Week 6- Citizenship & Rights

Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics is a topic that discusses propaganda and deception, but it also has bits of resistance and hope. Some marginalized groups worked within the law to find their freedom whereas some had no choice but to work outside or against the law. Cofradias, the fraternal societies organized by slaves and former slaves are a good example of manipulating the system for change. They would raise funds in order to “purchase” slaves to free them; they were staying within the law but finding an efficient way of rebelling. For others, however, the law only brought disadvantage, such as the communal villages that were broken up by liberal legislation.

I thought it was interesting to see the reasons why slavery crumbled- once a few nations were emancipated, it became clear that the eventual emancipation of the rest of the Americas was inevitable. Dawson explains that planters started reducing their reliance on slavery, “not because it was unprofitable, but because most believed that their long-term survival depended on finding new sources of labor.” So as the supply chain started to weaken, farmers knew they had to switch to other forms of labor because it was the smarter option, economically. This leaves the problem that many farmers freed their slaves not because of a change of moral conviction on the ethics of slavery, but simply because of economic motives. As slaves were emancipated, institutional racism still existed. This is true even more so in the United States, as Dawson explains, because of the differing conceptions of race. In the U.S., the one-drop rule existed as an accepted “truth” and still exists to this day, to some extent. Race was more complex in Latin America, but the heightened differentiation lead to complicated casts and hierarchies. Blackness was not just a racial category, it was also often times associated with African religions that were considered barbaric in comparison to Christianity.

“Moreover, because people of African ancestry could hope to move up the social hierarchy by acquiring wealth, prestige, and power, after 1889 a confrontational struggle for civil rights gave way to more individualized strategies of advancement. If you followed the rules of the system, you might get ahead. If you protested, you were certain to be left behind.”

This opportunity for advancement was a major difference between the emancipation processes in the U.S. and Latin America. Many former slaves in the U.S. did not have a chance to move up the social hierarchy, despite their ability to acquire wealth or follow the rules of the system.

How does Nina Rodrigues’s belief that blacks could become “civilized” through the intervention of the state still exist in many ways today? Not only in terms of racism against African Americans but in terms of indigenous groups as well.