Friday, June 16, 2023

The History of Latin America

The Latin American Political History Map is an animated map which attempts to visualize the ever changing history of Latin American politics, by revealing the political leanings of Latin American countries (and the USA) over the course of over 200 years.

I've been following the heated debate on Twitter around this map with some interest this morning. Many of the perceived problems with the map seem to center around the subjective definitions of countries' political leanings. There seem to be a lot of disagreements with the map's choices about the defined left or right wing leanings of countries at different times in their histories. There also seem to be a few questions as to why some military dictatorships have avoided being colored as 'military Non-Aligned'.

Border changes in South America 1783-1994, according to Historic Borders

What doesn't seem to have been mentioned so far on Twitter are the country borders. According to the Latin American History Map all the country borders on the American continent were agreed upon sometime before 1789 and they haven't changed since. 

The map's starting point of 1789 goes some way to explain some of the problems with this map. The fact that the American Revolution was chosen as a starting point for a history of Latin American politics may hint at the perspective of this map. 

What I like most about this map is the 'Events' sidebar which provides some historical context to the politics of Latin America. This timeline covers some of the most important historical political events in the last two hundred years of American history. The timeline is synched to the map, so, if you click on an event in the timeline, the countries mentioned/effected by an event are highlighted on the actual map.

If you are interested in how Latin American country borders have changed during the last 200 years then you might find this Historical Country Borders post useful, as it links to a number of history maps which attempt to show country borders changing over time.

Caleb Lovell has addressed many of the concerns raised about his map on his blog post Building Latamap. In this post he directly addresses the fact that 'political affiliation is an ever-changing, hotly debated topic' and explains the difficulties he faced in deciding on the political affiliations of country leaders. Lovell explains that it is often difficult to assign a leader to just one category. For example Augusto Pinochet was clearly a military dictator but was also clearly on the far-right of the political spectrum. Lovell chose to categorise Pinochet as far-right on his map. This doesn't mean that Pinochet wasn't a military dictator. 

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