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Hispanic American Historical Review. Volume 90, Number 3, August 2010

Hispanic American Historical Review. Volume 90, Number 3, August 2010

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Hispanic American Historical Review. Volume 90, Number 3, August 2010
Hispanic American Historical Review. Volume 90, Number 3, August 2010

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August 2010
Published in cooperation with the
Conference on Latin American History
of the American Historical Association
Special Issue: Latin American Independence
In This Issue 389
The Rites of Statehood: Violence and Sovereignty in Spanish America,
1789 – 1821 jeremy adelman 391
“This England and This Now”: British Cultural and Intellectual Infuence
in the Spanish American Independence Era karen racine 423
The “Ancient Constitution” after Independence (1808 – 1852)
josé carlos chiaramonte 455
Liberal Justice: Judicial Reform in Venezuela’s Courts, 1786 – 1850
reuben zahler 489
Book Reviews
General and Sources
Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade Database,
edited by David Eltis and David Richardson, reviewed by David Northrup 523
Siervos libres: Una propuesta antiesclavista a fnales del siglo XVII, by Epifanio de Moirans,
edited by Miguel Anxo Pena González, reviewed by Edward R. Sunshine 525
The History of the Conquest of New Spain, by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, edited and with
an introduction by Davíd Carrasco, reviewed by Matthew Restall 526
Bonds of Blood: Gender, Lifecycle, and Sacrifce in Aztec Culture, by Caroline Dodds
Pennock, reviewed by Susan Kellogg 527
ii HAHR / August
De protagonistas a desaparecidos: Las sociedades indígenas de la Gran Nicoya siglos XIV a
XVII, by Meritxell Tous Mata, reviewed by Eugenia Ibarra 529
De Guancane a Macondo: Estudios de literatura hispanoamericana, by Rolena Adorno,
reviewed by Gonzalo Lamana 531
Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas: Empires, Texts, Identities, edited by Ralph Bauer
and José Antonio Mazzotti, reviewed by S. Elizabeth Penry 532
Gilberto Freyre: Social Theory in the Tropics, by Peter Burke and
Maria Lúcia G. Pallares-Burke, reviewed by Amy Caldwell de Farias 534
Feeding Chilapa: The Birth, Life, and Death of a Mexican Region, by Chris Kyle,
reviewed by John E. Kicza 536
Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World,
by Marcy Norton, reviewed by Susan G. Polansky 537
Colonial Period
Invaders as Ancestors: On the Intercultural Making and Unmaking of Spanish Colonialism
in the Andes, by Peter Gose, reviewed by David T. Garrett 539
The Forbidden Lands: Colonial Identity, Frontier Violence, and the Persistence of Brazil’s
Eastern Indians, 1750 – 1830, by Hal Langfur, reviewed by Zephyr Frank 541
Imaginarios ambiguos, realidades contradictorias: Conductas y representaciones de los negros
y mulatos novohispanos: Siglos XVI y XVII, by Úrsula Camba Ludlow,
reviewed by Marco Polo Hernández Cuevas 542
Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500 – 1800, edited by Daniela Bleichmar,
Paula De Vos, Kristin Huffne, and Kevin Sheehan, reviewed by
Felipe Fernández-Armesto 544
Pestilence and Headcolds: Encountering Illness in Colonial Mexico, by Sherry Fields,
reviewed by Noble David Cook 546
Patrons, Partisans, and Palace Intrigues: The Court Society of Colonial Mexico, 1702 – 1710,
by Christoph Rosenmüller, reviewed by John S. Leiby 548
Redes sociales e instituciones comerciales en el imperio español, siglos XVII al XIX,
by Antonio Ibarra and Guillermina del Valle Pavón, reviewed by
Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho 549
Castigar y perdonar cuando conviene a la república: La justicia penal de Córdoba del
Tucumán, siglos XVII y XVIII, by Alejandro Agüero, reviewed by Beatriz Vitar 551
Contents iii
National Period
The Mexican Wars for Independence, by Timothy J. Henderson, reviewed by
William Schell Jr. 553
San Martín: Argentine Soldier, American Hero, by John Lynch, reviewed by
John S. Leiby 554
The Emperor’s Last Campaign: A Napoleonic Empire in America, by Emilio Ocampo,
reviewed by David Bushnell 556
Las otras ideas: Estudio sobre el primer socialismo en México, 1850 – 1935, by Carlos Illades,
reviewed by Pablo Yankelevich 557
Hijos del Pueblo: Gender, Family, and Community in Rural Mexico, 1730 – 1850,
by Deborah E. Kanter, reviewed by Susan Schroeder 559
Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata: The Jaramillista Movement and the Myth of the Pax
Priísta, 1940 – 1962, by Tanalís Padilla, reviewed by Paul Hart 561
Immigration and Xenophobia: Portuguese Immigrants in Early 19th Century Rio de Janeiro,
by Rosana Barbosa, reviewed by Brad Lange 562
The Financial Crisis of Abolition, by John Schulz, reviewed by Douglas C. Libby 564
Historia del capitalismo agrario pampeano: Tomo 4: La agricultura pampeana en la primera
mitad del siglo XIX, by Julio Djenderedjian, reviewed by Patricia Juarez-Dappe 566
La matanza del Seguro Obrero (5 de septiembre de 1938), by Marcus Klein,
reviewed by Claudio Robles-Ortiz 568
Ese gol existe: Una mirada al Perú a través del fútbol, edited by Aldo Panfchi,
reviewed by Charles F. Walker 569
International and Comparative
Guerrillas: War and Peace in Central America, by Dirk Kruijt, reviewed by
Craig Auchter 571
Fórmula para o caos: A derrubada de Salvador Allende (1970 – 1973),
by Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira, reviewed by Sarah Sarzynski 573
The Cuban Connection: Drug Traffcking, Smuggling, and Gambling in Cuba from the
1920s to the Revolution, by Eduardo Sáenz Rovner, translated by Russ Davidson,
reviewed by Eric Paul Roorda 574
Translating Empire: José Martí, Migrant Latino Subjects, and American Modernities,
by Laura Lomas, reviewed by Raúl Fernández 576
iv HAHR / August
Race, Colonialism, and Social Transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean,
edited by Jerome Branche, reviewed by Rebecca Earle 578
La frontera que vino del norte, by Carlos González Herrera, reviewed by
Arturo Rosales 579
Women and Migration in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: A Reader, edited by
Denise A. Segura and Patricia Zavella, reviewed by Marie Woodling 581
Confict and Commerce on the Rio Grande: Laredo, 1755 – 1955, by John A. Adams Jr.,
reviewed by Richard B. McCaslin 583
From Many, One: Indians, Peasants, Borders, and Education in Callista Mexico, 1924 – 1935,
by Andrae M. Marak, reviewed by Ariadna Acevedo-Rodrigo 584
Communication 587
Senior Editors
George Reid Andrews, Alejandro de la Fuente, and Lara Putnam
Associate/Book Review Editors
Paul Eiss and John Soluri
Managing Editor
Sara Lickey
Editorial Assistant
Crystal Reardon
Board of Editors
Alejandra Bronfman, University of British Columbia (2014)
Kathryn Burns, University of North Carolina (2011)
Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, University of Texas–Austin (2014)
Sueann Caulfeld, University of Michigan (2015)
Sidney Chalhoub, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (2011)
Margaret Chowning, University of California, Berkeley (2013)
Ariel de la Fuente, Purdue University (2013)
Rebecca Earle, University of Warwick (2016)
Thomas Holloway, University of California, Davis (2016)
Marial Iglesias Utset, Havana, Cuba (2016)
Kris Lane, College of William & Mary (2015)
Hal Langfur, State University of New York at Buffalo, Representative of CLAH (2014)
Valerie Millholland, Representative of Duke University Press
John M. Monteiro, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (2015)
Fernando Purcell, Pontifcia Universidad Católica de Chile (2016)
Charles F. Walker, University of California, Davis (2015)
jeremy adelman is the Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor of Spanish
Civilization and Culture and Director of the Council for International
Teaching and Research at Princeton University. Among his recent books
are Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (Princeton, 2006) and
the coauthored Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World from the
Beginnings of Humankind to the Present (New York, 2008). He is currently
completing an intellectual biography of Albert O. Hirschman.
josé carlos chiaramonte is Profesor Honorario at the Universidad de
Buenos Aires (UBA) and a senior researcher for the Consejo Nacional de
Investigación Científca y Tecnológica (CONICET). He is also Director of
the Instituto de Historia Argentina y Americana “Dr. Emilio Ravignani”
(UBA). The intellectual history of Latin America, especially the history of
political thought in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Spanish America,
is his main feld of research. His published works include Nacionalismo y
liberalismo económicos en Argentina, 1860 – 1880 (1970), Formas de sociedad y
economía en Hispanoamérica (1983), La Ilustración en el Río de la Plata: Cultura
eclesiástica y cultura laica durante el Virreinato (1989), Mercaderes del Litoral
(1991), Ciudades, provincias, estados: Orígenes de la nación argentina, 1800 – 1846
(1997), and Nación y estado en Iberoamérica: El lenguaje político en tiempos de las
independencias (2004).
karen racine is an associate professor of Latin American history at the
University of Guelph. She earned her PhD at Tulane University and is the
author of Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution,
1750 – 1816 and several academic articles related to travel, national identity,
Spanish American independence, and transatlantic romanticism. Most
recently, she and Beatriz Gallotti Mamigonian have coedited two anthologies
of historical mini-biographies: The Human Tradition in the Black Atlantic,
1500 – 2000 and The Human Tradition in the Atlantic World. She is fnishing
a book on Spanish American independence leaders in London from 1808 to
1829, and another on the British poet laureate Robert Southey and his work
on the Luso-Hispanic world.
reuben zahler received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2005
and is currently a visiting assistant professor at the Clark Honors College of
the University of Oregon. He studies political and legal culture during Latin
America’s middle period (ca. 1750 – 1850). He has previously published on the
changes in Venezuela’s adoption of liberal administrative standards during
this period and is working on another article on conditions for Europeans
living in Venezuela during the 1820s. His current book project illuminates the
enormous transformations in honor, law, and political culture that occurred as
Venezuela moved from a colony to a liberal republic, and how ordinary men
and women promoted, adopted, and rejected these changes.
Hispanic American Historical Review 90:3
Copyright 2010 by Duke University Press
In This Issue
This issue brings together four examples of the kind of new scholarship on the
independence era that is advancing our understanding and raising new questions
as we reach the two hundredth anniversary of the frst declarations of local,
regional, and national sovereignty within the Spanish Americas. The questions
of who would rule what territory, how, and toward what ends would be fercely
disputed across the Americas over subsequent years and decades. Not surpris-
ingly, given the history of tumultuous events and sharp local reversals, which
nevertheless generated profoundly similar panoramas across time and space,
debates over the degree of rupture versus continuity have been central to the
historiography of the independence era. Articles in this issue offer intriguingly
contradictory contributions to these debates, fnding transformation alongside
persistence. These studies foreground local fractures as well as transnational
connections and slow evolution of idea and practice as well as rapid responses to
contingencies and innovations.
In “The Rites of Statehood: Violence and Sovereignty in Spanish America,
1789 – 1821,” Jeremy Adelman surveys the local dynamics of violence on a conti-
nental scale, arguing that the “break in sovereignty” occasioned by Napoleon’s
invasion of Spain “altered the practice of political violence” in consequential
ways. “Enforcements that were once seen as the rites of natural justice [came] to
be seen as the exercise of tyranny,” and uprisings begat retaliatory savagery in
region after region. Yet if deadly practice had consequences, so too did distant
projects. In “ ‘This England and This Now’: British Cultural and Intellectual
Infuence in the Spanish American Independence Era,” Karen Racine argues
that it was Great Britain, rather than France or the United States, that pro-
vided prominent Spanish American patriots with “their most important cultural
model, their animating energy, and their major material support.” José Carlos
Chiaramonte in “The ‘Ancient Constitution’ after Independence (1808 – 1852)”
carefully parses political rhetoric, jurisprudence, and proclamations to uncover
Iberoamerican conceptions of an ancient constitution that governed the legiti-
mate exercise of power, and then tracks the persistence of this doctrine of just
governance and collective rights in the post-independence era. Last, in “Lib-
390 HAHR / August
eral Justice: Judicial Reform in Venezuela’s Courts, 1786 – 1850,” Reuben Zahler
marshals both quantitative and qualitative evidence to show continuities in the
recourse to the judicial system across the era of independence, while also dem-
onstrating the courts’ serious engagement with the new liberal principles of
equality and due process that republican constitutions and laws introduced.
As a group, the articles reveal profound continuities in political concep-
tualizations and judicial practices alongside unmistakable change in the form
of spiraling local responses to contingent events and in new goals and strate-
gies developed in the intellectual ferment of the broader Atlantic world. These
divergent trends coexisted and overlapped: the Venezuelan and rioplatense locales
that fgure prominently in Adelman’s panorama of political violence are also the
foci of Chiaramonte’s and Zahler’s accounts of political and judicial continu-
ities, respectively. Meanwhile, placing Adelman’s and Racine’s articles side by
side gives us vivid portraits of those aspects of the independence era easiest to
demonize or to idealize. Adelman show us skulls left to rot in cages and former
shopkeepers mastering the theatrical butchery of civilian populations as a cru-
elly effective tactic within the exigencies of wartime struggle among balanced
foes. Racine shows us a moment of self-confdent aspiration in which it seemed
privilege and shared progress might go hand in hand, as Spanish American lead-
ers, inspired by British aristocratic reformism, sought to spur local initiatives
that would take advantage of international innovations in medicine, engineer-
ing, education, and social reform. All four articles unsettle any presumption
that divides of caste and class dictated the course of revolutionary violence or
postrevolutionary state formation in a simple or mechanistic way.
Serious attention to these apparently contradictory fndings should spur
new studies, which might well shed light on some of the core questions of post-
revolutionary state and society. While classic studies saw nineteenth-century
“caudillismo” and civil strife as evidence of the utter breakdown of the rule
of law, these articles together suggest otherwise. In line with the fndings of a
broad array of recent scholarship that has moved to rethink the political in Latin
American history — working from a salutary range of theoretical coordinates
and methodological stances — these articles suggest that observing nineteenth-
century practices of governance, public debate, and collective engagement on
their own terms may allow us to see the apparently disparate trends in mili-
tarized regional confict, national jurisprudence, and popular mobilization as
components of cohesive political systems, whose systematic frictions refected
the endurance of conficting ideals and hopes, rather than their absence.
I am grateful to the editors and reviewers of the HAHR for valuable comments, and to
colleagues and students at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, where earlier
versions of this essay were presented.
1. Some important and valuable exceptions are Christon I. Archer, ed., The Wars of
Independence in Spanish America (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2000); Clément
Thibaud, Repúblicas en armas: Los ejércitos bolivarianos en la Guerra de Independencia en
Colombia y Venezuela (Bogotá: Planeta, 2003).
2. For recent surveys of the independence period, see Antonio Annino and Rafael
Rojas, La Independencia: Los libros de la patria (Mexico City: Centro de Investigacion y
Docencia Economicas / Fondo de Cultura Economica, 2008); John Charles Chasteen,
Americanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence (New York: Oxford Univ. Press,
Hispanic American Historical Review 90:3
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-001
Copyright 2010 by Duke University Press
The Rites of Statehood:
Violence and Sovereignty in Spanish
America, 1789 – 1821
Jeremy Adelman
What was the relationship between savagery and state formation in Span-
ish America’s passage from colonial to postcolonial times? Some clues to this
question have come from a distinguished past tradition of military history of
the region. But the emphasis on martial narratives passed out of fashion with
the demise of patriotic histories of “the liberators” and their foes.
Indeed, the
eclipse of military history coincided in the 1960s with a general turn away from
politics, which attributed to violence underlying structural forces and sought
to examine them. Under the combined infuence of dependency approaches,
Marxism, and the Annales-informed histories, historians focused on what they
thought were “primal” sources of social strife and deemphasized événementielle
features of political life, including therefore political ruptures that shook up
social relations. What ruptures could be found were treated as the effects of
global commercial changes and the proletarianization of labor. When political
history came back into vogue it was often stripped of violent features. Indeed,
as the allure of “revolution” faded in the 1980s and despots returned to the
barracks, historians became more interested in exclusion than exploitation, and
so the emergence of a public sphere and new practices of representation took
center stage.

392 HAHR / August / Adelman
Yet violence hangs over Spanish American historiography like a cloud.
Perhaps this has escaped analysis because violence was such an obvious fea-
ture of political life; for so many, cruelty was sown into a tradition of conquest
and dictatorship. Without wishing to debunk the “fre and brimstone” style of
chronicling the region’s past, this essay puts wrath into a context, with attention
to its specifc causes and mutations. It seeks to explore ways to combine some
of the insights of military historians who have thought about the organization
and conduct of group violence with the political historian’s concern with civic
practices, rhetoric, and institutions, looking at how violence shaped the public
sphere by making it highly charged or constrained, and how the public sphere
became the setting in which the apostles of political violence vindicated their
One way to think of political violence more actively is to consider it within
a broadened spectrum ranging from the activities of standing armies to infor-
mal means of settling scores, a space where crowds, bandidos, militiamen, and
semi-organized mobs struggled for control of state power, and against it. It may
help to borrow and adapt insights from studies of how angry hordes, rioters,
and rebels attacked authorities who failed to provide customary forms of jus-
tice. Inspired by the work of George Rudé, E. P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm,
and others, historians of early modern Europe and colonial Latin America (and
more recently nineteenth-century Latin America) have catalogued the ways in
which groups of men and women took to the streets with pitchforks and guns
to assail offcials and their associates. But seldom did rebellious crowds call for
new regimes. They more often sought a restoration of order than a revolution-
ary successor. For the most part, public violence in eighteenth-century Spanish
America conforms to this model of a defense of a moral economy against the
perceived failures of its political guardians. Studies of the nineteenth century
increasingly suggest the same, albeit in more “republican” terms.

2008). The literature on the public sphere is also expansive. Isabel Lustosa, Insultos
impressos: A guerra dos jornalistas na independência, 1821 – 1822 (São Paulo: Companhia
das Letras, 2000); Rafael Rojas, La escritura de la independencia: El surgimiento de la
opinion pública en México (Mexico City: Taurus, 2003); Véronique Hébrard, Le Venezuela
indépendant: Une nation par le discours, 1808 – 1830 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996); Victor
M. Uribe-Uran, “The Birth of a Public Sphere in Latin America during the Age of
Revolution,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, no. 2 (Apr. 2000): 425 – 57.
3. Classic studies include George Rudé, The Crowd in History: A Study of Popular
Disturbances in France and England, 1730 – 1848 (New York: Wiley, 1964); Eric Hobsbawm,
Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movements in the 19th and 20th Centuries
(Manchester: Univ. of Manchester Press, 1959); E. P. Thompson, “The Moral Economy
The Rites of Statehood 393
Yet, widening the spectrum of organized violence may not be adequate to
deal with the upheavals from 1808 to 1821. In this conjuncture, large groups
and their leaders fought for more than better governors; they struggled for new
governments. This was more than a really big rebellion; it was a revolution to
cleanse the world of the sources of bad rulers, for this was a specifc type of crisis
of a moral economy. Occasioned less by the insinuations of a market economy
(though that was going on) than by the collapse of a model sovereignty that
enforced exploitation and legitimated social inequality, it sired a revolution.
And the concept of revolution comes burdened with historiographic baggage
that specifcally addresses the legacies of its primum mobile, violence. Edmund
Burke’s prophecy — that men who make their careers by seizing power violently
to rid the world of evil cannot help but be consumed by their own devices — has
rung through the centuries. Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution captured the grow-
ing alarm about rising worldwide belligerence and argued that violence did
much more to destroy than to create. Echoes of her jeremiad could be found
among historians of the French Revolution, especially leading up to and during
the debate about the bicentenary of 1789. For François Furet, the revolution
was the work of ideological agents who created primal oppositions in order to
justify bloodshed; once in place, the inner “logic” of revolution could only end
in terror and gulags.

of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 50, no. 1 (Feb. 1971):
76 – 136. For the New World, see William B. Taylor, Drinking, Homicide, and Rebellion
in Colonial Mexican Villages (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1979), and more
recently Sergio Serulnikov, Subverting Colonial Authority: Challenges to Spanish Rule in
Eighteenth-Century Southern Andes (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2003). For some
recent examples of nineteenth-century studies of political violence, see Hilda Sabato, La
política en las calles: Entre el voto y la movilización: Buenos Aires, 1862 – 1880 (Buenos Aires:
Sudamericana, 1998), and especially Buenos Aires en armas: La revolución de 1880 (Buenos
Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2008), and for an example of a slave rebellion with its
own particular “restorationist” aspirations, see the pathbreaking study by João José Reis,
Rebeliao escrava no Brasil: a história do levante dos malês em 1835 (São Paulo: Companhia
das Letras, 2003). Useful anthologies on rebellion in Mexico and the Andes, where
the research has been most advanced, include Friedrich Katz, ed., Riot, Rebellion, and
Revolution: Rural Social Confict in Mexico (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1988); and
Steve J. Stern, ed., Resistance, Rebellion, and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World,
18th to 20th Centuries (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1987).
4. Edmund Burke, Refections on the Revolution in France (New York: Penguin, 1986);
Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1963); Jim Wolfreys, “Twilight
Revolution: François Furet and the Manufacturing of Consensus,” in History and Revolution:
Refuting Revisionism, ed. Mike Haynes and Jim Wolfreys (London: Verso, 2007), 50 – 69.
394 HAHR / August / Adelman
This approach to revolution shaped Spanish American scholarship. Rev-
olutions took ordered, stratifed societies and fattened them while creating a
new type of social order that favored violence and uncivil modes of politics.
The caudillo exemplifed the antithesis of the idealized public sphere and his
triumph marked its failure, ushering in Spanish America’s long detour from
liberalism. For John J. Johnson, this was the birth of a military “tradition.” For
others, violence upset what might have been a peaceable transformation man-
aged within the coordinates of a transatlantic Spanish constitutionalism under
the charter of 1812. Once armed spoilers dominated the stage, gentlemanly civic
change guided by legislators gave way to brutality and extremism. Perhaps the
most infuential scholar operating in this scheme was, not surprisingly, working
in France: the late François-Xavier Guerra argued that the French Revolution
disrupted the conceptual order across the Spanish Empire, so that precocious
experiences with modern representation were overwhelmed by colonial ana-
logues of Paris’s Jacobins.

The problem with this formulation was that violence did not require much
explanation since it was endowed with a macabre ability to reproduce itself.
Once unleashed, it simply “escalated.” The role of primal bloodshed was cen-
tral to the master narrative of Spanish America’s long history and yet was not
a subject of study. It is time to study it, to pose questions like “how and why
did violence escalate?” The end of the Cold War and the visibility of crimes
against humanity have renewed attention to political violence because it is not
treated as a simple by-product of ideology or the human psychology of cruelty.
More recently, the study of civil wars, blood feuds, and reciprocal bloodletting
by members of the same political communities has illuminated how violence
unfolds within societies, without assuming that the making of modern states
was about curbing primordial passions through what Norbert Elias called “the
civilizing process.”
5. John J. Johnson, The Military and Society in Latin America (Stanford, CA: Stanford
Univ. Press, 1964); John Lynch, Caudillos in Spanish America, 1800 – 1850 (Oxford: Oxford
Univ. Press, 1992); François-Xavier Guerra, Modernidad e independencias: Ensayos sobre las
revoluciones hispánicas (Madrid: MAPFRE, 1992). There is a way in which Jaime Rodríguez
O.’s important Independence in Spanish America echoes an aspect of this lament for a
constitutional order that might have emerged from 1808 and the crippling of successor
states and making them prey for new kinds of imperial predation. Independence in Spanish
America (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998).
6. Ben Kiernan, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from
Sparta to Darfur (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2007); Arno J. Mayer, The Furies: Violence
and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2000);
David A. Bell, The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It
(New York: Houghton Miffin, 2007).
The Rites of Statehood 395
By exploring how politics became a matter of life and death, this essay seeks
to put viciousness and slaughter into context and to make some sense of the
rhetoric of public cruelty. In what follows, political violence does not conform
to some fundamental logic of revolutions or some deep-seated animosity (based
on ethnicity, nation, class, or some other social divide), as if group identities and
animosities predicted an inexorable sequence of escalating hatred that inevitably
led from peace to war. It will be important to recapture the truces, backsliding,
side switching, fight, pauses, and outbursts as refections of the ways in which
revolutionary upheaval entwined peace and violence — and the choices between
them — precisely because the bloodshed was so fratricidal and not rooted in
ancient discord. While the steps and countersteps varied, violence was central
to the course of revolutions not because large numbers of people became more
fanatical but because it was a means to rid the world of threats and enemies.
Violence is not a timeless expression of frustration endowed with the same
meanings and signifcance across time and space, as if what we might under-
stand by “terror” meant the same thing two centuries ago as it does now. Vio-
lence has specifc causes and connotations that compel us to ask where these
threats and enemies came from and what caused the crisis in the moral economy.
The implosion of the Spanish Empire shook the principles of sovereignty that
enforced exploitation, legitimated social inequality, and held the fabric of moral
economy together. The carnage with which this essay is concerned came from
a context in which the labor of dividing and separating large groups of people
into rival camps was part of a civil war, understood as “armed combat within the
boundaries of a recognized sovereign entity between parties subject to a com-
mon authority at the outset of hostilities,” occasioned by a break in legal author-
ity, the fragmentation of juridical spaces, and intensifed by efforts to restore
an old order.
Violence depended on and shaped political choices over who was
the enemy and how to rid it in an effort to restore, or create anew, a model of
sovereignty. Understanding these choices requires attention to particular cir-
cumstances whose effects cannot be reduced to some basic, underlying logic.
An important precaution is in order: the molecular decomposition of state
authority meant that the “space” of Spanish America became more differenti-
ated as the crisis spread. Some of the important subregional differences may be
lost in this essay’s effort to tease out general patterns about microsocial pro-
cesses. More fnely grained studies of violence will help evaluate some of the
general claims proposed below. Furthermore, this essay does not systematically
compare older viceroyalties, for example, where loyalism had more ballast, and
7. Stathis N. Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (New York: Cambridge Univ.
Press, 2006), 5.
396 HAHR / August / Adelman
newer ones, where town councils and the press more easily raised the banner of
change, or societies where belligerents began to arm slaves earlier versus those
that deferred it. This would be an illuminating exercise, but it is not my purpose
here. For all the variety, a common fate awaited the Spanish American colonies,
with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico. The ensuing civil confict ended
not on the battlefeld but with one side’s collapse. It left to the “victors” the chal-
lenge of reassembling the parts of fratricidally divided societies whose memories
of bloodshed did not easily lend themselves to uplifting narratives of national
Crowds, conspiracies, and collective banditry had long been the source of public
violence in colonial Spanish America. They did not arise from a fundamental
crisis of sovereignty, though they refected colonial subjects’ unease with their
governments. Early mass rebellions reached their crescendo in the 1780s and
spread panic among colonial administrators, but the combination of commer-
cial expansion and the relaxation of some fscal demands on colonial subjects
relieved the tension. Still, grievances and unrest did not evaporate.
Authorities in Quito worried about the news of subterranean plots. They
woke up in the mornings to fnd public walls painted with ominous warnings.
“lybery, sto, felycy7a7em, e7, gloryam, consecuento,” announced one.
Important intersections had banners and fags with a white cross and red letter-
ing across the axis that read “salva cruce.” Flyers and broadsheets also carried
the viceroy’s message that “sedition (could be) found all over Quito . . . directed
to hallucinate and provoke the Plebe.” What exactly all this meant was unclear
then and remains so now. But it did not prevent frightened authorities from
arresting and interrogating a local school teacher. This was in 1794, shortly
after the creole publisher and tertulía impresario Antonio Nariño translated
Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man into Spanish. Copies of it were now thought to be
circulating in Cartagena, Santa Fé, and beyond. Viceroy José de Ezpeleta put his
offcers on high alert for seditious acts.
Fear of insurrection was already spreading. The French Revolution sent
panic across the Atlantic world, unleashing witch hunts for Jacobins and their
allies. But in Spanish America, especially in the slave belts, the specter of Saint
Domingue was more frightening. The 1790s saw a spike in thefts and destruc-
8. The literature on civil war and memory is expansive. A fne example is David W.
Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Univ. Press, 2001).
9. José de Ezpleta to Duque de la Alcudia, 19 Nov. 1794, Archivo General de Indias
(hereafter AGI), Estado, Santa Fé, 53/55.
The Rites of Statehood 397
tion of property, which many saw as a sign of spreading unrest, especially among
rural and urban slaves. Some of this appears to have aggregated into low-intensity
social banditry. The late Alberto Flores Galindo left us with an impression of
late colonial Lima as rife with ambiguous tensions, stable in contrast to the
upheaval of the 1780s and yet simmering with popular disrespect for patrician
property. There were plenty of places where the stability was only superfcial.
If authorities in Santa Fé were worried, imagine the concern in Caracas, where
slave revolts and rumors of them abounded. It was not only seditious slaves that
brought concern; there were the occasional creole secessionists to worry about
as well, like the botched conspiracy known as the Gual and España plot (named
after the two schemers). In the cache of discovered documents were Spanish
translations of the Rights of Man and copies of songs, some of which were meant
to be chanted to the tune of the Marseillaise. One was called “La Cancion
Americana,” whose verses included some troublesome words:
Viva tan solo el Pueblo
el Pueblo Soberano.
Mueran los opresores,
Mueran sus partidarios.
The idea of slaying the enemy was already on some peoples’ lips. But what
worried governors most was a convergence of local Jacobins with slaves and
Indians. General Mateo Pérez warned his superiors that “we must not under-
estimate nor irritate mulattos, zambos, and blacks with disdain and mistreat-
ment!” Indeed, of the 65 men arrested in the conspiracy, only 34 were white; the
rest were either pardo or free black.

Warnings became prophecies. In 1799, the slave coast from Venezuela to
Cartagena was seized by a wave of conspiracies and local uprisings. One group
tried to seize the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas overlooking the harbor of
Cartagena. Others took over estates and burned mills. In Maracaibo, there were
rumors that runaway slaves and Guajiro Indians were preparing an army to
assault the town. Authorities reported that squadrons of slaves (quadrillas) were
patrolling the country roads, seizing carts and pillaging white farms. One cap-
tured slave confessed that he was on a mission with others “to kill all Whites,
10. Alberto Flores Galindo, “Bandidos de la Costa,” in Bandoleros, abigeos y montoneros:
Criminalidad y violencia en el Perú, siglos XVIII – XX, ed. Carlos Aguirre and Charles Walker
(Lima: Instituto de Apoyo Agrario / Pasado y Presente, 1990), 57 – 68; and Alberto Flores
Galindo, Los rostros de la plebe (Barcelona: Crítica, 2001), 61 – 102; AGI, Estado, Lima, 75/48,
1796, Carta Anonima; General Mateo Pérez to Principe de la Paz, 30 Aug. 1797, AGI,
Estado, Caracas, 71/2.
398 HAHR / August / Adelman
to plunder the King’s treasures as well as those of his subjects.” The fugitives,
once the lockdown had apparently defused the crisis, scattered into the social
wilderness, leaving behind them the smoke of fear and panic. As the revolution
on Saint Domingue fnally drove Napoleon’s forces from the island, boats of
insurgents landed around the area of Río Hacha to join squads of runaways,
freed plebeian forces, and Indians. The bottom-up unrest was not restricted to
slave provinces. Some of Jalisco’s gangs (gavillas) formed in bars, jails, and gam-
bling dens graduated from highway robbery to social banditry. In Riobamba,
Andean Indians bearing sabers and machetes confronted the corregidor Xavier
Mantúfar in 1803 to protest his way of ruling. The turn of the century in gen-
eral saw fewer coordinated defenses of “community” (as one might understand
the acts of Comunero predecessors or the more potent spasm of violence of the
1780s in the central Andes) but rising resistance to the more basic components
of the colonial moral economy and displays in favor of expanded freedoms (of
labor, expression, and trade, and from taxes). Very seldom did this unrest call
for an overturn of colonial rule or monarchy. It exemplifed the exhaustion of
a model of exploitation and system of public fnance in the age of heightened
inter imperial warfare.
But to the authorities, unrest, sedition, and insubordination were pre-
ambles to revolution, especially after 1789. They responded in predictable ways.
One was to bolster local militias to patrol neighborhoods and countryside. In
the frontiers of the Banda Oriental, lancers toured the byways between estates
to keep the peace. Squadrons of rifemen, often funded by merchant guilds to
make up for the government’s penury, were dispatched to prevent slaves from
feeing plantations. In 1794 this was a regular practice in Caracas, where the
Consulado in effect bankrolled the colonial state in its effort to preserve social
order and enforced a local passport system for slaves off the plantations.

11. AGI, Estado, Santa Fé: Pedro Mendinueta to Francisco Saavedra, 52/76; Report
by Governor of Cartagena, 53/77; Mendieta to Ceballos, 25 Mar. 1803, 52/84. William B.
Taylor, “Banditry and Insurrection: Rural Unrest in Central Jalisco, 1790 – 1816,” in Katz,
Riot, Rebellion and Revolution, 208 – 10. On exhaustion, see Enrique Tandeter, Coacción y
Mercado: La minería de la plata en el Potosí colonial, 1692 – 1826 (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana,
1992), 253 – 63; John Tutino, From Insurrection to Revolution in Mexico: Social Bases of Agrarian
Violence, 1750 – 1940 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986), chap. 2; Richard L. Garner,
Economic Growth and Change in Bourbon Mexico (Gainesville: Univ. Press of Florida, 1993),
37 – 71. More generally on bankruptcy, see Carlos Marichal, Bankruptcy of Empire: Mexican
Silver and the Wars Between Spain, Britain, and France, 1760 – 1810 (Cambridge: Cambridge
Univ. Press, 2007)
12. Archivo General de la Nacion, Caracas (hereafter AGNC), Real Consulado, Actas,
2526, ff. 37 – 38.
The Rites of Statehood 399
Seditious literature, which included all books or newspapers printed
in French, was simply banned, leaving to the censors the task of separating
legal from illegal tracts. Nariño’s translation of the Rights of Man landed him
in prison. The oidor of the Santa Fé Audiencia described lurid nightmares to
Charles IV’s minister, “the Prince of Peace,” to justify the censorship and incar-
ceration, which only confrmed the general view in Madrid that Jacobin agents
could be found under beds all over the empire. When posters and other broad-
sheets began to appear on the streets, roundups began. In spite of protests by,
among others, the magnates of the cabildo, there was no leniency. Eleven “con-
spirators,” including Nariño, were dispatched to Spain to face trial (where it was
felt that the courts would be free from the pressures of local subjects). Nariño
understandably felt scapegoated, and when his appeal was rejected he fed to
Paris to become an avowed lifelong opponent of Spanish rule.
These were preemptive measures and expressions of the manifold ways in
which fear mutated into loathing. They represent only one end of a spectrum
of deterrence. Ironically, Nariño printed only a hundred copies of the tract,
and when he heard that he might be arrested he had them all burned, save two
copies. But there was harsh justice for those who crossed the line. Those caught
conspiring faced stricter penalties and even death sentences. After Miranda’s
failed attempt to lead a revolution from Coro in 1806, his followers who had
not managed to escape with him or to slip away in canoes to Margarita Island
were rounded up. All were denounced as “traitors” dedicated to whipping up the
“gente reboltosa” and who threatened to bring to Venezuela something akin to
“the black tyrant Dessalines.” Ten of Miranda’s followers were summarily hung,
their bodies left dangling from the gallows. The rest were sent to Spain to lan-
guish in prison. This kind of violence exemplifed what Lynn Hunt has called a
“pageantry of pain,” public spectacles of corporal punishment from whippings
to executions, a gamut of bodily desecration meant to dishonor the criminal and
demonstrate the baseness and powerlessness of the condemned as well as the
might and glory of rulers.

13. Conde de Torre Velarde to Principe de la Paz, 19 July 1797, AGI, Estado, Santa Fé,
53/59; Anthony McFarlane, Colombia before Independence: Economy, Society and Politics under
Bourbon Rule (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993), 284 – 89.
14. Andrés Bello, “Observaciones sobre la situacion de Coro,” 2 Sept. 1806, AGI,
Gobierno, Caracas, 458. Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History (New York: W. W.
Norton, 2007), 93. The most evocative narrative of this model of justice is Peter Linebaugh,
The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century (London: Penguin, 1991).
See also Gene E. Ogle, “Slaves of Justice: Saint Domingue’s Executioners and the Production
of Shame,” Historical Refections/Refexions Historiques 29, no. 2 (Summer 2003): 275 – 94.
400 HAHR / August / Adelman
Armed social confict is one thing; war is quite another. Society at this
point was far from a cycle of civil strife and terror, and certainly no breakdown
of the basic colonial system had occurred. The violence lacked the “organiza-
tional” personality it would have in a few years’ time. Desecration and rumors of
killing came nowhere close to the language or threat of extermination. Indeed,
colonial subjects for the most part combined their unease with offcials’ heavy-
handedness with a vision of the monarch as a source of justice and appealed to
this sense of justice in self-defense in the unfortunate event of arrest. It would
take a specifc kind of break in the legal order for enforcements that were once
seen as the rites of natural justice to appear as the exercise of tyranny, or for
plebeian violence to be seen as more than vindictiveness.
There was no shortage of motives for fear and unrest in late colonial Span-
ish America. Events in 1808 aggravated them all. Napoleonic armies streamed
into Spain and Ferdinand fell into the French ruler’s hands. Gone was the mon-
archy, the central legitimating symbol for the empire and source of Christian
justice. With the king unable to rule his subjects, who or what would fll the gap,
and how? It was this break in sovereignty that altered the practice of political
violence. The late Charles Tilly, following an insight by Trotsky, argued that
revolutionary situations were those in which more than one power bloc exer-
cised control over part of the state apparatus. Dual or manifold sovereignties
provoke different classes, sectors, and alliances to lay claim to state power. This
is what started to happen in 1808 across the Iberian Atlantic. The fssuring of
the ancien régime did not widen under pressure from Jacobin plots or the revo-
lutionary wars of the 1790s but only when the interimperial rivalries blew open
with the coronation of Napoleon as the emperor of France and his campaign for
European supremacy.
If a break in sovereignty occasioned a revolutionary situation it did not
determine its course. For this, we need to come to terms with the contingencies
of the conficts that ensued and the violence they magnifed. As Spaniards and
colonists grappled with how to improvise a system of rule, they set off a debate
about local autonomy and representation that cascaded into confrontations over
who had voice and how and where they were allowed to express it. The cycle
upset the delicate equipoise of urban patrician models of political domination,
which only intensifed authorities’ suspicions and, in some cases, such as Mexico
City, their reactionary refexes. It took little time for the war of words to lead to
violence. In July 1809, a group of well-to-do creoles in Quito grew increasingly
15. Charles Tilly, From Mobilization to Revolution (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley,
1978), 190 – 91.
The Rites of Statehood 401
frustrated with the Audiencia’s foot-dragging and denounced the viceroy’s local
offcials, calling for an autonomous junta to govern the province in the name of
the king. This was not a declaration of independence, but it was an affront to
some royal offcials. There had been arrests and verbal assaults, but now a harsh
reaction was coming. The viceroy ordered troops to smother the quiteño “trai-
tors,” and their leaders were rounded up. Lima sent 800 soldiers to patrol the
city. More suspects were detained. While the government in Spain was debat-
ing new principles of representation and elections, prosecutor Tomás Aréchaga
ordered that the property of all the “rebels” be seized and requested to the vice-
roy that they all be executed. Quiteños heard rumors that the repression would
spread and lead to bloodshed, until a group of armed men stormed the prison
and released the detained. One guard died in the melée. Then all hell broke
loose. Soldiers opened fre on a crowd in the plaza mayor. Civilians attacked the
presidio to get guns but were trapped inside. Troops fnally captured them and
shot them on the spot. One escaped. By then, fears of the Bastille-style crowd
flled the minds of frightened Peruvian troops, who panicked and went on a
spree of assaults and killings in search of the ringleaders and their supporters.
Using swords, knives, bayonets, and axes, they found and slaughtered 28 of the
men who were awaiting sentences, including some scions of the creole aristoc-
racy. Spanish offcials, who had lost control, retreated to the presidential palace
to pray for a miracle. The absence of authority led to days of revenge killings
and retributions. Civilians began to target soldiers from rooftops and windows;
soldiers responded in kind and proceeded to pillage the shops around the now
seething plaza mayor. President Ruiz de Castilla thought that a sign of force
would do the trick to restore order; he commanded that a hanging gallows be
erected in the plaza and that disloyal subjects should be left to dangle without
trial. In the end, it was the bishop who defused the crisis for the moment. The
toll was about 800 civilians dead in the streets, including 13 children. One hun-
dred soldiers also died.

These at least were the fgures and the images that circulated at the time.
Silence and fear descended on Quito. But the news spread, especially now that
censorship was lifted, provoking outrage. In Santa Fé, Camilo Torres seized
upon the news of the killings in Quito to cajole the Cabildo of Santa Fé to
issue a Memorial de agravios, which catalogued the atrocities and urged subjects
to reconsider their loyalties, less to Spain itself than to its governors. Sangui-
16. José Manuel Restrepo, Historia de la Revolución, vol. 1 (Bogotá: Bedout, 1969),
118 – 23; Jaime Rodríguez O., La revolución política durante la época de la independencia: El reino
de Quito, 1808 – 1822 (Quito: Universidad Andina Simon Bolívar, 2006), 71 – 73.
402 HAHR / August / Adelman
17. El Argos Americano, 11 Nov. 1811; Aline Helg, “The Limits of Equality: Free People
of Colour and Slaves during the First Independence of Cartagena, Colombia, 1810 – 1815,”
Journal of Latin American Studies 20, no. 2 (Aug. 1999): 7 – 8.
18. Restrepo, Historia de la Revolución, 183.
nary news gave defnition to a line that was once imperceptible. It also revealed
how much the pattern of violence had changed from that which poised colonial
militias and enforcers against plebeian sectors. The pattern of violence was less
clearly molded to the landscapes of class and broke the association of enforce-
ment with elites and resistance with subaltern populations.
Violence also summoned new coalitions, some even calling for secession to
restore peace. Consider Cartagena, where pro – Spanish Regency factions had
threatened since 1810 to roll back local autonomy and tried to seize the gover-
nor’s palace and mobilize the garrison to occupy the city. After several lower-
ranking offcers leaked the plan, crowds took to the streets to preempt the coup
and called out the mixed-race militias and lancers. When Cartagena seceded
from Spanish rule in November 1811, it was an interim measure until the crisis
in the metropole could be resolved. But secessionists also felt that the break was
needed to reestablish legitimacy and bring an end to the carnage and its threat.
The city’s assembly issued an urgent call to disarm all colonial militias to pre-
vent opponents from militarizing the confict. The authors of the declaration
framed their vindications in a memory of bloodshed: “We note with horror for
our consideration the three hundred years of vexations, miseries, and sufferings
of all types, which accumulated over our country with the ferocity of the Con-
quistadors and Spanish rulers.”
The polarization gave rise to an ever more intransigent rhetoric. Some of it
baptized the new autonomist movements with sacrifcial imagery and warnings
of a more redemptive, totalizing war. Antonio Nariño, who had plenty of time
in Spanish prison to nurse his enmity, returned to the printing presses. His
newspaper La Bagatela was dedicated to denouncing the venality and vicious-
ness of Spanish authorities and publicizing every rumored repression; it invoked
the epic choice in September 1811: “salvar la patria o morir.”
Bernardo Mon-
teagudo grew tired of the polite Gaceta de Buenos Aires and founded his own
more vitriolic Mártir o Libre. In Venezuela, Juan Germán Roscio, otherwise a
less intemperate fgure than Nariño or Monteagudo, also justifed self-rule to
save the peace, because the Spanish could only compensate for their illegitimacy
with bloodletting. The selfsame blood, however, could be the bonding agent for
a new fraternal association: “We must recognize a legitimate Government and
decide to seal with the blood of its very last inhabitants the oaths which have
The Rites of Statehood 403
19. Juan Germán Roscio, “Alucacion del Reglamento para la eleccion de diputados del
Primer Congreso de Venezuela Independiente de 1811,” in Obras, vol. 2 (Caracas: Secretaría
General de la Décima Conferencia Interamericana, 1953), 20; Mariano Moreno, “Plan de
Operaciones,” in Escritos politicos y económicos (Buenos Aires: Cultura Argentina, 1915), 307.
20. Ricardo R. Caillet-Bois, “La revolucion en el virreinato,” in Historia de la Nación
Argentina, vol. 2 (Buenos Aires: Academia Nacional de Historia, 1936), 152 – 55; Charles W.
Arnade, The Emergence of the Republic of Bolivia (Gainesville: Univ. of Florida Press, 1957), 35 – 36.
been pronounced at the altar of loyalty and patriotism.” Mariano Moreno was
practical about the need to shed blood for the revolution. Though he was asked
to draft an outline for the makeup of a provisional government of Buenos Aires
in July 1810, Moreno also suggested means to this end and to resort to gruesome
measures if necessary: “We should not be scandalized by my words, to sever
heads, spill blood, and sacrifce at all costs, even when they have all the appearances
of the customs of Cannibals and Caribs” (emphasis in original).
Demonizing the government meant that the violence could cut both ways.
Indeed, no longer were crowds and civilian coalitions taking the place of govern-
ments to perform what they considered to be government’s dutiful obligations to
subjects, especially the supply of food — a common target of early modern riot-
ing. They were increasingly claiming to be the government, with rights to wield
its weapons against enfeebled incumbents. In May and June 1810, the highlands
around Potosí were swept by similar unrest over loyalties to splintering sover-
eignties. But when the news arrived in November that Porteño armies under
General Antonio González Balcarce had defeated Spanish troops at Suipacha,
crowds took to the streets. One set off for the house of the Governor Francisco
de Paula Sanz, who had earlier quashed dissent. The Arequipa Division of Royal
Troops opened fre; as in Quito, this ignited an urban insurrection. By the time
the smoke cleared, Paula Sanz was under arrest and the city was in rebel hands.
When Buenos Aires’s Juan Jose Castelli arrived in Potosí, he ordered that fr-
ing squads execute the governor and his associates. Vengeance begat avenging.
Lima’s viceroy Abascal dispatched armies to the highlands to drive the Porteño
forces from the region. What is more, commanders were under orders to purge
the cities of all sedition. These operations had to be more extensive and dig
deeper than those that followed the Túpac Amaru revolt and could rely less on
collaboration from local caciques (as we shall see below). From La Paz to Potosí,
rebel leaders were hung in the main squares and their bodies left to rot or to be
picked apart by scavenging birds. By 1816, one of the few republiquetas to survive
the savagery of Spanish repression was Ayopaya, whose guerrillas, based in the
highland hamlets of Palca, Machaca, and Inquisiui, menaced the roads and sil-
ver caravans around La Paz, Cochabamba, and Oruro.
404 HAHR / August / Adelman
In the borderlands of the Banda Oriental, the crisis of sovereignty was fur-
ther complicated by the competition for dominion on the shores of the Rio de
la Plata. The ratcheting up of confict between rival autonomist and pro-junta
factions coincided with — indeed, occasioned — the rapid decomposition of the
viceroyalty. In the vacuum that opened up, Portuguese armies were willingly
sucked in, giving the disequilibrium an imbalance of its own. Viceroy Francisco
Javier de Elío holed up with his troops in Montevideo, and his fghters gave up
all hope of a peaceable solution. José María Salazar, a royal naval commander,
concluded that “no other methods than the force of Bayonets can pacify these
provinces now.” His enemies agreed. One of the military commanders, José de
Artigas, gathered his cavalry to besiege the port in an early opening of the city-
country divide. His force was made up of lancers and gaucho volunteers. In the
battles that ensued, the distinction between formal and informal warfare was as
fuid as the alliances that fought them. The siege itself lasted almost three years
and turned the prosperous outpost into a hub of disease and famine. The clash
soon gave way to something more chaotic and would only partially resolve itself
by the late 1820s with the formation of an “independent” Uruguay. When Arti-
gas’s coalition broke up in mid-1811 (and some factions threw their lot in with
the enemy when they saw the tides quickly turn), Portuguese troops began to
mass along the border. This infamed matters. The siege of Montevideo yielded
to sacking and pillaging on both sides. Even Artigas’s ranks began to fll with
internal agitation; the massive refugee camp of Ayuí seethed with anger and
fear. To assert his authority over the camp, Artigas ordered the public execution
of three men on criminal charges. The war of attrition was such that no single
group could assert authority until the Spanish fnally evacuated Montevideo,
by which time the autonomist coalition was at open war with itself. This was
less a war conducted by standing armies than organized banditry and despolia-
tion conducted by all sides. When Portuguese troops did fnally invade under
General Diego de Souza, they faced the dilemma of most occupiers surrounded
by an armed society; they too had to resort to burning and pillaging to thwart
attacks. Where entire towns evacuated, the Portuguese moved in and began to
settle their own footholds in abandoned counties.
The cycle from increasing intransigence to stepped-up vengeance and civil
war was especially notable in central New Spain. In Querétaro, militiamen plot-
21. Salazar to Ministero de Marina, 4 Dec. 1810, AGI, Estado, Buenos Aires, 79/26;
Agustín Beraza, La economía en la Banda Oriental, 1811 – 1820 (Montevideo: Ediciones
de la Banda Oriental, 1964), 18 – 29; Pablo Blanco Acevedo, El federalismo de Artigas y la
independencia nacional (Montevideo: n.p., 1939), 70 – 92.
The Rites of Statehood 405
ted the overthrow of gachupín power in response to repression in the viceregal
capital, sowing the seeds for popular mobilization. Father Miguel Hidalgo, the
moral crusader of the Bajío, proclaimed, “Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe,
death to bad government, and death to the Spaniards!” Four days later, his
armies plunged into the Battle of Guanajuato, culminating in sacking, plun-
dering, and the public execution of the city’s defenders. While defenders were
being mutilated, attackers broke into shops and began to parade through the
streets dressed up in fancy clothes, emboldened by pilfered alcohol; the festive
and the horrifc combined in a single scene of confusion. In one September
fortnight, hundreds of thousands of Indians, blacks, and mulattos joined the
rebellion. Bishop Manuel Abad y Queipo, enraged that the rebels had painted
their standards with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, warned of a deadly
contagion (mortífero contagio). “Terror pánico” swept through loyalist ranks.
Spain’s armies in New Spain stumbled in the face of insurgents, provincial cit-
ies emptied not only of their peninsulars, but often all whites, for fear of the
government’s collapse. Querétaro and Mexico City flled with refugees from
the provinces. While Hidalgo’s forces had some hallmarks of armies, there was
a way in which they more resembled an armed mob than an army — a crowd of
some 80,000 that was poised to seize Mexico City. Behind the lines (such as they
were), a social order was in upheaval. Villagers seized haciendas. The owners
and managers were routinely killed, their bodies desecrated. Local governors
and mayors faced the same fate. One witness of the takeover of the Hacienda
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe observed that attackers “were still stabbing (the
bodies) with swords, and Santiago Cuenca cut off their heads with a long knife
given to him by Juan Agustín González, and Luciano Telles threw them [the
heads] in a sack and tied it to the pommel of his saddle.” In the pueblo of Atla-
comulco, crowds rioted, looted, and killed four Spaniards. Outbursts like this
multiplied across Central New Spain. Once royalists organized and stood their
ground, the Army of the Center quickly turned the tide and levied a series of
devastating defeats. In the mayhem that followed, untold numbers of civilians
became victims of exemplary justice. After Hidalgo’s execution in July 1811, the
victor, General Félix María Calleja, ordered that his decapitated head and those
of his co-conspirators be hung in cages for ten years from Guanajuato’s gra-
nary, where the worst of the rebel massacres had transpired. After that, Calleja
imposed a reign of fear. When he learned that people were tearing down his
posted decrees at night, he ordered his soldiers to fnd the culprits. They failed.
22. Hugh M. Hamill Jr., The Hidalgo Revolt: Prelude to Mexican Independence
(Gainesville: Univ. of Florida Press, 1966), 142.
406 HAHR / August / Adelman
23. Christon I. Archer, “ ‘La Causa Buena’: The Counterinsurgency Army of New
Spain and the Ten Years’ War,” in The Independence of Mexico and the Creation of the New
Nation, ed. Jaime Rodríguez O. (Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center, 1989), 85, 90,
93; Eric Van Young, The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle
for Independence, 1810 – 1821 (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 2001), 98, 129, and for the
case of Atlacomulco, see chap. 15.
Instead, 40 plebeian men were arrested, and when none would name names, 4 of
them were chosen by lot to face a fring squad.
The fact that the cycle of violence in New Spain escalated so quickly and
swept across such vast territories (unlike the more localized and still largely
urbanized clashes in much of the rest of Spanish America) helps explain what
came after. By containing and then crushing the “insurgency” so decisively,
Calleja succeeded in legating to the viceroyalty’s patrician classes a fear of what
might happen in the event of a renewed contest over sovereignty. This grand peur
coincided, more or less, with the restoration of Bourbon authority in Madrid.
For the next six years, it was possible to convey an impression of reconstituted
imperial sovereignty and so avert the kind of dynamics that ratcheted up the
contestation in the Northern Andes and the River Plate.
As images of bloodbaths and news of plotting flled the press and fueled
rumor mills, they could also stoke fears of treasonous behavior from within
autonomist coalitions. The Porteño regime — understandably paranoid about
peninsular schemes for a “reconquest” and federalist uprisings in the littoral
provinces — announced that all Spanish “horrendas conspiraciones” would invite
the harshest of penalties and declared that Artigas was a “traidor a la patria!”
His arrest and summary execution were ordered; his killer or captor would
earn 6,000 pesos’ bounty. Caracas was at odds with Puerto Cabello; Santa Fé
de Bogotá (as it was now renamed) fought Cartagena, and so forth. The feuding
spread. As it did, the demonizing of the enemy that was once directed outward
turned inward and widened local fssures. The competition for political loyalty
mobilized popular sectors, but it also gave rise to a sense of futility among many
of the original “patriotic” leaders; the rebel populacho may not have been as men-
acing as the defenders of the junta, but they were untrustworthy. Uncensored
newspapers that once flled pages with news of a crumbling Spanish govern-
ment and its cruelties in the colonies soon began to report on the dangers of
“the multitude” at home. In Cartagena, the victory of popular forces demon-
strated precisely why they could not be trusted, at least from the point of view of
centralists like Nariño, whose Bagatela was almost as vitriolic about the masses
as it once was about the Spanish government. Events in Cartagena drove him to
distraction. From the neighborhood of Getsemaní, black and mulatto militias
The Rites of Statehood 407
organized by the Cuban-born mulatto Pedro Romero took up light arms and
began to patrol their own streets to defend themselves against their own local
authorities, which wanted them disarmed. The Getsemaní battalions became
the core of the armed forces of the city and soon found themselves defending
the city against Spanish attacks (mainly from Santa Marta) and centralists from
As local coalition governments weakened, their publicists worried about
the limits of citizenship. No longer was the threat from the enemy without,
but the danger within. By 1812 in Caracas, the independence coalition traded
accusations of treason, and on April 12 of that year the crumbling government
promulgated the death penalty for treasonous acts. All opposition, the decree
cried out, was treason because it was, by defnition, an expression of particular
interests against the general will of a newly freed “public.” Monteagudo, a wit-
ness to the fragmentation of the River Plate region, pointed to the persistence
of “destructive and antisocial” passions; for a people tutored only in centuries of
tyranny there were no virtues. “A people who so suddenly passes from servitude
to liberty is in close danger of precipitating itself to anarchy and then regress-
ing to slavery.” The danger, he noted (some would say prophetically), was that
passions would “renew a more pernicious internal war against liberty than one
waged with all the weapons of tyrants.”

Internalized violence begat despair, heightened suspicion, justifed spying,
and raised the temptation to deal with the growing instability with yet more
violence. When the frst Venezuelan government crumbled in July 1812 and
prepared to withdraw, a handful of its younger leaders, Simon Bolívar among
them, schemed to turn their president Francisco de Miranda over to the Spanish
commander to face imperial magistrates. They were furious at him for allegedly
24. Juan Canter, “La Asamblea General Constituyente,” in Historia de la Nación
Argentina vol. 6 (Buenos Aires: Academia Nacional de Historia, 1936), 183; Véronique
Hébrard, “Opinion Pública y representacion en el Congreso Constituyente de Venezuela
(1811 – 12),” in Los espacios públicos en Iberoamérica: Ambiguedades y problemas, siglos XVIII
y XIX, by François-Xavier Guerra, Annick Lampérière, et al. (Mexico City: Centro
Francés de Estudios Mexicanos y Centroamericanos / Fondo de Cultura Economica,
1998), 211 – 24; Alfonso Múnera, El Fracaso de la Nación: Region, clase, y raza en el caribe
colombiano (1717 – 1810) (Bogotá: Banco de la República, 1998), 179 – 192; Marixa Lasso,
Myths of Harmony: Race and Republicanism during the Age of Revolution, Colombia 1795 – 1831
(Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), 44 – 46.
25. Bernardo Monteagudo, “Observacion,” in Escritos Politicos (Buenos Aires: n.p.,
n.d.), 57 – 58; Gustavo Montoya, “Pensamiento político de Bernardo Monteagudo,” in La
independencia del Perú y la fantasma de la revolución (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos,
2002), 152 – 88.
408 HAHR / August / Adelman
betraying the cause (though there is some evidence that Bolívar himself was on
the verge of switching sides preemptively). Miranda, arrested and taken away
in chains, would waste away in a cell in Cádiz. By late 1812, the new local ruler
Domingo de Monteverde announced to his government that Venezuela was
now “pacifed.” Like so many claims to victory in fratricidal conficts, this was
premature. Behind the lines, the province was in upheaval. Though the repub-
lican leadership had fed, local chieftains flled the void; José Francisco Bermú-
dez, Santiago Mariño, and the mulatto Manuel Piar mobilized slaves and freed
blacks in the east and eventually helped drive Monteverde from the capital. The
seesaw continued; the second republic was even weaker, and more short-lived,
than the frst. Each side was strong enough to neutralize its adversary; none had
the power to impose a decisive victory.

What happened in Venezuela reveals, in extremis, a more general pattern:
where there was a standoff and the armed confict disintegrated the lines that
divided camps from each other, violence engulfed noncombatants. Mariño, for
instance, capped victories with butchery. After taking Cumaná, he ordered the
execution of 47 Spaniards and creoles; Barcelona saw 69 of its citizens shot. “The
life of such men,” he noted, “was incompatible with the existence of the State.”
Royalist reprisals were not far behind. As civilians and soldiers fed before the
republican caudillos, they also regrouped. And they responded in kind. The
Canarian shopkeeper Francisco Rosete pushed back through the valleys of Tuy,
liberating slaves along the way, and when he reached Ocumare his retaliatory
campaign ended with systematic desecration of civilians: noses, ears, breasts,
sexual organs were all systematically and publicly sliced off the bodies of cap-
tives, ending with mass decapitation. When Bolívar got the news, in a white
fury he ordered the immediate execution of every captive Spaniard; this was
the beginning of the War to the Death. The political violence reached a fever
pitch at the hands of José Tomás Boves’s Lancers, whose axial years of carnage
became the core of Arturo Uslar Pietri’s classic fctional account, Las lanzas colo-
radas. The Asturian merchant turned his multiracial recruits into a slaughtering
machine that worked over the Llanos in 32 months (until a spear did him in
on the plains of Urica in December 1814). In units of 50 to 60 horsemen, they
were organized not so much to win open battles with republican forces (though
this did occur), but more to establish territorial control through fear, sweeping
into towns and pillaging, raping, and murdering the occupants into submission.
Boves was not always a mass murderer; he became one. His early fghting did
not show the signs of the calculated sadism that eventually accompanied his
26. Ofcio de Domino Monteverde, 22 Nov. 1812, AGI, Estado, Caracas.
The Rites of Statehood 409
Lancers. At frst, Boves wore no uniform and often went shirtless; the fghting
was more spasmodic and his troops less organized. But by the middle of 1814 his
vestments had become more formal and his methods of terrorizing more elabo-
rate. The turning point appeared when he learned of a civilian plot to infltrate
his ranks at Espino. Boves sought revenge. He caught the plotters and ordered
their execution. Even the whistle-blower lost his head. This was followed by a
victory celebration in which Boves paraded the heads of his victims on top of
pikes, marching them around town with a band of musicians. After the Battle
of Victoria in June 1814 (where a trounced Bolívar had fed), Boves took mor-
bid delight in his victory, mixing the festive with the funereal: he dined with a
captured commander Colonel Diego Jalon, then publicly humiliated him before
his fellow captives, ordering 200 lashes. Then they all watched his execution; his
head shared the fate of others’, displayed at the end of a pike for all to see. The
night after another battle, an insouciant Boves invited the townswomen to a
banquet, after which, whip in hand, he ordered them to dance while, beyond the
walls, their husbands and brothers were rounded up and massacred.

Boves’s violence and the local calculus of pain still await in-depth historical
research. His actions and those of his like-minded peers across the Llanos illus-
trate the ways in which perpetrators wavered between the domain of politics
and the realm of theater. But one should not lose sight of the strategic purposes
of the slaughter. Consider the way preying and pillaging became commonplace
in the Platine borderlands, where power rivalries were more internationalized.
Unlike the Llanos of Nueva Granada and Venezuela, popular monarchist forces
were for the most part hemmed in at Montevideo. The furies of rural violence
stemmed from a different source, for in the countryside it was Portuguese divi-
sions that were bogged down in a brutal cat-and-mouse war with guerrillas.
While Joaquina Carlota was plotting from Rio de Janeiro to reestablish a Bour-
bon monarchy in the borderland region with herself on the throne (in advance
of her reconquest she had sent a printing press and some personal goods,
including, allegedly, her jewels), she had to wait for her armies to put down the
insurgency, which was on the run by mid-1812. But the war had degenerated
into a cruel exchange of guerrilla ambushes and army depredations of civilian
27. The work on Boves and his epigones is more extensive than deep. For details, see
John Lynch, Simón Bolívar: A Life (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2006), 76, 82 – 87; Stephen
K. Stoan, Pablo Morillo and Venezuela, 1815 – 1820 (Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1974),
52 – 55; Tomás Pérez Tenreiro, José Tomás Boves: Primera lanza del rey (Caracas: Ministerio
de Defensa, n.d.), 91 – 92. Perhaps the best single study is Germán Carrera Damas, Boves:
Aspectos soci-econonómicos de su acción histórica (Caracas: Ministerio de Educacion, 1968), which
emphasizes how pillaging was a war technique.
410 HAHR / August / Adelman
hamlets. The empress’s feld marshal, General Gaspar Vigodet, formally acting
on orders of the Spanish Regency, defended his actions — noting among other
things that his proxy war would free the Spanish armies to stamp out rebellions
in the Andes — to create a vast multilingual coalition of regal armies crushing
insurgents in the backlands to restore what the French Revolution came peril-
ously close to annihilating: imperial monarchy.
For all the grand designing, the situation on the ground was highly unsta-
ble and in some places led to wholesale dislocations. Wherever the fghting
became inconclusive and protracted, refugees flled churches and overwhelmed
the meager supplies of the armies that could not protect them. As Boves’s slay-
ing frontier moved eastward, encroaching on the capital, panic seized Caracas.
Families of all ranks began to pack carts and horses to prepare to fee. Bolívar
gave the order to evacuate, starting with his own emaciated troops. Civilians
streamed out of the city and made for Barcelona and Cumaná, starving, shoe-
less, and petrifed. Bolívar’s troops could not defend them. The stragglers at
Aragua were simply wiped out. Royalist troops went on hunting expeditions,
killing refugees en route to Barcelona. Towns swollen with refugees became
easier targets for the marauders, who did more than kill. One royalist chieftain,
Francisco Morales, took care of Maturín, and gloated that he personally raped
every woman of the town.
Fear and fight also possessed the Banda Oriental,
where noncombatants also became excuses for target practice and bodily des-
ecration by both sides. As Portuguese armies moved forward, burning and pil-
laging, the exodus began: up to 80 percent of the rural population — estancieros,
merchants, peons, and slaves — began their long march north to the littoral,
where federalist chieftains were preparing their recruits. Meanwhile, Spanish
royalists, plundered and immiserated in a blockaded Montevideo, also sought
refuge, feeing to Brazil and after 1814 back to Spain. News from far away could
spark a stampede of frightened civilians. In early 1815, following rumors that
Ferdinand was sending his massive expeditionary force to the River Plate, all
sides began to pack their bags for fear of an all-out war. A resolution of March
1815 announced that all Spaniards suspected of collusion with Madrid’s recon-
quista would face the consequences for their treason. José Battle y Carreo, for
instance, fed, leaving his wife and children behind, hoping to rescue them later
and praying that “that class of woman would not be persecuted.” In September,
Artigas began rounding up Spanish and Portuguese subjects, as well as his cre-
28. AGI, Estado, Buenos Aires: José María Salazar to Min. de Marina, 1 Sept. 1810,
79/38; Vigodet to Joaquina Carlota, 22 June 1812, 79/59.
29. Lynch, Simón Bolívar, 86.
The Rites of Statehood 411
ole opponents, and herding them into a concentration camp he called, without
irony, “Purifcation.” Then he gave away their property to “free blacks, zambos,
indios, and poor creoles” in proclamations that rolled off Princess Carlota’s old
printing press. When the Portuguese armies (once more with the complicity of
Buenos Aires) returned in 1816, they trounced the artiguista forces, wiping them
out in a succession of battles. But this time the Luso-Brazilian campaign was a
longer and more brutal one. General Federico Lecor’s army became an occu-
pation force. While the Banda Oriental had been converted into an embattled
province of refugees perpetually in search of shelter, Lecor’s divisions were sur-
rounded by guerrillas, and so lashed out at defenseless civilians in the standard
style of counterinsurgency. Fed up, an entire regiment of Artigas’s plebeian
force comprised of freed slaves surrendered on condition they would be allowed
to seek refuge in Buenos Aires, where they were welcomed with open, if some-
what duplicitous, arms. This phase of the protracted war ended at Tacuarembo
with Artigas’s fnal defeat, his personal fight to Paraguay, and the Portuguese
annexation of the province to Brazil, setting the stage for another decade of
direct confict with Buenos Aires.
Body parts and cadavers became instruments of politics; public execu-
tions and torture were intended to terrorize noncombatants into either sub-
mission and loyalty or fight and exit, these being two pendular alternatives in
the deterioration of public life. The violence served to constrain the features of
an emerging public sphere in late colonial Spanish America — the formation of
public opinion in the press, deliberation in town councils and business associa-
tions, and debate in the salons — that had been such a prominent part of the
contest over sovereignty in the aftermath of the French invasion. The politics
of terror was not an end in itself: these lethal crowds also acted as magistrates
issuing justice (in their view) as a way to exterminate the enemy. What started
out as a campaign against corruption, or as shaming rituals with the hanging of
a few royalists and rebels, had now become mass killing, a cleansing operation
of ever greater proportions. Historians once tended to see killing and maiming
like this as a breakdown of “normal” war into deviant personalized vendetta,
as a failure to cohere armies as prototypical affliates for nations coming into
being stocked with citizens in arms, as an aberration from a normative sequence
of state formation. But we might also see this in reverse, as a rite more familiar
30. Manuel Diego to Consulado, 30 Sept. 1812, AGI, Consulado, 345; Blanco Acevedo,
El federalismo de Artigas y la independencia nacional, 200 – 209; Beraza, La economía en la Banda
Oriental, 73 – 87; Lucía Sala de Touron, Nelson de la Torre, and Julio C. Rodríguez, Artigas
y su revolución agraria, 1811 – 1820 (Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno, 1978), 71 – 97.
412 HAHR / August / Adelman
to early modern historians that did not automatically subside with the creation
of modern states, whose own birth could even augment it. Thus we could see it
as the extreme violence of crowds who behaved strategically and who saw their
cause as legitimate and their method as logical, as militarized groups with more
or less aptitude for regimentation that assumed the role of justice-dispensing
magistrates where the state has collapsed. It is a subset within a broader family
type of civil war. Such a view helps explain why noncombatants got swept up in
the fratricide with such malice.
One anonymous limeño lamented to his sovereign in 1810 that the appeal
of rebellion to many of his subjects refected less the sense of ingratitude to the
king (which could be remedied because all children could learn gratitude) than
something more pernicious and not easily cured: love of “tyranny.”
While the
view of rebels as deadly agents, not mere malcontents, spread with the fghting,
the fghting was hardly the expression of some prepolitical logic but rather was
the function of the (im)balance of forces. Consider Peru, where Viceroy José de
Abascal, the spiritus rector of continuism, responded to rebellions with an iron
fst and thus projected a view of how to dispense with those who loved god-
less tyranny over the rule of a benefcent Bourbon king. Having driven Buenos
Aires’ armies from the highlands, Abascal assured the Spanish government that
“we can restore in motion the minerals of Potosí.” What is more, he added,
between his armies in the Andes and the royalists troops in Montevideo (this
was written before the city’s evacuation), the government’s pincers could now
squeeze Buenos Aires back into submission. After all, he had mopped up Pasto,
Quito, and Alto Peru — in the latter two cases leaving behind the trademark
odor of plunder and executions. And the news from Santa Fé and Buenos Aires
regarding their imminent collapse confrmed that only force would compel
insurgents “to enter reason.”
Discourses such as these have appealed to those fond of coercive solutions to
political impasses, especially those who happen to favor their own lust for power.
This was certainly true for Ferdinand, who was determined to restore imperial
grandeur. It also had an aura of plausibility: Calleja’s and Abascal’s counter-
31. Paul Friedland, “Beyond Deterrence: Cadavers, Effgies, Animals and the Logic of
Logic of Executions in Pre-Modern France,” Historical Refections/Refexions Historiques 29,
no. 2 (Summer 2003): 295 – 318; Natalie Zemon Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modern
France (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1975), 154 – 62.
32. Anonymous letter, 10 Aug. 1810, AGI, Indiferente General, 1568.
33. AGI, Estado, Lima: José Abascal to Secre de Estado, 23 May 1812, 74/2; José
Abascal to Secr de Estado, 13 Oct. 1812, 74/8; Marquéz de la Concordia to Secr de Estado,
25 Jan. 1813, 74/51; Joaquin de la Molina to Consejo de la Regencia, 23 July 1813, 74/72.
The Rites of Statehood 413
34. AGI, Indiferente General: “Consultas del Consejo de Indias,” 3 Oct. 1814, 1568;
Consulado to Secr de Estado, 7 Mar. 1815, 2320. Memorial del doctor Juan Antonio Queipo,
21 Dec. 1816, AGI, Estado, 71/81.
insurgencies in Mesoamerican and Andean hamlets subdued the uprisings; Bue-
nos Aires itself was “free” but the littoral and borderlands were engulfed in civil
war or occupied by Portuguese armies; and in Venezuela and Nueva Granada,
fedgling self-rule movements collapsed into fratricidal confict. In this context,
the restored emperor chose to rebuild his empire by arrogating to himself the
providential powers of the avenger, despite the warnings of some of his envoys
and ministers that the delicate impasse was leaning his way without the need for
a massive intervention. There was a political reason for this decision: to resolve
Trotsky and Tilly’s “revolutionary situation,” in which the task of the revolu-
tion or the counterrevolution is to reintegrate state power through the exercise
of force. This is what Ferdinand sought. But there was also a historic mem-
ory of violence nurtured by Abascal and loyalists, inscribed in consultas to the
(restored) Council of the Indies arguing that some “evildoers” took advantage of
the French invasion to take power for themselves, to introduce “libertinaje of the
press” in order to “corrupt public opinion” and “demoralize the people.” What
was needed was a decisive crushing of “impiety” and “insurrection,” a purging
of “all the prejudicial novelties introduced to our constitución indiana.” “Send an
Inquisitor!” pleaded one cleric. The full force of the Spanish Empire would be
dedicated to a massive cleansing operation to root out evil and corruption as the
precondition for a new peace premised on “the solemn and general forgetting
of the past.” This would be a war to bring real peace. “Pacifcation” plans were
laid to reconquer the provinces from rebellious infdels and restore the image of
a “Padre tierno” among subjects who had been seduced to forget his magnanim-
ity. For this the king needed an avenging angel to deliver the message, to root
out the sources of liberal venality, and to destroy the false gods of constitutional
The angel was Brigadier General Pablo Morillo, and his task could not
help but erase what was left of the lines between combatants and noncomba-
tants. But it would be unfair to charge the fernandina counterrevolution with
singlehandedly turning the unarmed into victims. We have seen evidence that
armed crowds could quickly mutate into plebeian “armies” and that sieges and
pillaging were becoming methods of warfare on all sides. The lines had become
all but meaningless. Whole towns and cities became targets, not just their
defenders. By the time Morillo arrived to “liberate” the province as a prelude
to pacifying the Andes and eventually choking Buenos Aires into submission,
414 HAHR / August / Adelman
it really meant wresting control from royalist chieftains and disbanding their
plundering bands. (This was a mistake whose consequences became clear later,
when republicans like José Antonio Páez flled the rural vacuum with guerrilla
forces of their own.) A senior cleric, who had joined the republicans in 1811 but
was appalled by what followed, switched sides, applauding the pacifcation in
Venezuela as the restoration of God’s authority and sharing his own tactical
recommendations for liquidating the Antichrists.
The next stop was Cartagena, the gateway to Nueva Granada. Morillo’s
forces besieged the port for 106 days, promising food and mercy in return for
surrender. Though many immediately swore loyalty to Ferdinand to avoid
recriminations, Cartagena held out, and its leaders responded by pulling their
Spanish prisoners out of jail and dragging them through the streets before
shooting them on the ramparts of the fort for the besiegers to witness. But star-
vation fnally brought the city to its knees, and it surrendered. When Morillo
marched in, he was greeted by the stench of death: six thousand people had died
from disease or starvation, and their corpses had to be mounted on huge pyres
for burning to control the contagion. “The city,” noted Morillo, “was a most
horrifc spectacle.” A group of merchants petitioned the king, thanking him for
sending “a destroyer of our past anarchy, and real restorer of the peace under
which we now live.”
This reconquest (how deliberate was this allusion to the crusade against
Muslims in the peninsula in the ffteenth century is unclear) was as bloody as it
was rapid. As with Boves, Bolívar, and Artigas, however, the degree and nature
of violence mutated according to circumstance. Morillo was not vicious when
he took Cartagena. The siege decimated the port, yet he pardoned opponents.
But he soon found himself fghting on several fronts; some fronts had vaporized
altogether in spite of his efforts to make this a “conventional” war. Back in Ven-
ezuela, the occupiers soon found themselves surrounded by revitalized insur-
gents. Morillo began to worry about the feasibility of the whole operation as his
reconquering front expanded and exposed itself to rebels. What was worse, the
“liberation” in Nueva Granada was not going cleanly. Morillo agonized. Indeed,
he offered to resign his commission but was turned down. Stuck with war on all
35. “Juan Antonio de Rojas Queipo sobre la pacifcacion de Venezuela,” 21 Dec. 1816,
AGI, Estado, Caracas, 18.
36. “Sobre el restablemimento del Consulado de Cartagena de Yndias;” 10 Dec. 1816,
AGI, Gobierno, Santa Fé, 961; Múnera, El fracaso de la nación, 212; Christiane Laffte Carles,
La costa colombiana del Caribe (1810 – 1830) (Bogotá: Banco de la República, 1995), 236 – 38.
The Rites of Statehood 415
fronts, or no fronts, his justice took a cruel turn. After pulling down an already
weak government, the avengers sought to ensure that it would never revive. After
executing the 25-year-old president, Liborio Mejía, Morillo issued a public state-
ment in November 1816 to the pacifed Neogranadines in which he promised a
new reign of peace and justice. The assumption was, as with many self-styled
“liberators,” that the population was living under tyranny (in this case a treason-
ous, republican, ungodly regime) and that it was awaiting deliverance. But in this
case, deliverance did not mean leading the oppressed from the lands of republi-
can pharaohs but rather eliminating the oppressors and purging the country of
those who worshipped false idols. The “army of brothers,” announced Morillo,
has brought an end to war. But peace meant getting rid of those who “burn
towns, hang their inhabitants, destroy the country and do not respect sex or age,
who replace the peaceful farmer and his sweet customs with a ferocious guerrero
and the minister of Vengeance of an irritated Sovereign.” The proclamation was
posted all over the capital and was followed by mass arrests and killings not just
of men who were involved in republican rule, like Camilo Torres, but of those
who sympathized with it. The avenger signed a death sentence for the scien-
tist Francisco José de Caldas. A Tribunal of Purifcation hunted down suspects,
seized their properties, and “processed” their cases. Three hundred were pub-
licly executed, many of their heads sent to adorn the central squares around the
viceroyalty. According to Victor Uribe, one quarter of the viceroyalty’s lawyers
were executed in an effort to expunge dissident letrados.

In New Spain, while the insurgency of 1810 shocked and frightened the
viceroyalty’s gentry, the rebel forces were soon crushed. But the victors wanted
more than a battlefeld triumph. They wanted vengeance and a deterrent. Herein
lay a dilemma. Much of the army was made up of Mexicans, which prompted its
commanders to hesitate before ordering them to wipe out the rebels. As viceroy,
Calleja recognized that terror could be counterproductive. When he heard that
one of his commanders burned the towns of Medellín and Rancho de Tejar near
Veracrúz, he informed the colonel that “we do not wish to convert the country
into a frightful desert and increase the evils that exist and the hatred with which
measures of this nature are viewed.” His successor found himself in the same
37. Morillo Proclamation to Viceroyalty, 15 Nov. 1816, AGI, Estado, Santa Fé, 57/34;
Laura F. Ullrick, “Morillo’s Attempt to Pacify Venezuela,” Hispanic American Historical
Review 3, no. 4 (Nov. 1920): 539 – 45; Victor M. Uribe, “Kill all the Lawyers! Lawyers
and the Independence Movement in New Granada, 1809 – 1820,” The Americas 52, no. 2
(May 1995). For more on this kind of model of “purging,” see Michael Walzer, Exodus and
Revolution (New York: Basic Books, 1985).
416 HAHR / August / Adelman
position and likewise wavered between appealing to loyalties and giving in to the
temptations of exemplary justice. Yet, Calleja also knew that long sieges would
pin down his forces and prevent them from expanding the frontier of Spanish
peace. Towns like Zitácuaro, Cuautla, and many others were pillaged, burned,
and in some cases demolished to deliver the message to other rebel posts to give
in. Summary execution of captured offcers became standard practice. Anyone
captured with weapons or caught in suspicious acts was to be shot and the cadaver
mounted publicly. And if viceroys wavered, local commanders tended not to;
their fears often led them to be much less squeamish about harsh measures.
Avengers enhanced the cruelty on all sides. In Mexico, royalist triumphs
and repression deepened the hatred of gachupines. José Vicente Gomez began,
around late 1812, to castrate his Spanish captives; assassinations became routine
as hatred simmered below the surface of the restored viceroyalty. This was the
backdrop to Bolívar’s proclamation of a “War to the Death” in June of 1813. “Jus-
tice demands vengeance,” he intoned. But at the same time he invited Spaniards
to follow a “path of reconciliation and friendship,” “to live peacefully among
us” if they would cooperate and share fealty to the Republic. Those who did not
would be considered an enemy, treated as a traitor, and “inevitably” shot. In a
later letter to the governor of Curaçao, he explained this lamentable exigency.
He bemoaned the “ravenous fres of war” and “the furies of unrest (that) agitate
the remotest settler.” After accusing the reconquerors of turning on their own
“sons whom he had brought forth in the land that he had usurped,” the Liberator
felt that his crusaders had no option. “I resolved,” he concluded, “to put in effect
a war to the death, in order to deprive the tyrants of the incomparable advan-
tage of their organized methods of destruction.” Until then, Bolívar had usually
rejected his commanders’ requests to kill civilians and reprimanded those who
sent him the dripping heads of captives. In the course of the escalation, how-
ever, the conventions of gentlemanly warfare went by the wayside. John Lynch
has noted that Bolívar viewed his struggle now as asymmetrical: Spaniards had
adopted exterminating practices even though republicans had been lenient with
Spaniards, an imbalance that put his cause on the perpetual defensive. Now,
liberating armies were under orders to keep no prisoners. This was no longer a
matter of deterring loyalists or releasing avenging furies to extirpate the enemy.
It was expedient; where fronts had evaporated and civilians were killed and des-
ecrated, civil peace required a total war.
38. Archer, “ ‘La Causa Buena,’ ” 92 – 94.
39. I am grateful to Alfredo Avila for the account of José Vicente Gomez.
“Proclamation to the People of Venezuela” (15 June 1813) & SB to Governor of Curaçao,
The Rites of Statehood 417
Valencia, 2 Oct. 1813, in Selected Writings of Bolívar, ed. Harold A. Bierck Jr. (New York:
Colonial Press, 1951), 31 – 32, 37 – 43; Lynch, Simón Bolívar, 73.
40. Sala de Touron et al., Artigas y su revolución agraria, 175 – 232; Beraza, La economía
en la Banda Oriental, 75.
Warfare changed more than the determination of its leaders; it also trans-
formed the social composition of armed confict. Some movements, like the
casta-Indian uprising in the Bajío, were born plebeian. But others mobilized
popular sectors more gradually. Cotton growers of Guerrero’s Costa Grande,
mulatto sharecroppers and Indian villagers, became mortal enemies of Span-
iards and formed the backbone of the province’s guerrillas, which was crucial for
the continuity of the insurgency after 1814. In the Oriental borderlands, Arti-
gas’s September 1815 Reglamento Provisorio enlisted plebeians, especially slaves
and Guaraní Indians, to its ranks; 400 Abipones moved from the Chaco to take
advantage of land being parceled out. By 1816, there was a full-blown assault on
estate properties, which yielded to the desperate plea from estancieros and mer-
chants for an avenging intervention, and thus the second Portuguese invasion
and its scorched-earth war on revolutionaries. The Banda Oriental came as close
as one might imagine to a cross-ethnic class war within a civil war.
In general,
the complexion of violent upheaval varied depending on local conditions. In the
Andes, the specter of Túpac Amaru returned. What started as an urban insur-
rection spread to the countryside and reached deeper into lower social strata,
shredding incumbent structures of indigenous governance. When reforms of
previous years were revoked and the power of the crown (and its envoys in the
highlands) was restored, villages rose up. In Cuzco, the royalist cacique Mateo
García Pumacahua, a former ally in the suppression of the 1780s and again in
1808 – 9, rallied to the ayllu uprisings to contest Lima’s tribute and tax demands
to fund the war. In so doing, he gave the armed opposition some lethal cohesion.
The uprising spread more quickly. So did attacks on the unarmed. A crowd of
Indians seized a fve-year-old José Rufno Echenique and his family from their
uncle’s estate south of Cuzco; one attacker plucked the child from the mob as
it murdered the rest of the family. In the ayllu of Ocongate, Indian villagers
formed their own military unit, which swelled to three thousand men armed
with farm tools and clubs (“buenos palos”), while local whites took refuge in the
church. But seasoned royal troops eventually crushed the rebels, capturing and
massacring thousands of prisoners. Pumacahua himself was executed in front
of a mass of his followers. While Abascal endorsed vicious reprisals and Lima’s
armies crushed the insurgency, they may have pacifed the region but they did
little to bolster the regime’s popular credentials. The new viceroy, Joaquín de
418 HAHR / August / Adelman
41. Pezuela to Secr de Estado, 12 Nov. 1818, AGI, Estado, Lima, 74/30; David Cahill
and Scarlett O’Phelan Godoy, “Forging their Own History: Indian Insurgency in the
Southern Peruvian Sierra, 1815,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 11, no. 2 (May 1992):
125 – 67; David Cahill, “Una vision andina: El levantamiento de Ocongate de 1815,” Histórica
7, no. 2 (Dec. 1988): 133 – 59; Charles F. Walker, Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Creation
of Republican Peru, 1780 – 1840 (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 1999), 98 – 100; Peter F.
Guardino, Peasants, Politics, and the Formation of Mexico’s National State, Guerrero, 1800 – 1857
(Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1996), 52 – 53, 71.
la Pezuela, was forced to lament several years later that “the opinion of the
cholos and indios is not especially favorable to the King; and among the multi-
tude of slaves they are openly siding with the rebels from whose hands they
await their freedom.” Montoneros prowled central Peru; guerrillas assaulted
royal troops in the Mantaro Valley. The viceroy’s troops were deserting in

In joining sides en masse, indigenous peoples and especially slaves changed
the nature of political violence. Their claims radicalized the ideologies of the
contest. They manned militias and guerrillas. And they left in ruins old elites
whose fortunes depended on their toil. But this was not a foreordained result.
Peter Blanchard’s recent work illustrates how in many colonies slaves remained
loyal to the king. Ramon Piñero joined Boves, “arms in hand,” and “served with
much love and faithfulness my king.” Domingo Ordoy, a slave in Montevideo,
petitioned for his freedom in Peru, having served loyally in the defense of the
River Plate. The course of war, however, shifted allegiances as the moral econ-
omy went up in fames. Revolutionaries trumped the supplicative ethos of kings
with promises of freedom. Rebel after rebel promised to release slaves from
bondage in return for their loyalty to the cause. As Artigas’s rebels encircled
Montevideo in 1811, they promised freedom to all slaves who belonged to Span-
iards and joined the uprising. Francisco Estrada did, bolting from his master
to march “under the fags of freedom.” Not all slaves joined the revolution;
some seized the opportunity to fee all sides, starting with their masters. As
rebel armies neared plantations along the Peruvian coast, slaves gathered their
belongings and hit the road. And yet, innumerable captives joined the ranks
of the armies and would rise up in them as the wars dragged on. What the
process of Indian and slave mobilization did was transform the original patri-
cian struggle into a vertical one in which plebeian sectors shaped the fate of
sovereignty. Plebeian participation raised the stakes of struggle to make it more
than a conceptual displacement of the regime; it became a shattering of the legal
fundaments that legitimated colonial exploitation. Early outrage against viola-
The Rites of Statehood 419
42. Peter Blanchard, “The Language of Liberation: Slave Voices in the Wars of
Independence,” Hispanic American Historical Review 82, no. 3 (Aug. 2002): 499 – 523; and
Blanchard’s full-length study, Under the Flags of Freedom: Slave Soldiers and the Wars of
Independence in Spanish South America (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), 41.
43. Memorial del doctor Juan Antonio de Rojas Queipo, 21 Dec. 1816, AGI, Gobierno,
Caracas, 71/18.
44. Pezuela to Secr de Estado, 29 Apr. 1817, AGI, Estado, Lima, 74/13; AGI, Estado,
Santa Fé, 57/35; Lozano to Garay, 2 Sept. 1817, AGI, Estado, Santa Fé; Minuta del Ofcio
del Secretario de Estado, 29 Jan. 1818, AGI, Estado, Santa Fé.
tions of a moral colonial code gave way to demands for equality that invoked
ideas for new codes.
Mobilizing plebeian sectors turned countrysides into theaters for a pro-
tracted, unwinnable war for the Spanish side. The king’s representatives in
Caracas could see as much, and warned that unless the royalist cause embraced
the abolitionist one, they were doomed: “We will be the victims of barbarian
fury.” Military “containment of the obstinate insurgents” was grinding down.
As a result, avengers found themselves on perilous legal grounds. In the words
of one, “we are merely the lords of the ground we walk on.”
Viceroys, once
heralded as saviors, were fooded with pleas from loyal subjects. Taxes, forced
appropriations, and continued arrests became the source of local elites’ disen-
chantment and eventual detachment from royal authority. The Cabildo of Cuzco
beseeched Lima to lift martial law and the shadow of suspicion covering the
region and to respect the honor of its good subjects. Local appeals had echoes
in the metropole, where ministers were growing increasingly anxious about the
costs, fnancial as well as moral, of pacifcation. This was most acute where the
campaign had run aground in the sands of a savage civil war. Reports abounded
of atrocities. Without salaries, soldiers had to resort to pillaging. Even one of
Morillo’s offcers, Colonel Leon Ortega, submitted a report to Madrid decrying
the conditions of the army. By November 1817, authorities in Cartagena issued
testimonies about “the violences” committed by the expeditionary troops. The
Secretario de Estado suggested to the Minister of War that a proper viceroy
be sent to Santa Fé; for too long the provinces had been subjected to “the arbi-
trarinesses of the Chiefs and Subaltern Offcers” of Morillo’s armies. It was an
“anti-political system.”
But the proposal to have civilian authorities restore
governance while generals focused on insurgents went nowhere, because the
end to the armed struggle seemed more remote than ever, in large part because
violence had so pervaded all aspects of political life.
At this stage, the issue was which side would implode frst. In retrospect
it easier to see which it was, for the shifts in the rebels’ strategies and popular
420 HAHR / August / Adelman
bases gave them more stamina over the longer haul, though many inside the
struggle worried about the depth of Ferdinand’s reconquering appetite and fret-
ted about the dangers of arming huge swaths of plebeian populations. Whereas
the resolve to settle the sovereignty crisis with a return to a fctive model once
enjoyed a kind of plausibility, it was equally prone to self-deception, political
intransigence, blindness to cruelty, and circular justifcations of brutality. The
king stood steadfast behind his model of martial pacifcation. In 1817 and 1818,
the king issued personal “memorials” to all his offcials in the Americas to spurn
all peace entreaties, especially offers of mediation. By then, Morillo’s troops
were on their heels, royal soldiers were soundly beaten in Chile, Lima’s war on
the republiquetas was grinding nowhere, and trade arteries of New Spain were
under constant assault from guerrillas. Back in Madrid, the king did not finch,
that is, not until the regime he sought to restore collapsed under the weight of
his own costly determination. His army, amassed in Cádiz to launch another
pacifcation campaign in the River Plate, rose up before it could set sail, its off-
cers demanding to put constitutional shackles on the king before doing his bid-
ding in colonies that had lost confdence in the rhetoric of transatlantic affec-
tion. The king, bereft of an army, had no choice but to accept, following with an
exculpatory letter to all his subjects in the Americas asking that the carnage of
the past be forgotten. By then it was too late; the memory of violence acquired a
life of its own that no sovereign could rein in.
Political violence made the process of imperial decomposition more and more
concentric: the global contest between empires ignited wars within wars, revo-
lutions within revolutions. It is important to remind ourselves that it did not
begin with an epochal, irreversible colonial break with empire. Instability cre-
ated a struggle for power and evolved into a struggle about power, and the nature
of this instability provoked all sides to violent measures to put an end to it.
The resort to violence altered basic identities and created new ones. It nurtured
a self-image of oppressed “colonial” peoples among those who hitherto had
imagined themselves the subjects of a distant, magnanimous monarch. It made
Spaniards feel encircled, hated, and unwelcome. These are examples of some of
the better-known, if conventional, affliates. But what of the identities of “fed-
eralist” peons of the Banda Oriental, “republican” villagers in the Altiplano, or
popular Catholic loyalists in Pasto, for whom national or proto-national collec-
tive identities paled beside those that made sense of their struggles to defend
local meanings of sovereignty? Further research into the micro-foundations of
45. “Memorial en nombre de Fernando VII,” AGI, Estado, Americas, 88/3.
The Rites of Statehood 421
46. Stuart Carroll, Blood and Violence in Early Modern France (New York: Oxford Univ.
Press, 2006), 207.
political violence can enrich our understandings of the complex relationship
between behavior — even atrocious conduct — and values without assuming that
one necessarily precedes or explains the other, and illuminate the interlocking
dynamics of the making of social divides and the handling of political confict.
Violence was not the exclusive recourse of one side or another. Ransack-
ings, public slaying, desecration of bodies, and violent humiliations appeared
from the outset in all camps as part of the repertoire, or rites, inherited and
augmented from an earlier age. Moreno called for sacrifcial bloodshed in Bue-
nos Aires while his nemesis Viceroy Abascal in Lima did the same. The events
in Guadalajara anticipated what would become more widespread elsewhere as
the struggle wore on: human bodies would become the site for resolving the
increasing polarization of politics and the radicalization within competing
coalitions. Boves and Artigas may have been at opposite ends of an ideological
spectrum, and the former was unarguably more morbid in the delight he took
in victimizing on a large scale, but the point is that they both were prepared to
make victims of people who were once their neighbors. Killing and mutilating
need to be put alongside the institutional improvisations and innovations of the
era — such as a free press and new practices of representation — as shapers of
political life as old regimes fell and new ones emerged.
Violent escalation in Spanish America cannot be simply adduced to some
basic psychology of a people who lacked civic traditions (though many, like
Bolívar, would look back at their handiwork and despair that what they had
really freed were latent furies of colonial subjects and not modern citizens). We
know of too many examples in history in which societies accustomed to living
by civic rules quickly found themselves engulfed in civil carnage. The history
outlined in this essay represents a passage of a particular sort, from violence
associated with acts of vengeance directed against particular agents (be they
venal judges, predatory tax collectors, or rabble-rousing publicists) to avenging
activities directed at groups. (A historian of early modern France calls this a dis-
tinction between vindicative and vindicatory violence.) In the frst instance, the
bloodletting was more targeted, aiming to remove the wicked so that the virtu-
ous may rule. With time, violence became more unbridled as people sought to
set things straight by force to restore an old equilibrium or create a new one.
In Spanish America this was resolved less with the decisive triumph of one side
than with the utter moral and fscal collapse of the other.
These examples of collective violence are reminders that they do not neces-
422 HAHR / August / Adelman
sarily deviate from the “normal” process of institutional politics, although they
do have spiral features that surface when the originary structures of sovereignty
are shattered. We can abhor them and mourn the human losses. But to treat
them as the pathologies of ideology, the eruption of man’s inner brutality, or the
outbursts of primordial enmities misses the point and the lessons that might be
derived from the histories of which they were a part. For this reason, the accent
is on political violence, which did not obey “natural” psychological laws or reveal
the underlying mindlessness of large groups of people, whether angry crowds or
petrifed soldiers. Latin American history has been rife with examples. One that
comes to mind has been analyzed by Inga Clendinnen, for the conquest was a
history steeped in remembered bloodshed in which narratives came into being
in the course of the carnage to make sense of the “other” — indeed to create
an image of the other — and thus validate the (unequal) exchange of terror. The
independence revolutions can be seen in a similar way but with different mean-
ings. If Clendinnen was grappling with the brutality of one society’s assertion
over another, this essay has been concerned with how a crisis of sovereignty
set off forces that would decompose it, suggesting the need for some political
contextualization for reckoning with the longue durée of political violence in
Spanish America.
The question of what to do with the enmities and hostilities
while creating new basic values for political communities confronts all heirs of
sovereignties created by violence, for whom politics remains a matter of life and
death. Spanish America was no exception.
47. Inga Clendinnen, “ ‘Fierce and Unnatural Cruelty’: Cortés and the Conquest of
Mexico,” Representations, no. 33, special issue, The New World (Winter 1991): 65 – 100.
Hispanic American Historical Review 90:3
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-002
Copyright 2010 by Duke University Press
“This England and This Now”:
British Cultural and Intellectual Infuence in
the Spanish American Independence Era
Karen Racine
To choose thy time and place did Fate allow,
Wise choice would be this England and this Now.
— Robert Southey, The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816)
Although the French and American Revolutions are refexively assumed to
be the inspiration for Spanish American independence movements, a stronger
argument can be made that the region’s patriot leaders derived their most impor-
tant cultural model, their animating energy, and their major material support
from Great Britain. Between the years 1808 and 1830, over 70 independence era
leaders of the frst rank lived and worked together in London, including Fran-
cisco de Miranda, Bernardo O’Higgins, Simón Bolívar, Andrés Bello, José de
San Martín, Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, Lucas Alamán, Agustín de Iturbide,
Bernardino Rivadavia, Manuel Belgrano, Vicente Rocafuerte, Juan Germán
Roscio, Mariano Montilla, Francisco de Paula Santander, Antonio José de Iri-
sarri, youthful members of the Aycinena and García Granados families of Gua-
temala, José de la Riva Agüero, Bernardo Monteagudo, José Joaquín de Olmedo,
and Mariano Egaña. Other important patriot leaders, including José Cecilio del
Valle, Juan Egaña, and Carlos María Bustamante, remained in America but sent
their works to be published in London. The men of this generation also carried
on purposeful correspondence with famous British fgures such as abolitionist
William Wilberforce, prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, utilitarian philosophers
Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, scientist Humphrey Davy, and vaccination
proponent Edward Jenner. These conscious and practical personal choices tell
us much about the kind of cultural model the Spanish American independence
424 HAHR / August / Racine
leaders admired and the sorts of future countries they wanted to cultivate for
themselves as the independence wars were drawing to a close.
Spanish American leaders placed orders for their new state china to be made
at the famous Wedgwood factories; brought over British gardeners, doctors,
and engineers to reconstruct their cities; and affliated themselves with British
Masonic lodges. They modeled their new school curricula after Joseph Lancast-
er’s mutual education method and sent over young patriots to be trained at his
Borough Road School for future service in America. They were obsessed with
the workings of a vigorous press and started to learn the value of public opinion
on both sides of the ocean; signifcantly, most of the European news published
in their newspapers came from British sources. They sent their own children to
schools in England. Patriot leaders hired Cornish miners to rebuild their metal
industries, recruited Scottish settlers to cultivate their felds, and solicited Irish
artists to engrave their portraits. Jeremy Bentham enthusiastically responded to
their requests to draft constitutions and other laws for Colombia, Buenos Aires,
Guatemala, and Venezuela. Indeed, central themes of interest to this generation
included such British-inspired ideals as an aristocratic brand of reformism, a
respect not just for liberty but also for the preservation of property and status,
the expansion of state-sponsored primary education, the controlled abolition
of slavery, a concern for the establishment of constitutional authority rooted in
local tradition, the adoption of specifc laws related to libel and freedom of the
press, trial by jury, an acute awareness of the power of public opinion, a fondness
for certain historical precedents commonly deployed in British Radical rhetoric,
and the utilitarian ideal of usefulness to the nation. All of these reformist notions
were conditioned by what Spanish American leaders saw (or thought they saw)
going on in Britain during the frst decades of the nineteenth century.
British-style aristocratic reformism was a strategy in which a genuine desire
for humanitarian social uplift (education, social services, expanded franchise, a
more inclusive public sphere) was tempered with a robust, elite-led control of the
pace, tone, and content of any such change (libel laws, transportation, creation
of national police forces).
One author has recently described this constellation
of reforms as a new ethos of embourgeoisement, or a worldview based on “ambi-
tion, desire, competitive individual achievement, and industry.”
By the early
1. Following an argument made in Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation,
1707 – 1837 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1992).
2. David Hogan, “The Market Revolution and Disciplinary Power: Joseph Lancaster
and the Psychology of the Early Classroom System,” History of Education Quarterly 24, no. 3
(1989): 383, 397. Hogan derives some of his argument from Max Weber (“the rationalization
of the world”) and Michel Foucault (discipline, punishment, surveillance).
“This England and This Now” 425
decades of the 1800s, this practical and paternalistic, yet ultimately still liberal
model was far more attractive to Spanish Americans than was either the French
or American revolutionary and republican experiments, which they had come
to believe had resulted in virulent class antagonism, territorial expansion, and
a marked diminution in the respect for hierarchical order. By emulating their
British counterparts, creole patriot leaders expected they could retain a privi-
leged place for themselves while training their co-citizens in the proper exer-
cise of freedom. In fact, Spanish American patriots shared the same Romantic
notions of the people, nature, progress, and controlled change that characterized
early nineteenth-century British reformism. It surely is not a coincidence that
the boat involved in the incident that led to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s unfortunate
drowning in 1822 was called the Bolívar, or that Lord Byron debated long and
hard about whether to fght for liberty in Colombia or Greece before settling on
the latter fateful choice. Britons and Spanish Americans were intensely aware
of each other’s struggles for liberty and considered themselves to be natural
allies. Indeed, well into the 1820s, many Spanish Americans leaders still har-
bored monarchist tendencies and were actively considering a variety of hybrid
state forms based on Spanish constitutionalism, the Greek and Roman clas-
sics, Jewish law, British constitutional monarchy, the reimagined Aztec and Inca
pasts, and the republican experiments in the United States and revolutionary
France. In all ways imaginable, Great Britain provided more than just military
backing, commercial opportunities, and fnancial support to Spanish American
independence leaders; it also offered a powerful, practical, living model for the
construction of their post-independent nationhood.
This essay contributes in several ways to the signifcant reassessment of
Latin American independence being undertaken on the occasion of the 1810
bicentennial. First, it rejects the hoary old assumption that the American and
French Revolutions provided the primary inspiration for Spanish American
independence; instead, it argues that Great Britain, as the traditional home
of Lockean freedoms and aristocratic reformism, provided a much more rel-
evant contemporary model for Spanish American leaders as they constructed
a shared vision of their desired future. On a practical level, closer association
with Britain not only offered Spanish Americans greater commercial oppor-
tunities and military protection on the high seas; it also provided them with
a meaningful counterweight both to the hemispheric ambitions of the United
States, which was already beginning to make them nervous, and the jealous
desire of Spain and its French ally to return them to the imperial fold. Span-
ish American independence, when viewed in the context of the patriot leaders’
intense and personal connections formed during a residence in London or
426 HAHR / August / Racine
undertaken in collaboration with British reformist fgures, clearly takes on a
global perspective.
Rather than perpetuating fragmented narratives based in regional theaters
of war or centered on the biographies of important individuals, this essay clearly
shows that independence was a major watershed in the process of cultural rein-
vention and national identity formation. The events in this process were directed
by a group of men who had a hemispheric network of fellow patriots who were
engaged in similar projects of nation building at the same time, almost always
undertaken with reference to British examples. Finally, I intend to counter some
of the cynicism of the past 40 years of scholarship, which has tended to diminish
the ideas, goals, and sincerity of leaders and elites as it undertook the valuable
work of restoring the voices of lower classes and marginalized racial and ethnic
groups to the historical record.
It would be ridiculous to claim that the French Revolution, with its shining ide-
als of liberty, equality, and fraternity, did not have an impact in Spanish America
just as it did in Spain, Russia, Poland, Greece, Ireland, and other parts of the
Western world that chafed under varying degrees of tyranny and monarchi-
cal control. Indeed, its infuence was wide and inspirational.
In the 1790s and
early 1800s, important Spanish Americans like Pablo de Olavide, Francisco de
Miranda, Antonio Nariño, Simón Rodríguez, and Servando Teresa de Mier lived
in Parisian exile for various periods. Francisco Antonio Zea, during his tenure at
Madrid’s botanical gardens, was part of a tertulia (salon) of like-minded Spanish
and Spanish American devotees of the Enlightenment known as the afrance-
3. See for example Catalina Banko, “Infuencia de la revolución francesa en la
constitución de Barcelona, Venezuela del año de 1812,” Boletín de la Academia Nacional de la
Historia 81, no. 318 (Apr. – June 1997): 43 – 57; Solange Alberro, Alicia Hernández Chávez,
and Elías Trabulse, eds., La Revolución francesa en México (Mexico City: El Colegio de
México, 1992); Ricardo Krebs and Cristián Gazmuri, eds., La Revolución francesa y Chile
(Santiago: Editorial Universitaria, 1990); Noemí Goldman et al., eds., Imagen y recepción
de la Revolución Francesa en la Argentina: Jornadas nacionales (Buenos Aires: Grupo Editor
Latinoamericano, 1990); O. Carlos Stoetzer, “L’infuence française au Rio de la Plata
à travers les régimes politiques et les textes constitutionnels, 1811 – 1848,” Cahiers des
Amériques Latines 10 (1990): 65 – 80; Jorge Amado, ed., L’Amérique latine et la Révolucion
française (Paris: Le Monde, 1989); Robert M. Maniquis, Oscar R. Martí, and Joseph Pérez,
eds., La Revolución Francesa y el mundo ibérico (Madrid: Sociedad Estatal Quinto Centenario /
Turner, 1989); Teodoro Hampe Martínez, “La revolución francesa vista por el ‘Mercurio
Peruano’: cambio político vs reformismo criollo,” Boletín del Instituto Riva-Agüero 15 (1988):
163 – 78. Issue no. 54 (1990) of the Toulouse-based journal Caravelle was entirely devoted to
the French Revolution and Latin American independence.
“This England and This Now” 427
The Spanish Inquisition was certainly concerned enough about writers
like Rousseau and Voltaire to issue blanket bans on their works in an effort
to forestall the spread of potentially seditious ideas, although the sheer num-
bers of book confscations and conspiratorial conversations indicate that port
authorities were never all that successful. There were several Spanish American
translations of The Rights of Man and Citizen, albeit not always complete or literal
ones, and some conspirators like Francisco de Miranda in Valencia in 1811 did
try to emulate aspects of the French revolutionary culture by inviting women
and mulattos to join their movements as respected participants.
Nevertheless, by 1808, France had fallen under the sway of the aggressive
Napoleon Bonaparte, and rumors of his designs on Spanish America created
both fear and trepidation across the Atlantic. Memories of the Great Andean
Revolt, the Haitian Revolution, and the Hidalgo revolt had raised fear about the
advisability of rapid change in colonial societies characterized by tremendous
race, class, and ethnic divides. The French revolutionary experiment, which
had passed through the Terror, the Thermidorian reaction, and an aggressive
imperialist phase, was still a living memory for them. That traumatic event had
resulted in the Bonapartist invasion of Iberia and violent plebeian assaults on
property and status in France, Haiti, and elsewhere, and was just too threaten-
ing for Spanish Americans to want to replicate. Furthermore, by the time the
Spanish Americas began their independence movements in 1809, the French
themselves were disenchanted with their revolution and were turning to the
study of English history for ways to restore a participatory, constitutional mon-
archy after a revolutionary, republican interlude.
Finally, on a more practical
level, France simply was not in a position to offer military support, loans, or
material investments to the patriots in the 1810s and 1820s. Contemporary
Great Britain was mentioned approvingly as a living, practical model far more
4. Roberto Botero Saldarriaga, Francisco Antonio Zea (Bogotá: Ediciones del Concejo,
1945), 73.
5. Geoffrey Cubitt, “The Political Uses of Seventeenth-Century English History in
Bourbon Restoration France,” The Historical Journal 50, no. 1 (2007): 86. See also Geoffrey
Cubitt, “Revolution, Reaction, Restoration: The Meanings and Uses of Seventeenth-
Century English History in the Political Thinking of Benjamin Constant, 1797 – 1830,”
European Review of History 14, no. 1 (Mar. 2007): 21 – 47; Sudhir Hazareesingh, “Napoleonic
Memory in Nineteenth-Century France: The Making of a Liberal Legend,” Modern
Language Notes 120, no. 4 (Sept. 2005): 747 – 73; Beth S. Wright, “Implacable Fathers:
The Reinterpretation of Cromwell in French Texts and Images from the Seventeenth to
the Nineteenth Century,” Nineteenth Century Contexts 20 (1997): 165 – 85; J. R. Jennings,
“Conceptions of England and Its Constitution in Nineteenth-Century French Political
Thought,” The Historical Journal 29, no. 1 (1986): 65 – 85.
428 HAHR / August / Racine
frequently than was France by the time that Spanish American patriots actually
set about the arduous tasks frst of fghting for their independence and then
constructing new nations.

Others have researched the infuence of a revolutionary model that was
closer to home, and it is true that Spanish Americans were both aware of and
interested in the process of the American Revolution.
George Washington and
Benjamin Franklin were well-known fgures. Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man was
translated into Spanish at least fve times, in Caracas (1811), Santiago de Chile,
(1812), London (1819), Lima (1821), and Philadelphia (1821), although the more
dangerous sections attacking institutional religion and monarchy were fre-
quently redacted, essentially rendering the work unrecognizable.
The American
Revolution had the appeal of being a successful revolt against a colonial power,
one located in the same hemisphere and which managed to preserve social order
as it passed into a new political structure. Spanish Americans, however, were not
convinced of the merits of an as-yet-untried republican model and found much
to make them nervous in the U.S. experience. The separation of church and
state was unsettling and too controversial for all but a few to contemplate. The
United States still upheld the institution of slavery and had designs on Mexican
6. I base this statement on my extensive examination of full runs of over 40
contemporary Spanish American newspapers, 5,000 pamphlets and broadsides, the personal
correspondence and published work of at least 60 major fgures from the era, and extensive
reading in patriot government documents spanning the entire continent.
7. See James E. Lewis, The American Union and the Problem of Neighborhood: The
United States and the Collapse of the Spanish Empire, 1783 – 1829 (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North
Carolina Press, 1998); Piero Gleijeses, “The Limits of Sympathy: The United States and
Latin American Independence,” Journal of Latin American Studies 24, no. 3 (1992): 481 – 505;
Javier Ocampo López, La independencia de los Estados Unidos de América y su proyección en
Hispanoamérica: El modelo norteamericano y su repercusión en la independencia de Colombia
(Caracas: Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia, 1979); and Javier Ocampo López,
“La agitación revolucionaria en el Nuevo Reino de Granada y el ejemplo de la independencia
de los Estados Unidos,” Revista de Historia de América 82 (1976): 29 – 52; Mario Rodríguez,
“The Impact of the American Revolution on the Spanish- and Portuguese-Speaking
World,” in The Impact of the American Revolution Abroad (Washington, DC: Library of
Congress, 1976): 101 – 25; Charles C. Griffn, The United States and the Disruption of the
Spanish Empire, 1810 – 1822 (New York: Octagon Books, 1968); Arthur P. Whitaker,
The United States and the Independence of Latin America, 1800 – 1830 (New York: Norton,
1961). William R. Manning published a three-volume collection called The Diplomatic
Correspondence of the United States Concerning the Independence of the Latin American Nations
(New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1925).
8. Rafael Gómez Hoyos, “Un granadino traductor de Tomás Paine en 1819,” Boletín de
Historia y Antigüedades 57, no. 666 – 67 (1970): 194.
“This England and This Now” 429
and Cuban territory, both of which signifcantly complicated its appeal. Many
patriots instead were more attracted to a British-style constitutional monarchy
as the best guarantor of social stability and gradual reform; in fact, San Martín,
Bello, and Rivadavia all contemplated such arrangements well into the 1820s,
and Iturbide in Mexico actually attempted it. Others, particularly Mexicans and
Argentines, were wary about U.S. hemispheric ambitions and wished to fnd a
way to check their northern neighbor’s power. Bolívar pointedly did not want to
invite the United States to the Panama Congress in 1826, yet he was willing to
permit Great Britain to send a representative. Furthermore, the United States
was neither strong enough militarily to be much of a guarantee against Span-
ish royalist counterattacks, nor were those at the highest administrative levels
inclined to toss in their lot with rebels in the southern hemisphere, no matter
what the doctrine of universal liberty might imply.
There has been much scholarship on the rivalry of great powers in the
region, and much that treats Spanish American independence as a series of
diplomatic events.
The international dimension was powerfully expressed in
R. R. Palmer’s famous book The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political His-
tory of Europe and America, 1760 – 1800, and academics have tended to project its
arguments forward to include Spanish America. More recently, this geospatial
approach to intellectual and cultural history has taken the form of Atlantic stud-
ies, the best of which are truly cross-cultural and able to bridge languages and
felds, but which are often nothing more than imperial history in a new guise.

The most interesting and convincing reevaluation of intra-empire reformism
9. John Johnson, “United States–British Rivalry in Latin America, 1815 – 1830:
A Reassessment,” Jahrbuch für Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft, und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas
22 (1985): 341 – 91; Lester D. Langley, Struggle for the American Mediterranean: United
States – European Rivalry in the Gulf-Caribbean, 1776 – 1904 (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press,
1976); J. Fred Rippy, Rivalry of the United States and Great Britain over Latin America,
1808 – 1830 (New York: Octagon Books, 1972).
10. María Teresa Calderón and Clément Thibaud, eds., Las revoluciones en el mundo
atlántico (Bogotá: Taurus, 2006); J. H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain
in America, 1492 – 1830 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2006); Jeremy Adelman, Sovereignty
and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2006); Bernard
Bailyn, Atlantic History: Concept and Contours (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2005);
Karen Racine, Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution (Wilmington,
DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003); Christine Daniels and Michael V. Kennedy, eds., Negotiated
Empires: Centers and Peripheries in the Americas, 1500 – 1820 (New York: Routledge, 2002);
Thomas Benjamin, Timothy Hall, and David Rutherford, eds., The Atlantic World in the Age
of Empire (Boston: Houghton Miffin, 2001); Lester D. Langley, The Americas in the Age of
Revolution, 1750 – 1850 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1996).
430 HAHR / August / Racine
has come from those who argue for the primacy of an endogenous Hispanic
liberal constitutionalism, namely the impact of the Constitution of Cádiz and its
subsequent iterations.
These arguments are provocative, compelling, and valu-
able. It should be noted, however, that the personnel of the liberal Cortes were
often Anglophiles themselves and their debates were heavily infuenced by con-
temporary British politics and philosophy, including issues such as the abolition
of the slave trade, freedom of the press, libel law, and the proper arrangement
of a moderate constitutional monarchy. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos regu-
larly praised British constitutional monarchy and was profoundly infuenced by
Locke’s concept of the duty of citizens to rebel against unjust authority; he read
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations daily and even translated part of John Milton’s
Paradise Lost in his precious leisure moments.
José Canga Argüelles quoted
British abolitionists in his fery speeches. Antonio José Ruiz Padrón and Juan
Antonio Llorente railed against the Inquisition using quotes and arguments
taken from British polemicists who had long viewed it as the epitome of Spanish
tyranny. All these British ideas circulated widely among Spanish Americans in
the independence era and fortifed the image of a people in solidarity with their
own liberty. For their part, British parliamentarians and public alike cheered
Spanish resistance to Napoleon and devoured news of its emerging constitu-
tional order with glee and a sense of vindication. The Constitution of Cádiz and
various deputies’ speeches were published in London to great fanfare (a version
was later reprinted in Mexico in 1820, complete with its English editor’s notes).

11. This argument has recently surged in popularity. See Roberto Breña, El primer
liberalismo español y los procesos de emancipación de América, 1808 – 1824 (Mexico City: El
Colegio de México, 2006); 153 – 80; Jaime E. Rodríguez O., ed., The Divine Charter:
Constitutionalism and Liberalism in Nineteenth-Century Mexico (Lanham, MD: Rowman
& Littlefeld, 2005); Manuel Chust, ed., Doceañismos, constituciones e independencias: La
Constitución de 1812 y América (Madrid: MAPFRE, 2006); Jaime E. Rodríguez O., La
revolución política durante la época de la independencia: El reino de Quito, 1808 – 1822 (Quito:
Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, 2006); Manuel Chust and Ivana Frasquet, eds.,
La trascendencia del liberalismo doceañista en España y en América (Valencia: Generalitat
Valenciana, 2004); François-Xavier Guerra, ed., Las revoluciones hispánicas:Independencias
americanos y liberalismo español (Madrid: Editorial Complutense, 1995).
12. Robert Sidney Smith, “The Wealth of Nations in Spain and Hispanic America,
1780 – 1830,” Journal of Political Economy 65, no. 2 (Apr. 1957): 106; O. Carlos Stoetzer, The
Scholastic Roots of the Spanish American Revolution (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 1979), 66.
13. Political Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy, trans. Daniel Robinson (London:
J. J. Stockdale, 1813); Representación de la Diputación Americana a las Córtes de España en
1 de agosto de 1811, con notas del editor inglés - Londres: Schulze y Dean, 1811 (Mexico City:
Alejandro Valdés, 1820).
“This England and This Now” 431
Even poet William Wordsworth became a champion of the Spanish cause,
trudging through the snow at 2 a.m. to receive the most recent news about the
Peninsular War and fercely protesting the Convention of Cintra after Welling-
ton agreed to a shameful cease-fre and retreat.
British and Hispanic liberalism
were not as far apart as one might suspect, given the long history of contact,
exchange, admiration, and enmity between the two ancient monarchies.

In a very real and practical way, British politicians and propagandists had
been chipping away at the Spanish Empire for at least two centuries before the
independence movements launched, not only creating a military and economic
orbit that later appealed to the patriots’ search for a viable alternative order,
but also laying the foundation for a long-standing and deep cultural attrac-
tion to all things British.
Successive English naval victories had killed off the
idea that the Spanish Crown was able to defend its subjects abroad or protect
its commercial enterprises, and strength always attracts admirers. Slowly but
surely, the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), the adventures of Sir Francis
Drake, the seizure of Jamaica (1655), the formal cession of Trinidad (1802), and
the ever-increasing presence of the British Navy in the South Seas provided an
alternative source of both material goods and international news, along with
the chance to observe the habits and norms of another nation’s people. In living
memory, Admiral Nelson’s infamous victory over Napoleon’s feet at the Battle
of Trafalgar (1804), the British invasion and occupation of the Río de la Plata
(1806), Britain’s timely evacuation of the Portuguese royal family from Lisbon
to Rio de Janeiro (1808), and its staunch support for the Spanish guerrillas on
the Iberian peninsula solidifed Britain’s image as the creoles’ strongest, most
14. Erasmo Buceta, “El entusiasmo por España en algunos románticos ingleses,”
Revista de Filosofía Española 10, no. 1 (1929): 8n. Diego Saglia has written extensively on
Hispanic themes and tropes in British literature. His best works include Poetic Castles
in Spain: British Romanticism and Figurations of Iberia (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000); “ ‘O
My Mother Spain!’: The Peninsular War, Family Matters, and the Practice of Romantic
Nation-Writing,” English Literary History 65, no. 2 (1998): 363 – 93; “ ‘The True Essence of
Romanticism’: Romantic Theories of Spain and the Question of Spanish Romanticism,”
Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies 3, no. 2 (1997): 127 – 45; “The Exotic Politics of
the Domestic: The Alhambra as Symbolic Place in British History,” Comparative Literature
Studies 34 (1997): 197 – 225.
15. Pedro Grases, Britain and Hispanic Liberalism, 1800 – 1830 (London: Canning
House, 1975).
16. Gabriel Paquette, Enlightenment, Governance and Reform in Spain and Its Empire,
1759 – 1808 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), and “The Image of British
Imperial Spain in British Political Thought, 1750 – 1800,” Bulletin of Spanish Studies 81,
no. 2 (2004): 187 – 214.
432 HAHR / August / Racine
vigorous potential military ally and their most desirable commercial partner.
Furthermore, even Spanish liberals had fed to exile in London, following the
well-worn path of generations of others who had sought protection abroad from
persecution at home.
There were both idealistic and practical reasons for this
pilgrimage. British liberty had long protected foreign dissidents and allowed
them space to meet, publish, and reconstitute their communities in exile; more
prosaically, its government provided pensions for many Spanish American exiles
and expatriates living in dire poverty during the revolutionary era.
As nations and empires, Spain and England had enjoyed a long and often
fraught relationship. Dating from the days when Henry VIII repudiated his
Spanish-born frst wife Catherine of Aragon, through the Great Schism of the
Anglican Reformation and England’s long-standing support for the indepen-
dence and the autonomy of both Portugal and the Low Countries in the face of
Spanish expansionism, British concepts of freedom often defned themselves in
contraposition to the Spanish Empire. Over time, these images not only seeped
into Spanish colonial discourse itself but also crossed the ocean and perme-
ated the Spanish American consciousness, laying a deep foundation of belief
that England was both the natural home of liberty and the best potential ally.
Bartolomé de Las Casas’s tracts appeared in English translation as early as
1583 and elicited a raft of defensive responses from the Spanish Crown and its
chroniclers, which, of course, introduced the Protestant Black Legend critiques
into the Spanish-speaking world by proxy. In an anecdote that was frequently
repeated by Spanish American patriot writers during the independence era,
Garcilaso de la Vega claimed that there was a tradition among Andean Indians
which prophesied that they would recover their independence with the aid of
England, invoked respectfully as “that Great part of the world.”
abound. Servando Teresa de Mier called the Laws of the Indies “our Magna
Carta.” Juan Germán Roscio thanked Great Britain for giving the world a
centuries-long example of resistance to tyranny frst set out in “their Magna
Carta.” Both men had spent time in England and were profoundly affected by
the experience.
Even the congresses at Chilpancingo (1813) and Apatzingán
17. Vicente Lloréns, Liberales y románticos: Una emigración española en Inglaterra,
1823 – 1834 (Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1979), and “Colaboraciones de emigrados españoles
en revistas inglesas, 1824 – 1834,” Hispanic Review 19, no. 2 (Apr. 1951): 121 – 42.
18. José de la Riva-Agüero, Manifestación histórica y política de la revolución de la América
(Buenos Aires: Imprenta de los Expósitos, 1818), 172.
19. José Servando Teresa de Mier Noriega y Guerra, Historia de la revolución de Nueva
España antiguamente Anáhuac . . . (Paris: La Sorbona, 1990), 476. Juan Germán Roscio, El
Triunfo de la libertad sobre el despotismo (Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1996), 125, 228.
“This England and This Now” 433
(1814) praised “the celebrated English law of habeus corpus” as the best way
to safeguard citizens from the abuses of tyrannical government.
The Argen-
tine O’Gorman family named one of their daughters Ana Bolena in the 1820s,
and a series of articles in El Centinela encouraged young girls to be like the
strong Queen “Isabel of England” whose forces defeated the fanatical agents of
inquisitorial Spain.
José de San Martín intentionally paid homage to Oliver
Cromwell, the moralistic leader of England’s New Model Army, when he took
on the title of Protector in 1821. There can be no doubt that educated Spanish
American creole patriot leaders had absorbed the lessons and values of British
history and deployed them with great skill and selectivity in their struggle for
emancipation from Spain and for legitimacy at home.
Of course, in order to have meaning, rhetoric must be translated into
power, and power into concrete action. Words and theories alone do not consti-
tute infuence. The Spanish Americans leaders who went on to have the great-
est impact in reconstructing the institutions and cultures of their nations after
independence were the same ones who actively traveled to, and solicited material
support from, Great Britain over the course of nearly two decades.
The earli-
est example of this collective search for British patronage can be found in the
so-called Grafton Street symposium. In the summer of 1810, representatives of
the newly established Spanish American creole juntas in Caracas and Buenos
Aires, and assorted private citizens made the pilgrimage to London to meet
Francisco de Miranda and appeal to the British government for aid, friendship,
and mediation with Spain, a seditious act that brought their real intentions out
into the open and clearly revealed where they thought their best interests lay.

20. Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach, La Gran Bretaña y la independencia de México,
1808 – 1821 (Mexico City: Fondo de la Cultura Económica, 1991), 45.
21. Ignacio Benito Núñez, Autobiografía (Buenos Aires: Comisión de Cultura del
Senado de la Nación, Academia Nacional de la Historia, 1996), 164. El Centinela, no. 10,
20 Sept. 1822, pp. 154 – 55.
22. For a collection of primary source documents, see C. K. Webster, ed., Britain and
the Independence of Latin America, 1812 – 1830: Select Documents from the Foreign Offce Archives
(New York: Octagon Books, 1970); R. A. Humphrey, ed., British Consular Reports on the
Trade and Politics of Latin America, 1824 – 1826 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1940). See
also Carles Pi Sunyer, Patriotas americanos en Londres: Miranda, Bello y otras fguras (Caracas:
Monte Avila Editores, 1978); William W. Kaufmann, British Policy and the Independence of
Latin America 1804 – 1828 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1951); María Teresa Berruezo
León, La lucha de Hispanoamérica por su independencia en Inglaterra, 1800 – 1830 (Madrid:
Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica, 1989).
23. See the chapters in Racine, Francisco de Miranda; Pi Sunyer, Patriotas americanos
en Londres; Pedro Grases, Tiempo de bello en Londres y otro ensayos (Caracas: Biblioteca
Venezolana de Cultura, 1962).
434 HAHR / August / Racine
24. Bell’s Weekly Messenger (London), 18 Jan. 1818. The Times (London), The Morning
Chronicle (London), Carrick’s Morning Post (Dublin), and numerous other daily newspapers
carried regular announcements of ships’ departures, goods for sale, and passages taken
during the years 1817 – 1820.
For nearly two months, from July to September 1810, Venezuelans Simón Bolí-
var, Luis López Méndez, and Joseph Tovar Ponte; Argentine Matías Yrigoyen;
Ecuadorean José María Antepara; and Mexicans Francisco Fagoaga, the Mar-
qués del Apartado, and Wenceslao Villaurrutia congregated at Miranda’s
Grafton Street house to talk about the issues that concerned them all. These
men met abolitionist William Wilberforce; toured Lancaster’s Borough Road
School; visited the docks, naval hospital, and observatory at Greenwich; and
dined with the dukes of Sussex and Gloucester. They were amazed at the vigor-
ous public press and quickly teamed up with James Perry, infuential editor of
the Morning Chronicle, to learn how to best present their case to the court of
public opinion. Most of all, they were impressed to learn that the English model
offered a way to combine the cherished ideals of freedom and social reform with
the maintenance of order, status, and property. If the king could sponsor free
schools for poor children, if the House of Lords could initiate prison reform,
and if wealthy and educated citizens like Robert Owen (who later thought of
emigrating to Mexico himself ) could experiment with improved labor condi-
tions on behalf of workers, then that would be the aristocratic yet still reformist
model they set out to emulate.
The British military and diplomatic role in Spanish American indepen-
dence has been well studied and will only be briefy acknowledged here. Once
the so-called “mask of Ferdinand” came off in 1814 and it became apparent to
all that the Spanish American patriots had no intention of returning to their
colonial status after a four-year experiment in self-government, the need to
shore up military defenses and fnd an ally became all the more pressing. Great
Britain was their natural choice, even though its foreign secretary Lord Cas-
tlereagh and his successor George Canning both adhered to an offcial policy
of neutrality. In practice, however, Spanish American agents in London openly
recruited military personnel for their armed forces. Between 1817 and 1819,
London newspapers were flled with advertisements for buttons, muskets, tai-
lors’ services, leather goods, and everything a young man would need to out-
ft himself. Bell’s Weekly Messenger spoke of the “South American mania” that
gripped London streets.
The Bloomsbury home of Bolívar’s agent Luis López
Méndez became known as “the colonel factory” because he handed out so many
promotions to former British servicemen willing to sign up for duty in the land
“This England and This Now” 435
25. Alfred Hasbrouck, Foreign Legionaries in the Liberation of Spanish South America
(New York: Octagon Books, 1969), 49. For the most comprehensive study of the British
and Irish Legion see Matthew Brown, Adventuring through Spanish Colonies: Simón Bolívar,
Foreign Mercenaries, and the Birth of New Nations (Liverpool: Univ. of Liverpool Press, 2006).
26. The phrase is David Hogan’s in “Market Revolution and Disciplinary Power,” 381.
27. David J. Cubitt, “The Manning of the Chilean Navy in the War of Independence,
1818 – 1823,” Mariner’s Mirror 63 (1977): 115 – 27.
28. See Cochrane’s memoirs: Thomas Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald, Narrative of
Services in the Liberation of Chili, Peru and Brazil, 2 vols. (London: J. Ridgway, 1859). See
also the new book by David Cordingly, former director of the National Maritime Museum
at Greenwich, Cochrane the Dauntless: The Life and Adventures of Admiral Thomas Cochrane,
1775 – 1860 (London: Bloomsbury, 2007).
29. John de Courcy Ireland, The Admiral from Mayo: A Life of Almirante William Brown
of Foxford, Father of the Argentine Navy (Dublin: Edmund Burke, 1995).
of El Dorado.
Approximately 5,000 foreign soldiers, nearly all of British ori-
gin, enlisted in the armies of northern South America, and a large proportion
of them remained there once the wars were over. These men intermarried with
local Spanish families and eventually became leaders in business, diplomacy,
medicine, banking, mining, and other elite ventures and thus provided a direct
link to the British-led “market revolution.”
British infuence in the Pacifc maritime theater was also pronounced in
ways not matched by the United States or France. One of Bernardo O’Higgins’s
greatest dreams was to turn Chile into a world-class naval power able to domi-
nate the Pacifc trade. The obvious contemporary model was the British Navy,
which he greatly admired. Antonio Alvarez Jonte went to London to recruit
sailors for him and, along with Antonio José de Irisarri, managed to secure the
services of Lord Thomas Cochrane, Tenth Earl of Dundonald, to head up a
new national feet that would operate according to the British naval code of
Cochrane sailed from England in August 1818 and arrived in South
America to much fanfare. At home among the growing British community of
Valparaiso, he and his British offcers outftted a fairly impressive force and
headed north to support San Martín’s Army of the Andes. Since then, the Chil-
ean Navy has had fve battleships and destroyers named Lord Cochrane, and its
navy (like others in South America) still retains a vestigial aristocratic British
Similarly, Admiral William Brown was a native of Ireland who became
the frst commander of the Argentine Navy. He remains a national hero for
his grand exploits during the wars of independence and has lent his name to a
World War II cruiser, an entire class of destroyers in the 1980s, an Antarctic
research station, a maritime studies center, and several Argentine soccer clubs.

There are no comparable fgures from France or the United States.
436 HAHR / August / Racine
Yet Spanish American patriot leaders were attracted to Great Britain not
just for the immediate practical goals of solidifying diplomatic and military
support for their break from Spain but also for the tantalizing model of aris-
tocratic reformism that it offered to them. England had outlawed the slave
trade in 1807 and was spearheading the international effort to abolish slavery
itself, a condition which was considered to be both an affront to humanity and
a form of labor that was inherently tyrannical. On a rhetorical level, patriot
leaders were fond of using slavery as a metaphor for their own political strug-
gle for freedom. In Caracas, Ignacio Rodríguez de Ribas wrote, “No nation
will be enslaved that does not wish it.”
From Cochabamba, Francisco Xavier
Iturri Patiño called for an army to “rid our countrymen from that heavy yoke
that Europeans have maintained by despotism for three centuries.”
nos Aires director Nicolás Herrera described Spain as “our common enemy
[who] would return to bend our necks under the abominable yoke of Euro-
pean despotism.”
The slavery metaphor was constant, widespread, and ubiq-
uitous during the independence era, and its invocation mirrored the strate-
gies and rhetoric of British abolitionists (and radical labor leaders too, for
that matter), news of which was widely disseminated in the Spanish American
periodical press.
Many of these same patriot leaders translated their antislavery rhetoric
into concrete policies once they were in a position to do so. One of the most
vocal proponents of the abolition of the slave trade at the Cortes of Cádiz, José
Canga Argüelles, had long been observing closely the strategies of the British
abolitionists Wilberforce, Clarkson, and Sharp, frequently referred to them in
his speeches, and modeled his proposed reforms after their work.
ended the importation of slaves and created a manumission fund in 1812; the
state of Mariquita did the same in 1815. Bolívar issued his frst proclamation of
emancipation as early as 1816, which was followed by a manumission law at the
Congress of Cúcuta in 1821 and a series of other decrees in 1822, 1823, 1827, and
30. Ignacio Rodríguez de Ribas, Caraqueños: Llegó la época feliz del desengaño (Cádiz:
Imprenta Real, 1812).
31. Francisco Xavier Iturri Patiño, Proclama del mas perseguido americano a sus paysanos
de la noble, leal y valerosa ciudad de Cochabamba (Buenos Aires: Real Imprenta de Niños
Expósitos, 9 Aug. 1810).
32. [Argentine Republic] Director [Nicolás Herrera], “Circular. Desde que D José
Artigas vió recompensados prodigamente . . .” (Buenos Aires, 30 Mar. 1815).
33. Humberto Triana y Antorveza, “La abolición del comercio de negros de Africa en
la política internacional de la Gran Colombia,” Boletín de Historia y Antigüedades 82, no. 388
(1995): 22.
“This England and This Now” 437
1828 affrming the end of slavery.
Indeed, patriot leaders throughout Spanish
America were keenly aware that both Castlereagh and Canning viewed aboli-
tion as one of the key requirements for any Spanish American country wishing
to receive formal political recognition from Great Britain. In 1825, Colombia
signed a formal treaty with Great Britain in which it promised joint coopera-
tion in ending the slave trade by shutting down the activities of the traders
Not coincidentally, many of the men who were the driving force behind
these policies had close personal connections to England; these included Bolí-
var, Santander, José Rafael Revenga, and Francisco Antonio Zea. Even José
Manuel Restrepo, who favored property rights and a more cautious approach
to emancipation, noted in his diary that events in his country were closely tied
to British interests; he wrote, “The African Institution of London has spoken
approvingly and to much applause of the manumission law here which has given
liberty to the children of slaves while prohibiting any further imports.”
Mexico, José María Fagoaga had spent much time in England in the 1810s and
used that experience to draft the Mexican Congress’s position on abolition in
the 1820s. Even some enslaved people themselves apparently were aware that an
entity called Britain was on their side; in 1811, a domestic slave named Gregoria
Santos presented herself to Lima’s cabildo with a petition that her sale to “a Brit-
ish individual” be upheld.

Another of the major arenas in which British cultural infuence was domi-
nant above all others was in education reform. Always pragmatic, Spanish
American patriot leaders recognized the economic value that a literate popula-
tion represented and hoped to harness the vast potential of the printed word
to their nation-building purposes. As José Cecilio del Valle, the frst president
of the United Provinces of Central America, bluntly put it, “Chinautla is poor
34. Harold A. Bierck Jr., “The Struggle for Abolition in Gran Colombia,” Hispanic
American Historical Review 33, no. 3 (Aug. 1953): 366, 385; and James F. King, “The Latin
American Republics and the Suppression of the Slave Trade,” Hispanic American Historical
Review 24, no. 3 (Aug. 1944): 387 – 411. The best and most recent work on aspects of this
theme can be found in Aline Helg, Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770 – 1835
(Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2003); Marixa Lasso, Myths of Harmony: Race
and Republicanism during the Age of Revolution, Colombia 1795 – 1831 (Pittsburgh: Univ. of
Pittsburgh Press, 2007); Peter Blanchard, Under the Flags of Freedom: Slave Soldiers and the
Wars of Independence in Spanish South America (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2008).
35. Restrepo, quoted in Triana y Antorveza, “La abolición del comercio de negros,” 39.
36. Christine Hunefeldt, “Los negros de Lima, 1800 – 1830,” Histórica 3, no. 1
(1979): 36.
438 HAHR / August / Racine
37. José Cecilio del Valle, “Ilustración,” in Sistema político y otros escritos (Tegucigalpa:
Secretaría de Cultura y Turismo, 1980), 53.
38. Hogan, “Market Revolution and Disciplinary Power,” 384, 407.
39. Joseph Lancaster, Epitome of Some of the Chief Events and Transactions in the Life of
Joseph Lancaster (New Haven: Baldwin and Peck, 1833), 35.
because it is ignorant; London is powerful because it is enlightened.”
tion reform was never far from the hearts of Spanish American patriot leaders,
who revealed their personal predilections by sending their children to school in
England. The families of San Martín, Rivadavia, Iturbide, Vicente Rocafuerte,
and Buenos Aires’ governor Martín Rodríguez; Chile’s prominent Toro family;
and Guatemala’s Aycinenas and García Granados were among the many who
sent children to be trained in Great Britain in the 1820s. Others, such as Bolívar,
Santander, O’Higgins, and Alamán, became convinced that Joseph Lancaster’s
system of mutual education, known as the monitorial method, offered Span-
ish America a cost-effcient, effective way to educate large numbers to basic
literacy in a short amount of time. They contracted with the British and For-
eign School Society (BFSS) to send out teachers instructed in the Lancasterian
method to aid them in their national projects. Lancaster’s insistence that he was
acting as a “citizen of the world,” one whose only motive was love of country,
resonated with Spanish American patriot leaders who saw themselves the same
way. This shared vision of national improvement through the advancement of
useful knowledge, coupled with Lancaster’s claim that one master alone could
educate 1,000 poor boys to basic literacy in three months, was a hallmark of
British-style aristocratic reformism, and it proved just as irresistible to them as
it did to citizens in Russia, the United States, and France who were adopting
it at the same time. Lancaster’s structure “transformed schooling into a meri-
tocratic marketplace,” one that was a “manufactory of desire and ambition, a
marketplace of competitive achievement, and an engine of disciplinary power,”
and which perfectly suited the mood and vision of the Spanish American patriot
In 1810, during his brief summertime visit to London on behalf of the Cara-
cas junta, Bolívar made a point of touring Lancaster’s Borough Road School and
promised to send over two Venezuelan youths to learn the monitorial system
from the master himself.
Bolívar’s association with Lancaster lasted for nearly
20 years. In 1824, the Liberator invited Lancaster and his family to come to
Caracas to superintend a school for Colombian youth, and he even made a grand
speech at Lancaster’s wedding to Maria Robinson in February 1827. Their pro-
fessional relationship, however, soon soured over unpaid wages, poor facilities,
“This England and This Now” 439
and a fundamental incompatibility between two outsized personalities.
BFSS register of students indicates that at least eight Spanish Americans trained
there and several Britons were sent out to South America for both boys’ and
girls’ schools. Future president of Ecuador Vicente Rocafuerte and Colombian
diplomat José María Vergara both were voting members of the BFSS during
their time in London in the 1820s and actively diffused its mission once they
returned home.
The relationship between the new Spanish American patriot governments
and BFSS agent-evangelist-entrepreneur James Thomson was a complicated
one, partly because of his idiosyncratic and messianic personality, but also
because the newly active state intervention in the feld of public education
threatened one of the Catholic Church’s traditional roles in society.
many of the most sensitive post-independence issues related to the role of reli-
gion in the newly independent states (public education, burial of non-Catholics
in cemeteries, freedom of the press) arose from the patriot leaders’ desire to
accommodate British merchants and settlers. By encouraging private study,
an emphasis on material rewards as an incentive to learn, and the none-too-
subtle proft motive accompanying the sales of the New Testament, Thomson
and his Spanish American patrons hoped to disseminate a spirit of improve-
ment and entrepreneurial energy among their young charges while at the same
time instilling in them a capitalist ethic, obedience to authority, and respect
for their masters.
It was the British aristocratic model adapted to a Spanish
40. The text of the wedding toast, dated 2 Feb. 1827, is found in Lancaster Papers,
American Antiquarian Society, box 13, folder 7. The full account of their long and
complicated relationship is available in Edgar Vaughan, Joseph Lancaster en Caracas,
1824 – 1827, 2 vols. (Caracas: Ediciones del Ministerio de Educación, 1987).
41. For good studies of the Lancasterian method in various Spanish American
countries, see Eugenia Roldán Vera, “Reading in Questions and Answers: The Catechism as
an Educational Genre in Early Independent Spanish America,” Book History 4 (2001): 17 – 48;
Dorothy Tanck de Estrada, “Las escuelas lancasterianas en la ciudad de México, 1822 – 1842,”
Historia Mexicana 22, no. 4, Ensayos sobre la historia de la educación en México (Apr. – June 1973):
494 – 513; Webster E. Browning, “Joseph Lancaster, James Thomson, and the Lancasterian
System of Mutual Instruction, with Special Reference to Hispanic America,” Hispanic
American Historical Review 4, no. 1 (Feb. 1921): 49 – 98; Domingo Amunátegui Solar, El
sistema de Lancaster en Chile i en otros paises sudamericanos (Santiago: Imprenta de Cervantes,
1895). James Thomson published his own account of his South American tour, Letters on the
Moral and Religious State of South America (London: J. Nisbet, 1827).
42. Karen Racine, “Commercial Christianity: The British and Foreign Bible Society’s
Interest in Spanish America, 1805 – 1830,” in Informal Empire in Latin America: Culture,
Commerce and Capital, ed. Matthew Brown (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), 78 – 98.
440 HAHR / August / Racine
American environment: idealistic, educated, cosmopolitan elites who desired
controlled social uplift through charitable works and their own benevolent acts.
The educational goal was to create useful citizens, not necessarily democratic
In 1819, immediately after being elected president by the Congress of
Angostura, Bolívar started to set up schools that utilized the Lancasterian
method of mutual education throughout the territory under his control.
cis Hall noted that there were functioning Lancasterian schools for poor boys
not only in the large Colombian municipalities of Boyacá and Bogotá but also
“in several other principal towns.”
San Martín and his aide Bernardo Mon-
teagudo decreed the establishment of a national school system in Peru based
on Lancasterian escuelas normales in 1822.
In Mexico, Secretary of State Lucas
Alamán actively sponsored the establishment of schools of mutual education
and promoted them in the various regional presses.
By 1828, the British and
Foreign School Society was pleased to receive reports that Veracruz’s vice-
governor Antonio López de Santa Anna had taken a personal interest in patron-
izing public education and to that end had appointed a Lancasterian commit-
tee and endowed their work with 30,000 pesos per year. Indeed, it seemed that
everywhere the schools had been established, they had been “hailed with joy,
and the utmost zeal shewn in supporting them.”

The greatest infuence of the Lancasterian school system was probably
43. Dario Guevara, “Bolívar y Lancaster,” Boletín de la Academia Nacional de la Historia
(Caracas) 51, no. 201 (1968): 81.
44. Francis Hall, Letters written from Colombia during a journey from Caracas to
Bogotá and thence to Santa Martha, in 1823 (London: G. Cowie & Co., 1824), 101, 136, and
Colombia, Its Present State (London: Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, 1825), 56. A letter from British
bookseller W. Turner to Joaquín Mosquera dated Bogotá, 10 June 1834, indicates that the
Lancasterian infuence among the liberal leadership continued well beyond Bolívar’s death
and Lancaster’s huffy departure. Indiana University, Lilly Library, Latin American MSS,
Colombia 1819 – 1890.
45. José de San Martín [signed by Secretary Trujillo and Bernardo Monteagudo],
“Decreto,” Lima, 6 July 1822, printed as an appendix to Peruvian Pamphlet, being an exposition
of the administrative labors of the Peruvian Government (London: Applegate, 1823), 86 – 87.
46. Lucas Alamán, “Instrucción para el establecimiento de escuelas, según los
principios de enseñanza mutua . . .” La Sabatina Universal 1, 5 Sept. 28, and 5, 12 Oct. 1822,
pp. 266 – 74, 279 – 99. One typical advertisement for the Lancasterian schools was published
in El Sol, 20 Mar. 1822.
47. British and Foreign School Society Annual Report, May 1827, p. 26, and May 1828,
p. 14. Santa Anna’s decree no. 100 dated Veracruz, 20 Mar. 1828, in Indiana University,
Lilly Library, F1227 Agency 385, broadsides.
“This England and This Now” 441
found in Chile and the Río de la Plata, where Camilo Henríquez, Rivadavia, and
O’Higgins all sought closer relations with Great Britain. In 1819, the Chilean
Senate accepted O’Higgins’s request to establish a national school system using
the monitorial method and borrowed the rules set out by Manuel Belgrano in
Argentina. The Chilean government clearly viewed its adoption of the British
system as a form of participation in cosmopolitan modernity. Juan de Dios Vial
enthused that “in the greatest part of Europe, and in much of Asia, Africa and
America, they have adopted the Lancasterian method with admiration and util-
ity, which happily has now been planted in Chile.”
Aristocratic families enthu-
siastically sponsored the mutual education project, which continued to receive
offcial support through 1828, when Francisco Antonio Pinto’s administration
agreed to pay the costs of printing books for their schools. Pinto himself was a
devotee of all things English and had spent time in London.
In Buenos Aires, El Censor ran a series of articles advocating the monito-
rial system which included transcripts from British and Foreign School Society
meetings in London. The society, they took care to emphasize, was supported
both by members of the aristocracy such as the Duke of Sussex and by impor-
tant reformists like abolitionist William Wilberforce.
Joseph Lancaster’s work
was translated and published as Origen y progresos del nuevo sistema de enseñanza
mutua del Señor Lancaster. The editor stressed that this system had spread rap-
idly throughout England because wealthy, patriotic citizens had sponsored its
growth to their own great credit; within three years, a subscription list for the
Lancasterian Society of Buenos Aires contained the names of 166 patrons,
each of whom paid six pesos per year as a membership fee and often donated an
additional lump sum.
Rivadavia’s secretary Ignacio Benito Núñez personally
48. Antony Eaton to James Miller, Santiago de Chile, 16 June 1820, Cambridge
University, British and Foreign Bible Society Archives, File Central America/South
America. Eaton’s contract with Irisarri is found at Chile, Archivo Nacional, Archivo
Fernández Larraín, vol. 42, pieza 22; Amunátegui, El sistema de Lancaster en Chile, 13 – 14,
76, 100, 111 – 12; Aviso: A los padres que tienen hijos en las nuevas escuelas de Lancaster (Santiago:
n.p., 1827).
49. Francisco Antonio Pinto, “Decreto,” Santiago, 18 Apr. 1828. Chile, Archivo
Nacional, Fondo Varios, vol. 697, f. 281.
50. El Censor, no. 116, 21 Nov. 1818, and no. 117, 28 Nov. 1818.
51. Origen y progresos del nuevo sistema de enseñanza mutua del Señor Lancaster
(Buenos Aires: Imprenta de los Expósitos, [1820?]); Subscriptores y reglamento de la Sociedad
Lancasteriana (Buenos Aires: Imprenta de Hallet, 1823); “Proyecto de reglamento para la
formación de una sociedad elemental en Buenos Aires,” El Centinela, no. 42, 11 May 1823,
pp. 335 – 36.
442 HAHR / August / Racine
delivered papers from the British and Foreign School Society to government
offcials in Buenos Aires when he returned home from London in 1825, telling
its director that he was proud his native land was sharing in the light emanat-
ing from London to the rest of the world.
One Argentine reader remembered
that “a long time ago I read two small books written in England for use in these
primary schools, and I admired them very much for their simplicity, wisdom,
and the profound learning displayed by their author.”
Public education was a
key aspect of British aristocratic reformism and was directly emulated by Span-
ish American patriot leaders anxious to make their citizens happier and more
productive, while ensuring that they were trained to respect authority, status,
and property.
The concept of liberty, as it was understood in the British tradition of John
Milton, John Locke, Adam Smith, David Hume, Dugald Stewart, and Edmund
Burke, stressed not only political rights but also the rights of property, and it
found a sympathetic audience among Spanish American independence leaders.
For example, Francisco José Planes, the editor of the Buenos Aires weekly El
Grito del Sud, struck a Lockean note in 1812 when he wrote that “The time has
arrived in which insults to the oppressed nature of all have ended, and we enter
into the enjoyment and exercise of those sacred rights of which tyrants deprived
us for so long. Property, liberty, security are gifts that are placed in our hands

Unlike the French revolutionary model characterized by abstract ideals
of liberty, fraternity, and equality, British aristocratic reformism was always
grounded in tradition, property, hierarchy, and controlled change, something
which had obvious appeal for Spanish American creole elites in a still mainly
rural, racially heterogeneous society. Furthermore, Locke, like Adam Smith
and many other British philosophers and entrepreneurs who came after him,
believed that economy and society were inextricably linked and argued that
it was possible for morality to exist within a competitive environment. These
notions had great contemporary appeal because they buttressed the patriots’
desire to lessen the church infuence in public life while valorizing the rational
individual’s ability to advance himself on behalf of the whole.
For this rea-
son, Locke was widely read and quoted in pamphlets, periodicals, and speeches
52. Núñez to Mr. Miller, Buenos Aires, 5 May 1825, British and Foreign School
Society Archives.
53. “Educación de Lancaster y Bell,” El Censor, no. 7, 15 May 1817, pp. 6 – 7.
54. Francisco José Planes, “Prospecto,” El Grito del Sud (Buenos Aires: Imprenta de
Niños Expósitos, 1812), 2.
55. Hogan, “Market Revolution and Disciplinary Power,” 401.
“This England and This Now” 443
throughout the hemisphere. Peruvian jurist Manuel Lorenzo de Vidaurre wrote
in his Cartas americanas, “No one can deny that England was the frst to spread
the rays of clarity. In Locke and in Milton, there are sublime ideas.”
The great
Andrés Bello taught himself English using Locke’s Essay on Human Understand-
ing and frequently invoked Lockean arguments once he settled in Chile and
helped to draft the 1833 Portalian constitution. Indeed, the Lockean emphasis
on freedom grounded in order, progress, and property was much more suited
to the Spanish American patriot leaders’ view of an imagined future nation and
their role in it than has previously been acknowledged.
Alexander Pope was also widely read, quoted, and translated by Spanish
Americans in the independence era. In 1816, in the midst of contentious consti-
tutional negotiations in Buenos Aires, Manuel Moreno quoted Pope’s comment
about the need for “precautions, without which the law and judicial power will
always be weak for the strong, and strong for the weak.”
José Cecilio del Valle,
the eminent Guatemalan statesman and publisher of the moderate periodical El
Amigo de la Patria (1821 – 22), frequently alluded to Pope’s Essay on Man and its
famous dictum that the proper study of mankind is man. Del Valle wrote that
“the study most worthy of an American is America,” and also that “Guatemala
is, for Guatemalans, the primary object of their consideration.”
In June 1821,
Ecuadorean poet-diplomat José Joaquín de Olmedo offered a translation of one
of Pope’s short poems in El Pacifcador del Perú and two years later published a
full Spanish translation of the Essay on Man, which, he took care to advertise,
was taken “from the English version.”
Andrés Bello, Olmedo’s close friend and
confdante from their days together in London, also translated the Essay and
even closed a poetical treatment of the Spanish American revolutions by quot-
ing from Pope’s poem Windsor Forest:
“Oh stretch thy reign, fair Peace!
Till conquest cease, and slavery be no more
56. Manuel Lorenzo de Vidaurre, Cartas americanas, ed. Alberto Tauro, Colección
documental de la independencia del Perú, vol. 1 (Lima: Comisión Nacional del
Sesquicentenario de la Independencia del Perú, 1973), 325.
57. Moreno in El Independiente no. 8, 3 Nov. 1816.
58. Del Valle, “Soñaba el Abad de San Pedro; y yo también se soñar” and “Comercio,” in
Sistema político y otros escritos, 36, 42. Echoes of Pope’s views on humanistic education are also
found in del Valle’s Memoria sobre la educación (Guatemala: Imprenta de la Unión, 1829), 38.
59. Olmedo, Ensayo del hombre de M. Pope (Lima: Imprenta de Masías, 1823); Augusto
Tamayo Vargas quotes Estuardo Núñez’s attribution of the translated poem in “Olmedo en
su ‘Canto a la victoria de Junín,’ ” La literatura iberoamericana del siglo XIX (Tucson: Univ. of
Arizona Press, 1974), 25.
444 HAHR / August / Racine
Till the freed Indians in their native groves
Reap their own fruits and woo their sable loves
Peru once more a race of Kings behold
And other Mexicos be roof’d with Gold.”

Pope’s appeal to Spanish Americans attracted to aristocratic reformism is
clear. Not only did he mock the pretensions of foppish elites who did not take
seriously their governing work or status as moral role models for the people, he
was also a Catholic who was able to reconcile faith and reason by stressing good
works, hope in the future, and limiting one’s ambition to its proper sphere. His
idealized, aristocratic, yet still humane and reformist view resonated with their
own self-image.
Spanish American patriot leaders were keen to make sure that their ideas
were heard in Britain and to ensure that their new countries were presented
in the best, most accurate light. In 1825, José Cecilio del Valle sent two sci-
entifc articles to Ackermann’s publishing house in London to correct errors
about Guatemala that had appeared in their Catecismo de geografía.
Carlos María de Bustamante retained a healthy skepticism that English bank-
ers would prove no better for Mexico than either “Fernando mercantil” or the
Cádiz monopolists, he nevertheless dedicated his edition of Lorenzo Boturini
Benaducci’s Texcoco en los últimos tiempos de sus antiguos reyes to George Can-
ning. Bustamante sent the British prime minister 27 copies along with his grati-
tude for the politician’s “good offces” and credited independence itself as “your
great philanthropical work.”
In his view, Canning was the man who “protects
the cause of humanity” and who presided over the “trumpet of judgment” that
sounded in London when Spain fnally acquiesced to the recognition of Mexi-
can independence in 1827.
The next year, Bustamante’s four-volume Resumen
60. Bello, El Censor Americano, as quoted in Antonio Cussen, Bello and Bolívar: Poetry
and Politics in the Spanish American Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992), 89.
61. Eugenia Roldán Vera, The British Book Trade and Spanish American Independence
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 219n.
62. Jiménez Codinach, La Gran Bretaña y la independencia de México, 1808 – 1821, 82;
Carlos María de Bustamante, ed., Tezcoco en los últimos tiempos de sus antiguos reyes
(Mexico: Imprenta de Mariano Galván Rivera, 1826), frontispiece. Bustamante to Canning,
Mexico City, 7 Feb. 1827, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds, George Canning MSS,
bundle 132.
63. Carlos María de Bustamante, La trompeta de juicio tocada en Londres en 23 en 23
do agosto de 1827, ó sea Diálogo entre un barbero y su marchante (Mexico City: Imprenta de
Galván, á cargo de Mariano Arévalo, 1828), 2, 4.
“This England and This Now” 445
64. Victoria, quoted in Justin Harvey Smith, “Poinsett’s Career in Mexico,” Proceedings
of the American Antiquarian Society 24 (1914): 82.
65. Robert D. Aguirre, Informal Empire: Mexico and Central America in Victorian Culture
(Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2005), 28. Michael P. Costeloe has also written
about their relationship in “William Bullock and the Mexican Connection,” Mexican
Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 22, no. 2 (2006): 275 – 309.
66. Egaña to his son Mariano Egaña residing in London, in various letters dated June
1825, 22 Sept. 1825, 22 Nov. 1826, printed in Cartas de don Juan Egaña a su hijo Mariano,
1824 – 1828 (Santiago de Chile: Sociedad de Biblióflos Chilenos, 1946), 123, 128, 145, 196.
67. Nota, Chile, Archivo Nacional, Fondo Varios, vol. 700, pieza 5.
histórico de la revolución de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos was published in London
as part of an effort to entrench his own version of recent events in the histori-
cal record. In a similar show of political fandom, Mexican president Guadalupe
Victoria treasured a letter that Canning had written him and regarded Canning
as “the natural Ally and Protectress of Mexico.” He even declared an offcial day
of mourning in Mexico to mark the death of the Duke of York.
It seems that
even republican presidents could retain a fondness for aristocratic reformism.
The British model was so powerful because it could appeal to liberals and
conservatives alike. Lucas Alamán, the secretary of state with close ties to both
the Mexican mining industry and English investors, was a vocal advocate of
restraint and respect for tradition and noble status. He permitted the British
museum curator William Bullock to come over and make plaster casts of impor-
tant Mexican antiquities for display in London, and even strategized with his
friend Vicente Rocafuerte to make a gift of Aztec statues and codices to the
British Museum, despite his own recently made laws against the export of cul-
tural artifacts.
In Chile, Juan Egaña had the impression that, unlike Chilean
legislators, British parliamentarians were “cultivated with habits of order.” He
had enough awareness to realize that “religious intolerance will not be accepted
in London and therefore it will not be convenient to publish [my Ensayo sobre
la tolerancia religiosa] there.”
Nevertheless, having one’s works appear in print
in London, the media capital of the world, meant one had achieved an inter-
national level of prominence, and so Egaña arranged for the rest of his works
to be transported to London for publication. He even remarked with impish
satisfaction that, when news reached Santiago de Chile that The Courier had
published a little biography about him, the city erupted in a frestorm of contro-
versy that prompted several anonymous, jealous condemnations to appear in the
city’s pamphlet press. Even the Chilean government was so keen to ingratiate
itself with the British monarchy that it sent a gift of the best Chilean horses to
the King of England in 1824.

446 HAHR / August / Racine
Spanish American patriot leaders’ fascination with all things British
extended to legislative practices, including the concept of trial by jury and
various other constitutional arrangements. In this context, their connection to
the famous utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham is notable. Bentham was a
friend and associate of Francisco de Miranda, who had thought of emigrating
to Mexico in 1808 until Jovellanos gave his application a “civil put off.” His sub-
sequent plan to go to Venezuela instead also died on the vine.
Bentham had been keeping records of the commercial reports about Spanish
America that appeared in British newspapers. He clearly viewed the region as
an open feld for both merchants and scientists, as well as a perfect laboratory
for his constitutional experiments. For their part, the Spanish American patriot
leaders were pleased to receive the attention of a famous British philosopher-
legislator, and they turned to him for advice and recommendations.
Miranda returned to Venezuela in late 1810, he took with him Bentham’s draft
called “Constitutional Legislation. On the Evils of Change,” and another called
“Proposed Law for securing the liberty of the press against persons having
the exclusive command of the printing presses of a new country when in small
The Gaceta de Caracas printed excerpts from Bentham’s writings on
freedom of the press several times in 1811 – 12. One estimate holds that 40,000
copies of Bentham’s translated works were sold in Spanish America before 1830.
Bentham himself liked to boast to friends that in Spanish America, young men
were not considered to have received a full and proper education if they had not
read his works.
Bentham was well known to Rivadavia, del Valle, and Santander. His
“Junctiana Proposal,” a scheme for creating a trans-isthmian canal, was wildly
popular among Central American liberals at the time and also tempted British
merchants and investors, who salivated at the idea. In 1820, Bentham worked
68. Bentham to Aaron Burr, Queens Square Place, London, 19 Jan. 1811, U.S. Library
of Congress, Aaron Burr MSS. See also the letters printed in John Bowring, ed., Memoirs of
Jeremy Bentham, including autobiographical conversations and correspondence (Edinburgh: 1843),
x, 439 – 55. A copy of the petition of “Geronymo Bentham” to go to Mexico is found in Lord
Holland’s papers, British Library, Add. MSS 33, 544, f. 418.
69. See Miriam Williford, Jeremy Bentham on Spanish America: An Account of His Letters
and Proposals to the New World (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1980).
70. Both laws were drafted specifcally for Caracas, dated August 1810, and are
preserved at University College London, Bentham MSS, box 22, ff. 7 – 56, 57 – 76. See, for
example, the Bentham extract printed in the Gaceta de Caracas 3, no. 142, 30 Apr. 1811.
71. Antonio Larrazával, quoted in Víctor Andrés Belaúnde, Bolívar and the Political
Thought of the Spanish American Revolutions (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press,
1938), 34n.
“This England and This Now” 447
up a draft proposal for the Guatemalans to give to George Canning, adding
his personal impression that “the affections of Guatemala had, it is true, always
leaned to England, in preference to any other country.”
In August 1825, an
article in the Gaceta de Gobierno Supremo de Guatemala discussed the goals of a
patriotic government, quoting approvingly the doctrine of the greatest happi-
ness for the greatest number and adopting Bentham’s emphasis on “subsistence,
abundance, equality, and security” as its own mantra. Shortly thereafter, del
Valle wrote to the master directly, saying that the assembly had charged him
with drafting a civil code and that he himself considered Bentham’s works to be
“of infnite value.”
Del Valle remained nervous about the Junctiana Canal idea,
however, fearing that it would prove too tempting a target for English or other
capitalists to seize and control once it had been completed. Yet, when the sad
news of Bentham’s death reached Central America on August 31, 1832, del Valle
got the members of Congress to vote to commemorate the event solemnly in
their deliberative chamber, mourning, as he said, “the light of Westminster.”
Rivadavia’s relationship with Bentham was more personal. The two men
met in London several times and carried on an intermittent correspondence
between 1818 and 1825. According to Bentham’s friend and secretary John Bow-
ring, Rivadavia “professed Utilitarian principles, and was occupied for some
time in translating the works of Bentham into Spanish, but the translation has
never seen the light.” Bentham called Rivadavia “mon frère cadet” and lobbied
hard against the idea of a king for Buenos Aires, a recommendation Rivadavia
grudgingly came to accept fnally in 1822. Bentham also pushed for the adoption
of his Panopticon prison scheme, where convict labor could be put to work for
the beneft of all, saying, “with the help of machinery from England, think of
the proft extractible from that number of hands, not one of which need have a
morsel of bread till his task was done!”
Indeed, the Panopticon prison scheme,
based on the idea that constant surveillance could cultivate proper behavior by
using a complex combination of corrective punishment and reaffrming rewards
72. Bentham to José María del Barrio, 19 and 20 Nov. 1823, University College
London, Bentham MSS, box 60, ff. 69 – 85.
73. Gaceta del Gobierno Supremo de Guatemala, 43, 1 Aug. 1825, p. 324; del Valle to
Bentham, University College London, Bentham MSS, box 12, f. 346.
74. Robert S. Smith, “Financing the Central American Federation, 1821 – 1838,”
Hispanic American Historical Review 43, no. 4 (1963): 509. Louis E. Bumgartner, José del Valle
of Central America (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1963), 267.
75. Bentham to Rivadavia, Paris, 19 Aug. 1818, British Library, Add. MSS 33, 545,
ff. 310 – 11; Bentham to Rivadavia, 13 June 1822, University College London, Bentham MSS,
box 12, ff. 387 – 88.
448 HAHR / August / Racine
to inculcate social values, was an important part of the aristocratic reformist
tradition, not unrelated to the methods endorsed by the Lancasterian method of
education. And, just like the monitorial school method, it was also disseminated
in several countries in Spanish America, with varying degrees of success, as an
economical way to reform recalcitrant citizens.
For his part, Rivadavia sent
back a translation of the federal ordinance on the operation of a police force set
up in 1822, which antedated by a decade the creation of London’s famed police
force, the “bobbies,” but shared the impulse of aristocrats everywhere to guar-
antee order and protect property.
Rivadavia revealed much about his admiration for all things British when
he praised Bentham as “the Newton of Legislation”; he stated that he wanted
to set his own young state on the “path opened by Bacon, Locke, Newton, and
Smith. How great and glorious is your country!”
On a more tangible level, he
created a chair in civil law at the University of Buenos Aires, whose instructors
were directed to use Bentham’s Theory of Legislation as a text, and created a rule
book for the National Assembly based on his Tactique des assemblées législatives.
Their correspondence seems to have come to a sudden stop in 1825, leaving one
scholar to speculate that it became politically inexpedient for Rivadavia to be
seen to be aligning himself too closely with the mercantile interests of Buenos
Aires’s growing British community.
Francisco de Paula Santander, Colombia’s
own “Man of Laws,” also ordered Bentham’s writings to be used as texts in
Colombian law schools in the 1820s and ran into some similar resistance when a
conservative faction charged that Bentham’s works promoted atheism; the con-
troversy over the texts raged for nearly three decades after that.
76. Ricardo D. Salvatore and Carlos Aguirre, eds., The Birth of the Penitentiary in Latin
America: Essays on Criminology, Prison Reform, and Social Control, 1830 – 1940 (Austin: Univ. of
Texas Press, 1996), 9.
77. R. A. Humphreys, Liberation in South America, 1806 – 1827: The Career of James
Paroissien (London: Athlone Press, 1952), 106. Rivadavia to Bentham, Paris, 25 Aug. 1818,
British Library, Add. MSS, 33, 545, f. 312. Jonathan Harris states that their relationship
was more practical in its early phase, focusing on issues of translation and political
independence, and after 1820 it became more theoretical and didactic. Harris, “Bernardino
Rivadavia and Benthamite ‘Discipleship,’ ” Latin American Research Review 33, no. 1 (1998):
134. A general study is Klaus Gallo, Great Britain and Argentina: From Invasion to Recognition,
1806 – 1826 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001).
78. Harris, “Bernardino Rivadavia and Benthamite ‘Discipleship,’ ” 145.
79. Jaime Jaramillo Uribe, “Bentham y los utilitaristas colombianos del siglo
XIX,” Ideas y Valores 4, no. 13 (1962): 11 – 28; Armando Rojas, “La batalla de Bentham en
Colombia,” Revista de Historia de América 29 (1950): 37 – 66.
“This England and This Now” 449
80. Harris, “Bernardino Rivadavia and Benthamite ‘Discipleship,’ ” 136.
81. O’Higgins (July 1811), quoted in Jaime Eyzaguirre, O’Higgins, 6th rev. ed.
(Santiago de Chile: Editorial Zig-Zag, 1968), 66; Stephen Clissold, Bernardo O’Higgins and
the Independence of Chile (New York: Praeger, 1968), 83.
82. Freire to Diego Benavente, Concepción, 3 Feb. 1824, Chile, Archivo Nacional,
Fondo Varios, vol. 821, f. 101.
Santander retained his appreciation for Bentham and even befriended him while
in exile in London in 1830.
Spanish American patriotic leaders embraced several types of reforms
inspired by British-style aristocratic reformism and liberal ideals, including the
establishment of national banks, the encouragement of national literary insti-
tutions, a limit to monastic orders, the creation of a Sociedad de Benefcencia
with state support to assume direction of social services like orphanages and
hospitals, and the substitution of direct taxation for customs duties on imports
as the best way to encourage trade and build up state coffers.
They exhibited a
practical interest in the workings of the British parliamentary system and tried
to learn its rules of order in order to ascertain the secret of tempering reform
with stability. They admired its unmatched ability to preserve aristocratic order
while making room for men of talent to rise out of the popular classes, just as
their patron George Canning had done. An awareness of British norms and
practices pervaded local discussions. For example, when Santiago residents were
trying to stack the Congress and claim 12 deputies for themselves, Bernardo
O’Higgins wrote back to his constituents in Los Angeles that “even London,
in a country of more than of a million inhabitants, only has two deputies.” He
loved to discuss the merits of the British constitution and the liberty of its peo-
ple since 1215; he even translated the Magna Carta for the entertainment of his
likely bemused friends.
Ramón Freire regularly used the Hispanicized word
parlemento to describe a deliberative body he hoped to set up in Concepción.
February 1811, the Gaceta de Caracas reproduced the House of Commons rules
of debate in translation. English legislative and constitutional infuence can be
found in Bolívar’s Jamaica Letter (1815), in the Angostura Congress (1819), Río
de la Plata’s Constitution (1816), the Venezuelan Constitution (1821), the Con-
stitution of Bolivia (1826), the deliberations of the Convention of Ocaña (1828),
and Bolívar’s message to the Constitutional Congress of Colombia (1830),
among many, many others. It is not insignifcant that French and U.S. infu-
ences are more pronounced in the short-lived constitutions of the early 1810s,
while a more hierarchical, aristocratic, British-style vision tended to dominate
the documents of the 1820s.
450 HAHR / August / Racine
83. Apéndice a la Constitución, sección 1, artículo 1, “Del poder moral,” Actas del Congreso
de Angostura 1819 – 1820 (Bogotá: Fundación Francisco de Paula Santander, 1989), 174.
84. John Mayo, “The Development of British Interests in Chile’s Norte Chico in the
Early Nineteenth Century,” The Americas 57, no. 3 (2001): 363 – 94; Barbara Tenenbaum,
“Merchants, Money, and Mischief: The British in Mexico, 1821 – 1862,” The Americas 35,
no. 3 (1979): 317 – 39; Claudio Veliz, “Egaña, Lambert, and the Chilean Mining Associations
of 1825,” Hispanic American Historical Review 55, no. 4 (1975): 637 – 63.
85. Frank Griffth Dawson, The First Latin American Debt Crisis: The City of London and
the 1822 – 25 Loan Bubble (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1990).
86. H. W. Dickinson and Arthur Titley, Richard Trevethick: The Engineer and the
Man (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1934); Tristan Platt, Historias unidas, memorias
escondidas: Las empresas mineras de los hermanos Ortíz y la construcción de las élites nacionales en
Salta y Potosí, 1800 – 1880 (Sucre: Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, 1998).
87. Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, The First Britons in Valparaiso 1817 – 1827 (Valparaiso:
Gordon, Henderson & Cía., 1884); D. C. M. Platt, Finance, Trade, and Politics in British
Perhaps the oddest and most idiosyncratic example of the attraction that
aristocratic reformism held for Spanish American patriot leaders when trying to
design their new governments was the Areopagus scheme outlined in an appen-
dix to the 1819 Angostura Constitution. Designed as a fourth power, the body
would be comprised of a president and 40 members and “shall exercise a full and
independent authority over public customs and primary education.”
with monitoring the patriotism and public morals of the citizenry, the Areopa-
gus was instructed to impose harsher penalties on elites who transgressed rules,
because it viewed the elite as a class that was supposed to serve as a model for
those lesser citizens-in-training. Clearly, there was a strong element of aristo-
cratic self-image at stake in the independence era, and elites often expressed this
by emulating their British counterparts.
British infuence permeated all public arenas during the Spanish American
independence era, not least the fnancial sector and material culture.
capital fnanced many of the military campaigns and economic reconstruction
projects of the 1810s and 1820s, even as its terms proved disastrous in the long
Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Guatemala all turned to British houses
for their frst national loans. Peruvian Francisco Uvillé hired Richard Trevithick
and his expert Cornish miners to reconstruct their failing enterprises.
made goods fooded the continent and altered not only domestic decoration,
fashion, and household economy but the nature of commerce and industrial
production as well. Certain cities like Veracruz, Valparaiso, Buenos Aires, Cart-
agena, and Caracas grew dramatically as a result of the infux of British mer-
chants, immigrants, and traders.
In fact, Maria Graham observed that Val-
“This England and This Now” 451
Foreign Policy, 1815 – 1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), and Latin America and British
Trade, 1806 – 1914 (London: A. & C. Black, 1972).
88. List of books and machines purchased, London, 22 Oct. 1818, Chile, Archivo
Nacional, Fondo Varios, vol. 801, ff. 139 – 42. Manning, Marshall & Barclay, expediente
sobre la máquina para la acuñación de la moneda, México, Archivo General de la Nación,
Casa de Moneda, vol. 28, exp. 29, f. 323. James Bevan to J. B. Sharpe, Buenos Aires, 12 Jan.
1823, University College London, Bentham MSS, box 12, ff. 93 – 97. “Agua Potable,”
El Centinela 21, 15 Dec. 1822, p. 353.
89. Registro Ofcial del Gobierno de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, 22 Nov. 1830.
90. Mier and Bello, “Translations,” National Vaccine Establishment Report 9 (Mar. 1813):
12. Courtesy of Wellcome Library for the History of Science and Medicine, London.
91. “San Jorge, 23 de abril de 1823,” El Centinela 40, 1 May 1823, 301 – 3.
paraiso reminded her of nothing more than a British port town with its English
signs, innkeepers, taverns, tailors, pianofortes, chimneys, and saddlers. Latin
American archives are flled with records of equipment purchased from British
businesses on the new states’ accounts. Chile, for example, imported books for
the new Biblioteca Nacional, industrial machines, and printing presses. Mex-
ico sent to London for a machine to mint coins. Argentina bought scientifc
equipment for chemistry, botany, geological experiments, and medical care. Its
government also hired engineer James Bevan to deepen Buenos Aires’s harbor
and sent to London for two sets of boring apparatus to aid in his work. Bevan
also introduced the same river fltration system that produced potable water
from the Thames for use in rivers in Argentina.
Vicente Rocafuerte person-
ally drew up plans for a scheme to introduce British-style gas street lamps into
Mexico and managed to get at least some of them built.

Practical and personal connections between important Spanish American
patriot leaders and their British counterparts are far too numerous to record
here. Servando Teresa de Mier and Andrés Bello were members of London’s
Jennerian Vaccination Society and compiled surveys of the state of vaccines
in Mexico and Caracas, respectively, for their journal in 1813.
In London in
1822, at a dinner celebrating Colombian military victories, Francisco Antonio
Zea and abolitionist-parliamentarian Sir James Mackintosh rose arm in arm
and toasted Bolívar and the great cause of liberty that joined the British and
South American people. In Buenos Aires, the celebration of St. George’s Day
became a public event; in 1823, the city’s leaders raised their glasses and offered
toasts to their international partner.
Rivadavia (in English) toasted “England,
the most moral and enlightened nation.” Carlos María de Alvear praised “the
memory of Nelson, hero of Trafalgar,” while Valentín Gómez admired “the
452 HAHR / August / Racine
Duke of Wellington, as great at Waterloo as he was at Verona.” Juan Varela
expressed his admiration of “the full complement of civil liberties guaranteed in
the English constitution, particularly trial by jury — soon may it be established
in my own country!” These comments went beyond a mere desire to fatter the
resident English merchant community. Spanish American liberal patriot leaders
genuinely admired the model of aristocratic reformism that had allowed Brit-
ain to become a world power and whose system allowed for controlled social
uplift while maintaining respect for status, property, and elite culture. They
were impressed.
Spanish Americans throughout the hemisphere were aware of contempo-
rary British reforms and regularly invoked British historical references to frame
their own arguments. While in London, Vicente Rocafuerte formed a cordial
friendship with prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, once leaving a jaunty little poem
in her commonplace book. In Peru, Bernardo Monteagudo used an epigraph
(quoted in the original English) from Junius’s letters to defend himself from
charges of treason and bad government: “I should be inconsistent with the prin-
ciples I profess if I declined an appeal to the good sense of the people or did
not willingly submit myself to the judgment of my peers.”
When Francisco
de Paula Santander was defending himself against calumnies and making the
case that Bolívar had been a dictator and a tyrant, he did so with reference to an
episode from British history, quoting (again, in English) an English historian
who wrote, of a patriot sacrifced under Charles II, “we only know that the
condemnation of a man who was at that time pursued by the court, forms no
presumption of his guilt.”
In Chile, Juan Egaña discussed the dangers of reli-
gious tolerance through an extended examination of the history of Tudor and
Stuart England, concluding that by permitting the coexistence of two religions,
Catholic and Protestant, the Tudors had sown the seeds of dissent and had only
succeeded in turning them against each other, a sad development which had led
to the impoverishment and persecution of the Irish.
Great Britain was never
far from the minds, hearts, or cultural vision of Spanish American indepen-
dence leaders.
92. [Bernardo Monteagudo], Memoria sobre los principios políticos que seguí en la
administración del Perú, y acontecimientos posteriores a mi separación (Santiago de Chile:
Imprenta Nacional, 1823).
93. Santander to the Editor of the Morning Courier (New York), 20 Dec. 1831, in
Santander en Europa, 5 vols. (Bogotá: Fundación Francisco de Paula Santander, 1989),
3:185 – 87.
94. Juan Egaña, Memoria política sobre el conviene en Chile la libertad de cultos (Lima:
Reimpreso en la Imprenta de Masías, 1827), 26.
“This England and This Now” 453
95. O’Higgins to Mackenna, early Jan. 1811, quoted in Jay Kinsbruner, Bernardo
O’Higgins (New York: Twayne, 1968), 44 – 45.
96. Maria Dundas Graham (Lady Maria Calcott), Journal of a Residence in Chile, During
the Year 1822; and a Voyage from Chile to Brazil in 1823 (New York: Praeger, 1969), 358;
W. B. Stevenson, A Historical and Descriptive Narrative of Twenty Years’ Residence in South
America, 3 vols. (London: Hurst, Robinson & Co., 1825), 3:277.
97. Santander to Francisco Soto, London, 28 June 1830, in Santander en Europa,
3:32 – 41.
98. Entry for Thursday, 11 Jan. 1827, in Sir Robert Ker Porter’s Caracas Diary,
1825 – 1842: A British Diplomat in a Newborn Nation, ed. Walter Dupouy (Caracas: printed by
Editorial Arte, 1966), 200.
As the long, drawn-out process of Spanish American self-emancipation
drew to a close, and the even more diffcult era of making independence mean-
ingful began, it is not coincidental that many of the most signifcant patriot
leaders found themselves looking toward Britain wistfully and wishing to settle
there eventually themselves. Bernardo O’Higgins commented to his good friend
Juan Mackenna that he had learned from his Irish-born father “the primordial
importance that work and honesty have in the merit of man” and thought that
he would have made a good farmer and useful citizen; “would I have had the
luck of being born in Great Britain or Ireland, I would have lived and died in
the country.”
In fact, in 1823 O’Higgins had been preparing to depart for an
extended residence in Ireland, a place he called “the country of his fathers,”
when he fell ill at Callao and had to disembark.
San Martín had sailed off to
England after his fateful meeting with Bolívar at Guayaquil in 1822 and devoted
the rest of his life to cultivating his precious little daughter Mercedes, whom
he installed in a private school at Hampstead while he shuttled back and forth
between England, Scotland, and Belgium. Santander lived for several years in
European exile, spending much of that time in a close personal study of British
norms and institutions. He enthusiastically wrote back to a friend that England
was “without a doubt the most advanced nation in its industry and adminis-
trative science. . . . The aristocracy has all the power, infuence, respect, and
wealth, but democracy nevertheless can be perceived in the popular assemblies
which remain open to men of talent and destiny.” Santander marveled at the
vigorous press debates and thought the jury system was “an admirable system
which could hold down all the abuses of power.”
In 1827, tired of the strife
and endless bickering that surrounded him, Bolívar told Robert Ker Porter that
England was “the only country of true liberty, glory and enlightened talent, and
where he desired to pass the years of his life to come.”
Just a few months before
his untimely death, the Liberator repeated the sentiment to his friend Richard
454 HAHR / August / Racine
Illingworth, saying he was “thinking of going to England soon, even though
times are bad and many boats that sail from this bay suffer shipwrecks; despite
everything, I think I will not delay here much longer because I am deeply both-
ered by the lamentable state of the country which I can neither remedy nor look
upon with indifference.”
If we are to gauge Spanish American patriot leaders’
own predilections by where they themselves actually went, at the end of the
wars of independence, in 1830, they headed for England, just as they had done
in the beginning.
Great Britain’s history and its contemporary culture clearly exerted a
power ful hold on Spanish American patriot leaders during the independence
era. In their day, Britain was the world’s strongest naval power, had led the
opposition to Napoleon’s predations, and boasted a vibrant, innovative com-
mercial culture. Its scientists led the feld in mechanization, steam power, engi-
neering technology, and medical research. Its banks and private investors had
been willing to extend lucrative loans to Spanish American countries that had
not yet been formally recognized. Trial by jury, freedom of speech, religious
tolerance, and publicly supported popular education all held great appeal for
liberals. At the same time, British aristocratic reformers managed to control the
pace of change through the creation of a national police force, sensible prison
reforms, libel laws, and an expansion of the government’s supervisory roles,
which could appeal to those of a more conservative outlook. Spanish American
patriot leaders identifed themselves with what they perceived to be the British
tradition of incremental, controlled change, led by a generous, enlightened, and
public-spirited elite, with liberty entrenched in a constitution that guaranteed
liberty, freedom, and property. This was exactly how the patriot leaders viewed
themselves. As ardent believers in liberty, and as pragmatic politicians who were
interested in concrete reforms, the patriot leaders consciously drew themselves
closer to the British present as part of the process of separating themselves from
the Spanish past. Indeed, poet laureate Robert Southey could have been writing
for them when he boasted that the leaders of the world could not do better than
emulate “this England and this now.”
99. Bolívar to Illingworth, Cartagena, 2 Aug. 1830, Indiana University, Lilly Library,
Illingworth MSS, box 2.
Translated from the Spanish by Ian Barnett. — eds.
I am very grateful to Professors Nora Souto and Julián Giglio for their invaluable assistance
in tracking down information, and for their criticisms and suggestions regarding the text.
My thanks go also to Carlos Marichal for his stimulating critique of the frst draft. — au.
Hispanic American Historical Review 90:3
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-003
Copyright 2010 by Duke University Press
The “Ancient Constitution” after
Independence (1808 – 1852)
José Carlos Chiaramonte
In the Hispanic world, the expression nuestra antigua constitución was, from the
second half of the eighteenth century, the most commonly used equivalent for
what in English-speaking countries was referred to as the “ancient constitution”
or “fundamental law.” Yet attempts in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
century in both Spain and Spanish America to establish the content of that con-
stitution, lacking as it did an overarching written text, were not convincing.
References to the ancient constitution, when not mere polemics, were impre-
cise allusions to Spanish legislation for the Indies. And later, among historians,
the concept “ancient constitution” would give way to “legacies,” “continuities,”
“vestiges,” terms that referred to a far broader set of political and economic
features of the pre-independence period.
But on the political stage opened up by independence, often regarded as a
time of anarchy devoid of political rules ordering society, the emergent sover-
eign entities did in reality possess constitutional rules that, among other things,
justifed their various positions with regard to the design of possible national
states. However, the often informal nature of the constitutional rules by which
they were governed could encompass institutions of widely differing origins.
Rules consistent with the “ancient constitution,” such as the Ordenanza de inten‑
dentes or the Leyes de Indias, persisted alongside innovations designed to institute
representative regimes.
Río de la Plata, for example, saw failed attempts frst to impose a revolu-
tionary dictatorship between 1810 and 1813, then to establish a constitutional
representative political system from 1813 on, and especially after 1820. In the
face of the meager success of these constitutional endeavors, reality nevertheless
456 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
demonstrated the persistence of the ancient constitution, alongside innovations
of varying magnitude yet in keeping with it, such as “facultades extraordinarias.”
Traditionally considered one of the main proofs of the absence of legality, these
powers were in fact a form of the ancient institution of dictatorship, established
according to the rules of the law of nations by consent of those who granted the
powers, and with limits on their time and scope.
In sum, the most common perspectives on post-independence political pro-
cesses share a limited approach to the problem in that they put the emphasis on
the formation of a constitutional imaginary rather than inquiring into the con-
stitutional rules in force. Even though scholars no longer cling to the dichotomy
of civilization and barbarism, views of the history of the independence crisis
and the processes initiated by it persist in prioritizing attention to modernizing
innovations and their frequent failure, and distort the era’s political practices
and conceptions through labels such as caudillismo that conceal the existence of a
coherent political and intellectual universe founded on a set of doctrines, many
of which arose out of the law of nature and nations.
This essay sets out to show that that universe consisted of a regulatory com-
plex commonly cited under the name “ancient constitution,” the persistence of
which has, as a rule, been neglected by Latin American historians, given as they
are to viewing the political practices of the independence era as a realm of ille-
gality. With this in mind, I look in the frst part at various different views of the
ancient constitutional norms. In the second part, I consider the complexities of
the concept “ancient constitution” and trace the forms of its discursive utiliza-
tion over the course of the Spanish American independence movements. Next,
in the third part, I deal with the problem of greatest interest to me: namely,
the actual weight of the ancient constitution in the complex political reality of
the day, over and above its rhetorical invocation. I tackle this issue with data
from recent research on Río de la Plata, focusing on three points that confrm
the survival of the ancient constitution long after independence: the persistence
of Spanish law, both “private” and “public”; the intellectual background of the
so-called caudillos and their advisers; and the legal nature of exceptional powers
or “facultades extraordinarias.”
1. Any mention of natural law is conspicuously absent from The Cambridge History of
Latin America, ed. Leslie Bethell, vol. 2, Colonial Latin America, and vol. 3, From Independence
to c. 1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984). The sole references to natural law are
limited to the sixteenth-century Spanish neoscholastic theologians Suárez, Mariana, and
Vitoria. See David Brading, “Bourbon Spain and its American Empire,” 1:393 and 1:437.
This omission is in keeping with traditional approaches to caudillismo.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 457
Divergent Perceptions of the Ancient Constitution
Authors writing on Spanish America in the frst half of the twentieth century
were not unaware of the survival of social norms and policies from before the
independence era.
More recent works likewise acknowledge the continuity
of ancient traits in passages such as the following, summing up observations
from various regions in addition to the Americas: “We must also recognize that
behind many of these new associations were older networks of estate, kinship,
ethnicity, religion, and locality. The world was not always as new as it seemed
and we need to understand the ways in which residues of the imperial past lived
on in the public life of the new nations.”
From another perspective, François-Xavier Guerra reported the phenom-
enon as the endurance of “traditional” features as opposed to other “modern”
ones, a dichotomy he explored in greater depth in a later work that traced the
rapid emergence of “modernity” and in which he reconciles modern and tra-
ditional features under the concept of “heterogeneity.”
Regarding Mexico,
Charles Hale addressed the problem by analyzing Mora’s and other liberals’
initiatives to eradicate colonial vestiges, while Antonio Annino uses the con-
cept of “material constitution” for nineteenth-century Mexico, where a Span-
ish colonial tradition of “moderate government” would converge with new lib-
eral principles rooted in the Constitution of Cadiz.
Tulio Halperín Donghi
mentioned “survivals [supervivencias]” and “archaisms [arcaísmos]” in Río de la
2. Carraciolo Parra-Pérez, Historia de la primera república de Venezuela, 2 vols. (Caracas:
Academía Nacional de la Historia, 1959), 1:240, 1:418, and 2:188; Carraciolo Parra-Pérez,
El régimen español en Venezuela (Madrid: Javier Morata, 1932), 240; Manuel José Forero, “La
primera república,” in Historia extensa de Colombia (Bogotá: Lerner, 1966), 5:213; and Joaquín
Gabaldón Márquez, El municipio, raíz de la república (Caracas: Instituto Panamericano de
Geografía y Historia, 1961). See also the various references in José Carlos Chiaramonte,
“Capítulo 5. Estado y poder regional: constitución y naturaleza de los poderes regionales,”
and “Capítulo 6. Estado y Poder Regional, las expresiones del poder regional: análisis
de casos,” in Historia General de América Latina, vol. 6, La construcción de las naciones
latinoAmericanas, 1820 – 1870, ed. Josefna Z. Vázquez and Manuel Miño Grijalva (Paris:
UNESCO / Madrid: Trotta, 2003).
3. Joseph W. Esherick, Hasan Kayali, and Eric Van Young, introduction to Empire
to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World, ed. Joseph W. Esherick,
Hasan Kayali, and Eric Van Young (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefeld, 2006).
4. François-Xavier Guerra, México: Del antiguo régimen a la revolución (Mexico City:
Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1988), 1:157. Also Guerra, Modernidad e independencias, 2nd.
ed. (Mexico City: MAPFRE / Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1993), 16.
5. Charles Hale, El liberalismo mexicano en la época de Mora (1821 – 1853), 2nd ed.
(Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno, 1977).
458 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
In the well-known text by Stanley J. and Barbara H. Stein, the predomi-
nant concepts — not exclusive to these authors — are those of “heritage [heren‑
cia],” “survivals [supervivencias],” and “vestiges [resabios].”
Likewise, in an earlier
text, Richard Morse remarked on the persistence in Latin America of ancient
Spanish political doctrines and old structures and practices, which he viewed
negatively as foundations of a process of anarchy and personalist tyrannies.

Relying on the concept of “legacy,” Mario Góngora described it as follows: “If,
therefore, we begin with the Spanish legacy, we could sum up this heritage as
follows: the Catholic religion; the Castilian language and literature; Spanish
Law and its Roman inspiration; the medieval and later modern State originating
on the peninsula; the aristocratic social hierarchy and social model of the cabal-
lero; fnally, the military spirit of the people, forged in the Conquest and the
War of Arauco.”
Meanwhile, Spanish American intellectual and political his-
tory has been hobbled by the priority given to the infuence of the major fgures
of Western political thought (Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Constant, on
the one hand; Thomas Aquinas and Suárez, on the other) at the expense of trac-
ing deeper, more consequential intellectual structures.
Concepts drawn from
what we might call the social science of the day played a key role in these struc-
tures. This was a science transmitted by the study of natural law (scholastic or
iusnaturalist), canon law, and civil law, and spread by media that, in those days,
were also often oral, such as gatherings, sermons, educational dissertations, and
6. Tulio Halperín Donghi, Revolución y guerra: Formación de una élite dirigente en la
Argentina criolla (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno, 1972), 396.
7. Stanley and Barbara Stein, La herencia colonial de América Latina (Mexico City: Siglo
Veintiuno, 1970). For a critique of this perspective, see Jeremy Adelman, “Introduction:
The Problem of Persistence in Latin American History,” in Colonial Legacies: The Problem of
Persistence in Latin American History, ed. Jeremy Adelman (New York: Routledge, 1999).
8. Richard Morse, “The Heritage of Latin America,” in The Founding of New Societies,
ed. Louis Hartz et al. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1964), 162 – 63.
9. “Si partimos, por lo tanto, del legado español, podríamos recapitular ese acervo así:
la religión católica; el idioma y literatura castellanos; el Derecho español y su inspiración
romana; el Estado de tipo medieval y después moderno acuñado en la península; la jerarquía
social aristocrática y el modelo social del caballero; en fn, el espíritu militar del pueblo,
forjado en la Conquista y en la Guerra de Arauco.” Mario Góngora, Ensayo histórico sobre
la noción de estado en Chile en los siglos XIX y XX (Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria,
1986), 286.
10. Chiaramonte, “Capítulo 21: El pensamiento político y la reformulación de los
modelos,” in Historia General de América Latina, vol. 4: Procesos Americanos hacia la redefnición
colonial, ed. Enrique Tandeter and Jorge Hidalgo Lehuedé (Paris: UNESCO / Madrid:
Trotta, 2000).
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 459
so on. The role of natural law in conditioning political concepts and practices
has thus been neglected, sometimes by omission, other times by recognizing
only its scholastic expressions.
The Complexity of the Concept of Ancient Constitution
Let us also remember that the terms “constitution” and “constitutionalism”
in modern history are prone to a misunderstanding rooted in the distinction
between written and unwritten constitutions. The misunderstanding consists
of limiting one’s frame of reference to the heyday of constitutional texts that
began in the late eighteenth century with the constitutions of the new Anglo-
American states, particularly the State of Virginia in 1776. But there is another
way of reading the concept, one in which the term “constitutionalism” denotes
instead a process that stretched across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
and placed limits on power through a set of rules of diverse origin and date that
simultaneously aimed at moderating the exercise of popular sovereignty.
example of this can be seen after 1775 in the reaction to the Anglo-American
states’ constitutionalist excesses, a reaction that contributed to the birth of the
Constitution of Philadelphia.
We must distinguish between two distinct uses
of the term “ancient constitution”: frst, to denote a particular set of constitu-
tional rules in force at a given time; second, as an invocation of a supposed or
real ancient right, utilized as a discursive weapon by opponents of innovations
deemed illegitimate.
In the latter case the phrase offered a framework of argu-
11. The most widely circulated version on the scholastic roots of the doctrines that
informed the independentists is O. Carlos Stoetzer, Las raíces escolásticas de la emancipación de
la América Española (Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales, 1982). See also Stoetzer,
El pensamiento político en la América Española durante el período de la emancipación (1789‑1825)
(Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Políticos, 1966). For a different version of this thesis and
for the general function of natural law in Spanish American history, see José Carlos
Chiaramonte, Nación y estado en Iberoamérica: El lenguaje político en tiempos de las independencias
(Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2004). José Carlos Chiaramonte, “The Principle of Consent
in Latin and Anglo-American Independence,” Journal of Latin American Studies 36 (2004):
563 – 86.
12. On seventeenth- and eighteenth-century “constitutionalism,” see Otto von Gierke,
Giovanni Althusius e lo sviluppo storico delle teorie politiche giusnaturalistiche, Contributo alla storia
della sistematica del diritto (Turin: Einaudi, 1974), 147. An excellent synthesis of the early U.S.
constitutional process is to be found in Gordon S. Wood, “Foreword: State Constitution-
making in the American Revolution,” Rutgers Law Journal 24, no. 4 (Summer 1993).
13. Wood, “Foreword: State Constitution-making,” 923.
14. José Carlos Chiaramonte, Ciudades, provincias, estados: Orígenes de la nación argentina
(1800 – 1846) (Buenos Aires: Ariel, 1997), 159. This use of the concept may constitute a kind
460 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
ments for debate, similar to the role of English political literature in North
American independence movements, in which the right to resist tyrannical gov-
ernments was ascribed to the ancient constitution.
Indeed, prior to indepen-
dence, the idea of “unwritten constitutional law” or unwritten “fundamental
law” was widespread in the Anglo-Saxon colonies.
In Spain, the penchant for
the law of nature and nations and the study of Spanish history contributed to
the formation of the idea that there was an ancient constitution that supported
popular restriction of royal power through the representative Cortes.
who expressed this view was the author of the Teoría de las Cortes (1813), Fran-
cisco Martínez Marina, who, notes Maravall, held that “constitution” refers to
a country’s political structure, the “fundamental laws of the Constitution of the
State,” and is synonymous with “conditions of the pact.”
In the widely varying understandings of the concept “ancient constitution”
(customs, rules prescribed by the legislature, or a set of immutable principles
beyond the reach of any government institution), in the Anglo-American case
its equally varied relationship with “common law” and, more importantly, with
of “political argument that has been deployed in widely different historical situations”;
M. I. Finley, “The Ancestral Constitution,” in The Use and Abuse of History (London:
Pimlico, 2000), 34. The volume also contains a comparative analysis of the argument’s
use in fourth-century-BC Athens, seventeenth-century England, and the twentieth-
century United States. A summary of this use of the concept in modern Europe is to be
found in Rafael D. García Pérez, Antes leyes que reyes: Cultura jurídica y constitución política
en la edad moderna, Navarra, 1512 – 1808 (Milan: Giuffrè, 2008), 60.
15. Ronald Hamowy, introduction to Cato’s Letters, or Essays on Liberty, Civil and
Religious, and Other Important Subjects, by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, 4 vols.
(Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995), 1:xxii. J. G. A. Pocock demonstrates another view on
adding the ancient constitution’s use as the sole reference to immemorial custom. See
Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: A Study of English Historical Thought in
the Seventeenth Century (New York: Norton Library, 1967), 16.
16. Thomas C. Grey, “Origins of the Unwritten Constitution: Fundamental Law in
American Revolutionary Thought,” Stanford Law Review, 30, no. 843 (May 1978), 852 – 53.
Alessandro Passerin d’Entrèves, Natural Law: An Introduction to Legal Philosophy, 2nd rev. ed.
(London: Hutchinson’s Univ. Library, 1970), 62.
17. Richard Herr, España y la revolución del siglo XVIII (Madrid: Aguilar, 1979), 369.
See also Ignacio Fernández Sarasola, “Estudio Preliminar. El pensamiento político de
Jovellanos,” in Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, Obras completas, vol. 11, Escritos políticos (Gijón:
Instituto Feijóo de Estudios del Siglo XVIII, 2006).
18. “. . . leyes fundamentales de la Constitución del Estado . . . condiciones del pacto”;
José Antonio Maravall, “Estudio preliminar,” Francisco Martínez Marina, Discurso sobre el
origen de la monarquía y sobre la naturaleza del gobierno español (Madrid: Centro de Estudios
Constitucionales, 1988), 76.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 461
natural law, loomed large. What was at stake, as others have noted, was “cus-
tomary law.” For “customary” we should not read “unwritten,” for, in addition
to the custom and practice that served as central sources of authority for “fun-
damental law” in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there stood a variety
of written material, including the Magna Carta; the Bible; key laws like the
1689 Declaration of Rights and the 1701 Act of Settlement; prominent treaties,
particularly those by “Vattel, Pufendorf, and Grotius”; and philosophical works,
among which Locke’s were probably the most important.
The same criteria
were commonly invoked in Latin America. When “facultades extraordinarias”
were discussed in Buenos Aires in 1832 — a debate we will look at later on — one
representative voiced his opposition as follows: “Vattel asks whether the Legis-
lature can derogate fundamental laws, and he resolutely says no . . . it may not
put itself above them, nor revoke them. . . . The paramount laws of public soci-
ety are founded on the natural right of man: they are impressed upon the hearts
of all and are therefore inalienable.”
Discursive Usage of the Concept of Ancient Constitution
We will now look frst at two forms of the use of the concepts “ancient con-
stitution” or “fundamental laws” in Spanish America. One, condemnatory,
denounced that constitution as the foundation of colonial domination and was
predominant early on in the independence processes, when allegations against
the mother country were more frequent. The other view expressed a positive
appraisal of the ancient constitution either before independence, when it was
deemed necessary to base on it the rights of the monarchy’s American subjects
to be treated on equal terms with their peninsular counterparts, or later on,
once the mother country’s power had waned and the absence of a new constitu-
tion made it necessary to resort to the ancient one to support various claims.
Thus the ancient constitution was not always cited favorably in the course
of the process that led to Spanish American independence. As long as demands
19. Larry D. Kramer, “In Substance and in Principle, the Same as It Was Heretofore.
The Customary Constitution,” in Larry D. Kramer, The People Themselves: Popular
Constitutionalism and Judicial Review (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004), 10 – 13.
20. “Pregunta Vattel si el Poder Legislativo puede derogar las leyes fundamentales,
y resueltamente dice que no . . . no puede sobreponerse a ellas, ni revocarlas. . . . Las leyes
primordiales de la sociedad pública, están fundadas en el derecho natural del hombre: ellas
se hallan impresas en el corazón de todos, y por consiguiente son inalienables.” Diario
de Sesiones de la H: Junta de Representantes de la provincia de Buenos Aires, vol. 141, no. 283,
session of 5 November 1832.
462 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
for Americans’ rights were being formulated within the confnes of monarchical
belonging, people appealed to the fundamental laws of the kingdom to legiti-
mize those demands. But when demands for political independence coalesced
and the assertion of Americans’ rights led to calls for a constitution to protect
them, the new constitution was conceived as cancelling out the ancient one and
the ancient one was denounced as the foundation of injustice.
An example of the use of the concept in condemnatory fashion is found
in the works of the Rioplatense Mariano Moreno, who wrote in November 1810,
“Would the King wish us to continue in our ancient constitution? We would
indeed reply to him, that we know of none; and that the arbitrary laws enacted
out of greed for slaves and settlers cannot govern the fate of men who wish to
be free.”
This contradictory reference to the ancient constitution, which frst
mentions then denies it, refects Moreno’s wish to reserve the term “constitu-
tion” for a document issuing from a constituent assembly. He therefore refused
to see the Leyes de Indias as part of a broader constitution.
With a similar criterion, in July 1811, Venezuela’s Act of Independence
proclaimed the inalienable right of peoples to “destroy any pact, convention,
or association that does not fulfll the ends for which governments were insti-
tuted,” and declared it was time to provide for “our preservation, security, and
happiness, changing essentially all the forms of our previous Constitution.”
This repudiation had been foreshadowed by Fernando de Peñalver in June of
the same year, when he attributed the lack of enlightenment among the peoples
of the Venezuelan interior to the “system of the ancient Constitution.”
The need to replace the ancient constitution with another one designed to
limit the rulers’ power was enunciated in the frst constitutional text of Río de
21. “¿Pretendería el Rey, que continuásemos en nuestra antigua constitución? Le
responderíamos justamente, que no conocemos ninguna; y que las leyes arbitrarias dictadas
por la codicia para esclavos y colonos, no pueden reglar la suerte de unos hombres que
desean ser libres.” Mariano Moreno, “Sobre el Congreso convocado y Constitución del
Estado . . . ,” cited in Noemí Goldman, Historia y lenguaje: Los discursos de la Revolución de
Mayo (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1992), 103. This is an article that
Ricardo Levene did not include in his edition of Moreno’s writings: Mariano Moreno,
Escritos (Buenos Aires: Estrada, 1956), vol. 2.
22. “. . . destruir todo pacto, convenio o asociación que no llena los fnes para que
fueron instituidos los gobiernos . . . nuestra conservación, seguridad y felicidad, variando
esencialmente todas las formas de nuestra anterior Constitución . . . sistema de la antigua
Constitución.” “Acta de Independencia de Venezuela (5 de julio de 1811)” and “Fernando
de Peñalver: Memoria sobre el problema constitucional venezolano (1811),” in Pensamiento
político de la emancipación, ed. José Luis Romero and Luis Alberto Romero, 2 vols. (Caracas:
Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1977), 1:108 and 1:127.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 463
la Plata, the Reglamento de la división de poderes (Regulation of the Division of
Powers) of September 1811, presented by the Junta Conservadora as intended to
“lay the foundations for a liberal and equitable constitution” that would restrain
“the arbitrariness of those in whom power is deposited.”
But in contrast to these repudiations of the Spanish colonial system, other
texts of the day refect the need to present the autonomist uprisings after 1808
as in keeping with the constitution of the monarchy. So, for example, the Memo‑
rial de agravios by the New Granadan Camilo Torres cited both “a fundamental
law of the kingdom” and that kingdom’s “primitive and constitutional bases” in
order to establish relations between the mother country and its colonies as based
in justice founded on natural law.
Similarly, in Cuzco, José Angulo, leader of the 1814 uprising, invoked the
Spanish monarchical constitution and natural law as justifcation, alleging that
it was the authorities’ infraction of that constitution that had provoked the
In July 1811, in a sermon delivered at the cathedral in Santiago de
Chile, Camilo Henríquez tried to reconcile the new projects with recognition of
Fernando VII’s sovereignty and “the fundamental pacts of our [Spanish] Con-
In New Spain in 1808, the creoles sought support in the ancient
constitution to legitimize their attempt to form a junta. The proposed congress,
wrote Fray Melchor de Talamantes, “upholds and safeguards all the fundamen-
tal laws of the kingdom.” Licenciate Primo y Verdad was even more explicit in
invoking the Spanish “monarchical constitution” to support creole initiatives to
constitute a new government into which the sovereignty of the absent monarch
could be invested.
Even more elaborate reference to the ancient constitution
23. “. . . poner los cimientos de una constitución liberal y equitativa la arbitrariedad
de los depositarios del poder.” “Reglamento de la división de poderes sancionado por la Junta
conservadora, precedido de documentos ofciales que lo explican, 30 de septiembre a 29 de
octubre de 1811,” Asambleas constituyentes argentinas, ed. Emilio Ravignani (Buenos Aires:
Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad
de Buenos Aires, 1937), vol. 6, part 2, 599 – 602.
24. “Memorial de agravios . . . una ley fundamental del reino . . . bases primitivas y
constitucionales.” “Camilo Torres: Memorial de Agravios (1809),” in Romero and Romero,
Pensamiento político de la emancipación, 1:37.
25. “José Angulo: Manifesto al pueblo de Cuzco (1814),” in Romero and Romero,
Pensamiento político de la emancipación, 1:204.
26. “. . . los pactos fundamentales de nuestra Constitución [española].” “Camilo
Henríquez: Sermón (1811),” in Romero and Romero, Pensamiento político de la
emancipación, 1:226.
27. “. . . sostiene y ampara todas las leyes fundamentales del reino.” “Fray Melchor de
Talamantes: Idea del Congreso Nacional de Nueva España. Conclusión (1808)” and
464 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
to back up an argument was made by another New Spaniard, Fray Servando
Teresa de Mier, in defending Americans’ right to independence in 1813. Fray
Servando’s Historia de la revolución de Nueva España, published in London in that
year, showed little admiration for written constitutions and enjoined Americans
to take the example of the British, not the U.S. constitution: “I believe that your
model . . . must be the constitution of this blessed nation where I write, and
where there is to be found true freedom, security, and property.” He went on
ironically: “You shall not fnd it written out in scenes like a comedy: such things
belong to the light and comic temper of the French.”
Throughout the fourth part of his History, Fray Servando gave a detailed
account of the laws that had governed Americans since the conquest. Accord-
ingly, in developing the widespread thesis that the Americans had made a fun-
damental compact not with the Spanish nation but with the Castilian crown, he
refers to that pact as “our magna carta,” and elsewhere as the “American Con-
These ancient laws were “the constitution given to America by the
kings, founded on agreements with the conquerors and indigenous peoples, a
constitution which is equal in its monarchic constitution to Spain’s [constitu-
tion], but independent from it.” On this ancient constitution Fray Servando
bases the right not to accept that of Cádiz:
Our social pact cannot be changed without our consent, which we have
not given either through delegates or personally. According to this pact
the only sovereign is the king, in whose absence sovereignty reverts to the
American people, who by the laws that govern them are not subject to the
“Licenciado Francisco Verdad: Memoria póstuma (1809),” in Romero and Romero,
Pensamiento político de la emancipación, 1:89 and 100. On the concept of “deposit” of
sovereignty and its difference to that of “retroversion” of sovereignty, see José María
Portillo Valdés, Crisis atlántica: Autonomía e independencia en la crisis de la monarquía
hispana (Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2006).
28. “Historia de la revolución de Nueva España “Me parece que vuestro modelo . . .
debe ser la constitución de esta nación dichosa donde escribo, y donde se halla la verdadera
libertad, seguridad y propiedad . . . No la hallaréis escrita como comedia por escenas: éstas
pertenecen al genio ligero y cómico de los franceses.” José Guerra (a.k.a. Fray Servando
Teresa de Mier), Historia de la revolución de Nueva España, antiguamente Anáhuac, o verdadero
origen y causas de ella, con la relación de sus progresos hasta el presente año de 1813 (London: Impr.
de G. Glindon, 1813), vol. 2, book 14, cited in Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, Ideario político,
ed. Edmundo O’Gorman (Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1978), 162.
29. “. . . nuestra magna carta,” Mier, Ideario político, 78 – 81. “Constitución Americana,”
cited in Luis Villoro, El proceso ideológico de la Revolución de Independencia, 3rd ed. (Mexico
City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1981), 47.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 465
people of Spain but rather their equals: and can therefore act as they judge
best for their preservation and happiness, this being the “imprescriptible
supreme law” and “ultimate goal of every political society.”

Further on, he makes it clear that he is not calling for “the ancient constitu-
tion of the monarchy” to be amended but instead improved. Likewise he sought
not the destruction of “the fundamental laws” but application of the good ones,
and called on rulers to act in accordance with “the constitution which the kings
agreed upon with our fathers.”
All told, he adds, it is by virtue of these laws that
New Spain became independent from the monarchy and it is because of them
that “not only shall other nations thus recognize the Law of Nations [derecho de
gentes] in our separation, but all Americans shall stay united, for they are led by
the same custom of obeying the rule of ancient example and of law.”
Fray Servando’s argument was adopted by Simón Bolívar in his Carta de
Jamaica: “Emperor Carlos V made a pact with discoverers, conquistadores and
settlers of America which is our social contract, as Guerra [Fray Servando de
Mier] says.” Thus the American subjects of the Spanish king “in a manifest
violation of laws and pre-existing compacts” had been deprived “of the constitu-
tional authority provided by their code.”
In Río de la Plata, while a negative idea of the ancient constitution emerges
from Moreno’s words above, a few months later in a dispute between two mem-
bers of the Junta Grande (which succeeded the Primera Junta after Moreno’s
resignation), one of the contenders, Presbítero Gorriti, repudiated it, while the
other, Dean Funes, considered substantial aspects of the ancient constitution of
the Spanish Indies to be still in force. The dispute arose over the enactment in
February 1811 of a regulation, in line with the 1782 Ordenanza de intendentes, that
created principal and subordinate juntas according to each city’s importance.
30. “. . . la constitución que dieron los reyes a la América, fundada en convenios con
los conquistadores y los indígenas, igual en su constitución monárquica a la de España; pero
independiente de ella . . . Nuestro pacto social . . . suprema ley imprescriptible . . . fn de
toda sociedad política.” Mier, Ideario político, 97 – 98.
31. “. . . la antigua constitución de la monarquía . . . las leyes fundamentales . . . la
constitución en que los reyes concordaron con nuestros padres.” Mier, ibid., 105.
32. “. . . no sólo las naciones respetarán así en nuestra separación el derecho de gentes,
sino que todos los americanos seguirán unidos, porque los conduce la misma costumbre de
obedecer al imperio del ejemplo antiguo y de las leyes.” Mier, ibid., 163.
33. “Carta de Jamaica,” 6 Sept. 1815, in Simón Bolívar, Doctrina del Libertador, 2nd ed.
(Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1979), 64. “Guerra” was the pseudonym of Fray Servando
Teresa de Mier.
466 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
34. “. . . el mismo impedimento con que la antigua Constitución los ha separado de los
cargos concejiles.” “[Reglamento del 10 de febrero de 1811],” in Las provincias unidas del sud
en 1811 (Consecuencias inmediatas de la Revolución de Mayo), ed. Ricardo Levene (Buenos Aires:
Imprenta de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1940), 12 – 30. These regulations, attributed to
Dean Gregorio Funes, were published in the Gazeta de Buenos‑Ayres, 14 Feb. 1811, p. 36.
35. “[El Cabildo de Mendoza a la Junta de Buenos Aires pidiendo su separación de la
Intendencia de Córdoba],” 10 July 1811, in Las Provincias Unidas del Sud en 1811, 256. The
city of Jujuy made similar arguments.
36. “El Dr. Mier, que escribió en Inglaterra su historia de la revolución de la Nueva
España, conociendo que en un pueblo donde las leyes son tan respetadas como el inglés, era
menester fundar la revolución de las posesiones españolas de América en la infracción de un
pacto, para darle el mismo origen que tuvo la de las colonias inglesas, que hoy son los
An article banning members of the clergy from sitting on the juntas cited “the
same impediment with which the Ancient Constitution has separated them from
public posts” in the local councils.
The Ordenanza de intendentes had also been
cited as a constitutional rule by the city of Mendoza when it appealed against the
Reglamento of 1811 because it made Mendoza a dependency of Córdoba.
We can see, then, that in Spanish America, as in Europe and Anglo-
America, citing the fundamental laws or the ancient constitution was often a
rhetorical resource that performed a similar function of defending interests
affected by a government’s action. Its validity as an indicator of the actual con-
tinuing legal force of that constitution is therefore only partial. A remark by
Lucas Alamán contains a ruthless critique of Fray Servando’s arguments:
Dr. Mier, who wrote his history of the revolution of New Spain in
England, aware that before a people like the English, among whom
laws are so respected, it was necessary to base the revolution in Spain’s
American possessions on the infraction of a pact, in order to give it the
same origin as the revolution of the British colonies, today the United
States, drew from the Leyes de Indias everything that might appear to
be a fundamental pact and tried to make the contracts made with the
conquerors pass for such . . . forming with all this a kind of Spanish
American constitution that never had existed, or had been forgotten many
years before, and on the infraction of this constitution he bases the right
to independence.
One might argue that Alamán’s criticism disregarded a facet of Fray Ser-
vando’s arguments, namely, their quality as political fction, a quality shared by
many other cases of political or legal fctions on which contemporary nations
are built and which are effective despite their possible historical falsehood.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 467
Estados-Unidos, extractó del código de Indias todo lo que podía parecer pacto
fundamental, y pretendió hacer pasar por tal los contratos que se hacían con los
conquistadores . . . formando con todo esto una especie de constitución de la América
española, que nunca llegó a existir, ó que estaba olvidada largos años hacía, y en la
infracción de ésta funda el derecho de la independencia.” Lucas Alamán, Historia de Méjico,
30th ed. (Mexico City: Jus, 1972), 125. The political role of this rhetoric, however, did not
escape his notice: “the City Hall and the Americans relied on the original laws and the
independence established by the Leyes de Indias in addition to the general doctrines of the
previous century’s philosophers on the sovereignty of nations.” Ibid., 127.
37. Hale, El liberalismo mexicano en la época de Mora, 121. On the subject of this ancient
constitution, Hale adds in a footnote: “Bishop Abad y Queipo defended clerical immunity
in 1799 [Representación sobre la inmunidad personal del clero], considering it inherent to the
ancient constitution, originating in the Fuero Juzgo.”
38. “. . . se mostrará viva a lo largo de las sucesivas experiencias liberales en la primera
parte del siglo XIX . . . la anterior multiplicidad de poderes -característica de una particular
constitución histórica que se consideraba legítima- se había mantenido sólidamente.” Marco
Bellingeri, “De una constitución a otra: Confictos de jurisdicciones y dispersión de poderes
en Yucatán (1789 – 1831),” in El liberalismo en México, ed. Antonio Annino and Raymond
Buve, Cuadernos de Historia Latinoamericana 1 (Münster: Lit Verlag, 1993).
The Ongoing Force of the Ancient Constitution
A problem quite separate from that of the rhetorical use of the ancient consti-
tution involves the actual persistence of ancient constitutional rules in post-
independence social and political life. Even as Alamán was penning his dismis-
sive screed, and in his own Mexico, the ancient constitution proved to be much
more than a rhetorical device when continuing attempts at reform over the frst
half of the nineteenth century clashed with facets of it that were frmly rooted in
political society and activity. This was the reality faced by the liberal leader José
María Luis Mora in the arena of Mexican constitutional disputes. Referring to
the events of 1834 that forced him into exile, Mora insisted they had been part
of a struggle to defend the 1824 Constitution against the esprit de corps of “the
country’s ancient constitution.” He judged this esprit de corps to be embodied
in the corporate groups that resisted liberal reforms in order to defend privileges
of a patriarchal state that survived despite the fall of its monarch.
Likewise, in
Yucatán, where the Bourbon Reforms only superfcially affected the country’s
ancient constitution, it “would prove itself to be very much alive throughout
the successive liberal experiences of the frst part of the nineteenth century,”
since “the previous multiplicity of powers — a feature of a particular historical
constitution thought to be legitimate — was steadfastly maintained.”
But any
attempt to study the problem over Spanish America as a whole founders on the
dearth of existing research, so I will now focus on Río de la Plata.
468 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
Keeping in mind the inherent ambiguity of the concept of “ancient con-
stitution,” a complex including both written and unwritten elements, one can
nevertheless recognize that in Río de la Plata the Leyes de Indias; the 1782 Real
ordenanza de intendentes; Spanish legal corpora like the Fuero juzgo, the Siete
partidas, and the Ordenanzas de Bilbao; and local documents like the Reglamento
provisorio of 1817 all formed a part. One must add to these written sources, in
addition to a variety of customary practices, certain authors whose authority
seemed indisputable, just as noted above for the U.S. case by L. Kramer and
in the session of November 5, 1832, at the House of Representatives of Bue-
nos Aires. The written sources specifed are clearly cited, at differing times and
for differing reasons, in the documents of the day, be they from government
sources or various constitutional debates.
With its 1783 amendments, the Real ordenanza de intendentes would last
through the frst half of the century, as would the Reglamento provisorio of
December 1817, which anticipated in important ways the subsequently failed
1819 Constitution, and, in its absence, would remain in force over the following
years. Many of the Ordinance’s provisions stayed in force not only during the
frst revolutionary decade, under supposedly national governments (the First
and Second Triumvirates, and the Directory), but even later as well.
After 1820, attempts at representative regimes began in the provinces.
The Intendencias ceased to exist, and between 1822 and 1834 all of the cabildos
in the territory of the former viceroyalty would be abolished and replaced by
legislatures. In addition to these innovations, the ancient constitution would
also be partially modifed by the constitutional measures adopted in the vari-
ous sovereign entities that, under the name of “provinces,” replaced the sov-
ereignty of the Castilian crown.
After the failed attempts (1813, 1819, 1826,
and 1828) to impose a constitutional text on the whole of the United Prov-
inces of the Río de la Plata, informal systems existed in each of the provincial
states until the successful passing of the 1853 Constitution. Some states gave
themselves written constitutions that were at times explicitly recognized as
complements to the old Spanish legislation and certain constitutional docu-
39. On the persistence of the Ordenanza, see José María Díaz Couselo, “La Real
Ordenanza de Intendentes y la revolución,” in Estudios sobre la Real Ordenanza de Intendentes
del Río de la Plata, ed. José M. Mariluz Urquijo (Buenos Aires: Instituto de Investigaciones
de Historia del Derecho, 1995).
40. On the provincial constitutions of the period, see José Carlos Chiaramonte,
“¿Provincias o Estados? Los orígenes del federalismo rioplatense,” in Las revoluciones
hispánicas: Independencias americanas y liberalismo español, ed. François-Xavier Guerra
(Madrid: Complutense, 1995).
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 469
ments issued by creole governments after 1810, such as the oft-cited Regla‑
mento provisorio of 1817.
The states of the Río de la Plata that were already beginning to think of
themselves as “Argentine” would later recognize the 1831 Federal Pact as another
of the elements of that informal constitution. But almost all of them also under-
went a process in which the establishment of representative regimes would lead
to varied combinations of the ancient constitution and post-1810 innovations.
In general, the legislatures would not manage to assert themselves as such and
would instead endure in some cases as mere organs destined to endorse gov-
ernment provisions and, in others, as limited by the facultades extraordinarias
granted to the governors. In Buenos Aires’s case — that of greatest reformist
momentum — instead of adopting a constitutional text, the ancient constitution
was amended with a set of laws stipulating innovations aimed at establishing a
representative regime — including those of the electoral system, the extinguish-
ment of ecclesiastical privileges, and the suppression of the cabildos and their
replacement by a legislature. These innovations would quickly be undercut by
the frst administration of Juan Manuel de Rosas (1829 – 32), particularly during
his second term beginning in 1835. For all that this reformist momentum had
temporary, though important, success in creating legislative power, it did not
achieve the same in the feld of justice.
The Persistence of Spanish Law
It is common knowledge that one of the defning features of Spanish Ameri-
can societies after independence, in apparent contradiction to its revolutionary
spirit, was the survival of much of the Spanish legal system.
This has hardly
41. Marcela Ternavasio, “Entre el cabildo colonial y el municipio moderno: Los
juzgados de paz de campaña en el estado de Buenos Aires, 1821 – 1854,” in Dinámicas de
antiguo régimen y orden constitucional: Representación, justicia y administración en Iberoamérica,
siglos XVIII – XIX, ed. Marco Bellingeri (Torino: Otto, 2000), 327 – 28.
42. On the legal code after Mexican independence, see the “Estudio introductorio”
by María del Refugio González in Pandectas hispano‑mexicanas, ed. Juan N. Rodríguez de
San Miguel (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1962), 1:xviii. The
Pandectas were intended specifcally to facilitate the work of jurists through the compilation
of the current legal rules, the vast majority of which dated from the colonial period. See
also Jorge Mario García Laguardia and María del Refugio González, “Estudio preliminar,”
in José María Álvarez, Instituciones de derecho real de Castilla y de Indias (Mexico City:
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1982, facsimile of the 1826 Mexican reprint),
1:58. The frst edition of Álvarez’s work was published in Guatemala in 1818.
470 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
43. On the inappropriateness of the distinction between public and private law in the
colonial period and its frst appearance in the years following independence, see Víctor
M. Uribe-Uran, “The Great Transformation of Law and Legal Culture: ‘The Public’ and
‘the Private’ in the Transition from Empire to Nation in Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil,
1750 – 1850,” in Esherick, Kayali, and Van Young, Empire to Nation, 77. In a similar vein,
another author writes about Europe: “The diffculties encountered by jurists trained in the
ius commune in separating public and private law can also be understood, for, from a certain
point of view, all law was primarily or secondarily public to the extent that it sought to
secure the common good, i.e. pursued public interests. . . . The ius civile . . . was, therefore,
a public and private ius, and was called such in contrast to the ius canonicum, the guiding
law of another body, not political but mystical, . . . the Church.” “. . . se entienden también
las difcultades que encontraron los juristas formados en el ius commune para separar el
derecho público del privado, pues bajo cierto punto de vista todo derecho era primaria o
secundariamente público en la medida en que miraba a la consecución del bien común, esto
es, perseguía intereses públicos. . . . El ius civile . . . era, pues, un ius público y privado al
mismo tiempo que se llamaba así por oposición al ius canonicum, derecho rector de otro
cuerpo, no político sino místico, . . . la Iglesia.” García Pérez, Antes leyes que reyes, 71.
44. “. . . leyes fundamentales que forman el derecho constitucional de Inglaterra . . .
nosotros mismos tenemos leyes de derecho público y privado que cuentan siglos de
existencia. En el siglo XIV promulgáronse las Leyes de Partidas, que han regido nuestros
been ignored by Latin Americanist historiography. However, considered in iso-
lation, ignoring its link to the ancient constitution, it is incomprehensible.
The persistence of Spanish legislation is, in fact, inseparable from the
ancient constitution and is proof that it was far more than mere rhetoric. First
of all, as Juan Bautista Alberdi recalled in 1853, this legislation included — in
language already coming into use — not only what was considered in its day
as part of the realm of private law, but also what would belong to public law.

Discussing the “fundamental laws that form the constitutional law of England,”
Alberdi remarked that
we ourselves have laws within the realms of public and private law that
have existed for centuries. In the fourteenth century the Leyes de partidas
were promulgated, which have governed our American communities
[nuestros pueblos americanos] since their foundation, and our Leyes de Indias
and our Ordenanzas de comercio y de navegación are also centuries old. Let us
remember that we have, in our own way, had ancient public law. . . .
During the revolution we changed governments thousands of times
because the laws were not observed. But we have not therefore taken as
insubsistent and void the Siete partidas, the Leyes de Indias, the Ordenanzas
de Bilbao, etc. We have implicitly confrmed these laws and called on the
new governments to abide by them.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 471
When the independence movements erupted, the need to ensure the social
order had translated into a decision to maintain legal continuity through the
persistence of the ancient laws of Spain and the Indies. As a result, the aspiration
to reform the legal system bequeathed by the colony would remain unfulflled.
As one Buenos Aires newspaper put it in 1818, such a reform aspired “not to see
our civil rights and actions enveloped in a multitude of musty and repugnant
institutions” belonging to the “old system.”
The continuity of law was con-
frmed in offcial measures, with the sole exception of elements that might con-
tradict the new governments’ resolutions. The Reglamento provisorio of 1817 set
a norm that would prove more enduring than expected, declaring that, as long
as no constitution had been passed, “all legislative codes, warrants, regulations,
and other general and particular provisions of the former Spanish government
shall endure, as long as they are not in direct or indirect opposition to the free-
dom and independence of these Provinces or this Regulation, as shall any other
provisions enacted since May twenty-ffth of eighteen hundred ten that are not
contrary to [this Regulation].”

With only slight variations, this text reiterated the content of an article in
the Estatuto provisional of 1816. But the provisions of the 1811 Regulation also
pueblos americanos desde su fundación, y son seculares también nuestras Leyes de
Indias y nuestras Ordenanzas de comercio y de navegación. Recordemos que, a nuestro
modo, hemos tenido un derecho público antiguo. . . . Durante la revolución hemos
cambiado mil veces los gobiernos, porque las leyes no eran observadas. Pero no por
eso hemos dado por insubsistentes y nulas las Siete Partidas, las Leyes de Indias, las
Ordenanzas de Bilbao, etc. Hemos confrmado implícitamente esas leyes, pidiendo a los
nuevos gobiernos que las cumplan.” Juan Bautista Alberdi, Bases y puntos de partida para
la organización política de la República Argentina, in Alberdi, Obras completas (Buenos Aires:
Imprenta de La Tribuna Nacional, 1886), 3:539.
45. “. . . no ver envueltos nuestros derechos y acciones civiles en una multitud de
instituciones añejas y repugnantes . . . antiguo sistema.” El Abogado Nacional, 2, Buenos
Aires, 1 Nov. 1818. However, it demanded preserving the old system’s primitive and eternal
truths of natural law, albeit pruning back “many useless, dead, or corrupt branches.”
46. “. . . subsistirán todos los códigos legislativos, cédulas, reglamentos y demás
disposiciones generales y particulares del antiguo gobierno Español, que no estén en
oposición directa o indirecta con la libertad e independencia de estas Provincias ni con
este Reglamento, y demás disposiciones que no sean contrarias a él, libradas desde veinte y
cinco de Mayo de mil ochocientos diez.” “Reglamento provisorio dictado por el Congreso
de Tucumán para las Provincias Unidas de Sudamérica,” sect. 2, Del poder legislativo, chap.
1, art. 2, in Ravignani, Asambleas constituyentes argentinas, vol. 6, part 2, p. 686. Similar
provisions are recorded in New Granada and Mexico: M. C. Mirow, Latin American Law:
A History of Private Law and Institutions in Spanish America (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press,
2004), 125.
472 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
bear a similarity: “The deputies of the united provinces present in this capital
form a junta with the title of Junta Conservadora of the sovereignty of Sr. D.
Fernando VII and the national laws, insofar as they do not oppose the supreme
law of the civil liberty of the American peoples.”
Two observations need to be made about this text: one, that, when it men-
tions “national laws,” these should be understood to be the Spanish laws; and
two, that the provision is no mere consequence of continued subjection, feigned
or real, to the Castilian crown, but an inevitable effect of the lack of rules to
replace the peninsular ones.
Given the diversity and complexity of the Indian Spanish legal framework,
the ancient custom of adopting an order of preference was oft repeated, as in
the text of the Guatemalan José María Alvarez, cited above, one of the most
widely used in higher education in the frst half of the nineteenth century. The
order of priority indicated by Álvarez was as follows: recent Disposiciones reales,
the Recopilación de Indias, the Recopilación de Castilla, the Fuero real and the Fuero
juzgo, statutes and municipal jurisdictions, and the Leyes de las Siete partidas. All
this referred to written law, to which had to be added customary law.
Legal Studies
The continuity of Spanish legislation was consistent with the orientation of legal
studies and the conception of society they conveyed. A salient testimony to this
is the reprint of Álvarez’s work in Buenos Aires in 1834, which was meant to
replace the Benthamist civil law course given by Pedro Somellera, a professor
exiled after the fall of Rivadavia.
This edition was not just the result of the
change of political direction implied by the defeat of the Unitarian Party, but
also a telling symbol of the constitutional reality of the province of Buenos Aires,
usually considered the most “modernized” of the states of Río de la Plata. The
47. “Los diputados de las provincias unidas que existen en esta capital, componen una
Junta con el título de Conservadora de la soberanía del Sr. D. Fernando VII, y de las leyes
nacionales, en cuanto no se oponen al derecho supremo de la libertad civil de los pueblos
americanos.” “Reglamento de la división de poderes sancionado por la Junta conservadora,
precedido de documentos ofciales que lo explican, 30 de septiembre a 29 de octubre de
1811,” art. 11, in Ravignani, Asambleas constituyentes argentinas, vol. 6, part 2, p. 600.
48. Álvarez, Instituciones de derecho real de Castilla y de Indias, 1:58 – 65.
49. José María Álvarez, Instituciones de derecho real de España (Buenos Aires: Imprenta
del Estado, 1834). Pedro Somellera, Principios de derecho civil (Buenos Aires: Universidad de
Buenos Aires, Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias Sociales, 1939). This was the course given by
Somellera in 1824.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 473
publisher, Dalmacio Vélez Sársfeld, who much later would write the Argentine
Civil Code (1871), proclaimed that Álvarez’s book was the most thoroughgoing
course on Spanish jurisprudence, designed to accord with the Leyes de Indias and
post-1810 local rules. The reprint of this work suggests that the lawyers of Bue-
nos Aires were educated to conceive of a society governed by unequal rights. Fol-
lowing norms of Roman law, Álvarez warned that legally only those who possess
estado — “a quality or circumstance by reason of which men enjoy different law,
for one law is enjoyed by the free man, another by the servant, one by the citizen
and another by the pilgrim” — are in fact legal persons.
This orientation of legal studies, consistent with the ancient constitution,
came from the colonial universities and had been modifed only partially by
initiatives considered “enlightened.” In Spanish America before independence,
the universities offered either one or two of the courses of study of Spanish uni-
versities: namely, theology and law. Law studies included Instituta as a central
subject. In such cases as that of the University of Córdoba del Tucumán, while
Instituta was the course of study within the jurisprudence curriculum created in
1791, students also had to attend the theology faculty’s classes on canon law and
morality. Later, lectureships in canon law and property law (derecho real) (1793),
and the law of nature and nations (1815) were added.
Roman law and canon law had been basic studies in a graduate’s education
in universities across Spanish America, not just Río de la Plata. The feld of Insti‑
tuta was based on Justinian’s Institutions, whose second chapter dealt with the
preeminence of natural law, plus part of the same authority’s Digest and Code.
After the expulsion of the Jesuits and the ban on Suarist authors, the writings of
Arnoldo Vinnius, edited by Heineccius, were prescribed by royal provision, no
doubt because of their regalist views. A manual of the law of nature and nations
by Heineccius had been translated when this feld of study was instituted in
Spain in 1771, a translation expurgated of any passages that might be inconve-
nient for the monarchy and the church. The work circulated widely until well
into the nineteenth century.
50. “. . . una calidad o circunstancia por razón de la cual los hombres usan de distinto
derecho, porque de un derecho usa el hombre libre, de otro el siervo, de uno el ciudadano
y de otro el peregrino.” Álvarez, Instituciones de derecho real de Castilla y de Indias, 1:66.
51. On law studies in the River Plate universities, see Batia B. Siebzehner, La
Universidad americana y la Ilustración: Autoridad y conocimiento en Nueva España y el Río de
la Plata (Madrid: MAPFRE, 1994); Juan M. Garro, Bosquejo histórico de la Universidad de
Córdoba (Buenos Aires: Impr. de M. Biedma, 1882); Silvano G. A. Benito Moya, Reformismo
e Ilustración: Los Borbones en la Universidad de Córdoba (Córdoba: Centro de Estudios
Históricos, 2000); Agustín Pestalardo, Historia de la enseñanza de las ciencias jurídicas y sociales
474 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
As I have explained elsewhere, the function of natural law has traditionally
been misinterpreted by treating it as just one form of the law without acknowl-
edging its place as the foundation of the social and political conceptions of the
Let us add that canon law since the Middle Ages had been the main
means of conveyance of natural law, which, in both scholasticism and iusnatu-
ralism, worked to regulate social relations, providing as it did a precise code of
rules that governed social and political institutions such as marriage, property,
and civil authority.
The teaching of natural law had continued after independence. Besides the
case of the University of Córdoba mentioned above, the jurisprudence depart-
ment of the University of Buenos Aires, created in 1821, “spent its frst thirty
years completely devoted to natural law,” which briefy coexisted with Bentha-
mist infuence in the teaching of civil law.
In addition to courses of study in the
law of nature and nations and civil law, frst-year law studies included ecclesiasti-
cal public law, taught by Presbítero Eusebio Agüero and aimed at questions of
canon law relating to the Catholic congregation’s relations with secular power.
The work of an Austrian canonist advocate of regalism, Franz Xavier Gmeiner,
was published in 1835 in its original Latin for use in teaching this feld. It had
already been used by Agüero in the previous decade.
In 1850, Juan Bautista Alberdi was still recommending the study of Roman
en la Universidad de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires: Imprenta Alsina, 1914); Mirow, “Legal
Education and Lawyers,” chapter 13 in Latin American Law; Pablo Buchbinder, Historia
de las universidades argentinas (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2005). For law studies in
Spain, see Mariano Peset and José Luis Peset, “Capítulo XII: Leyes y cánones,” in La
universidad española (siglos XVIII y XIX): Despotismo ilustrado y revolución liberal (Madrid:
Taurus, 1974).
52. Chiaramonte, Nación y estado en Iberoamérica, 103.
53. Passerin d’Entrèves, Natural Law, 80.
54. “. . . vivió sus primeros treinta años completamente entregado al derecho natural.”
Pestalardo, Historia de la enseñanza, 86.
55. This is the Institutiones juris ecclesiastici: Gmeineri Xaveri:Metodo cientifca adornatae,
2 vols. (Buenos Aires: Imprenta del Estado, 1835). Eusebio Agüero’s classes were published
as Instituciones de derecho público eclesiástico (Buenos Aires: Imprenta del Estado, 1828). See
Roberto Di Stefano, “De la cristiandad colonial a la Iglesia nacional: Perspectivas de
investigación en historia religiosa de los siglos XVIII y XIX,” Andes: Antropología e Historia
11 (2000): 100. See also Di Stefano, “Eusebio Agüero,” in Los curas de la Revolución: Vidas de
eclesiásticos en los orígenes de la nación, ed. Nancy Calvo, Roberto Di Stefano, and Klaus Gallo
(Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2002). José María Mariluz Urquijo, “Libros antiguos de derecho: Las
instituciones de derecho eclesiástico de Gmeiner,” Revista del Instituto de Historia del Derecho
(Buenos Aires) 1 (1949): 39-42.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 475
and canon law, which he considered sources of Spanish law. “The Roman law
is to our own,” he claimed, “what an original is to a translation.” And he added
that the Siete partidas “that govern us even today are a wise and discreet trans-
lation of the Roman Pandects and Code.”
The Universities of Buenos Aires
and Córdoba maintained the study of canon law across their various syllabus
reforms until the end of the century.
The persistence of Spanish legislation for the Indies was inseparable from
that of natural law. The view that had become prevalent over the course of the
eighteenth century and was still in force at the time of independence ranked
natural law above any positive legislation. Even customary law was often
thought of as an expression of natural law.
This order of priority would be
emphatically underlined by the State of Buenos Aires as late as 1852 and 1860
to justify its refusal to accept the Acuerdo de San Nicolás, an interprovincial
pact signed after the overthrow of Juan Manuel de Rosas in preparation for
the constituent federal convention of 1853. This rejection, according to Barto-
lomé Mitre, one of the main political leaders of Buenos Aires, was founded on
“the general principles of good governance, the rules of our written law, and
the fundamental bases of natural law.”
This view was reiterated in 1860 in the
convention of the State of Buenos Aires, convened to propose reforms to the
1853 federal constitution as a condition for its reentry to the Argentine nation:
“Civil rights, constitutional rights, all the rights created by laws, the very sover-
eignty of peoples, can vary, be altered, and even end . . . but natural rights, both
of men and of peoples constituted by Divine Providence (according to the words
of Roman law) must always stand steadfast and immutable.”
56. “El derecho romano es al nuestro . . . lo que un original es a una traducción . . .
que nos rigen hasta hoy, son una traducción discreta y sabia de los Pandectas y el Código
romanos.” Letter from Juan Bautista Alberdi to Lucas González (a young Argentine
studying law at the Univ. of Turin), Valparaíso, 16 April 1850, in Alberdi, Obras
completas, 3:345.
57. Víctor Tau Anzoátegui, El poder de la costumbre: Estudios sobre el derecho
consuetudinario en América hispana hasta la emancipación (Buenos Aires: Instituto de
Investigaciones de Historia del Derecho, 2001), 101.
58. “. . . los principios generales de buen gobierno, las reglas de nuestro derecho
escrito, y las bases fundamentales del derecho natural.” Bartolomé Mitre, “Discurso contra
el acuerdo de San Nicolás,” 21 June 1852, in Mitre, Arengas (Buenos Aires: Biblioteca de
“La Nación,” 1902), 1:12.
59. “El derecho civil, el derecho constitucional, todos los derechos creados por las
leyes, la soberanía misma de los pueblos, puede variar, modifcarse, acabar también . . .
pero los derechos naturales, tanto de los hombres como de los pueblos constituidos por la
Divina Providencia (según las palabras de la ley romana) siempre deben quedar frmes
476 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
In short, studies of law in both the colonial period and thereafter need to
pay heed to courses in natural and canon law and focus, beyond strictly legal
matters, on their special character as vehicles of ideas of the social science of the
day, ideas consistent with the persistence of the ancient constitution, for which
they acted as a support.
The Intellectual Education of the Clergy and Military Leaders
The claim that arbitrary caudillismo arose as a reaction against modernizing
elites’ attempts to impose constitutionalism ignores the existence of rules of
political behavior based on other kinds of constitutional views among both the
rural and the urban leaders of the day. Evidence encourages us to approach the
history of the frst half of the nineteenth century from a different angle.
Approaches to the conduct of the so-called caudillos that fail to attend to
their intellectual education are similar to certain treatments of the political
action of the clergy. It is useful to spend a little time on this example, as it will
give us a clearer grasp of the matter in hand. The usual interpretation is to see
the men of the church as mere representatives of a religious cult. But equally or
more important for intellectual and political history is to recognize their role
as bearers of opinions from what was then the science of society, that is, the set
of doctrines of natural and canon law taught to them over the course of their
educations. So, for the purposes of understanding the political motivation of the
players involved, it is of no consequence that many of these men of the church
had no religious vocation and had been groomed for an ecclesiastical career
out of calculated convenience according to family rules common at the time.
Whether or not they had genuine faith, they had all received a similar schooling
in classrooms and tertulias, and, in addition to the scholastic versions of those
disciplines that persisted in curricula, some had made critical adjustments after
consulting works by nonscholastic authors of natural law (Grotius, Pufendorf,
Vattel, et al.) and the regalist versions of canon law.
Discussions of the so-called caudillos have highlighted their military and
e inmutables.” “Informe de la Comisión Examinadora de la Constitución Federal,” in
Ravignani, Asambleas constituyentes argentinas, 4:766.
60. On the education of the River Plate clergy and their social projections, see Di
Stefano, El púlpito y la plaza: Clero, sociedad y política de la monarquía católica a la república
rosista (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno, 2004), chap. 3. See also Valentina Ayrolo, Funcionarios
de dios y de la república: Clero y política en la experiencia de las autonomías provinciales (Buenos
Aires: Biblos, 2007), chap. 3.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 477
61. Jorge Newton, Alejandro Heredia: El protector del norte (Buenos Aires: Plus Ultra,
1971), 14 – 15.
62. Papeles del General Echagüe (1796 – 1826), ed. Archivo Histórico de la Provincia de
Santa Fe, 2nd ed. (Santa Fe: Ministerio de Justicia y Educación, 1951), 19.
political background and paid little heed to their intellectual background. It
may therefore come as a surprise to note that some of them had pursued higher
or middle education. This means that, like the clergy, they received the basic
ideas of what used to be called “the science of morality and costumes,” ideas
consistent with the norms of the social and political life of their day. We should
add that, with or without higher education, they were generally surrounded by
lawyers who had received these ideas during their education, some of whom
were their advisers and held governmental posts at various levels.
Information on the formal education of the political leaders of the period is
scarce, and historians who have explored the biographical traits of these leaders
tend to neglect the issue. However, we do have supporting evidence in certain
celebrated cases from the history of Río de la Plata during the frst half of the
nineteenth century. Take two famous caudillos, for example: Alejandro Heredia,
from Tucumán, and Pascual Echagüe, from Santa Fe but politically active in
neighboring Entre Ríos as well. These men were both doctors of theology and
both had worked as lecturers.
Heredia (1788 – 1838) received his primary education in schools run by
religious orders in Tucumán, continued his studies at the Colegio de Nuestra
Señora de Loreto in Córdoba, and graduated in 1808 as a doctor of theology at
the University of Córdoba. He had also won a chair in Latin by competition in
1806. Later he would begin his military career in the independence armies and
he was already a colonel when, in 1816, he joined the Congress of Tucumán,
which would declare the independence of Río de la Plata. Among other his nota-
ble activities, he was also member of the Constituent Congress of 1824 – 27.
Pascual Echagüe (1797 – 1867) undertook primary studies in Latin lan-
guage and culture in the city of Santa Fe and, in 1812, entered the Colegio de
Monserrat in Córdoba. In 1818, he graduated as a doctor of theology from the
University of Córdoba and was given an assistant tutorship. On his return to
Santa Fe he was appointed schoolmaster of First Letters in 1820, government
prosecretary in 1821, and government secretary in 1824, and later became gov-
ernor of Entre Ríos Province between 1832 and 1841, and neighboring Santa Fe
between 1842 and 1851. He was, until his death in 1867, active not just militar-
ily, but politically too, holding government posts and representative functions
at both provincial and national levels.
478 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
Something similar can be seen in other prominent political fgures of the
period. Manuel Dorrego, the famous Federal Party leader of the 1820s and gov-
ernor of Buenos Aires from the fall of Rivadavia in 1827 until his execution
by the Unitarian general Juan Lavalle in December 1828, had studied at the
Real Colegio de San Carlos in Buenos Aires beginning in 1803 and had moved
to Santiago de Chile to study jurisprudence at the University of San Felipe, a
career he interrupted due to the events of May 1810 in Buenos Aires.
Molina, the most prominent of Mendoza’s governors, studied law at the same
university, albeit without graduating. General Jose María Paz, the most famous
military leader of the Unitarian Party, entered the University of Córdoba in
1804 and enrolled in the frst year of philosophy, the third and last year of which
he completed in 1806. In the same year, he earned the titles of bachelor and then
master of arts. In February 1807, he enrolled in the frst course of theology, the
examination for which he passed at the end of that year. He also took the canon
law course, which he passed at the end of 1810. Paz was only one year and one
examination short of becoming a bachelor of law when he withdrew owing to
the political events of those years.
Other caudillos had done secondary studies before embarking on their
military careers. Juan Bautista Bustos, governor of Córdoba between 1820 and
1829, studied at the city’s Dominican college. Jose Vicente Reinafé, the Cór-
doba governor tried and executed for his alleged involvement in the murder of
Facundo Quiroga, had studied at the Colegio de Monserrat, which he entered
in 1801. The leading caudillo and governor of Santiago del Estero Juan Felipe
Ibarra attended the Colegio de Monserrat between 1801 and 1802, leaving in
his second year due to lack of resources. Martin Güemes, the hero of the con-
tainment of the Spanish in northwest Río de la Plata, studied at the Franciscan
convent in Salta and attended the arts lectureship of Dr. Manuel Antonio de
Castro. The Entre Ríos caudillo Ricardo López Jordan, whose career was long
and eventful, had studied at Colegio de San Ignacio in Buenos Aires.
63. As I have said, information about the subject is very scarce. For Dorrego, I have
drawn on data in Gabriel Di Meglio, “Manuel Dorrego y los descamisados: La construcción
de un líder popular urbano en la Buenos Aires posrevolucionaria,” Estudios Sociales (Santa Fe,
Argentina) 29 (2005); and Lily Sosa de Newton, Dorrego (Buenos Aires: Plus Ultra, 1967).
Unless expressly indicated, the other biographical data are from Vicente Osvaldo Cutolo,
Nuevo diccionario biográfco argentino (1750 – 1930) (Buenos Aires: Elche, 1971).
64. Aldo Armando Cocca, Los estudios universitarios del General Paz (Buenos Aires:
Centro de Historia “Mitre,” 1946).
65. Valentina Ayrolo, “Juan Bautista Bustos,” in Historias de caudillos argentinos, ed.
Jorge Lafforgue (Buenos Aires: Alfaguara, 1999); Luis Alén Lascano, “Juan Felipe Ibarra,”
in ibid.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 479
Where advisers to the so-called caudillos are concerned, we fnd similar
backgrounds in either ecclesiastical studies, as in the case of Artigas’s adviser
Father Monterroso, or legal studies, like José Simón García de Cossio, a gradu-
ate of Charcas and adviser to Governor Pedro Ferré in Corrientes. In short,
members of the elites of the period had commonly studied theology or law at
the Universities of Córdoba, Charcas, or Santiago de Chile. The latter univer-
sity was an alternative to the prestigious but distant Charcas for Rioplatenses
wanting to study jurisprudence when there was no such subject as yet in Cór-
doba. Naturally, the inhabitants of Cuyo were more likely to enroll there due
to its proximity, and likewise a sector of the Mendoza elite who would be politi-
cally active between 1828 and 1851.
The Inconsistency of the Concept of Caudillismo
The above references are intended to show that the so-called caudillos, gener-
ally thought of solely as men of military action, possessed ideas about society
and politics, and are accordingly also valid subjects of study for what I term
intellectual history. This does not mean thinking of them as professionals in
that feld, but as bearers of social and political conceptions consistent with their
We said at the start that the political conduct of the sectors that resisted
post-independence reforms has been misinterpreted due to a failure to recog-
nize that they belonged to a conceptual world governed by rules attributable to
the ongoing force of the ancient constitution. One of the most evident effects of
this limitation is on the phenomenon termed “caudillismo.” The classic dichot-
omy set up by Sarmiento in Facundo o Civilización y barbarie offered a distorted
picture of the social and political reality of his day. This was the result of the
combined infuences of romanticism — from which Sarmiento took his portrait
of a rural world under the sway of grand feudal ownership — and European trav-
elers’ accounts, whose descriptions of landscapes and human types he used to
fll in for his personal ignorance of such realities.
Although, as I pointed out
66. I am grateful to Prof. Hernán Bransboin for this information from his ongoing
doctoral thesis at the University of Buenos Aires, “La provincia de Mendoza en la
Confederación Argentina (1835 – 1852).”
67. Adolfo Prieto has shown these peculiarities of the Sanjuanino’s work, providing us
with an example of the effect of various literary mediations in the apparent view of reality.
Adolfo Prieto, Los viajeros ingleses y la emergencia de la literatura argentina, 1820 – 1850 (Buenos
Aires: Sudamericana, 1996). On the view of caudillos as feudal barons, see Ernesto Quesada,
“La Edad Media argentina,” in La época de Rosas, su verdadero carácter histórico (Buenos Aires:
Moen, 1898).
480 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
above, our image of the crisis of independence has changed a great deal, we still
have not totally abandoned approaches, like the one evoked by the term “caudi-
llismo,” that stand in the way of a clearer understanding of what happened after
Caudillismo is treated as the other side of the historical process, oblivi-
ous to the civilizing task and hostile to the rule of law: “Peace perpetuated the
structures of war and established in Spanish America a dual process, constitu-
tionalism on the one hand, caudillismo on the other.”
Absent from this per-
spective is any perception of the existence of constitutional norms prior to post-
independence attempts at political reform. Tulio Halperín Donghi pointed out
long ago that the term “caudillismo” was “a derogatory label, applied very liber-
ally by certain politicians to their rivals.” “Caudillo” denoted “one who aspired
to achieve power through violence, or exercised it outside the bounds of legal-
ity, or obtained it illegitimately.” And he added, “the expression covers a set of
meanings similar to those covered by tyrant a century earlier.” Halperín Donghi
did not propose to defne a “caudillo regime,” a label he felt covered “irreduc-
ibly diverse realities,” but instead merely to describe the social and economic
conditions in which four of the most famous Rioplatense caudillos — Güemes,
Ramirez, Ibarra, and Quiroga — emerged, albeit without addressing the intel-
lectual facets of these political leaders’ educations.
Jeremy Adelman does not
68. I include myself in this observation. José Carlos Chiaramonte, “Legalidad
constitucional o caudillismo: El problema del orden social en el surgimiento de los estados
autónomos del Litoral argentino en la primera mitad del siglo XIX,” Desarrollo Económico
(Buenos Aires) 26, no. 102 ( July – Sept. 1986). See also the examination of the different
trends in interpretations of caudillismo in Frank Safford, “Politics, Ideology and Society
in Post-Independence Spanish America,” in The Cambridge History of Latin America, 3:347.
A more recent review of the various historiographical criteria relating to caudillismo and
of the progress toward a clearer understanding of how power was exercised in the decades
following independence is to be found in Noemí Goldman and Ricardo Salvatore, eds.,
Caudillismos rioplatenses: Nuevas miradas a un viejo problema (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 1998). For
a general overview, see the introduction by the compilers in the same work, and the chapter
by Pablo Buchbinder, “Caudillos y caudillismo: una perspectiva historiográfca.”
69. John Lynch, Caudillos in Spanish America, 1800 – 1850 (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1992), 84.
70. “. . . un califcativo denigratorío, aplicado muy liberalmente por ciertos políticos
a sus rivales . . . aquél que aspiraba a lograr el poder por medio de la violencia, o el que
lo ejercía al margen de la organización legal, o el que lo obtenía de forma ilegítima. . . .
la expresión cubre un conjunto de signifcaciones semejantes al que un siglo antes cubría
la de tirano . . . régimen de caudillos . . . realidades irreductiblemente diversas.” Tulio
Halperín Donghi, “El surgimiento de los caudillos en el cuadro de la sociedad rioplatense
postrevolucionaria,” Estudios de Historia Social 1 (1965).
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 481
71. Jeremy Adelman, Republic of Capital: Buenos Aires and the Legal Transformation of the
Atlantic World (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1999), 280, and 112 – 13.
72. “. . . un tipo de dominación basado eminentemente en la psicología colectiva, no
en la desaparecida o dudosa legalidad racional o tradicional”; “un derecho ad hoc propio de
bandas.” Mario Góngora, “Mario Góngora: Un texto y una entrevista. Refexiones sobre
la tradición y el tradicionalismo en la historia de Chile,” in Góngora, Ensayo Histórico, 287;
Fernando Díaz Díaz, Caudillos y caciques: Antonio López de Santa Anna y Juan Álvarez (Mexico
City: El Colegio de México, 1972).
73. For Mexico, see José Antonio Aguilar Rivera, En pos de la quimera: Refexiones sobre
el experimento constitucional atlántico (Mexico City: Centro de Investigación y Docencia
Económicas / Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2001), 78. Aguilar Rivera, El manto liberal:
Los poderes de emergencia en México, 1821 – 1876 (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional
Autónoma de México, 2001). For Colombia, see the paragraph, “El uso de las autorizaciones
extraordinarias,” in David Bushnell, El régimen de Santander en la Gran Colombia, 3rd
ed. (Bogota: El Áncora, 1985), 51. Bushnell describes the frequency of use of facultades
extraordinarias and mentions the requisite of the Congress’s consent. But he calls them
“semi-dictatorial” powers and deems them contradictory in a republican regime like Gran
agree with this type of analysis, nor with Lynch’s, but rather relies on the con-
cept of “caudillo regime.” He asserts that “local chieftains eschewed the rule
of law in order to squelch internal discord,” and characterizes Rosas as a caudi-
llo whose power “rested on the rule of quasi-law: sanctions and dictates of an
unstable state bereft of deep legitimacy and lacking an accepted covering law for
public affairs.” According to Adelman, “If the caudillo personifed anything, it
was this transitional incompleteness.”
Even more frequently caudillismo has
been viewed from a psychological perspective. For Mario Góngora, these were
charismatic men who exercised “a kind of domination based fundamentally on
collective psychology: based not on any vanished or questionable rational or
traditional legality” but on “an ad hoc gang law.” A similar approach, even more
explicitly founded on the Weberian concepts of ideal types and charisma, has
been applied by Fernando Díaz Díaz to the case of Mexico.
Facultades Extraordinarias and the Ancient Constitution
Facultades extraordinarias were one of the most important political instruments
of the era and, what is more, one of the phenomena most responsible for the
attribution of despotism to the conduct of governors in general, whether they
are individually considered caudillos or not. But these powers were in fact an
expression of a specifc dictatorial resource widely utilized at the time to deal
with political emergencies. Such powers were also employed in other countries
in Spanish America, such as Mexico, Colombia, and Chile.
Study of these
482 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
Colombia. As a result, with this lack of perception of the dictatorial nature of these
powers and their compatibility with a Republican regime, he attributes them to Article
21 of the Constitution of Cúcuta of 1821. For Peru, see Cristóbal Aljovín de Losada,
“¿Una ruptura con el pasado? Santa Cruz y la Constitución,” in Cultura política en los
Andes (1750 – 1950), ed. C. Aljovín de Losada and Nils Jacobsen (Lima: Fondo de la
Universidad Mayor de San Marcos / Institut Français d’Études Andines, 2007); and
Aljovín de Losada, Caudillos y constituciones: Perú: 1821 – 1845 (Mexico City: Fondo de
Cultura Económica, 2000), 84. For Chile, see the various cases of the constitutional
validity of facultades extraordinarias during the nineteenth century in Humberto
Nogueira Alcalá, “La delegación de facultades legislativas en el ordenamiento jurídico
chileno,” Ius et Praxis (Universidad de Talca, Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Sociales) 7,
no. 2 (2001) (available online at http://www.scielo.cl/).
74. Aguilar Rivera, El manto liberal.
75. “. . . en el remoto y extraordinarío caso de comprometerse la tranquilidad pública
o la seguridad de la patria, podrá el gobierno suspender este decreto mientras dure la
necesidad.” “Decreto de seguridad individual,” 23 Nov. 1811, in Ravignani, Asambleas
constituyentes argentinas, vol. 6, part 2, p. 605.
powers has been dominated by concern over their incompatibility with liberal-
ism, to the detriment of any examination of their consistency with the ancient
constitution as natural expression of the dominant social, legal, and political
norms of the era.
For, as we shall see below, facultades extraordinarias, tra-
ditionally considered one of the main proofs of the absence of legality, were
on the contrary a form of the ancient institution of dictatorship, established
legitimately by consent of the people, who granted the facultades and with limi-
tations on their endurance and scope. One must recall that dictatorship, from
classical antiquity onward, was a legal institution, while the abuse of power by
rulers was instead dubbed “tyranny.”
Dictatorial-type powers were already envisaged in Rioplatense docu-
ments produced shortly after May 1810, which, although designed to pro-
tect individual rights against the excesses of power, nevertheless allowed for
emergency measures. Article 9 of the Decreto de seguridad individual passed
by the Primer Triunvirato in November 1811 stated that “in the remote and
extraordinary event of the public peace or security of the motherland being
compromised, the government may suspend this decree for as long as the
need should last.”
Recourse to facultades extraordinarias recurred during the 1813 Assembly,
the frst attempt to draw up a constitution for the United Provinces of the Río de
la Plata. At the special session of September 8, 1813, convened to discuss a report
by the executive (the Segundo Triunvirato) on the extraordinary circumstances
generated by events in Alto Perú and the Banda Oriental, it was decided to grant
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 483
76. “Sesión extraordinaria del Miércoles 8 de Septiembre,” El Redactor de la Asamblea,
no. 16, 11 Sept. 1813, in El Redactor de la Asamblea de 1813, facsimile ed. (Buenos Aires:
La Nación, 1913), 64.
77. “. . . queda autorizado con las mismas facultades extraordinarias que se le
confrieron por el Soberano Decreto de 8 de Setiembre último.” “Reglamento dado por
la Asamblea General Constituyente para la suspensión de sus sesiones,” El Redactor de la
Asamblea, no. 18, 20 Nov. 1813, in ibid., 73.
78. “. . . jamás podrán suspenderse . . . la seguridad de la Patria,” “Estatuto Provisional
para la Dirección y Administración del Estado dado por la Junta de Observación,” 5 May
1815, in Ravignani, Asambleas constituyentes argentinas, vol. 6, part 2, p. 648.
79. “Reglamento provisorio dictado por el Congreso de Tucumán para las Provincias
Unidas de Sudamérica,” Constitución de 1819, sect. 5, chap. 2, art. 122; 1826 Constitution,
art. 174; and 1853 Constitution, art. 23; all cited in Ravignani, Asambleas constituyentes
argentinas, vol. 6, part 2, pp. 719, 760, and 800, respectively.
the government facultades extraordinarias and suspend the operations of the
assembly for as long as they remained in effect.
For similar reasons, sessions
were again suspended in November the same year with a regulation, Article
3, which declared executive power to be “authorized with the same facultades
extraordinarias as were conferred on it by the Sovereign Decree of September
8 last.”
Article 21 of the chapter on individual security of the Estatuto de 1815
contained a similar provision, albeit presented in rhetorical language that could
not hide its nature. The article begins by stating that the dispositions laid out
in the chapter “may never be suspended,” but adds in the same breath that if
by some extraordinary circumstance the public peace or the “security of the
Patria” were to be threatened, it would be admissible to suspend its provisions.

We fnd similar language in Article 14 of the chapter on individual security of
the 1817 Reglamento, while the Constitutions of 1819 and 1826 also include
similar clauses.
Facultades extraordinarias did not cancel the fundamental laws in force in
each province. These powers were not unilaterally usurped by the governor but
rather granted by the legislative body in accordance with the formality required
by the principle of consent, whereby the institution representative of popular
sovereignty consented to divest itself temporarily of certain powers, generally
for reasons attributed to grave internal or external circumstances that could not
be properly addressed by the procedures built into the division of powers. The
same formality even governed the concession of the suma del poder público (sum
of public power) to Juan Manuel de Rosas in 1835, as is apparent from the condi-
tion he placed on his acceptance of them, that is, that the sovereign organism
had to comply with requirement of consent, as did the sovereign pueblo itself
484 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
through the mechanism of a plebiscite.
Contemporaries were well aware of
the dictatorial nature and Roman precedents of facultades extraordinarias. In
1830 in the debates of the Buenos Aires House of Representatives, one of the
staunchest advocates of such powers, Ramón Olavarrieta, denounced criticisms
of “certain facultades to which Rome owed its greatness and power.” Another of
the representatives, Juan José Cernadas, declared present circumstances similar
to those when “ancient Rome proceeded to the appointment of dictators, to
save the patria, without any limitation other than time.” And Pedro Feliciano
Cavia, one of the most infuential politicians of those years, claimed that “only a
dictatory power can, with iron hand, crush the machinations of the perverse and
tumultuous spirits in a day.” He clarifed these words a little further on when
calling for the granting of facultades extraordinarias: “Dictatorship, gentlemen,
is one of the greatest scourges to have afficted and devastated free states. We
are well aware. And yet sometimes it is necessary, to curb the anarchizing spirit.
Republics ancient and modern have, in their extreme troubles, resorted to this
terrible, but salutary medicine.”
Two years later, at the end of 1832, in response to a bill to extend the powers
granted to Rosas after Governor Dorrego’s overthrow and execution by fring
squad in 1828, there was a heated debate in the Buenos Aires Legislature that
revealed a majority preference to lift the facultades extraordinarias in the name
of current constitutional rules. Supporters staked this argument on the basis of
80. The sum of public power handed to Juan Manuel de Rosas in 1835 amounted to
the total delegation not only of legislative authority but of judicial functions, too. Víctor
Tau Anzoátegui, “Las facultades extraordinarias y la suma del poder público en el derecho
provincial argentino (1820 – 1853),” Revista del Instituto de Historia del Derecho 12 (1961): 93.
On the vicissitudes of the attempts to implement a representative regime with division of
powers, see Marcela Ternavasio, Gobernar la revolución: Poderes en disputa en el Río de la Plata,
1810 – 1816 (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno, 2007).
81. “. . . unas facultades a que Roma debió su grandeza y poder . . . la antigua Roma
procedía al nombramiento de sus dictadores, para salvar la patria, sin más limitación que
la del tiempo . . . sólo un poder dictatorio [sic] puede reprimir en el día con mano fuerte las
maquinaciones de los genios perversos y tumultuarios . . . La dictadura, señores, es una de
las mayores plagas que han afigido y devastado a los estados libres. Lo sabemos bien. Sin
embargo ella es necesaria a las [sic] veces para enfrenar el espíritu anarquizador. Repúblicas
antiguas y modernas han recurrido en sus extremos males a esta terrible, pero saludable
medicina.” “Diario de Sesiones de la H. Junta de Representantes de la provincia de Buenos
Aires,” XI, Sessions of July 17, 19, and 23, 1830, respectively. It is to be noted that, in a
similar way, Ramos Arizpe and other Mexican deputies in the 1823 – 24 Congress warned
that “extraordinary cases may occur that require extraordinary measures, as demonstrated
by the reason and experience of free countries like Rome in Antiquity or Colombia in our
own day,” cited in Aguilar Rivera, En pos de la quimera, 79.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 485
82. “. . . esperanzas de vivir constitucionalmente . . . las leyes que reglan la elección
directa, y que establecen el principio de la inviolabilidad de las propiedades y la publicidad de
todos los actos de la administración pública . . . trastornaría completamente las condiciones
del pacto, bajo el cual hemos entrado a formar parte en la sociedad . . . mina y destruye
por su base nuestras leyes fundamentales.” “Correspondencia: Los Argentinos,” La Gaceta
Mercantil, Diario comercial, político y literario (Buenos Aires), 6 and 14 Nov. 1832.
83. “. . . no ven constitución donde no ven cuaderno . . . tenemos leyes constitucionales,
que encierran los mejores elementos de una constitución; que por ellas está establecida la
división y construcción de los tres poderes; la responsabilidad de los ministros; la seguridad
del individuo, y la inviolabilidad de su propiedad; el ejercicio de sus derechos; la facultad de
levantar impuestos; el saludable sistema de presupuestos y cien cosas más . . . La provincia
tiene, pues, constitución; y . . . a la pregunta de ¿puede marchar el Gobierno con las
facultades ordinarias que tenía antes del motín de 1828? Diré que sí . . . sin destruir las
bases fundamentales de nuestro sistema.” “El Federal,” La Gaceta Mercantil, Diario comercial,
político y literario (Buenos Aires), 12 Nov. 1832. Regarding the European discussion about
respect for those constitutional rules and, to that end, insisted that Buenos Aires
did possess a constitution in spite of the absence of a written text. One letter
in the Buenos Aires newspaper, La Gaceta Mercantil, expressed “hopes of liv-
ing constitutionally” under the republican representative system then in effect.
The author understood that that republican system had been adopted in Buenos
Aires via the enactment of “the laws that govern direct election and that estab-
lish the principle of inviolability of property and publicity of all acts of public
administration.” The bill under debate, he argued, exceeded the scope that the
people, exercising their sovereignty, had placed in the hands of their representa-
tives; it would be destructive of the republican representative system and “would
completely disrupt the conditions of the pact we have entered into to be part of
society.” Thus, the bill under discussion, he claimed, “undermines and destroys
our fundamental laws at their base.”
A few days later, another anonymous contributor in the same newspaper
again attacked the bill, insisting that Buenos Aires was not unconstituted in
spite of the claims of those who “see no constitution where they see no notebook
[cuaderno].” On the contrary, “we have constitutional laws, which enshrine the
best elements of a constitution; that establish the division and construction of
the three powers; the responsibility of the ministers; the security of the indi-
vidual, and the inviolability of his property; the exercise of his rights; the power
to levy taxes; the salutary system of budgets and a hundred other things.” In a
similar vein, he added, “The province, then, has a constitution; and . . . to the
question of whether the government can work with the ordinary powers it had
before the mutiny of 1828, I say it can,” because to these powers could be added
others, “without destroying the foundations of our system.”
486 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
But supporters of this position would eventually be defeated. Such was the
result of the process that ran from the reforms of the 1820s to the suma del
poder público in 1835. The explanation of this development is not simple, but
a fundamental component depends on understanding, as shown above, that the
Rioplatense societies of the day were confgured by long-standing constitu-
tional rules that went hand in hand with congruent forms of social conduct and
political action, and that, although the new constitutional reforms adopted after
1810 had many a defender, they lacked the rootedness necessary to take hold in
the long term.
In Buenos Aires, the suma del poder público granted to Rosas after the anni-
hilation of the Federals’ liberal wing became a negation of the legal order when
the legislature declined to limit or control that concession of power. But in other
cases this did not happen, as shown by events in Corrientes, where the use of
this government expedient was far less common.
We see something similar in
the case of Mendoza. In February 1829, facultades extraordinarias were granted
to the governor, ceasing in August that year. The legislature granted them via a
regulation stating that the legislature would resume its functions once the risks
making the extraordinary powers necessary should cease, or earlier if a third of
the representatives should so request, and that the executive should inform the
legislature of all laws enacted during that period, observing the provisions of
the Reglamento de Debates de la Sala and the laws of the province.
extraordinarias were again resorted to from March 23 to December 17, 1831;
January 9 to July 1836; July 2 to December 6, 1840; December 1847 to Febru-
ary 1848; and November 1850 to March 1852. The suma del poder público was
granted to Governor Correa in July 1840 and handed back in December the
same year, and to Governor Aldao in May of 1842 and handed back in May
1844. So, between 1829 and 1853, Mendoza spent 190 months governed by its
constitutional rules and 90 under facultades extraordinarias or the suma del
poder público. But through all of this the House of Representatives suspended
its sessions only in the two years when Aldao held the suma del poder público,
emergency powers and the liberal critique of them, see Aguilar Rivera, En pos de la
quimera, chap. 2.
84. For Corrientes, see José Carlos Chiaramonte, Mercaderes del litoral: Economía y
sociedad en la provincia de Corrientes, primera mitad del siglo XIX (Buenos Aires: Fondo de
Cultura Económica, 1991), 195.
85. Registro Ministerial, Year 1829, 19 Feb. 1829, Archivo Histórico de Mendoza.
Information from the ongoing doctoral thesis by Prof. Hernán Bransboin, cited above in
note 66.
The “Ancient Constitution” af ter Independence 487
under the heavy pressure of the political crisis caused by the blockade of the
port of Buenos Aires.
The use of facultades extraordinarias and the suma del
poder público in Mendoza thus demonstrates the features outlined above. The
House of Representatives granted them in risk situations, toward specifc ends,
and with various constraints depending on the case. In every instance the pow-
ers were handed back to the house when the grounds justifying them ceased.
In other words, we have here a representative political system that approached
crisis situations by establishing temporary dictatorships, following the precau-
tions proper to the ancient norms of political law.
Closing Thoughts
When judging the value of ideas in history, it is necessary to distinguish between
ideas that arise out of great works that win acceptance at a given moment and
can resonate across the centuries — Aristotle and Plato, or Montesquieu, Vol-
taire, and other eighteenth-century fgures spring to mind — and notions that
emerge by consensus over the course of time and become a means of support
for human actions. The latter phenomena are shaped by various, sometimes
imperceptible factors, although they may also include ideas from the kind of
great works mentioned above, which can become part of a social heritage whose
origins are lost in time.
What is called for, then, would be not a mere intellectual history or straight-
forward history of ideas but something different, a history of what we often
call collective beliefs, which become patterns for group or individual, private or
public behavior. In other words, what is needed is a history of fundamental ideas,
ranging from those governing everyday life to those infuencing great events,
ideas that moreover perform the sometimes imperceptible function of condi-
tioning the acceptance of new ideas and the scope of their effects. A history, we
might say, of social consensus, or of the agreements of the distinct sectors that
make up society: not just in the sense Mosca underscores when referring to the
consensual notions on which the ruling classes need to found their use of power,

but, far beyond that, the notions with which humans have sought to regulate
their conficts of individual or collective interest or belief.
86. Reconstruction by Prof. Hernán Bransboin based on information in the Registro
Ministerial and the Congressional Record of the House of Representatives of the Province
of Mendoza, Archivo Legislativo de Mendoza.
87. “In all countries that have attained a regular level of culture, the political class
justifes its power by basing it on a generally accepted belief or feeling in the period and
488 HAHR / August / Chiaramonte
The history of nineteenth-century Spanish America may seem a tangle
of contradictory processes, whose defant refusal to conform to something
approaching intelligibility we have often shrouded in weak categories such as
“political anarchy,” “particularism,” and “caudillismo.” What I have attempted
to do here is explore another way of accounting for much of that history. To this
end I have tried to comprehend the features of the political life of the period,
going beyond an approach to intellectual history centered on the infuence of
the great exponents of European thought and trying instead to give priority to
a history that pays closer attention to the ancient norms that conditioned the
social and political life of the period. It is from this perspective that the concept
of the ancient constitution sheds light on the kind of consensus described above
and can help us understand the persistent resistance to the reformist efforts
touched off by independence.
among the people.” Gaetano Mosca, Storia delle dottrine politiche, cited in Norberto
Bobbio and Michelangelo Bovero, Origen y fundamentos del poder político, 2nd ed.
(Mexico City: Grijalbo, 1966), 20.
I would like to thank Linda Arnold, Arlene Díaz, Tamar Herzog, Máximo Langer, and
Kim Morse for helping me to think about this topic. I also owe much gratitude to Matthew
Brown, Matthew Mirow, and Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo, and to the HAHR reviewers for
reading preliminary drafts of this article and providing invaluable suggestions. I also thank
the investigators in the Sala de Historia at the Academia Nacional de Historia in Caracas,
particularly Juan Carlos Reyes, who helped to assemble the quantitative data and organize it
by geographic regions. Additional thanks to Richard Luna for help with the graphics.
1. Archivo General de la Nación de Venezuela (hereafter cited as AGN), Expedientes
Criminales y Civiles (hereafter cited as CC), 1822, L-06.
Hispanic American Historical Review 90:3
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-004
Copyright 2010 by Duke University Press
Liberal Justice: Judicial Reform in
Venezuela’s Courts, 1786 – 1850
Reuben Zahler
In January 1823, Policarpo Mendo found himself in a jail cell, and to a large
degree his uncertain future hinged upon his reputation. The events that brought
him to this precarious situation had begun a few days earlier, when he stood in
a Caracas plaza and watched as a cartload of women accused as godas (Span-
ish loyalists) was driven out of the city. He had spoken with another onlooker,
Lameda Cipriana. Though the two did not know each other, they began to
argue, exchanged insults, and she called him a godo. According to Cipriana and
her six witnesses, Mendo then struck her to the ground and kicked her; accord-
ing to Mendo and his three witnesses, he merely pushed her away. Mendo soon
found himself locked in a jail cell, charged with verbal and physical injury. More
worrisome than the injury charges, Cipriana and her witnesses also asserted
that Mendo was known to support the royalist cause. Royalist troops still
fought republican forces in some coastal cities, so an accusation of treason was
no trifing matter. Further, for centuries reputation had formed one of the most
important types of courtroom evidence for determining a person’s credibility
or guilt. The testimony of Cipriana’s six witnesses, therefore, placed Mendo in
a precarious situation. In what probably surprised both parties, however, the
judge saw the case in a different light; he considered the evidence against the
defendant so weak as not to merit the court’s attention, so he released Mendo
and ordered him and Cipriana to split the court costs.
490 HAHR / August / Zahler
This trial offers valuable insights into not only honor conficts and fears
of loyalists but also the profound changes that occurred within the Venezuelan
courts in the frst half of the nineteenth century. This article examines the court
system across the middle period (1786 – 1850) spanning the late colonial era
through the frst decades after independence. During the late colonial period,
the court system represented a powerful arm of the government and an impor-
tant sphere of contact between the state and its subjects. Colonial subjects looked
to the king as the ultimate arbiter of justice and used the courts as one arena
(along with church and communal institutions) to resolve disputes and maintain
social harmony. The republican government hoped to maintain the importance
and legitimacy of the courts but to infuse them with liberal standards. Using
a quantitative methodology, I demonstrate that republican Venezuelans used
the courts in numbers similar to those of their colonial forebears; this indicates
that the courts remained an important feature of Venezuelan society despite the
disruptions of the independence wars and the accompanying crisis of legitimacy.
Further, calling on a qualitative methodology, I examine court documents to
show that the republican courts not only upheld numerous colonial standards
and procedures but also implemented signifcant reforms commensurate with
liberal-republican models in four areas: questions of jurisdiction, transparency,
due process, and standards of evidence.
Historiographical Context
Inspired by Enlightenment ideals, post-independence governments sought to
establish a judiciary that would follow specifc, rule-based procedures rather
than more abstract notions of traditional justice. However, exactly how court
procedure responded to this new interest in precise legislation remains under-
studied. Until recently, historians believed that the new republics, in general,
and the judicial system, in particular, achieved virtually no profound liberal
reform until the late nineteenth century. Jorge Esquirol suggests that an intense
pessimism among scholars concerning Latin America’s judiciary took root in
the 1960s, when U.S. and Latin American scholars studied the judicial system as
part of a development project. This pessimism, which became fully established
in academia by the 1970s, assumes that contemporary Latin American law is
dysfunctional, detached from actual social norms, and largely unused by the
citizenry. Academics have projected this analysis backwards in history to apply
to the entire modern era.
Among historians of Venezuela, it is still a truism
2. Jorge L. Esquirol, “Continuing Fictions of Latin American Law,” Florida Law
Review 55, no. 31 (2003): 41 – 46.
Liberal Justice 491
that the judicial system, though strong and well respected during the colonial
period, virtually collapsed after independence. This interpretation holds that
republican citizens stopped using the courts because they trusted neither the
competence of the judges nor the potency of the courts to enforce a decision
(for example, to collect a fne) and therefore saw little reason to waste time with
them. Plus, after a decade of war, a culture of violence had pervaded the popu-
lation, making people too impatient to bother with inept state offcials and far
too willing to take matters into their own hands. The courts, then, serve as an
example of state institutions that failed to garner the public’s trust.
Over the last 20 years, however, historians have reconsidered Latin Ameri-
ca’s early republican era and have found that liberal reform was more far-reaching
than previously thought, going beyond offcial rhetoric to have a meaningful
effect on institutions, offcials, and citizens.
Investigations of the judicial sys-
tem have added to this revised understanding of republican transformations,
though large lacunae remain, particularly with regard to actual judicial proce-
dures. While we have several illuminating studies of late colonial judicial stan-
dards and procedures, we have few such studies for the early republican period.

Most investigations into this period’s legal systems are based on legislation or
discourse in the press and congress but do not use court documents to show
actual courtroom procedures.
Studies that do rely on court documents have
tended to focus on a particular type of case, such as honor disputes or domestic
3. For example, see John V. Lombardi, Venezuela: The Search for Order, the Dream of
Progress (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1982), 158 – 59.
4. Pamela Voekel, Alone before God: The Religious Origins of Modernity in Mexico
(Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2002); Sarah C. Chambers, From Subjects to Citizens:
Honor, Gender, and Politics in Arequipa, Peru, 1780 – 1854 (University Park: Pennsylvania State
Univ. Press, 1999); Peter Guardino, The Time of Liberty: Popular Political Culture in Oaxaca,
1750 – 1850 (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2005). For studies of Venezuela, see Elías Pino
Iturrieta, País archipiélago: Venezuela 1830 – 1848 (Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 2002); Elena
Plaza, El patriotismo ilustrado, o la organización del estado en Venezuela, 1830 – 47 (Caracas:
Universidad Central de Venezuela, 2007).
5. Linda Arnold, “The Professionalization of the Bureaucracy in Late Colonial Mexico
City,” New World 1 (1986): 92 – 107; Tamar Herzog, Upholding Justice: Society, State and the
Penal System in Quito (1650 – 1750) (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2004); Michael
Scardaville, “Justice by Paperwork: A Day in the Life of a Court Scribe in Bourbon Mexico
City,” Journal of Social History 36, no. 4 (2003): 979 – 1007.
6. John Henry Merryman and Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo, The Civil Law Tradition:
An Introduction to the Legal Systems of Europe and Latin America, 3rd ed. (Stanford, CA:
Stanford Univ. Press, 2007); M. C. Mirow, Latin American Law: A History of Private Law and
Institutions in Spanish America (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 2004); Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo,
Latin American Lawyers (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 2006).
492 HAHR / August / Zahler
violence, rather than judicial routines.
Nonetheless, a small but growing num-
ber of studies focus on judicial practices, through examining both legislation
and courtroom documents, and have found that the post-independence judicial
system underwent inconsistent but noteworthy liberal reform.
Congruent with this historiographical trend, this study fnds that the
Venezuelan courts enjoyed more use and underwent more liberal reform than
previously realized.
Despite the drop in population and damage to institu-
tions caused by the independence wars, republicans used the courts in numbers
roughly comparable to their colonial counterparts. Furthermore, the courts
underwent signifcant changes in standards and procedures that refected liberal
norms and greater adherence to legislation. At the same time, this investigation
agrees with previous studies on the Venezuelan judiciary in many regards. As
John Lombardi argues, the Venezuelan courts often had great trouble assert-
ing their authority, which could cause endless delays in bringing a defendant
to trial or collecting a fne.
Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo points out that Venezuela
did not have the potential to achieve real juridical formalism (adherence to pre-
scribed rules or forms) until the creation of a unitary, codifed body of law in
However, though the courts faced these serious obstacles, they remained
7. Sarah C. Chambers, “To the Company of a Man Like My Husband, No Law Can
Compel Me: The Limits of Sanctions against Wife Beating in Arequipa, Peru, 1780 – 1850,”
Journal of Women’s History 11, no. 1 (1999): 31 – 52; Arlene J. Díaz, Female Citizens, Patriarchs,
and the Law in Venezuela, 1786 – 1904 (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2004). On
criminality and the relationship between prison reform and the state, see Carlos Aguirre,
The Criminals of Lima and Their Worlds: The Prison Experience, 1850 – 1935 (Durham, NC:
Duke Univ. Press, 2005).
8. Linda Arnold found that the jurists of the Mexican Supreme Court made regular
visits to jails (visitas de cárceles) to ensure that prisoners received appropriate legal procedures
and protections. Linda Arnold, “Vulgar and Elegant: Politics and Procedure in Early
National Mexico,” The Americas 50, no. 4 (1994): 481 – 500. On the inconsistent protection
of liberal individual rights and privacy rights in Peru and Bolivia, see Sarah Chambers,
“Private Crimes, Public Order: Honor, Gender, and the Law in Early Republican Peru,”
and Rosanna Barragán, “The ‘Spirit’ of the Bolivian Laws: Citizenship, Patriarchy, and
Infamy,” in Honor, Status, and Law in Modern Latin America, ed. Sueann Caulfeld, Sarah
Chambers, and Lara Putnam (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2005), 27 – 49, 66 – 86.
9. In Venezuela, use of court documents by historians is relatively rare, in part because
documents are in poor condition and diffcult to locate. Arlene Díaz and Kimberly Morse
have done insightful work based on court cases.
10. Lombardi, Venezuela, 159.
11. Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo, El formalismo jurídico y sus funciones sociales en el siglo XIX
venezolano (Caracas: Monte Avila Editores, 1978), 14.
Liberal Justice 493
a viable state institution even as they enforced standards that, at times, differed
signifcantly from colonial practices.
Centralizing the State
From one perspective, legal and juridical trends across the middle period refect
the state’s effort to centralize its power and rationalize its administration. Both
Bourbon and republican governments sought to increase state wealth and power
through establishing clearer administrative guidelines and hierarchies as well as
increasing the central state’s penetration into spheres previously dominated by
the church and local authorities. Both the monarchical and republican regimes
can be described as overly ambitious and a mixed success, lacking the adminis-
trative infrastructure and funds to enforce such far-reaching changes in agri-
cultural societies spread across such enormous territories.
Within Venezuela, the Bourbon Reforms elevated Caracas to become the
province’s clear administrative capitol, and the policy of comercio libre greatly
augmented the region’s export economy.
By the end of the colonial period,
these conditions led to the creation of a type of protoliberalism, as the hacendado-
merchant class favored freer trade and developed a sense of private rights, par-
ticularly inviolate rights to private property.
The wars for independence broke out in 1811, led by radicals who called for
a rapid transformation to a liberal, republican order. The independence wars in
Venezuela were the most destructive in all of Spanish America, as Venezuelans
fought the Spanish and each other across political, racial, class, and regional
Venezuela existed as a region within Gran Colombia from 1821 until it
12. Caracas became the location of Venezuela’s Capitanía General and Intendencia
(1776), Audiencia (1786), merchant guild (1793), and Archdiocese (1803). Along with Cuba,
Venezuela became “Spain’s most successful agricultural colony.” Malcolm Deas, “Venezuela,
Colombia and Ecuador: The First Half-Century of Independence,” in Cambridge History of
Latin America, ed. Leslie Bethel, vol. 3, From Independence to c. 1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge
Univ. Press, 1989), 511. Also see David Bushnell, The Santander Regime in Gran Colombia
(Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1954), 1.
13. For example, in 1799 the consulado and cabildo of Caracas argued against the crown’s
trade restrictions. Their discourse about property rights sounded nearly liberal in content
in that they asserted that “their private rights practically entitled them to violate political
dictates, which came close to claiming that private property rights came before political
decisions.” Jeremy Adelman, Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton Univ. Press, 2006), 113.
14. For a brief account of Venezuela’s war, see Jaime E. Rodríguez O., The Independence
of Spanish America (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), 109 – 22, 84 – 92, 219 – 22.
494 HAHR / August / Zahler
achieved full independence in 1830. Throughout all this turbulence, the liberal
leadership retained its call for a republic guided by legislation. During the war,
Simón Bolívar, El Libertador, assured his compatriots that they would estab-
lish a republic of laws: “The imperium of the laws is more powerful than that
of tyrants, because they are more infexible, and everyone should submit him-
self to the beneft of their rigor. . . . the exercise of justice is the exercise of
Similar sentiments were expressed in the post-independence period
by periodicals such as El Venezolano and El Argos, which argued that “our new
liberal laws” should guide the government.
Signifcantly, in many ways the
republicans sought to continue some of the most controversial of the Bourbon
Reforms, particularly the efforts to rationalize administration and centralize
control through empowering state legislation.
Compared to other Spanish American republics, in its frst decades Ven-
ezuela was comparatively liberal and stable. To a large degree, there existed a
powerful consensus among the country’s elites to establish liberal institutions
and practices.
Overwhelmingly, economic, political, military, and intellectual
leaders advocated representative government, civil rights, freedoms of expres-
sion and religion, legal equality, a free market economy, and reduction of the
power of the church and the military. The constitutions, which theoretically
would undergird all legal and political institutions, supported liberal structures
and freedoms.
However, like early nineteenth-century liberals elsewhere, Ven-
15. Simón Bolívar, “Discurso Ante el Congreso de Angostura, 1819.” Found in Manuel
Perez Vila, ed., Simón Bolívar: Doctrina del Libertador (Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1985),
105. Bolívar himself spent considerable energy composing legislation and restructuring legal
institutions, in part because “he viewed efforts dealing with the legal system as an essential
part of seizing political control and governing.” M. C. Mirow, “The Power of Codifcation
in Latin America: Simón Bolívar and the Code Napoléon,” Tulane Journal of International
and Comparative Law 8 (2000): 103. Bolivar’s 1827 decrees touched on wide-ranging subjects
such as how and when to plant particular crops; the university’s curriculum and testing
procedures; streamlining the hierarchy and reducing corruption in government offces; the
dress uniforms for public employees; and the design and operation of the military hospital.
Simón Bolívar, Proclamas y decretos por Simón Bolívar, 1828. Located in the archive of the
Fundación John Boulton, Caracas, Item #III-17.
16. El Venezolano (Caracas), no. 84, 1 May 1824; El Argos (Caracas), 8 April 1825, 1 – 2.
17. On the liberal consensus among elites, see Pérez-Perdomo, El formalismo
jurídico, 71; Elena Plaza, “Las limitaciones del liberalismo venezolano en la visión de sus
protagonistas, 1830 – 1847,” Politeia (Caracas) 1, no. 34 – 35 (2005): 69 – 93.
18. The fnal paragraphs of the 1821 constitution guaranteed to “protect your security,
liberty, property, and equality before the law”; Article 128 promised, “no type of work . . . or
commerce will be prohibited to the Colombians, except those that for now are necessary for
the subsistence of the Republic.”
Liberal Justice 495
ezuela’s leaders sought to increase liberal freedoms for property-owning males,
but not for everybody else. Slavery persisted until 1854, women remained sub-
ordinate to men, suffrage laws disenfranchised the poor, and labor laws greatly
curtailed the movements of the rural poor. The republic’s elite males, who ben-
efted most from the liberal reforms, disagreed with each other on numerous
issues, but they tended to do so within the framework of a liberal discourse.
When political parties formed in the 1830s, both the Liberals and Conserva-
tives presented very liberal platforms and, oddly enough, the Conservatives
were actually more liberal than the Liberals.
This widespread agreement among the elite class meant that, compared to
other Spanish American republics, Venezuela’s liberal project experienced less
conservative resistance and suffered less widespread violence. Violence persisted
at the local and regional levels and in the form of banditry and small upris-
ings but did not tend to engulf the entire country or to threaten the capital.
Elite-led rebellions occurred in 1831, 1835, and 1848. However, all of these were
short lived and did not overthrow the government. The conservative rebellion
of 1835 succeeded in taking Caracas, but within three weeks civilian militias
restored the legitimate government. Thereafter, no conservative movement
seriously threatened the ruling order, and the short rebellion of 1848 was actu-
ally a struggle between liberal factions. Aside from the brief interlude of 1835,
all of Venezuela’s governments transferred through peaceful, electoral means
from 1821 until the country’s most serious civil war, the Federal War, broke out
in 1859.
Use of the Courts
The aforementioned assumption that use of the courts plummeted after inde-
pendence has persisted despite the lack of any quantitative studies on the sub-
ject. Recently, however, the Academia Nacional de Historia (ANH) has created
a database of their collection of colonial expedientes (legal fles or folders) that
makes more robust quantitative comparisons possible.
Republican court cases
19. The basic platforms of both parties promoted classical liberal principles, mentioned
above. To a large degree, elite consensus broke down due to an 1834 law that deregulated
lending practices. By the late 1830s, this disagreement led to the formation of political parties.
The Conservatives upheld strict principles of an open market while the Liberals called for
greater regulation of interest rates and more traditional protections for debtors. In time, the
Liberals also made common cause with the rural poor and called for a wider franchise.
20. The “Base de datos de expedientes civiles y criminales” is located in the Sala de
Investigadores of the Academia Nacional de Historia.
496 HAHR / August / Zahler
housed at the Archivo General de la Nación (AGN) have not yet been cata-
logued, so we cannot make a direct comparison between extant colonial and
republican court cases. Nonetheless, the AGN possesses the Índice de expedientes
civiles y criminales, which provides the scribal list of the court cases that occurred
each year, starting in 1800. The fgures below represent a combination of two
data sources: the database from the ANH, which provides a count of extant
colonial expedientes, and the Índice from the AGN, which provides a list of late
colonial and early republican expedientes.
In order to test the reliability of these two sources, fgure 1 compares their
data for the years in which they overlap (1800 – 20).
As fgure 1 shows, the number of cases from the Índice and the ANH’s
database overlap and corroborate each other across this 20-year period. The
fact that the numbers from the ANH collection at times exceed those from the
Índice may be due to clerical errors and the fact that the Índice has missing, torn,
and damaged pages. Despite these faws, the manifest quantitative similarity
between these two data sets lends credibility to both.
Figure 3 shows the number of expedientes across six decades (1786 – 1846),
beginning when the Audiencia was founded in Caracas. From 1800 to 1821, the
Figure 1. Reliability of the data: comparison of data from Índice de expedientes
civiles y criminales, Archivo General de la Nación de Venezuela, and Base de datos
de expedientes civiles y criminales, Sala de Investigadores, Academia Nacional de
Historia, Caracas.
Liberal Justice 497
AGN Índice lists expedientes for all of Venezuela. After independence, however,
the Índice lists only cases from an area that, under the republic, was called the
provinces of Caracas and Carabobo (see fgure 2).
The following charts, then,
present the number of expedientes from this area, not from all Venezuela. This
area contained one-third to one-half the population and produced the majority
of all expedientes.
21. For the colonial years, regional courts sent copies of their paperwork to the
Audiencia in Caracas. Therefore, the ANH’s database and the AGN’s Índice provide
numbers for all of colonial Venezuela. The comparison between these two data sets in
fgure 1, for the years 1800 – 1820, corresponds to expedientes in all of Venezuela. With
independence, however, regional courts no longer had to send their paperwork to Caracas.
After 1821, therefore, the Índice lists the court cases for only the provinces of Caracas and
22. In 1811, this area encompassed 31% of Venezuela’ population. Pedro Cunill Grau,
Geografía del poblamiento venezolano en el siglo XIX (Caracas: Ediciones de la Presidencia de
la República, 1987), 29. According to the 1831 census, this area held 48% of the population.
Antonio Arellano Moreno, ed., Las estadísticas de las provincias en la época de Páez (Caracas:
Academia Nacional de Historia, 1973), xxxiii; found in the Fundación John Boulton,
Caracas, Item #NC383. The ANH’s database shows that, from 1786 to 1810, this area
accounted for 80% of all of Venezuela’s expedientes.
Figure 2. Independent Venezuela’s provinces. This map refects Venezuela’s internal
borders after the congressional act of March 29, 1832, and is based on the atlas
composed by Agustín Codazzi in 1842.
498 HAHR / August / Zahler
The time period represented in fgure 3 can be broken into three sections:
the last 25 years of the late colonial period (1786 – 1810), the independence war
years (1811 – 21), and the frst 25 years of the republican period (1822 – 46). Dur-
ing the colonial years, the number of cases averaged 445 per year, and during
the republic 327 per year, so that the average for the republic was 27 percent
lower than for the colony.
As fgure 3 shows, the quantity of cases during the republic was lower than
but comparable to the late colonial period. The clearest patterns that emerge are
that the level of court use persisted through the war years and the early republic,
and that rapid drops in court use occurred during periods of intense violence or
instability. Historians have long recognized the importance of the courts as a
highly respected branch of Spanish colonial administration.
Use of the courts
in the late colonial period rose rapidly, with a high across 1803 – 9 and a zenith in
23. See Michael Scardaville, “(Hapsburg) Law and (Bourbon) Order: State
Authority, Popular Unrest, and the Criminal Justice System in Bourbon Mexico City,” in
Reconstructing Criminality in Latin America, ed. Carlos A. Aguirre and Robert Buffngton
(Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2000).
Figure 3. Number of expedientes, provinces of Caracas and Carabobo, 1786 – 1846.
Data from Índice de expedientes civiles y criminales, Archivo General de la Nación
de Venezuela, and Base de datos de expedientes civiles y criminales, Sala de
Investigadores, Academia Nacional de Historia, Caracas.
Liberal Justice 499
1805. Why exactly these years saw such a high number of cases will require fur-
ther study; one possible reason would be the increase in Venezuela’s commercial
activity at this time, though other factors surely played a part.
all rapid drops correlate exactly to peaks of political stress or violence (1810,
1812 – 14, 1820 – 21, 1830 – 31, and 1835).
When comparing numbers, we must also consider the demographic fac-
tors that may have affected the production of expedientes. The late colony’s
population was considerably larger than that of the early republic due to the
high numbers that perished or went into exile during the independence wars.
Independence-era observers estimated that the wars caused the population to
drop by one-third, and some scholars estimate that the population dropped by
as much as 44 percent.
The creole property-owning class was most devastated
by the violence, as nonwhites and the poor attacked haciendas for vengeance
and booty. This was precisely the demographic group most likely to bring con-
ficts to court. Given that the republic had a population 33 – 44 percent smaller
than the colony and had 27 percent fewer court cases, it is possible that repub-
licans actually used the courts with greater frequency per capita than did the
Furthermore, throughout the 1820s a disproportionate number of young
men were in the military. These men comprised the demographic group most
likely to commit crimes, but they would not have appeared in civilian courts for
two reasons: they were under the military fuero (legal jurisdiction and privilege)
and would be tried in military courts, and during some years they were sta-
tioned elsewhere in Gran Colombia or in Peru. After Venezuela became fully
independent in 1830, her soldiers returned home and the government rapidly
reduced the size of the army.
This transference from military to civilian life
could account in part for the low numbers of civilian cases in the 1820s and the
24. Very likely both increased commerce and administrative changes caused this jump
in expedientes. Coffee exports rose 400% in 1805 – 9 and expedientes based on fnancial
transactions such as real estate (tierras and casas), slaves (esclavos), and collecting debt (cobro
de pesos) grew dramatically in 1803 – 9. Nonfnancial expedientes (such as those regarding
marriage conficts, homicide, assaults, and robbery) also rose.
25. Cunill Grau, Geografía del poblamiento venezolano, 70. For a discussion of the
imprecision and inconsistency of population estimates during the middle period, see
Manuel Pérez Vila, “El gobierno deliberativo: Hacendados, comerciantes y artesanos frente
a la crisis, 1830 – 1848,” in Política y economía en Venezuela, 1810 – 1976, ed. Alfredo Boulton
(Caracas: Fundación John Boulton, 1976), 36 – 37.
26. From 1830 to 1840, the Venezuelan government reduced the size of the army by
60% from 2,683 to 1,000 men. Pérez Vila, “El gobierno deliberativo,” 61.
500 HAHR / August / Zahler
27. Tulio Chiossone describes the war years as “juridical chaos.” Tulio Chiossone,
Formación jurídica de Venezuela en la colonia y en la república (Caracas: Universidad Central de
Venezuela, 1980), 124 – 29.
28. Elena Plaza, personal communication, April 2008.
29. On Bogotá see Bushnell, Santander Regime, 46; on Arequipa see Chambers, From
Subjects to Citizens, 141 – 45.
30. Public law concerns relations between the state and individuals, while private law
concerns relations between individuals or groups.
31. For instance, in colonial Arequipa, Peru, the great majority of criminal cases
were de parte, partially because charges of theft and verbal injury (injuria de palabra) were
de parte (the victim had to initiate charges against the defendant and gather witnesses).
After independence, these two charges, and the majority of criminal cases, became de
ofcio, as prosecutors initiated most cases and managed all aspects of the investigation and
prosecution. This procedural change may help explain why Arequipa had more criminal
trials after independence. Chambers, From Subjects to Citizens, 143 – 44.
higher numbers in the 1830s. The post-independence trends seen in fgure 3,
which shows a drop in the number of court cases followed by a steady increase,
seem consistent with a population and government rebuilding after a war.
Structural changes, too, may have affected the creation of expedientes. The
war caused havoc in the judicial system and greatly reduced its effciency, as
each side dissolved the courts of the other when regions traded hands.
tural changes may also have increased the creation of expedientes. For example,
a lower-level colonial judge could oversee a case in his house. Republican tri-
als, however, had to occur within government buildings designated as tribunals
and therefore post-independence judges probably paid more attention to paper-
Colonial cases, therefore, were more likely than republican cases to go
undocumented, which means colonial use of the courts may have been greater
than the number of expedientes would suggest. In Bogotá, Nueva Granada, and
in Arequipa, Peru, the number of expedientes actually rose after independence,
perhaps because republicans enthusiastically sought to exercise their newfound
rights, or because of structural changes that affected law enforcement and the
process of civil litigation.
In order to measure the level of public trust of and engagement with the
courts, it would be helpful to distinguish between trials initiated by the state
prosecutor and those initiated by private parties. Roughly, such cases would be
classifed as criminal trials (the state prosecutes the defendant) and civil trials (a
private party sues the defendant). However, depending on the type of charge,
criminal trials would be initiated either by the state prosecutor (de ofcio) or the
injured party (de parte). Post-independence changes in public and private law

and in courtroom procedure could affect the classifcation of a trial as civil or
criminal, and further as de ofcio or de parte.
Tracking such classifcations
Liberal Justice 501
would be illuminating as civil cases and de parte criminal cases require greater
civilian participation than de ofcio criminal cases and therefore demonstrate
more clearly the level of public trust in the courts.
Unfortunately, neither the database of the colonial expedients nor the Índice
of the republican cases distinguish between civil and criminal cases or between
de parte and de ofcio cases. Therefore, such precise categorization is not avail-
able at this time. Nonetheless, in order to gain some insight into the degree to
which civilians initiated court cases, fgure 4 shows numbers for one type of
civil litigation, cobro de pesos (collecting debt).
As fgure 4 shows, republican civilians clearly used the courts in the civil
matter of debt collection in numbers commensurate with colonial subjects; the
average annual number of expedientes was 19 percent lower during the republic
than during the colonial period (52 per year vs. 64 per year). In this type of civil
case, therefore, republicans used the courts with a frequency closer to colonial
practice than for overall court cases.
Further, these patterns demonstrate that litigation in the republican period
responded to legislation from congress. In 1834, congress passed the Ley de
Figure 4. Civil cases. Expedientes of cobro de pesos, provinces of Caracas and
Carabobo, 1786 – 1846. Data from Índice de expedientes civiles y criminales,
Archivo General de la Nación de Venezuela, and Base de datos de expedientes
civiles y criminales, Sala de Investigadores, Academia Nacional de Historia,
502 HAHR / August / Zahler
libertad de contrato (Law of Freedom of Contracts), which made fnance laws
much more favorable to creditors and is notorious in Venezuelan history for
forcing numerous debtors to sell their property. The following year, 1835, saw
a considerable drop in expedientes overall. This drop was probably due to the
conservative rebellion of 1835, which may have dissuaded people from using
government institutions. By 1836, however, we see a large surge in expedientes
overall, and particularly in cases of cobro de pesos. This particular spike, there-
fore, indicates that civilians responded to legislation when collecting debt and
clearly trusted the courts enough to cause a 147 percent increase in such cases
from 1835 to 1836, and another 24 percent rise from 1836 to 1838.
To summarize, the numerical trends indicate that the culture of using the
courts to resolve disputes remained in force across the 60 years under study.
Use of the courts fell in moments of intense political stress or violence but
consistently rebounded after each of these moments. Indeed, court use during
1810 – 20 was higher than one would expect given our knowledge of these turbu-
lent years. Under the republic, use of the courts started at a low level, rebounded
to levels lower than but comparable to those of the late colonial years, and may
refect more use per capita than during the colonial years.
“The Majesty of the Law”: Legalism and Centralism
Reforms in the feld of law represented one of the many seismic changes
attempted during the Age of Revolution. The modern assumptions of legal
equality and the dominance of legislation over other normative orders ran
counter to centuries of medieval and early modern traditions. The foundation
of early modern administration and justice throughout the Civil Law tradi-
tion, which dominated continental Europe and the Hispanic world, was ius
A composite of numerous legal traditions including ancient Roman
law, ius commune based justice on compliance with several norms, specifcally
natural law, the king’s law, canon law, widespread traditions, and local customs.
These norms, however, did not exist in any particular hierarchy, so that a royal
decree did not necessarily carry greater weight than, say, a church law or a tra-
dition. A Hispanic judge would balance these several norms and would seek a
judgment not designed to tenaciously uphold legislation but rather designed to
32. The Civil Law tradition is distinct from the Common Law tradition, which holds
sway in the Anglo-American sphere, including Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia,
and New Zealand. Today the Civil Law tradition is practiced in continental Europe, Latin
America, parts of Asia and Africa, and the U.S. state of Louisiana.
Liberal Justice 503
uphold justice. Justice was understood as giving each person his due and sought
to preserve social harmony and legal inequalities based on estate, gender, race,
religion, and occupation.
Over the eighteenth century, the Bourbon kings sought to increase cen-
tral authority through, among other strategies, asserting the dominance of
state legislation over ius commune. Within Spain, the Bourbons eventually
asserted royal legislation over competing legal traditions. Colonial subjects,
however, successfully resisted such centralization and upheld the tradition of
ius commune, due largely to the size of the Americas and their distance from
the metropolis,
and the fact that metropolitan offcials attempted to force
the changes rather than gain the voluntary cooperation of the locals.
In the
Americas, therefore, judges continued to achieve a just decision by considering
various norms (religious and royal law, traditions and customs) that had no clear
hierarchy, so that a judge could determine that a local custom held more weight
than a royal decree.

The French Revolution generated tremendous momentum toward the effort
to rationalize the legal system. The French revolutionaries sought to establish
a representative legislature that would produce a unifed, rational, orderly cor-
pus of laws that would defne justice and guide the actions of both the state and
the citizenry. This effort became the model for all countries within the Civil
Law tradition, and Napoleon’s Civil Code of 1804 became “the Northern Star by
which other Latin American civil codes oriented themselves.”
In some regards,
this new legal direction represented a continuation of the efforts of absolutist
33. Hispanic legal tradition formally recognized these inequalities and stipulated that
legal decisions and punishments had to vary depending on the status of the parties: “We
cannot establish a certain amendment or punishment . . . because people and their acts are
not considered equal.” Siete partidas, parte 7, título 9, ley 21. On the legal weight granted to
custom, see parte 1, título 2, ley 5.
34. Christopher Peter Albi, “Derecho Indiano versus the Bourbon Reforms: The
Legal Thought of Francisco Xavier Gamboa,” in Enlightened Reform in Southern Europe and
Its Atlantic Colonies, c. 1750 – 1830, ed. Gabriel Paquette (London: Ashgate, 2009); Osvaldo
Barreneche, Crime and the Administration of Justice in Buenos Aires, 1785 – 1853 (Lincoln:
Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2006), 23.
35. From the perspective of the offcials, the goal to establish the dominance of
legislation over custom, or to reduce drunkenness and idleness, “was something to be
established through force, not persuasion. . . . In reality, the Bourbon state lacked the
technology and personnel it would have needed to thoroughly enforce any of its policies.”
Guardino, Time of Liberty, 111 – 17.
36. Scardaville, “Justice by Paperwork,” 990.
37. Mirow, Latin American Law, 138.
504 HAHR / August / Zahler
38. “Legality” means there can be no crime or penalty without a statute enacted by the
legislature, and therefore actions are criminal only if they violate a piece of legislature that
preexisted the action. Merryman and Pérez-Perdomo, Civil Law Tradition, 127.
39. 1821 Constitution, Articles 3 and 5. The 1830 Constitution covers similar ideas in
Articles 12 and 188.
40. “Mensaje del Presidente de Venezuela al Congreso de 1836.” Found in Pensamiento
político venezolano del siglo XIX: Textos para su estudio, ed. El Congreso de la República, vol. 12
(Caracas: Ediciones Conmemorativas del Sesquicentenario de la Independencia, 1983), 96.
41. Reuben Zahler, “Complaining Like a Liberal: Redefning Law, Justice, and Offcial
Misconduct in Venezuela, 1790 – 1850,” The Americas 65, no. 3 (2009): 351 – 74.
42. The number of lawyers dropped by more than one-third, from more than 100 in
1805 to 65 in 1830. Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo, Los abogados en Venezuela (Caracas: Monte Avila
Editores, 1981), 85 – 88.
kings of the eighteenth century, specifcally in regard to the desire to establish
the dominance of legislation produced by the central government. However, this
revolutionary direction in legal thought advocated some dramatic changes from
the old regime, such as the principles of popular sovereignty, equality, positivism,
and legality.
The law, therefore, would resemble scientifc rationalism to the
extent possible, and would eschew feudal inequalities and inconsistencies.
In keeping with these principles, Venezuela’s constitutions established, “It
is the obligation of the nation to protect, through wise and just laws the liberty,
security, property and the equality of all Colombians,” and asserted, “Every
Colombian is obliged to live beneath the Constitution and the laws.”
ing further this veneration for legislation, in 1836 President José Vargas addressed
Congress, “the government has imposed upon itself the unvarying rule not to
stray one point away from the legal path. . . . To save the majesty of the law and
national honor in the fght against dishonor and subversion of the legal order,
this should be and has been the Northern Star of the Government.”
It should
be noted that these lofty sentiments penetrated beyond mere presidential rheto-
ric. Court documents and government correspondence from the 1830s to the
1840s demonstrate that legalism became the paradigm for discussing the duties
of offcials; discourse surrounding misconduct and specifc complaints against
offcials ceased to include numerous norms (such as religion, social harmony, and
customs) and instead focused almost exclusively on legislative norms.
During the independence period, both judicial institutions and personnel
suffered considerable turbulence but also provided consistency and stability to
the justice system. Many jurists embraced the independence movement and par-
ticipated forcefully in the wartime republican governments and armies. The war
years took a heavy toll on jurists so that their numbers had been greatly reduced
by the time of independence.
At the same time, the majority of creole jurists
Liberal Justice 505
collaborated with whichever government was in power. For most of the war years
(1812 – 21), the royalists controlled the majority of the territory, most creole jurists
worked with the colonial regime, and the colonial legal apparatus remained
largely in force. The Audiencia continued to function and the Universidad de
Caracas continued to graduate students with law degrees.
With the republican
victory in 1821, creole jurists now worked actively with the new regime, serving
within the legal profession and in all branches of government.
The republican
government expelled those Audiencia judges who were peninsulars but allowed
creoles to remain and continue within the judiciary.
Judicial personnel, there-
fore, retained suffcient continuity to serve as ballast for republican legal institu-
tions, furnishing them with experience, stability, and legitimacy.
With independence, the training of lawyers changed to promulgate a lib-
eral legal culture. In 1827, the law school in Caracas altered its curriculum to
include prominent Enlightenment authors such as Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, Benjamin Constant, and Jeremy Bentham. The new curriculum also
attended less to canon and Roman law than was the case in the colonial period
and instead concentrated more on natural law and national law (Spanish law,
Gran Colombian law, and then Venezuelan law).
However, lawyers were not
the only practitioners of law. Because of the paucity of lawyers throughout Span-
ish America, the republics maintained the colonial practice of using nonlawyers
to serve as court offcials and municipal and parochial judges.
Legal educa-
43. By decade, the total number of law graduates from the Caracas University was
58 in 1790 – 99; 63 in 1800 – 1809; 37 in 1810 – 19; 43 in 1820 – 29. Outside of Caracas,
Venezuela’s only other law school was in the distant Andean city of Mérida. Pérez-Perdomo,
Los abogados en Venezuela, 64 – 66. During periods when the republicans controlled Caracas,
the Audiencia moved to Puerto Cabello.
44. Ibid., 84 – 88. Colonial jurists who served in the republican judiciary included
Cristóbal de Mendoza (president of the Corte Superior of Venezuela province within Gran
Colombia), Ramón García Cádiz (judge on the Alta Corte of Gran Colombia and fscal
in the Corte Superior of Venezuela province), and Luis Tomás Peraza (president of the
Tribunal del Almirantazgo in Angostura). For their biographies, see Diccionario de historia de
Venezuela (CD ROM, Caracas: Fundación Polar, 2000).
45. For example Francisco Espejo, Miguel José Sanz, and Andrés Level de Goda. For
their biographies, see Diccionario de historia de Venezuela. Thanks to Arlene Díaz and Rogelio
Pérez-Perdomo for helping me identify these jurists.
46. Pérez-Perdomo, Los abogados en Venezuela, 105 – 16.
47. Victor Uribe, “Colonial Lawyers and the Administration of Justice,” in Judicial
Institutions in Nineteenth-Century Latin America, ed. Eduardo Zimmermann (London: Univ.
of London, 1999), 30 – 32, 45. Gran Colombia’s Ley de 17 de mayo de 1826, capítulo 1,
artículo 13 stipulated that in municipalities without suffcient attorneys, the government
should appoint “good men of reason” as judges.
506 HAHR / August / Zahler
tion, therefore, was not restricted to lawyers. In 1840, a Caracas press published
Joaquín de Escriche’s highly infuential Diccionario razonado de legislación civil,
penal, comercial y forense. Though Venezuela had only 140 lawyers at the time,
the book sold 919 copies, indicating that not only lawyers but also numerous
educated laymen read and used common legal books.
Still, the government faced numerous obstacles to advancing republican
change, and much of the legal system demonstrated continuity with the colonial
system. As was the case throughout Spanish America, reforms faced numerous
structural impediments, such as widespread poverty and illiteracy, war-damaged
infrastructure, and an indebted, inexperienced government.
Writing new leg-
islation alone posed a daunting task, and for the frst decades Venezuela retained
colonial laws alongside new codes. The government established a hierarchy of
the numerous codes (colonial, Gran Colombian, Venezuelan), with the stipu-
lation that more recent legislation always superseded older laws.
Law codes
required judges to uphold legislative rules and justify their decisions by citing
legislation, which is a fundamental practice in a legalistic system.
Pérez-Perdomo points out that there was no legislated sanction against judges
if they did not do so, and republican judges, like their colonial counterparts,
typically did not. In written decisions, judges discussed the evidence but not the
specifc law that motivated their decision. Judges did not regularly use legisla-
tion to explain their judgments until after the codifcation of a full civil code
in 1876.
The remainder of this article will explore ways in which the Venezuelan
courts developed formalist practices that conformed to the legalist, positivist
standards that elites hoped to achieve. Though many legalist/formalist practices
did not appear until the end of the century, a number of formalist practices
developed as early as the 1820s – 40s, far earlier than scholars have assumed.
I will examine a random sampling of 97 court cases (21 colonial, 76 republi-
can) that cover a variety of topics, including insults to honor, assault, homicide,
libel, subversion, economic matters (collecting debt, declaring poverty, seeking
a moratorium on paying debt), disrespect for authority, and accusations against
48. Pérez-Perdomo, Latin American Lawyers, 68.
49. In both Mexico and Rio de la Plata, post-independence instability seriously
weakened the judiciary. See Arnold, “Vulgar and Elegant”; Barreneche, Crime and the
Administration of Justice.
50. For a list of the hierarchies, see Chiossone, Formación jurídica de Venezuela, 192.
51. Ley de 11 de mayo de 1825, título 7, artículo 161; 1830 Constitution, artículo 155;
1836 Código de procedimiento judicial, título 3.
52. Pérez-Perdomo, El formalismo jurídico, 55.
Liberal Justice 507
offcials. Extending beyond the area covered in the quantitative section, the
cases here come from the north-central provinces of Caracas, Carabobo, and
Coro. Though these three provinces encompassed approximately half of the
republic’s population, they do not represent the entire republic.
The cases
used for this study represent both public and private law but do not involve all
branches of law (for example, family law).
This examination of court reforms,
which combines analysis of legislation and court proceedings, is therefore a pre-
liminary investigation into a topic that merits further attention.
Reforms in Court Standards and Procedures
In this section I will examine changes that occurred from the late colonial
through the early republican periods in four areas of court reform: jurisdiction,
transparency, due process, and evidence. Moving from one topic to the next will
require jumping back and forth chronologically.
Ambiguity of Jurisdiction and Hierarchy
The colonial government did not possess a separation of powers and was com-
posed of the overlapping jurisdictions of military, church, and administra-
tive spheres.
Hence, alcaldes, oidores, and intendentes (mayors, attorneys, and
intendants) could have both executive and judicial functions and their hierar-
chy within administration or the court system was not entirely clear. While
53. Caracas, Carabobo, and Coro provinces held approximately 51.4% of the
population at the time. Arellano Moreno, Las estadísticas de las provincias, xxxiii. They
correspond to all or parts of the following contemporary departments: Guárico, Miranda,
Vargas, Distrito Federal, Aragua, Carabobo, Cojedes, and Falcón.
54. In her study of courts in early republican Barcelona and Cumaná (in northeastern
Venezuela), Kimberly Morse found that provincial courts followed legislative procedures.
Below the provincial level, however, local courts still treated people differently based on
status, and judges seemed little concerned with legislated guidelines until the 1860s – 70s.
Morse’s observations suggest that reform in local courts may have been different in
the eastern provinces than in the north-central region studied in this article. Kimberly
Morse, personal communication, June 2008. See also Morse, “ ‘Many and Repeated Are
the Injustices We Have Suffered’: Indigenous Land, Law, and State Formation in Eastern
Venezuela, 1836 – 1853,” paper presented at the Rocky Mountain Council of Latin American
Studies, 2008.
55. See Linda Arnold, “Sociedad Corporativa, Corrupción Corporativa: la Resistencia
a la Subordinación y al Abuso de Poder,” in Vicios públicos, virtudes privadas: La corrupción en
México, ed. Claudio Lomnitz (Ciudad de México: CIESAS, 2000).
508 HAHR / August / Zahler
this situation allowed for a certain fexibility and responsiveness at the local
level, it also caused considerable competition among offcials over questions of
jurisdiction and hierarchy. Seeking a more effcient administration, Bourbon
reformers sought to build a more centralized, hierarchical bureaucracy. None-
theless, the attempt to establish the dominance of crown-appointed offcers and
institutions (that is, intendentes and peninsular-dominated Audiencias) within
a clear hierarchy met local resistance and did not achieve full success. Colonial
court records are full of cases in which offcials challenged the jurisdiction and
authority of their colleagues. For example, in the city of Coro between 1800 and
1806, the comandante general and the intendente subdelegado fought fve separate
trials concerning their mutual hierarchy, thus demonstrating the ambiguity and
rivalry that could exist within colonial administration.
Within the Audiencia
in Caracas, we fnd bitter competition among scribes and notaries over questions
of seniority, jurisdiction of offce, proper bureaucratic procedure, and honor.
The republican government attempted to eliminate this sort of internal
confusion and competition by establishing a clearer list of offcial responsibili-
ties, duties, and rank. The constitutions specifcally delineated a separation of
powers and the obligations of government offcials and also presented a clear
hierarchy of courts, from local to provincial to national levels.
Gran Colom-
bia’s laws laid out the specifc steps judicial offcers should take if they had ques-
tions over jurisdiction, and these regulations persisted in Venezuela’s frst ley
orgánica as an independent republic, the 1836 Código de procedimiento judicial.

Fights over jurisdiction rarely appear in the republican court records. Looking
through the ANH database, we fnd that over a 25-year period (1786 – 1810),
there were 57 colonial cases that scribes specifcally described as questions of
jurisdiction (competencia). In contrast, the AGN’s Índice shows that in a 25-year
56. Archivo de la Academia Nacional de Historia in Caracas (hereafter cited as
AANH), Causas Civiles (hereafter cited as CC) 13-5034-1; 13-5127-3; 14-5744-1;
16-6444-3; Sevilla, Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, Archivo General de Indias, Ags/
Secretaria Guerra, 7205, Exp. 9.
57. See AANH, CC, 1798, 12-4802-1; 1800, 13-5078-5.
58. On the distinct powers and responsibilities of the legislative, executive, and judicial
branches, see the 1821 Constitution, títulos 3 – 6; 1830 Constitution, títulos 10 – 23.
59. Ley de 13 de mayo de 1825, título 1: capítulo 10: “De las competencias”; 1836
Código de procedimiento judicial, título 1, ley 3, artículos 1 – 10. Before Venezuela’s frst law
codifcation in 1836, the republic relied on its constitution and Gran Colombian legislation.
Very little has been written about the 1836 Código, and debates surrounding its composition
remain unexplored. See Tomás Enrique Carrillo Batalla, Historia de la legislación venezolana,
vol. 2 (Caracas: Academia de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, 1984), 123 – 35; Plaza, El
patriotismo ilustrado, 176 – 92.
Liberal Justice 509
period under the republic (1822 – 46), only 4 cases specify competencia as the
focus of the case.
Even colonial cases that did not list competencia as the sub-
ject could often include a struggle over jurisdiction between two offcials, such
that a third offcial might have to intervene to decide who had authority. Of 76
republican court cases reviewed, none included this sort of rivalry.
Republican offcials periodically had questions over matters of procedure,
but such questions tended to be resolved quickly and smoothly. For instance, in
1834 a governor wrote to the Ministry of the Interior to verify whether a juez de
letras (lower court judge) had jurisdiction over a particular case. The ministry
referred to the Ley orgánica de tribunales to clarify that the judge had jurisdic-
In 1850, a question came to the Corte Superior concerning a juez de paz
(justice of the peace) and a juez de primera instancia (lower court judge), both of
whom claimed jurisdiction in a case involving water rights. The Corte Superior
promptly decided that the water was private property, not public domain, and
therefore was under the jurisdiction of the juez de primera instancia.
these cases indicated that government offcials could be ignorant of all the
proper steps in a legal matter, they also show that existing procedural guidelines
could quickly resolve questions of jurisdiction.
The drop in competition among offcials may have had more than one
cause. The legislated hierarchy, duties, and procedures established a far clearer
set of guidelines than existed previously, and the central government possessed
the power to enforce this hierarchy. At the same time, offcials may have had less
motivation to fght for more responsibility and jurisdiction. Under the colonial
system, government posts could bring proft, privilege, status, and honor. Under
the republic, government service offered far fewer tangible benefts; offcials
were legally equal to other citizens, could not practice nepotism, and could not
gain materially from their post beyond their salary. Further, the government
frequently could not pay a steady salary to its civil servants, and the archive
of the Ministry of Interior and Justice is full of their complaints. As a result,
holding a position became a duty, not a privilege. Competition between off-
cials may have dropped after independence due to clearer written guidelines
but also because the administrators had less incentive to protect or expand their
60. This shift contrasts with conditions in early republican Mexico, “where the
Supreme Court decided hundreds of conficts of jurisdiction.” Linda Arnold, “Privileged
Justice? The Fuero Militar in Early National Mexico,” in Judicial Institutions in Nineteenth-
Century Latin America, ed. Eduardo Zimmermann (London: Univ. of London, 1999), 49.
61. AGN, Interior y Justicia (hereafter cited as I&J), 1834, tomo 91, expediente 38.
62. AGN, CC, 1850, C-14 #1.
510 HAHR / August / Zahler
In 1798, Felipe Rodil formally petitioned to resign his post as a notary in the
Audiencia. The regente of the Audiencia, Antonio Quintana, refused the request,
stating that the timing of the resignation was inconvenient. Rodil sought the
support of the captain governor of Venezuela, who wrote a letter to the king that
accused Quintana of a number of improprieties and recommended that he be
recused from this matter with Rodil. Despite this intervention, Quintana even-
tually succeeded in blocking Rodil’s resignation. In order to protect himself, the
regente then hid all of the case’s documentation, including a copy of the damag-
ing letter from the captain governor, in the Royal Audiencia’s secret archive.

The ability to hide court case documents was a legal technique that colo-
nial judges could employ at their discretion. If a judge considered a case to be
infammatory and dangerous to social stability, he could put the documents into
the court’s archive or safe so that nobody could access them. Hiding documents
held tremendous legal and symbolic importance. As Tamar Herzog explains,
“Documents were treated not only as texts but also as objects. Their physical
and material possession permitted a judge to control the judicial proceeding. . . .
it was more important to have the trial documents than the criminal. The trial
could continue in the absence of the accused, but it was completely paralyzed if
the fle had disappeared.”
The practice of hiding documents was therefore a
powerful act of controlling legal reality.
Documents held a commanding importance in the justice system, and hid-
ing the documentary evidence of an event could, in a legal and formal sense,
establish that the event had not occurred. In Coro in 1801, Juan Iturbe, a trea-
sury offcial, charged Agustín de Anza, also from the treasury, and Andres Bog-
giero, the comandante militar, with making false and insulting statements. The
Superior Council of the Treasury in Coro not only decided in favor of Iturbe,
it decreed that the insulting expressions not be written into the court record
because they could somehow damage Iturbe’s honor again in the future.

Though the council did not state it directly, the declaration also served another
purpose; it allowed the two defendants to go unpunished. If there was no written
record of their crime, they could not be penalized, and notably the expediente
does not record any form of punishment, not even verbal chastisement. The
mechanism of not writing down the insults, therefore, accomplished several
63. “. . . archivado el Expediente en el Archivo Secreto de [la Audiencia Real]. . .”
AANH, CC, 13-5078-5.
64. Herzog, Upholding Justice, 50.
65. AANH, CC, 13-5127-3.
Liberal Justice 511
66. Article 4, 1830 Constitution. Article 2 of the 1821 Constitution has similar
67. Gaceta de Colombia, 26 Sept. 1821, p. 1a.
68. One editor explained that if he did not publish accounts of corruption, “public
functionaries repeat such crimes because of this silence.” He hoped that his journalism
would help administrators “so that they always proceed with regularity and purity.” El
Argos, 8 Apr. 1825, pp. 3 – 4.
69. “. . . ya por no haberse formado proceso, ya por no haber manifestado orden de
Magistrado para la captura . . .” AGN, CC, 1822, C-19.
goals: it restored Iturbe’s honor by agreeing that the expressions were entirely
false; it allowed the council to avoid punishing two prominent offcials, Boggi-
ero and Anza; and it allowed all three men to remain active in government.
Though the practice of hiding or destroying infammatory documents had
obvious utility, it appears to have disappeared after independence. Of the 76
republican court cases read in this study, none makes any mention of hiding
documents or testimony. This change probably stemmed from republican eth-
ics, which sought greater transparency in government. The 1830 Constitution
asserted, “Magistrates, judges, and other functionaries invested with whatever
form of authority are agents of the nation, and as such are responsible for their
public conduct.”
To this end, the Gran Colombian government launched its
offcial periodical, Gaceta de Colombia, to “complete one of its most important
obligations, putting itself in immediate communication from the center to all
the people, through means of print.”
Through their offcial press, the gov-
ernments of Gran Colombia and Venezuela published the state budget, new
legislation, and government activities. The civilian press picked up this spirit of
transparency and published accounts of offcial misconduct in order to combat
In turn, the type of formal, legitimate cover-up found in the colo-
nial courts appears not to have occurred after independence.
Due Process
In 1822, a Caracas constable arrested José Castellano and Manuel Gonzalez,
two Spanish shopkeepers, for ordering their slave to dump the household toi-
let bucket into a public well. From jail, Castellano and Gonzalez demanded an
immediate acquittal because the arresting constable “proceeded in an uproari-
ous manner, arbitrarily [trampling] the very laws of our sacred Constitution. . . .
He did not comply with process, he did not present a warrant from the mag-
istrate for our arrest.”
The constable, however, insisted that each step taken
had been appropriate and maintained that “the event [the arrest] that began this
512 HAHR / August / Zahler
process had no origin other than the faithful discharge of my duties.” The pre-
siding judge agreed and ordered the defendants to pay a fne. The fact that this
case occurred just one year after republicans had retaken Caracas and while they
still fought royalist forces on the coast may have affected the judge’s decision
against the two Spaniards. Nonetheless, what is signifcant to this study is the
fact that so soon after independence defendants used constitutional precepts to
formulate a defense based on a right to certain legal procedures. The very basis
of their defense marked a signifcant change from colonial standards.
The premise of these legal arguments relied on what today we would call
“due process” (debido proceso), which refers to a criminal defendant’s rights to spe-
cifc legal processes that must be upheld for judicial action to be taken against
The history of due process in Latin America remains largely unwritten,
perhaps because it has not become a force until fairly recently. Such rights existed
in the Common Law tradition of the Anglo world since the Middle Ages and
entered Latin American constitutions and jurisprudence after independence.

Despite these early constitutional experiments, scholars typically assume that
due process did not gain strength as a functional part of Latin American legal
practice until the late twentieth century. Nevertheless, court documents from
Venezuela show that defendants successfully used due process as a viable defense
through the 1820s – 40s. Defendants did not use the term “debido proceso” but
instead referred to violations of their “derechos constitucionales” (constitutional
rights) in defense arguments that were strikingly similar to a contemporary
understanding of due process.
Colonial courts went through typical routines and practices in their pursuit
of justice but did not have a notion of due process as found in the Common Law
Early modern Hispanic courts had regular stages of a court case: the
complaint, the testimony of the plaintiff and witnesses, arresting the defendant,
taking new testimony, and so forth. However, the courts were not legally bound
70. “Procedural due process” is “the insistence on predetermined rules to try cases.”
David J. Bodenhamer, Fair Trial: Rights of the Accused in American History (New York City:
Oxford Univ. Press, 1992), 4. The literature on due process in the Common Law tradition
is vast and its meaning complex. This article focuses on procedural due process, particularly
in criminal cases. For a history of due process, see John V. Orth, Due Process of Law: A Brief
History (Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003). See also Joel M. Gora, Due Process of Law
(Skokie, IL: National Textbook Company, 1977).
71. The concept of judicial due process has existed in England at least since the signing
of the Magna Carta in 1215. Orth, Due Process of Law, 7.
72. “The municipal court system adhered to due process not so much as a legal right in
the Anglo-American sense, but, emerging from medieval codes and centuries of practice, as
Liberal Justice 513
to adhere to those routines and the defendant had no right to them. The auxil-
iary staff (clerks, notaries, procurators), not the judges, managed these stages.
The courts did not regard the technical rules of procedure as a legal issue but
rather as an administrative concern; they were a secondary matter, not funda-
mental to a defendant’s rights. Irregular procedure by authorities, therefore,
would not be justifcation to release a defendant guilty of a crime. Indeed, colo-
nial judges had wide authority in determining the process and outcome of a case
because their principle concern was justice, not legislated rules. “Justice was
thus separated from its actual application. Judicial process was one thing. A just
solution was another.”
With independence, the Spanish American republics considered a num-
ber of options for altering procedural codes. As mentioned previously, Spanish
Americans continued the Bourbon process of codifying legislation and also took
great inspiration from the Napoleonic Code of 1804, with its rational order and
clear procedures.
They also considered adopting some traits from the Com-
mon Law tradition, including due process, juries, and the “adversarial,” public
However, due to the political instability of the early republican period,
elites abandoned these Common Law innovations as they seemed ill suited to
local culture.
Further, Latin American republics did not fully revise their civil
and penal codes until the 1860s – 80s. Thus the innovations of the early con-
a concession from the state to maintain allegiance and authority.” Scardaville,
“(Hapsburg) Law and (Bourbon) Order,” 8. On procedures, see also Arnold,
“Professionalization of the Bureaucracy in Late Colonial Mexico City.”
73. Herzog, Upholding Justice, 24. See also Scardaville, “Justice by Paperwork,” 989 – 90.
74. Across the long nineteenth century, upholding consistent legal procedure became
a key ingredient in strengthening the state in Europe’s colonies and in the Latin American
republics. Lauren Benton, Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History,
1400 – 1900 (New York City: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002), 260.
75. Peru’s 1826 Constitution, Articles 117 – 23, stipulated due process protections. On
the evolution of Peruvian criminal procedure, see H. H. A. Cooper, “A Short History of
Peruvian Criminal Procedure and Institutions,” Revista de Derecho y Ciencias Politicas 32,
no. 1 – 3 (1968), 215 – 68. On the differences between the Common Law “adversarial” trial
and the Civil Law “inquisitorial” trial, see Máximo Langer, “Revolution in Latin American
Criminal Procedure: Diffusion of Legal Ideas from the Periphery,” American Journal of
Comparative Law 55 (2007): 627 – 30.
76. See Uribe, “Colonial Lawyers and the Administration of Justice,” 42 – 44;
Barreneche, Crime and the Administration of Justice, introduction. Máximo Langer notes
that the one signifcant change from the colonial process that the early republics achieved
was the prohibition of torture. Langer, “Revolution in Latin American Criminal
Procedure,” 627.
514 HAHR / August / Zahler
stitutions were often out of synch with the codebooks, which relied in large
part on colonial legislation. Scholars have therefore assumed that due process
remained in embryonic form throughout the nineteenth century and did not
become the basis of a powerful legal defense until the late twentieth century.

While the Venezuelan republic remained squarely within the Civil Law tra-
dition, it also adopted the Common Law feature of due process. Both the 1821
Gran Colombian Constitution (Articles 157 – 75) and the 1830 Venezuelan Con-
stitution (Articles 195 – 208) laid out a defendant’s rights and the steps required
of the judiciary. Perhaps the most basic of these rights read, “No Venezuelan
can be judged, much less punished, except in virtue of a law that existed before
the crime, or action, and after having been legally cited, heard, and convicted.”

Furthermore, offcers needed to have a warrant to arrest a person unless he was
in the midst of the crime; authorities had to inform a prisoner of the charges
and the evidence against him within two to three days of his arrest; the defen-
dant could communicate with people outside the jail; torture, cruel punishment,
and confscation of property were all forbidden; and neither suspects nor wit-
nesses could be forced to give testimony against themselves or family members.
Law codes laid out numerous, precise procedural guidelines on such subjects
as when evidence should be gathered and under what circumstances a witness’s
evidence could be rejected, and also established that judges had to uphold “the
laws that regulate process in civil and criminal cases.”
These guidelines were not merely superfcial pronouncements. Venezu-
elans promptly used these rights in legal defenses, and the courts reduced pun-
ishment if the authorities had committed technical errors. In 1826 in Cara-
cas, Pablo Minalla protested his arrest by an alcalde on procedural grounds.
Minalla claimed that the alcalde violated Articles 161, 162, and 166 of the
Constitution: “I was brought to the jail without having seen a warrant from
the authorities . . . [or] given a copy.” Further, the jail warden also never saw a
warrant for arrest but still put Minalla into prison for six days, though legally
he could do so in the absence of a warrant for only three days.
The presiding
judge passed the case to a juez letrado because the law gave “jueces letrados the
authority to investigate . . . bad conduct in the exercise of judicial functions by
77. Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo and Máximo Langer, personal communication, September
78. 1830 Constitution, Article 196.
79. Ley de 12 de octubre de 1821, título 5, artículo 52; 1836 Código, título 1, ley 4,
artículos 1, 33.
80. AGN, CC, 1826, M-05, ff. 1 – 1b.
Liberal Justice 515
81. Ibid., f. 4.
82. Archivo Histórico de Coro (AHC), Causas Criminales, #171 (1832), ff. 1 – 1b. Agua
Larga is located in the contemporary state of Falcón.
municipal alcaldes,” and he enjoined the juez letrado to “ensure that [Minalla]
gets full use of his rights.”

We see a similar situation in 1832 in the town of Agua Larga, when José
Gomez complained about the “arbitrary procedure [procedimiento arbitrario ]”
of the juez primera de paz. Gomez admitted that he had committed a crime; he
had argued in public with a married woman, so he could be charged with lack of
public decency or with public excess. However, the judge had him imprisoned
for fve days, then ordered him to leave the town and never to return, which
well exceeded the punishment for a charge of public indecency. The heart
of his complaint, however, focused not on the appropriateness of the charge
but rather on the failure of proper procedure. Citing several articles from the
Constitution and Ley orgánica, Gomez protested that the judge had arbitrarily
imprisoned him for six days, did not let him defend himself, and did not let
him see the warrant for his arrest.
Unfortunately, both Gomez’s and Minalla’s
expedientes end before we see the fnal decision. Nonetheless, they both pre-
sent a defense that had legal traction based on a very technical notion of justice.
The measure of justice in these cases did not stem from broadly construed or
unwritten social values, nor was it based solely on whether the defendant was
guilty of the crime. Rather, justice in part required that authorities follow pre-
cise written procedures.
While some expedientes end without recording the judge’s concluding
decision, among complete expedientes we see that such defense arguments
could affect a fnal judgment. For example, in 1834, a judge confscated a defen-
dant’s property, and the defendant successfully challenged this action based on
procedure. Bacilio Requena, who lived in the southern province of Apure, faced
charges of libel for a pamphlet he had distributed in Caracas. When Requena
failed to pay a bond as a surety that he would go to Caracas to stand trial, a judge
in Apure impounded all of his property. Requena went to Caracas, lost the case,
and had to publish a retraction and apology for his libelous pamphlet. However,
the judge in Apure still refused to release his property, so Requena requested
assistance from the alcalde primera municipal from Caracas who had overseen the
case. Requena asserted, “This action was not legal because the law does not pro-
vide for sequestering property in such a case. In these matters, [the law] allows
either for a warning or jail.” The alcalde agreed with Requena and declared,
“this seizure has been illegal”; he ordered the Apure judge “to undo this situ-
516 HAHR / August / Zahler
83. AGN, CC, 1844, C-28.
84. Título 8, ley 6, artículo 1.
85. AGN, CC, 1844, C-28, f. 1b.
ation and restore to Requena all of his possessions.” The alcalde also recom-
mended that Requena go to the superior court if he had any further trouble.
In 1844, the Corte Superior heard an accusation against a judge for miscon-
A professor of the Central University of Caracas, Dr. José Garcia, served
as a witness in a trial before a juez de primera instancia, Dr. Isidro Osio. Garcia
refused to say the standard oath for witnesses and instead attempted to swear a
somewhat altered oath, which drew a stern warning from Osio. When Garcia
remained obstinate, Osio fned him 50 pesos. Garcia later charged Judge Osio
with misconduct for compelling him to swear the oath, and the matter came
before the Superior Court. The Superior Court found that, in general, Osio
was correct to attempt to compel Garcia to swear the oath because a witness
“should not resist with such tenacity to swear the oath that the law requires.”
However, some problems in procedure had occurred during the confrontation.
The Superior Court noted that the Código de procedimiento judicial required that
two witnesses testify to a person’s disobedience or disrespect in the courtroom
before a judge could fne somebody more than 10 pesos.
Garcia had pointed
out that the court secretaría had not been in the courtroom at the time in ques-
tion but rather was teaching classes at the university. The Superior Court found
that, without the secretaría to serve as a witness, Osio could not impose a fne of
50 pesos, “and for this disservice the judge is undoubtedly responsible.” Because
of this failure in proper procedure, the Superior Court ordered Osio to return
the fne to Garcia, and for the two of them to split the court costs.
Notably the Superior Court judge did not base his decision on an abstract
sense of justice or on the question of Garcia’s guilt. He believed that Garcia
had behaved poorly and disrespectfully when he refused to swear the oath, and
that Osio was justifed to fne Garcia for creating a “disagreeable and scandal-
ous situation. But, if this is the position of the Corte with respect to the justice
of compulsion in general, it does not form the same opinion with regard to a
special fne of ffty pesos that [Osio] imposed when for the third time [Garcia]
refused to comply with the Tribunal’s order.”
Though Garcia had been wrong,
and Osio had been right, Osio had failed in a matter of proper procedure — the
law required that he have two witnesses to the event — and legal procedure had
to be followed.
Already in the early 1820s, defendants argued that the offcers of the legal
system had to follow specifc legal processes. Judicial decisions validated this
Liberal Justice 517
86. AANH, CC, 16 – 6170 – 5. San Agustín de Guacara is located in the contemporary
state of Carabobo.
87. Siete partidas, parte 3, título 16, ley 8, and parte 7, título 1, ley 2.
88. If the proof against a defendant was inconclusive and he was of good reputation
(buena fama), the judge should free him. If, on the other hand, he had mala fama, the
authorities could torture him to learn the truth. Siete partidas, parte 7, título 1, ley 26.
defense and treated proper legal process as an integral part of the justice system.
The proper procedures, spelled out in legislation, now formed an integral part
of a defendant’s rights and therefore were essential to the execution of justice.
New Standards of Juridical Evidence
In 1805, the teniente justicia of San Agustín de Guacara, Miguel Villavicen-
cio, charged Nicolás Parra with disrespect for authority. Parra, a shopkeeper,
allegedly told a crowd of people in his store that Villavicencio had cheated him
and conducted his job poorly. Further, Parra allegedly uttered insulting words
against the local tribunal and claimed that there was a lack of real justice in
the town. The teniente justicia opened an investigation into these offenses in
order “to contain this man’s unruliness and manner of speaking.”
cio gathered testimony from two witnesses who had heard Parra speak ill of the
town and the teniente, and from another witness who asserted he had heard that
Parra was a rebellious and ungovernable person. Villavicencio then gathered
statements from other storeowners who testifed that Parra had not cooper-
ated with a system of señas (chits, used in place of cash) that Villavicencio had
introduced. Through this testimony, Villavicencio presented Parra as having a
reputation for being unruly and contradicting the will of the town. In light of
the evidence provided, Parra was sentenced to spend eight days in jail and to
pay court costs plus four pesos. His reputation for disruptive behavior served to
augment the weak direct testimony that he had criticized the town’s offcials and
to secure his conviction in a criminal case.
This case exemplifes one of the key elements of judicial evidence in colo-
nial courts, a person’s reputation. The Siete partidas codifed reputation as fun-
damentally important to a person’s legal standing. Men with a bad reputation
(mala fama) could not serve as witnesses in a trial and could not make accusations
against others in court.
In the absence of conclusive proof, a judge could use
reputation to determine the guilt or innocence of a defendant.
Court witnesses
or litigants typically presented matters of reputation as “public and notorious
[ publico y notorio],” which “was the strongest category of proof.” A reputation was
518 HAHR / August / Zahler
“a general public opinion because it included information that theoretically was
held by the community as a whole and was therefore true by defnition.”

This is not to say that colonial court cases relied entirely on reputation
or that they eschewed empirical evidence (evidence based on experience rather
than assumptions, theory, or pure logic). When Villavicencio wanted to prove
that Parra was a disruptive character, he combined the testimony of witnesses
who had heard Parra utter offensive words with witnesses who attested to his
poor reputation. As another example, in 1798 a scribe and a notary from the
Audiencia got into a struggle over seniority, and the scribe accused the regente
of unfairly favoring the notary. The scribe declared, “the protection that Merida
[the notary] enjoys from the Señor Regente . . . is publicly known in the Prov-
ince: everybody knows it. . . . [This protective relationship is] notorious and
certain and therefore serves as indubitable proof of the grievances I have suf-

The regente, however, responded that the scribe’s allegation was based
upon “obscure and mysterious expressions” and demanded that the scribe spec-
ify “all, and each one of the acts, that he is referring to” before any judgment
could be made.
As both of these cases demonstrate, compelling courtroom
evidence could be both a direct account of a crime or a description of a person’s
With independence and the attempt to construct a more formalist political-
legal system, evidence became increasingly empirical and thus removed from
notions of reputation. The 1836 Código refected this formalist bent with regard
to the questions to ask a witness: “Questions . . . will be pertinent to the points
that need to be proven and have been argued: do not admit questions that do not
relate directly or indirectly to the proceedings of the plaintiff or the plea of the
The provisions in the Siete partidas invited a judge to make inqui-
ries into reputations, and therefore into subjects apart from a specifc crime in
question. According to the 1836 statute, however, witnesses should now confne
their testimony to what they had personally observed in direct relation to the
crime. This change did not transpire abruptly, but rather we fnd cases directly
after independence in which litigants still used reputation as a form of evidence.
Fairly rapidly, however, reputation became less prevalent.
Notably, we see
89. In contrast, “simple gossip [labios que corrían] and rumor” were considered
subjective, unsubstantiated, and less reliable than reputation. Herzog, Upholding Justice,
213 – 14.
90. AANH, CC, 13 – 5078 – 5, ff. 86 – 86b and 88b–89.
91. Título 1, ley 4, artículo 37.
92. The Common Law tradition rejected reputation as acceptable evidence earlier
than did the Civil Law tradition, though this change in the Common Law took several
Liberal Justice 519
decades to solidify. English courts began to disallow the use of character as evidence
against defendants in the 1680s. The practice had become quite uncommon by 1714, but
still appeared occasionally in court records until it entirely disappeared by the 1780s.
The one exception would be if defense used character as evidence, in which case the
prosecution could discuss character as a part of rebuttal. John H. Langbein, The Origins
of Adversary Criminal Trial (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), 179, 190 – 95.
93. AGN, CC, L-06. In the frst years after independence, litigants often buttressed
their case by accusing their rival of having a reputation as a godo.
94. Ibid., f. 12b.
changes in the standards of evidence and witness testimony well before 1836, so
that this code appears to refect changes already under way.
As an example, let us return to the 1823 case from the beginning of this
article, in which Policarpo Mendo and Lameda Cipriana charged each other
with verbal and physical injuries. Both parties had witnesses that blamed the
other for injuria, for which charge Mendo soon found himself in jail. In addi-
tion, Cipriana attempted to bolster her case as her witnesses asserted that
Mendo had a reputation as a “notorious” royalist who had served in the Spanish
army. However, when questioned further, Cipriana and her witnesses admitted
that they had never actually seen Mendo say or do anything to support these
charges of royalism.
The judge in this case, therefore, promptly rejected this
argument. He derisively commented that this was “one of those cases that serve
only to produce paperwork and waste the time of the Tribunals.” He rebuffed
the testimony against Mendo: “The witnesses . . . have not known, heard, nor
understood Mendo to do anything in support of or opposition to our troops
entering the city. . . . nonetheless, some add their opinion about support for our
current system, which carries no weight before the law.”
The judge dismissed
both the charges and countercharges because both parties had provoked the
other, and he ordered them to split the court costs.
At this time, some citizens still clearly saw reputation as holding legal
weight, though judges did not necessarily share this view. Within just a few years,
however, reputation entered into evidence less often and witnesses increasingly
confned their testimony to what they had personally seen and heard. In 1826,
the jefe político in Caracas charged José Mareno with offensive words ( palabras
ofensivas) based on the testimony of another man’s slave, named Pio. According
to Pio, Mareno told him that the jefe político was disloyal to the current sys-
tem. When Pio contradicted Mareno, he hit Pio with the broadside of a sword.
Mareno, however, denied Pio’s account and insisted that the altercation began
when Pio insulted the current government. After both men had testifed, the
520 HAHR / August / Zahler
alcalde called forth the only other witness to the event, Mareno’s wife.
corroborated Mareno’s testimony: the altercation started when Pio said that the
patria was in danger. She declared that she saw no more and that there were no
other witnesses. Like the testimony of Mareno and Pio, her testimony included
no statements about character or more general political sentiments.
Even in cases of insulting another’s honor (injuria verbal), which concerned
damage to a person’s reputation, testimony would be restricted to the event
in question rather than reputation. In 1833 in Coro, Debora Maduro charged
Laura Müller with publicly insulting her. According to Maduro, as she walked
down the street with two slaves, Müller called her a prostitute. Müller denied
the accusation, but Maduro had three separate witnesses who reported that
Müller had said Maduro was “una puta” or “esta grandísima puta.”
Again, the
testimony on both sides abstained from any discussion of the defendant’s gen-
eral behavior or reputation but instead focused solely on eyewitness accounts of
specifc events. Given the weight of these eyewitness accounts, Müller eventu-
ally acquiesced and agreed to an arbitrated settlement; she admitted what she
had done, apologized, swore she had nothing but respect for Maduro, and cov-
ered the court costs. Similarly, in 1838 in Coro, Antonio Rodríguez charged
Marcelina, the servant of another man, with verbal injury (injuria de palabra).
According to Rodríguez, Marcelina came to his house, threatened his wife with
a knife, tried to force her way into the house, and uttered “highly injurious
words” against the entire family.
Witness testimony supported this account
but did not discuss Marcelina’s reputation.
For some types of crimes, however, reputation remained an important fea-
ture of court testimony. A defendant charged with vagabondage (ser vago) could
face evidence concerning his reputation as witnesses discussed how he talked
to neighbors, his predilection toward drink and gambling, how he treated his
woman, and so on.
It is important to note, however, that vagabondage was
a particular type of charge that stemmed from the somewhat vague crime of
being a public nuisance and offending public morality. Therefore, the less-than-
specifc testimony ft better with a crime that may not have a specifc incident.
95. Calling Mareno’s wife as a witness was somewhat irregular, as the law viewed the
testimony from a defendant’s relatives as unreliable. The 1821 Constitution, Article 167 and
the 1836 Código, título 1, ley 4, artículo 31.
96. AGN, CC, 1826, M-20, ff. 3b – 4.
97. AHC, CC, #207, 1833, ff. 3 – 7.
98. AHC, CC, #459, 1838, f. 1.
99. See AGN, CC, 1835, C-02; 1835, C-14; 1846, P-5; 1846, S-6.
Liberal Justice 521
Far more typical was an 1845 case of homicide. In the streets of La Guaira,
Manuel Quintana and Federico Maitin exchanged insults, then threats, then
blows, and in the end Maitin lay dead in the street. The judge, in order to deter-
mine whether the death was a homicide, reviewed the testimony of several wit-
nesses who described the lead-up to the fght and the fght itself. The judge
noted that the witnesses agreed that the two men had been in each other’s com-
pany throughout the evening and that Maitin had started the insults. No wit-
ness reported that Quintana ever voiced any intention against the life of Maitin.
One witness said that Quintana carried a short whip, but the judge did not con-
sider this a weapon for killing. Given the evidence, the judge determined that
“there is no way in which to classify this altercation as an effort at homicide . . .
and in consequence the order to hold Quintana in prison is revoked.”
absent from the witness testimony and the judge’s decision was any discussion
of the reputation of either Quintana or Maitin; the judge released the defendant
based solely on the accounts of the event in question.
Clearly reputation still mattered a great deal in the republic, as honor still
commanded vital importance in business, politics, and society. Indeed, Article
189 of the 1830 Constitution formally protected a citizen’s honor. In court cases
or complaints to the government, people referred to themselves as padres de
familia (heads of honorable families) and vecinos honrados (honorable neighbors).
Such titles established a litigant’s importance in the community as a person who
served a greater good by protecting public morality. These titles, however, did
not ensure a legal victory over empirical evidence. In the early 1820s, witnesses
still discussed reputation, even if judges had begun to reject such testimony. By
the 1830s, for the most part, neither judges nor witnesses discussed reputation
at all. Legal procedure began to make a manifest distinction between witness’s
general opinion of a person and what happened in a particular incident. While
we do fnd some exceptions, cases that involved a specifc incident refected a
clear bias for empirical evidence.
100. AGN, CC, 1845, Q-1, f. 25.
101. This lack of attention to reputation contrasts with procedural codes in Bolivia,
where “lower-class men and women faced constant questioning of the validity of their
legal testimony. To begin with, they had to justify their presence in court by declaring a
socially legitimate trade or occupation.” Barragán, “The ‘Spirit’ of the Bolivian Laws,”
75 – 76. The Venezuelan procedural code also prohibited certain people from serving
as witnesses – including criminals, the insane, minors, drunks, vagrants, and fraudulent
debtors — but the criteria did not include occupation or economic status. 1836 Código, título
1, ley 4, artículo 29.
522 HAHR / August / Zahler
The evolution of Venezuela’s court system across the middle period demon-
strates that independence catalyzed signifcant change in the republic’s political
and legal culture.
While Venezuela did not immediately become the paradig-
matic republic that her leaders envisioned, her courts underwent note worthy
adjustments that expressed central pillars of liberal ideology. The changes
described here do not suggest that all of Venezuelan society underwent a rapid,
radical transformation with independence. Rather, these shifts took place over
the bedrock of cultural and social continuity, and many of these changes refect
efforts already in place by Bourbon reformers that became accelerated under
republican government.
The effort to adjust courtroom standards had begun in the eighteenth cen-
tury, as Bourbon reformers attempted to increase the power of state legislation
in the practices of administration and justice. Pushing this effort further, the
republic’s leaders followed liberal ideals to transform law into a rational collec-
tion of rules separate from and superior to customs, social relations, opinions,
religion, and moral sentiments. While this effort by no means met every goal,
court documents from the 1820s to the 1840s show that it succeeded in some
key areas. The republican judicial system established a clearer hierarchy among
courts and court offcers so that fghts over jurisdiction all but disappeared. The
courts implemented greater transparency in that they abandoned the practice of
legally hiding court documents or testimony. Due process, even if not referred
to in name, became a solid right of defendants, and the violation of this right
could serve as a viable defense. Finally, courtroom evidence became far more
based on empiricism rather than reputation.
Additionally, despite assumptions to the contrary, Venezuelan courts
remained in considerable use throughout the independence war and the early
republic. Though use of the courts dropped during years of intense violence or
instability, the quantitative evidence shows that republicans continued to use
the courts as their colonial forebears had. This fact alone suggests that the judi-
cial system retained legitimacy in the eyes of the populace across this period,
even as the government underwent dramatic transformations toward liberal
102. At the legislative level, Venezuela was not unique in these reforms. For instance,
Mexico’s 1837 judicial administration law also “required all judges to cite jurisprudence
rather than simply state fndings” and “forbade the courts from prohibiting the publication
of” court documents. Arnold, “Privileged Justice,” 54. The degree to which Mexican judges
complied with these rules will require further research.
Hispanic American Historical Review 90:3
Copyright 2010 by Duke University Press
Book Reviews
General and Sources
Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade Database.
Edited by david eltis and david richardson. New Haven: Yale University
Press, 2008. Maps. Figures. Tables. Index. xiii, 377 pp. Cloth, $90.00.
Research inspired by Philip D. Curtin’s pioneering The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census
(1969) has made the African slave trade to the Americas the best-documented migration
before the mid-1800s. A tremendous contribution to the understanding of the trade’s
overall importance and of its temporal and geographical variations has come from the
compilation of a massive database of slaving voyages, the frst version of which was pub-
lished by Cambridge University Press on CD-ROM in 1999. This volume of essays
interprets the greatly expanded second edition (or TSTD
), which is now freely acces-
sible on the Internet at www.slavevoyages.org. As the essays demonstrate, the nearly
35,000 slaving voyages in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database shed new light on
almost every aspect of the trade.
Readers of this journal will fnd the TSTD
and this guide of special interest
because, as the editors point out, because 60 percent of the new data concerns the trade
to Brazil and Spanish America, which were the greatest importing regions. Of the 10.7
million slaves who reached overseas destinations, 45 percent landed in Brazil and 12 per-
cent in Spanish colonies. Moreover, it is now clear that more slaving voyages originated
in Brazil than in Europe.
As the editors point out, the value of the database is not just in estimating with
great accuracy the overall dimensions of the trade but also in understanding changes
over time and the connections between particular regions in Africa and the Americas.
Besides David Eltis and David Richardson’s masterful introduction, the volume includes
focused chapters, many by younger scholars, exploring these aspects of the slave trade.
The essays and accompanying tables are especially useful in explaining how the data-
base is able to estimate the total volume of the trade on various routes from the known
Several of the essays are devoted to Brazil. Daniel Barros Domingues da Silva and
David Eltis provide the frst overall estimate of the dimensions of the slave trade to
Pernambuco and its African sources, demonstrating that this region was Brazil’s sec-
ond most important receiver of slaves from West Central Africa (after Rio de Janeiro),
and that the port of Recife originated more slaving voyages than all French ports com-
524 HAHR / August
bined. In a parallel essay, Alexandre Vieira Ribeiro explores the trade to Bahia, “one of
the most important branches of the transatlantic slave trade” ( p. 148), which is now the
best-documented Brazilian destination during the peak centuries of the trade. Focusing
on slave voyages that ended at Rio de Janeiro between 1790 and 1830, Manolo Floren-
tino sketches a broad transatlantic picture linking the forms of enslavement in Africa,
the goods Africans received from the Atlantic, European profts, and family life among
slaves in the Rio hinterlands, the latter based on marriage and birth statistics.
Another group of essays studies the slave trade in Latin America. Using archi-
val sources to supplement the TSTD
, António de Almeida Mendes reassesses the
understudied early trade to Iberia and the Spanish Americas. In another chapter Oscar
Grandío Moráguez uses the database to reassess the African origins of the more massive
and better documented trade to Cuba after 1789. A complementary chapter by Philip
Misevich details ethnic origins of slaves sent to Cuba from the Upper Guinea Coast in
the early nineteenth century.
Other studies profle the national carriers and African sources of slaves. The editors
join James Pritchard in describing how the French (like the Spanish) failed to expand
their involvement in the transatlantic slave trade as fast as the demand for slaves in their
Caribbean colonies increased. In contrast, Jelmer Vos, Eltis, and Richardson examine the
Dutch slave trade, which considerably exceeded the needs of Dutch colonies, though the
focus of the chapter is on subtler and lesser known aspects of the Dutch roles. An essay
on northern German participation by Andrea Weindl illuminates how even small states
without American colonies successfully participated in the slave trade of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries. Roquinaldo Ferreira surveys the suppression of the slave trade
from Angola, showing the importance of local factors in retarding the trade’s end.
In a very interesting fnal chapter, Eltis and Paul Lachance use the database and
other evidence to reexamine the negative rate of population growth in the West Indies,
a topic raised by Curtin in his 1969 volume. Using the much improved import statis-
tics from the TSTD
and enhanced information on subsequent slave movements among
colonies, the essay is able to demonstrate that depletion rates in the 1700s were nearer
1.5 to 2.0 percent per year rather than the 3 percent Curtin had proposed. However,
the essay is unable to remove the anomalously higher rate in British colonies, which
the authors suggest may partially be due to more unregistered reexports. Although the
authors’ urging of additional research echoes Curtin’s earlier injunction, this volume
amply demonstrates how far slave trade studies have advanced.
david northrup, Boston College
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-005
Book Reviews / General and Sources 525
Siervos libres: Una propuesta antiesclavista a fnales del siglo XVII.
By epifanio de moirans. Edited by miguel anxo pena gonzález. Madrid:
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científcas, 2007. Notes. Appendixes. lxxv,
246 pp. Paper.
In 1681, civil authorities deported two Capuchin missionaries from Cartagena and
Cumaná to Cuba for causing trouble. In Havana, Francisco José de Jaca and Epifanio
de Moirans met and together undertook a campaign against slavery. They preached
against it, denied sacramental absolution to slave owners and their wives, and produced
two major abolitionist manuscripts. Relegated for three centuries to Seville’s Archivo
General de Indias and short footnotes in books on colonial slavery, these works are
fnally receiving the attention they deserve. In 1982, José Tomás López García pub-
lished Jaca’s Spanish text and translated Moirans’s Latin manuscript in Dos defensores
de los esclavos negros en el siglo XVII (Caracas: Universidad Cátolica Andrés Bello). Two
decades later, Miguel Anxo Pena González edited Jaca’s Spanish text in Resolución sobre
la libertad de los negros, en estado de paganos y despues ya cristianos: la primera condena de
la esclavitud en el pensamiento hispano (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones
Científcas); and two years ago, he edited Moirans’s Latin text with a Spanish translation
in the book under review. In 2007, I published a critical edition of Moirans’s Latin text
with an English translation in A Just Defense of the Natural Freedom of Slaves: All Slaves
Should Be Free (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press).
Why so much activity concerning these documents in the past 25 years after cen-
turies of neglect? The answer is twofold: an increasing recognition of their signifcance
in the documentary history of colonial slavery, and their relevance to our situation
today with the resurgence of slavery in human traffcking. They are the only examples
of extended theological arguments against slavery in the Spanish colonies between the
1570s and the 1790s. They exemplify important intellectual trends in the Roman Catho-
lic Church of the seventeenth century: moral argument from scripture, neoscholastic
thinking, probabilism’s method of development, and casuistry’s emphasis on the practi-
cal and the use of analogy. Finally, they tell us of churchmen who used contemporary
resources for a good cause in a nonviolent way, fought for human rights against empire
and church, sacrifced their ministries to do what was right, and bore the contempt of
authorities for their efforts. We would do well to imitate them.
But do we need more books, editions, and translations to do this? Yes, because it
is important to get the history and the texts right. Each book adds to our knowledge of
the events and contributes to our understanding and interpretation of the texts. López
García gave a general overview of Moirans’s work but did not provide the original Latin
text. Pena González recounts in much more detail the events that led to Moirans’s arrest;
his subsequent trial, deportation to Spain, and house arrest there; his trip to Rome to
press the case against slavery; and the positive reaction of the Vatican bureaucracy to
his and Jaca’s efforts. He places the Latin text side by side with a Spanish translation
for those who want to check its accuracy. He makes it possible to take the document
526 HAHR / August
My overall evaluation of the book is positive: it is competent and well done. The
transcription from the original is generally good, though I would differ on certain read-
ings. The Spanish translation’s stated goal is readability, and in this it succeeds, at least in
my judgment as a nonnative student of the language. The more than three hundred foot-
notes give bibliographic references, cite similarities with Jaca’s work, reproduce the mar-
ginal notes, and offer short biographies of major authors discussed in the text. The book
ends with a “Document Appendix,” a “Source Index,” and a “Subject Index.”
My criticisms of the book are minimal. I prefer a critical edition that presents the
original in as exact a manner as possible; this book corrects and interprets Moirans’s
Latin somewhat freely. The translators don’t distinguish between two concepts, ius natu-
rae and lex natural, the “order of nature” and “natural law”; this distinction isn’t used
consistently, but it is important for understanding natural law and what Moirans is trying
to do. Some typographical errors mar the Spanish text, and fve lines of the Latin text are
missing at the end of chapter 2. Some marginal notes are not reproduced, and sections
crossed out in the original text are included without notation or explanation. But these
matters don’t affect the substance of the book.
This work is a major contribution to the understanding of an important period in
the history of Spanish colonial slavery and the church’s relation to it. As such, it is worthy
of consideration by any serious scholar or student of the period.
edward r. sunshine, Barry University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-006
The History of the Conquest of New Spain. By bernal díaz del castillo.
Edited and with an introduction by davíd carrasco. Albuquerque: University of
New Mexico Press, 2008. Maps. Illustrations. Notes. xxviii, 473 pp. Paper, $27.95.
For a work that is so widely read, cited, and used in the classroom — arguably canonical
to Latin American history — it is perhaps surprising that there are not more English-
language editions in print of The True History of the Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz
del Castillo. One reason may be that the Penguin edition, frst published in 1963, is so
well known and there are so many copies available for just a few dollars. Another may be
that the 1908 translation by Alfred P. Maudslay has stood the test of time; it is elegant
and accurate, hardly in need of a replacement. A third reason may be that most scholars
tempted by the challenge to create a new edition of Díaz’s book surely realize that what is
needed is a comprehensive edition, not an abridged edition but a translation of the entire
manuscript, complete with introductory essays and notes refecting the century of Span-
ish conquest scholarship published since Maudslay.
Davíd Carrasco clearly understands all this and responds in this excellent new edi-
tion: it costs a little more than a used Penguin but is nonetheless an affordable, attractive
paperback. Rather than attempting to replace Maudslay’s translation, Carrasco has sim-
ply used it, adding new introductory material. Recognizing the problems built into prior
Book Reviews / General and Sources 527
abridgements, Carrasco has made his own well-considered selection from the larger
Díaz text.
Four features of this edition recommend it for the classroom; I recently used it as
a required reading in class and found that all four of these features contributed to its
success. The frst is Maudslay’s translation, already praised. The second is Carrasco’s
15-page introduction that succinctly, provocatively, and rather brilliantly places The
True History into its historiographical context. Carrasco explains the problems that
have stemmed from previous abridgements. By cutting Díaz’s narrative off at the fall of
Tenochtitlán in 1521 (the original book covers events from 1514 to 1568), prior editions
have misled a half-century of readers into seeing the Spanish conquest as over sooner
than it really was and Díaz’s account as more triumphalist than it really was. Carrasco
cannot take his edition beyond the 1520s and still keep it short enough for classroom
usage, but the post-1521 material that he includes amounts to almost a ffth of his whole
Third, eight brief essays following the text are designed to guide and stimulate
classroom discussion and aid students in crafting book reports or course papers. Rolena
Adorno’s essay complements Carrasco’s introduction effectively, providing an intelligent
and accessible summary of who Díaz was and how his book is not a “true history” (as
Díaz titled it) but an artful work of “polemical argumentation” ( p. 394). Adorno’s essay
is adapted from her recent book The Polemics of Possession in Spanish American Narra-
tive; similarly Sandra Messinger Cypess here adapts a chapter from her 1991 book La
Malinche in Mexican Literature from History to Myth. Five of the essays are by Carrasco,
each deftly analyzing a moment or theme in Díaz’s text — from the issues surrounding
“human sacrifce” to Cortés cutting a cross into a ceiba tree. There is also an essay by
Karen Vieira Powers.
Fourth, a relatively minor feature, but one that students in my class much appreci-
ated, is the inclusion of fve maps from Maudslay’s original edition with new captions by
Carrasco. The editor is to be commended on the thought that has gone into this volume,
as is the press for its care in production. All instructors who would use Bernal Díaz in the
classroom should seriously consider adopting this fne new edition.
matthew restall, Pennsylvania State University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-007
Bonds of Blood: Gender, Lifecycle, and Sacrifce in Aztec Culture.
By caroline dodds pennock. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
Photographs. Illustrations. Map. Tables. Notes. Glossary. Index. xvi, 225 pp. Cloth.
Caroline Dodds Pennock’s book explores the theme of gender complementarity in the
context of the life cycle and the practice of human sacrifce in Aztec culture. She uses
often-relied-upon sources, especially the Florentine Codex, to examine these themes in
an ethnographic way, that is, to show how Aztecs themselves thought about and expe-
528 HAHR / August
rienced their culture. She aims to return both humanity and individuality to a people
often treated as brutal automatons who are of interest today primarily for their exoticism
and because they endured a horribly violent, destructive conquest.
As a work of description, the treatment of the life cycle is informative. An introduc-
tory chapter lays out an interpretation of Aztec gender roles, emphasizing what Pennock
calls a “binary model” according to which “men and women possess distinctly differ-
ent, complementary, roles” ( p. 10). The next chapter, “Living with Death,” underscores
the prominence of blood, violence, and human sacrifce in ideology and daily life. The
author details men’s and women’s participation as deities, religious practitioners, and
the sacrifced. I found this to be the most informative and interesting chapter.
The next chapters cover the life cycle from birth through death. As noted, the author
relies heavily on the Florentine Codex, though other relevant sources such as the Codex
Mendoza and the Codex Chimalpahin are also used. Where possible she reads her sources
for evidence of the individual and affective as in, for example, her discussion of the
naming of two children of a Texcocan ruler and one of his wives ( pp. 59 – 60). Because
these sources, rich in detail though they may be, so rarely speak of individuals and their
feelings, Pennock can only reconstruct these to a limited degree. Her effort, however,
reminds readers that, for all the violence and blood, birth, childhood, marriage, and fam-
ily life were meaningful events in peoples’ lives, marked by public and domestic ritual.
This idea underlies the central argument of the book that to understand the Aztecs,
we must balance the central place of the ideology and practice of human sacrifce in
Aztec culture and history with the culture’s more life-enhancing aspects. She observes
that “ritual bloodshed was far more widely practiced by the Aztecs than by any of the
other indigenous peoples of the New World, and their brutal religious zeal was apparent
in the awe-inspiring displays of violence which shaped the lives of the men and women of
Tenochtitlan” ( p. 2). Yet these were also a “passionately religious” people who found great
meaning in the events and rituals connected to daily life and the life cycle. But describing
the conjunction of sacrifce and more positive emotion is not the same as explaining how
individuals accommodated themselves to the extremes of belief and behavior that were
part of the culture. I am not convinced that historians can provide such explanations,
which helps explain the book’s largely descriptive nature.
Even description relies on terminology, thus a consideration of the way Pennock
uses important concepts is also in order. Most important is her use of “Aztec.” While
archaeologists still use the term for both the residents of Tenochtitlán and the Nahuatl-
speaking people of surrounding areas, historians prefer to use ethnically specifc terms
such as Mexica, Culhua Mexica, or Tenochca Mexica for the people of Tenochtitlán
(and its sister city Tlatelolco) and Nahua for Nahuatl-speaking peoples more broadly.
Pennock acknowledges some of the diffculties of her use of “Aztec,” but she says her
motivation comes from the need “to confront directly preconceptions previously associ-
ated with the term” ( p. xiii). But using “Aztec” in this fashion leads Pennock to confate
urban and rural peoples of the Valley of Mexico whom archaeologists have found to be
more variable in economic orientation and cultural practices than written sources show.
Book Reviews / General and Sources 529
The work of Elizabeth Brumfeld and Michael E. Smith, to name just two, has been of
particular importance in this regard. Pennock’s discussion of the calpulli as a landhold-
ing, territorial, and organization unit within Tenochtitlán is particularly problematic.
Another concept of importance to the book is that of “complementarity,” a term
the author uses with some frequency but does not really defne; her explanation of it as
a “balanced, productive pairing” comes closest ( p. 115). Complementarity can have a
variety of meanings and take multiple forms. It can imply gender symmetry as an ideal
and/or a practice, but a discourse of complementarity can disguise deeply asymmetric
practices. Because the notion of patriarchy is often uncritically applied to the Mexica
and to Nahuas more broadly, a counteranalysis emphasizing complementarity offers
insight. The Mexica warrior discourse demeaned women, yet a practical consequence of
warfare was that women played important social and economic roles within and beyond
the household. This contradiction, like that of the violence of human sacrifce and the
tenderness of life-cycle emotional expression, makes study of pre-Hispanic and colonial
Nahua peoples compelling. While Pennock does not fully answer the questions her book
raises, gender specialists and students of all levels will fnd worthwhile her search for the
intimate as revealed by sources that downplay the personal and affective, rendered as it
is in graceful, accessible prose.
susan kellogg, University of Houston
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-008
De protagonistas a desaparecidos: Las sociedades indígenas de la Gran Nicoya siglos XIV a
XVII. By meritxell tous mata. Managua, Nicaragua: Lea Grupo Editorial, 2008.
Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography. 608 pp.
This book is mainly a description of la Gran Nicoya and its people during the Spanish
conquest. Its main objective is to demonstrate that change and destruction occurred with
the conquest and colonization of Gran Nicoya. Some cultural elements were destroyed
but were reelaborated through syncretism and passed to later generations, but this is not
clearly shown in the book. More time and space are devoted to the description of other
problems than to the search for the protagonistas, as the author calls them in the title.
There seems to be a contradiction between the title and the author’s goals. If she wants
to demonstrate how cultural elements were strengthened and transmitted from the
surviving indigenous peoples themselves, then why does the word desaparecidos appear?
Who or what disappeared?
In part 1, on the pre-Columbian period, three chapters reconstruct the ecology, the
ethnic groups, and subsistence practices. Chapter 2 describes the system of power and
beliefs, kinship, and material representations of the system described. In chapter 3 the
author refers to trade and exchange and, very briefy, to warfare.
The second part focuses on the province of Nicaragua during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Chapter 4 deals with the conquest of the area and its immediate
consequences, such as the depopulation caused by the spread of diseases, the violence of
530 HAHR / August
the process of conquest, and the socioeconomic abuses that the conquistadors imposed
on the Indian population. The author also mentions indigenous resistance, which she
categorizes into active and passive. In chapter 5 she moves to describe the new system of
power and beliefs and unfolds the formation of colonial government and the foundation
of Spanish cities. She also writes about the changes that affected the sociopolitical and
socioeconomic indigenous organizations, including the encomiendas, pueblos de indios, and
the sistemas tributarios. She immediately follows with the topic of the new religion and the
process of Christianization, and what she calls an equilibrium in the religious realm
between resistance and syncretism. She states that the representation of El Güegüence (a
popular, anonymous traditional play) is an example of resistance as well as of the preser-
vation and transmission of indigenous traditions. Finally, chapter 6 covers the new econ-
omy, cycles, cattle and agricultural productivity, with information on trading routes;
transoceanic, maritime, and land routes; and a mention of ports. The chapter ends with
the theme of indigenous commerce, treated very briefy.
To elaborate this bibliographical compendium, the author visited archives in Spain
and used other documentary collections, such as the Colección Somoza and the Colec-
ción de Documentos para la Historia de Costa Rica. She reviews the results of research
done by Central Americanists of different nationalities who have done extensive and
profound research on various problems in pre-Columbian and colonial times.
The book does not contribute precisely to contemporary debates because it lacks
a research problem. What Tous Mata does is a bibliographical compilation of what has
been done. For example, the cultural area of Gran Nicoya is strongly questioned today.
She mentions that fact, offers a few existing considerations about it, includes other cul-
tural divisions on the Costa Rican side, but does not position herself within the discus-
sion. The idea of working with and within a cultural area nowadays offers serious inter-
pretative problems to the researcher. Also, research done within the limits of a cultural
area will tend to produce descriptive results, and that is what Tous Mata achieves. When
in a cultural area everything is generalized, no particularities can be depicted. Even
while she mentions that she is aware of heterogeneity, the entire area is treated as a whole.
This minimizes explanatory opportunities.
Some maps do not make sources explicit, like fgure 20 on page 136. Also, the book
could have been organized in a more logical way; for example, the chapter that describes
the indigenous plants used by the Indians could be merged with the description of the
geography and ecology of the area in the frst chapters. Certain authors, such as Silvia
Salgado, Robert M. Carmack, and Mario Rizo, who have done important recent research
on archaeology, identities, continuities, and resistance, are absent from the book.
In sum, the book represents an effort of bibliographical synthesis, and students and
the general public will fnd it rewarding.
eugenia ibarra, Universidad de Costa Rica
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-009
De Guancane a Macondo: Estudios de literatura hispanoamericana. By rolena adorno.
Colección Iluminaciones, 38. Seville: Renacimiento, 2008. Appendix. Notes.
Bibliography. 503 pp. Paper.
De Guancane a Macondo is comprised of 16 essays written in Spanish by Rolena Adorno
between 1992 and 2005. Several of them derive from talks the author gave at Spanish and
Latin American universities. Of the essays, 14 were previously published in journals and
edited volumes; only “Don Quijote en la América de los Austrias” and “La historia de los
Incas narrada desde el norte” are original to this volume. The essays are grouped into
four sections. Section 1 deals with sixteenth-century texts, addressing topics as diverse
as Cervantes’s infuence in America, the debate on the nature of Indians and Spain’s
conquest rights, and Mala Cosa and inquisitional censorship. Section 2 focuses on con-
temporary recreations of sixteenth-century texts, giving particular attention to allegedly
recently discovered colonial originals that Adorno argues are forgeries. Section 3 traces
connections between sixteenth-century texts and contemporary fction writing, while
the fourth and fnal section centers on Hispanic and Latino studies in the U.S. academy,
with an emphasis on historical writing in the nineteenth century and the emergence and
contradictions of area studies. The appendix is a short obituary of Irving A. Leonard,
who passed away in 1996, and whose intellectual legacy the author examines at length
in chapter 4.
Like most books that put together a 13-year span of intellectual production, De
Guancane a Macondo follows the author’s many interests. However, a cluster of names
and themes surface once and again. If the book had an analytical index (which would
be a great addition in a future reprint) it is clear that names like Alvar Núñez Cabeza
de Vaca and Bartolomé de Las Casas and questions of censorship, genre, intertextual
relations, and literary and historical validity would stand out. The tone of the book is
conversational rather than argumentative, with the exception of three essays in which
Adorno disputes the reliability of a previously unknown textual corpus dealing with
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Peru that was frst presented to the academic public
in Lima in 1996 (the corpus known to scholars of Andean colonial culture and society as
the Miccinelli documents). Most often, the essays are built around details that previous
scholarship had missed and which point, for example, to heretofore unknown and reveal-
ing connections between texts, or to problems in the way in which certain texts had been
understood or to the way in which they have been classifed in terms of literary genre.
While the new elements that Adorno highlights, and their interpretations, are
always grounded with extensive quotes, detailed footnotes, and an abundant bibliogra-
phy, their larger relevance is not always fully addressed, at least not in an explicit manner.
The essays are, at times, examples of hidden polemics. This notion, coined by Russian
literary critique Mikhail Bakhtin, describes a text that, while studying its referential
object (e.g., a given text), actually dialogues with other authors, but the dialogue is hid-
den, therefore intelligible only to knowledgeable readers. An interesting example of
this kind of narrative in De Guancane a Macondo is “Don Quijote en la América de los
Book Reviews / General and Sources 531
532 HAHR / August
Austrias.” The essay offers a brilliant rereading of Juan Rodríguez Freyle’s El carnero.
Adorno argues in a convincing manner that Rodríguez Freyle (1566 – ca. 1639) was one of
the frst readers of Miguel de Cervantes’s masterwork on either side of the Atlantic, and
that he not only found inspiration in El ingenioso hidalgo but also crafted his text’s enigmas
so that only an expert reader of Cervantes could solve them. While seemingly focusing
mainly on matters of literary canon — Adorno disputes the most common characteriza-
tions of El carnero — the essay in fact makes an unstated claim; scholars have previously
discussed whether Rodríguez Freyle’s writing was or was not informed by Cervantes and
have tended to refute the hypothesis.
“Don Quijote en la América de los Austrias,” with its tracking of book shipments
from Spain to America and its simultaneous, very close rereading of El carnero and El
ingenioso hidalgo, is also an example of the range of materials and traditions of inquiry
that Adorno weaves together. The author’s erudition and nuanced, extensive knowledge
of the texts grounds the present collection of essays. At the same time, the book is not
pretentious or obscure at any point. The possibility of reading the essays at two levels
will certainly make the book appealing to both lay readers who want to gain a sense of
the complexities of the canon of Spanish colonial literature and some of its contempo-
rary repercussions, and expert readers with a keen eye for detail, intertextuality, and
gonzalo lamana, University of Pittsburgh
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-010
Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas: Empires, Texts, Identities.
Edited by ralph bauer and josé antonio mazzotti. Chapel Hill:
Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture,
Williamsburg, Virginia, by the University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
Illustrations. Maps. Notes. Index. xi, 503 pp. Cloth, $75.00. Paper, $27.50.
Creole identity in Latin America has long attracted scholarly attention, while creoliza-
tion in the British North American colonies has been far less studied. Infuenced in part
by Atlantic history, this volume of 17 essays authored by literary scholars seeks to address
the neglected “wider Atlantic phenomenon” of creolization ( p. 2). The essays grew out of
discussions at the First Early Ibero/Anglo Americanist Summit held in Tucson in 2002,
sponsored by the Society for Early Americanists. (For the conference mission statement
see Early American Literature, vol. 38, no. 1, 2003.)
A fne introduction by Ralph Bauer and José Antonio Mazzotti includes brief ety-
mological and bibliographic essays. From the Portuguese, crioulo was frst used to distin-
guish slaves born in Brazil from those brought from Africa (and continued to be used in
this sense until the end of the colonial period in slave regions such as Haiti). Picked up
in Spanish America as a derogatory term, criollo was eventually embraced with pride by
the American-born elites who sought to differentiate themselves from peninsulares. As
the term moved north, however, negative connotations remained: in describing what he
viewed as the bad behavior of his early eighteenth-century compatriots, Cotton Mather
contended that he was besieged with “Criolian degeneracies” ( p. 5). Europeans agreed
with Mather and believed that their American-born cousins had degenerated because
of inferior climate or food, or because they had indigenous or African wet nurses. The
essays here delve into European-descended elite creoles’ published responses to that
negative ideology and specifcally the ties between creole and national identities; they do
not address creole Africans (or creole Indians).
The most successful chapters are those that take a comparative approach. David S.
Shields’s essay illuminating the links between Britain’s narratives of empire, the Black
Legend, and North American creole identity — which all meet in the person of Fran-
cis Drake — is convincing and would work well as classroom reading. Two narratives
of the British Empire competed in the early colonial period: the benevolent and peace-
ful trading partner versus swashbuckling individualism. Both narratives turned on the
Black Legend, as Britain defned itself as Spain’s obverse. Radical Protestant (and pirate)
Francis Drake personifed the individualist image that prevailed in the English colonies,
while the British themselves eventually embraced the shopkeeper/merchant image. As
Shields, citing Ralph Bauer, points out, “the entire English literature of empire must
be read as a gloss on the Spanish imperial literature” ( p. 108). Bauer’s own essay fol-
lows this maxim, comparing “creole rewriting of history” in the poetry of Ecuadorian
José Joaquín Olmedo (1780 – 1847) with New Englander Joel Barlow (1754 – 1812). Bauer
concludes that by holding Africans in slavery and either exterminating or removing the
indigenous population, the United States could agree that all men were equal, while
the South American republics could not do the same “for they had failed to disqualify
their nonequals as men” ( p. 464). Luis Fernando Restrepo’s essay on seventeenth-century
Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita efforts to recast Muisca (also known as Chibcha) history
also takes a comparative turn: Restrepo demonstrates that Piedrahita put the Muisca on
par with the much larger Inca empire to redeem Muisca history. A mestizo, Piedrahita
“integrated Muisca past with a universal Christian narrative” ( p. 339), much as writers
such as Garcilaso de la Vega did for the Inca. In equating the Muisca with the Inca,
Piedrahita “elaborated a local history that made sense only from a point of view of an
emerging sector in colonial society, the criollos” ( p. 350). Restrepo is the only author in
this volume who takes a refexive turn; his study of seventeenth-century creole identity
aims also to shed light on modern Colombia.
As literary scholars, the authors are concerned exclusively with published texts, not
with the messy archives and documents that historians attend to. Perhaps this partly
explains why sixteenth- through eighteenth-century Spanish words are sometimes used
anachronistically (raza, nación), and contemporary racial terminology (“white”) is used
to label people of the colonial era who did not themselves use this term to categorize
persons. Even so, some of the clearest writing on “race” in colonial Latin America comes
from a literary scholar, Ruth Hill, whose work is cited frequently in the volume. (See
for example her Hierarchy, Commerce, and Fraud in Bourbon Spanish America, Vanderbilt
University Press, 2006.) The reliance on published texts also tends to blur intentions
Book Reviews / General and Sources 533
534 HAHR / August
with reality. From these essays we learn what elite creoles wrote about, but we don’t learn
about their daily lives and concerns — the kinds of matters gleaned in legal cases, letters,
diaries, notarial records, and other materials not written with publication in mind.
The essays here will appeal to Atlantic world scholars from many disciplines. Many
of the essays are suitable for undergraduate courses and could be paired proftably with
historical studies.
s. elizabeth penry, Fordham University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-011
Gilberto Freyre: Social Theory in the Tropics. By peter burke and
maria lúcia g. pallares-burke. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2008. Notes.
Bibliography. Index. 261 pp. Paper, $25.00.
Gilberto Freyre (1900 – 87), a Brazilian author whose works have been widely translated,
disseminated, and debated, is unquestionably a global academic. Born and raised in Per-
nambuco, Freyre wrote the classic and pioneering work Casa-grande & senzala (1933),
which has shaped research priorities in Portuguese Atlantic studies for decades. His
works have contributed greatly to the study and understanding of new research felds
such as Black Atlantic rebels, slavery in the New World, and cultural hybridity. Consid-
ered by many to be a man ahead of his time, he was and still is a controversial fgure. His
most famous thesis, that in Brazil racial harmony prevailed, fgured prominently in the
creation of the so called “myth of racial democracy.” Accused of being a conservative,
Freyre’s works were later spurned by the left in Brazil. This situation changed in the
1990s when the author was rediscovered and the saliency of his ideas was, once again,
recognized and applauded. In Brazil, books about Freyre and a new edition of Casa-
grande & senzala were launched in order to commemorate the centennial of the author’s
birth. Peter Burke and Maria Lúcia G. Pallares-Burke are to be applauded for providing
English-speaking audiences with a richly detailed account of Freyre and his vast work.
The book begins ( p. 15) by asking, “What was or is the importance of Gilberto
Freyre?” One of the authors’ central arguments is that Freyre is still relevant to readers
today and that the “histories of historical writing,” which tend to emphasize works from
the “centre,” need to take cognizance of this masterfully creative and “gifted sociologist-
historian from the periphery” ( p. 17). The authors’ goal is to provide the English-speaking
reader with an “intellectual portrait” of Freyre and to illustrate the contemporary rel-
evance of his social theory in today’s postmodern world.
A brief chapter outlines Freyre’s early intellectual experiences in Brazil, the United
States, and as a “scholar gypsy” in Europe. Freyre’s experience of “self-exile” helped him
to see Brazil “from the viewpoint of an outsider as well as an insider” ( p. 13), a quality
which, as the authors illustrate throughout the book, contributes to the cogency of his
arguments. Freyre’s erudition (he was a voracious reader) is amply documented through
an analysis of his personal library and the annotations he left behind in his collection of
books. The authors delight in illustrating how “Freyre read many writers with Brazilian
spectacles, one might even say Pernambucan spectacles” ( p. 48).
The central chapter of the monograph is dedicated to Freyre’s most famous book,
Casa-grande & senzala. In this frst work, Freyre engaged in a lively dialogue with the
colonial past and employed a pioneering methodology that historians today would clas-
sify as cultural history. His poetically Proustian style of writing captivated his audiences.
He banished the somnolent, negative accounts of the past and, instead recreated the
multifaceted world of the Portuguese in the tropics (Freyre later invented the expression
Luso-Tropicalism). In the process, he forged a solution for the more urgent problem of
the moment: the construction of a Brazilian identity. Freyre’s account of Brazil avoids
the melancholic tone of his contemporaries (for example, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda in
Raizes do Brasil, also published in 1933). Miscegenation is presented as a vibrant, creative
force which harmonized racial relations, although he makes it clear that antagonisms
were still tangibly present.
Freyre had a wonderful capacity to imagine otherness. In Casa-grande he examines
the agency of Africans in Brazil and highlights their many contributions. Accused of
writing history from the perspective of the “big house,” Freyre was not, according to
the authors, an elitist, nor was he as conservative as his opponents branded him. Also
Freyre did not argue that Brazil was a racial democracy; as noted by the authors ( p. 182),
he wrote, “No one should understand me as implying that Brazil is a perfect ethnic
democracy. It is not.”
The book is targeted for the nonspecialist and is well suited for an upper-level
undergraduate college course. There are times, however, when Freyre is lost in the myr-
iad of details; undergraduates might have trouble navigating through the vast number of
cultural references. Also the narrative style is, at times, a bit dry, which contrasts sharply
with Freyre’s forid rhetorical style. One would have hoped that a biography of the man
would, like his histories, have been full of life and more “intimate.”
In conclusion, the authors make a compelling argument for the relevance of Freyre
in today’s postmodern world. The authors remind the reader in the last chapter, “Gil-
berto Our Contemporary,” of Freyre’s relevance to global social theory in the twenty-
frst century, noting that he “offered a critique of European reason and modernity from
a tropical point of view” ( p. 191).
amy caldwell de farias, Monmouth College
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-012
Book Reviews / General and Sources 535
536 HAHR / August
Feeding Chilapa: The Birth, Life, and Death of a Mexican Region. By chris kyle.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008. Photographs. Maps. Tables. Notes.
Bibliography. Index. xvi, 269 pp. Cloth, $45.00. Paper, $24.95.
Chris Kyle has composed a fne book on the history of an economic region in southern
Mexico from the pre-Columbian era down to the present. A cultural anthropologist
rather than an historian, the author used both ethnological investigation and archival
research in assembling this study. Kyle divides his work into six chapters that deal sub-
stantially with different historical periods, plus an introduction and conclusion. Since
1990, he has spent about three years in Chilapa and the greater Atemba River basin for
which the town has served as a primary market.
Chilapa served as a regional market throughout the colonial period. Its local
economy relied on cacao beans as a standard of exchange into the early national era.
In the 1790s, Chilapa’s population numbered around 10,000. In the 1840s, it had risen
to 14,000, but by 1860 the population had fallen to 6,500 and would stay at that fgure
for 90 years. During most of the colonial period, the Atemba basin did not constitute a
regional economy, for the few small communities in the region were primarily agricul-
tural. Finally in the 1790s, with the emergence of the cotton cloth industry in Puebla,
Chilapa emerged as a transit center along the route from the cotton-growing areas near
the Pacifc coast. This trade attracted a non-Indian population to the community to
work as long-distance merchants, administrators, and muleteers. The existing popula-
tion, mostly Indian, did not engage in the business.
In the early 1800s, Chilapa developed its own minor textile industry. This domi-
nated its economy into the 1850s, as the town’s transport sector faded during this period.
In 1842, a large-scale local uprising by agrarian renters against their landlords destroyed
the regional government and militia and threw open the countryside to squatters. From
the 1850s through the 1950s, the economy stagnated, showing no impact from either the
Porfriato or the Mexican Revolution.
By the late 1970s, the region could no longer feed itself. With no local options avail-
able, government planners assumed control over the shortage and brought in large quan-
tities of imported grain to Chilapa, where it was distributed to urban consumers free of
charge. This was just one dramatic way in which the government intervened in the local
economy. Its increased activities entailed the destruction of the regional economy. Gov-
ernment bureaucrats became located in Chilapa. Electricity was brought into the region,
to be followed by telecommunications and modern transportation systems. The number
of day workers plummeted while numbers of salaried employees skyrocketed. Increased
numbers of people identifed themselves as physicians, engineers, teachers, nurses, sec-
retaries, and government offcials.
With the national government’s emphasis on economic liberalism in the last quarter
of the twentieth century, the region found itself increasingly integrated into the interna-
tional economy. But this transformation did the region’s population little good. While
some availed themselves of government-funded make-work projects, others migrated to
major Mexican cities or the United States. Chilapa has not been able to fnd a new export
industry and is a service center that depends on remittances from migrants.
While the history of the Atemba region is distinctive, as all regions are, in broader
terms it represents some dozens of remote valleys outside of central Mexico. Such pre-
industrial areas tended to be fragile economic units that survived only by adjusting
themselves to changing patterns in interregional trade.
Kyle has composed a model study of an economic region across time. As he notes,
economics is always intertwined with politics. He makes his book even more useful by
commenting on the larger themes of migration and development schemes. Although his
region is remote, Kyle’s analysis shows how much it has to tell.
john e. kicza, Emeritus, Washington State University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-013
Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World.
By marcy norton. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008. Illustrations. Maps.
Tables. Notes. Glossary. Index. xiv, 339 pp. Cloth, $35.00.
To examine the signifcance and complexity of cross-cultural currents between Europe,
in particular Spain, and the Americas, Marcy Norton probes the history of tobacco and
chocolate, two now ubiquitous products that continue to captivate consumers. Norton
takes readers back to Mesoamerican civilizations and the years prior to the arrival of
the imperialist Spanish at the beginning of the sixteenth century to trace the evolu-
tion of social and sacred practices associated with tobacco and chocolate over the course
of two centuries. She poses the following question: “What, exactly, did it mean for
Europeans — bound as they were to an ideology that insisted on their religious and cul-
tural supremacy — to become consumers of goods that they know were so enmeshed in
the religious practices of the pagan ‘savages’ whom they had conquered” ( p. 3)? Norton
convincingly defends her “revisionist account” ( p. 7) of the European encounter with
tobacco and chocolate. The appropriation of these two goods by the Spanish and other
Europeans was not primarily based on tobacco’s addictive qualities or chocolate’s intrin-
sic appeal. Nor was the attraction the straightforward result of a cultural constructivism
or complete “Europeanizing” of these New World products. Rather, as Norton illus-
trates in this well-documented and engaging study, the assimilation of chocolate and
tobacco by Europeans refects the power of cross-cultural infuence and syncretic blend-
ing of beliefs and practices from both sides of the Atlantic.
Norton has constructed a navigable labyrinth of references to codices, chronicles,
medical treatises, and other historical sources to tell the story of discovery, colonization,
resistance, exchange, adaptation, and the bridging of cultures. The early chapters intro-
duce the social and sacred features of tobacco and chocolate as seen through accounts
by clerics and soldiers, both lesser known and well known, for example, Franciscan friar
and early ethnographer Bernadino de Sahagún, missionary Diego Durán, Jesuit Juan de
Book Reviews / General and Sources 537
538 HAHR / August
Tovar, conquistador Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, priest Baltasar de Herrera, soldier
Bernal Díaz de Castillo, and the writings of Columbus and Cortés. Norton underscores
the ambivalent European views of chocolate and tobacco as repugnant, diabolical instru-
ments but luxurious indulgences, and she provides rich detail about ritual consumption
through the chroniclers’ early connections with the novel products. Colorful examples
illustrate competing tendencies toward rejection and acceptance. Oviedo, for instance,
describes the use of cacao in blood rituals and his own use of cacao butter to cure a
deep foot wound ( p. 59). He also recounts the transformation of enslaved soldier Fran-
cisco Martín into a tobacco-using shaman healer among the Pemeno of Venezuela; he
was later rescued by his Christian compatriots, escaped to return to Indian life, and
was again recaptured and sent to Spain for sentencing ( pp. 95 – 98). Herrera records the
appropriation of Mayan rites of cacao drinking in sacrifcial ceremonies by creole noble-
man Francisco Pech and his family ( pp. 73 – 74). Norton paints a vivid picture of the
complex transmission of indigenous practices.
The middle chapters focus on the Europeans’ view of the medicinal properties of
tobacco and chocolate, the products’ place in ecclesiastical polemic, and their increas-
ing commodifcation. Norton extracts from the sixteenth-century medical literature
key information from the discourses of numerous Spanish and creole physicians and
supports well her thesis that Europeans adapted the new goods as they adopted them.
Noteworthy among the myriad particulars are Norton’s descriptions of the contribu-
tions of physicians Oliva Sabuco de Nantes Barrera, Nicolás Monarde, and Bartolomé
Marradón, who sparked interest and debate about the curative and/or diabolical powers
of chocolate and tobacco in their pioneer works for European audiences. Also, Norton
traces clearly the impact of different governmental policies on tobacco and chocolate as
commodities and shows that ultimately, with or without offcial encouragement, Euro-
peans acquired “American” tastes, demand grew, and both products ultimately four-
ished in robust markets.
The fnal chapters demonstrate tobacco’s and chocolate’s ever complex and inte-
grated usage in Spain and beyond, consumed now by all classes, having by the seventeenth
century royal Spanish imprimatur and a powerful monopolistic trading framework fow-
ing through Europe and the Americas. The epilogue offers a fast-forward look at the
diffusion of these products and invites further in-depth study of the routes of tobacco
and chocolate beyond Spain through Europe.
Full of specifcs supported by scholarly documentation, Norton’s work is a lively,
readable narrative. Informative explanatory captions accompanying the book’s attrac-
tive graphics supply pertinent historical context and guide the reader through the details
of the illustrations. Ideally, the endnotes would have been more accessible as footnotes,
and the volume would have included a bibliography. A map of the entire Atlantic world
would also have been useful. Norton’s fne contribution to the growing body of work
on the history and signifcance of tobacco and chocolate should be of interest not only
to scholars of the Mesoamerican conquest period and of the evolution of cross-cultural
transmission of commodities but also to general readers interested in these ever-popular
susan g. polansky, Carnegie Mellon University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-014
Colonial Period
Invaders as Ancestors: On the Intercultural Making and Unmaking of Spanish Colonialism in
the Andes. By peter gose. Anthropological Horizons. Toronto: University of Toronto
Press, 2008. Illustrations. Map. Figures. Tables. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xvii,
380 pp. Cloth, $80.00. Paper, $35.00.
Invaders as Ancestors is a substantial, ambitious work that plots the transformation of
preconquest (and pre-Inca) Andean ancestor worship into the mountain spirit worship
that has characterized Andean religion over the past two or more centuries. With the
daring and originality that he has brought to the study of preconquest society, Peter
Gose explains this transformation as the result of ongoing responses to colonial chal-
lenges that themselves changed over the course of two centuries. In the process, he
elucidates the politico-cosmological world of indigenous societies as they experienced
Spanish conquest and colonial rule. In a sense, this work stands in counterpoint to the
superb intellectual history of the past three decades that has explored the impact of the
conquest on Spanish and European thought: here the topic is the impact of the conquest
and the centuries of ensuing colonial rule on Andean cosmology and belief. Focusing
on Andean mortuary practices and the ancestors cults that stood at the heart of precon-
quest society, Gose offers a compelling model of how these manifestations of indigenous
cosmology co-opted and coexisted with Spanish customs and rule in the frst century
of the viceroyalty. However, he argues, the seventeenth-century extirpation campaigns
and the widespread crises of the eighteenth century rendered maintenance of ancestor
cults impossible and produced a reorientation of religious practice toward a veneration
of mountain spirits.
This book operates on several scholarly levels with varying degrees of success. Gose
offers sophisticated and detailed discussion of how the Spanish and the conquest were
absorbed into an Andean worldview that had a long tradition of negotiating conquest
through narratives of kinship. This work is essential for understanding how the hierar-
chical relations of colonial rule were constructed at the very heart of the societies of the
república de indios. Grounding his argument and analysis in contemporary texts and archi-
val sources ( particularly of the Lima archbishopric), Gose makes a compelling case for
using incorporation, rather than rejection, as the model for Andean responses to Spanish
demands. Ultimately, though, coexistence and incorporation proved insuffcient for the
maintenance of ancestor cults, as the disruptive forces of the colonial economy and colo-
nial law and the open assaults of the extirpation campaigns of the seventeenth century
Book Reviews / Colonial Period 539
540 HAHR / August
provoked a collapse of the kin-based ayllu and of the elite authority on which ancestor
veneration depended. Here Gose relies on a set narrative from Andean social history:
his descriptions of the decline of the ayllu as anything but a tributary, administrative
association and of the universal crisis of kuraka legitimacy in the eighteenth century will
strike many colonial historians as overly broad and simplistic. The later sections of the
work also tend to reduce the Andes to a single space, sacrifcing attention to regional
variations in social and economic structure, history, and cultural practice to the larger
narrative of religious and cosmological change.
Gose engages in great detail with numerous signifcant but narrow debates in colo-
nial Andean history — most importantly those of the sixteenth century on the origins
of attributions of the deifying term viracocha to Spanish invaders, and on the scope and
signifcance of the anticolonial Taqi Onqoy movement of the 1560s. The detail of his
interventions and the tone and certainty with which the author presents his conclusions
are sure to excite debate, although in places the discussion neglects recent, important
works. (The absence of Catherine Julien’s work from the discussion is particularly unfor-
tunate.) The book makes further contributions to the scholarship on colonial Andean
culture through thoughtful and detailed engagements in the academic debate surround-
ing the extirpation campaigns and the genealogy of the mountain spirits and their place
in Andean religion generally.
Gose marshals this study toward a critique of the simplistic “resistance” model of
colonial Andean social history with its implicit essentialization of indigenous culture,
arguing that such analysis — still dominant (although by no means hegemonic) in the
academic study of colonial Andean history and anthropology — denies the Andean strat-
egies of “mediation, inclusion and assimilation” that have so characterized Andean soci-
eties and enabled their reproduction over fve centuries. In a valuable corrective, Gose
emphasizes Andean religious beliefs and practices as vital and dynamic in their response
to Spanish rule and Catholic evangelization. Far less successful are the work’s claims of
sweeping theoretical signifcance in colonial and postcolonial studies. The introduction
offers a broad challenge to the postcolonial critique put forward by Edward Said, Ranajit
Guha, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and others in the 1980s, without paying attention
either to the elaboration and refning of theorizations of colonial power relations over
the past two decades, or to their formulation in response to Enlightenment and modern
European colonial regimes and their residues rather than to the colonial empire of a
corporatist, absolutist early modern state.
david t. garrett, Reed College
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-015
The Forbidden Lands: Colonial Identity, Frontier Violence, and the Persistence of Brazil’s
Eastern Indians, 1750 – 1830. By hal langfur. Stanford, CA: Stanford University
Press, 2006. Illustrations. Map. Figures. Tables. Appendix. Notes. Bibliography. Index.
xv, 408 pp. Paper, $27.95.
Hal Langfur has written a powerful, groundbreaking study (new in paperback in 2009)
of a region, the Eastern Sertão of Minas Gerais, and a process of violent and incom-
plete conquest that will transform our understanding of the frontier in Brazilian history.
Rejecting the predominant view in the historiography that interprets this history of vio-
lence and conquest as both inevitable and largely inconsequential, Langfur marshals an
impressive array of documentary evidence and yokes this to a sophisticated theoretical
conception of the overlapping and sometimes contradictory forces underpinning fron-
tier occupation. The book takes aim at two myths of frontier history in particular: the
myth of the “Forbidden Lands” as a space devoid of Lusophone settlers that functioned
as an effective buffer between the rich mining zones in central Minas Gerais and the
coast; and the myth of uncoordinated, if not irrational, native resistance to incursions
into this zone. Revising our understanding of these two commonplace assumptions
yields substantial results and provides the book with its conceptual spine. Rethinking the
so-called Forbidden Lands policy entails a thorough reappraisal of the complex relations
between crown and captaincy authorities, as well as between the latter and the constantly
shifting population of settlers in the region. Revising the history of native resistance
underscores the contingent and incomplete nature of the conquest of these lands and
highlights the transculturative experience of this process lived over an extended period
of time by common people as well as by the more commonly documented political and
military leaders. In short, this book represents a major contribution in political, social,
and cultural history.
The book is divided in two parts, the frst concentrating on peeling back the layers
of myth and half-truth surrounding the politics and political economy of the Forbid-
den Lands policy. The second section focuses close attention on the history of violent
confict and the experiences of settlers, military men, and indigenous peoples in the
Eastern Sertão. Throughout both sections, careful readings of the documentary record,
often derived from seldom visited corners of the archives, are combined with a solid
theoretical framework that will appeal to the majority of social and cultural historians.
We learn, in the frst section, that the aims of the crown — to suppress contraband and
control the spatial distribution of settlement in the colony by maintaining a “wilderness”
buffer peopled by “savages” — came into increasing confict with the aims of regional
administrators, who saw the Eastern Sertão as a space of mineral and agricultural wealth
and its indigenous population as more of a threat to prosperity than a useful adjunct to
colonial policy. These captaincy offcials, in turn, found themselves responding to the
demands of settlers, many of whom were moving into the supposed Forbidden Lands in
search of economic opportunities in response to the decline in the mining economy after
the 1750s. The combined forces of captaincy offcials and settlers thereby inaugurated
Book Reviews / Colonial Period 541
542 HAHR / August
the violent occupation of the Eastern Sertão in earnest from the 1760s onward. Thus,
Langfur demonstrates, the conquest and war that engulfed the region began not in 1808,
with the formal declaration of war against the Botocudo, but decades earlier, in at least
86 documented instances of major confict and, presumably, many more cases that went
unnoted in the record.
Pivoting from the knowledge that confict was constant and largely derived from
local or regional causes, Langfur explores the sources of violence, the strategies of the
parties involved, and the evolution of occupation in the Eastern Sertão. Part of the
explanation for violence stemmed from the conficting desires of the state, settlers, and
indigenous peoples to control space. The book makes clear that the racial geographies
and hierarchies of the Portuguese colonial world provided both ground and pattern for
violent conquest as well as sites of weakness that native peoples could exploit with adroit
planning and an increasing store of cultural knowledge with respect to the motives
and fears of settlers and colonial offcials. Indigenous resistance tended to avoid direct
confrontations with armed opponents and focused instead on ambush techniques and
attacks on vulnerable settlers. These attacks were not merely defensive in nature. Lang-
fur’s reading of the sources allows him to show how natives sought to capture territory
as well as defend it. The four main protagonists of his story — the crown, the captaincy
offcials, settlers, and indigenous peoples — found themselves locked in an increasingly
intense cycle of violence. In the long run, to be sure, the outcome was all but certain: the
lands would be settled and the indigenous population subdued or exterminated. What
makes this such an important book is the way Langfur recaptures the texture and con-
tingency of the long struggle leading up to this dénouement.
zephyr frank, Stanford University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-016
Imaginarios ambiguos, realidades contradictorias: Conductas y representaciones de los negros y
mulatos novohispanos: Siglos XVI y XVII. By úrsula camba ludlow. Mexico City: El
Colegio de México, 2008. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. 227 pp. Paper.
Imaginarios ambiguos, realidades contradictorias must be lauded as one of the frst publica-
tions by the Centro de Estudios Históricos of El Colegio de México regarding Africans
and Afro-descendants in Mexico. This in itself is a historical event in a realm where until
1946 the African presence and persistence was largely negated and thereafter minimized
through the mestizaje (miscegenation) fallacy. In Mexico, the offcial story states that the
African presence in Mexico was insignifcant and that African genes and cultural endow-
ments disappeared through mixing.
The work, based on the author’s doctoral dissertation, seeks to analyze the rep-
resentations of the “black and mulatto group” in the imaginary of New Spain, a colo-
nial Spanish region in the Americas that included present-day Mexico. The thesis of the
study is that “at times [blacks and mulattos] appear loyal to their masters, always cun-
ning, violent, rebellious and even comic and vivacious. They form a prism where differ-
ent realities, often ambiguous and even contradictory, are refected” ( p. 17). The author
points out that she is not concerned with “the ‘real’ condition of blacks, but the ideas
and prejudices relative to them” ( p. 22). Her work aims to “uncover the manner in which
different cultural fgures cross and overlap in practices, representations, or productions”
to show that “there is no practice or structure that is not produced by the contradictory
and clashing representations by which individuals and groups make sense of their own
world” ( p. 22).
The analysis is divided into fve chapters. The frst is “a review of the origins,
modalities and changes of slavery from antiquity to modern Europe” ( p. 24). Chapters
2 and 3 consider the legal realm: “legislation, particularly on the prohibitions imposed
on blacks and mulattos during the XVI and XVII centuries,” and “the diverse postures
witnesses and those who reported a crime had toward a committed offense or a fght pro-
voked by blacks and mulattos” ( p. 24). Chapter 4 looks into “the sphere of the symbolic
and emotional beyond ‘institutional’ postures,” while chapter 5 deals with the literary
and iconographic black and mulatto image ( p. 25).
The work, like an important portion of domestic and international academic works
about Africans and Afro-descendants in Mexico, rests on a Eurocentric framework. The
history of thinking, the sources and critical tools for analysis utilized in Imaginarios
ambiguos disregard Afrocentric theory, such as that proposed by Cheikh Anta Diop and
Molef Kete Asante. The Afrocentric idea introduces Africans and Afro-descendants as
cultural agents and not as mere subjects. This is of particular importance to a work
that deals with Africans and Afro-descendants as its central topic of study. Imaginarios
ambiguos produces an artifcial group of “negros and mulattos” for the sake of studying
a random number of colonial documents, isolating a portion of Afro-descendants from
other Africans and Afro-descendants in New Spain and the rest of the Americas. This
runs contrary to current tendencies in Africana studies.
Úrsula Camba Ludlow states that there are no previous systematic studies regard-
ing the representations that the viceregal society made of blacks and mulattos as natu-
rally strong, inclined to excesses, but also arrogant, audacious, and ordinary ( pp. 17 – 18).
While this may be so in the case of the particular New Spain documents studied from
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Richard L. Jackson has carried out a systematic
study of the black image in Latin American literature from Lope de Rueda’s Eufemia in
1576 to the 1970s. Imaginarios ambiguos would have gained a deeper insight by consider-
ing the additional points of view of Jackson and the current Africana approaches to the
study of African diaspora issues.
Imaginarios ambiguos mistakenly identifes as “black and mulatto” some of the decla-
rations that appear in the Spanish documents studied. It fails to recognize that the Span-
ish legal profession utilized standardized arguments and many of those were the prod-
uct of Eurocentric prejudices regarding Africans and Afro-descendants. The nonwhite
voices in the Spanish colonial legal and literary documents at best were the product of
Book Reviews / Colonial Period 543
544 HAHR / August
Spanish ventriloquism. The Spanish stories regarding Afro behavior need to be analyzed
with a lens capable of looking beyond their face value.
Pages 82, 86, 87, 90, 91, 94, and 95 are mistakenly blank where print is missing; also,
the cover began to unglue during the frst reading.
marco polo hernández cuevas, North Carolina Central University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-017
Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500 – 1800.
Edited by daniela bleichmar, paula de vos, kristin huffne, and
kevin sheehan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009. Illustrations.
Maps. Tables. Notes. Index. xxii, 427 pp. Cloth.
“Let others do the inventing!” said Miguel de Unamuno and launched the notion, much
affected by historians for most of the twentieth century, that Spaniards were uninter-
ested in participating in modern science. Portuguese historians, by contrast, in the same
period, tended to insist that science was their compatriots’ invention, at least in the felds
of cartography and navigation, and that their nation contributed enormously to the sci-
entifc aspects of the Renaissance and to the scientifc revolution. On both counts, revi-
sion is well under way. Portugal and Spain both now seem unexceptional cases, consis-
tent with the history of western European science in general.
It is no longer possible to assert, with any confdence, that Portuguese navigation
was peculiarly scientifc at an exceptionally early date. Historians do not now represent
the Portuguese prince known as Henry the Navigator as an organizer of scientifc semi-
nars or even as a navigator. Scholarship has exploded the belief that anyone, in Portugal
or elsewhere, navigated by means of scientifc instruments in the ffteenth century. Por-
tuguese explorers seem rarely to have made or used charts. In any case, breakthroughs
in realistic cartography now appear to owe at least as much to war, statecraft, and chang-
ing tastes as to the needs of seafaring. Spain, meanwhile, appears from recent and cur-
rent research to have been the homeland of a great deal of formerly overlooked practical
technological innovation under the Habsburg dynasty, especially in civil and military
engineering. The country was a beacon of state investment in science under the Bour-
bons and an arena of geographical and ethnographical inquiry and debate throughout
the early modern period. Spain and Portugal, in consequence, have been restored to the
scientifc mainstream. The former no longer seems especially laggard or nonparticipa-
tory, the latter no longer a herald or pioneer.
Part of the initiative underlying these shifts has come from historians of early
modern science, who have concentrated on the infuence of hermetic intellectual tradi-
tions and social and cultural change. Part has come from revisionism in Iberian histo-
riography, with practitioners striving to reject old orthodoxies. Study of Spanish and
Portuguese overseas expansion adds a further dimension, showing how much the New
World and other frontiers of settlement and trade contributed to the development of
early modern European science: the accumulation of scientifc specimens for European
Wunderkammer; the stimulus exploration provided for cartography and navigation, with
implicit effects on astronomy and geodesy; the opportunities of cultural exchange with
oriental and other indigenous scientifc traditions; the way colonies functioned as forums
of discussion about geographic and ethnographic subjects; and above all, perhaps, the
sheer challenge to existing mentalities posed by the discovery and observation of previ-
ously unexperienced environments.
The studies collected by Daniela Bleichmar, Paula De Vos, Kristin Huffne, and
Kevin Sheehan include some useful contributions to the feld. David Goodman (Spanish
America) and Palmira Fontes and Henrique Leitão ( Portugal) launch the volume with
well-informed summaries of the historiography, though Goodman spends a surprising
amount of time on what he represents as the infuence of postmodernism. His charge
that J. B. Harley warped the history of cartography in a postmodern direction seems
ill conceived, for while Harley severed many constraints traditional in the study of the
subject, he did not share any of the defning tics of postmodernism or sacrifce commit-
ment to a search for objectively verifable accounts of the past. The introductory essays
stress themes repeated at intervals throughout the volume: the imperfections of current
research and the paramount infuence of the technical needs of imperial exploration,
agronomy, health, and defense. Antonio Barrera-Osorio, for instance, takes us on a trip
among bilge pumps and ethnobotanical enquiries in the sixteenth century, and Timo-
thy Walker provides a fascinating study of Portuguese enquirers’ search for remedies
for unfamiliar diseases. Outstanding contributions include that on Nieremberg by Juan
Pimentel, who shows the compatibility of his subject’s religious and scientifc thinking;
Paula De Vos’s entertaining account of an eighteenth-century bishop’s cabinet of curi-
osities; and Anna More’s demonstration of how personal circumstances affected the sci-
entifc vision of Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora. Fiona Clark and Júnia Ferreira Furtado
provide interesting instances of how creole political and economic agendas infuenced
scientifc projects in the eighteenth century.
The book’s big defciencies are in coherence — always a problem for collections
of this kind, in which broad-brush impasto and speckly pointillism combine, without
evoking an overall shape or covering the canvas — and a frustrating lack of global and
comparative reference. If the authors or editors had taken into account the huge amount
of parallel work available on the British, Dutch, French, Russian, Swedish, and Dan-
ish empires, they might have been able to transcend the rather parochial conclusion
(expressed in the afterword by Noble David Cook and Alexandra Parma Cook) that
“probings . . . moving most markedly in the Iberian peninsula” contributed alongside
those of northern Europeans to “the rise of European science” ( p. 310). A more interest-
ing hypothesis might then arise: that without feedback from European powers’ imperial
outreach a “scientifc revolution” would have been impossible.
felipe fernández-armesto, University of Notre Dame
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-018
Book Reviews / Colonial Period 545
546 HAHR / August
Pestilence and Headcolds: Encountering Illness in Colonial Mexico. By sherry felds.
New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. Notes. Glossary. Bibliography. xxi,
188 pp. Cloth, $60.00.
Unlike many frst books that have a very narrow focus, this prizewinning history mono-
graph (available on the Gutenberg.e open access Web site) is constructed broadly enough
to attract readers of various backgrounds and interests. At the outset the author apolo-
gizes for subjects not covered. For example, gender, class, and ethnicity are left for future
in-depth study. She warns that her colonial periodization is largely unitary, with little
exploration of the nature of changes occurring between 1521 and 1808. In spite of the
warnings, she covers these and much more.
The author points out that the work “explains the cultures of health and illness that
were formed amid the high mortality and morbidity rates during the colonial years of
Mexico’s history” ( p. xi). The general order is geographical and chronological. In chap-
ter 1 the author focuses on the nature of health and sickness in Mexico, when possible
using the words of those experiencing it. She begins in the centuries prior to Spanish
contact then moves to the colonial era, starting with the newly introduced acute com-
municable diseases, moving on to endemic diseases, and ending with everyday ailments.
Her sources here and elsewhere are varied: codices, biographies of doctors and medi-
cal institutions, personal letters, traveler’s accounts, the rich results of the government
ordered relaciones geográfcas of the 1570s – 80s, and texts written by health care givers of
one kind or another; all these sources are exceptionally rich for colonial Mexico. And
she mines the less-used ex-votos, small votive paintings that were often contracted and
placed as gifts in shrines dedicated to one of the “saints of the church” most often associ-
ated with miraculous cures.
In the second chapter the author deftly surveys the range of medical providers,
beginning with the “educated,” the nature of training dependent on the cultural com-
plex. For Mesoamerica the emphasis is on the Nahua, and the sources are surprisingly
good. For the healers in New Spain she devotes sections to the licensed physicians, bar-
ber surgeons, midwives, and the unlicensed lay healers from curanderos to simple peddlers
of false cures. She concludes the chapter with a fne analysis of the role of the church in
treating the ill, and the nature and effectiveness of hospitals. The subsequent chapter
deals with Nahua concepts of the body and the causes of disease, and the richly detailed
fourth chapter shifts back to the Europeans. In it she traces the continued impact of
humoralism on medicine and the ideas concerning the spread of disease. Her discus-
sion of the supposed impact of noxious airs, as well as lack of moderation in lifestyle
(including sin) are well peppered with revealing frst-hand accounts. In the last chapter
she explores the nature of a “culture of sickness” in which death was never far away. The
church’s role in possible miraculous cures is also examined.
Caution must be exercised at some points. For example, Fields falls into the common
assumption that the catastrophic impact of the 1520 – 21 smallpox epidemic is explained
by the long isolation of Amerindians peoples from the Old World pathogens (true) that
had “forced the immunological systems of Old World peoples to erect defenses” (false)
( p. 9). Although she characterizes some Europeans as “immunological supermen,” they
did not, contrary to what she reports, possess “one of the most evolved immunological
systems in the world at that time” ( p. 10). Instead it was the almost constant exposure
to Old World pathogens that helped protect the Europeans from the massive mortality
confronting Amerindians in their initial experience with new epidemics. Europeans who
lived in isolated communities for three generations without exposure to smallpox, for
example, faced the same massive morbidity and mortality that Amerindians experienced.
And, for a variety of reasons, the frst Europeans reaching American soil lost one-third
to two-thirds of their companions within two or three years. The statement that guinea
pigs “may have been the source of Chagas’s disease or leishmaniasis” ( p. 11) is mislead-
ing at best, and the assumption that humans did not live in close contact with llamas
and alpacas, and that their herds were never as large as European herds, both arguments
made by Jared Diamond, are unfounded. As Jorge Flores Ochoa has pointed out, herds
of llamas and alpacas reached 50,000 head and remained numerous even following their
destruction by the Spanish conquest and civil wars in the central Andes. Although Fields
analyzed numerous descriptions of the symptoms and devastation of the epidemics of
1545 – 48 and 1576 – 80, she did not question the recent thesis of Rodolfo Acuña-Soto and
others that the cause was native American hemorrhagic fevers, likely carried by rodent
vectors, rather than the commonly assumed Old World typhus.
The advantage of the e-book venue is immediately apparent in comparing the stan-
dard book format published by Columbia University Press with the online version. Due
to cost, publishers are increasingly reluctant to include color illustrations, maps, and
sometimes complex tables. While the print volume contains no illustrations, the open
access version (http://www.gutenberg-e.org) is flled with full-color illustrations, some
from Nahua codices, as well as colonial ex-votos, which would not be feasible to include
in a standard book. The quality and accessibility of both illustrations and text makes the
book convenient for advanced surveys as well as seminars, and suitable for the under-
graduate as well as the advanced student. In sum, Fields provides one of the best broad
introductions available on medical theory and practice in colonial Mexico.
noble david cook, Florida International University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-019
Book Reviews / Colonial Period 547
548 HAHR / August
Patrons, Partisans, and Palace Intrigues: The Court Society of Colonial Mexico, 1702 – 1710.
By christoph rosenmüller. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2008.
Illustrations. Maps. Tables. Appendixes. Notes. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. x,
278 pp. Paper, $34.95.
This book is an interesting story of greed, corruption, and the clash of local Mexican
interests versus those of the newly formed Spanish Bourbon monarchy under Philip V.
It is one of the few studies in English concerning a viceregal tenure, and certainly the
only in print concerning a Mexican viceroy during the early eighteenth century. For that
alone, author Christoph Rosenmüller should be commended. In addition, the book sheds
some light on the turmoil caused both in Spain and Mexico by the War of the Spanish
Succession. Within Spain a large number of the elites saw the assumption to the throne
by a Bourbon as the frst step to a total French takeover of the Spanish state, and hence a
challenge to their infuence and prestige. Many abandoned Philip V and joined the forces
of the Austrian claimant. Meanwhile, within Mexico, many, especially among the elites,
pondered as to which claimant they should support. There were rumors of conspiracies
against the new king. However, in the end local interests generally were of paramount
concern to most Mexicans. Yet they did wonder what would transpire and what was the
character of the new viceroy destined for their shores.
Francisco Férnandez de la Cueva Enríquez (the tenth Duke of Albuquerque) was
greeted with a lot of fanfare: gilded carriages, bullfghts, and public ceremonies and
festivals. Few, though, could have envisioned what his viceregal tenure might be at its
outset. One of the themes that Rosenmüller emphasizes is the patron and client rela-
tionship, which has both engendered acceptance and controversy among scholars with
regard to its role in Latin American history (and more specifcally Mexico). Here, this
reviewer believes an omission of some signifcance exists in that Magali Sarfatti’s Spanish
Bureaucratic-Patrimonialism in America is not listed in the bibliography or discussed.
Rosenmüller certainly demonstrates that the Duke of Albuquerque acted more like
a Hapsburg viceroy than a Bourbon viceroy so characteristic of the reformist viceroys,
such as, in particular, Antonio María Bucareli and the second Conde de Revillagigedo,
who undertook a number of reforms linked to the late eighteenth century. This viceroy
marched to his own beat. Viceroy Albuquerque arrived with an entourage that helped
him to occupy the viceregal palace; he then had to dispense patronage to them in the
form of various colonial positions. The viceroy moreover had to appoint many of the
Mexican elite, who became his cohorts in the administration of New Spain during his
Probably one of more interesting parts of Rosenmüller’s study is the saga of the
struggle between the Duke of Albuquerque and the Sánchez de Tagle family. What this
story reveals is that Albuquerque was an opportunist seeking to enrich himself ( primar-
ily through the contraband trade), which resulted in his supporting one group of elites
over the other. He expected their loyalty, and they in turn expected special consideration
from the viceroy, including appointments to colonial positions. The author, through
analysis of the behavior of this viceroy and his association with various opposing Mexi-
can elites, reinforces the patron and client relationship, which is a persistent theme of
this book. Albuquerque supported the group opposing the oligopoly in trade dominated
by the Sevillian Consulado. This group heartily complained about the high prices paid
for the goods coming by way of Spain. It was because of this commercial oppression,
at least in their minds, that they involved themselves in the contraband trade. We fnd
through Rosenmüller’s thorough investigation that Albuquerque decided not to enforce
the royal laws against contraband trade and instead to proft from it. On the other side
was the oligopoly faction championed by the Sánchez de Tagle family. We must surmise
in part that Albuquerque’s confict with them was due to their status within the opposing
commercial faction. In the end the viceroy’s involvement in the contraband trade and
his apparent disloyalty in not carrying out royal reforms cost him a tidy sum after his
viceregency and his return to Spain. Through a junta, after taking extensive testimony
concerning his malfeasance, he was assessed a fne of 700,000 pesos, and in return the
crown decided not to seek a harsher remedy, which might have resulted from a juicio de
All in all this is very good study of a viceregal tenure, albeit a very corrupt one, as
the author demonstrates. All scholars and students of Mexican and colonial Latin Ameri-
can history could proft from reading this work.
john s. leiby, Paradise Valley Community College
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-020
Redes sociales e instituciones comerciales en el imperio español, siglos XVII al XIX.
By antonio ibarra and guillermina del valle pavón. Mexico City: Instituto
Mora / UNAM, Facultad de Economía, 2007. Illustrations. Tables. Appendix. Notes.
Bibliographies. Index. 340 p. Paper.
According to Guillermina del Valle Pavón and Antonio Ibarra’s introduction, this book
includes 11 works that were “written, inspired and discussed” by those who participated
in a research project titled De Sevilla a Manila: Redes sociales y corporaciones comerciales
en el mundo iberoamericano, siglos XVI – XIX, fnanced by the Fundación Carolina and
directed by Ibarra. The editors’ stated goal is to give a broad view of Latin American
economic dynamics during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and to illustrate the
importance that family and paisanaje (common geographical origin) links had in the eco-
nomic organization of the Spanish Empire. Nevertheless, while the individual articles
are valuable, as a collection of essays the book is weak. Its geographical and chrono-
logical approach is unbalanced: most of the essays focus on New Spain or the eighteenth
century, above all the last decades, losing in this way the intended imperial view as
well as the potential of a genuinely comparative perspective. Furthermore, not all the
authors defne the “social networks perspective” as the theoretical basis of their essays.
Finally, it lacks a fnal section that could help to compare the main ideas proposed by the
Book Reviews / Colonial Period 549
550 HAHR / August
Five of the 11 essays are case studies that focus on one commercial business or
merchant active during the second half of the eighteenth century. That is the case of
the works written by del Valle on the Conde de San Bartolomé de Xala, a very power-
ful Mexican merchant; Clara Elena Suárez Argüello on Pedro de Vértiz, a rich Mexi-
can arriero; María Concepción Gavira Márquezon on the commercial enterprise of the
Gutiérrez brothers in Cádiz; and Álvaro Alcántara Lópezon on Joseph Quintero, a mem-
ber by marriage of the Fanyutti family from the province of Acayucan in Veracruz. Valle
illustrates the most important features of the social and commercial networks created by
and around the most powerful Mexican merchants during this period. Nevertheless, she
does not address paisanaje as deeply as she could, given how crucial a bond it was in this
kind of web. Suárez studies the economic activities of Vértiz, though the social organi-
zation and administration of his business is secondary in her analysis. Alcántara argues
that the main subject of his essay, Joseph Quintero, worked to reinforce his own social
status and not that of his family by marriage. This idea is at least surprising. It would be
interesting to investigate whether this unusual attitude can be explained according to his
characteristics as an arriviste. The best work of these fve is Gavira’s on the Gutiérrez
brothers. Her sources, above all the private and commercial correspondence so uncom-
mon in this kind of work, make this essay especially valuable. She studies the career of
the two brothers after their departure from their homeland. She also includes a very
unusual analysis of their situation as immigrants living in an alien environment.
Three of the essays delimit and analyze commercial circuits in different geographi-
cal and chronological contexts. Renate Pieper and Philipp Lesiak study the circulation of
azogue (mercury) and wool through the commercial centers of Seville and Antwerp dur-
ing the frst decades of the seventeenth century. Luis Alonso Álvarez describes the com-
mercial relations between the Philippines and New Spain and how they were affected
by the Bourbon Reforms. Ibarra examines what he calls redes de negociación (business
networks) created by the most powerful merchants from Guadalajara during the last
years of the seventeenth century. This is the most interesting work of these three. Ibarra
draws the networks using the documentation related to the Consulado de Guadalajara’s
administration of the taxation of Atlantic trade (avería). Unfortunately, at seven pages,
his work is too short to fully explore this topic.
Finally, four of the essays analyze different aspects of commercial corporations or
collectives. María Teresa Huerta studies the economic strategies developed by the Mexi-
can merchants who were involved in the production of silver in the north of the vice-
royalty of New Spain during the second half of the seventeenth century. Javier Kraselsky
writes on the origin of the Consulado de Comerciantes de Buenos Aires, describing its
Juntas de Comercio and stressing the goals and strategies, both political and economic,
of those who traded from that city at the end of the eighteenth century. Oscar Cruz Bar-
ney examines the origin of the diputaciones foráneas or the appointment of representatives
by the Consulado de México in other markets of New Spain during the frst years of the
nineteenth century. Antonio García de León’s essay is the most remarkable of these four.
He studies the Portuguese mercantile community in seventeenth-century Veracruz. He
concludes by stressing the economic importance of the persecution of the Portuguese
merchants of that New Spanish port, considering this to be one of the factors that deter-
mined the crisis of the Atlantic trade.
juan carlos sola-corbacho, Texas Christian University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-021
Castigar y perdonar cuando conviene a la república: La justicia penal de Córdoba del Tucumán,
siglos XVII y XVIII. By alejandro agüero. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Políticos y
Constitucionales, 2008. 488 pp. Paper.
Como su título lo indica, este libro aborda el desarrollo de la justicia penal municipal
(siglos XVII y XVIII) en Córdoba, ciudad de la gobernación del Tucumán ( parte del
Virreinato del Perú hasta 1776 y con posterioridad a esta fecha, del Virreinato del Río
de la Plata).
El trabajo se introduce con unas consideraciones teóricas sobre el “paradigma
estatalista” ( p. 16) que ha primado en los estudios sobre la justicia penal durante el Anti-
guo Régimen. Conforme a este modelo historiográfco, basado en la estrecha vinculación
entre derecho penal y absolutismo en la modernidad, los municipios americanos peri-
féricos sólo gozaron de autonomía en los primeros tiempos coloniales, imponiéndose la
hegemonía de la justicia penal real con el reinado de Felipe II, a través del nombramiento
de regidores y venta de regidurías.
Frente a tales postulados, Agüero ofrece el análisis de una judicatura local y peri-
férica ejercida por los jueces municipales, con el fn de demostrar las “desviaciones” del
modelo de una justicia real y hegemónica de la monarquía absoluta. En lugar de la preva-
lencia de unas magistraturas sobre otras, el autor habla de un “cuerpo indiviso” ( p. 41) en
el que se integran las justicias regias (o justicias mayores: gobernador, corregidor, alcalde
mayor) y las locales o corporativas (alcaldes ordinarios del Cabildo). Una de las claves
interpretativas para comprender esa “legitimación dual del poder” (state law y community
law) en Indias se encuentra en la tradición medieval castellana, que consolidó el poder
de los municipios en virtud de los privilegios otorgados por el Príncipe, fuente de toda
Durante la mayor parte del periodo estudiado primó en Córdoba una justicia crimi-
nal estrechamente ligada al poder municipal y ejercida por jueces legos elegidos por los
vecinos, a su vez miembros de la elite local. Esas “desviaciones” con respecto al mod-
elo institucional regio, que prescribía un sistema judicial letrado e independiente de los
poderes locales, obedecieron a circunstancias tales como la distancia de la metrópoli y
lejanía de las instancias judiciales superiores, la falta de letrados y la no exigencia de desar-
raigo de los jueces inferiores en la jurisdicción de su competencia. A ello debe sumarse
la presencia de una sólida aristocracia local (vecinos encomenderos) que monopolizaba
los cargos judiciales, el juego de las redes sociales (lazos familiares, de amistad y com-
padrazgo) que comprendían tanto a los jueces reales como a los locales, la ausencia del
Book Reviews / Colonial Period 551
552 HAHR / August
concepto de derecho como ley y la “creencia en un orden natural trascendente” ( p. 133),
bajo cuyos preceptos se confundían delito y pecado.
A lo largo de las tres partes que componen el libro, se analizan las magistraturas que
desempeñaron la justicia criminal ordinaria en Córdoba del Tucumán, la cultura penal
castellano-indiana ( por ejemplo, en lo que atañe a los criterios de minoridad, rusticidad
y miserabilidad aplicados a los indígenas, induciendo a atenuar las penas salvo cuando
afectaba a la integridad de las encomiendas) y el desarrollo de los procesos judiciales.
Particularmente, resulta de interés el estudio de las causas criminales, enfatizando en el
lenguaje discursivo relativo a delitos y penas y otros aspectos procesales; todo ello condu-
cente a demostrar el cumplimiento de lo que Agüero denomina “determinación cultural
del derecho”, una praxis sujeta a las costumbres locales. Los procesos seleccionados como
muestra permiten delimitar una tipología de delitos y castigos más frecuentes, como
resultado de una justicia lega (aunque no desprovista de cierta cultura jurídica), amparada
en la doctrina del arbitrio judicial y defensora de lo que convenía a la paz y orden de la
república: un orden basado en la primacía de los valores religiosos (la ley divina) y en los
intereses de la aristocracia local (encomenderos y hacendados) en un espacio autónomo
de poder.
Con relación al impacto de las reformas borbónicas en la justicia municipal de Cór-
doba ( pp. 118 – 124), aunque sin obviar los indicios de cambio, Agüero discute algunas
posiciones historiográfcas que sostienen el reforzamiento del poder central de la monar-
quía absoluta, exponiendo argumentos que confrman la continuidad del control insti-
tucional por parte de las familias principales de la ciudad, a través de las nuevas fguras
jurídicas de ámbito local.
El autor se basa principalmente en documentación del Archivo Histórico de Cór-
doba, Argentina: fondos de Protocolos de las Escribanías de número y de Libros del
Crimen, 1664 – 1810, y serie de Gobierno. A ello se suma una importante colección de
fuentes impresas y bibliografía referida a la historia jurídica y al gobierno y sociedad
En síntesis, un libro interesante y útil para los especialistas en derecho indiano y
sus relaciones con la judicatura peninsular y regia, así como para el estudio de las elites
beatriz vitar, Universidad de Sevilla
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-022
National Period
The Mexican Wars for Independence. By timothy j. henderson. New York: Hill and
Wang, 2009. Map. Notes. Bibliographic Essay. Index. xxiii, 246 pp. Cloth, $25.00.
In The Mexican Wars for Independence Timothy J. Henderson generously seasons his
retelling of this familiar tale with interesting, often enlightening anecdotes that refect
the infuence of the new cultural history. Take for example his depiction of Father
Miguel Hidalgo’s revolt as a Keystone Cops comedy of errors, or his characterization
of the massacre of the Spanish and creole defenders of the Alhóndiga as “an impromptu
religious festa . . . of blood, fre, liquor and plunder” ( p. 80). His supple exposition of
the confict between Hidalgo’s successors, Ignacio López Rayón (who saw the move-
ment as one to restore Ferdinand VII) and José María Morelos (who sought a defnitive
break with Spain) illuminates differences among the patriots that have often been mini-
mized in favor of the nationalist myth set in stone during the 1910 centennial by Porfrio
Díaz’s erection of the “great monument to independence on . . . the Paseo de la Reforma”
( p. 214). Particularly praiseworthy is Henderson’s epilogue, in which he rehabilitates
Agustin Iturbide’s reputation by sympathetically reexamining his crucial role in bring-
ing about independence and by calling attention to the injustice of his exclusion from
Mexico’s pantheon of national heroes.
But while Henderson’s strong narrative is his work’s strength, his reliance on nar-
rative to the virtual exclusion of analysis is its weakness. Apart from his epilogue, the
closest he comes is his observation that, while independence “was but one war spanning
the decade [1810 – 21] . . . in a more profound sense . . . Mexico witnessed many wars
during the independence era” ( p. xxi). Mexican independence consisted of “many small
wars” fought by “the rank and fle of the movement, mostly impoverished Indians and
castes . . . [to improve] their lot in life,” which became interwoven with the larger “civil
war” waged by creoles “against the Spanish armies . . . to achieve autonomy or indepen-
dence” ( pp. xxi – xxii). This combination of a lack of analysis and welter of detail (though
fascinating) overwhelms by putting the reader too close to the historical canvas. Just as
distance is necessary to appreciate the work of pointillist painter Georges Seurat, one
needs distance to see the larger picture of Mexico’s independence struggle. Moreover,
Henderson’s intended audience is unclear. Is his work meant for university students or
for a broader popular audience? If he seeks a popular audience unfamiliar with the basic
outline of events, then his political narrative is too detailed, too complex. If university
students are his intended audience, then his failure to address the sophisticated historiog-
raphy of Mexican independence presents a signifcant shortcoming. Although he thanks
Eric Van Young, Jaime Rodríquez O., and a host of others in his acknowledgements and
suggestions for further reading, he makes little or no use of their work.
Henderson also overlooks the “distinct tradition” literature which offers a ready-
made explanation for the preference for monarchy expressed by most patriots, a pref-
erence that readers might otherwise fnd mystifying. I believe Henderson’s pointed
Book Reviews / National Period 553
554 HAHR / August
dismissal of Hidalgo’s expression of monarchical sympathies as “a calculated lie” is a fun-
damental misreading of the goals pursued by the majority of Mexican patriots ( p. 106).
Only in Morelos’s “Sentiments of the Nation” of 1813 and in the Constitution of Apat-
zingán do we fnd unequivocal calls for a republic. Preference for monarchy is clearly
revealed in the language of the Plan de Iguala. As Henderson notes, when Iturbide and
the national junta set aside the Spanish Constitution of 1812 in favor of a new document,
opposition arose at once and the “provisional constitution was never actually enacted”
( p. 190). When a republic fnally was brought about it was by the personal political ambi-
tions of Antonio López de Santa Anna, who “only a few months earlier . . . had been as
enthusiastic a champion of monarchy . . . as anyone in Mexico” ( p. 200).
My criticisms notwithstanding, there is much to recommend Henderson’s work and
I expect most readers will agree with William Beezley’s evaluation that Henderson “has
written the best short history [of independence] available” (cover notes).
william schell jr., Murray State University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-023
San Martín: Argentine Soldier, American Hero. By john lynch. New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press, 2009. Maps. Illustrations. Bibliography. Index. xiv, 265 pp.
Cloth, $35.00.
At frst glance one might perceive this work by the distinguished historian John Lynch
as a mere biography. However, this is not case. Once you begin to read you fnd a highly
nuanced study that sheds serious new light on both the life and times of one of the great-
est fgures of the Latin American wars of independence, José de San Martín. Lynch
brings to life the inner man and his psyche as it infuenced his actions, which had a
decided impact upon the course of Latin American history. Lynch purposely leads us to
contemplate the question, without explicitly stating it, of what would have been the his-
torical evolution of Latin American and South America if there had been no San Martín.
In this regard this book will be pondered for a long time to come.
For more than two decades before deciding to return to his native Argentina, San
Martín was a loyal soldier and servant of the Spanish monarchy, despite his American
birth. Yet beneath the surface, the future Liberator was always contemplating his Ameri-
can origins and also what he saw as the foundering of the Spanish Empire. He eventually
came to the view, displayed by his actions and written words, that the yoke of Spanish
rule within Latin America (and especially South America) must end if he and his native
land were to reach their destiny. For San Martín the end of Spanish rule was not just the
end of Spanish oppression but the fulfllment of a destiny, independence, so that all of
the Latin American nations could seek out their destined economic and political futures.
As Lynch demonstrates, the reforms (if we choose to use this word) that occurred during
the latter stages of the colonial period unleashed a desire for freedom ( particularly in the
realm of trade and economics). San Martín fervently subscribed to what was becoming
the liberal doctrine of classical economics — Latin Americans needed to be in control of
their economic and fnancial destiny. San Martín made the excuse of needing to attend to
his family’s fnancial affairs to gain the requisite authority to leave his military position
and made his way back to his beloved homeland of Argentina, in the midst of the revolu-
tionary turmoil of the era. During this period and thereafter he continuously clamored
for British aide for the cause of Latin American independence, yet the interests of Great
Britain did not coincide with the interests of Latin America, as Lynch so successfully
demonstrates here and in his previous overviews of the independence movements in
Spanish America.
San Martín eventually gained the governorship of Cuyo, from whence he fashioned
an army that began in January 1817 to move out to seize Chile, and which accomplished
a great feat in military historical annals by traversing the mighty Andes. His forces
marched into the capital of Santiago on February 12, 1817. However, royalist forces con-
tinued to contest the Liberator’s forces until their truly decisive defeat on the plains
of Maipo on April 3, 1818. San Martín’s victory made him a true icon in the struggle
for Latin American independence. Yet for him and others, the true jewel that needed
to be conquered was that of the viceroyalty of Peru; a vanguard of royalist hegemony
within South America. With aid from many in Argentina and elsewhere, San Martín put
together an elaborate force destined to conquer Peru, although his English counterpart
Thomas Cochrane questioned the strategies employed to take possession of Peru and
end Spanish sway over the land. San Martín believed that the right path to acquiring
Peru was by gaining the hearts of the populace, not a direct invasion and bloody con-
quest as advocated by Cochrane. The Liberator decided upon a course of negotiation
with the Peruvian viceroy, yet when no real compromise could be found, he sought a
solution on the feld of battle in early August 1821. San Martín’s forces entered Lima on
July 28, whereupon he declared Peruvian independence from Spain.
Much of Peru remained in royalist hands until Simón Bolívar and Antonio José de
Sucre fnally drove out the fnal vestiges of Spanish rule by January 1826. Lynch clearly
shows, despite his detractors, that without San Martín, South American independence
(especially in Peru) would have been a much more formidable task and perhaps impos-
sible. It was indeed San Martín’s fortitude that allowed for the maturation of the Latin
American wars of independence. This work should be on the shelf of any historian. It
tells the tale of one of the enduring icons in Latin American and, by extension, world
john s. leiby, Paradise Valley Community College
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-024
Book Reviews / National Period 555
556 HAHR / August
The Emperor’s Last Campaign: A Napoleonic Empire in America. By emilio ocampo.
Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliographic
Essay. Index. Cloth, $39.95.
The frst few chapters of this volume appear to promise a fast-moving, multifacted
adventure story, combining Napoleonic history with that of Spanish American inde-
pendence and thus having potential appeal to two different sets of specialists. For Latin
American studies it has the merit of doing justice to the contributions of a large contin-
gent of French military veterans and adventurers who took part in the independence
struggle even if, as sometimes happened, it was for them a sideshow or stepping-stone
in (they hoped) a larger project to rescue Napoleon from his imprisonment on St. Hel-
ena. Some of these men are familiar names, but as a group they tend to be overlooked
amid the attention devoted to Simón Bolívar’s “British Legion,” which of course was far
from strictly British. Unfortunately, the story soon bogs down in an almost excruciat-
ing mass of detail, much of it repetitious, concerning ambitious plans and conspiracies,
most of which never came to fruition and in fact may have been quite imaginary in the
frst place — as the author himself occasionally, but perhaps not often enough, frankly
Emilio Ocampo is an Argentine “fnancial adviser” and professor of banking, not
of history, and he takes a very traditional narrative approach to his topic. Year by year up
to Napoleon’s death in 1821, and jumping back and forth from continent to continent or
island to island, he chronicles the life of Napoleon and his jailers and the involvement of
his sympathizers (of whom a surprising number turn out to be British) in plans to spring
him loose from his prison and/or to work for the independence of Spanish America. It
was naturally assumed that Napoleon himself, if released, would somehow aid the latter
struggle. Naturally, any reader will lose the thread from time to time. But Ocampo must
be given credit for a truly impressive amount of research, combing archives on both sides
of the Atlantic and reading widely in often obscure secondary sources. To be sure, there
is no bibliography of books and articles, only 80 pages of endnotes giving both published
and manuscript sources. For a “detailed bibliography” one is referred to the Spanish ver-
sion published in Buenos Aires in 2007, which is described as “expanded,” though it has
an only slightly greater page count (I confess I have not actually seen it).
Anyone who has studied the independence period will probably conclude that the
author tends, understandably, to exaggerate the role of the Napoleonic veterans. For
example, in his treatment of the abortive República de las Floridas of 1817 he greatly
overplays Napoleonic at the expense of Bolivarian connections (not that Bolívar himself
accepted responsibility for the project). The treatment is also Plata-centric, as might be
expected from an Argentine author: thus the greatest patriot success during the frst fve
years of revolution is not Bolívar’s Campaña Admirable in 1813 but the taking of Mon-
tevideo by Buenos Aires forces in 1815. Ocampo’s grasp of northern South American
geography is shaky too, for he places Cartagena and Ríohacha in Venezuela rather than
Colombia. Yet he portrays the Argentine Liberator José de San Martín in quite unfavor-
able light: too much of an Anglophile, his relations with the Napoleonic diaspora and its
creole collaborators were cool at best. Ocampo decidedly prefers Martín’s rivals Carlos
de Alvear and José Miguel Carrera. For the Latin Americanist the concurrent story of
goings-on at St. Helena and the constant stream of real or alleged projects to rescue or
release the famous prisoner has the particular attraction of sheer novelty: most of us
surely have given little thought to anything that may have happened to the ex-emperor
after Waterloo. And apparently not much that was substantial did happen, despite the
obsessive fears of his principal British keeper. But St. Helena was an ideal breeding
ground for paranoia all around, and most readers will surely end up sharing some of
Ocampo’s sympathy for the great man.
Of course not many readers can be expected to plow through the entire book, but
a sense of what was going on can easily be gained by browsing, and in the long run
Ocampo has provided all students of the period with an invaluable reference tool. Most
index entries consist simply of page numbers, without topical subheadings, but still all
the Napoleonic veterans are there, as are scores of participants not just in the St. Helena
story but in Spanish American independence, including quite a few whose involvement,
however marginal, in schemes of the Napoleonists will come as a surprise. Or at least it
was a surprise to me.
david bushnell, University of Florida
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-025
Las otras ideas: Estudio sobre el primer socialismo en México, 1850 – 1935.
By carlos illades. Mexico City: Ediciones Era / Universidad Autónoma
Metropolitana Cuajimalpa, 2008, Notes. Bibliography. 327 pp. Paper.
El socialismo mexicano en el siglo XIX no ha sido un campo muy visitado por los histo-
riadores. En 1969, Gastón García Cantú dedicó un libro a ese asunto; una década antes,
Silvio Zavala se interesó en las refexiones de Víctor Considerant al problema social
mexicano. Y antes que ellos, José C. Valadés incursionó en la historia y los documentos
del socialismo libertario en México. Tampoco son abundantes los estudios dedicados a
la historia de los trabajadores y sobre todo al universo de sus acciones y representaciones
en el siglo XIX. Uno de ellos es un libro que Carlos Illades publicó en 1993 dedicado al
artesano urbano en la ciudad de México. Desde entonces este historiador no ha dejado de
incursionar en el mundo del trabajo, aunque ensanchando sus intereses y perspectivas.
Es el caso de Las otras ideas, obra en la que cristaliza una larga investigación jalonada por
diversas publicaciones de ensayos y artículos en los que Illades fue exhumando docu-
mentos, personajes e ideas de un primer socialismo sobre el que se tenían nociones en
muchos casos imprecisas. Es por ello que este libro conjuga un denso saber acumulado y
lo hace desde el doble mirador de la historia social y de la historia de las ideas, tratando de
articular una exploración sobre la génesis doctrinal del socialismo utópico y romántico,
con sus manifestaciones en el campo de la acción política.
Book Reviews / National Period 557
558 HAHR / August
En momentos en que el liberalismo en ascenso centraba sus preocupaciones en la
construcción de una ciudadanía como garante del ejercicio de deberes y obligaciones
políticas, en México se escucharon voces que llamaron la atención sobre lo inacabado de
este proyecto. Se objetaba que la libertad, la igualdad y la fraternidad no serían posibles
en regímenes que dejaran de atender el problema de la injusta distribución de la riqueza.
Deslindar lo político de lo social lejos de armonizar las relaciones humanas, no hacía más
que atentar contra un deseado orden en el que fuera posible regenerar a la humanidad
entera. La diferencia entre los liberales y el socialismo no radica en haber reparado en
la cuestión social para la elaboración del diagnóstico sobre los males de México; sino
en haber convertido esa cuestión en el núcleo de las preocupaciones. “A esto se avocó el
pensamiento socialista al situar la médula del conficto en las relaciones de propiedad”
( p. 302).
El libro estudia las ideas, proyectos y alcances del pensamiento de cinco personajes:
los mexicanos Juan Nepomuceno Adorno y Nicolás Pizarro, el francés Víctor P. Consid-
erant, el griego Plotino C. Rhodakanaty y el estadounidense Albert K. Owen. Se trata
de un elenco muy heterogéneo en itinerarios político-intelectuales y en las propias expe-
riencias vitales. Visto en su conjunto, no hay dudas de que Rhodakanaty fue el personaje
más importante del primer socialismo, cuya obra se revela como la más compleja en su
formulación política y flosófca, y la más rica por su impacto en la política obrera. Sin
embargo, estas circunstancias no demeritan sino que permiten calibrar mejor las aporta-
ciones de los otros autores estudiados; tal es el caso de Considerant y su contribución
al entendimiento del peonaje como un sistema que esterilizaba el esfuerzo liberal por
construir una ciudadanía moderna; o de Pizarro y su implacable denuncia de la voracidad
terrateniente al apropiarse de las tierras en manos de los indígenas.
Resulta encomiable la labor por desentrañar el marcado eclecticismo sobre el que
se fundaron las propuestas y formulaciones políticas y flosófcas de los autores estudia-
dos. Illades traza una genealogía de infuencias y referencias ideológicas y programáti-
cas, demostrando el peso del socialismo francés, centralmente de Fourier y en menor
escala de Saint Simón, Lamennais, Cabet y Proudhon; y la manera en que esos infujos
se combinaron con posturas de flosofía moral extraídas del racionalismo ilustrado, junto
a concepciones románticas, panteístas y en algunos casos espiritistas. Mientras que el
terreno de la política, si bien el credo liberal con su apuesta democratizadora ejerció
una infuencia capital, existieron casos como el de Adorno, en donde se simpatizó con el
El libro cierra con el encuentro de la utopía socialista primero con el anarquismo
de cuño kropotkiano, y después con el marxismo, para concluir con el rescate de una
polémica que tuvo lugar a mediados de los años treinta del siglo pasado, cuando Vicente
Lombardo Toledano se distanció de su mentor el flósofo Antonio Caso. Este último
capítulo, a manera de metáfora ilustra el entronizamiento del materialismo dialéctico en
el pensamiento de la izquierda mexicana y su defnitiva ruptura con posiciones metafísi-
cas presentes en los planteamientos de los primeros socialistas.
En síntesis, Las otras ideas rescata un tema olvidado en la historiografía, y con ello
abre un campo de estudio que merece ser visitado con mayor frecuencia por los historia-
dores de las ideas, de la política y de la cultura del siglo XIX mexicano.
pablo yankelevich, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-026
Hijos del Pueblo: Gender, Family, and Community in Rural Mexico, 1730 – 1850.
By deborah e. kanter. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008. Maps. Tables.
Appendix. Notes. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. xii, 151 pp. Cloth, $55.00.
Hijos del Pueblo is a redo with nearly the same title as Deborah Kanter’s 1993 doctoral dis-
sertation. For the book, she has added some 20 years to her study, through the Mexican-
American War. Her purpose is to study women and how their lives changed during the
post-independence era. She selected Toluca, a sizable region west of Mexico City, which
was always too close to the capital to become a distinct, independent entity yet main-
tained its rural character. It was a district of maize and maguey that shifted somewhat to
livestock ranching and then in the nineteenth century to intensive agricultural produc-
tion. By the Porfriato, one town in the Toluca basin, Tenango del Valle, was the most
populous in the state of Mexico.
As expected, Kanter fnds great continuity of colonial practices over the period
studied, but she also observes increasing disadvantage for some sectors of society. She
depends largely on Spanish-language court cases to furnish the most comprehensive
account possible of “gender, family, and mentalités” ( p. 3). Villages comprised Toluca, and
the great majority of their inhabitants were natives, most of whom were Nahuatl speak-
ers who had inhabited the region for centuries. Two recent publications have brought to
light information about Toluca’s Nahuas through translation and analysis of a treasure
trove of last wills and testaments (Caterina Pizzigoni, Testaments of Toluca, 2007; and
Miriam Melton-Villanueva and Caterina Pizzigoni, “Late Nahuatl Testaments from
the Toluca Valley: Indigenous-Language Ethnohistory in the Mexican Independence
Period,” Ethnohistory 55, no. 3 [2008]: 361 – 91). These documents are exemplary for their
insights into community, ethnicity, family, religion, women, and change well into the
1820s, yet Kanter inexplicably and unfortunately omits any reference to these important
As native populations recovered and the number of Hispanics also grew during
the last century of the colonial period, the need for land for subsistence, to say noth-
ing of a market surplus, increased exponentially. Expansive Spanish-owned haciendas
tended to control water and grazing rights, and their majordomos not infrequently
abused any villagers who protested. But rather than take up arms, individuals and town
offcials depended on the courts for redress, as they had for centuries. Even when the
Indian Court was abolished in the 1820s and political ideology and practice shifted away
Book Reviews / National Period 559
560 HAHR / August
from the ancient traditions of paternalism and indigenous corporatism, native peoples
expected, sought, and often received justice from the local courts.
Patriarchy is a prevailing leitmotiv in this work, and Kanter fnds it generally to
have served Toluca’s community well over the longue durée. The supreme patriarchs,
the king and the pope, represented age-old institutions whose reach extended all the way
to local cabildo magistrates and parish priests, who infuenced the goings-on in the village
and beyond. But patriarchy was subject to the vagaries of time, and where once the par-
ish priest used the Spanish institution of depósito, for example, to sequester and protect a
woman from abusive relatives, another priest, a willful one, or local offcial, might lock
a women up to punish her, even though she had committed no crime, and most women
had a diffcult time challenging authorities. The lot of many Toluca women was hard,
and especially hard for poor women (and poor men) and widows in general. A Castro and
Campillo lithograph on the book jacket makes this point, depicting women on a road to
market carrying heavy burdens. But the men in their company are also loaded down, and
all are in traditional dress and out and about.
Was life really worse for women in Toluca’s countryside? The extended family as
household was a sanctuary of sorts, and if women tended to their duties and violated
no norms, by and large they managed. Ethnicity, lineage, and legitimacy continued to
defne the community, and that same community could be inclusive of the disenfran-
chised as long as there were resources for all. But with a shortage of land and radical
political innovations, it may be that poor individuals, and widows in particular, lost all
This book furnishes important new information about community life in transition
in Toluca. It would have benefted greatly, however, from careful copyediting (“being
hung nude,” p. 86) and support of assertions such as “Indian men likely felt more impo-
tent than other men” ( p. 51), and “The new state . . . became increasingly liberal and less
inclined to protect rural women” ( p. 108). The appendix fails to list any sources and the
index is sorely defcient. That said, Hijos del Pueblo nevertheless contributes signifcantly
to the feld of gender studies and Mexican history and will be useful in classrooms and
as a research tool.
susan schroeder, Tulane University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-027
Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata: The Jaramillista Movement and the Myth of the Pax
Priísta, 1940 – 1962. By tanalís padilla. Durham, NC: Duke University Press,
2008. Photographs. Map. Notes. Bibliography. Index. x, 285 pp. Paper, $22.95.
Cloth, $79.95.
This important book shows how a regional study can change our understanding of a
larger national story. It opens when scores of Mexican soldiers pulled up to the house of
62-year-old agrarian leader, social activist, previous gubernatorial candidate, and for-
mer Zapatista Rubén Jaramillo. They abducted him, his wife, and three of their sons in
broad daylight on May 23, 1962, and drove them to the outskirts of the Aztec ruins of
Xochicalco, Morelos. They machine-gunned them all, leaving their bullet-riddled bod-
ies behind, not even bothering to conceal their crime. The assassinations were meant to
silence Jaramillo, crush the larger Jaramillista movement, and send a message to others
who would challenge the government. This history of the Jaramillistas tells us a lot about
mid-twentieth-century Mexico, shattering images of the “Pax-Priísta” and providing a
sobering view of society during the “Mexican Miracle.”
Shaped by the revolution in Morelos, Jaramillo carried forward the age-old demands
of Zapatismo for land, local political autonomy, and community control of resources.
During a period of intense consolidation of state control under President Lázaro Cárde-
nas (1936 – 40) Jaramillo blended revolutionary Zapatismo with Cardenismo, which was
“an institutionalized agrarian ideology that encouraged peaceful reformist demands for
change.” Jaramillo supported Cárdenas, who sought to institutionalize the revolution
by including workers and peasants in a revamped ruling party, the Partido Revolucio-
nario Mexicano ( PRM), known as the Partido Revolucionario Institucional ( PRI) since
1946. That was intended to provide them a voice in government. Ultimately, though,
they were controlled by the state through offcial labor unions, peasant confederations,
and dependence on government patronage of various forms. The Emiliano Zapata sugar
refnery at Zacatepec, Morelos, refected the trajectory of the Cardenista effort. Intended
as a worker-run cooperative benefting both ejidatarios in the felds and workers in the
mill, the arrangement quickly deteriorated once Cárdenas left offce. Less enthusiastic
social reformers took power after 1940, while federally appointed bureaucrats at Zacate-
pec corrupted the co-op. Administrators began lining their own pockets, ripping off
the cane growers at the cane weighing stations, and alienating the refnery workers by
denying shared control over the shop foor, rigging union votes, and hiring company
thugs to intimidate people. The story is convincingly told, and reads as if the Mob ran
Jaramillo worked at Zacatepec. He frst challenged the situation by appealing to
local, then regional, and fnally national authorities. As he moved further along he liked
what he found less and less. What started off looking like local corruption permeated the
state and federal bureaucracy. At that point, Jaramillo, a believer in the Constitution of
1917, moved from petitioning the state government to trying to take it over. He never
called for an overthrow of the federal government though, insisting instead that it live
Book Reviews / National Period 561
562 HAHR / August
up to its constitutional obligations. Jaramillo’s initial labor organizing at the mill grew
to include broader efforts for political change that would favor peasants and rural work-
ers in general. When he could fnd no offcial candidate with the same platform, he ran
for governor himself. His activism resulted in several attempts on his life. He got into
shoot-outs with hired assassins, killing a couple of them who tried to assassinate him
when he was in the middle of a speech. After suffering electoral defeat marred by fraud,
he resorted to armed rebellion. The government hunted, and then eventually pardoned,
him. He did not go away. His last effort was to create a model rural community that
would refect what he and his supporters thought Zacatepec should have been. The effort
got him killed.
Padilla’s work advances the study of post – World War II Mexico considerably. It
introduces new archival sources for others to investigate, including recently declassifed
documents, as well as the author’s own interviews with people who would otherwise be
lost to history. Conceptually, it redirects the existing conversation about the negotiated
processes of identity and state formation toward Mexico’s remarkable postrevolutionary
history of sustained social struggle. The process of crushing opposition that the author
cites (students, railway workers, peasants, teachers’ unions, Jaramillistas, etc.) allowed for
the imposition of unpopular reforms that have resulted in the deterioration of the stan-
dard of living of the Mexican working class. Viewed from this angle, the period under
study looks like modernization built on the rollback of revolutionary social reforms, the
defeat of popular groups pushing for them, and the creation of an increasingly repressive
political regime to carry it out. That is not the end of the story, however, because popular
groups of all sorts refuse to disappear. Well written and well researched, this book is a
model of how to approach recent history. Reading it will beneft anyone interested in the
making of modern Mexico.
paul hart, Texas State University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-028
Immigration and Xenophobia: Portuguese Immigrants in Early 19th Century Rio de Janeiro.
By rosana barbosa. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2008. Tables.
Notes. Bibliography. Index. ix, 135 pp. Paper, $28.00.
The prolifc growth of ethnic and racial studies has been one of the more remarkable
developments in Latin American historiography in recent decades. Volumes examin-
ing the numerous ethnic groups who migrated to the region from around the world
during the past two centuries have joined an already sprawling literature that has con-
sidered the role of Afro-descendants and indigenous groups in the postcolonial state
formation process. The narrative of the modern period has truly been remodeled from
the ground up.
Yet, for all of the achievements of these pioneering works, they have often focused
their lens on outlying communities. Scholars have tended to overlook certain groups
who were not “other” enough to challenge long-standing preconceptions about the
structure of postcolonial society. The most obvious of these lacunae has been those
Iberian migrants who settled in Latin America after independence. Representing a dis-
carded sociopolitical tradition and an identity that was no longer desired, these foreign-
ers occupied an awkward space in their adopted homelands, embodying an ambiguous
link between past and present. Understanding the dialectical relationship between how
their host society received them and how they adapted to their new surroundings would
reveal a great deal about the making of national identity during the postcolonial era.
However, besides Jose Moya’s classic study of Spanish immigrants in Buenos Aires (Cous-
ins and Strangers), there have been few serious attempts in the United States to analyze
this process.
Rosana Barbosa’s Immigration and Xenophobia adds to this narrow historiography by
examining the settlement of Portuguese immigrants in Brazil between 1822 and 1850.
Though specialists are familiar with the 15,000 or so noblemen, intellectuals, artists, and
other elite who migrated from Portugal to Rio de Janeiro with Dom João in 1808 during
the Napoleonic Wars, they are perhaps less aware of the broader settlement of Portu-
guese in the Brazilian colonial capital city during the frst half of that century, especially
after independence was declared in 1822. Barbosa argues that an emerging Brazilian
nationalism merged with an anticolonial fervor that was manifested in widespread xeno-
phobia throughout the period. This Lusophobia derived mainly from discontent with
Dom Pedro over several issues: a treaty he had signed with Great Britain promising the
country low import tariffs; his succumbing to British abolitionist fervor by agreeing to
end the slave trade; and, most importantly, his increasing involvement in Portuguese
affairs following the death of his father in 1826. While the Brazilian elite supported the
introduction of Portuguese immigrants into their society, the author argues that it was
the lower classes that were vociferously xenophobic, in part because of the increased
competition for work in Rio.
Still, Barbosa contends that the Portuguese managed to carve out a successful niche
in the retail sector. Through an analysis of passport registers, she estimates that 26,785
Portuguese settled in Rio between 1826 and 1850, with the peak infow coming after
1842. Almost all of them were poor, single men who relied on familial ties and regional
links to enter middle-status occupations in Rio. They came to dominate the occupation
of “sales clerk” in the city, to the point that over half of those whom she has records for
worked in that sector. This classifcation seemingly encompassed a variety of roles, such
as a salesperson in a retail store, a collecting agent for a business, a bookkeeper, secretary,
or even a servant. One in fve Portuguese worked as storeowners (comerciantes), typically
managing small grocery shops, fabric stores, or cafés. Others were commercial agents,
tavern owners, and slave traders. Most lived in Candelária, which was the commercial
zone, and the vast majority married Brazilian women, in large part because of the scar-
city of Portuguese immigrants. According to the author, this facilitated the erosion of
cultural and political links to their homeland.
This study will be of particular interest to those who have enjoyed the social his-
Book Reviews / National Period 563
564 HAHR / August
tories of Zephyr Frank and Mary Karasch on the same era in Rio de Janeiro. Barbosa’s
work is especially in dialogue with Frank’s seminal Dutra’s World, though unfortunately,
she fails to raise this point or even cite the book. While Frank found that many free men
of color were able to become successful entrepreneurs in the frst half of the nineteenth
century in Rio precisely because there was a lack of economic competition from immi-
grants, Barbosa argues that there was a strong Portuguese presence in the city that was
met with rampant xenophobia from the working class. Perhaps the two positions can be
reconciled, however. Barbosa notes that Portuguese immigrants preferred to enter retail
precisely because the expanding middle-class and elite population in Rio demanded
improvement in that underserviced sector.
There are several problems with the work that limit its overall success. Barbosa
relies on a scant source base and fails to demonstrate a proper grasp of the broader his-
toriography. Aside from missing key studies on the region and time period, she fails to
engage in a discussion of identity studies, which would have been useful given her inter-
est in immigration and adaptation. Furthermore, her main contention — that Portuguese
immigrants were met with rampant xenophobia from working class cariocas — is largely
unsubstantiated. Most of the evidence that she cites as proof of this nativism in Rio has
to do with one event, the so-called Noite das Garrafadas. This was a single night of
fghting in the streets of Rio in 1831 between supporters and opponents of Dom Pedro.
Yet, beyond this event and a discussion of general Brazilian discontent with the emperor,
there is little evidence for the xenophobia that is suggested in the title of the book. What
remains then is a basic and preliminary social history of Portuguese immigrants in Rio
de Janeiro in the decades that followed independence.
brad lange, Emory University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-029
The Financial Crisis of Abolition. By john schulz. New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 2008. Tables. Appendix. Notes. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. xiv, 193 pp.
Cloth, $55.00.
John Schulz’s study of the fnancial upheaval taking place during the fnal months of
the Brazilian Empire and the early years of the republic has been published in English
after considerable delay. As the title suggests, the author’s principal argument is that the
crisis known as the Encilhamento was caused by ill-advised government reactions to the
abolition of Brazilian slavery in 1888. It is argued that by expanding monetary circula-
tion in reckless fashion and thus fueling diverse forms of speculation, successive fnancial
authorities were almost exclusively concerned with appeasing powerful planter groups,
most especially coffee growers from the southeast, who had been denied indemnifca-
tion for their loss of slave property. Schulz also insists that the Encilhamento period
represents a sharp break with the long-standing tradition of fnancial responsibility and
caution that characterized the Empire and would resume as republican administrations
implemented largely orthodox policies of stabilization. The implication here is that Bra-
zilian authorities were generally knowledgeable about the workings of both the interna-
tional and domestic fnancial systems and therefore cannot be considered as mere lackeys
of foreign banking and investment interests, as proponents of dependency theory would
have it.
Overall, The Financial Crisis of Abolition is a lively and well-structured narrative
of Brazilian fnancial history during the Empire and the frst decade of the republican
regime. It should be of interest to general readers and students and, thanks to its detailed
sequencing of events, will serve as a reference for those more familiar with Brazilian
history. The study is based on solid research of a traditional nature. Offcial ministe-
rial records, correspondence, and published documents are examined, along with the
writings of politicians and entrepreneurs involved in the Encilhamento, and newspapers
from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Schulz did feldwork at the Rothschild Archive where
he turned up little-known sources of importance for his theme and for the development
of Brazilian fnancial history in general. He also quotes extensively from the Rio News,
an English-language newspaper edited by a U.S. citizen who often voiced the views of
the city’s merchant community and was an outspoken reformist. These latter sources
have seldom been used by historians in Brazil, and the fact that Schulz showcases them
is commendable.
The author is perhaps at his best when giving a blow-by-blow account of events
leading up to and comprising the crisis and carefully examining the complex, decade-
long process which would fnally restore stability. In focusing on the Encilhamento
itself, which lasted from June of 1889 to November of 1891, the policies and actions of
three successive fnance ministers are fully recounted. Their tripling of the money sup-
ply, stimulation of stock market speculation, and attempts at otherwise purchasing the
support of planters fueled the bubble and left the fnancial system in ruins. Moreover,
these ministers — in particular the abolitionist Rui Barbosa, a revered fgure in Brazilian
history — did not hesitate to favor banker friends, thus creating an atmosphere in which
corruption was rife. It would take ten years of orthodox policies tempered by occasional
state intervention to restore fnancial order.
It is when looking at the larger picture that Schulz sometimes misses the mark and
fails to engage in meaningful historiographical debate. Although recent contributions of
U.S. scholars of Brazilian economic history are listed in the bibliography, their fndings
are hardly discussed. It has been suggested that the Encilhamento must be seen in light
of an unfavorable international conjuncture in which crisis was contagious. The implica-
tion is that Brazilian authorities were unable to control certain aspects of the crisis, which
the author steadfastly insists was a purely domestic affair. Furthermore, the arguments of
nearly two decades of historical and economic studies produced in Brazil have not been
incorporated. The so-called Rio school has challenged interpretations based on the colo-
nial system, affecting how historians approach nineteenth-century economic history.
It is clear that as of the mid-eighteenth century the slave trade to Brazil was controlled
by merchants established in Rio and Salvador. The long-held notion that the ending of
Book Reviews / National Period 565
566 HAHR / August
that trade somehow liberated capital for more useful purposes now rings rather hollow.
In the same vein, recent scholarship has built upon Robert Conrad’s pioneering work
to demonstrate that the abolitionist movement enjoyed broad popular support and was
not nearly as peaceful or orderly as previously imagined. Indeed, the growing participa-
tion of slaves in the emancipation process made life extremely diffcult for slaveholders,
and by 1886 the institution of slavery began its inevitable collapse. That inevitability,
together with the widespread conditional freeing of slaves, rendered formal abolition a
mere admission of the fait accompli. Why were authorities not better prepared to deal
with the aftermath?
douglas c. libby, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-030
Historia del capitalismo agrario pampeano: Tomo 4: La agricultura pampeana en la primera
mitad del siglo XIX. By julio djenderedjian. Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno
Editores Argentina, 2008. Photographs. Illustrations. Tables. Appendixes. Notes.
Bibliography. Indexes. 399 pp. Paper.
Cereal agriculture in the Argentine pampas experienced a very slow rate of growth dur-
ing the frst half of the nineteenth century, in particular when compared to the expan-
sion of cattle ranching in the area. However, during those years the agricultural sector
underwent changes that created the preconditions for its impressive expansion during the
second half of the nineteenth century. In this fne study, Julio Djenderedjian traces the
agricultural development of wheat in Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, Santa Fe, and Córdoba
between the last decades of the eighteenth century and the frst half of the nineteenth
century. The subject is signifcant, and the book makes a valuable contribution toward
rounding out the historical picture of the pampean region. It is divided into six chapters
that can be read as self-contained units or as part of the larger narrative. The main
themes addressed are colonial and postcolonial cereal production, the evolution of wheat
agriculture’s technology from the late eighteenth century to the 1850s, and early colo-
nization attempts in the pampas. There is a wealth of information in the text and some
repetition, although most of it is effective. The author has merged research in a wide
array of quantitative and qualitative sources with important references to the secondary
literature, thus providing a good synthesis of the old and the new that will be appealing
to both expert and inexpert readers. Two appendices provide valuable information that
complements the data included in pertinent tables and graphs throughout the book.
During the frst half of the nineteenth century, Argentina relied on imported cere-
als to supply the demands of its domestic market. In order to identify the reasons that
accounted for the slow growth of the agricultural sector during those years, the study
traces the evolution of cereal agriculture and its commercialization from the late colonial
years until the 1850s. Political instability, diffculties to access labor and capital, price
instability, and competition from foreign wheat explain producers’ choice of cattle ranch-
ing over agriculture. This situation started to change during the 1840s, when a decline
in the level of political confict, the emergence of new markets, and higher prices created
more favorable conditions for the slow expansion of wheat agriculture in the region.
The period witnessed the adoption of new agricultural technology as well. Djendered-
jian examines exhaustively the introduction of new tools, machinery, and seeds as well
as attempts to spread and systematize innovations through manuals and publications.
Changes in agricultural methods took place in direct response to the incorporation into
cereal agriculture of new lands that were located farther away from coastal markets and
presented different soil requirements. Initially, agricultural producers were slow to adapt
old techniques to the requirements of these new areas. During the 1840s the process of
innovation hastened, thus creating more appropriate conditions for the developments
that took place in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The analysis of early colonization attempts in the region constitutes another
remarkable part of this study. Djenderedjian focuses on the different strategies imple-
mented by both colonial and independent authorities to populate the region. While geo-
political needs guided the establishment of towns in frontier areas during colonial times,
provincial authorities promoted colonization as a means to reorganize the space along
more rational lines during the decades that followed independence. Despite their failure,
these early efforts paved the way for the agricultural colonies created during the second
half of the nineteenth century. The last chapter shifts the focus from a regional approach
to a comparative analysis of wheat agriculture in Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, Santa Fe, and
Córdoba. The chapter provides a valuable, albeit short and slightly unbalanced analysis
that identifes the peculiarities of wheat agriculture in the four provinces examined. The
case-by-case overview uncovers the importance of local circumstances and the hetero-
geneity that characterized wheat production in the region.
Argentine cereal expansion during the last decades of the 1800s resulted from pro-
cesses that took shape gradually and progressively during the frst half of the century. In
this book, Julio Djenderedjian has done a superb job by examining both the challenges
facing wheat agriculture and the changes experienced by the sector until the 1850s. This
reviewer misses a deeper analysis of the actors themselves and the agricultural soci-
ety that took shape as a result of the processes analyzed in the book. In any case, this
insightful study sheds light on the preconditions that enabled the impressive growth of
pampean agriculture, and represents a valuable addition to the scholarship on Argentine
economic development.
patricia juarez-dappe, California State University, Northridge
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-031
Book Reviews / National Period 567
568 HAHR / August
La matanza del Seguro Obrero (5 de septiembre de 1938). By marcus klein. Santiago:
Editorial Globo, 2008. Photographs. Tables. Appendixes. Notes. Bibliography. 199 pp.
This brief yet informative book analyzes the critical conjuncture that led to the his-
toric triumph of the Frente Popular in Chile in 1938. Marcus Klein focuses on the
coup orchestrated by Jorge González von Marées, the jefe of the Movimiento Nacio-
nal Socialista (MNS), and then examines the impact of the subsequent massacre of the
young nacistas, a small group of Chilean nazis that failed to provoke a military uprising
to overthrow Arturo Alessandri. The author explains why those tragic events had a deci-
sive impact in Chilean politics. They exposed the repressive character of the Alessandri
administration, left former dictator Carlos Ibáñez out of the presidential race, and, more
importantly, facilitated the political compromises that allowed Pedro Aguirre Cerda
to defeat right-wing candidate Gustavo Ross in one of the most contested elections in
Chile. Although this interpretation is certainly not new, Klein’s well-researched work
provides a vivid picture of the political forces and characters in confict, tracing their
changing strategies to reach La Moneda.
Correcting previous treatments by other authors that characterized the MNS as
one of the new voices of Chilean nationalism, Klein shows that, just like latter-day nacio-
nalistas in Chile, the jefe’s followers were fascists who easily traded their ideology for
immediate political benefts. Thus they soon directed their rhetoric toward the popular
sectors in search of votes. Moreover, the author argues that while the communists and
socialists vehemently rejected the MNS’s efforts to attract working-class voters, Chil-
ean nacistas enjoyed considerable freedom to maneuver because of President Arturo
Alessandri’s obsession with fghting the threat of communism. Yet this fear was totally
unfounded, as the Communist Party had already adopted the Popular Front strategy, a
“marriage of convenience that ultimately Alessandri hoped to destroy” ( p. 52).
Klein also examines the presidential candidates’ profles and actions with a keen
eye, showing their merits and, especially, their limitations. The author leaves no doubt
that Gustavo Ross needed little effort to disappoint voters with his brusque personality,
“contempt for other classes except his own” ( p. 64), and certainly his policies as a cabinet
member, which granted him the unfattering moniker “minister of hunger.” No less a
problematic alternative, the “wealthy landowner and veteran politician” Pedro Aguirre
Cerda was the only candidate who would give frentistas a real chance to win the elec-
tion, in spite of his “lack of magnetism and personal charisma” ( pp. 70 – 72). For his part,
Carlos Ibáñez, who upon returning from exile stated that he had no ambitions other
than living peacefully with his family, would not hesitate to reject the rather embarrass-
ing nacistas. Instead, he hoped to garner the support of the Frente Popular; in the end,
however, Ibáñez was incapable of securing the backing of the political forces that really
mattered. In short, Klein suggests, Chilean voters would have trouble deciding which
candidate was less unappealing.
The study of the massacre’s immediate consequences is one of the book’s most sig-
nifcant contributions. Klein shows the intricacies of the government’s harsh response,
Alessandri’s readiness to take advantage of the situation to request extraordinary powers,
and, as customary in Chile, the distorting role of right-wing newspapers El Diario Ilus-
trado and El Mercurio, which were both “ready to disseminate lies and misinformation”
about the massacre ( p. 93). The author also establishes that, although the young nacistas
posed no real threat to the government, an upset Alessandri was not only determined to
humiliate and execute them but also lied “with an amazing lack of shame” ( p. 89) when he
affrmed that some had been murdered by their own comrades. Klein explains this deter-
mination as motivated by Alessandri’s resolve to avoid by all means being ousted again,
which is a plausible argument, since the coup took place on the anniversary of the mili-
tary intervention that forced him to resign in 1925. However, it would also be necessary
to consider Alessandri’s growing authoritarianism and his infamous record at repressing
the labor movement, which included the massacres in San Gregorio and La Coruña.
Finally, another strength of this book is its rich bibliography, which the author
reads selectively and critically, based on his exhaustive research on Chilean right-wing
political actors, both fascist and otherwise. Klein is also to be commended for using
a variety of sources, including an extensive list of Chilean newspapers and magazines,
reports by foreign diplomats, and a selection of key documents as appendixes. Last but
not least, readers will enjoy Klein’s concise style and clarity. All of this makes the book
an excellent resource for readers seeking an engaging discussion of Chilean politics in an
era, as Enrique Lafourcade puts it, “cuando los políticos eran inteligentes.”
claudio robles-ortiz, Universidad Austral de Chile
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-032
Ese gol existe: Una mirada al Perú a través del fútbol. Edited by aldo panfchi.
Lima: Fondo Editorial de la Pontifcia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2008.
Illustrations. Notes. Paper.
Peruvian soccer has seen better days. Peru ended up in last place in the South American
qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and its club teams have foun-
dered in the major cups in recent years. While a few players star in Europe, more make
headlines in Lima for their late-night antics before games. Peruvians look back to the
1970s, when Peru had a remarkable showing in the 1970 Mexico City World Cup and its
club teams did well in international tournaments, and wonder what happened.
Interest in fútbol, however, has not waned. The major teams still attract large crowds
and young players dream of making it big, that is, playing in Europe. This book not only
seeks to confrm soccer as a relevant topic of study but also to demonstrate the strong
state of such studies. In the introduction, Aldo Panfchi challenges the once pervasive
belief that soccer was the opium of the masses, part of a regime’s bread and circus pro-
vided to distract. To show how these views have been overcome, he keenly links studies
in Peru with international trends in the understanding of sports and society. Some read-
Book Reviews / National Period 569
570 HAHR / August
ers might still question the role of soccer in society and even express their disdain for the
sport, but few if any upon reading this book will question its importance in Peru or the
quality of these studies.
The frst four essays deal with the game’s emergence in Peru in the early twentieth
century, particularly the creation of the two major teams, Alianza Lima and Universi-
tario (or la U). Collectively, these essays provide a more sophisticated picture of what
had been a simplifed dichotomy that served to mark each team’s mystique and fan base.
Alianza was and is seen as the working-class and black team, while Universitario was
linked to middle-class university students. These foundational myths mark both teams
today, as Alianza has its stadium in working-class La Victoria, while la U has built a large
new stadium to the east of Lima where the upper classes have relocated. Alianza is seen
as playing prettier soccer while la U is more effcient. I’ve heard dozens of times that
Alianza is Brazil while Universitario is Germany, just not as good. The excellent essays
by Gerardo Álvarez, Martín Benavides, and Jaime Pulgar-Vidal Otálora on the early
years of both teams complicate but in no way debunk this contrast. Some non-fans might
consider these texts too detailed, but most readers will fnd them fascinating reading, as
well as an older article by José Deustua, Steve Stein, and Susan Stokes. Aldo Panfchi
and Jorge Thieroldt Llanos delve into the differing fan base of these two teams, explor-
ing their symbolism and their most fanatical followers, the Comando Sur (Alianza) and
Trinchera Norte (la U). Moving the analysis away from famous teams and their stadi-
ums, Carlos Aguirre examines soccer in Lima’s prisons in the frst four decades of the
twentieth century.
Luis Carlos Arias Schreiber punctures another myth: that Adolf Hitler single-hand-
edly prevented Peru’s 1936 Olympic team from advancing after it humiliated Austria, by
forcing a new match, which Peru refused. He shows that while Peru had a strong show-
ing, fans did enter the feld at the end of the game, the Austrian team was actually ama-
teur, and Hitler had nothing to do with the decision to force a rematch. Arias Schreiber
has done wonderful research, although I was sorry to have that myth punctured; I loved
the Jesse Owens−like story of a multiracial team whomping the fascists.
The remaining articles explore different aspects of Peruvian soccer in recent
decades. Aldo Panfchi and Víctor Vich examine the mourning and anger after the tragic
loss of almost the entire Alianza squad in a November 1987 plane accident. Family mem-
bers continue to believe that their children will return, while fans question why the
Peruvian state was so slow to send help when the Fokker crashed in the ocean just outside
of Lima. The authors do a magisterial job of exploring pain and memory, incorporating
different theoretical debates while never losing focus on the players and their thousands
of loved ones. Jorge Thieroldt Llanos examines the barras bravas (Ultras in Europe)
and gangs, essentially the lumpen poor kids who live and fght for their teams. David
Wood provides an overview of soccer and identity in modern Peru, while two essays
capture the lives and careers of major fgures in the sport press. Finally, Richard Witzig
discusses Peru’s lone success story in the last decade or so, Cienciano of Cuzco, which
won the Copa Sudamericana in 2003, eliminating Santos and defeating River Plate in
the fnals, and then beating Boca Juniors in the Recopa. Witzig argues that altitude
(Cienciano’s stadium stands at 3,300 meters above sea level) is not the key to Cienciano’s
success — their victories against the two Argentine teams did not come in Cuzco. None-
theless, anyone who has witnessed a game in Cuzco — and I’ve been to dozens — must
recognize the advantage that the altitude offers. Of course, it’s not the key reason for
their great run, Peru’s last moment of soccer glory.
In what was clearly a labor of love, Ese gol existe is carefully edited and includes lovely
photographs. Aldo Panfchi and his collaborators succeed via goleada in demonstrating
the richness and relevance of studies on Peruvian soccer. The texts on origins and myths,
youth violence, and prisoners contribute greatly to the social sciences and soccer fans and
non-fans have much to enjoy in this fne edited volume.
charles f. walker, University of California, Davis
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-033
International and Comparative
Guerrillas: War and Peace in Central America. By dirk kruijt. New York: Zed Books,
2008. Tables. Appendixes. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xxiv, 248 pp. Cloth, $99.95.
Paper, $32.95.
In this accessible study, Dutch development scholar, diplomat, and policy adviser Dirk
Kruijt provides a focused, analytical introduction to the leaders of the three insurgen-
cies in Central America that commanded worldwide attention from the 1970s through
the mid-1990s. Informed by several years of serving as a policy advisor and engaging in
collaborative academic research on the isthmus, more than 90 interviews with political
and military leaders, and access to social scientists and intellectuals as well as literary and
archival sources, Kruijt provides an instructive account of the guerrillas’ motivations,
organizational structures, strategies, and tactics amid their shared historical contexts
of oligarchic oppression, deep social inequality, and unhelpful U.S. infuence. This his-
torical analysis is complemented by an unvarnished assessment of the revolutionaries’
successes and failures, their legacies, and the as-yet-unmet challenges and unresolved
tensions that remain in the region today.
Using land, unemployment, and demographic data portraying growing social
exclusion and displacement rooted in already highly inequitable societies, Kruijt points
to the cognitive dissonance experienced by university students and other members of the
emerging middle sectors as they navigated the sharply contrasting realities character-
izing Central America’s urban centers crowded by poor rural immigrants. Chief among
the reasons for the guerrilla insurgencies was the military oligarchic regimes’ inability or
unwillingness to reform themselves. General Héctor Alejandro Gramajo, for example,
recalled that even the hint of reform was entirely unwelcome, as when he attempted “to
talk about Guatemala being a society that was stratifed, fragmented, etc., and that we
needed to have a more tolerant culture, a professional army, greater political participa-
tion, and so on” ( p. 22).
Book Reviews / International and Comparative 571
572 HAHR / August
Kruijt emphasizes the importance of universities and Christian Base Communities
for guerrilla recruitment efforts, albeit supplemented by trade unions, neighborhood
organizations, peasant associations, left-wing political parties and some young military
offcers. For Francisco Jovel, who became secretary general of the Central American
Workers’ Revolutionary Party ( Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores Centro-
americanos) in El Salvador, involvement as a student began with “the idea of serving
others” ( p. 41). Monica Baltodano had participated in a high school group in which stu-
dents “questioned their Christian faith in such an unjust and unequal society” ( p. 42)
before deepening her involvement and becoming a guerrilla commander of the Sandini-
sta National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional) in Nicaragua.
Guerrillas improvised what Sandinista Commander Jaime Wheelock referred to as a
“very practical struggle” by combining liberation theology, dependency analysis, a vari-
ety of texts on revolution and military strategy, the guiding myths of popular resistance,
and periods of training in Cuba ( p. 56).
Strategies and tactics and their resulting outcomes depended on many factors that
Kruijt presents in a crisp narrative that makes effective use of the recollections of par-
ticipants in these struggles. Here, as elsewhere, he draws comparisons among the three
cases that contribute toward an understanding of the difference outcomes. Key con-
siderations in this regard include strategies of rural and urban insurgencies, the role
of the U.S. government, the intensity of military and paramilitary counterinsurgency
campaigns, levels of popular support, and the guerrillas’ international diplomacy. The
daily practice of gender and ethnic relations, sexual intimacy, and morality are similarly
examined at the level of guerrilla units and in their relations with the surrounding com-
munities. In sum, roughly the frst half of the book presents the reader with a demystifed
yet generally sympathetic portrayal of the guerrillas.
If the frst half of the book serves to explain why so many young Central Americans
became guerrillas in their countries’ periods of revolutionary struggle and hope, the sec-
ond half in some sense seeks to come to terms with the often bitter results they obtained.
The fnal chapters focus on utopia and dystopia in Nicaragua, the peace processes and
reintegration, and guerrilla legacies and the enduring ambivalences of hindsight. For
those who were present with these struggles, these chapters provide valuable material for
refection. This book should be read in its entirety by anyone interested in understand-
ing the choices facing Central Americans and others similarly situated when regimes of
political repression and social exclusion are not enough. It should also be required read-
ing in Washington and Tegucigalpa as the leaders of the military coup of June 28, 2009,
in the guerrillas’ neighboring country of Honduras seek “recklessly” to repeat history.
craig auchter, Butler University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-034
Fórmula para o caos: A derrubada de Salvador Allende (1970 – 1973).
By luiz alberto moniz bandeira. Preface by samuel pinheiro guimarães.
Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2008. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index.
640 pp.
Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira’s captivating account of the opposition to the Popular
Unity government in Chile (1970 – 73) details the impossibility of the plan for the Chil-
ean way to socialism (“la via chilena con vino y empanadas”). The Popular Unity gov-
ernment faced challenges from their own supporters who adopted increasingly radical
tactics such as tomas (takeovers) and land invasions. Due to the historical context of the
early 1970s, Salvador Allende found little material support from the Soviet Union or
Cuba. For instance, in December 1972, Allende traveled to the Soviet Union to negotiate
a loan for US $500 million but returned with promises for a loan for only US $100 mil-
lion. As Moniz Bandeira claims, “ ‘El hermano mayor’ did not have any resources avail-
able to support a new member who wanted to enter the family ‘with wine and meat pies’ ”
( p. 392). In addition, Allende faced well-organized and fnancially strong opposition from
the CIA and the Nixon administration, factions of the Chilean Armed Forces, U.S. and
Chilean corporations, the Chilean media, right-wing terrorist groups, and even foreign
diplomats such as Brazilian ambassador Antônio Cândido da Câmara Canto (1970 – 73).
What is most chilling to read in Fórmula para o caos is how detailed and multilayered
the plans actually were to create a situation in which a military coup and military gov-
ernment seemed like the best solution. While Moniz Bandeira’s evidence is solid, the
story seems almost implausible in terms of how effectively the plans were designed and
executed, leaving the impression that Allende and the Popular Unity government had no
chance to succeed.
As documents on the Cold War in Latin America continue to be released and new
archives open, scholars are able to construct historical narratives based on evidence
showing the plans and links amongst the military regimes in Latin America. Moniz
Bandeira’s Fórmula para o caos is a welcome addition to the historiography on inter-
American Cold War relations. Whereas Greg Grandin’s Empire’s Workshop (2006) makes
Guatemala the exemplary case to explain Cold War politics in Central America, Moniz
Bandeira focuses on Chile as the key example of Cold War politics in the Southern Cone.
Similar to other studies on Salvador Allende, the Popular Unity, and the military coup
of 1973, Moniz Bandeira uses documents from Peter Kornbluh’s Chile Documentation
Project at the National Security Archive, and other U.S. government documents such as
Senate hearings and reports on the International Telephone and Telegraph Company in
Chile. He also draws from relatively new electronic archives in Chile such as the Centro
de Estudios Miguel Enríquez (CEME) Arquivo Chile.
But, what is most interesting about this book is what is missing from its title. Moniz
Bandeira’s breadth of knowledge about Brazilian politics during the dictatorship and
his use of documents from the Itamaraty, Ministry of Foreign Relations, and Brazilian
National Archives illustrate how the Brazilian military government supported and pro-
Book Reviews / International and Comparative 573
574 HAHR / August
moted coups and military regimes in Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Argentina. He also
provides evidence of how the Brazilian Armed Forces, Brazilian banks, and Brazilian
corporations — all with ties to the CIA — provided funding and training to opposition
groups in Chile, such as Patria y Libertad. Drawing from the experience of successful
tactics used in the Brazilian coup of 1964, such groups orchestrated strikes and women’s
protest marches to create the notion of instability and popular opposition to Allende.
After the coup, Brazilian ambassador Câmara Canto visited members of the Chilean
military junta, Brazil being the frst country to extend offcial recognition to the new
government. In the days immediately following the coup, the Brazilian Armed Forces
transported 20 tons of food provisions and medical supplies to Santiago, and the Central
Bank of Brazil promised Chile a credit of US $200 million. Although Brazilian general
Emílio Garrastazu Médici did not want offcial involvement in the conspiracy to over-
throw Allende, Moniz Bandeira claims that the immediate offcial recognition, support,
and aid for the military junta demonstrates Brazil’s complicity in Chilean politics in the
early 1970s.
While lengthy, the book is well written and engaging. If it were in English, it would
be an excellent text for undergraduate courses on U.S. – Latin American relations. [Edi-
tor’s note: The book was published simultaneously in Chile in a Spanish edition.] The
book brings to life the extremely politicized atmosphere of the Southern Cone countries
in the early 1970s, and Moniz Bandeira makes it seem as though no middle road existed:
Public life centered around the divide between being pro- or anti-Communist. In the
conclusion, he suggests that Allende’s peaceful way to socialism was a naive dream that
lacked historical precedent and was doomed to fail, especially since Allende’s opposition
did not hesitate to resort to violence, weapons, and foreign support.
sarah sarzynski, Mount Holyoke College
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-035
The Cuban Connection: Drug Traffcking, Smuggling, and Gambling in Cuba from the 1920s
to the Revolution. By eduardo sáenz rovner. Translated by russ davidson.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. Tables. Notes. Bibliography.
Index. xii, 247 pp. Cloth, $35.00.
This slender volume takes on three interrelated subjects over a tumultuous half-century
of Cuban history. The focus is clearly on drugs, as the author acknowledges in stating
that the chapters on smuggling and gambling are included as “part of a wider trajectory
of vice” ( p. 14). Even so, its coverage of Cuban drug running makes this a unique con-
tribution to the felds of Latin American history, U.S. foreign relations, and narcotics
The most engaging aspects of the study are the vivid details it integrates mainly
from two sources: the Archivo Nacional de Cuba, and the fles of the Federal Bureau
of Narcotics, the forerunner of the Drug Enforcement Agency, contained in Records
Group 170 of the U.S. National Archives. These documents show the complicity of
steamship companies from many different nations in transporting drugs to Cuba, and
reveal webs of conspiracy involving a wide international array of actors. The names of
some of these fgures seem to come straight from gangster movies, such as “El Cubano
Loco,” and “El Chinito Lima.” The most ftting moniker was that of a drug traffcker
as notorious as he was ubiquitous during the heyday of Havana decadence: Santo Traf-
fcante. Voluminous secondary sources provide background for the intriguing details
drawn from the archival records.
The evidence compiled here refects the uneven enforcement of drug laws by
Cuban authorities, who targeted poor, dark-skinned marijuana users and Chinese opium
smokers but spared rich, light-skinned cocaine snorters. That pattern endured despite
shifts in power in Havana. Cuban courts were slow and amenable to lenient bail arrange-
ments, resulting in a revolving door for traffckers who found Cuba to be a lucrative
and convenient market, and frustration for members of the growing U.S. anti-narcotics
In general, this analysis refutes the pro-revolutionary historiography that blames a
neocolonial relationship with the United States for Cuba’s vices. The account corrects
the false image of Fidel Castro crusading against all types of vice following his entry
into Havana in January 1959, reminding readers that the revolutionary leader invited
U.S. tourists to return to their Cuban playground that same month. Even though Carlos
Prueba, the “Troubador of the Revolution,” decried gambling in a song claiming that
the Batista regime had turned La Habana into a “gambling den” and Castro’s arrival
“was the end of the party” ( p. 139), the new Castro government proved willing to work
with people who knew how to run hotels and casinos, the infrastructure of the tourism
industry, even if they were transparently involved in organized crime. At the outset, the
regime prohibited only cockfghts and slot machines, which were associated with ram-
pant government corruption during the Batista years. The infamous Mob-run casinos,
meanwhile, stayed open for more than two years, until September 1961.
There would be no cooperation with the United States in a war on drugs, how-
ever, despite the fact that Castro’s government was harsh with marijuana offend-
ers, even doling out death sentences for dealers. Although this was a major shift from
the lackadaisical approach of previous Cuban governments, the chief of the FBN, the
J. Edgar Hoover – like Harry Anslinger, accused Castro of assisting the fow of drugs
into the United States. His charges sounded like something out of the screenplay for
Reefer Madness: “No one knows yet to what extent Cuba is participating in the efforts
to undermine the United States with drugs. But certainly . . . the Communists may be
expected to employ narcotics against America” ( p. 138). Castro himself drew suspicion of
cocaine addiction, because of his inordinately long and energetic speech making. Ironi-
cally, when Castro complied with U.S. requests to arrest the infamous Meyer Lansky
and other American mobsters, it turned out there were no drug charges pending against
them in the United States, so the Cuban courts released them.
The book addresses the history of Cuban immigration, a phenomenon tied to smug-
Book Reviews / International and Comparative 575
576 HAHR / August
gling and drug running, and goes beyond the national boundaries of Cuba to the places
of origin for the drugs exported to the island. These may be part of the trans national
picture of the drug trade, but at times the attention to these concerns, such as an entire
chapter devoted to France, seems somewhat off the subject.
Considering the great value of the FBN documents tapped here, it is surprising that
a book like this did not appear sooner. Great credit is due to the author for locating this
data and producing such a concise account based upon it. The picture that emerges from
the book is one of a simpler, less violent time in the drug culture of the Caribbean region.
When compared to the vast scale and savage violence of the Mexican Sinoloa Cartel that
currently controls the majority of the North American drug market, the Cuban connec-
tions of the mid-twentieth century seem decidedly quaint.
eric paul roorda, Bellarmine University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-036
Translating Empire: José Martí, Migrant Latino Subjects, and American Modernities.
By laura lomas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008. Photographs.
Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xvii, 379 pp. Cloth, $89.95. Paper, $24.95.
Laura Lomas’s monograph is a superb contribution to the scholarship on José Martí and
the ways in which he and other Latino authors in the late nineteenth-century United
States laid the foundations for a critique of a rising United States by viewing its relation-
ship to Latin America from their anticolonial perspective as migrants. The book con-
nects with a new, critical literature in American Studies about the signifcance of the rise
of the U.S. empire in the works of writers such as Emerson, Whitman, and Helen Hunt
Jackson, and new explorations on the origins of modernism.
The author advances the scholarship on Martí beyond canonical works, e.g., “Nues-
tra América,” to other lesser known and even recently discovered writing, subjecting
both the well-known writings and the recent additions to a more complex interpretation.
Lomas’s careful reading moves the scholarship beyond the conventional wisdom that
Martí was critical of corruption and the rise of monopolies in the United States but that
he remained enamored of American technology and great literary fgures.
Lomas examines Martí’s texts in the context of his situation as a political exile and
transitory migrant who depended on his journalism for a living, who worked often as a
consular offcer of Latin American countries, and who worked sometimes openly but
often clandestinely to organize the Cuban revolution for independence. Martí’s work
cannot be understood, as Lomas shows, except by taking into account the constraints he
faced as a needy, politically active, foreign migrant in the United States trying to make
sure that his writing was correctly apprehended in the Latin American culture context
of his readership. Lomas shows how Martí’s texts of praise for American writers like
Whitman and Emerson and his discussions of American technology are immersed in
irony, subterfuge, and in a cultural as well as a linguistic translation that was necessary
in order for his readers south of the border to grasp North American culture. Plowing
in between the lines of Martí’s prolix prose, she discovers a “critique of Whitman’s rac-
ism and expansionism in his close reading of Whitman’s poetic form” ( p. 203). She uses
the term “untranslation” to describe the process whereby she renders in English and for
American readers Martí’s camoufaged discourse about the involvement of literary fg-
ures such as Whitman in the construction of a U.S. idiom of empire. She shows how in
Martí’s search for an anti-imperial stance he prefgures ideas advanced by C. L. R. James
about the role of Caribbean masses in decolonization, and by Benedict Anderson about
the importance of print culture as constitutive of national imaginaries.
Another new and original aspect of the texts by Lomas is how she shows Martí’s
writings to be at the foundation of two literary modes, Latin American modernismo and
the modernism more well known in the United States. For many decades these two lit-
erary styles and approaches were not considered to be at all related. At best they were
simply treated as false cognates; at worst they were viewed as standing in stark contradic-
tion to each other.
In fact, American critics remained largely ignorant of the existence of modernismo.
More recently a number of critics — for example, writers Iván Schulman and Evelyn
Picón Garfeld and literary critic Fredric Jameson — began to recognize commonalities
as both literary modes arose in response to modernity, with modernismo predating mod-
ernism by more than two decades. Lomas takes the argument further, arguing convinc-
ingly that one can fnd the frst manifestations of both currents in Martí, whose Spanish
poetry has long been identifed with the beginning of modernismo, when examining his
writings on/in the United States.
Lomas’s work complements books by José David Saldívar, Doris Sommer, Jeffrey
Belnap and Raúl Fernández, Julio Ramos, Susana Rotker, and Ada Ferrer that have pro-
vided a background on the history and society that surrounded Martí. It is a highly
original and timely presentation on an exciting and growing feld of literary and cul-
tural scholarship. For U.S. scholars it provides a welcome warning against too quick an
embrace of a perspective centered on the western hemisphere, which “may well repro-
duce the imperialist dynamics” ( p. 34) they would criticize. Lomas’s book is also of great
interest to an international audience, especially in the felds of Latin American history
and literature. It will radically alter the way people study Whitman, Emerson, and Helen
Hunt Jackson; how they conceive of the origins of modernism; and the ways in which
Martí’s ideas have been understood until now.
raúl fernández, University of California, Irvine
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-037
Book Reviews / International and Comparative 577
578 HAHR / August
Race, Colonialism, and Social Transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Edited by jerome branche. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008.
Photographs. Illustrations. Figures. Maps. Notes. Bibliographies. Index. viii, 301 pp.
Cloth, $69.95.
This volume, derived from a conference held at the University of Pittsburgh in 1998, sets
itself the ambitious task of advancing new models “not only for reading, but also resolv-
ing the ubiquitous interlacing legacies of capital, coloniality, and race” in Latin America
( pp. 5 – 6). Individual chapters offer an array of insights into these legacies in Uruguay,
Haiti, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and the French Antilles,
even if, not surprisingly, they are only partially successful in actually resolving the prob-
lems provoked by colonialism. As this list of countries indicates, the volume is unusually
broad in its geographic scope; the authors are to be congratulated in extending their
scholarly focus beyond the familiar territory of Mexico and Peru.
Individual chapters take varying approaches to the aim of reading and resolv-
ing colonial legacies. Gustavo Verdesio comments on the Uruguayan state’s alternate
attempts to erase and exalt the country’s indigenous heritage. Carolle Charles examines
the relative importance of the concepts of race and class within Haitian political discourse
from the Haitian Revolution to the early twenty-frst century. Kelvin Santiago-Valles
offers a critical reexamination of negrista poetry, which he argues helped resolve “colo-
nized blanchitude’s crisis of representation” ( p. 60). Gislene Aparecida dos Santos studies
the attitudes of Brazilian high school students toward affrmative action to explore the
extent to which victims of discrimination often fail to identify themselves as such. Her
study also offers clear examples of the slippery nature of racial categories in contempo-
rary Brazil, for the students that she interviews often expressed considerable vagueness
about how one actually determined anyone’s race. José Rabasa’s chapter juxtaposes con-
temporary Zapatismo with early colonial maps of Cholula, in order to propose that in
some cases the experience of colonialism produced not mestizaje or even a sense of dou-
ble consciousness but rather individuals able to inhabit plural worlds. Denise Y. Arnold
offers a detailed analysis of the governmental challenges associated with implement-
ing the social visions encoded in a set of departmental maps designed in late twentieth-
and early twenty-frst-century Bolivia. Marcia Stephenson charts the controversies
stirred up by the writings of Bolivian gadfy Fausto Reinaga, whose work, she argues,
“simultaneously reveal how colonialism works both implicitly and explicitly to eradicate
any and all manifestations of indigenous identity, and . . . documents the painful battle to
affrm indigenous subjectivity” ( p. 205). Laurence Prescott introduces the writings of the
Afro-Colombian writer Manuel Zapata Olivella, and Michael Handelsman undertakes a
somewhat similar exercise for the Ecuadorian journalist Juan Montaño Escobar, whom
he sees as embracing “strategic essentialism.” Finally, H. Adlai Murdoch examines the
visions of creole identity expressed in the writings of several contemporary Antillean
poets and essayists.
These individual chapters share a number of overlapping themes. Nearly a third
explore the tensions inherent within nationalist visions based on rhetorics of racial
democracy, and all reveal an interest in examining recent history through the lens of
colonial inequalities, although, with the exception of Rabasa’s chapter, none offers much
detailed examination of colonial history itself. As an interdisciplinary exercise the vol-
ume is, like so many such ventures, only partially successful. Individual chapters do not
so much transcend their author’s disciplinary boundaries as rub shoulders with other
chapters based on different methodological frameworks. The introduction, which might
have guided the reader through the common themes that unite the chapters, or, more
ambitiously, probed the extent to which the contributors share compatible visions of
coloniality, instead concentrates on the interesting topic of interactions between people
of African and indigenous heritage in the colonial era. Sadly, the introduction’s attractive
promise of consistent attention to issues of Afro-indigenous collaboration is left largely
unfulflled in the remainder of the volume. Nor is this book well suited for undergradu-
ate use, unless you are confdent that your students can decipher terms such as “solidar-
ian” ( p. 3), “petit-coloniality” ( p. 58), “Africoid” ( p. 69), and “proparoxytonical” ( p. 250),
and are familiar with the Gramscian concept of immanent history and the Jamesonian
ideologeme. This is a book aimed at postgraduate readers interested in the continuing
impact of the long history of racial (and class) inequalities on contemporary Latin Amer-
ica. Such readers will fnd much of interest.
rebecca earle, University of Warwick
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-038
La frontera que vino del norte. By carlos gonzález herrera. Mexico City:
Santilla Ediciones Generales, S.A. de C.V. / Colegio de Chihuahua, 2008. Notes.
Bibliography. Index. 295 pp. Paper.
Translated into English, the title of this book is “The Border That Was Imposed from
the North.” This work by Carlos González Herrera, a faculty member of the recently
founded Colegio de Chihuahua, focuses on the El Paso – Ciudad Juárez region and exam-
ines the construction of an asymmetrical barrier by Anglo-Americans north of the bor-
der. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided an abstract political division that
was apparent only on a map. Within a few short years, railroads, industry, and general
economic development constructed a highly identifable zone on the Anglo-American
side, bolstered by political and cultural hegemony. The Mexican Revolution, which
signifcantly affected the border region, brought urgency to further reinforcement of a
demarcation between the two countries.
In the most impressive section of his book, González Herrera, relying on hard evi-
dence, demonstrates how Anglo-Americans constructed an idea of their border counter-
parts by relying on subjective assessments of the attributes of the population dwelling
south of the border. In the process, a sharply defned “otherness” was applied to Ciudad
Juárez and notably to the Mexican sections of El Paso. Consequently, Anglo-Americans
Book Reviews / International and Comparative 579
580 HAHR / August
easily distinguished themselves from the perception of a vastly inferior “Mexicanness”
laced by racial differences. Based on this otherness, Anglos with the might of political
hegemony on their side constructed lasting legal, cultural, and ethnic divisions between
the Anglos and Mexicans.
One of the most unique contributions of this book details how health issues and
concerns provided an important rationale for marginalizing the Mexicans within the
growing asymmetrical arrangement. In the late nineteenth century, as the U.S. side
became more complex and economically viable, medical offcials began to identify health
threats along the border as originating mainly in Mexico but able to be carried across
by human migration. Efforts to contain typhus and other contagious maladies were
accompanied by attaching disease to the image of Mexicanness. But since Mexican labor
became essential to the rapid economic development in El Paso, immigration across the
bridge had to be tolerated as a necessary evil. To ward off health hazards, the humiliating
ceremonies of submitting migrants to disinfectant showers and strip searches became the
norm. Interestingly, the author acknowledges that offcials also applied this procedure to
immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, but with less frequency and intensity. The reader is
left to assume that a sharper form of racialization affected Mexicans.
Feeling unwelcome and rejected, the subordinated immigrants adopted an intense
expatriate nationalism that served as a source of empowerment by providing them with
identity and a sense of unity. The mainly nostalgic ideology incorporated Spanish lan-
guage preservation, celebration of the festas patrias (Mexican patriotic holidays), Cathol-
icism, and an ambivalent form of anti-Americanism. Such postures, according to the
author, served as a form of defense and resistance.
Readers conversant in Mexico-U.S. border scholarship will fnd that González Her-
rera’s book, even though interesting and tightly organized, often duplicates research and
reaches conclusions already proffered in other studies. Although he carefully conceptu-
alizes expatriate nationalism, the author does not acknowledge some previous studies
on Mexican immigration that registered similar fndings (such as my description of a
remarkably parallel process that I termed “México Lindo,” and other studies appearing
as early as the 1980s).
At times, in an eagerness to display a more energetic racism toward Mexican immi-
grants in contrast to European newcomers, the comparisons are weak. For example, in
discussing an increasingly restrictive immigration policy in the early twentieth century,
the author concludes that Mexicans were more victimized than European immigrants.
To be sure, such measures as literacy requirements and the head tax and visa fee imple-
mented between 1917 and 1924 made it more diffcult for Mexicans to enter the country
legally; the undocumented infux of Mexicans soared in the 1920s. González Herrera
acknowledges that the quota restrictions that negatively affected eastern and southern
European nations did not apply to Mexico. But he then glosses over how immigrants
from these nations encountered major diffculties in gaining admittance to the United
States in comparison to the relatively easier entry for Mexicans. While racism and hostil-
ity in the United States was probably worse for Mexicans than for the “new immigrants”
from Europe, Mexico’s immigrants had a signifcant structural advantage in entering and
avoiding pursuit. Today’s immigrants from Mexico, whether they are undocumented,
legal, naturalized, or U.S.-born, do not face the same degree of hostility and racism that
Mexicans faced in the era featured in this book. Ironically, even during the well-known
repatriation campaigns of the Great Depression, Mexicans found it much, much easier to
obtain immigration relief than do undocumented immigrants today.
This book is worth reading and it should be translated. Though the work’s conclu-
sions may appear somewhat trite to immigration specialists, other readers will fnd a nice
synthesis of previously done work. Even if it seems as though González Herrera is trying
to gain recognition for fndings that are not really novel, about half of the book provides
unique and original theories, ideas, and fndings.
arturo rosales, Arizona State University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-039
Women and Migration in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: A Reader.
Edited by denise a. segura and patricia zavella. Latin America Otherwise.
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index.
xii, 595 pp. Cloth, $99.95. Paper, $29.95.
Migration of women from Mexico to the United States has dramatically increased in
recent years. The book’s aim is to explore this, while simultaneously addressing how it
has been underrepresented in scholarly work. In doing so, a platform is created where
these women and the issues that shape their everyday lives are made visible in the acad-
emy. It is a worthy and much-needed contribution to debates about women, gender, and
migration in the borderlands, which, as the editors point out, remains understudied,
displaced, or at times simply ignored. Also notable is the interdisciplinary nature of the
compilation, which brings a number of signifcant contributions into a shared space and
thus sets a precedent for further interdisciplinary dialogue. Likewise, the editors’ sensi-
tivity to modes of thought from both sides of the border is commendable, with two of the
essays having been translated from Spanish.
The sizeable collection of 23 essays truly is diverse and challenging. The essays in
the volume fnd common ground through the theoretical concept of “structural vio-
lence” which women in the borderlands are collectively subjected to in various ways.
This appears to refer to the institutionalization of unequal power relations in society
and government that naturalize the various subordinations of women. The volume sets
to work exploring both the processes by which this takes place and the possibilities for
resistance or agency that it creates. However, the volume covers such a broad thematic
scope that at times it is unclear how the essays connect; this lack of a ft could alienate a
“beginner” audience, which is presumably among those it is aimed at captivating.
Book Reviews / International and Comparative 581
582 HAHR / August
The essays span a variety of topics, including but not limited to gendered violence
at the border (including femicide in Ciudad Juárez); the biopolitics of female re/produc-
tion and women’s construction as a biological threat to state and nation; the sexualization
of female workers; women’s cross-border/hybrid identities and the challenge they pose
to state-defned citizenship; the organization and regulation of sexuality at the border;
women’s symbolic relationship to the nation and their inherent instability as cultural
anchors; the changing role of women as wives and mothers; and the important role of
music in opening public spaces of “in-betweenness” where women’s transnational iden-
tities can be celebrated. Unexpectedly, the book does not have a concluding chapter,
thereby missing an opportunity to tie together numerous loose ends and fag further
possibilities for research into women at the borderlands.
As in any collection so diverse, some criticisms could be levied about the book’s
approach. Most problematic for me is the introductory focus on Gloria Anzaldúa. The
volume opens with her words, and its subsequent uncritical appropriation of her defni-
tion of the borderlands risks reinforcing a number of myths prevalent in border studies.
First, it reproduces the myth that border studies began with her infuential book Border-
lands: The New Mestiza (1987) and thus obscures or devalues studies undertaken before
that (see Pablo Vila’s conclusion in Ethnography at the Border, 2003, p. 308). Second,
employing her fgurative defnition of the borderlands as an unspecifed zone stretch-
ing to the south and north of the physical divide threatens to inadvertently obscure the
signifcance of the physical borderlands themselves and the specifcity of the struggles
that take place there. Finally, and perhaps most markedly, the editors celebrate Gloria
Anzaldúa’s famous metaphor of the border as an “open and bleeding wound” ( p. 4) with-
out heeding Patricia Price’s critique that this remark actually refects the subtle femini-
zation of the border. By reproducing what is essentially an image of female genitalia (see
Patricia L. Price, Dry Place: Landscapes of Belonging and Exclusion, 2004, p. 55), they unwit-
tingly reinstate the binaries that have historically constituted women’s ambiguity within
hegemonic discourses of state and society (good/evil, Guadalupe/Malinche, mother/
temptress), which arguably maintain their marginal status both at the border and within
academic studies of the borderlands. Conversely, many of the individual essays do recog-
nize and critically assess these issues; this again creates a certain lack of ft.
Overall, the volume is well suited to those unfamiliar with the topics it discusses
owing to its clear and explanatory manner. However, it will also interest established
scholars with its seemingly endless directions for more specialized research. The inter-
disciplinary mix makes the book attractive to a variety of academic felds such as politi-
cal science and international relations, Chicana/o studies, Latin American and Latino
studies, border studies, sociology, and human geography (even though the authors are
predominantly sociologists). It is certainly a valuable contribution to studies of women
and/or the U.S.-Mexican borderlands in each of these disciplines.
marie woodling, Aberystwyth University
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-040
Book Reviews / International and Comparative 583
Confict and Commerce on the Rio Grande: Laredo, 1755 – 1955. By john a. adams jr.
College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. Photographs. Maps. Tables.
Appendixes. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xvi, 286 pp. Cloth, $29.95.
Each year, thousands of trucks and billions of dollars in commerce cross the Rio Grande
into the United States at Laredo. The second oldest chartered settlement in Texas has
become one of the busiest ports of entry along the southern border, if not the busi-
est. The transformation of Laredo from a sleepy town on the far northern frontier of
Spanish settlement in the Americas into a vital trade link between two of the principal
participants in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the focus of this
detailed study by John A. Adams Jr. The author, who earned a doctoral degree in history,
spent many years as the executive director of the Laredo Development Foundation. This
shows in his focus on Laredo’s business history, though never to the complete exclusion
of the social and political context. The result is a well-written and affectionate look at
how international commerce created today’s Laredo.
The villa of Laredo was chartered in 1755 at a well-known ford across the Rio
Grande. Spanish Laredo was dominated by ranching because a lack of money, credit,
and roads hampered long-distance trade. Development was also hindered by Spanish
restrictions on commerce and the absence of banks. The primary change under Mexican
rule was the easing of laws against free trade, but the other problems continued and
were even exacerbated by the imposition of onerous taxes. Cattle still provided more
income than any other product, trade remained local, and smuggling undermined plans
to expand legal commerce. Schemes such as the stillborn Republic of the Rio Grande, for
which Laredo served briefy as capital, provided little relief, while the Benavides family
emerged as the leaders of efforts to keep the community from disappearing.
Real change began with the arrival of the United States Army in 1846, led ironically
by Mirabeau B. Lamar, who as president of the Republic of Texas had failed to enforce
that short-lived nation’s claims to peripheral areas such as Laredo. New faces and army
facilities brought slow growth, which was little affected by Mexican leaders’ declaration
of a zona libre along the Rio Grande. What brought an explosion in trade was the Civil
War, especially in 1863 when the Confederates were forced to use inland ports such as
Laredo to ship cotton to Mexico after Union forces occupied Brownsville. Santos Bena-
vides and his brothers repulsed Federal raiders and profted from the border trade, which
lapsed after 1865 as commerce returned to more familiar prewar patterns.
As Reconstruction came to an end in Texas, and concerns about raids by Indians
and Juan Cortina faded, Laredo embraced the future by welcoming a railroad. By late
1881 the town was linked to the outside world through San Antonio to the north and,
soon afterward, Mexico City to the south. Trade between the United States and Mexico
exploded under Porfrio Díaz, and the population of Laredo more than tripled in the
1880s. Nearby coal mines opened to supply the rail companies, and onions surpassed
cattle in profts as farmers around Laredo became the top producers in the United States.
The Mexican Revolution caused some brief disruptions, but by 1915 Laredo had recov-
584 HAHR / August
ered. It continued to grow through the 1920s as oil and gas replaced coal and onions
in the local economy. And through it all, commerce across the border continued to
World War II brought new military installations and more millions of dollars in
trade to Laredo. The army posts later closed, but oil, gas, and transport remained strong
in the city that had become a primary point for transborder shipping. Maquiladoras and
eventually NAFTA simply reinforced a pattern that was already well established by 1955,
the author’s chronological stopping point.
The text is supported by many illustrations, an extensive bibliography and annota-
tions, a glossary, useful appendices on many topics, and charts providing information
that ranges from essential to quirky. It is evident that the author is not a military histo-
rian or an expert in social history. It is puzzling that he ignores the rebellion led by José
María de Jesús Carvajal during the early 1850s on the lower Rio Grande, and certainly
other military unrest in the region must have had a greater impact on Laredo. None-
theless, anyone interested in commerce along the border, the colorful history of the
Rio Grande region, or the impact of the convoluted economic relationship between the
United States and Mexico will fnd much of value in this book. Laredo’s story, properly
told, is complex, and the author did a good job of distilling it into a useful narrative from
a business perspective.
richard b. mccaslin, University of North Texas
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-041
From Many, One: Indians, Peasants, Borders, and Education in Callista Mexico, 1924 – 1935.
By andrae m. marak. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2009. Photographs.
Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xxviii, 226 pp. Paper, $34.95.
In the last three decades, Mexican postrevolutionary education has received the atten-
tion of a good number of Mexican and U.S. historians, turning the once-amateur feld of
educational history into a professional endeavor and contributing to the already rich cor-
pus of postrevolutionary cultural, social, and political historiography. Andrae M. Marak
is right in observing that more attention has been paid to José Vasconcelos’s period as
secretary of education (1921 – 24) and the educational policies of Lázaro Cárdenas’s gov-
ernment (1934 – 40) than to those of the period in between, which he studies. The author
is also right in pointing out that the northern frontier has been little researched. There-
fore, his work on Sonora’s and Coahuila’s northern borders as well as on the state of
Chihuahua during 1924 – 35 is a welcome addition.
The introduction and the frst chapter focus on Calles’s educational policies and
their role in nation building, while chapter 2 covers the federalization of education in
Chihuahua, that is, the takeover of state-managed schools by the federal government
as an important feature of an increasingly centralizing nation-state. Unfortunately, the
study of politics at the national and regional level in these sections, although it gives a
Book Reviews / International and Comparative 585
useful overview, is not fully integrated into the analysis of educational policy implemen-
tation at the local level in chapters 3 to 6.
Chapters 3 to 5 study the federal schools opened for three different Indian tribes:
the Tarahumara (in the Tarahumara Sierra in Chihuahua), the Seri (on the western coast
of Sonora and Tiburón Island) and the Tohono O’odham (on the Sonora-Arizona bor-
der). Historiography is more abundant for regions inhabited by Mesoamerican Indians
than those populated by northern Indians and has more frequently studied the objects
of educational policies as peasants than as Indians. Works specifcally concerned with
Indians have more often taken a national than a regional, case study perspective. By
contrast, Marak provides local studies of the implementation of federal schooling among
three groups with distinctive Indian identities. This usefully complements Mary Kay
Vaughan’s work on the Yaquis and Alexander Dawson’s on indigenous boarding schools
and the crucial role of mediators between state agents and Indian communities. Marak
additionally highlights the infuence of U.S. Indian policies on Mexican state govern-
ments’ dealings with Indians (especially for the case of the Seri), which differed from the
Mexican federal government’s assimilationist indigenismo. Finally, chapter 6 covers an
interesting and even more neglected subject: the rather unsuccessful frontier schools in
Nogales, Sonora; Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua; and Piedras Negras in Coahuila, opened
by the federal Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) especially to compete with schools
across the border, which were very popular with parents living on the Mexican side.
On the downside, Marak’s treatment of the years 1924 – 35 is somewhat narrow.
Unlike the work published from the 1990s onward on the schools of the 1934 – 40 period,
this book does not show a deep understanding of prerevolutionary schools and society,
which were key in shaping people’s expectations of education and their relationships with
federal schools after the revolution. Instead Marak is content to align himself with the
now contentious view that there was hardly any prerevolutionary rural education ( pp.
xvi, xxi – xxii), a statement that, to be fair, may hold more true for the north than the
center of the country, but that Marak takes for granted rather than demonstrates. The
poverty of municipal and state educational policies in certain regions and the fact that
the population he studies were often migrants, possibly more focused on their present
and future than their past, might have explained the irrelevance or inexistence of past
schooling, but Marak does not discuss these issues.
However, Marak’s aim to contribute to the study of the “power of everyday peo-
ple to reshape government agendas” ( p. xi) is well achieved through various examples,
especially by studying the way the Tohono O’odham and the parents living in frontier
cities used U.S. schools to pressure the Mexican SEP for better quality education and a
particular curriculum. These communities, for instance, were more interested in getting
English lessons for their children than in participating in the civic festivals that helped
federal schools integrate more fully into local communities in certain parts of central
Mexico. The SEP, nonetheless, did not always have enough resources to please demand-
ing parents.
586 HAHR / August
In brief, this work lacks the historical depth that could have been obtained with a
more careful temporal, local, and regional contextualization of the cases studied. But
this weakness is to some extent compensated by the author’s analysis of the hitherto
neglected themes of frontier life, the relationship with the United States, and the specifc
experiences of the Tarahumara, the Seri, and the Tohono O’odham in relation to the
social and political history of schooling.
ariadna acevedo-rodrigo, Centro de Investigación
y de Estudios Avanzados, Mexico City
doi 10.1215/00182168-2010-042
Hispanic American Historical Review 90:3
Copyright 2010 by Duke University Press
December 1, 2009
To the Editors:
In his review (vol. 89, no. 1, pp. 184 – 85) of my book Remembering the Haci-
enda: Religion, Authority, and Social Change in Highland Ecuador (University of
Texas Press, 2006), Mark Thurner graciously praises my writing and my ethno-
graphic material, but his review distorts or omits some of my major arguments.
Thurner says that the book “leaves history behind” after an early “back-
ground” chapter. It is true that the next fve chapters take a largely synchronic
analytic approach, while arguing for an alternative to the moral economy
school’s common focus on historical memory as an ideological source of resis-
tance. The book’s last two chapters, which the review ignores entirely, return
to a diachronic analysis. Here I show that structures of religious authority
and notions of respect that were hegemonic in the hacienda era shaped both
the agrarian transformation in the 1960s – 70s and the ethnic resurgence and
religious change of the 1980s – 90s, even as those structures and notions were
themselves transformed and reinterpreted in the process. These chapters make
the case that anthropology’s tools for understanding a sociocultural system
synchronically, with its internal coherence and contradictions, can enrich
our understanding of that system’s persistence and transformations through
time. Indeed, any history that aspires to social depth must in practice alternate
between and synthesize synchronic and diachronic analytic moments.
The reviewer misses much of my argument about the so-called “triangle
without a base,” the outworn image of hacienda residents as lacking in any hori-
zontal solidarities. I do analyze hacienda residents’ web of social relations and
the ways it sustained resistance, as he indicates, but my argument goes beyond
that point in signifcant ways. First, I demonstrate that relations among kin and
neighbors were shot through with a hierarchical dimension linked to hacienda
hegemony. While others have described this hierarchical dimension, I believe
my book goes further in analyzing its hegemonic force and explaining how even
horizontal relations provided openings for hegemony. Second, I build on one
588 HAHR / August
point that was central to some of the “open triangle” scholarship, namely, that
ties to formal organizations could facilitate the fow of information about the
broader political environment. I show that hacienda laborers’ lack of such ties
and misunderstanding of the broader environment handicapped them in the
agrarian reform period.
The main contribution that I would hope historians and others take away
from the book concerns what I term the “respect complex,” a topic the review
only mentions in a single clause. The book describes rituals of discipline, purif-
cation, and authority that had precolonial and colonial roots and were reinvigo-
rated under the late nineteenth-century García Moreno regime. It shows how
hacienda landlords, overseers, and religious elders drew on this ritual language
as they disciplined laborers, juniors, and quarreling spouses and neighbors, and
it analyzes the transformations of this complex in recent decades. Theoreti-
cally, my analysis of the respect complex revises common understandings of the
relationship between coercion, persuasion, hegemony, and resistance. Despite
changes in academic fashions in recent decades, I show that the concept of hege-
mony remains a powerful theoretical tool, one that new research continues to
Thurner also faults me for anachronistically “refer[ring] to colonial com-
posición titles as ‘property.’ ” This is a misquotation — I did not use the word
“property” in connection with composiciones — but I would like to know what in
Thurner’s opinion was mistaken in my one-sentence reference to composiciones.
I do acknowledge having deviated from “the established practices of historians”
by using very abbreviated in-text citations of archival documents, though I pro-
vide full information on these sources in my bibliography.
barry lyons, Wayne State University
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