Regionalist Momentum in the Southern Cone

News from the southern South American republics is a bit like news from nowhere. Most Americans have only the vaguest idea of where these places are, and they end up on the front page only when there is some way of tying them in to U.S. policy or interests, which is not very often. In a way, this is not surprising. Historically, Argentina and Uruguay have been more closely associated with Western Europe than with the United States. Chile, in spite of long-standing U.S. involvement in its mining industry, has always maintained a remarkably diversified pattern of international trade, and its political life, at least superficially, was more nearly like that of Italy or France than that of neighboring Bolivia or Peru. Consequently, Americans, whose Latin American experience is usually restricted to Mexico (if that), often express astonishment, when visiting the region for the first time, at how “European” it is. And if they stay long enough, they are struck by the major differences between Argentina and Chile—differences that (apart from language) are almost as great as those between Germany and France. Ten hours’ flying time from New York, however, is a rather high price to pay for a geography lesson, so it is hardly surprising that this region—called the “Southern Cone” because of its peculiar shape on the map—is so little known.

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