Global Crisis and International Organization in the Americas

AHA Session 304
Conference on Latin American History 69
Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Patrick William Kelly, Northwestern University
Patrick William Kelly, Northwestern University

Session Abstract

The first half of the twentieth century was defined by a series of crises whose reverberations were felt around the globe, from two World Wars to the Great Depression and, finally, the arrival of the Cold War. In the Americas, a region with a deep history of international cooperation, policy makers sought to confront the challenges of a rapidly changing—and increasingly connected—global reality together, though not always as a unified whole. This panel examines the impact of global crises on international cooperation in the Americas. Focusing on the collaboration of the American nations—through Pan American conferences, the creation of multi-national labor unions, and the strengthening of international law, for example—we seek to highlight the legal, economic, and political dimensions of inter-American norms and institutions, and the ways in which these were shaped and re-shaped by global events. By situating case studies of individual countries and movements within a larger international context, these four papers contribute to recent scholarship on Latin America in the world. We seek to draw out the multi-layered currents, from the global to the regional and the local, that shaped Latin America’s 20th century experience.

Focusing on economic cooperation at the height of the Great Depression, Teresa Davis’ paper explores the strategies used by Latin American diplomats to defend their economies in the face of global financial collapse. With an emphasis on the Pan American Union and the League of Nations, Davis explores the intersection of diplomacy at the regional and international levels. Gregory Malandrucco provides a different perspective on Latin America’s response to the Great Depression, examining the establishment of the Confederación de Trabajadores de América Latina (CTAL) in Mexico in 1938. He argues that the regional labor organization provided an important platform from which Latin American labor leaders would later confront an ascendant United States. Ashley Black’s paper also highlights an example of Mexican leaders seizing an opportunity to play a greater role in regional affairs. She explores Mexican efforts to serve as a bridge between the Pan American Union and the nascent United Nations, drawing attention to shifting American relations in a moment of global transition. Finally, Stefano Tijerina relocates the roots of Latin America’s Cold War in the Ninth Inter-American Conference, held in Bogotá in 1948. He argues that the assassination of Colombian presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, shot in the streets of Bogotá as the meeting took place, opened the door for a consolidation of U.S. power and a regional acceptance of a new, anticommunist agenda.

Together these papers aim to open a dialogue about the multiple dynamics that shaped international cooperation in the Americas in the early twentieth century. We will explore how Latin American leaders sought openings and opportunities for their own advancement as small powers in moments of shifting global dynamics. At the same time, we hope to show how they challenged and re-imagined the core principles of Anglo-European internationalism, envisioning institutions of international cooperation less subservient to the objectives of the world’s great powers.

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