The week’s readings and lecture video focused particularly on what it means to be a citizen and what exactly that entailed during this period in Latin America. I think it is interesting that our content and learning has led us to an area that is particularly European in its liberalist ideologies, that is the Enlightenment period. Thinkers such as Rousseau and his idea of the social contract are especially relevant to this week’s topics on the rights and social structure of Latin America at this time. Learning about the elitist liberals who gathered together to construct the constitutions of many of the countries in the region at this time, I was struck by the explicit contradictions of many of the Enlightenment-inspired ideas. The mestizos and Native peoples of many of these countries were simply ignored in terms of human rights and the idea of entitlement, the introduction of notions of natural and civil rights seemed to include an inherent racist aspect. As Dawson discusses in this week’s chapter, this aspect of racism was fuelled and supported by scientific reasoning, defining the biological differences between the races.
I also found it interesting to learn about the detailed socio-civil makeup in Brazil, with their being a range of categorization between black and white. This meant that there was a much bigger eclectic mix up in their society in comparison to countries such as Argentina at the time. It seems, at least to me, that there was a huge disparity with how each country went about setting up their social and political landscapes, particularly in terms of how different types of people were seen and categorized in each country. This meant that places like Brazil would see some people that would otherwise be categorized as black, owning slaves and obtaining private land. Being from England, I have only really learnt about the history of slavery in the US, Britain, and Africa. Thus, I’ve found the opportunity to learn about the history of slavery in places like Brazil to be really eye-opening. The biggest difference in my eyes has been that the really aggressive traditions of slavery were being seen at this time when Latin America was supposed to be restructuring and becoming a liberalist-based society akin to Europe. Whilst in Europe, the biggest era of pro-emancipation and abolitionist movements were taking place (even though it would take years and years for these to be formally put into place in the colonies). Interestingly enough, as stated by Dawson, there was a huge influx of European immigration to countries like Cuba and Brazil, in a government promoted effort to dilute the large Native populations.
Thank you for reading,