differences between Liberals and Conservatives in 19th century Latin American countries, so now you can dance.

Discussion Question(s)

This week, our brief readings have taken us into the 19th century, after Independence. What do you think are the most important after effects of the colonial period that we find in 19th century Latin America, according to our readings?
Stretching this question to materials that we have not studied in this course, what stereotypes around Latin American countries do you see today that you suspect are effects of the colonial era? (you don’t have to answer this one if you don’t know much about modern Latin America, so no worries!)

Lecture 15

It is the 19th century now, and Independence is real throughout much of Latin America (maybe not Brazil, or Cuba for that matter).


Well, kind of. The racial divisions that defined much of Latin America during the colonial era persist, and the treatment of indigenous peoples in Latin America in he 19th century after Independence is at best one of neglect, and at worst, extermination.

The political climate, however (between citizens who were once colonial criollos), is pretty contentious, with battles between Liberals and Conservatives raging throughout much of the 19th century.

Thank you Fry! We need to know just who are liberals and who are conservatives during this period! And not just that, we need to know what being a liberal or conservative in Latin America during the 19th century means!

To answer that question, I have to start by warning you: there is very little relationship between the liberals and conservatives of the 19th century and the Liberals and Conservatives that we talk about today in the United States.

Here we go:

In fact, the politics of the Liberals might actually sound a lot like what we associate with conservative politics today: privatization, individualism, and a small role played by the state to regulate trade. Ultimately, the liberals were all about equality– but it is important to recognize what equality meant to them. Keep in mind that in newly independent Latin American countries, they had just come out of an economic and political situation where inequality was simply a way of life– the crown always came first economically, and the class separation between Peninsulares, Criollos, Castas, and Indios was simply a reality with which everyone lived. Liberals challenged this ideology, believing (in theory, at least) in equality. (In practice, of course, such divisions remained, but it was an economic strategy designed to empower criollos and maybe even mestizos– two classes of people who had been shut out of the higher levels of government and the economy as a result of the Bourbon Reforms.

Conservatives in 19th century Latin American countries are actually pretty easy to define: they wanted a return to a monarchical rule. To them, the only way to preserve social order was through monarchical rule, or having a king/queen to rule over them. Of course, conservatives would benefit from this, since they were the beneficiaries of the old order before independence. Thus, for them, the challenge was to find a way (and sell it to the people?) to reinstate a monarchy while remaining and independent country. Heck, in Mexico the Conservatives offered it to Maximilian I during the French Intervention!

And now you know the differences between Liberals and Conservatives in 19th century Latin American countries, so now you can dance.


So, for about 40 years after independence in Mexico, for example the fight between these two factions was rather intense, and although conservatives did not necessarily have the wide support that Liberals did in the first half of the 19th century, their resources allowed them to keep this debate going. Take, for instance, these two articles, published in 1846 and 1847, respectively in rival Mexican newspapers, which are attached to this week’s module.

As you are reading these pieces, think about them in the context of all the political change and turmoil that you are reading about in the final chapter, the Epilogue.

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