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Latin America perspectives a series of information and comment about Latin America with Dr. C. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. These programs are recorded by station w s r u FM. Here now is Dr. Gardiner with the national election of one thousand sixty eight behind us some student political activity has died some has subsided and a little survives. Many students temporarily became identified with politics because it was the thing to do in a certain season climbing aboard a McCarthy or Nixon or Humphrey bandwagon. And when the bandwagons ground to a halt so too did that headline type of student political activity. Less dramatic and less forceful will be the continued student identification with off campus politics.
Many American students have simmered down settling once again for skirmishes between Greeks and independents for such honors as homecoming queen and ugliest man on campus. And this suggests that American students tend toward short term identification with the realities of meaningful political activity and toward long term withdrawal into the fairyland fiction of campus nonsense. All this I raised by way of introducing the Latin American University student and the attendant question Are there patterns in Latin American student political activity. First to be recalled since Latin America has had both universities and students since the 15th 50s. But there's more than 400
years of tradition for this the matter of there being a student activity of one kind or another. Suffice it to say though that in colonial years there was no student activity of a political nature. The students even then had more of a meaningful voice in the life. The operation the nature of the university which they were attending now is the case with the average student in a university in the United States even today. In early 20th century years Latin America without exception had university systems that were increasingly out of step with the changing times with the measure of industrialization the internationalization of life the social impacts on domestic scene and in consequence it was not to be totally unexpected that a meaningful explosion
of sorts should arise. At one university which in turn would serve as a pattern for many others. In 1018 at the University of Cordoba in northwestern Argentina. There was formulated a statement of principles that became the basis of a university wide reform movement in Latin America. Two basic reforms were one the recognition of the autonomy of the university with regard to its internal affairs and the second a principle called Goal B etter know what sort of governing whereby students should have one third representation on faculty boards. This idea picked up initially at a provincial university in Argentina rapidly became popular in the rest of Latin America spreading to San Marcos in Lima to
Montevideo to Mexico and indeed by one thousand twenty one. Three short years after the movement was initiated in Cordoba in Argentina there was held the first international student congress in Mexico City. Later other countries increased the number until this became a genuine widespread call that Latin America wide University movement. Let me add that a number of circumstances regarding setting becomes important in understanding the relative measure of political interest and activity indulged by Latin American students. These of the their North American counterparts in the first place most Latin American universities of significance are in capital cities. Many of them are in the national capital. This means that once then that the university is in a setting
that today may have a half million a million two million three million people indeed be it large or small in a distinctly urban setting. This causes the student in such a setting to be more aware of the social economic facts of life thanks to the measure of poverty or the problems of transportation of unemployment and all else that are seen by him on every side in that urban setting. This I would hasten to add is remarkably unlike the experience of a university student who may be in the United States. Let us say Princeton a small town or at Stanford. Another small town. We have UC many leading universities that have no relationship to the urban problems. The explosion and the factors that relate to
so much change and revolutionary sentiment today. And we have great numbers of universities that are not related to political capitals. The national capital or even state capitals. In addition to the fact that the setting in the large city and that a political center tends to sensitize the Latin American student to politics. There also is of course the fact that he is in a setting which is producing a number of newspapers and the newspapers will bring him all of them or indeed keep him abreast of the facts of life again. A very high percentage of university students in the United States today leaving home. And this subscription that parents have to newspapers move off to university life divorcing themselves from anything other than the measure of coverage of news that they get from a campus newspaper which at best is no counterpart far a
big city daily are from the five minute coverage that may be caught at the end of the hour on the radio. This means then that they are under sensitized in reference to the current problems as on the other hand the Latin American students with their urban setting in the problems and close to the press screaming about the problems may be oversensitized. Also there is a marked difference suggested by the fact that most all of the Latin American countries fall into what is cold the under developed category. They have lagging economies. They have social structures that are either too rigid or too fluid. They have restricted job opportunities. There is a certain caution ineffectiveness exercised by the older generation of politicians. All of these you see are obstacles which almost become red flags before the proverbial charging bull
the sort of thing that invites student reaction indeed condemnation and a political sensitivity because the under developed circumstances then are all the more apparent this lagging state of life. There is within the student mentality a desire to bring the nation abreast of modernity and with the increased literacy that the university students have. They play a role that is meaningful beyond the campus activity. Let me point out for example that numerous student strikes at Latin American universities and they are for a variety of reasons I will grant you have centered about such things as increased fares on the public transport system. Now I've never known of any action by the students of CCNY Columbia University or any other institution in New York City that
stemmed from the fact that the charges on the subway system suddenly were increased. The point I make though is that when an equivalent movement is undertaken by the students at the University of Chile in Santiago at the University of Mexico in Mexico City they are not only plugging a fact of life that relates to the pocket book of the student themselves but they are also aligned to the position and the desires of a great segment of the working class. And in so doing they have put themselves into issues that relate to something bigger than the campus itself. This movement came about at Cordova that sensitizes lots of universities to the increased role of students. I would remind you comes at a time. End of World War 1 when there was a tendency for America to repudiate Europe. That tendency being born of the thought that Europe had fought this frustrating this
debilitating war there was really no victor. There was indeed a massive demonstration of stupidity. And so in the removal from European systems some of the removal is from what had been the inherited European idea of the university system. In other words it was logical in the post-World War 1 period to strike out on their own. Now if they're striking out on their own divorcing themselves from Europe they're also striking out on their own at a time when nationalism on the rise in Latin America calls into being a measure of anti U.S. sentiment. Because US dollars US investment suggested that more than a little of the economy of those countries was in the hands of foreigners. And so as Mexicans strive to make Mexico first and foremost for the Mexicans as Brazilians want to do the same university students point out the measure of dependence upon the foreign scene. And so
unlike the average American student on the campus who gets immersed in foreign affairs as he indulges the thought that he should participate at a mock assembly or that he should read a book about the Congo or some other area of the world he really has to reach out for it. The fact that foreign affairs by economic imperialism deep in the internal life of a Latin American country has also given the university student a toehold for activity in foreign as well as domestic affairs. Along came the revolutions of 930 and depression years and the students then turned against ministrations and began to aid in the overthrow of governments. In fact those who wanted to overthrow governments found that with the campus's sort of preserves beyond the police control it was well to cultivate political relations with them. And so every party began to put professional students on campus to recruit followers farm. Among others of course the Communist Party did this but
they were not alone. Many parties in Latin America prominent in the political life in Cuba of course the party behind a Castro in Venezuela. Indeed in Peru in Chile these have been borne of student activity. This interesting theme the Latin American student in relation to political activity has been in part inspired by an essay by Alastair Hennessy to be found in Latin America and the Caribbean the Han book edited by Claudio envelops published by Frederick A. Prager of New York. This was another program in the series Latin America perspectives with Dr. C. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. Join us for our next program when Dr. Gardner will comment on another interesting aspect of Latin American affairs. These programs are recorded by station
Latin American perspectives II
Episode Number
Episode 28 of 38
Producing Organization
WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3544. This prog.: Student Political Activity in Latin America
Global Affairs
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Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-31-28 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:35
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Chicago: “Latin American perspectives II; Episode 28 of 38,” 1969-03-17, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 29, 2022,
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APA: Latin American perspectives II; Episode 28 of 38. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from