Society and Culture in the Hispanic World – History Essay

Society and Culture in the Hispanic World – History Essay
Prompt: “The popular trend is to define development in terms of progress toward a complex of welfare goals, such as reduction of poverty and unemployment and diminution of inequality” (Broockfield).

How far do you agree with this as a definition of development?

The Penguin English Dictionary describes development as going through “a process of natural growth, differentiation or evolution by successive changes.” I feel that development is a mixture of both this definition and that of Broockfield. However, we must also take note that the Broockfield’s description of development speaks in almost quantitative terms and development. In this essay, I plan to show how development is much more than just a progression towards “a complex of welfare goals, such as reduction of poverty and unemployment and diminution of inequality.”

Over the past century, many changes have taken place in Latin America in terms of development. Brookfield speaks of development in quantitative terms, which is not a good way of measuring development. If you were to look at a country based on the GNP, this often doesn’t give a fair appraisal on the actual situation within a country. The GNP may appear to be good and show a good standard of living but if you were to actually look at the situation within the country then it would show that this is an unrealistic overview of what is actually occurring. Within many of the countries in Latin America, there is a large disparity between those who are rich and those who are poor. So even if the GNP does appear to be good, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the country is developing well. In many of the countries within Latin America, they are mono producers, which means that their main export is of a certain product. For example in Chile, the main product that is exported is copper, which in 1985 made up 46% of their total exports . We must also remember that in Latin America, development has been impaired by the USA as many of the Latin American countries have borrowed heavily from the USA. The other problem affecting the countries within Latin America is the fact that they mainly export their products to the USA and are then forced to buy back the product they originally sold them at often treble the original cost. This may mean that although the countries in Latin America are gaining money in order to progress the development of the country, the same people who are helping them in monetary terms are also holding them back.

Another factor in development that must be considered is education. It is easy to speak of increasing employment and as a country reducing inequality and having welfare goals. However, in order to reach these goals it is of utmost importance to educate people. Without an education, increasing awareness of inequality and decreasing unemployment is virtually impossible. In countries such as Bolivia, Guatemala and Honduras where the illiteracy rates are high, it is unlikely that the situation will improve unless certain sections of society are given the opportunity to an education. The ideal of gaining any form of employment that will pay someone

enough money to look after their family is impossible if they don’t even have any form of education.
When talking of equality in relation to the countries of Latin America, it is easy in principle to say that in order to gain some sort of development then inequality must be reduced. However, the traditions of the Latin American countries must be taken into account. The ideas of machismo and marianismo are ingrained into the children within the Latin American societies from a very young age. It is expected that the men within society will go out and earn money for their families while the wife of the family is expected to stay at home and look after any children they may have. It is also not surprising if the husband has affairs and has many other illegitimate children. This is just an accepted fact that it goes on in society. If the parents are teaching their children these stereotypes of the roles of men and women within society then it is going to be a slow process changing the minds of the people to accept women as equal to their male counterparts. Therefore it is more problematic including it as a symbol of development within society when it is likely that it will take a lot of time to resolve this inequality.

We must also take into account that there are smaller things that can occur within a society that signify that the country is beginning to progress. Cubitt highlights this in a case study where there had been a certain degree of penetration by capitalists into rural areas. With the increase in popularity of a certain product, in this instance coffee, businesses had entered into a rural area and the people in the town changed what they produced in order to supply enough coffee in accordance with the demands of the people. It meant that in a few years, they had gone from supplying coffee not only on a national market but an international market. It meant that people were able to improve their situation to a certain degree. They were able to build roads and have better forms of communication between towns. This may not be seen as development on a large scale but it did however mean that the people in this case developed and improved their situation.

We must also take into account that, as Broockfield has said in his definition of development, that there are many people in Latin America who are suffering to a certain extent with extreme poverty. Cubitt highlights the problem that, ‘Latin America’s nutritional levels are higher than in many other parts of the Third World, and yet it is estimated that 15 per cent of the region’s children suffer from medium to high level malnutrition, which means, given the differences within the region, high levels in some areas (Lopez Cordovez 1982). One of the major factors inhibiting greater improvements in consumption levels is inflation, to which food prices become very vulnerable. Because of inflation, real food prices in the great majority of Latin American countries were higher at the end of the 1970s than the beginning. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the rural population of Latin America lives in conditions of poverty.’
As Broockfield has also stated in his definition of development, welfare goals are an important factor in the development of a country. As a country develops, it is important for certain aspects of welfare have to be considered, such as increasing the numbers of doctors and the entitlement to be able to see a doctor when unwell as well as increasing the numbers of hospitals. Without this, the development of a country is extremely limited.

To a certain extent I am in agreement with Broockfield’s definition of development. However, it must be said that his definition is used in quantitative terms, which often don’t show the true picture of the development of a country. If the GNP is good, it may appear that the country is in a better situation than that which it is. If we look at development in terms of improvements that have been made within society such as better forms of communication, a reduction in illiteracy, more employment in general, equality, better welfare, improvements in the reduction of malnutrition and reductions in poverty than we will have a far better idea of how a country truly is developing.