PostColonial Perspective in Latin America

The Postcolonial Perspective in Latin America

The American continent experienced its first Western colonial experience at the end of the 15th century, when colonizers arrived in the Caribbean islands in an expansionist campaign funded by the Spanish crown. Since then, it has been speculated that the continent and especially Latin America has continually suffered from a colonial and/or imperial state, known as "dependency theory." Although this idea was developed in 1950 to explain the increasingly global markets of various countries in the region that relied upon connections to "first world" markets,[1] it has also been tied to US "manifest destiny"[2] emerging in US discourse in the mid-1800s, the same time as when most Latin American countries were achieving independence from the Europe. Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes acerbically refers to US policies in Latin America "between Manifest Destiny and the Good Neighbor Policy" (in 1933), where the region had to defend itself from "growing North American imperial arrogance, gunboat diplomacy, and big stick policies."[3].

Theories considering the conditions of Latin America as Iberian post-colonial and US imperial have mainly dealt with economic and ideological as opposed to cultural factors. Hence, dependency theory, postmodern theory, and globalization theory have achieved greatest attention. Theories dealing specifically with "postcolonialism" have not applied directly to Latin America, partly because of the span of 500 years which has passed since "colonialism" proper has occurred, and partly because of the disconnect as to where these theories were originally developed by postcolonial theorists, mainly South Asia and Northern Africa.

I would like to discuss in this space how alternate "postcolonial" theories have developed in Latin America to explain the unique situation of the region. Fernando Ortiz's concept of "transculturation" pairs nicely with Homi Bhabha's more recent conception of "hybridity"; and the Latin American subaltern studies group was inspired by the Subaltern Studies Group (SSG) consisting of South Asian scholars.


  1. Cardoso, Fernando Henrique, and Enzo Faletto. Dependency and Development in Latin America. Trans. Marjory Urquidi. Berkeley: U of California P, 1979.
  2. Tucker, Vincent. Cultural Perspectives on Development. New York: Routledge, 1997.
  3. Fuentes, Carlos. Prologue. Ariel. By José Enrique Rodó. Austin: U of Texas P, 1988. 13-28. p. 16.

Project Links

Fernando Ortiz and "Transculturation"
The Latin American Subaltern Studies Group