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The Latin American perspectives a program of comment and analysis about current Latin American problems and their historical setting. A commentator for these programs is Dr. C. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. Here now is Dr. Gardner. Fertility is a nine letter word pregnant with hope. Futility is an eight letter word couched in despair in the abstract fertility and futility hope and despair would appear to have nothing in common. But alas in our realistic world we find the two are often so related as to be synonymous with each other in broad areas of today's world. The birthrate threatens the prospect of the better life. Every speck did an long term student of Latin American demographic headaches. JM state costs has given us by way of Cornell University Press.
A volume of essays entitled human fertility in Latin America sociological perspectives. In the 25 year period. One thousand forty one thousand sixty five. Brazil has added 40 million people to its population. And in the 15 years between one thousand sixty five and one thousand eighty will add that many more. Latin America as a whole will add three times this number to its population in the 15 year period every five years. Latin America is adding the population of Spain and every four years Brazil is adding another Portugal. So rapid is the growth that by the end of the century there will be almost nine Latin Americans living for everyone who
was living in 1920. The implications of such growth rates can be seen more clearly if we consider one country for example. The Republic of El Salvador. The tiniest of all the Latin American countries is also the most densely settled. With nearly three million people on twenty one thousand square kilometers it is one of the few nations in our hemisphere which can be called crowded since virtually all the arable land is under cultivation. Despite the fact that six of every 10 persons employed are in agriculture El Salvador's production of foodstuffs has lagged behind population increase for many years and consequently the nation must import great quantities of food annually. As is true for most other Latin American nations El Salvador's population problems began earlier in the century as a result
of a rapidly declining death rates in 130 the nations annual birth rate was no higher than it is today between 45 and 50 births per thousand but its death rate then twenty two per thousand was over twice the present rate. As a result three decades ago population in Ecuador in El Salvador rather was growing by about 35000 persons per year the same birth rate today on the larger population base. Amounts to 100000 increase annually to make these figures more realistic. Let us examine the implications for just one area of the modernization process. Mass education like other modernizing nations El Salvador aspires to raise significantly the educational level of its people. With half
of its adult population presently illiterate over the age of only 15 cents of every dollar is going to education at present. Even so only Fifty eight percent of the children 5 to 14 years of age are in school and only 14 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 19 attend school. Now suppose the government wished only to maintain this admittedly low level of educational achievement. Because of the growth of population by 1980 it would have to double the number of primary school seats and more than double the places in the secondary schools. But suppose they have set higher educational goals for themselves. That has a ninety eight percent of the primary school children are to be in school and 45 percent of those of secondary school age should be there.
In this case they would have to more than triple the present number of primary seats and increase the secondary educational opportunity by nine times. This then makes frightening the difficulties facing a nation. Desiring education mass education during a period of rapid population growth. We have then a fundamental fact in Latin American life with El Salvador but an example suggests that picking one self up by the bootstraps so to speak is an exceedingly difficult thing. Some of this may be Latin American peculiarly some of it relates to the nature of man at least man in the western world generally. It can be said with a great measure of truth but both Christianity and capitalism are enemies of the improved prospect for the masses of population.
I mean to say that Christianity with an emphasis on the saving of souls is always interested in greater numbers and capitalism always interested in greater numbers of customers is interested in greater population of the latter might well apply to communism as well. But the fact is that as underlying factors in our life as the economic force that is capitalism and as underlying a factor in our life as is the religious force of Christianity both are on the side of the quantitative rather than stressing a qualitative opportunity. In some areas of Latin America there is an argument frequently advanced that they can afford more population tens of millions more because they have no problem of density that indeed the ratio of
man on the land is so thin that they can expand the population in definitely. This of course is a conclusion they reach by implied comparisons. They will look to the number of people in Belgium they will look to the number of people in the United States they will not however take into account the fact that you have different rates of technology you have different educational level levels you have different gross national product you have per capita income at different levels and that it is not simply a matter of counting noses and counting acres of land and saying if you have the land you can have more people on it. The density argument falls away in reference to Latin America. When one points out that the flight of population is away from the wide open spaces. They have for
years been moving by the millions toward Mexico City not from it toward Buenos Aires not from it. Indeed the Brazilian experiment of establishing a new capital city in the heartland of the country is an effort to force the population to move into the interior of Brazil. And despite the political focus that Brasilia represents despite the fact that roads that power lines that many of the other trappings of 20th century life are going along with this experiment Brazil finds a massive reluctance and indeed the people are crowding the slums of Sol Paulo the slums of Rio instead of going to the interior for the opportunity. And so the very patterns of movement the very patterns of contemporary Latin American life give a lie to the statement that they have the space and therefore need population to fill it. Sometimes
the Marxist counter argument in reference to space in reference to population control by suggesting that the advanced capitalistic Nations as the United States for example now advocating increasingly public policies of population control will do so because they want to keep the weak less numerous peoples indefinitely in that secondary condition. This then they say is a myth the myth of space and man that we are in the capitalistic world playing to our own advantage so that we can always keep the underdogs exactly that keep them the producers of primary products. And so we have even in the area of population problems today an ideological conflict between advanced capitalist and capital and the communist states of the world. In
1980 in Puerto Rico there was an election that brought this whole matter of birth control into politics to a degree that never previously had pervaded any Latin American scene. There was an effort at that time by a great segment of the population to. Remove from the books the permissive laws on birth control which had been in effect in Puerto Rico for well all the years since 1939. It led to a very explosive political campaign in which bishops threatened excommunication in which the woman mayor of San Juan stood up against the bishop. And then you have bishops appealing to archbishops and a great deal of political a great deal of moralizing argument advanced the whole thing represented a victory by the government in that there was a continuation of those in power who advocated a birth control
program. But. They had faced such opposition that they timidly retreated and now all of the information. Now the program is a centrally put into private hands rather than through normal government agencies. Sometimes the thought is advanced but in Latin America as in Ireland there may be an eventual solution to the population problem by a change in the married habits of the people. Today in Ireland the vast majority of people do not marry prior to the age of 24 or 25. This of course reduces the childbearing years this reduces the overall population potential. Meanwhile in Latin America marriages may well be at six eight or more years before that in consequence. It would be a long range underlying change if Latin America were to come to adopt any such approach to
marriage. That would reduce the size of the families. Latin American surveys from north to south have indicated that all like small families of two or three children. But usually these choices are indicated after the family has six or eight already in the household. And so these ideas are not particularly helpful in reference to the fundamental problem now at hand. We have in this volume human fertility in Latin America sociological perspectives a series of essays by a leading spokesman on this subject. He has dealt with patients he has dealt with Puerto Ricans he has dealt with Peruvians. He has brought massive amount of evidence in on all scores. And it is indeed a work to be enjoyed human fertility in Latin America sociological perspectives by cyclists.
This was a Latin American perspectives with Dr. C. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. Join us for our next program on Dr. Gardner We'll examine another aspect of life in Latin America Latin American perspectives is produced and recorded by station WSI you Af-Am at Southern Illinois University and is distributed by the national educational radio network.
Latin American perspectives II
Episode Number
Episode 2 of 38
Producing Organization
WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see previous entry. This prog.: Human Fertility in Latin America by Stykos
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: 68-3-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:13:33
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Chicago: “Latin American perspectives II; Episode 2 of 38,” 1968-02-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 5, 2023,
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