Continuities in Latin America for the Period 1780 to 1930
Colonialism has shadowed history all throughout the world. Its impact on some sectors was still apparent even after a colony has regained independence. Latin America is an example of a region that has continued some colonial practices even after it obtained freedom from the Spaniards and Portuguese.
For the period 1780 to 1930, continuities in Latin America existed even after independence was proclaimed. During this period, patriots fought and were successful to gain independence from colonizers. These pro-independent liberals wanted freedom, not to revolutionize the region, but simply to rule it.
Once independence was attained, continuities in Latin American nations became apparent. These continuities are highly evident in the political system, the Catholic Church, and slavery.
Creole families dominated the patriot movement leading to the liberation of Latin America. The liberation movement had very little participation from indigenous groups. After the independence war was over, the countries at that time did not create societies based on
equality. Creole families, who were high up the society ladder, advocated equality but only in theory. Laws promoting equal rights among the citizens were enshrined in constitutions. However, these laws remained in paper, for in practice, the old system was still in place. The political system remained basically the same, only the ruling class was changed — from colonizers to Creoles and meztizos or mixed-breed.
In Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela, the military heroes of independence monopolized presidential seats. One of these heroes was Simon Bolivar, a liberal patriot belonging to a rich Creole family, who led Venezuelans and Colombians in their fight for freedom.
Slavery, although gradually phased out in the region, did not change in essence. Owner and worker relationship was still the same. In fact, slavery was documented by photographer Jose Christiano de Freitas Henriques Junior, a student in Rio de Janeiro at that time. He took pictures of slaves in Brazil to sell as souvenir items to Europeans and other visitors of the region.
Aside from the slaves of Brazil and Cuba, there were those that came from Africa, who were made to work in fields in harsh conditions. There was another type of slaves in that era — the urban slaves-for-hire. They worked independently in streets as carriers or vendors, reporting to their owners daily or weekly to remit their earnings. Of all the slaves in that period, the ones
for hire had the most freedom and some eventually saved enough money to buy their independence.
The Church as a colonial institution remained strong, it’s influence among the people unquestioned. This implies that other non-desirable practices, such as monopoly over education, hold over vast real estates, influence on banking and commerce, and exploitative fees that are sometimes charged even to the poorest, of the pre-independence Catholic Church continued after independence was established. An evidence of the Catholic Church’s continuity was depicted by illustrations created by Bavarian artist Johann Mortiz Rugendas after he traveled to Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, among other countries in Latin America. In his drawings, Rugendas seemed
to scorn the Brazilian clergy.
Because of the Catholic Church’s wealth and influence over many sectors, it was in constant conflict with the liberal rulers. In the civil wars between liberals and conservatives, the Catholic Church unsurprisingly supported the conservatives whose rallying cry was the defense of the institution. Over time, the Church power lessened, but it still remained a major influence in various sectors in Latin America.
Problems in Modern Latin American History by John Charles Chasteen and James A Wood.