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Latin America and the Cold War   Tags: cold war, latin america, primary source world, primary sources  

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Memorandum by the Counselor of the Department (Kennan) to the Secretary of State

SECRET [WASHINGTON] March 29, 1950

MR. SECRETARY: Below are some views about Latin America as a problem in United States foreign policy, as these things appear to me at the conclusion of a visit to some of the Latin American countries.

I would not want it thought that I am over-rating this sort of a "Cook's Tour", as a basis for judgment, or that this report purports to represent a "study" of Latin America. By and large, my opinions remain what they were before and what all our opinions must be when they relate to areas with which we have little personal acquaintance: shots in the dark, based mainly on instinct and general experience. But we must have some opinions, well-founded or otherwise; and mine are presumably not less valuable by virtue of the fact that the trip enabled me to devote more time and thought to these matters than would ever have been possible in Washington, and to tryout ideas on a large number of knowledgeable people.

Explore U.S. views of Latin America in the 1950s through George Kennan's memorandum to Secretary of State Dean Acheson.


Interpret history through the analysis of a photograph.

Experience the emotions of the Cuban Revolution through song.

 

Rationale

When studying the Cold War Era, students often focus on the struggle between the United States and the U.S.S.R. However, as these two powers competed for political, military, and ideological supremacy, the conflict transcended borders to encompass countries and peoples around the world. Indeed, as the Iron Curtain descended in Europe, Latin American countries such as Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador became very real and fertile battlegrounds for the struggle between communism and capitalism. The primary source materials presented here use the example of Cuba to underscore the deep-rooted mistrust and resentment on both sides of the Latin America--U.S. conflict and demonstrate how both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. took advantage of long-standing rivalries and frustrations in the region to advance their own agendas. While the Kennan Memorandum unveils American prejudice and patronization towards Latin America and its peoples generally, the revolutionary fervor found in the words of Carlos Puebla's En Eso Llego Fidel and Alberto Korda's iconic image of Che Guevara convey the dissatisfaction and anger many Cubans felt towards America and the status quo. When considered together, these resources reveal the dynamic and turbulent relationship between the U.S. and an influential Latin American nation during this time, and demonstrate the emotions and ideologies that almost turned the Cold War "hot."

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