This talk re-thinks the origins and significance of the idea of Latin America. It considers how 'Latin America' was invented not by French imperialists, as commonly thought, but by South American elites protesting U.S. expansion into Central America in the 1850s. In tracing this process, the talk will illuminate the hidden tensions between racism, anti-imperialism, and democracy that have marked 'Latin America' from the very start.
Michel Gobat's research interests focus on the impact of U.S. intervention in the Caribbean basin, and the nature of revolutionary processes in this region during the twentieth century. He completed a book entitled Confronting the American Dream: Nicaragua under U.S. Imperial Rule (2005). Based on research in Nicaraguan and U.S. archives, the book explores the effects of Americanization in Nicaragua from the heyday of Manifest Destiny through the U.S. military occupation of 1912-33. Michel has presented aspects of this work at conferences in the United States and Central America.