Chaos and the Problem of Nation Building

       I.            The Limitations of the Imagined Community

A.    Imagined communities

1.Socially constructed communities

2.Not dependent on direct interactions of members

3.Constructed instead on shared beliefs of group identity

4.Individual believe themselves to members, and thus are members

5.Critical in nation building, as stable nations require that diverse individuals across vast territories all believe themselves to be of on group and share common interests

B.     Most new Latin American nations will begin the 1800s with weak “imagined communities”

1.With the exception of Brazil, none had clear link to the pre-colonial past

2.Instead, they were remnants of large colonial structures, the Viceroyalties

a.       New Spain – Mexico (including the U.S. Southwest), Central America, and the Spanish  Caribbean

b.      New Granada – Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador

c.       Peru – Peru, most of Chile, parts of Bolivia

d.      La Plata – Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, parts of Bolivia and Chile

3.These in turn were divided into various units that did not fully correspond to the countries that later emerged, such as the Kingdom of Guatemala, which included all of Central America

4. With these units shattered, who was supposed to be in charge?

C.     Weak sense of political legitimacy

1.Spanish rule had been based on divine right, conquest, and three centuries of tradition

2.Local leaders in the colonial period all had some claim to royal backing, legitimizing their rule

3.No tradition of even the limited democracy in the British colonies, which had allowed for a smooth transition of legitimacy from colonial to independence government

    II.            Challenges to the Nation Building and the Imagined Community

A.    Legacies of War

1.In areas of heaviest fighting, important infrastructure had been damaged or destroyed, such as the mines in Mexico and Bolivia

2.War also had heightened divisions, as different regions and different social groups had taken different sides during the independence wars

3.Importantly, while war had shattered much of the old governing structures, it had also created a large class of people with military experience, whose loyalties were often to their leaders, not to any imagined country

4.As warfare continues in post-independence era, the militarists will continue to expand in size and power

B.     Race and national identities

1.Both Spanish and Portuguese law made clear legal distinctions between races, seeking to separate them into  separate communities, by law, language, and culture, not just geography

2.Most Latin American countries would find themselves with a small white elite dominating large non-white communities (just as had been true before independence)

a.       Large Amerindian communities in Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, with significant mestizo populations

b.      Brazil remains a slave economy, with very large free black and mixed race populations

c.       Some countries, like Colombia and Venezuela, have radically different racial makeups in different portions of the country

3. In some places, notably Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia, large scale race war had been a feature of the independence wars and the period just prior

4.White elites themselves divided as part of legacy of struggle between creoles and penisulares

C.     The economics of division

1.Colonial Latin America run as a collection of paternalistic hierarchies

2.Export economies that benefited the  imperial power

3.Highly exploited and usually no white labor forces

4.As new nations emerged, small white elites seize control of these economies from royal officials,

5.Continue to exploit the labor force, while exporting raw materials to newly industrializing regions

a.       Great Britain becomes the principle market and outside investor into Latin American economies

b.      Much of the early investment was speculative, and produced little growth

c.       Economies structured around exports to Britain and other industrializing areas were vulnerable to price swings or raw materials

d.      Internal economies generally neglected as well

6.Little economic development beyond colonial legacy until late 1800s

7.Lack of any sense of shared prosperity discourages development of national loyalties

 III.            Center vs. Periphery

A.    As in the independence wars and in the colonial era, the most important dividing factor

B.     Elites of major colonial capitals such as Lima, Mexico City and Buenos Aires, lay claim to national leadership after independence

1. But no longer have legitimacy granted by Spanish backing

2.Regional elites had long strained against their control in the colonial period, and continued to do so after independence

3.This struggle plays itself out at every level, as regional capitals are rejected by elites in smaller localities

C.     A struggle emerges between Centralism and Federalism

1.Not new in Latin America, as U.S. had struggles with question of local versus national control

a.       U.S. had started with very decentralized government under Articles of Confederation, but this had proved weak in face of outside powers and internal revolt

b.      Constitution created a mixed government, with a strong central government but state sovereignty over many issues and the Bill of Rights

c.       Still, U.S. continued to struggle with issue, leading to the Civil War

d.      Struggle would be more intense in most Latin American countries

2.Federalism was the idea that power would be distributed, and tended to be favored by rural elites

3.Centralism of course, focused on the power of national governments, and was favored by capital elites

4.Broadly speaking, the larger the country (with the exception of Brazil) the greater the instability around this issue

5.However, even small places like Nicaragua broke down on these issues

a.       In effect, two potential capitals, Leon and Granada

b.      Civil war leads to compromise on then unimportant Managua as capital

 IV.            Liberalism and Conservatism

A.    Principle ideological divide of nineteenth-century Latin America elites

B.     Conservatives

1.Sought primarily to preserve the social hierarchies of the colonial era

2.Were wary of outside influences, and not eager to join free-trade economies of the Atlantic

3.Supported strong central governments that could maintain social order (unless of course they lost control of that central government)

4.Strong defenders of the Catholic Church

C.     Liberals

1.Looked to England, France, and the United States as their models

2.Strong supporters of free trade, sought to emulate the industrialization of England

3.Called for decentralized government similar to the mix of centralism and feudalism in the U.S. (in practice, behaved as strong centralists when in power)

4.Called for Enlightenment  era political and social reforms

a.       Abolition of slavery

b.      Racially equality, in particular ending legal restrictions and tribute demands on Amerindians

c.       Basic liberties, like those in U.S. Bill of Rights

d.      Constitutional government

e.       Weakening the Catholic Church

5.In practice, did little to promote liberty and social equality, though many did work to lessen Church authority

    V.            Resistance to Modernization

A.    In many countries, Liberals seize power in the immediate aftermath of independence, and immediately pursued modernizing reforms

B.     Both their economic and social programs would encounter significant resistance, leading to overthrow of early governments

C.     Defense of the Catholic Church

1.The Catholic Church had been tightly allied to Spanish and Portuguese crowns

2.Near monopoly on education, social services. Also a major landowner, and high degree of control over interaction with Amerindians in many places

3.Liberals saw the Church as an obstacle to modernization and a defender of medieval thinking, sought to reduce or eliminate its influence

4.Conservatives objected because they saw the Church as a defender of the social order

5.Many of the poor objected because the Church was seen as a benefactor and a critical element of cultural identity

6.Many of the nineteenth-century wars will have a strong religious elements as a result

D.    Objections to economic reform

1.Liberals sought to join the free-trade capitalism of the Atlantic economies

2.Promoted free trade,  industrialization, and modern infrastructure such as railroads

3.Also promoted conversion of communal property to private property to spur economic growth and investment

4.However, most Amerindian land and all Church was communally held, and these groups saw privatization as a fundamental threat

5.Conversions to privatization often resulted in rich speculators wresting control of land away from Amerindians and other rural poor, resulting in violent revolt

E.     Resistance to cultural reform

1.Attacks on the Church by Liberals seen as assault on cultural identity

2.Liberals also generally saw Amerindian culture and of the poor more broadly as backwards, anti-modern

3.Sought to impose European culture as well as promote European immigration, triggering significant resistance in many places

 VI.            Political Instability and the rise of Caudillos

A.    These many divisions  produce significant instability and warfare in many  countries

B.     Without stable institutions, power becomes increasingly personalized

C.     The wealthiest elites and military leaders emerging from the independence wars gain a monopoly on power as a group, but compete with each other for power

D.    Political parties are organized around loyalty to individuals, not political ideologies

E.     Caudillos fill the power vacuum

1.Strongman charismatic rulers, gain power by military means

2.Elitist caudillos

a.       Sought limited modernization

b.      Preserved most institutions of traditional elite rule

c.       A “king” more powerful than any Spanish monarch

3.Folk or populist caudillos

a.       Power rooted in the masses

b.      Charismatic ruler seen as “one of us” by people

c.       Guardian of folk traditions

d.      Power based on personal relations, like the patron

F.      Where caudillos can defeat all rivals, they can provide stability, such as Francia in Paraguay, or Portales in Chile

G.    However, where numerous rivals competed with each other,  civil war was frequent, such as in Mexico

1.Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was president eleven times, none consecutively

2.Elites so divided in Mexico they could not unite in the war against the United States, contributing to Mexico’s defeat

VII.            Stability in some places

A.    Brazil and the continuity of legitimacy

1.Stability here depended on the transfer of the royal family from Portugal to Brazil

2.Even when the king returns, he leaves his son Pedro, who will declare independence and become Emperor Pedro I of Brazil (1822)

3.He later abdicates to his son, Pedro II, who will be emperor until overthrow of monarchy in 1889

4.Although Brazil has many internal divisions, the continuity of royal rule allows for a stable environment in which a national identity will emerge

B.     Chile and Costa Rica – the politics of small places

1.Both small places that had been on the periphery of empire, where most of the population economy centered on a single large valley

2.Diego Portales in Chile, a powerful Conservative businessman and landowner,  is able to negotiate a political truce among Chile’s small elite

a.       Authoritarian constitution with limited voting

b.      Liberals and Conservatives rotate in Presidency

3.In Costa Rica, a similar arrangement, coupled by intermarriage between the very tiny Liberal and Conservative elite families, also produces long-term stability

C.     In all three cases, the collective need of a small white elite to dominate a non-white majority encourages political cooperation