The CLAH Breakfast/Business Meeting was held on December 29, 1988; outgoing President John V. Lombardi (The Johns Hopkins University) presided over the meeting. Paul Ganster (San Diego State University) was executive secretary. Following the introduction of conference officers and guests, Lombardi announced the results of the latest CLAH election. Murdo MacLeod (University of Florida) will serve as vice-president for 1989, succeeding to the presidency in 1990. John Mason Hart (University of Houston) and Christon I. Archer (University of Calgary) were elected to two-year terms (1989-1990) on the General Committee.
The 1988 CLAH prize winners were then announced. The Herbert Eugene Bolton Memorial Prize for the best book in English published in the field of Latin American History during 1987 was awarded to Inga Clendinnen (La Trobe University) for Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570 (Cambridge University Press). Honorable Mention for the Bolton Prize went to Linda Lewin (University of California, Berkeley) for her book Politics and Parentela in Paraiba: A Case Study of Family-Based Oligarchy in Brazil (Princeton University Press).
The Conference on Latin American History Prize for the best article in English in a journal other than HAHR was awarded to William B. Taylor (University of Virginia) for his article “The Virgin of Guadalupe in New Spain: An Inquiry into the Social History of Marian Devotion” (American Ethnologist, February 1987).
The James Alexander Robertson Memorial Prize for the best article published in the HAHR was presented to Rodney D. Anderson (Florida State University) for “Race and Social Stratification: A Comparison of Working-Class Spaniards, Indians, and Castas in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1821” (May 1988). Honorable Mention for the Robertson Prize went to Susan E. Ramírez (De Paul University) for “The “Dueño de Indios’: Thoughts on the Consequences of the Shifting Bases of Power of the ‘Curaca de los Viejos Antiguos’ under the Spanish in Sixteenth-Century Peru” (November 1987).
Next, the winner of the 1988 James R. Scobie Memorial Prize for Pre-Dissertation Research was announced. Mary A. Nelson (University of Minnesota) was presented with a prize certificate for her project “Hacienda San Esteban de Tiripitio —Tarascans and Haciendas in Colonial Michoacán: A Proposal for Study.” Nelson had already received the stipend for the Scobie Prize and had spent the summer of 1988 in Mexico researching her project and developing a dissertation research topic.
After announcing of the CLAH prize winners, President Lombardi introduced the guest speaker, Germán Carrera Damas, professor emeritus of the Universidad Central de Venezuela and ambassador of Venezuela to Mexico. Carrera Damas presented a lively and stimulating talk entitled “El papel del historiador en la formulación de políticas públicas,” based on his dual roles in Venezuela as a leading historian and as a participant in the development of public policy.
Carrera Damas first reviewed his involvement in Venezuela as a historian and as an actor in the public policy process. He offered four considerations based on his experiences:
Historians should play a role in the formulation of public policies.
In the formulation of public policy, historians must communicate historical understanding to politicians who are open to this and to technocrats who are resistant.
In a society that lacks official statistics and quantitative sources, the historian is best equipped to understand the realities and constants of the society and to translate these to the process of policy making.
As the historian and historical knowledge are effective contributors to the formulation of public policies, the historian should formally be part of the process along with other social scientists.
Ambassador Carrera Damas concluded his talk with examples to illustrate the concepts he had raised. One example was the work of historians who demonstrated to planners that the Orinoco region (site of important petroleum deposits and future development) had been occupied fully from the end of the seventeenth century, based on available technology and economic activities. The region was not empty, but enjoyed a long history of human activity that needed to be considered by modern planners. A second example was his work with the Comisión Presidencial para la Reforma del Estado (COPRE), created in 1984 to modernize the state and to encourage the democratic development of Venezuelan society.
President Lombardi next presented Ganster with a special award for his service to the conference that will end early in 1989. Lombardi also introduced L. Ray Sadler (New Mexico State University), who will assume the duties of executive secretary early in the new year.
The meeting ended as President Lombardi passed the gavel to 1989 President Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr. (Tulane University).
The session on “Finance and Economy in Mexico and Peru, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries” was chaired by John H. Coatsworth (University of Chicago). Three papers on diverse aspects of Peruvian and Mexican financial history made this session a lively one. Paul Gootenberg (Brandeis University) gave a paper entitled “Paying for Caudillos: Emergency Finance in Peru, 1820-1850” which described how Peru’s independent governments managed to acquire the resources to confront persistent structural deficits and the continuous threat of rebellion. He demonstrated that the consulado merchants of Lima played a critical and strategic role, submitting to forced loans on demand in exchange for protection from foreign competition. Forced lending became institutionalized with the creation of the Ramo de Arbitrios; governments respected loan terms as a condition for new lending at the next sign of rebellion. The collapse of this system in the early 1840s caused governments to turn to foreign merchants for finance and induced the Lima merchants to support this shift to avoid further assaults on their assets. The change coincided with a reassessment of the exclusionary policies the Lima merchants and successive governments had favored. Thus, Gootenberg argued, analysis of fiscal structure, and particularly of the sources of emergency finance, yields insights into the social base of centralizing caudillos and their changing policy commitments. Gootenberg concluded his paper with a series of suggestive comparisons between Peru and Mexico in the postindependence era.
Stephen Haber (Stanford University) spoke on “Industrial Finance in Porfirian Mexico,” and demonstrated the critical role played by a small number (no more than 25) of merchant financiers who provided most of the capital embodied in modern industrial undertakings during the Porfiriato. For technical reasons (large optimal scale and small market size), many Porfirian industries operated at less than capacity. Their owners pursued what Haber called “rent-seeking” strategies to enhance profitability. These included mergers and buyouts of potential competitors, government subsidies and protection, and the creation of artificial barriers to entry. In the long run, Haber argued, this style of industrialization had negative consequences for Mexican industrial growth.
Alfonso Quiroz (Baruch College, CUNY) surveyed “Institutional and Informal Finance in Peru under Agrarian Export Influence, 1884-1950.” Quiroz described how the agrarian export elite, mainly producers of cotton and sugar along the coast, together with Lima’s main merchant and banking houses, managed to resist foreign control of the country’s financial sector despite repeated challenges from the late nineteenth century to the 1950s. Peruvian finance retained much of its autonomy from foreign influence throughout the period. The relative success of Peru’s economy and financial sector in this period, he argued, supports recent reinterpretations of Latin American economic history that deemphasize external dependency and focus on the efficiency and modernity of the region’s entrepreneurs. Despite its financial autonomy and the business sense of its economic elite, Peru failed to overcome and may even have exacerbated the centralization of economic and political life in Lima, the relative isolation and lack of integration of the interior provinces, and the disparities in income distribution that plagued the country. By the 1950s, he concluded, the financial resources of the Limeño elite were no longer adequate to the country’s needs.
The jointly authored comments of Linda Kerrigan Salvucci (Trinity University) and Richard Salvucci (University of California, Berkeley) praised Gootenberg’s paper but questioned his characterization of early Peruvian commercial policy as a “system.” Given the chaotic conditions of the period, and the desperate fiscal crisis facing Peru’s unstable governments, they suggested that the protectionist policies exacted by Lima’s merchants in exchange for credit might be more aptly described as a “protection racket.” On Quiroz’s paper, the two commentators raised a number of issues relating to the development of Latin American financial markets and the role of elite families in their development. Referring to Haber’s paper, the two commentators suggested his evidence showed the salience of notable family networks in industrial finance, as other historians have found for colonial commercial activity. However, they challenged Haber’s criticism of “rent seeking” behavior among Porfirian industrialists, arguing that such strategies appeared eminently rational given the multiple risks faced by pioneering industrial projects in Mexico’s relatively backward economy.
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E. Bradford Burns (UCLA) chaired the session on “The United States and Nicaragua: Past Patterns as Present Policy.” He opened with a few general comments on the patterns that emerged in U.S. -Nicaraguan relations during the past century and a half. In the first paper, “When Might Makes Right: The United States, the Central American Court of Justice (1907-1918), and the World Court (1984-1985),” Steven S. Volk (Oberlin College) probed the historically evolving relationship between the United States and the nations in its Central American sphere of influence to discern the affinity between U.S. foreign policy and the concepts of international law. He examined U.S. attitudes toward two international courts as they adjudicated a series of controversial law suits. In both cases, separated by a lengthy span of time, the United States behaved consistently in international courts which it had played a fundamental role in establishing. It placed foreign policy goals above respect for international law. Volk examined the parallels of U.S. behavior in the two cases. In the second paper, “The United States and Nicaragua: The Hegemonic Presumption as Catalyst for U.S. Intervention,” Peter Robert Kornbluh (National Security Archive) also looked at the continuity of U.S. policy. The “hegemonic presumption” particularly characterizes U.S. relations with Nicaragua in the twentieth century. Historically, the United States has regarded Central America as a primary sphere of influence over which it exercises a “right” to control the internal affairs of those small nations. Kornbluh examined that “right” as the major catalyst for repeated U.S. interventions in Nicaragua and the methods by which the hegemony was imposed and rationalized. Current U.S. policy toward Nicaragua, he concluded, derives directly from an imperial legacy of intervention.
Julie Charlip (UCLA) commented that Steven Volk’s paper implied what Peter Kombluh’s specified: U.S. policy is based on a hegemonic presumption that remains constant in a changing world. But, while the hegemonic power of the United States has declined—it did not destroy the World Court as it did the Central American Court of Justice—the United States can ignore world opinion with impunity and seriously damage Nicaragua. Therefore, the United States really has not failed in its attempt to, in Kombluh’s words, “reimpose an imperial design on a postimperial world.” Elizabeth Dore (Middlebury College) concluded that the papers responded well to the issues they raised. She added that the significance of both papers could be expanded to other events in Nicaraguan-U.S. relations. Sweeping through Nicaraguan history, she illustrated that application. Both presenters replied briefly to the commentators.
Burns opened the floor to questions and comments. During the 30 minutes of open discussion, six people made their own observations and addressed questions to the panel. In all cases, the comments were constructive and useful, carrying forward the discussion and adding to insights posited by panel members. At the end of two hours, the chair closed the session.
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The session “Class Alliances, Politics, and Gender: Neglected Aspects of Latin American Labor History” had as its most striking feature, participants agreed, an overall coherence. Each presenter demonstrated the mediating influence of politics on the topic of labor history chosen for analysis.
David Sowell (University of South Carolina) presented a paper on “Artisans, Socioeconomic Change, and Partisan Politics: The First Hundred Years of Colombian Labor History,” which focused on the political consequences of the artisans’ secular decline as a class during the century following independence. Sowell advanced a five-part periodization scheme, the second period of which, 1848-68, witnessed the most intense political organization by artisans as a class. Even during that period, however, artisans were primarily mobilized from above by the traditional Colombian parties, especially the Liberals. Thereafter, artisans reevaluated their loyalty to Liberals. They consistently called for tariff protection, many denounced political partisanship (and the violence it spawned), and many cast their support to third parties.
John French (Florida International University) concentrated on the early years of the Vargas administration, primarily 1930-34, in his paper, “Class Alliances and Labor History: The Origins of Corporatist State Intervention in Brazilian Industrial Relations.” French’s review of the historiography of this period stressed the fact that both the contemporary champions of Vargas’s corporatism and their subsequent academic critics exaggerated the manipulative and conservatizing effects of these initiatives on the organized working class. Focusing on the “ABC” industrial suburbs of São Paulo, and combining information and analysis from recent Brazilian studies with his own oral interviews, French demonstrated how combative local labor leaders and organizations used Vargas’s recently installed and relatively weak national government to further their interests vis-à-vis the São Paulo industrial/planter elite, which steadfastly opposed the corporatist intentions of the law.
Dawn Keremitsis (West Valley College) gave a paper entitled “Women Wage Earners During the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940.” She used census data and archival sources, especially the Trabajo section of the Archivo General de la Nación, to argue that women workers consistently lost ground both economically and politically during the first three decades of the Revolution. Their share of industrial jobs fell, and their influence in labor organizations allied with the different revolutionary and government factions waned.
Hobart Spalding (Brooklyn College of CUNY) chaired the session and provided the first critique. He emphasized the importance of the three contributions and raised questions about each. Keremitsis’s paper, he noted, left aside the whole issue of white-collar women workers, and failed to adequately explain reasons for some of the alliances between revolutionary factions and women. He also wanted to know what happened to the women who fell out of the industrial labor force. In his remarks on Sowell’s paper, Spalding emphasized the utility of comparing the political response of Colombian and Argentine artisans. In Argentina things are quite different: artisans were foreign, the church weak. He wondered, finally, if artisans ought really to be considered a part of labor history. Spalding’s comments on French’s paper stressed, among other things, its implications for Marxist theories of the state.
Charles Bergquist (Duke University) provided the final comment. He congratulated the presenters on the unity of the session, and urged them to reconsider the wider political and comparative implications of their analyses. He stressed the novel implications of Sowell’s emphasis on the growing alienation of artisans from the traditional parties, their rejection of partisan violence, and their affinity to third parties. These attitudes could help to explain the governments of the Regeneration, illiberal anomalies in the context of late nineteenth-century Latin America. Bergquist found French’s paper a tonic for the elitist, state-centered literature on corporatism. He urged French to develop his ideas on the larger comparative question framed in the paper’s title: the intellectual and political origins of corporatist labor legislation in Brazil. Bergquist encouraged Keremitsis to separate and weigh the relative importance of secular trends in industry and the political factors noted in the paper. The general decline in women’s participation in the industrial labor force began well before 1910, and does not seem to be characteristic of all industries.
This session, scheduled in the last time slot of the convention, was well attended. Questions and comments by specialists in the audience focused primarily on the individual papers, not on the general issues raised by the session as a whole.
“The Rich Neighbor and the Good Neighbor: Postwar Public and Private Assistance to Brazil” was the subject of papers by W. Michael Weis (Illinois Western University) and Elizabeth A. Cobbs (University of California, San Diego); Mark T. Gilderhus (Colorado State University) and Burton J. Kaufman (Virginia Polytechnic Institute) offered commentaries. John Wirth (Stanford University) was the recorder for the session.
Both papers dealt with the successful transfer of U. S. methods and techniques to Brazil; Weis’s example was the Joint Brazil-U. S. Economic Development Commission which operated until 1953, and Cobbs discussed Nelson Rockefeller’s privately funded rural assistance program (ACAR). The Joint Commission led to formation of the National Development Bank (BNDE) and sectoral plans for the development of industry and transportation, which were later incorporated into President Kubitschek’s Programa de Metas. Rockefeller’s ACAR developed a comprehensive rural assistance program, which, renamed ABCAR, became thoroughly Brazilianized. Yet the United States did not reap political benefits from the Joint Commission, and Rockefeller’s programs were so thoroughly assimilated that their private foreign origins were lost to public memory in both the United States and Brazil. What accounts for what Weis calls “this technical success and political failure”?
Caught up in its global commitments, the United States did not much want to continue the wartime special relationship with Brazil, nor with its cold war agenda did it pay more than episodic attention to a nation on the threshold of rapid industrialization for which the U. S. economic and financial relationship was fundamental. The upshot is that the Brazilians adapted what they wanted from the Joint Commission; avoided what they did not want (e.g., sending troops to Korea or disavowing Petrobrás); and were bitterly disappointed in the lack of U. S. public funds to finance the projects. Thus, technical assistance turned out to have severe limits as a foreign policy tool for the United States. Private assistance, by contrast, was high on the list of U. S. priorities for postwar Latin America, and Nelson Rockefeller, because of his prestige, was an effective advocate for Brazil. Hailed at the outset for his innovative development projects in Latin America, Rockefeller’s achievements brought him no political benefits at home, nor did a distracted official Washington ever move much beyond a “business as usual” approach to private-sector development projects. Yet it bears repeating that in terms of the transfer of methods and techniques from one very large country to another, the programs analyzed by Weis and Cobbs were highly successful. Consider the contrast with India, another large developing country which sloughed off U. S. policies and methods. With its forthright commitment to rapid economic growth, Brazil embraced U. S. -style capitalism while borrowing and adapting selectively from what the global power offered.
The session on “Political Authority, Social Control, and Urban Groups in Latin America” was chaired by Donald Ramos (Cleveland State University).
Silvia Arrom (Indiana University) presented a paper on “Beggars and Vagrants in Mexico City, 1774-1845.” Her paper focused on a time period characterized by efforts to broadly define the poor, prohibit begging, and deal with the poor through the establishment of a poor house in Mexico City and a Vagrants’ Tribunal. The poor house held a small and decreasing number of people, increasingly women and children who entered voluntarily. The Vagrants’ Tribunal failed because of local pressures and problems of accountability. Arrom concludes that the efforts to deal with pauperism were doomed to failure because they focused on symptoms rather than root causes.
The paper presented by Mark D. Szuchman (Florida International University) was entitled “Socialization and the Ideological Formation of Children in Nineteenth-Century Buenos Aires.” Szuchman examined similarities in the ways in which liberals and conservatives regarded education, children, and the political order. Education became a means of socializing children with values of order, truth, work, honor, and respect. The focus of the paper was on the values of the liberal generations of 1810 and 1837. While the first generation saw education as a vehicle for each individual, the second saw the need to marginalize the individual from active political participation.
The presentation of Roderick J. Barman (University of British Columbia) was “The Voice of the People: The Small Folk and Urban Politics in Brazil, 1790-1840.” Barman used George Rudé’s term “the small folk” to describe urban “mechanics and artisans,” clerks and petty professionals—groups bound together by attitudes, a certain amount of independence and increasingly by literacy. The role of the latter is described as crucial to the renewed political role played by “the small folk.” Barman contended that the evolution in the political role of “the small folk” was prevented by internal contradictions involving racial issues as well as a backlash resulting from the continuing social unrest.
The comments of Donna Guy (University of Arizona) wove in additional material to raise a number of issues, many of which focused on the role of women in the three circumstances and the way they were affected by the processes involved, changes in attitudes toward the poor, educational reforms, and political activity. Guy’s comments initiated an interesting and lively discussion as the audience, about 60 people, concentrated on a number of essential premises behind the issues raised by the three presenters.
The session “History, Ecology, and Nutrition: Latin America and the Wider World” focused on the dissemination of Amerindian foodstuffs after 1492. William H. McNeill (University of Chicago) presented the first paper, “The Reception of American Food Crops in the Old World.” He argued that American food crops enlarged the food supply in Europe, China, and Africa. For the common person, New World food crops represented the “main impact” of the New World on the Old. Maize and the potato established “new niches” in European agricultural systems, while maize and sweet potatoes affected Asian countries. He concluded that American food crops touched more lives than gold or silver and made modern population growth possible, yet this facet of modern history is often ignored.
Alfred W. Crosby (University of Texas) also raised the issue of the relationship between population growth and Amerindian crops, but with specific reference to British North America. In his paper, “Amerindian Crops and Colonial Advance,” he briefly describes the adoption of maize, beans, and squashes by the early colonists, and demonstrates their dependence on maize in particular. He argues that no factors were more important to the success of the 13 colonies than maize and the size and rate of increase of their population.
Three comments were given by James Lockhart (UCLA), William C. Sturtevant (Smithsonian Institution), and Mary Karasch (Oakland University). All three speakers expanded on the theme of Amerindian foodstuffs. Lockhart drew on recent research on sixteenth-century Mexico to demonstrate Spanish resistance to Amerindian foodstuffs, as well as the effect of Old World foods on Indian diets. Bananas, he noted, became important to the Indians. Indian wills document that they owned European fruit trees and small animals but rarely large animals. Sturtevant discussed a number of different themes, including the importance of research on food storage, utilization, and technology. He also cited the impact of chili peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes in Asia, and called attention to the importance and variety of the foodstuffs raised by the Taino Indians. He concluded that more than 120 species of plants were grown for food in the New World, of which 100 came from South America. Finally, Karasch examined the diffusion of manioc to Africa and Asia, and referred briefly to the sweet potato. She traced the role of the Portuguese, former slaves from Brazil, and colonial governments in disseminating manioc cultivation and processing techniques. Using manioc as a case study, she questioned the assumption that the adoption of New World crops inevitably led to improved nutrition and population growth, since some evidence from Africa suggests that a population’s nutrition declined when maize replaced millet and sorghum and manioc ended yam cultivation. Questions from the audience continued the debate on the relation between food crops and population growth. Approximately 150 attended the panel.
The session entitled “State Policy and Colonial Economy: Eighteenth-Century Spanish America” was chaired by Ann Twinam (University of Cincinnati). The following papers were presented: “The Huancavelica Mercury Mines, the Quicksilver Trade, and Spanish Imperial Reform, 1778-1810,” by Kendall Brown (Hillsdale College); “State Enterprise in Bourbon Mexico: Profits Policies and Politics of the Tobacco Monopoly, 1765-1821,” by Susan Deans-Smith (University of Texas, Austin); and “Commercial Deregulation and Imperial Reform: The Cases of Mexico and Cuba,” by Allan J. Kuethe (Texas Tech University). Mark Burkholder (University of Missouri, St. Louis) commented on the papers. An audience of 70 attended the session.
Kendall Brown focused on the successive efforts of Bourbon reformers from 1778 to 1810 to improve production at the Huancavelica mercury mine so that it might contribute the quicksilver essential for processing the silver ore which lay at the heart of Spain’s colonial endeavors. Notwithstanding the Bourbons’ successes in other areas, they failed at Huancavelica. Elimination of a guild contract to operate the mine placed it in the hands of an exclusive operator who, rather than searching for new ores as promised, ended up mining the buttresses which supported the mine and led to inevitable cave-ins. Subsequent attempts to modernize operations were equally unsuccessful: only the state had the necessary capital and technology to rescue Huancavelica, but it lacked the necessary vision or will. Brown concluded that imperial policy makers effectively led to Huancavelica’s downfall through bureaucratic infighting, indecision, and indifference.
Susan Deans-Smith traced the organization and operation of the tobacco monopoly in Mexico from 1765 through 1821. She stressed that a primary theme during this half-century was continuity, for a cautious management conservatively administered the tobacco manufactories rather than pressing for substantial improvements in profits or productivity. Conflicts between management and workers were generally muted as the directorate-general recognized and thereby legitimized the mechanism whereby workers might successfully petition against fraud, abuse, working conditions, or dismissal. More serious collective actions by workers such as walkouts and mass marches also evolved within a context in which authorities permitted the articulation of worker complaints which were usually resolved fairly peacefully. Such trends are reflective of a state-owned monopoly, which, unlike a private capitalistic enterprise, responded as much to political pressures as to the demands of the competitive market.
Allan Kuethe noted that although historians have written a great deal concerning the impact of Bourbon reforms on the colonies, much less is known concerning the internal maneuverings at court and in council that also shaped such policies. Kuethe used both a macro and a micro focus to detail the evolution of those linked imperial decisions which made Mexico a subsidizer of Cuban defense, as well as those ministerial manipulations which made such linkage possible. His multilevel analysis reconciled the crown’s seemingly contradictory commercial policies toward the Caribbean and Mexico, while at the same time he emphasized the necessity to explore both the eclectic and the pragmatic forces which shaped the imperial policy known as Bourbon reform. Mark Burkholder provided an informed commentary which was followed by lively audience participation.
Andean Studies Committee—Erwin Grieshaber (Mankato State University) presided over the session, which was addressed by two speakers. Thomas Kruggeler (University of Illinois) spoke on “Artisans, Guilds, and the State in Peru 1760-1860.” Anton Rosenthal (University of Minnesota) spoke on “Death on the Line: Disease, Accidents and Worker Consciousness on the Railroads of Ecuador.”
Kruggeler’s paper examined the relationship between guilds and the state from the period of the Bourbon reforms to the first decades of creole rule. Bourbon policy sought to increase state control over the guilds in order to facilitate tax collection, ensure adequate supplies to the city, and improve the means of social control. In contrast, the independent Peruvian government promoted libertad de industria. Although the creoles used guilds temporarily to facilitate tax collecting, they encouraged, by intervention in guild regulations and government orders of goods, the increasing independence of individual artisans. Furthermore, artisans themselves opposed favoritism within guilds and thus helped undermine their strength.
Rosenthal’s paper examined the relationship between health issues and worker consciousness. Once thought to be concerned mostly with wage issues, railroad workers’ strikes also exhibited significant health-related dimensions. Rosenthal identified occupants of particularly hazardous jobs, such as brakemen, as leaders of workers’ resistance. In addition, company policy, because of its cost-cutting priorities, helped create the conditions of danger and ill-health.
Commentator Charles Bergquist (University of Washington) focused most of his comments on Rosenthal’s paper. He recommended that wage issues and the health issues be considered together in a broader context and that company policy be examined in terms of cost-cutting management priorities, but also not only of “technology dysfunction,” i.e., using European technology in inappropriate locations. He noted the difficulties that Latin American labor historians face, compared to Europeanists, in finding detailed documentation of workers’ attitudes and demands. Discussion from the audience followed.
Brazilian Studies Committee—The Brazilian Studies Committee, presided over by Marshall Eakin (Vanderbilt University) met to discuss abolition on its centenary with three noted scholars of the movement (Robert Conrad, Emilia Viotti da Costa [Yale University], and Robert Toplin [University of North Carolina, Wilmington] and the participation of a comparative abolition scholar (Seymour Drescher [University of Pittsburgh]). Jeffrey D. Needell (University of Florida) recorded the proceedings.
Conrad pointed to the relatively peaceful demise of Brazilian slavery. He discussed the demographic decline and uneven regional support of the institution as explanation. He concluded by recalling the linkages between abolition, related socioeconomic reformism, and the monarchy’s fall, and then noted current Brazilian political charges that the impact of abolition was minimal.
Toplin criticized the lack of scholarly work on abolition since his and Conrad’s books, comparing such dearth with the flow of studies of slavery in the United States. He urged new approaches to underlying problems, viz., 1) ideological pressure against slavery after the 1860s; 2) economic alternatives and pressures offered by the rise of urban centers, new investment opportunities, new entrepreneurial planters, and wage labor; 3) demographic pressures dooming the institution for lack of sufficient reproduction, a process apparently disregarded by contemporaries; 4) regional differences, especially regarding attitudes toward labor alternatives; 5) impact of the Paraguayan War, especially in view of comparable experience with the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish American wars of independence, and Cuba’s Ten Years War; 6) the meaning of the socioeconomic upheavals of the last years of slavery, with flight, insurrection, immigrant labor, resistance, and the breakdown of moral authority. Toplin ended by observing the need for attention to the role of the free masses, touching on U.S. -Brazilian comparisons regarding racism and the aftermath of abolition, and raising the point of possible links with contemporary race relations.
Viotti da Costa summarized a long analysis which began by reflecting on how historiographic trends reflect the moment of the historian. She argued that the debate has returned to the themes of 20 years ago, i.e., the role of the crown and the nature of individuals’ political ideology (often without reference to socioeconomic context). She posited three current, dominant themes; 1) socioeconomic change; 2) abolitionists’ identities and context; and 3) the role of slaves. Viotti da Costa recalled that she had attempted to synthesize such themes in her own work, but that subsequent scholars tended to pose one against the other. She noted that many arguments regarding capitalism and slavery were complicated by ignorance of Marxist theory and semantic disagreements, the use of different economic measures, indifference to specificity (e.g., time, locale, available labor alternatives), and an inevitably inadequate, narrow economic focus. She suggested that it would be useful to analyze the political struggle which might have undermined traditional political networks, or the Generation of 1870 and the way in which reforms could be used by many people for many reasons. She concluded by pointing to the lack of research on the era 1850-70, the question of the autonomous role of slave rebellion, and the necessity of attempting analysis which does not presume exclusive, monocausal explanation.
Drescher began with a general review of abolition historiography, noting that 50 years ago the stress was on heroic, progressive, moral improvement, while after World War II the morality was dropped and the argument of socioeconomic progress alone was retained. The emphasis was on “modernity” vs. “tradition,” in terms of efficiency, entrepreneurial perspective, etc. Since the 1960s, the argument has been made for a flexible, specific approach, in which slavery might be understood as efficient, rational, and profitable. Drescher also remarked that, for the Brazilian case, while the demographic decline was crucial, it was long term; the central issue is the acquiescence to the end of the African trade in the 1850s. He argued, further, that there were no socioeconomic pressures sufficient to explain Brazilian abolition; rather, noneconomic events exerted the pressure (e.g., the end of the traffic, the 1870 Law of the Free Womb). He went on to note elements in Brazilian abolition common to abolitions elsewhere; 1) elite leadership (e.g., the Netherlands); 2) a free majority (e.g., the United Kingdom and United States); and 3) slave resistance (e.g., Saint-Domingue).
A brief discussion brought up salient points. It was mentioned that various crops were important with respect to the nature of various slave regimes; there was a conjunction between internal and external causes in the explanation of the end of the African traffic; and that a Braudelian approach, in which long-term trends and conjunctural events would be woven together, could prove useful.
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Caribe-Centro American Studies Committee—The theme of the meeting was “Central America in the Nineteenth Century.” Louis A. Pérez, Jr. (University of South Florida) transcribed the proceedings.
Wayne M. Clegern (Colorado State University) presented a paper entitled “Origins of Liberal Dictatorship in Central America: Guatemala, 1865-1873.” Clegern noted that in Guatemala eight years intervened between the strongest conservative dictator in nineteenth-century Central America, Rafael Carrera (1840-65), and the strongest liberal dictator of that century and region, J. Rufino Barrios (1873-85). During this interregnum, the programs of government shifted with increasing speed toward modernization. This shift can be seen in the rule of Vicente Cerna (1865-71), when the government turned reluctantly toward internal transportation improvements and with varying degrees of enthusiasm undertook construction of port facilities, installation of the telegraph, revision of the currency, and a search for a new mortgage law to encourage capital investment by escaping the consequences of emphyteutic land tenure. The revolution of 1871 sped the process considerably by putting in power a regime ostentatiously committed to change, that of Miguel García Granados. The most notable of its acts, however, partial disestablishment of the Roman Catholic church, was forced by his subordinate, Rufino Barrios. In other aspects, the García Granados regime would have to be judged a moderate one, with Barrios decreeing the most modernizing reforms when he served as interim president. By the time Barrios was elected president in his own right in 1873, the remaining obstacle to desired modernization was latent conservatism in the oligarchy. As liberal dictator, Barrios would address that.
Thomas M. Leonard (University of North Florida) presented the second paper, “Quest for a Transisthmian Canal, 1850-1900. He pointed out that the concept of imperialism dominates the abundance of literature that describes the U. S. quest for a canal across the Central American isthmus. The literature, however, does not discuss the influence of Central American economics and politics on the course of events.
U.S. policy toward a transisthmian canal shifted from a desire to prevent a solely European project in the early nineteenth century to a national obsession for a U.S. -owned and -operated canal by the century’s end. Throughout, the advocates of transisthmian communication systems consistently placed Central America within the parameters of Caribbean security interests or as a stepping stone to lucrative markets elsewhere. Until late in the century, the government showed little interest in pursuing a canal project, leaving it to the boldness of private entrepreneurs.
During the same period, the Central Americans envisioned a transisthmian canal as providing access to world markets and a catalyst to their own economic development. If a canal could not be built, then railroads connecting the region’s interior to Atlantic ports would suffice. Beyond economic development and immediate contributions to the national (or personal) treasury, the canal also offered the opportunity to limit foreign interlopers such as the United States and Britain in the 1850s and 1860s, or a means to encourage or prevent regional union schemes like those proposed by Guatemalan Justo Rufino Barrios in the 1880s. These factors may have influenced the decisions to grant generous concessions to foreign transisthmian developers like Félix Belly, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Ephraim G. Squier, Aniceto G. Menocal, and William R. Grace in return for a link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Ralph Lee Woodward (Tulane University) commented on the papers. He said that both reflected the influence of liberal ideology in nineteenth-century Central American governments. Emphasis on modernization strategies by conservatives underscored the degree to which conservatives embraced liberal ideology. Both papers served to set in relief two principal themes: 1) liberal vs. conservative struggle throughout the nineteenth century and 2) the impact of external influence in the region, especially from England, France, Germany, and the United States.
The two papers gave appropriate emphasis to the important role of the state and the impact of foreign capital in developing the export sector. More research is needed to examine the role of local elite families in the process of nineteenth-century economic development, for which there exist rich resources in the Central American archives, most notably in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala.
L. A. P.
Committee on Colonial Studies—Asuncion Lavrin (Howard University) presided over the meeting which featured one speaker. Ruth Behar (University of Michigan) spoke on “Disorderly Women: A View from the Mexican Inquisition.” Using inquisitorial records from the eighteenth century, Behar posited that the hierarchies of gender, race, and class were intimately bound in colonial society. An analysis of their interaction, she argued, may lead to rather unexpected views of a world in which women not only become key actors of history but also upset the established concepts of order, becoming the wielders of power (“women on top”). She analyzed in detail several cases to buttress her thesis, all of which involved the challenge posed by subdued ethnic groups to the dominant Iberians. Behar then presented yet another facet of gender race relations as she developed the topic of women penetrating the Indian cultural world by using their “magic” to gain power. She introduced a third facet by exploring cases in which a female was doubly victimized by male accusations of revenged honor through witchcraft procedures. In all cases, the Inquisition sought to minimize the challenge of women by either not paying much attention to them or by denouncing them and those who believed in them as childish and immature. Behar concluded by stressing that through the study of inquisitorial records we are learning to appreciate the subtleties of cultural syncretism, which involve interracial, interclass, and intergender channels of communication. The disorderliness of women who appeared before it was a manifestation not only of challenge but also of the creation of a “syncretic world on the borderlands of colonial power.”
The session was attended by over 30 persons. Comments from the audience addressed a variety of methodological and substantive issues such as the reliability of the Inquisition as a source, the limitations imposed by its records, and the possibility of using other sources to complement its data. All agreed that this session was thought provoking and challenging in its purpose of assessing the possibility of an interdisciplinary approach to raise new questions on historical sources and historical thinking.
Mexican Studies Committee—William H. Beezley (North Carolina State University) presided over the meeting. R. Douglas Cope (Brown University) presented a paper entitled “Racial Perceptions of the Urban Poor in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720.” Cope delved into the topic of racial labeling in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Teasing a good deal of information out of Inquisition trial records, he concluded that several criteria existed for racial identification that could override phenotype. His review of other sources showed that baptismal records did not contain the infant’s race until the early eighteenth century, and that marriage records have distinct problems as evidence of racial designations. Drawing on available sources, he hypothesized that the method for defining race was “functional rather than logical, pragmatic rather than theoretically sound,” and that for plebeians “lineage was not central to self-definition.” These conclusions were further supported by an intriguing discussion of plebeian naming practices.
Louisa S. Hoberman, an independent scholar from Austin, Texas, placed Brown’s paper in historiographical context, especially noting its relationship to the work of Chance and Taylor on one hand and, on the other, McCaa et al. She discussed the character (obsessive concern with family origins) of the Inquisition records, called for a comparison of parish records in Mexico City, and noted the ambiguity of the label “urban poor.” Her remarks concluded with a request for information, if possible, on the patterns of migration by the lower ranks. A spirited discussion of the paper followed.
W. H. B.