Cold War Solidarities between Latin America and the World

AHA Session 136
Conference on Latin American History 21
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Columbus Circle (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Marian E. Schlotterbeck, Hemispheric Institute on the Americas, University of California, Davis
Luis Herrán Ávila, University of New Mexico

Session Abstract

Political action in Latin America during the Cold War traversed borders and oceans. This panel examines these expansive politics, focusing on how solidarities formed and what they meant to historical protagonists. Presentations examine individuals and organizations with diverse political goals from communist to anti-communist motivations, as well as anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles for rights and independence.

Bringing these varied case studies together, panelists similarly consider how cold warriors engaged in political solidarity and to what end. Wendi Muse examines letters Brazilians sent to black political leaders in Portuguese African colonies during their respective concurrent struggles against military rule and colonialism during the 1960s and 70s. Muse considers the language Brazilians employed, especially regarding race and nation, to express solidarity with their African counterparts and how uniform expressions of solidarity belied a backdrop of competing constructions of freedom, recognition, and democracy at home. Elizabeth Schwall focuses on U.S. choreographers, who staged productions in Cuba that championed struggles for civil rights and Black Power in the U.S. The presentation considers how diverse historical protagonists conveyed solidarity through movement and how these performances fit into a larger repertoire of political action. Craig Johnson turns attention to anti-communist activism, examining how Catholic lay political organizations formed coalitions and campaigned on behalf of their foreign brethren in a thus far understudied network of solidarity and ideological mixing. Closely examining the foundation and spread of the Society for the Defense of Family, Tradition, and Property (SDTFP) - from Brazil to Chile, Argentina, Colombia, elsewhere in Latin America, and eventually France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, and the U.S. - reveals a different map of international organizing and political connection. Finally, Alyssa Bowen examines the Chile solidarity movement of Spain. Moving from solidarity with the socialist government of Salvador Allende to supporting measures to remove right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, Bowen foregrounds the transformation of “solidarity,” calling for greater attention to the way activists and scholars understand and apply the term.

This panel should be of interest to historians of Brazil, Cuba, Chile, and the global Cold War. Luis Herrán Ávila, the commentator, is an expert on conservative, anti-communist, and extreme right movements and is writing a book on the national and Latin American dimensions of right wing activism in Cold War Mexico. The chair Marian Schlotterbeck, an expert on twentieth-century Chile, has published a book on the radical left in Allende’s Chile and is writing a second book on children in Pinochet’s Chile.

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