Economic Development of Latin America: Historical Background by Celso Furtado

By Celso Furtado

This is often an introductory survey of the historical past and up to date improvement of Latin American economic climate and society from colonial instances to the institution of the army regime in Chile. within the moment version the ancient viewpoint has been enlarged and critical occasions because the Cuban Revolution, corresponding to the agrarian reforms of Peru and Chile, the problems of the vital the US universal industry and LAFTA, the acceleration of industrialisation in Brazil and the consolidation of the Cuban economic climate, are mentioned. The statistical info has been prolonged to the early Seventies and the demographic facts to 1975.

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A. Brading, Mines and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763-1810, Cambridge University Press, 1971, pp. 114-19. Economic and social background 27 The production of silver (extraction from the ores and refining of the metal) played an entirely different role, since it gave rise to genuine growth poles. Silver-mining, unlike surface prospecting for gold, required heavy capital outlays in galleries and shafts, hydraulic works and mechanical plant. A characteristic of the silver mines was that in the initial stages of exploitation, the extraction of the mineral was relatively easy but the ores were of poor quality: as the shafts sank deeper, ore grades improved.

The ownership of land became the basis of a system of social domination of the mass of the people by a small ethnically and culturally differentiated minority. The social evolution of Brazil had its own distinctive features, but its results differed little from those described above. 21 Sugar production in the French and English Antilles expanded rapidly after this period, while mercantilist policies closed a great many European markets to sugar from the Portuguese colonies. The loss of foreign markets led to the partial break-up of Brazil's export agriculture and its transformation into a subsistence, or mainly subsistence, economy.

There were various reasons for this failure, ranging from administrative mismanagement to the increasing difficulties of recruiting labour, since the mitayos (Indians forced into labour under the mita system) fled from the region to escape being drafted having been told of the dreadful conditions in a mine so noxious to health that few left it alive. Transportation of the quicksilver was under licence to private groups who assumed responsibility for delivering it over 2,500 km away. The production of both mercury and silver was based on Indian labour, recruited largely by coercion through the mita system.

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