The political parties being founded such as the

social and economic modernisation and development seen over Spanish America
over the duration of the late 19th century saw the vast gap between
North and South America close. The change from Caudillo-conservative led
governments to a new white-collar office-working middle class as well as new
railways was a result of an increase in immigration and development of export
sectors. New controls over borders were the result over several wars over
territory (US-Mexico 1847-1848, the Triple Alliance War 1865-1870, the Pacific
War 1871-1881.)1
These new border controls were also cause and effect of the development of new
kinds of nationalism over the continent, with the introduction of several new
political parties being founded such as the Republican party in Brazil and the
Radical party in Chile. Overall, the late 1800’s in South America was a crucial
time for the region, and for better or for worse, the economical and social
modernisation was key for a continent who struggled with war and financial

the consequences and effects of modernisation in the late 1800’s in Latin
America were beneficial for the liberals, the conservatives felt the backlash.
The Conservatives were supporters of the church and a strong military leader- a
caudillo, and in some cases, even for a monarchy. Conservatives tended to be
strong white landowners, contrasting with the Liberals’ preference for an open
economy, emphasising the positive impact the economical modernisation would
have upon the liberals. The European’s demand for South American goods such as
coffee beans and other foods and minerals increased hugely due to the huge
increase in population was multiplied by 27 between the years 1820 and 1914,
conveying the modernisation of Latin America’s free trade.2 Furthermore, trade between
Latin America- particularly Argentina- and Britain greatly increased in the
1900’s, in no greater extent than the decade of the 1880’s. By the final month
of 1890, British capitalists had invested more than £420,000,000 in Latin
America, with over £232,000,000 being invested into economic business. One of
the fundamental factors of Latin America’s economical expansion was the
construction and introduction of railways, authorising the connections between
the local markets as well as global markets. According to the historian
Summerhill in 20033,
“the railroad conferred on Brazil benefits that probably exceeded, by far,
those stemming from the other major changes in economic organization in this
period.” Social savings in Latin American countries such as Brazil and
Argentina are the fundamental demonstration of the economical impact the new
railways had during and after South America’s modernisation and globalisation. The
social savings seen in the early 1900’s in Mexico were between 24.9 and 38.5%
in comparison with United States’ 3.7%.4 By the start of  20th century, the majority of
South American countries had railways constructed, none more so than Argentina,
Brazil and Mexico.

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saw the introduction of a new middle class in South America, white-collar
workers in departments such as civil service and within small businesses. These
new middle-class members of society were the result of large immigration and
the succession of export sectors. However, where these middle-classes differed
from the stereotypical European middle-classes is their economical weakness. This
new middle-class were a development from the predominantly white land-owners
who worked under a weak economy and government led by the Caudillos. Before
South America’s modernisation, many of the leaders in the country were
Caudillos, the term for a strong military-orientated commander, with the
caudillismo movement arising after the wars of Independence in the 19th
Century. A typical Caudillo would assume his position of power and popularity
through sheer force and charisma5. Caudillismo is
immediately a term linked with the military, with caudillo’s usually having a
strong influence on the military. During the early and mid 19th
century, the armies in Latin America were led by ‘generals’, before the
introduction of ‘professionalisation’ after the Pacific War. This
professionalisation and ‘militarism’ saw the armies create a hierarchy with the
military above the civilians who they viewed as a threat. This new-found
militarism caused by modernisation saw the eradication of generals and key and
individuals and an emphasis upon the whole body and their ‘nation’s mission’.

fundamental reason for the modernisation was the huge of influx of people
during the mid 1800’s. Latin American countries welcomed the mass immigration
of Europeans, hoping it would ‘civilise’6 these previously
under-developed countries-with the exception of 
Uruguay who created a law to induce immigration in 1890 . During this
mass import of European immigrants as a form of modernisation, some countries
fared better than others, with Brazil still continuing to be assumed as
‘backward’ and ethnic and stricken with poverty, whilst on the other hand,
other countries such as Argentina as Costa Rica became recognised as wealthy as
well as progressive. Between the years 1821 and 1932, 13 million people had
emigrated to South America. The fall in deaths and the rise in birth rate
throughout the 19th Century were the primary reason for the
necessity for Europeans to emigrate, with the Latin American countries’ need
for skilled labour workers. Although the majority of the immigrants did not
intend to become permanent inhabitants, the increasing immigration in Latin
America helped the process of modernisation, with the immigrants contributing
greatly towards the economy with their skills, especially in manual labour.

in Spanish America over the course of the late 1800’s saw the state of the
economy improve massively due to the increase of immigration as well as the
rise in infrastructure, led by the construction of railways across the
continent. The uprise in immigration had also been matched by the increase in
British and American Capital, and the augmentation of the export of goods, in
particular to European countries. However, despite the economical improvement,
modernisation failed to increase the social situation to a high degree. The
political systems failed to adapt to the gradually changing social classes,
with the rise of the new middle-class in the middle of  the 19th century.

1 César Yáñez, Economic
modernisation in Latin America and the Caribbean between 1890 and 1925, (2003)

2 J. Fred Rippy, The
British Investment “Boom” of the 1880’s in Latin America, (1949)

3 Summerhill (2000), p. 5

4 Alfonso Herranz-Loncán, The Contribution of Railways to Economic Growth in Latin America
before 1914: a Growth Accounting Approach,

Liliana de Riz, Caudillismo, (2004)

Michael Goebel, Immigration and National Identity in Latin America, 1870-1930 (2016)







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