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Transformations and Continuities in Post-Colonial Latin America

Introduction

The post-colonial Latin American societies were significantly impacted by the uncertain political environment and frequent conflicts, especially during the first six decades after independence. The lack of consistent law and considerable human losses caused by armed conflicts made the daily lives of most people quite difficult. At the same time, such factors also transformed essential aspects of society, especially gender relations. Despite the considerable changes that took place in the early post-independence period in Latin America, ordinary folk continued to earn their living and conduct their daily practices just as they had done for decades. At the time, most Latin-American people lived in rural areas as small-scale farmers. Ordinary citizens, especially in the rural areas, resisted the transformation that came up during the time as they strived to maintain their normal lives. This paper discusses the continuities in post-colonial Latin America, , mainly the continuation of slavery institution and racism, religious practices, and farming and ranching as the main economic activities. Additionally, the paper discusses a considerable change in gender relations as one of the major transformations in the Latin America of 19th century.

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Continuities

Slavery and Racism

Despite independence and widespread activism for equality, the institution of slavery continued to be practiced in Latin America. The Latin American national government had refused to abolish slavery after independence mostly due to the power and political influence of the planters who still needed slave labor. Moreover, the white upper classes had a deep fear and contempt for Africans, which prompted them to use their political influence to retain slavery. Hence, the institution of slavery and racism continued even after independence.

Apart from the racism targeting free and enslaved Africans, Latin American governments in countries like Mexico, Argentina and Chile carried out campaigns of extermination in a bid to get rid of the nomadic indigenous people. The perception that Indians were barbarians and barriers to the advancement of European settlers also still existed in the post-independence period. For instance, indigenous people such as Apaches, Yaquis and Mayos in northern Mexico frequently faced incursions until the end of the 19th century. Even the historians and scholars of that time, such as Lucas Alaman, continued the century-old bias against the Indians and Africans. Just like most of the upper-class whites, the historians shared the same prejudices and fears as most of the other European settlers.

Religion

During the early post-independence period in Latin American countries, religion occupied a central position in the life of rural Latin Americans so far. The influence of Catholicism was in every corner of Latin America, and even small towns had at least one chapel with others having several churches. A considerable part of the social life in the villages revolved around religious celebrations and rites of passage. Catholic priests usually went around the villages to perform masses and sacraments. For example, the literate and wealthy individuals regularly read devotional literature and decorated their houses with religious artwork. The poor were also not left behind as in their huts there was a corner altar with candles and flowers and the images of saints. Thus, religion remained a central practice in Latin American among both the rich and poor people in rural areas.

Farming

Most of the Latin Americans at the time were reliant on the land for their living even after independence. Most of the individuals toiled the land owned either collectively by the residents or individually by the families. Some worked as employees and owners, and farming and ranching remained the usual way of life. However, it is essential to mention that living in rural areas was quite challenging, with some individuals suffering the dame cruelty and oppression as slaves.Apart from the small-scale farmers, a considerable number of Latin Americans lived in large estates where the landowners employed them or leased land as tenants. Life in the large estates varied depending on the region or country, but the common thing was that farming and ranching remained the primary economic activity of Latin Americans after independence. The new-found independence did not bring about any significant changes in the way of life of most Latin Americans, and it took several decades before individuals in the rural areas could reap the benefits of their new countries.

Transformation

Gender Relations

A fundamental transformation that was witnessed in the 19th century was the change in gender roles as women migrated to urban areas in large numbers in search of new opportunities. Brave and determined young women left their rural homes and went to the urban areas where they led self-reliant lives of unprecedented independence, a situation that had never been seen before in Latin America. In the urban areas, they functioned in public spaces like markets and factories where they made their living and even acted as the head of their households. A good example is seen from the case of Mexico City, where women from rural areas made up approximately 59% of the city’s population.

Conclusion

By the mid-19th century, most Latin American nations overcame the initial unrest that had come during the post-independence decades. Independence had a major impact on the transformation of Latin American people. One of the most notable changes was the evolution of gender relations as more women went to urban areas like Mexico city in search of better lives. However, despite the transformations that accompanied the post-independence period, various aspects of the society such as religion, farming issues, slavery and racism were continuities of the colonial era.

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