefits, the drawbacks are overwhelmingly negative and have been primarily used to serve the people conquering rather than the people being conquered. The influence of faith, eurocentrism, and globalization — particularly in regards to the spread of ideas such as democracy — have been used to justify the continual exploitation and exclusion of native peoples and minorities.