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Military Struggle and Identity Formation in Latin America

Race, Nation, and Community During the Liberal Period

Edited by Nicola Foote and René D. Harder Horst

Publication Year: 2010

Military engagements in Latin America between 1850 and 1950 helped shape emerging nation states and collective consciousness in profound and formative ways. This century, known as the liberal period, was an important time for state formation in the region, as well as for the development of current national borders.

This collection of essays aims to assess the role black and indigenous Latin Americans played in the military struggles of this period, and how these efforts contributed to the formation of ideas about race and national identity. While some indigenous people and Afro-Latin Americans came into closer contact with the descendents of colonizers as a result of military service, others turned inward with strengthened ties to their local communities. Many were at times victims of violent conflicts in Latin America, but they surprisingly also shaped the outcome of these wars and employed the wars to advance their own political agendas. The book offers exciting new interpretations and explanations of this key period in Latin American history.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

The work initially emerged out of a panel at the 2006 Latin American Studies Association annual conference in Puerto Rico, and was further developed at the Southeast World History Association annual conference in Boone, North Carolina, in October 2006. Thanks to the participants and audiences of both panels ...

Map 1. Map of Central America and Colombia

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pp. xv

Map 2. Map of Cuba and Mexico

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pp. xvi

Map 3. Map of Argentina, Paraguay and Chile

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pp. xvii-xviii

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Introduction: Decentering War: Military Struggle, Nationalism, and Black and Indigenous Populations in Latin America, 1850–1950

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pp. 1-22

War dominates images of Latin America. Outsiders stereotype Latin America as a region of perpetual military struggle, a place of inexperienced and unstable nation states where elections are more often settled by coups and machine guns than by popular suffrage. In this picture, generals in dark glasses manage ...

Part I. Soldiering and Citizenship

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pp. 23-24

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1. Subaltern Strategies of Citizenship and Soldiering in Colombia’s Civil Wars: Afro- and Indigenous Colombians’ Experiences in the Cauca, 1851–1877

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pp. 25-41

When Colombian Liberals and Conservatives confronted one another during the 1860–63 civil war, a conservative newspaper derisively described Liberal troops as “ferocious gangs of blacks.”1 By mid-century, Afro-Colombian volunteers, fiercely proud of their status as soldiers, formed the backbone of Liberal armies ...

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2. Soldiers and Statesmen: Race, Liberalism, and the Paradoxes of Afro-Nicaraguan Military Service, 1844–1863

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pp. 42-58

Service in racially segregated militias in Nicaragua during the colonial period provided a key institutional structure for both black community formation and claims to equal citizenship. Soldiering was one of the few open avenues for black social advancement during the colonial period, but by the 1840s politics ...

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3. Afro-Cubans in Cuba’s War for Independence, 1895–1898

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pp. 59-82

When Cuban patriots launched the War for Independence against Spain on February 24, 1895, the rebellion succeeded fully only in Oriente, the region with a significant population of African descent and a tradition of struggle against Spanish colonialism.1 From the insurgency’s beginning, blacks and mulattos ...

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4. Monteneros and Macheteros: Afro-Ecuadorian and Indigenous Experiences of Military Struggle in Liberal Ecuador, 1895–1930

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pp. 83-106

The Liberal Revolution that came to power in 1895 and maintained ideological hegemony until 1944 represented a crucial period in the development of Ecuador as a nation-state. The Liberal state sought to impose farreaching political and economic change, centered around the development of a secular state, ...

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5. Race and Ethnicity in the Guatemalan Army, 1914

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pp. 107-135

The relationship that holds, and has held, between the Guatemalan Mayan Indian population and the military establishment of the Guatemalan state is complex and has been the subject of little social research.1 The principle reason is that the military establishment of Guatemala has long blocked almost ...

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6. Mayan Soldier-Citizens: Ethnic Pride in the Guatemalan Military, 1925–1945

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pp. 136-156

When in 1944 a drill sergeant at the Matamoros military barracks in Guatemala City asked Waqxaqi’ Imox and his compatriots, “Do you want to serve?,” they replied, “Ja [yes].” Whether these Mayan recruits responded in their language to a Ladino (nonindigenous Guatemalan) superior is not as important as ...

Part II. War and the Racing of National Boundaries and Imaginaries

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pp. 157-158

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7. Indigenous Peoples of Brazil and the War of the Triple Alliance, 1864–1870

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pp. 159-174

The War of the Triple Alliance, in which the Brazilian Empire allied with Argentina and Uruguay against Paraguay, has been the subject of much scholarly interest since the nineteenth century.1 However, traditional works are often highly partisan and influenced by the author’s nationality. ...

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8. Illustrating Race and Nation in the Paraguayan War Era: Exploring the Decline of the Tupi Guarani Warrior as the Embodiment of Brazil

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pp. 175-203

For nationalists across the globe in the nineteenth century, war invited competitive assessments of national honor, virility, “race,” and “seriousness.”1 In this sense, the War of the Triple Alliance (better known as the Paraguayan War in Brazil, 1864–70) is not unique, but Brazil’s racial heterogeneity presented ...

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9. The Conquest of the Desert and the Free Indigenous Communities of the Argentine Plains

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pp. 204-223

Toward of the end of the nineteenth century, the Argentine state intensified a policy of military expansion that would ultimately destroy the autonomous socioeconomic systems of the indigenous peoples of the Pampas—the central plains and its surrounding areas. The origins of the war lay in the movement ...

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10. “The Slayer of Victorio Bears His Honors Quietly”: Tarahumaras and the Apache Wars in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

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pp. 224-242

On September 4, 1880, the New York Times published a brief notice titled “A Price for Victorio’s Scalp.” A single sentence in length, the piece announced that the governor of Chihuahua, Mexico, was offering “$2,000 for the scalp of Victorio, the Apache chief, and $250 for the scalp of any of his warriors.”1 ...

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11. Embattled Identities in Postcolonial Chile: Race, Region, and Nation during the War of the Pacific, 1879–1884

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pp. 243-262

This chapter examines the participation of Araucanía and indigenous Mapuche people in the War of the Pacific, a bloody conflict fought between Chile and its northern neighbors Peru and Bolivia in the late nineteenth century (1879–84).1 The conflict was probably the most significant “national” experience for Chile ...

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12. Racial Conflict and Identity Crisis in Wartime Peru: Revisiting the Cañete Massacre of 1881

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pp. 263-285

This chapter subjects the historiography and evidence of the massacre of Chinese immigrants in the Cañete valley by Afro-Peruvian peasants, led by women during the War of the Pacific, to critical analysis in light of recent discussions of the nexus of race, culture, and nation. It validates the motives of the peasants ...

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13. Crossfire, Cactus, and Racial Constructions: The Chaco War and Indigenous People in Paraguay

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pp. 286-306

Between 1932 and 1935, Bolivia and Paraguay fought a brutal war for ownership of the sparsely populated Chaco territory. Having lost its outlet to the Pacific in the earlier War of the Pacific, 1879–84, Bolivia sought fluvial access to the Atlantic via the Paraguay River. Both nations debated the possibility of ...


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pp. 307-340

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pp. 341-342

Richard N. Adams is Professor Emeritus of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, and director of the Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamerica in Antigua, Guatemala. ...


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pp. 343-350

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045696
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813034874
Print-ISBN-10: 0813034876

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 15 tables, 3 maps, 9 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Latin America -- History, Military -- 19th century.
  • Latin America -- History, Military -- 20th century.
  • Blacks -- Latin America -- History.
  • Indigenous peoples -- Latin America -- History.
  • Nationalism -- Latin America -- History.
  • Community life -- Latin America -- History.
  • War and society -- Latin America -- History.
  • Latin America -- Race relations.
  • Liberalism -- Latin America -- History.
  • Latin America -- Politics and government -- 1830-1948.
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