The two institutions that have been most fundamental in weaving the social fabric and history of Latin America are the Catholic Church and the military, often found hand in hand. In retrospect, at certain times and places, both have carried out needed programs, but they also have been the root of much suffering and bear responsibility for many of the problems facing the region.
Today, the relevance of both institutions is in question. Why large armed forces in nations without hostile neighbors or challenging internal conflicts? Costa Rica got rid of its army in 1948, and hence avoided both the expense and bouts of military dictatorship. And the Catholic Church is under pressure, from Protestant inroads, from atheism and from criticism of its entrenched positions in a world of science and rapid change.
And behind all of this there are deeply rooted superstitions, which neither religion nor education have been able to erase. It is little wonder that the concept of "magic realism" has taken root in Latin American literature.
THERE ARE THREE PAGES IN THIS SECTION
The Military (re: the Chilean coup)
Superstition and Ceremony