Blog Post Dec. 5

My three biggest takeaways are:

-How involved the U.S. was in Latin American politics, and how it was tied to the broader context of the Cold War

-That Latin America is considered to be one of the most unequal regions of the world, which is reflected in the numerous uprisings that are going in the region

-Some of the tenets of Liberation Theology and how the role of the Church in revolutionary politics and movements in Nicaragua departs from its involvement in other Latin American countries

Feedback Reflection

The feedback that I received on my proposed changes was mostly positive. An interesting suggestion was to add to the “Canudos today” section. While I am currently struggling to find scholarly sources in English on the topic, I plan to look into news sources and statements from the government on the memory of Canudos.

Class Notes 10/18/2019: Wikipedia Workshop 2

Class started today with Sam presenting his news story about the controversy surrounding the current president of Bolivia’s successful abolishment of serving terms for Bolivia’s presidents. While Morales did contribute to supporting indigenous people’s rights in Bolivia and economic development, a survey uncovered that people were against abolishing a referendum that would prevent him from serving another term. Furthermore, Morales is currently heavily criticized by certain groups for failing to properly address the Amazonian fires, for being considering too radical in his reform, and for heavily contributing towards Bolivia’s deficit. Going against popular opinion, Morales nonetheless took the matter to court and abolished said referendum. Sam thought the way BBC and The Guardian, while differing in framing, was nonetheless relatively neutral. Sam related the topic to our class discussion by highlighting the duality of Morale’s policies: while the president successfully expanded democracy over the 14 years he served in office, his abolishment of the referendum could be viewed as potentially harmful to democracy.

Dr. Holt added to that by mentioning how people tend to associate Morelos with a massive improvement of indigenous rights in Bolivia and economic prosperity, but that his current move made his intentions questionable. This came as a response to Rita asking Sam to expand on why he thought Morelos’ move to be potentially harmful to democracy. Rita then made on final comment about how knowing the specifics of the survey that uncovered popular opinion about the abolishment of the referendum in order to assess whether it may have led people to respond a certain way.

We then moved to discuss what we expected our peers to include in their feedback on our plan for improving our assigned Wikipedia articles. A student stated that she would be interested in learning about what their peers would be interested in reading about after a first reading of the article, what they think is missing, and what they think of the stated improvement ideas.

Dr. Holt then showed us how we could access the articles that we are assigned and the ways in which it would be acceptable to submit our feedback. Dr. Holt deems it acceptable to post feedback on the Wikipedia portal by clicking the “Feedback” button, as a response on the talk page, or using the new Wikipedia feature that she Air Played in class.

Students asked a number of questions about some issues they are encountering with the process. Rita mentioned that she was unsure how to go about making extensive changes to her article. Dr. Holt suggested making replacements sentence by sentence and stated that adding citations is and should be part of the improvements we plan to make on our articles.

Dr. Holt finally mentioned that we would have to write a memo later in the class where we would develop on how we decided that something in our article needed to be changed/fixed and how we went about it. Finally, she stated that, in order to garner views on our articles, linking to our assigned article in other Wikipedia pages is an efficient strategy.

War of Canudos: Wikipedia Post 2

The Wikipedia article that addresses the War of Canudos portrays the small villagers of the Canudos settlement as fanatics who were blindly following some sort of Messiah in hopes of a better future. That is, while the article does touch on the economic depression of the Canudos area and alludes that this might have made the people of Canudos susceptible to promises of a better world, it fails to provide any concrete evidence that would explain why the people of Canudos chose to follow Counselheiro. Later on, the article touches on how the government of Brazil labeled the settlement of Canudos’ people as ideological fanatics who antagonized the current government and blindly followed  “one of the many mystic spiritual preachers of the time.” While the editors do not necessarily make blatant, personal statements on their thoughts on the people of Canudos’ arguable fanaticism, their failure to address whether the same people pursued more concrete goals by allying with Counselheiro gives support to the government’s trope. This underlies a systemic bias in that the point of view of the government dominates the article, whereas the ideology and motives of the Canudos peasants are boiled down to delusional aspirations.

On the other hand, the article talks extensively about the War of Canudos’ military history and provides multiple statistics to describe the battles that opposed the settlement and the government without referencing any credible sources. In fact, the sources that are directly referenced in the article seem far from credible and unbiased–one of them being a blog post while the other happens to be a government news website. Even worse, the talks section alludes to the fact that the article may be heavily inspired by a work of fiction by Vargas Llosa about the War of Canudos as the statistics that are presented in the article seem to be too similar to Vargas Llosa’s piece. This casts doubt on the entirety of the article and makes it an unreliable source of information.

I would improve the article by addressing the ideology and the motives of the people of Canudos more extensively in an attempt to give the peasants, which happen to be the underrepresented group, in this case, a voice against that of the Brazilian government. Additionally, I would double-check the numbers that are provided in the article and reference a credible source every time any of those statistics are provided. Finally, I would make sure to incorporate more credible, peer-reviewed, and accessible sources and cite them explicitly in the body of the article.

War of Canudos Wikipedia Article

The writing style is ambiguous at times too many pronouns are used and it is difficult to keep track of what the Wikipedia editors are referring to. The article also overuses passive voice, which makes the content even harder to grasp. Additionally, the article provides many detailed statistics to describe the size of the armies that fought in the War of Canudos, which makes it quite difficult to keep track of the rest of the information that is being presented.

While the article is neutral in tone, it seems to make claims that are not supported by any evidence. For instance, it claims that Canudos’ “spiritual leader and towering figurehead, Antonio Conselheiro, had died on September 22, probably of dysentery and malnutrition provoked by fasting for penance” without referring to any credible source that would support this piece of information.

The article over-represents the misery and poverty in which the people of Canudos lived, but fails to address the characteristics that would have pushed the villagers to fight with Antonio Conselheiro. That is, the article fails to provide any background information on the ideological reasons and beliefs that may have allowed Counselheiro to find supporters in the settlement of Canudos.

All of the links in the bibliography and the references sections of the article work, but only two of them provide access to the content the source in question. The rest of the links only link to Wikipedia pages that provide general descriptions of the sources that are cited within the article. Therefore, it is impossible to check the accuracy of claims that are made in the article unless a physical or an e-copy of the source is obtained.

Most of the sources that are cited in the article are in Spanish, which, added to their inaccessibility, made it impossible for me to check whether the article conforms to the claims that are made in the sources that are cited. However, the talk section suggests that the article seems to rely heavily, and almost exclusively, on a single work of fiction that was written about the War of Canudos. This undermines the credibility of the claims that are made in the article not only because works of fiction do not, by definition, conform to reality, but also because diversifying sources is necessary to avoid biases and the reproduction of misleading information. Furthermore, the body of the article exhibits the label “[citation needed]” twice, which casts even more doubt on the credibility of the piece as a whole. And while some peer-reviewed sources are included in the biography, they are not referred to anywhere in the article itself, which means that the article never references a “credible” source directly and explicitly.

Most of the sources date back to the 20thcentury, which leads me to believe that it may be interesting to incorporate information from more recent sources. Additionally, it would be interesting to add information on the villagers’ ideology and beliefs that led to rally under Counselheiro, race, gender, class differences and involvement, and the role that the catholic church played in the debacle.

The talk section first blames the article for not addressing how the War of Canudos was a “monarchist rebellion.” The author of this comment states that “Antonio Counselheiro blamed the rich landowner who once owned slaves for overthrowing the monarch who kept the people under their grasp,” which points to a piece of information that seems essential to the understanding of the motives lying Counselheiro’s rebellion. Another Wikipedia user suggests incorporating more direct citations rather than relying on a bibliographic summary and underlines the article’s overreliance on a work of fiction. A third Wikipedia user suggests merging a Wikipedia article titled Canudos with the article on the War of Canudos given that the former mostly talks about the history of the War rather than the town itself. A fourth Wikipedia user suggests addressing the catholic church’s involvement in the War. Finally, a fifth Wikipedia user addresses a resolved issue which concerned the use of the words “fanatics” to refer to the people of Canudos. The problem with using these terms, said Wikipedia user claims, was that it constituted “an unsubstantiated value judgment that coincides with the government and media propaganda used during the period concerned to justify the government’s actions.”

The article is within the scope of WikiProject Brazil and is rated as B-class on the project’s quality scale. The article is also within the scope of the military history WikiProject and is rated as C-class on this project’s quality scale.

We have not discussed the War of Canudos in class, but I would imagine that our discussion of such a topic would include a careful examination of how race, gender, class, and ideology have shaped the conflict.



LA in the news: Paraguay Investigates Human Remains Found on Ex-dictator’s Former Property.

On September 8, 2019, the remains of an estimated four individuals were found buried under a bathroom in the house of the former Paraguayan rightwing dictator Alfredo Stroessner. Local authorities subsequently launched an investigation to verify whether the remains belonged to victims of the Stroessner regime –a regime that committed multiple crimes against humanity. One of the primary goals of this investigation, asserted María Stella Cáceres, director of the Museum of Memories, would be to advance efforts to identify and return the remains of the victims of Stroessner’s dictatorship.

 Bones found in the house of Alfredo Stroessner. Photograph: ABC

The article provides information on the Stroessner regime that is helpful in understanding the importance of the finding of the bone remains and the frustration of some Paraguayan groups by the government’s insufficient involvement in uncovering the crimes of the dictatorship. For instance, it addresses the regime’s “routine use of persecution, kidnap and torture” against opposition groups and the LGBT community. The article further highlights the horrors of the regime by stating that “at least 423 people were executed or ‘disappeared’, 18,722 tortured and 3,470 forced into exile.” Yet, as the article points out, only 37 bodies of those murdered under Stroessner have been discovered to date. This has led activist groups across the country to denounce the Paraguay government’s failure to adequately fund investigative work.

Gen Alfredo Stroessner

Through interviews of Paraguayan activists, the article portrays the Paraguayan government as passive and somewhat uninterested in uncovering the crimes that were perpetrated against its people. On the other hand, it highlights the involvement of independent groups and institutions in denouncing the Stroessner regime’s crimes and giving the victims’ families closure by returning the remains of their lost ones. It also seems to be written from a foreigner’s perspective, or is at least intended to a foreign audience. This is evident by the author’s emphasis on clarifying that families digging for hidden treasures in places where they were “squatting” (which is how the human remains were discovered) is common practice in Paraguay.

This article relates to our class themes in that addresses the dictatorship of a Latin American leader, which speaks to our discussions of Diáz’s regime. The persecution of indigenous people under Stroessner, especially, speaks to our extensive discussions of the rights and characteristics of indigenous populations in the context of the Mexican Revolution. Finally, the fact that this article addresses how the consequences of the Stroessner dictatorship persist today is reminiscent of our future discussions of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, whose roots can be traced by to the Diáz regime.


Source: Costa, William. “Paraguay Investigates Human Remains Found on Ex-dictator’s Former Property.” The Guardian. Sep 8, 2019.