GEOGRAPHY and economics, aided by time and the progress of industrial science, afford more than sufficient explanation for the change recently witnessed in the relationship of Latin America to its two magnets of political and economic attraction, a change involving a gradual drifting away from Europe in the direction of the United States. The arguments advanced by nature have recently received the support of an enlightened foreign policy on the part of the United States -- a "good neighbor policy" which has succeeded in correcting many of the former errors and abuses of "dollar diplomacy" and "Yankee imperialism." To this have been added the help of a liberal commercial policy at Washington, resulting in the conclusion of reciprocal trade pacts between the United States and half of all the Latin American countries, and the development of air communications to such an extent that great physical distances between the two Americas have been drastically diminished.

As a matter of fact, the thing to be explained is why the change, under such unprecedentedly favorable circumstances, is not progressing at a faster pace. The recent Buenos Aires Conference for the Maintenance of Peace showed only too clearly that it indeed is not proceeding as rapidly as might be expected.


The factors working against the change are many, but three are outstanding: one, cultural or historical; two, political; and three, economic.

The cultural factor is recognizable at once by anyone familiar with the history of Latin America. The northern section of the American Continent was settled by religious émigrés and puritan pioneers eager to build a new world, different from, and freer and happier than, the old. The Spanish conquistadores -- the very name is revealing -- had no such dream. They had not set out to found a new world but to extend the old world and its civilization into new lands. Their discoveries and conquests were prompted by ambitions of mixed greed and glory which bound them inexorably to the old civilization they had carried across the ocean. Someone has written that the "three g's" of the conquistadores were gold, glory and gospel. But the gold they found they took back to Europe; the glory they reaped went to increase the prestige and pride of glorious sixteenth century Spain; and the gospel they preached was exclusively the gospel of the only religion Spain admitted. Thus the wealth, the culture and the religion of the colonies became inseparable from those of the mother country.

The links formed by the conquistadores still hold. The achievement of independence by the Latin American nations did not cause nearly so great a rift between them and European civilization as did in the North the success of the Revolutionary War of the thirteen English colonies. Through one whole century of independent life, the cultural heritage of the governing classes of Latin America has remained exclusively European, predominantly Spanish and French. Only in recent years have the younger generations expressed their longing for a more genuinely native civilization, and that vaguely and only at isolated points. The education, literature and arts of the present generation of Latin Americans -- except in the minor instance of the Mexicoled revival of Indian art -- are essentially European. And one could name few elements which bind people together more closely, unless it be religion; and here, too, the Latin Americans turn their eyes to Rome, that is, to Europe.

This historico-cultural factor is constantly being emphasized by two different active influences.

The first is, naturally enough, Hispanism, which plays upon the direct blood relationship between Spain and the young American republics. It appeals to "the religious devotion due to the mother country," to " the love every son owes to the parents who brought him into the world and nurtured him until he became of age," to "the invincible and almost mystical strength of the ethnical relation." It has powerful weapons, most powerful of all that of language. And it has three million conscious or unconscious agents, Spanish emigrants of this generation living and working in various parts of the former colonies.

The other tendency may be described as Latinism, of which there are two different brands.

From the Italian point of view, Latinism stresses the unity of all the peoples who were Latinized through Spain and so inherited the spirit and civilization of Rome. It appeals to their imagination by invoking Roman grandeur and Roman beauty, and it appeals to their hearts by means of the Catholic faith.

From the French viewpoint, Latinism implies the spiritual and cultural leadership of France, visible head of the Latin world and privileged heir of the spirit of the Latin races. It proclaims, with much reason, the ideological affinity between France and the republics, "daughters of the French Revolution," and it emphasizes the intellectual rule of French culture, until now undisputed, over the educated classes of Latin America. In recent years, France has had an added ally in the League of Nations, which carried to far off corners of the world the French ideal of the organization of international peace. But here we come upon the political factor which has also operated to oppose any alteration in the Latin American relationship to Europe.


Probably nowhere else in the world was the creation of a League of Nations received with such genuine enthusiasm as in Latin America. Latin American statesmen had been clamoring ever since their countries achieved independence for some sort of an international organization which would subject the relations of states to the same standards of morality as those ruling the relations of individuals within a civilized community. Bolivar, the South American liberator, has often been mentioned as the first modern pioneer of the organization of peace, and for over a century the Bolivarian dream has been the highest goal of Latin American political thought. But even had it not been so, even had the idea of a society of nations been entirely alien to them, Latin Americans could not have failed to recognize the value of the guarantees such a society promised to countries of modest military strength.

It is because they did recognize those advantages, and because they did see in the establishment of the Geneva institution a partial even though imperfect fulfillment of their hopes, that the statesmen of Latin America hastened to give their adherence to the League of Nations and have been, ever since, among its staunchest supporters. There also was another reason why they welcomed the appearance of the League. It gave their countries the first opportunity to sit permanently side-by-side with the Great Powers and to participate, if only as theoretical equals, in the councils of the world. Latin American statesmen have occupied, and still occupy, important positions in the League organization. The last assembly was presided over by the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs. The strength of these links between Latin America and Geneva was recently shown conclusively by the zeal -- the successful zeal -- with which they were defended at the Buenos Aires Conference. There is significance in the fact that all projects suspected of being incompatible with League obligations were decisively defeated.

The League of Nations is indeed a solid transatlantic bridge between Europe and Latin America. So solid a structure is it, in fact, that not even the recent setbacks suffered by the Geneva organization have undermined it. Alarmist reports that Latin America was "through" with the League, which followed the refusal of certain South American governments to apply full economic sanctions against Italy in the Ethiopian imbroglio, were, to use two famous words, "greatly exaggerated."

The Latin American countries which insisted on carrying on their trade with Italy did not desert the League. What certain ones -- but only a few -- did make clear was that they doubted whether the League was able or even willing to enforce the boycott decreed against Fascist Italy. Observing past performances, and weighing all the contemporary circumstances, they had become skeptical as to the sincerity of the chief elements in the League which demanded a united front to make the world safe for peace. They pointed out that time and again in the past, when other imperialistic ambitions made a mockery of Geneva principles, the Powers which control the League remained unmoved. They stressed the fact that this time the same Powers were seeking action only because the desire for peace happened to coincide with their own material interests. They argued, too, that even now the economic sanctions had been approved only half-heartedly, and that while Italy was being publicly condemned and officially denied arms and credits she was still being supplied with oil by the Anglo-Persian Company and with various essentials of war by other concerns owned or controlled by nations technically her opponents.

Under these circumstances, Latin American statesmen who questioned the League's sincerity announced that they would abstain from boycotting Italy until their doubts had been cleared up and the League had proven that it was willing to risk a major European war to enforce its sanctions. Of course, even in the event that the League did go all the way in stopping Italy by means of war it might still be alleged to be acting primarily to protect the status quo, i.e. to protect the interests of the Great Powers controlling it. But this argument would not have impressed the Latin Americans if once they had seen that the gentlemen at Geneva "meant business."

The Latin American governments may have outgrown some of their first romantic enthusiasm for the idealism of the League in view of its preoccupation with preserving the status quo. But they have nothing to gain from an alteration of the status quo, and they probably would have been found on the side of its supporters if a showdown had come. What some of them refused to do was to make possibly useless sacrifices until the League itself had demonstrated its sincerity in outlawing Italy and until it had shown the extent to which it was willing to go in enforcing its judgment.

If the League actually undertook to punish an aggressor there could be no real question as to where lay the interests of the Latin American governments. Not merely as a matter of tradition and principle -- and there is a strong Latin American tradition for peace and for the advancement of international law -- but, pragmatically speaking, as a means of insuring their own safety in future contingencies, the Latin American nations would align themselves against the "outlaw." They would do so, however, not so much in the belief that they were contributing to make the world safe for democracy, as in the confidence that out of the struggle there would emerge a stronger instrumentality for the preservation of peace. And even though this instrumentality might now be, and might continue to be for some time, the servant primarily of the interests of the great European Powers, it could not fail also to aid indirectly the interests of small countries elsewhere. For these can live and prosper only under a régime of law and peace.


So much for the political factor working against a change in the relationship of Latin America with Europe. There is also an economic factor. Here it should suffice to recall that, in spite of the tremendous growth of inter-American trade since the World War, Great Britain is still the leading customer of various republics of South America, and that Germany, Italy, France and other European Powers are all the time increasing their purchases in that continent. Pages of figures and trade statistics could be filled; but they would not give a better picture of the actual situation than the criticisms recently made by Latin American statesmen over the suggestion that plans be laid for a continental embargo on all trade with European nations at war. The proposal, much discussed in the press of the United States in advance of the Buenos Aires Conference, was that the twenty Latin American republics join with the United States in preventing any European Power which became involved in war from having access to the raw materials of the Americas.

The Latin American nations had several questions to ask in this connection. How could the United States expect that these countries, which practically live by the export of their raw materials (most of them primarily of one or two main products), would stop their sales to European nations, in many cases their best customers, the moment these became engaged in war? Who in that case would buy their exportable surplus? Would the United States be willing to make up for the losses thus sustained? Would she add to the agricultural surpluses of her own which would pile up in case of a European war, by taking over the unsold Latin American stocks?

These questions ended all talk at Buenos Aires of the possibility of a continental embargo. The repetition of them reveals, more eloquently than any statistical table, the strength and scope of the economic ties linking Latin America to Europe. They furthermore explain why the United States delegation to Buenos Aires never took the suggestion of a continental embargo seriously, and limited itself to proposing partial embargoes affecting only American countries engaged in American wars.


Such are the major factors working against a drastic reorientation of Latin America in world politics. They would not be able, left to themselves, to overcome the slow but persistent influences operating in the other direction -- towards closer ties with the United States. Time would seem to be on that side. In the long run, geography, scientific economics and closer physical contacts seem bound to prove stronger than history, tradition and contemporary political and economic ties.

But recently a new and dangerous element has been introduced into the picture. Other factors have retarded the pace of Latin American reorientation in the world; but this new factor is potentially capable of defeating that process in toto, perhaps forever.

The Spanish Ambassador to Washington, Don Fernando de los Ríos, alluded to it in forceful terms recently, when he spoke of the "extraordinary consequences, politically, culturally and commercially" which would follow the enthronement of Fascism in his country. "If the Spanish Rebels succeed," explained this scholar-diplomat, a lifelong student and professor of social and political sciences, "Spain will no longer be a leader in the Spanish-speaking world. Instead she will be led, mainly by Germany but also by Italy, and she will lose her autonomous character. Germany will then be the leader of the Spanish, Italian and German minorities in South America. And the chief nations in Europe able to provide large population groups for transplantation to other continents are Italy, Germany and Spain."

This warning cannot be emphasized too strongly. The vital connection existing in the political history of Spain and Latin America, and the inevitable echo which every social movement in Spain has in Hispanic America, must always be kept in mind, and now more than ever. Spanish Fascism, abetted and supported by Berlin and Rome, would not take long to cross the ocean. Nor is Fascism interested merely in the exportation of ideas. Fascist propaganda and penetration are, by their very nature, for political and economic ends. It is no mere coincidence that the Fascist Powers of the world are precisely the expansionist Powers.

Unfortunately, the danger is not confined to the possibility of a Fascist victory in Spain. Already the two autocratic Powers of Europe have started missionary work in South America, along both political and economic lines. Control of Spain would be an invaluable and probably a decisive weapon in the hands of Mussolini and Hitler; but they are not waiting for that to spread their nets across the South Atlantic. Newspaper readers have for some time been familiar with reports of economic concessions, commercial deals and publicity campaigns undertaken by German and Italian interests throughout the length and breadth of the South American continent.

In one American newspaper on a recent Sunday could be found four suggestive items. One dispatch, dated in Berlin, announced that "negotiations are now in progress which are expected to lead to control of the principal iron ore mines in Brazil by Germany." It went on to explain that the Third Reich, which is particularly in need of iron ore and depends upon foreign countries for 80 percent or more of this raw material, suffers from a shortage due to increased prices and British competition in Sweden and elsewhere, and that this has prompted the German decision to attempt to secure control of the Brazilian mines. Another cable, from Rome, outlined a South American tour of an Italian mission which would endeavor "to consolidate recent gains in Italian trade with Argentina, Chile and other Latin American countries and to promote a cultural interchange with those countries." The story recalled the fact that as part of this cultural program the Italian Government grants cash prizes annually to the best literary works of various South American nations, though it failed to point out the Fascist implications of any intellectual interchange with a regimented and censored "kultur." Germany, too, is interested in educational activities in that part of the world, as may be seen by the recent trips of large groups of Chilean engineering students to the most important scientific and industrial institutions of the Third Reich at the expense of the "Akademischer Austauch" of Berlin, and the invitations for similar trips tendered to students of other Southern republics. Another report, this one from Bogota, advised that the Colombian Government had begun the study of a new commercial pact with Germany which was intended to increase trade between the two countries by introducing the element of barter for a number of Colombian products, e.g. coffee, platinum and oil were to be exchanged for German manufactured goods. The last of the four dispatches mentioned came from Rio de Janeiro and told of a plan submitted to the Brazilian Foreign Trade Board by Gustav Schlotterer in the name of the German Government for the piling up of huge reserves of Brazilian raw materials in convenient places in Germany, so that they might be immediately available in case of war. The correspondent added, significantly, that in the past three years Germany has taken the place of the United States as Brazil's best customer.

These are only random instances taken from one edition of a daily paper. They tell the story. But even more eloquent is the recent experience of a South American government which inquired through its diplomatic missions abroad as to the terms and conditions under which foreign governments might be willing to supply certain technical teachers. Most of the replies were disheartening. The terms asked were prohibitive: high salaries, cash payments in foreign moneys, special guarantees, vacations at home, etc. But Rome and Berlin answered in different vein: Italian and German teachers, it seemed, were available at almost any price. Italians finally were engaged. They were to receive the same salary as nationals of the country involved, collect it in the depreciated currency of that country, have no special advantages of any kind, and would receive their original travelling expenses from the Italian Government. At the same time the Italian authorities offered such splendid terms for the instruction of the young army pilots of the South American country in question that, soon after the hired Italian teachers had arrived, a contingent of native air-minded officers left for Italy, to pursue their studies there at a cost only slightly higher than would have been the cost of their training at home.


The sad thing is that the United States, the one country apart from the South American nations themselves which ultimately will suffer most from the establishment of these new and dangerous bonds, is taking absolutely no preventive measures. On the contrary, the so-called "Neutrality policy" just adopted by Congress -- placing a permanent embargo on arms, munitions and essential war materials and imposing restrictions and limitations upon all trade in commodities and raw materials with warring nations -- carries serious implications for the future course of Latin American relations with Europe and the United States.

In the first place, the fear of a strict embargo on war materials will tend to make Latin American governments turn from the United States to European sources of supply for the equipment and replenishment of their stocks of arms. Knowing that in wartime the United States will no longer provide them with weapons of defense, they will start in time of peace to look for new and more permanent bases of supply. There is a real danger that, given the limited financial capacity of many of the present Latin American régimes, the European Powers may exact concessions and privileges from them in exchange for military weapons. These concessions may be of great domestic importance. When the rôle of the United States, a democratic and, today at least, non-imperialist nation shall have been taken over by European Powers ruled by confessedly anti-democratic ideologies and sorely in need of the raw materials which abound in the Southern continent, the consequences may be highly dangerous.

What, too, if a state of war should occur between two or more Latin American countries? In view of the embargo on United States arms, some European Power or combination of European Powers could determine the outcome of the conflict by discriminating in the sale of the implements of war. Obviously, favors thus given would demand their reward when the war was over. The same sort of thing might be feared, and perhaps with even greater reason, about a civil war in any of the large Latin American states. Reference is not made here to a simple coup d'état of the type so well known in that part of the globe, but to a real internal struggle in which groups were fighting bitterly over sharply conflicting ideologies. If the arms factories and the ports of the United States were closed, again the European Powers could decide the outcome of the strife by providing the faction which they wished to see win with the material elements of victory. And conceivably any Southern republic might thus be converted into another Spain.

But the worst, because the most immediate, effect of the Neutrality Act will be to accelerate the pace at which some European Powers will want to assure themselves of permanent sources of supply of raw materials essential for war and for the subsistence of their civil populations in time of war. The limitations and difficulties placed in advance upon the acquisition of such materials in the United States will naturally cause the European nations to turn elsewhere. They will ask the Latin American countries to enter into far-reaching agreements to insure regular supplies. Here, again, it so happens that the European nations most in need of such raw materials are precisely the Fascist nations.

Now the Fascist Powers are just beginning to learn the advantages of concerted action. On the day they have mastered their new technique there will arise across the seas another "Holy Alliance" -- much more energetic and much more dangerous than the one which disturbed the sleep of James Monroe and John Quincy Adams more than a hundred years ago. If the people of the United States realized the far-reaching implications of this threat, not only in connection with the ultimate success of Pan Americanism but with regard to their own interests, actually even their own safety, they might cease deceiving themselves with the illusion of blissful isolation.

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