VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > E. Latin America and the Caribbean, 1914–1945
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
E. Latin America and the Caribbean, 1914–1945
1. Overview
Though most Latin American nations, at the suggestion of the U.S. government, either declared war on Germany or broke off diplomatic relations, they played no part militarily in World War I. Nevertheless, the war period was important for the entire region because the demand for raw materials made a phenomenal expansion of trade possible. Except for the slump of 1920–21, this expansion continued from 1916 to 1929. It was accompanied by large capital investments, especially by the U.S. after the war, and by the emergence of local industries in the more developed countries. In spite of this growth, Latin America's dependence on exports came increasingly under attack during these years. The liberal export model of development had already led to major crises in Mexico, and by the 1920s growing numbers of nationalists throughout the region were questioning the social and economic costs of the export boom. Nationalists believed that too many of the benefits of economic progress had gone into foreign hands, and that it was time to reassert national control over the wealth and resources of the region.  1
The population of Latin America more than doubled from the turn of the century to 1940, reaching a total of 126 million. The influx of European immigrants and, after 1930, the growing wave of internal migrants expanded the political and economic weight of the cities. Emerging urban middle classes struggled against the great landholders and oligarchic elites for control of national governments. At the same time, the efforts of the rural workers, or campesinos (on coffee, sugar, and other plantations), were reinforced by those of workers from the oil fields, mines, and factories. These groups demanded social legislation to protect their interests, and sought to organize the lower classes (in many instances in alliance with the middle classes, at least for a time). Left-wing political parties, drawing their support from these dissatisfied groups, became an important political force in the region. These parties were often very nationalistic, and in some cases began to support the cause of women's suffrage. Between 1914 and 1945 women gained the vote in eight Latin American countries. These basic social issues fermented throughout the continent, the world depression after 1929 further stimulating unrest.  2
Among the Latin American states and between Latin America and the U.S. cooperation along various lines increased, interrupted by moments of profound distrust between Latin America and its neighbor to the north. Despite Nazi propaganda campaigns prior to and during World War II, most Latin American nations severed diplomatic relations with the Axis powers. With the exception of Argentina, Latin American nations contributed to the Allied war effort. (See Overview)  3
a. Regional Diplomacy
1915, May 24
The first Pan-American financial conference met in Washington.  4
May 25
Conclusion of an arbitration treaty among Argentina, Brazil, and Chile (the ABC powers).  5
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.