Abstract: The Programa Interamericano para La Juventud Rural and the Cultivation of Agribusiness and U.S. Hegemony in Cold War Latin America

Gabriel Rosenberg


This paper examines the Programa Interamericano para la Juventud Rural (PIJR), a rural development agency financed by Nelson Rockefeller's American International Association, the Kellogg Foundation, and the U.S.-based National 4-H Foundation. The PIJR served as an umbrella organization for Latin American 4-H clubs, coordinating clubs in nineteen Latin American countries that enrolled over 250,000 members by 1967. PIJR development technicians promised that 4-H would educate rural Latin American youth about modern farming practices, technologies, and finance without "political overtones." Yet these depoliticized development discourses obscured intensifying relationships between rural youth and the cluster of interests who financed their work: the U.S. state, banks, and agricultural technology firms. The PIJR's strategy of "development from within" imagined rural youth as mediums for radical socioeconomic change and anti-radical politics. This strategy promised to mediate a thorny set of relations: agribusinesses premised on capitalist enterprise and statist technocracy; democracies built on liberal tolerance and violent anti-communism; and an international order structured by the equality of nations and U.S. interventionism. Development technicians argued that the unique "pliability" of rural youth absolved these contradictions, erased cultural difference, and cultivated a Latin American countryside whose educated citizen-farmers labored in alliance with international capital and U.S.-led statist expertise.