The United States and Latin America

[ Latin American Studies ]

The United States and Latin America

Myths and Stereotypes of Civilization and Nature

By Fredrick B. Pike

How North Americans have viewed Latin America, from the time of the Pilgrims up to the end of the twentieth century.



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6 x 9 | 464 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-78524-3

The lazy greaser asleep under a sombrero and the avaricious gringo with money-stuffed pockets are only two of the negative stereotypes that North Americans and Latin Americans have cherished during several centuries of mutual misunderstanding. This unique study probes the origins of these stereotypes and myths and explores how they have shaped North American impressions of Latin America from the time of the Pilgrims up to the end of the twentieth century.

Fredrick Pike's central thesis is that North Americans have identified themselves with "civilization" in all its manifestations, while viewing Latin Americans as hopelessly trapped in primitivism, the victims of nature rather than its masters. He shows how this civilization-nature duality arose from the first European settlers' perception that nature—and everything identified with it, including American Indians, African slaves, all women, and all children—was something to be conquered and dominated. This myth eventually came to color the North American establishment view of both immigrants to the United States and all our neighbors to the south.


1. Nature and Its Enigmatic Images in American Lore
Nature in One of Its Manifestations: An Evil to Be Conquered, Reformed, and Exploited
The Mythology of Regeneration in Nature
The Myth of Nature as Beneficent Goddess
Nature Within, Nature Without, and Phenomena of Projection
Worlds Within, Worlds Without, and Myths of Reconciling Opposites
Latin America Assumes Its Place in America’s Fusion-of-Opposites Mythology

2. Wild People in Wild Lands: Early American Views of Latin Americans
Stereotyping the Other: An Overview of Nature-and-Civilization Images
Nineteenth-Century American Stereotyping of the Latin Other
Sex and Alcohol, and Latin American Primitivism
Anger and Passion, Rebelliousness and Anarchy: More Symptoms of Latin American Primitiveness
Economic Failure and Latin American Primitiveness
Religious “Primitivism” and Latin American “Retardation”

3. Latin Americans and Indians: Ambiguous Perceptions of an Alleged Connection
Latin Americans: Potential Saviors of an Unfulfilled Civilization?
Stereotypes of the Good Indian
The Bad Indian and the Merging of Indian and Latin American Stereotypes
Indians, Latin Americans, and Massacres
The Civilized and the Wild, and Myths of Death and Regeneration
Latin Resentment of American Prejudices
Frontier Mythology and the Poisoning of Hemispheric Relations

4. Our Frontier and Theirs: American Perceptions of Latin American Backwardness
Iberian and Anglo Approaches to New World Frontiers: Underlying Differences?
Frontier Experiences and Pejorative Comparisons: The United States and Latin America
Gospel, Glory, and Gold, and Iberian Frontiers
Waves of Frontier Settlement in America, and the Missing Waves in Latin America
Cowboys and Vaqueros and Comparative Frontier Experiences
Indians and Comparative American–Latin American Frontier Perspectives
African Americans, Palenques, and Quilombos, and Frontier Differences
Comparative Frontiers: Our Racial Purity, Their Mestizaje
Positive and Ambiguous Perceptions of Mestizaje among Americans

5. America in the Age cf the New Imperialism
The Alleged End of the American Frontier
The American Quest for New Frontiers
Soft and/or Hard Inducements to U.S. Penetration of the Latin American Frontier
The Uplift of Colonials
The Indian Background to Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century U.S. Latin American Policy
Immigrants, Indians, and Latins: The American Quest to Control the Other
American Racism Intensifies Contempt for the Other
Racism, Imperialism, and American Fairs
Americans at Fairs: The Midway, the White Way, or Both Ways?

6. From Arielism to Modernism: Hemispheric Visions in the Age of Roosevelt and Wilson
Arielism, North and South of the Border
Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Hemispheric Visions
Racism, Once More, as an Issue in Internal and External Colonialism
Modernism’s Revolt against Modernity

7. The Twenties: Normalcy, Counterculture, and Clashing Perceptions of Latin America
American Breaks in Two
Communism as the New Primitivism Sparks American Divisiveness
New Questers after New Frontiers: The Reemergence of a Counterculture
Counterculture and the Cult of the Natural
Exploring the African American Frontier in the 1920s
Exploring America’s Indian and Hispanic Frontiers in the 1920s
Latin America’s Lure as an Alternative and Complement to American Civilization
Variations on Arielism Challenged by Waldo Frank’s Variations on Modernism
Waldo Frank, Franz Boas, and the Background to the Good Neighbor Policy

8. The Quest for Equilibrium with Nature: The Good Neighbor Policy, 1933–1945
The Failure of Uplift
Cultural Pluralism Abets the Rejection of Uplift
The New Deal and the Quest to Live More Respectfully with Nature
Goodwill toward Latin America: Counterculture Values Enter the Establishment
Goodwill toward Latin America: American Music, Classical and Popular
Spanish Republicans Eclipse the Attraction of Latin American Revolutionaries
The Late Good Neighbor Policy: Normalcy Triumphs over Utopianism
Might-Have-Beens in Hemispheric Relations Yield to Old, and New, Realities

9. America’s Postwar Generation: New Variations on Old Themes
Civilization Cleansed, Civilization Triumphant
Civilization Threatened
Classical and Popular Music and the Reemergence of an Adversary Culture
The Counterculture, the Establishment, and John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier
Third Worldism and the Issues of Cuba, Vietnam, and Nicaragua
The Advent of a New Generation

10. Change and Permanence in Myths and Stereotypes: Civilization and Nature toward Century’s End
The Balance Shifts in Civilization’s War on Nature
A “New History” Begins as a Century Ends
Latin America in the Context of Changing American Perceptions of the Natural World
Embourgeoisement: The Counterculture’s Loss of Illusions about Latin America
Latin America: Still in a State of Nature?
The State of Nature Spreads to America
Drugs and the Struggle of Civilization with Nature
The Latin Americanization of America
Popular Music and New Life for the Cult of the Natural
Rock Music and the Displacement of External by the Internal Primitive
In a Dark Time, the Eye Begins to See


Fredrick B. Pike, winner of the American Historical Association's 1963 Bolton Prize, holds a distinguished graduate award from the University of Texas Institute of Latin American Studies.

...this is a brilliant book ...It approaches the subject of U.S.-Latin American relations from a totally fresh and unique perspective. "
—Thomas M. Davies, Jr., Professor of History and Director, Center for Latin American Studies, San Diego State University

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