The political role of (most) protestant churches in L. America (was Re: On "Hispanic" Republicans (was Re: [Marxism] re:Buying

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at
Sun Mar 27 14:49:25 MST 2005

Respuesta a:"On "Hispanic" Republicans (was Re: [Marxism] re:B"
Enviado por:Carlos A. Rivera
Con fecha:27 Mar 2005, a las 14:09

M. Junaid Allam states:

> Aside from
> the evangelical wave, which is recent, the protestant churches have
> followed the catholic church in political terms in Latin America.

This is enormously mistaken.

The problem does not lie in the political options of different 
churches vis a vis the options of the catholic church.

The problem lies in the simple fact that while most popular 
catholicism is deeply ingrained in the sense of cultural independence 
of Latin Americans as such, most protestant churches have always been 
promoting either lack of interest in collective issues (thus 
dissolving links with L.A. national struggles), or, worse yet, 
loyalty towards Anglo Saxon powers.

There is a telling anecdote, dating back to the late years of the 
19th Century.  By the way, I will give you some hints on the history 
of Southern Patagonia that you may find of use.  Please have some 
good map of Southern South America handy.

The Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego (Great Island of Land of Fire) 
controls both the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Canal and the 
Estrecho de Hoces -Strait of Hoces or, in English, Drake Passage-, 
which were the three feasible links between the Pacific and the 
Atlantic up to the construction of the Panama Canal.  

Today, the Western side of the Island belongs to Chile, the Eastern 
one to Argentina.  Chile controls both mouths of the Strait of 
Magellan, and Cape Horn (which controls the Strait of Hoces).  The 
North-eastern coast of the Beagle Canal is under Argentine control, 
and the whole Southern coast as well as the Northwestern coast is 
Chilean. But up to the Argentinean takeover of Eastern Patagonia, 
this was a _de facto_ no man's land at stone's throw, so to say, of 
the British colonial outpost of the Malvinas.  

The Chileans had built Fuerte Bulnes (later Punta Arenas) on the 
Magellan Strait in 1846.  From a strictly legal point of view, the 
Argentinean authorities could have contested this,  because the rule 
of thumb in frontier definition between Hispanic American states had 
been the "uti possidetis iuris", which meant that whatever belonged 
to each separate Spanish Viceroyalty belonged to the country that had 
grown out from it, and the original "Capitanía General de Chile" -
which was itself a dependency of the Vice Royalty of Peru- did not 
extend to the South of Chiloé, nor to the North of Copiapó.  

But this was not contested. The fact is there were no actual 
"Argentinean" authorities in those times.  There was a very loose and 
embattled Confederation, where the Governor of Buenos Aires was 
confered the right to manage the foreign relations of the whole 
thing.  In 1833, Britain (in the wake of a prior attack by an 
American seaman) had taken the Malvinas, a colonial situation that 
still endures.  In 1844 a joint British-French fleet had established 
an embargo on the Confederation in an attempt to force the 
internationalization of the Paraná River, and in 1848 there would be 
still another embargo, this time with a military-commercial naval 
expedition upriver which encountered such a fierce resistence that 
the British thought it wiser to negotiate (while the French were left 
in outraged loneliness).

This should be added to the fact that the ruling class of the 
Province of Buenos Aires was not too interested in territorial 
expansion, and then you can see why, in a situation of obvious 
weakness and under attacks at the core of the country, there was no 
Argentinean claim for the foundation of Punta Arenas.

From the Chilean point of view, however, control of the Strait of 
Magellan was essential.  Ever since the country had split from Perú, 
the Valparaíso commercial oligarchy and the Santiago agrarian 
oligarchy had established the strongest link with the British 
bourgeoisie in London.  Thus, what up to that moment had been a 
Spanish dependency on the Pacific began an independent (so to say) 
country which lay on the Pacific but, in fact, belonged to the 
Atlantic.  The umbilical cord between Chile and "the World" (that is, 
London) was the Strait of Magellan.

So that there appeared Punta Arenas, no Argentinean protested, and 
the whole area remained a no-man's-land with a Chilean important 
outpost controlling traffic on the Strait and a strong British 
stronghold in Malvinas to keep the whole thing at bay.

Speaiking of umbilical cords (and this is important here).  Punta 
Arenas soon became the birthplace of that most repugnant of colonial 
ruling classes, the Southern Patagonian oligarchy.  A foul-smelling 
mixture of brothel administrators, liquour sellers and usuriers mixed 
some Chileans (like the Campos family) and British navigation and 
banking interests into what would later become the core of the 
murderers of Indians and workers in Southern Patagonia, by the end of 
the 19th and early 20th centuries:  the Braun Menéndez, Campos 
Menéndez and Menéndez Behety families that accumulated enormous land 
grants together with the British Crown in the best sheepland of 
Southern America. Keep in mind for what follows.

In 1880, there was a revolution in Argentina.  This revolution put an 
end to the age of the civil wars that had been plaguing Argentinean 
history ever since the campaigns of Buenos Aires against Artigas 
(1811, a year after the May Revolution and five years before the 
declaration of independence of the United Provinces in South America -
we were still in the wave of the Bolivarian revolution- in 1816).  
The leader of that revolution, General Roca, expressed the wishes and 
interests of the local bourgeoisies of the Inland country, among 
which the final incorporation of Patagonia (Eastern Patagonia at 
least) to Argentina was one of the main objectives in a regime that 
was decided to build up a "national" state in Argentina.  It could 
even be said that modern Argentina was born in 1880, not in 1810. 

Within this objective, the stabilization of the situation in Tierra 
del Fuego was an obvious target that was taken to reality by a very 
interesting character in our history, Commodore Luis Laserre.  It was 
the last portion of Patagonia to be incorporated to Argentina.  Its 
capital city, Ushuaia, was founded in 1884 by Laserre, but by those 
times the land was not exactly a "no-man's-land" any more.

Because there had already existed attempts, led by _Anglican 
missions_ to colonize the Land of Fire from the Malvinas outpost.  
When Laserre founded this first clear sign of Argentinean power on 
Tierra del Fuego, there had existed Anglican missions for some 
decades, an obvious and almost archetipal first stage in the "mission-
trading outpost-military" series so usual in the later decades of the 
19th Century.  This mission was headed, at that moment, by Reverend 
Lucas Bridges, and it was strongly linked to a mission, set up 
exactly to that end, in Keppel Island, a small part of the Malvinas 

The foundation of Ushuaia was a clear sign of sovereignty of 
Argentina which aborted the introduction of British rule (in fact, 
Bridges used to have a Union Jack at a mast in the mission) and 
stopped the attempt for good.  Bridges, for example, had been sending 
Tierra del Fuego indians to London, had been working on a Yaghan-
English dictionary (Yaghan was the language of the native islanders), 
and when he received the invitation to attend the ceremony of 
foundation of Ushuaia not only _did not_ attend, he used the piece of 
paper in order to collect some terms for his dictionary (this is why 
the invitation is at anyone's view at the Ushuaia museum today, so 
that whoever does not believe me can go there and see by her or 
himself: you can ask for my friend and cde. Hugo Santos there for 
more data on British influence in Southern Patagonia)

The Argentinean authorities, who were for the most part skeptical and 
agnostics, understood the importance of religion and thus favored the 
San Francisco de Salles order in the whole area.  Thus, religious 
struggle was a part of the general struggle for sovereignty in a 
contested region.  

This Patagonian story is repeated today everywhere in Latin America.  
In Argentina, you have the missions among the Chaco indians, for 
example, where they were taught English but not Spanish, and so on. 

So that, yes, the Protestant-Catholic struggle has a distinct 
political flavor in Latin America.  BTW:  the great Latin American 
poet knew this, and this is why he mentioned the issue on his "Ode to 
Roosevelt", which was a sarcastic poem against the "barbarian of the 
North" (Teddy) written by about the same time that these things that 
I am telling you about Tierra del Fuego were taking place.

And go ask Brazilians if the Evangelic churches are CIA fronts, or 

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
"Sí, una sola debe ser la patria de los sudamericanos".
Simón Bolívar al gobierno secesionista y disgregador de 
Buenos Aires, 1822
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