University of Nebraska Press

Engendering Latin America

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

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Engendering Latin America

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The Case of the Ugly Suitor and Other Histories of Love, Gender, and Nation in Bueno

Jeffrey M. Shumway

In 1840 Gumerscindo Arroyo hoped to marry Francisca Canicoba, but her father forbade it. Consequently, Francisca took her father to court for permission to marry, where he objected on the grounds that Arroyo was simply too ugly.
 
In the courtrooms of nineteenth-century Buenos Aires, children battled parents in order to fulfill their romantic desires and marry the mate of their choice. Parents and guardians also struggled for custody of young children, which some did out of love while others were greedy for child labor. In courtrooms and elsewhere, women challenged their traditional status as social and intellectual inferiors. Though all these struggles existed in earlier times, the nineteenth century injected a new dynamic into such conflicts: Argentina’s revolution against Spain and the subsequent attempts by political and intellectual leaders to craft a new nation out of the vestiges of Spanish colonialism.
 
The family, many leaders recognized, was the vital building block of the nation. Hence, matters of the heart and hearth intertwined with matters of the state. Examining family conflicts and the political and legal backdrop of those cases reveals strong continuities in attitudes about gender and family. At the same time, ideological influences of the revolutionary movement combined with the practical needs of nation building to create new freedoms and new identities for women and children over the course of the nineteenth century. The Case of the Ugly Suitor brings these family and national struggles to life, many times in the words of the participants themselves.

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A Culture of Everyday Credit

Housekeeping, Pawnbroking, and Governance in Mexico City, 1750-1920

Marie Eileen Francois

Pawning was the most common credit mechanism in Mexico City in the nineteenth century. A diverse, largely female pawning clientele from lower- and middle-class households regularly secured small consumption loans by hocking household goods. A two-tiered sector of public and private pawnbrokers provided collateral credit. Rather than just providing emergency subsistence for the poor, pawnbroking facilitated consumption by Creole and mestizo middle sectors of Mexican society and enhanced identity formation for those in middling households by allowing them to cash in on material investments to maintain status during lean times. A Culture of Everyday Credit shows how Mexican women have depended on credit to run their households since the Bourbon era and how the collateral credit business of pawnbroking developed into a profitable enterprise built on the demand for housekeeping loans as restrictions on usury waned during the nineteenth century.

Pairing the study of household consumption with a detailed analysis of the rise of private and public pawnbroking provides an original context for understanding the role of small business in everyday life. Marie Eileen Francois weighs colonial reforms, liberal legislation, and social revolution in terms of their impact on households and pawning businesses.

Based on evidence from pawnshop inventories, censuses, legislation, petitions, literature, and newspapers, A Culture of Everyday Credit portrays households, small businesses, and government entities as intersecting arenas in one material world, a world strapped for cash throughout most of the century and turned upside down during the Mexican Revolution.

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Domestic Economies

Family, Work, and Welfare in Mexico City, 1884-1943

Ann S. Blum

When Porfirio Díaz extended his modernization initiative in Mexico to the administration of public welfare, the families and especially the children of the urban poor became a government concern. Reforming the poor through work and by bolstering Mexico’s emerging middle class were central to the government’s goals of order and progress. But Porfirian policies linking families and work often endangered the children they were supposed to protect, especially when state welfare institutions became involved in the shadowy traffic of child labor. The Mexican Revolution, which followed, generated an unprecedented surge of social reform that was focused on families and accelerated the integration of child protection into public policy, political discourse, and private life.
 
In ways that transcended the abrupt discontinuities and conflicts of the era, Porfirian officials, revolutionary leaders, and social reformers alike invoked idealized models of the Mexican family as the primary building block of society, making families, especially those of Mexico’s working classes, the object of moralizing reform in the name of state construction and national progress. Domestic Economies: Family, Work, and Welfare in Mexico City, 1884–1943 analyzes family practices and class formation in modern Mexico by examining the ways in which family-oriented public policies and institutions affected cross-class interactions as well as relations between parents and children.

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False Mystics

Deviant Orthodoxy in Colonial Mexico

Nora E. Jaffary

False Mystics provides a history of popular religion, race, and gender in colonial Mexico focusing on questions of spiritual and social rebellion and conformity. Nora E. Jaffary examines more than one hundred trials of “false mystics” whom the Mexican Inquisition prosecuted in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While the accused experienced many of the same phenomena as bona fide mystics—visions, sacred illness, and bouts of demonic possession—the Mexican tribunal condemned them nevertheless.

False Mystics examines why the Catholic church viewed the accused as deviants and argues that this categorization was due in part to unconventional aspects of their spirituality and in part to contemporary social anxieties over class and race mixing, transgressions of appropriate gendered behavior, and fears of Indian and African influences on orthodox Catholicism. Jaffary examines the transformations this category of heresy underwent between Spain and the New World and explores the relationship between accusations of "false" mysticism and contemporary notions of demonic possession, sickness, and mental illness. Jaffary adopts the perspectives of visionaries to examine the influence of colonial artwork on their spiritual imaginations and to trace the reasons that their spirituality diverged from conventional expressions of piety. False Mystics illuminates the challenges that popular religion and individual spirituality posed to both the institutional church and the colonial social order.

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Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela, 1786-1904

Arlene J. Diaz

Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela examines the effects that liberalism had on gender relations in the process of state formation in Caracas from the late eighteenth to the nineteenth century.

The 1811 Venezuelan constitution granted everyone in the abstract, including women, the right to be citizens and equals, but at the same time permitted the continued use of older Spanish civil laws that accorded women inferior status and granted greater authority to male heads of households. Invoking citizenship for their own protection and that of their loved ones, some women went to court to claim the same civil liberties and protections granted to male citizens. In the late eighteenth century, colonial courts dispensed some protection to women in their conflicts with men; a century later, however, patriarchal prerogatives were reaffirmed in court sentences. Discouraging as this setback was, the actions of the women who had fought these legal battles raised an awareness of the discrepancies between the law and women’s daily lives, laying the groundwork for Venezuelan women’s organizations in the twentieth century.

Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, historian Arlene Díaz shows how the struggle for political power in the modern state reinforced and reproduced patriarchal authority. She also reveals how Venezuelan women from different classes, in public and private, coped strategically with their paradoxical status as equal citizens who nonetheless lacked power because of their gender. Shedding light on a fundamental but little examined dimension of modern nation building, Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela gives voice to historic Venezuelan women while offering a detailed look at a society making the awkward transition from the colonial world to a modern one.

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From Colony to Nation

Women Activists and the Gendering of Politics in Belize, 1912-1982

Anne S. Macpherson

The first book on women’s political history in Belize, From Colony to Nation demonstrates that women were creators of and activists within the two principal political currents of twentieth-century Belize: colonial-middle class reform and popular labor-nationalism. As such, their alliances and struggles with colonial administrators, male reformers, and nationalists and with one another were central to the emergence of this improbable nation-state.
 
From Colony to Nation draws on extensive research and previously unmined sources such as almost one hundred interviews, colonial government records, the files of Belize’s first feminist organization, and court records. Anne S. Macpherson examines the tensions of the 1910s that led to the 1919 anticolonial riot; the reform project of the 1920s, in which Garveyite women were key state allies; the militant anticolonial labor movement of the 1930s; the more ambitious reform project of the 1940s; the successful but nonrevolutionary nationalist movement of the 1950s; and the gender dynamics of party politics and both Black Power and feminist challenges to the party system in the 1960s and 1970s.
 
From Colony to Nation connects to historiographies of racialized and gendered reform in colonial and other multiracial societies and of tensions between female activism and masculine authority within nationalist movements and postcolonial societies.

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Mexican Karismata

The Baroque Vocation of Francisca de los Angeles, 1674-1744

Ellen Gunnarsdottir

Mexican Karismata chronicles the life of Francisca de los Ángeles (1674–1744), the daughter of a poor Creole mother and mestizo father who became a renowned holy woman in her native city of Querétaro, Mexico, during the high Baroque period. As a precocious young visionary and later as the headmistress of an important religious institution for women, Francisca actively partook in the project to revitalize the Catholic cult in New Spain’s northern regions led by her mentors, the Spanish missionaries of the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith. Her copious correspondence, containing hundreds of unedited letters, documents the personal experience of popular Catholicism during the high Baroque period in New Spain.

Francisca’s journey to God did not follow prescribed hagiographical guidelines, drawing its inspiration instead from an eclectic mix of the doctrines of the Counter-Reformation, medieval spirituality, and local traditions. Her ecstatic apostolate to the dead and living often bordered on heresy but found acceptance and came to fruition under the protection of Querétaro’s ecclesiastical and secular elite. Her life shows how mystic rapture and sociability joined in this colonial variation of Early Modern Catholicism and demonstrates the remarkable vitality and openness of urban spirituality in the New World.

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