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BOB — University of Nebraska Press / Page 139 / / Case of the Ugly Suitor / Jeffrey M. Shumway 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 [First Page] [139], (1) Lines: 0 to 14 ——— 0.0pt PgVar ——— Normal Page PgEnds: TEX [139], (1) Epilogue An Old and a New Beginning In the 1850s and 1860s, Argentina experienced another important transition . Juan Manuel de Rosas fell from power in 1852 at the hand of his former ally, General Justo José Urquiza, governor of the Entre Ríos province . Urquiza was promptly elected president of the Argentine Confederation with its new Constitution of 1853. Buenos Aires initially refused to join the other provinces but finally united with the Confederation under the leadership of Bartotlomé Mitre in 1861; Mitre was later elected as president of a united Argentina (1862–68). As Mitre and the other framers of the new order considered their tasks, many traditions of the past remained with them. Some of these evidenced themselves when Mitre’s government decided Argentina should at last have its own code of laws. The man given the task of writing the new civil code was the respected jurist Dalmacio Vélez Sarsfield. As he went about his work, Vélez Sarsfield drew inspiration from Hispanic tradition as well as from numerous European law codes. Many of the new codes aroused the ire of reformers who had hoped for a more progressive set of laws. For instance, many wanted Argentina to follow France and other modern nations by instituting civil marriage, but to their dismay Vélez Sarsfield left marriage for Argentine Roman Catholics in the hands of the Church. “People who follow the Catholic faith,”he reasoned,“could not pursue a civil marriage. It would lead to a perpetual concubinage condemned by their religion and by the traditions of the country. The law that authorizes such marriages in our society would ignore the mission of laws in general, which is to support and strengthen the power of tradition, not to corrupt and enervate them. It would serve to incite Catholics to disregard the precepts of their religion without providing anything favorable to the family and the nation.”1 Vélez Sarsfield’s idea that laws should bolster custom highlighted the great tension between traditionalism and modernity, BOB — University of Nebraska Press / Page 140 / / Case of the Ugly Suitor / Jeffrey M. Shumway 140 epilogue 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 [140], (2) Lines: 14 to 21 ——— 13.0pt PgVar ——— Normal Page * PgEnds: Eject [140], (2) between persistence and change, felt in Argentina and throughout Latin America in the nineteenth century.2 That tension also existed in the porteño family, the basic building block of the nation. Colonial law codes remaining in place after independence perpetuated many attitudes and norms of family life. Patriarchal power over wives and children persevered in many ways as it had in the past. Traditional ideals of family life also helped smooth the transition from colony to nation. An honorable family was one with legally married parents who raised their children properly, according to their social status. Old habits of racial and class discrimination also survived the transition to nationhood. The persistence of old ways serves as a reminder that the May Revolution represented only the beginning of a nation-building process.3 Alongside these continuities emerged changes that significantly altered porteño society. Enlightenment-inspired ideas of reform were powerful in the eighteenth century in Spain and its American colonies, but independence energized many of these ideas and created a dynamic new arena for their implementation.4 The May Revolution of 1810 and the Declaration of Independence in 1816 brought with them new expectations and hopes. While the struggle for nationhood was long and hard, the dream of a unified nation animated the thoughts and actions of leaders and commoners in Buenos Aires and elsewhere from the earliest days of the May Revolution.5 That dream, both pragmatic and ideological, was to build a strong independent nation that possessed the freedom, liberty, and equality of an American republic. A new nation required a...


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