Visual Culture Final Project
Mexico and India are countries in two different hemispheres that to many people could not be any more different. From the culture, to the religion, to the ecosystem, and other various factors these two countries do not appear to share any similarities. However, when analyzing the development of these countries, one can see that these countries have more in common than one would think. European powers colonized both countries and both countries gained their independence from these colonizing powers. In order to understand how these countries developed into the nations they are today, one must understand the driving forces and ideas that united Mexico and India to gain and sustain their independence. Ideas, such as nationalism and escape from cultural oppression, and strong colonial economies were key to short term and long lasting independence for both countries. Although these similar ideas motivated the desire for independence in both colonies, there were also different ideas and forces implemented by India and Mexico to acquire and sustain their independence. Analyzing these similar and different ideas and forces of how India and Mexico gained and sustained their independence helps us understand how these nations developed into the countries they are today.
Indian nationalism and Gandhi’s nonviolent, non-cooperative movement were the ideas and forces that drove colonial India’s fight for independence. Before European colonization, India was comprised of multiple regions of different types of Indians. However, the British railway system would unite Indians from regions all over the country in a way that had never been possible before (Aggarwal 1). This unification made it possible for Indians from various regions of India to establish singular Indian
nationalism. The figure to the right depicts many Indians working on the construction of the Bengal-Nagpur railway. The construction of a railway of this magnitude required an incredible amount of manpower, which meant an incredible amount of Indian workers. The railway not only linked various Indian regions but also united many different Indians under the same labor force. This railway is just a specific example of a link that connected the different Indian regions and cities. The concepts of Indian nationalism and the implementation of the Indian railways reveal how a landmass with many different, separated regions became unified. The extent of Indian nationalism would result in widespread popularity for Gandhi’s nonviolent, non-cooperative strike against the British colonizers (Greenberg 172). Gandhi’s movement would eventually result in the formidable British power’s expulsion from India and the establishment of India as an independent country. The concept of Gandhi’s movement signifies the course of action colonial Indians took in order to acquire their independence. From Indian nationalism, the creation of the Indian railway, and Gandhi’s independence movement, one sees how a land divided into multiple regions with different kinds of Indians became a united, independent country.
Mexican nationalism and the violent Mexican War of Independence were the ideas and forces that motivated colonial Mexico’s fight for independence. Like India, before European colonization Mexico was comprised of multiple regions with multiple tribes. These tribes were also not unified much like the Indians from different regions. Similarly to the Indians, a sense of nationalism was established between Mexican natives, which served as the driving force for Mexican independence. However, unlike India Mexico did
not have an already developed railway, or any other kind of infrastructure, to unify the other Mexican regions and tribes. Instead, a shared disdain for the oppressive Spanish lifestyle and laws that Spanish colonizers strictly enforced and a hatred for the unequal and abusive treatment natives received from the racist Spanish colonizers resulted in the violent outbreaks and slaughters of the Mexican War of Independence. One of these oppressive, racist laws would be the sistema de castas, which determined class and basic human rights on the amount of white blood one had (Simms 235). These laws were designed to give higher social status and rights to people of European white descent and make the native Mexicans second-class citizens. In the photo to the right, there are two lynched, dark-skinned Mexicans hanging from a tree. There are also two white onlookers witnessing the lynching and a third Mexican who is also standing. From the photo, it can be inferred that this lynching, like most lynchings, was racially motivated. Racially motivated murders and other heinous crimes is what laws like the sistemas de castas perpetuate and ultimately resulted in the onset of the Mexican War of Independence. From the mutual hatred for the oppressive and racist Spanish rule, a sense of Mexican nationalism was created. This hate-fueled nationalism would result in not united violent attacks on the Spanish colonizers, which would result in Mexican independence. One sees how the brutality of Spanish rule lead to the development of Mexican nationalism and the independence of Mexico.
India would not have too much trouble sustaining its status as an independent nation. Because an extensive railway system was already developed in India, the Indian economy was strong enough to financially support the country. For example, this already developed railway “only strengthened” the colonial India’s economic foundation (Satya 70). Since a well-established economic foundation for a newly independent India was already present, India did not have any problem supporting itself from a financial standpoint as an independent nation. This railroad system also kept all of India united and prevented land loss from other countries. The photograph below captures Hindi men building a railway through a mountain. Regardless of the terrain, the railway connected Indian cities from all
regions. Because these railways were present, transportation of goods to all regions in India was possible. This kind of speedy transportation is what made India’s economy sustainable. The strong economy and the connectedness of India explain how India was able to transition from colony to country without any substantial loss from neighboring countries, unlike other countries such as Mexico. Although India was in fine condition to operate as a singular country, religious unrest between Muslims and Hindus would result in the partition of India into present day India and Pakistan (Greenberg 175). Hindus would occupy India, while Muslims would occupy Pakistan. This partition showcases how India went from being comprised of both Indians and Muslims living in harmony to how modern day India, with its modern day borders, is a predominantly Hindu state. From the developed railway and the religious unrest, one sees how this newly independent, capable India with a Muslim and Hindu demographic becomes present-day India with its reduced border and its predominantly Hindu demographic.
On the other side of things however, Mexico would have a very difficult time sustaining its status as an independent country. Since the Spanish colonizing power was weakening even before the Mexican War of Independence, no set infrastructure like railways or other institutions that could help with the governing of the newly independent country were really created. In fact, this lack of connectedness and stability would result in conflict with the United States of America over land. Because Mexico had a hard time settling and populating its northern territories, once again due to a lack of proper infrastructure, it allowed American citizens to immigrate and populate these territories (King 63). However, America’s annexation of Texas angered the Mexican government and would be the preceding event before the Mexican American war, a war that the expansionist Americans won (King 63-65). This loss would result in Mexico giving its northern territories to the United States for a payment of thirty million dollars. A massive land reduction from another country is something that did not happen to India when it had just gained its freedom. From the lack of infrastructure and stability from the Mexican government, it is apparent how Mexico went from being a huge newly independent country to a country that had its territory split in half. Infrastructure was eventually developed in Mexico. The production of railways in Mexico would bolster the Mexican economy; more specifically, these railways would result in a “boom” in the “modern mining and agriculture export industries” and “economic growth” (Coatsworth 940). This added infrastructure would be how Mexico would progress from a new, fledgling country into the more developed country it is today. In the photo above, there is a small section of a Mexican railway. Even through extreme and hilly terrain, railway companies constructed
railways all throughout Mexico. Like the Indian railways, these railways provided linkage between Mexico’s cities and transportation of goods. Mexico may have started out shaky as a new independent country and even lost a good amount of its territory, however through this struggle and their advancement, after infrastructure and stability were finally set in place, one sees how post colonial Mexico developed into modern day Mexico.
From a perspective, colonization, though tormenting, was beneficial towards each country because it was the perfect catalyst to unite the countries’ respective dispersed tribes and lead to the advancement and establishment of government and infrastructure. Each country obtained a sense of nationalism that they never had before because there was no reason to feel pride and power for one’s country. The struggles that they had to overcome not only connected the separated people, but also forged a bond that developed and represented the identity of the country. Each country’s rebellion from the mother country led to different paths. India ended up flourishing due to their expansive and well established railway system that allowed for economic stability. Mexico on the other hand did not have any money and were even thrown into a war. India though growing as a newly freed country was plagued with religious upheaval leading to the separation of the country into two, Pakistan and India. Mexico ended up giving up a significant amount of land to the U.S. after their defeat in the Mexican American War. These countries continued to go through a struggle even after freedom, but it is that constant struggle that allows for growth and prosperity. The struggle of defeating a dominating force led to their freedom, and it is the freedom that also is a struggle that will lead to development and prosperity. Instances of nationalism and independence are derived from the rebellion of colonization, and these instances shaped and molded India and Mexico to the countries that they are today.
Aggarwal, Mamta. “Rise of Nationalism in India | Indian History.” History Discussion Discuss Anything About History. History Discussion. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. http://www.historydiscussion.net/history-of-india/rise-of-nationalism-in-india-indian-history/648
Briquet, Abel, Primer Puente a la Barranca infiernillo. 1875-1889. DeGolyer Library, Dallas.
Coatsworth, John. “Indispensable Railroads in a Backward Economy: The Case of Mexico.” JSTOR. Cambridge University Press, 1 Jan. 1979. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2120337?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Execution in Mexico. 1910-1917. DeGolyer Library, Dallas.
Greenberg, Michael. “India’s Independence and the War.” JSTOR. 1 Jan. 1942. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2751975?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
King, Rosemary. “Border Crossings in the Mexican American War.” JSTOR. Bilingual Press, 1 Jan. 2000. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25745691?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Satya, Laxman. “British Imperial Railways in Nineteenth Century South Asia.” JSTOR. Economic and Political Weekly, 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40278213?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Simms, Ellen. “Miscegenation and Racism: Afro-Mexicans in Colonial New Spain.” The Journal of Pan African Studies. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol2no3/MiscegenationandRacism.pdf
Townshend, [Bengal-Nagpur Railway Construction, Photograph No. 09]. 1890. DeGolyer Library, Dallas
Townshend, [Bengal-Nagpur Railway Construction, Photograph No. 23]. 1890. DeGolyer Library, Dallas