Week Six: “Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics”

Week Six: “Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics”

The concept of citizenship, at least from the modern democratic point of view, is a recent one. Its meaning changes through time and what it represents may also depends of who is at the top of the hierarchical scale implementing laws and regulations. In the case of Latin America, we have learned that as early as the 18th century with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, attempts were made for “men”, to place themselves as citizens within their own country. However, this step forward also represented a void with regards, once again, to native populations, mestizos, people of African descendants (slaves and free-man), and women.

The enlightenment period brought with it new ideas regarding rights for the citizen, these notions also opened hopeful expectations for a more equal society within the region which in the end were never fulfilled. For example, when the first battle for emancipation was won in the Caribbean, the rest of Latin America was paying close attention and elites in each country used racial political discourses of liberation and freedom, to win over the black population. However, once such battles of liberation against European imperialistic powers were won, many of these liberal criollo elites forgot about their promises and used segregation and alienation as a way to limit power mobility of non-European people. For example, I find very interesting that as early as 1902, Cuba’s constitution allowed adult males the right of vote, regardless of race, still when soldiers of African origin insisted for a better appreciation for their right to vote and requested a meaningful way (by accessing to lands, farming, or other means), white Cuban elites responded by denying their efforts and showcasing their blackness as symbolic of barbarism.

Now, regarding the documents about limiting citizenship, I have some mixed-feelings. First, Raimundo’s essay on “The fetishist Animism of the Bahia’s Blacks”, gives me the impression that the elevated used of language tries to hide a deep racial misconception that he holds against black people. Raimundo uses his ‘scientific’ research findings as a way to justify his views but such observations lack validity. For example, his comparison of Bahia’s worship and fetishism as those of Africa, by far are his weakest proof and undermines people of African ancestry their religions and cultural practises. He sees these practices as bad but does not fully understand them and deems them as backwards automatically positioning him as superior. Second, the “Political Program of the Partido Independiente de Color”, has some interesting points towards the recognition of military blacks in Cuba and their war efforts. It goes on to demand queal rights for all military blacks out of society (land, education, vote, etc.). This is very advance for its time and goes on to show that many military men where highly educated and that they wanted what was best for the community as a whole. Third, Maria Echenique’s “Brushstrokes”, is a great feminist attempt to create a dialogue between women of her time and tries to go beyond poetic term. It takes a stand towards a more practical, political, and philosophical role of the woman, not only their personal lives, but in the civil lives. Conversely, Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta’s “The Emancipation of Women”, is not very helpful with regards with to the feminism. Her argument is probably one of the most stupid arguments I’ve ever heart with regards to women’s role in society. She places them as physically weak, wives, muses of men, tender, etc. To some up, Pelliza’s essay is not a very good example of the feminist movement but it shows us the types of thinking women of the time were expressing regarding their own positionality in history.

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