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Hispanic American Historical Review 83.4 (2003) 742-743

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The Political Power of the Word: Press and Oratory in Nineteenth-Century Latin America . Edited by Iván Jaksic. Nineteenth-Century Latin America. London: Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London, 2002. Tables. Bibliography. vii, 158 pp. Paper, $19.95.

This collection, which grows out of the Institute of Latin American Studies' annual workshop on nineteenth-century history, is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on the spoken and printed word in Latin America. Its introduction and seven essays range in time from the 1790s through the second decade of the twentieth century, although geographic and thematic coverage is limited. Iván Jaksic's useful introduction to the volume emphasizes recurrent themes and insights in the context of a broader historiography of the press and oratory that—especially the debates over Habermas's concept of the public sphere—has significantly influenced many of the subsequent essays.

Rebecca Earle's analysis of the role of print media during the independence era concludes that regional differences in literacy, the content of printed material, and the size of the print industry contributed to significant variations in how the public sphere developed before, during, and after independence. Carmen McEvoy, acknowledging her debt to J. G. A. Pocock, analyzes the relationship between discourse and social change in Lima between 1791 and 1822. McEvoy focuses on three important moments in which the Limeño press struggled to reconcile rhetorical structures of citizenship, the state, and civic virtue with Peru's traditions and realities.

The following two essays, both of which examine the relationship between the Catholic Church and written culture, reinforce the importance of regional variation. Sol Serrano and Iván Jaksic contrast church and state approaches to the written word and print culture in Chile, at a time when a remarkable group from this region (including Andrés Bello and D. F. Sarmiento) influenced public policy. They conclude that the church hesitated to employ written culture in its response to the liberal state. Although by the 1860s Catholic print media were beginning to provide alternative visions of Chilean state formation, liberal organs and voices continued to dominate through the end of the century. In contrast, Douglass Sullivan-González shows that the church formed a tight discursive bond with the [End Page 742] Guatemalan state to support caudillo Rafael Carrera. During Carrera's regime, especially the period from 1850 until his death in 1865, religious leaders held that Guatemalans should see themselves as a "covenant community," like the Israelites or the puritans. Independence Day festivities, and the sermons they entailed, were filled with messages that linked Carrera's government, the "chosen" Guatemalan people, and God's will. While this particular alliance between church and state did not survive beyond Carrera's death, it reflects a fascinating alternative scenario to the Chilean case during the same era.

Both Eduardo Posada-Carbó and Charles Hale discuss Castelar, a predominant figure in Spanish liberal republicanism and a renowned public speaker who maintained relationships with Spanish America's leading men of letters and contributed columns to numerous periodicals in the region. Castelar praised independence while simultaneously lauding the value of the hemisphere's colonial experience. Castelar found a wide audience in Latin America and contributed to the development of the "conservative liberalism" that was so noticeable among the region's political elites in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Carlos Malamud's essay examines the rhetoric and style of Argentina's Lisandro de la Torre, leader of the Partido Demócrata Progresista and Hipólito Yrigoyen's challenger in the 1916 presidential elections. Malamud highlights his skillful use of the legislative chamber and the press as platforms from which to pursue his ambitions and expound his vision of Argentina's future.

From the last days of the colonial era through the nineteenth century, political partisans and intellectuals in Latin America developed and disseminated persuasive rhetorics to analyze the past, smite the tropes of their opponents, and frame...


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Archived 2004
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