The Americas 59.1 (2002) 124-125
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Victor M. Uribe-Uran's edited work includes nine articles by scholars on "political economy, business and political elites, gender and the family, and ideology, values, and culture" in Spanish America from 1750 to 1850 (p. xiv). The editor's thoughtful introduction provides complete descriptions of each contributor's major findings. The editor and contributors question "the 'normal' periodization of Latin American political history—that is, the partition and separate study of the colonial and the postcolonial or national periods" (p. 70). They would concur with Uribe-Uran that economic, social, and political forces "did not magically disappear after independence" (p. 66).
The editor divides this book into four parts, each with two chapters. Samuel Amaral and Richard Doringo, and Richard J. Salvucci analyze "The Region's Political Economy" in part one. Amaral and Doringo compare and contrast population, agriculture, trade and industry, and money and credit in Europe and Latin America. They determine that postcolonial economies experienced extreme variation in production, received cheap manufactures from Europe, and that there were, in fact, "no missed opportunities in Latin America" (p. 25). Salvucci shows how the export boom (silver, maize, cochineal) led to inflation and the devaluation of real exchange rates, and the subsequent reduction of exports. Uribe-Uran and Marti Lamar examine "Elites, State Building, and Business" in part two. Uribe-Uran's study of lawyers, bureaucrats, and social stratification in Colombia demonstrates that "one's standing in society" by mid-nineteenth century was increasingly based on economic status rather than on social esteem. Lamar states that "economic hardship combined with their [peninsular] political disgrace" helped Chilean merchants replace Spanish merchants (p. 109). Sonya Lipsett-Rivera and Elizabeth Anne Kuznesof discuss [End Page 124] "Gender and Family Relations [in Mexico]" in part three. Lipsett-Rivera uses primary and secondary documents to analyze "the marriage bargain." She compares and contrasts ideal relationships as envisioned by Spanish moralists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with real relationships that sometimes included domestic violence and ended in divorce in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Kuznesof studies the quality of life, access to education and legal rights of Mexican women, and the role of independence on gender and race. John Charles Chasteen and Mark D. Szuchman tackle "Ideologies, Values, and Cultural Practices" in part four. Chasteen's adaptation of his excellent 1996 article on the history of social dance in Buenos Aires demonstrates how and why Argentines took pride in and identified with native dance. Szuchman's study of political architecture in urban Argentina depicts how the neo-classical spirit of republicanism purposely contrasted with the baroque of the aristocratic city.
Uribe-Uran concludes the book with solicited criticisms and observations from Van Young, who asks and answers the question: "What story does the Age of Revolution scenario tell for Spanish America?" Van Young classifies each contributor's thesis in terms of continuity and change, points out contradictions, and nicely relates periodization as an impulse to storytelling. Other advances, such as how the "commodifying mode is historical flotsam borne to the shore of the present by a sustaining cognitive tide," are less helpful (p. 221).
This reviewer prefers to ask and answer the following question: How might this story of the Age of Revolution scenario in Spanish America be used in the classroom? Instructors can use this work to fashion an introductory lesson or lecture to help students realize that dramatic economic, social, cultural, or even political change did not arise simply because Spanish American nations became independent in the 1820s. Graduate students and upper-division undergraduates with previous knowledge of Spanish American history and desire to challenge periodization will find this edited work valuable. Most undergraduate students will neither understand the unfortunate "slippage between 'public' history and 'infrahistory'" (p. 223) nor appreciate the importance of an "eclecticism that spoke of European...