A big way of stripping away the U.S.’s perceived uniqueness is by positioning the nation among Winston Churchill’s “English Speaking World,” and classifying the U.S. as just another “settler colony.” But there is another group of settler colonies that, while included in the larger discussion of imperialism, are traditionally excluded from the the topic of settler colonies, and are almost always differentiated from the U.S. by the major historical narratives.
These excluded areas are the nations of Latin America, predominantly Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, among others. When studied, they reveal some important things about the U.S.
There are a great many reasons why the nations of Latin American may not be included in discussions of the “White Dominions”/settler colonies. Origins. Settlement patterns. Religion. Race. These reasons can account for the omission.
Partly, there is a similar sentiment to these nations’ non-inclusion as there is to why the U.S. sees itself as different than the other settler colonies (“White Dominions.”)
Recent studies do, in fact, include the nations of Latin America as part of the settler colonies.
The focus of study that has been used to study all the nations together, both the so-called “White Dominions,” the United States and Latin America is the idea of the “frontier.”
Defining the frontier is problematic because it is difficult to define, as the word doesn’t always mean the same thing everywhere. The evolution of the term over historical time also makes it difficult to define.
In American history the word "frontier” had been used to denote many things that the U.S. viewed as unique, and special, about its history. A good source of instruction about the meaning of the word lies with a historian of the late-19th century named Frederick Jackson Turner and his “Frontier Thesis” of 1890.
He lamented the closing of the “frontier,” saying that, with the result of a new census in the U.S., it was possible to say that there was no more line that separated areas of bare settlement in the contiguous U.S., that the frontier of settlement was forever closed, and with the closing of the frontier, so ended a source of all the things that Turner, and other Americans in-agreement, considered American and made the U.S. “exceptional” among nations.
In many ways the concept of the frontier is a cornerstone of the myth of American Exceptionalism. Those exceptional qualities of the U.S. - freedom, individualism, religious tolerance, democracy, free-enterprise - were born on the frontier, with the push of settlement across the North American continent that spread these institutions and changed conquest from an imperial mission to an enlightened crusade.
Empire building, and the type of special American empire that was created…that was exceptional too. Conquest wasn’t conquest. Settlers spread civilization. An American empire didn’t look like an empire.
How exceptional is that really, though?
Read “Somos Immigrantes” @Fictionade Magazine.