Pan Americanism: What, When, Where, and Why?

Pan American Union Building.  Auditorium in Pan American Union Building

The grand auditorium in the Pan American Union building constructed in our nation's capital shows the proliferation of Pan Americanism into the highest veins of our society, that eventually would come trickling down to St. Augustine.

Pan Americanism.

This term might remind you of Latin America, or maybe even Latino heritage in the United States, but what it actually meant for the Americas may surprise you.

Pan Americanism is a movement that can trace its origins to the Monroe Doctrine, and generally can be seen as intentions made by the American Government and American corporations to have a better economic grasp of the Latin American economy.

Continuing to gain popularity throughout the 20th century, organizations such as the Pan American Union (PAU) and the Organization of American States (OAS) formed to aid those interested in investing in Latin America eventually gaining enough traction and financial support to open a large center in Washington D.C., its auditorium being able to be seen above.

Enhanced by the threat of the spread of Communism in the 1950s, the United States' Government took great strides to increase their involvement in Latin America, increasing the frequency of American companies to gain a firm control of their economies to influence their form of governance. To supplement the growth of American businesses in Latin America, the OAS and the PAU invested a lot of time and money developing these "Pan American Centers" to spur interest. 

Carleton Calkin with Janet Poole

Carleton Calkin, the director immediately following Earle Newton's dismissal took over the Pan American Center some time in 1970. In this picture he stands in front of a portion of the pre-Columbian exhibit, pointing to a ceramic vessel.

Pan Americanism spread like wildfire across the United States, eventually ending up in St. Augustine, Florida. The PAU and OAS saw the potential of using St. Augustine’s shared Hispanic Heritage to educate the casual American tourist on their shared cultural past with Latin America, and get them thinking about their next investment.

Taking into consideration that it was during this time in the 1960s with the Cold War in full swing, there was a national push being made to influence Latin American politics by the United States’ government, convincing them that they were their “Good Neighbor."


Hillyer, Reiko. “Cold War Conquistadors: The St. Augustine Quadricentennial, Pan-Americanism, and the Civil Rights Movement in the Ancient City.” The Journal of Southern History Volume 81, No. 1 (February 2015): 117-156. 

Gaspar, Edmund. United States, Latin America, A Special Relationship? Washington D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1978.

Pan Americanism: What, When, Where, and Why?