México in the Third World: reconnecting the Western Hemisphere to the history of the Global Cold War.


(organised together with Modern History)

 FRIDAY May 12, 2017 Bushuis F2.11B 15:00-17:00

Until recently, Latin America’s Cold War was largely treated as the history of the
continent’s relations with the United States. The history of this relationship was predominantly analyzed from an American perspective, largely neglecting Latin American countries’ point of view, experiences and agency. We currently have scarce knowledge regarding Latin American relations with the broader Third World, the Socialist Bloc or even the Non-Aligned Movement. At the same time, we do not know much about the role that Latin American countries played in shaping debates on crucial issues of the Cold War period such as, for example, economic development. Whilst for other regions of the Third World historical accounts have embraced a global and nuanced approach, historiography on Latin America is still predominantly one-dimensional.

Analyzing Mexico’s relations with the Third and the Second World between 1958 and the 1964, this paper aims to contribute reintegrating post 1945 Latin America’s history into the broader debate on the Global Cold War. This paper will show that Mexico was able, like other Third World countries, to use bipolar competition in support of the country’s main political objective after the triumph of the 1911 Revolution: state-led economic development. This paper will argue that the Cold War in Mexico coalesced with a historical process that had deeper roots: that of socio-economic transformation of the country which began in the late 1920s. Second, this paper will show that Mexico’s leaders had a complex and global perception of the challenges the country’s development project faced. Particularly, this paper will look at the role which Mexico played within the Non-Aligned Movement and at the country’s relations with the USSR during 1960s as part of its attempt to modify those international economic structures that allegedly hampered the economic “modernization” of the country. This will allow us to appreciate that while Mexico’s relation with the United States was certainly important, Mexico’s Cold War was also more than that.

Hopefully, the study of the Mexican case can help scholars break what Tanya Harmer has defined as the “historiographical Monroe Doctrine” which, for decades, has cut-off Latin American history from the broader Third World’s historical narratives. Reconnecting Latin America to the global Cold War can also help us to achieve a more complete picture of the relations between the Cold War and the process of socio-economic changes in the so called peripheries after 1945.

Dr. Vanni Pettinà is Associate Professor of Latin American International History at the Center for Hisvanni-pettina-e1462115150806-200x199torical Studies of El Colegio de México, in México City. In 2012, he was a Kluge Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Library of Congress and, in 2013, an AECID Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Historical Studies of El Colegio de México. He is author of  Cuba y Estados Unidos, 1933-1959. Del Compromiso Nacionalista al Conflicto, several articles in scholarly journals such as International History Review, Journal of Latin American Studies, Cold War History, Historia Mexicana, Revista de Indias, Culture and History and book chapters in different edited volumes published in Spain, Latin America and the US. At the moment, his research is focused on the international history of Mexico’s developmental project between 1947 and the late 1970s and he is writing a Historia Minima of the Cold War in Latin America.

See the full schedule of EAST talks here.

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