The Home as a “Sacred Domain” in Latin American History

Conference on Latin American History 8
Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM
Helicon Room (The Westin Copley Place)
Marc Becker, Truman State University
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel explores the home as a sacred domain within Latin American history.  The participants all explore ways that the home or domestic sphere interacts with broader religious and political institutional histories.  As such, the panel emphasizes the home as an important ideological domain upon which power was contested in Latin America in both the colonial and modern periods.  During the colonial period, and well into the nineteenth century, political and Church officials each claimed authority over relations between married couples, and over the structure and morality of home life more generally.  Later, the home became the sacred space in which national identities were forged.  Although women themselves were severely limited in their participation in politics, middle-class and elite women were charged with strengthening the nation through their contributions as mothers and nurturers.  Motherhood was (and remains) at the heart of the sacred nature of the home; yet women’s strategies for tapping into the power of motherhood have changed significantly over time and in particular have become increasingly politicized.  In recent decades, scholars have uncovered myriad ways that the home intersected with broader social, political, and religious trends over the course of Latin American history.  This panel seeks to capture some of the salient points of these studies, and to indicate new directions for research on the relationship between the micro-history of the home and the supposedly “macro” histories of colonies and nations in Latin America.  Presentations explore diverse topics: religious ideals of virtuous motherhood in colonial Guatemala; domestic ideologies and the shift from colonies to nations in nineteenth-century Spanish America; domesticity and evangelization in early twentieth-century Ecuador; and the home as a traditional, “sacred” space to balance modernization in twentieth-century Brazil.  Together, these papers center the home as a window into major trends and controversies in Latin American history. The panel explicitly engages with the 2011 conference theme of “History, Society and the Sacred”, and will be of broad interest to scholars interested in gender, family and women’s history in Latin America and beyond.