.
F

rom June 6-10 2022, the United States will host the IX Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California. This gathering, which will bring together leaders from across the Western Hemisphere along with civil society and other interested parties, may not seem like the standard Hollywood event. Yet connections between Hollywood and the U.S. government to jointly promote U.S.-Latin American relations have a long history. Hopefully, a little Hollywood magic can help strengthen Pan-Americanism at the Summit of the Americas.

The U.S. relationship with Latin America has a rocky history. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States was involved in numerous armed conflicts with countries across the region, ranging from the Spanish-American and Mexican-American Wars to the occupation of several Central American and Caribbean countries. While many of these actions would be justified by the “Monroe Doctrine” and U.S. efforts to ensure that there were no extra-hemispheric powers in the Western Hemisphere, they left a sense of distrust amid concerns about the United States across the region.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into office in 1932, the world was at an important inflection point— the world was still suffering the Great Depression, countries were losing faith in international institutions, and there were growing concerns over illiberal ideologies of Fascism and Communism across the globe. Roosevelt sought to address these multiple crises and threats. One way in which he sought to do this was by recentering the United States within the Western Hemisphere and seeking to improve U.S. relations with Latin America through an approach that would come to be known as the Good Neighbor Policy

The Good Neighbor Policy sought to address the economic crisis at home and raise extra-hemispheric influence in Latin America and the Caribbean by promoting and improving relations with Latin America— a notable shift from previous U.S. efforts in the region. To this end, the FDR administration sought to strengthen trade and reduce tariffs with Latin America, repealed the Platt Amendment (an element that gave the United States de facto power in Cuba), and worked with the region to address common challenges rather than solely pushing U.S. interests. All of this ushered in what many consider to be a golden age of U.S.-Latin American relations. 

Despite FDR’s efforts to improve relations with Latin America, concerns over the rise of Axis influence in the region continued to grow. In an effort to combat the rise of this influence, the FDR administration established the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA) headed by Nelson Rockefeller in 1940. The CIAA was tasked not only with combatting Axis influence in the region, but also with developing a sense of Pan-American identity within the region and the United States. This included support for a number of different activities ranging from a Pan-American Bazaar in New York City to the sharing of pamphlets and books that highlighted the similarities between the founding fathers of the different nations of the Americas. 

While a number of different approaches were taken, one key area was leveraging Hollywood to support the development of Pan-Americanism. These included partnerships between the CIAA and numerous studios and artists with the aim of improving the image of the United States in Latin America as well as the perception of Latin America among the U.S. public. Not all the attempts to forge a Pan-American identity through Hollywood were successful. In fact, there were many flops where Hollywood mischaracterized Latin American nations.

I think up to now we have all been thinking of the barriers between the Americas: distance and different languages and different backgrounds. And now, rather suddenly, we see that these things don’t matter. Our backgrounds are different, but our future, we know, has to be the same. The cowboy and the gaucho understand each other because both of them ride the plains as free men, not slaves. And Donald Duck and Joe Carioca will always be friends, I believe, because they’re both grand independent spirits, meant for the pleasure of people who are not afraid to laugh… While half of this world is being forced to shout ‘Heil Hitler,’ our answer is to say ‘Saludos Amigos.’ -Walt Disney (1942)

One notable success was a partnership between Walt Disney Studios and the CIAA. This included a goodwill tour by Walt Disney and several of his studio artists, the production of two films (Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros), the development of educational and health related short films, and other films aimed at promoting a collective identity within the Americas. There are some important lessons, both good and bad, that can be drawn from the Disney-CIAA partnership in developing partnerships between the U.S. government and Hollywood for the promotion of U.S.-Latin American Relations— including the incorporation of regional artists and perspectives, avoiding stereotypes, and creating shared identities amongst characters. 

The world is once again at an inflection point— the Americas are experiencing declining support for democracy, war has returned to Europe, the world is trying to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, and the United States is concerned about extra-Hemispheric influence in the Americas. While President Biden has often made comparisons between his own presidency and that of FDR, one area where we have seen little movement is in the development of improved U.S.-Latin American relations. As leaders from across the Americas travel to Hollywood to discuss the challenges facing the Americas and how to collectively address them, the question will be whether the ideals of Pan-Americanism can win out or if differences between the United States and the rest of the Americas are too great to overcome. Perhaps Hollywood can help the Biden administration forge a Pan-American coalition and identity just as it did for FDR. To paraphrase Walt Disney, despite our differences, our future must be the same. Hopefully the city of angels will bring out the best in leaders from across the region to collectively address the problems of today and the future.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is special series editor and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

Hollywood for the Americas

Photo by Vincentas Liskauskas via Unsplash.

May 27, 2022

Numerous challenges face the Americas in the lead up to the Summit of the Americas. With the Summit taking place in LA, a little Hollywood magic could help improve U.S.-Latin American relations writes Diplomatic Courier's Adam Ratzlaff.

F

rom June 6-10 2022, the United States will host the IX Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California. This gathering, which will bring together leaders from across the Western Hemisphere along with civil society and other interested parties, may not seem like the standard Hollywood event. Yet connections between Hollywood and the U.S. government to jointly promote U.S.-Latin American relations have a long history. Hopefully, a little Hollywood magic can help strengthen Pan-Americanism at the Summit of the Americas.

The U.S. relationship with Latin America has a rocky history. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States was involved in numerous armed conflicts with countries across the region, ranging from the Spanish-American and Mexican-American Wars to the occupation of several Central American and Caribbean countries. While many of these actions would be justified by the “Monroe Doctrine” and U.S. efforts to ensure that there were no extra-hemispheric powers in the Western Hemisphere, they left a sense of distrust amid concerns about the United States across the region.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into office in 1932, the world was at an important inflection point— the world was still suffering the Great Depression, countries were losing faith in international institutions, and there were growing concerns over illiberal ideologies of Fascism and Communism across the globe. Roosevelt sought to address these multiple crises and threats. One way in which he sought to do this was by recentering the United States within the Western Hemisphere and seeking to improve U.S. relations with Latin America through an approach that would come to be known as the Good Neighbor Policy

The Good Neighbor Policy sought to address the economic crisis at home and raise extra-hemispheric influence in Latin America and the Caribbean by promoting and improving relations with Latin America— a notable shift from previous U.S. efforts in the region. To this end, the FDR administration sought to strengthen trade and reduce tariffs with Latin America, repealed the Platt Amendment (an element that gave the United States de facto power in Cuba), and worked with the region to address common challenges rather than solely pushing U.S. interests. All of this ushered in what many consider to be a golden age of U.S.-Latin American relations. 

Despite FDR’s efforts to improve relations with Latin America, concerns over the rise of Axis influence in the region continued to grow. In an effort to combat the rise of this influence, the FDR administration established the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA) headed by Nelson Rockefeller in 1940. The CIAA was tasked not only with combatting Axis influence in the region, but also with developing a sense of Pan-American identity within the region and the United States. This included support for a number of different activities ranging from a Pan-American Bazaar in New York City to the sharing of pamphlets and books that highlighted the similarities between the founding fathers of the different nations of the Americas. 

While a number of different approaches were taken, one key area was leveraging Hollywood to support the development of Pan-Americanism. These included partnerships between the CIAA and numerous studios and artists with the aim of improving the image of the United States in Latin America as well as the perception of Latin America among the U.S. public. Not all the attempts to forge a Pan-American identity through Hollywood were successful. In fact, there were many flops where Hollywood mischaracterized Latin American nations.

I think up to now we have all been thinking of the barriers between the Americas: distance and different languages and different backgrounds. And now, rather suddenly, we see that these things don’t matter. Our backgrounds are different, but our future, we know, has to be the same. The cowboy and the gaucho understand each other because both of them ride the plains as free men, not slaves. And Donald Duck and Joe Carioca will always be friends, I believe, because they’re both grand independent spirits, meant for the pleasure of people who are not afraid to laugh… While half of this world is being forced to shout ‘Heil Hitler,’ our answer is to say ‘Saludos Amigos.’ -Walt Disney (1942)

One notable success was a partnership between Walt Disney Studios and the CIAA. This included a goodwill tour by Walt Disney and several of his studio artists, the production of two films (Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros), the development of educational and health related short films, and other films aimed at promoting a collective identity within the Americas. There are some important lessons, both good and bad, that can be drawn from the Disney-CIAA partnership in developing partnerships between the U.S. government and Hollywood for the promotion of U.S.-Latin American Relations— including the incorporation of regional artists and perspectives, avoiding stereotypes, and creating shared identities amongst characters. 

The world is once again at an inflection point— the Americas are experiencing declining support for democracy, war has returned to Europe, the world is trying to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, and the United States is concerned about extra-Hemispheric influence in the Americas. While President Biden has often made comparisons between his own presidency and that of FDR, one area where we have seen little movement is in the development of improved U.S.-Latin American relations. As leaders from across the Americas travel to Hollywood to discuss the challenges facing the Americas and how to collectively address them, the question will be whether the ideals of Pan-Americanism can win out or if differences between the United States and the rest of the Americas are too great to overcome. Perhaps Hollywood can help the Biden administration forge a Pan-American coalition and identity just as it did for FDR. To paraphrase Walt Disney, despite our differences, our future must be the same. Hopefully the city of angels will bring out the best in leaders from across the region to collectively address the problems of today and the future.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is special series editor and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.