Coming of Age: The Parent-Child Metaphor in Spanish America during the Age of Emancipation

Friday, January 4, 2013: 8:30 AM
Preservation Hall, Studio 8 (New Orleans Marriott)
Karen Racine, University of Guelph
This paper will discuss the many meanings of the parent-child metaphor in the Spanish American independence movements.  Growing out of (and eventually subverting) the notion of a monarch as a paternal figure,  the parent-child metaphor became a common trope in the Enlightenment political rhetoric.  If polities were indeed like families, then it was natural and right that children should grow, reach the age of majority and emancipate themselves in order to establish their own family and authority.  Spanish American patriots proved highly adept at manipulating the parent-child metaphor in a variety of contexts to suit their particular purposes at specific moments.  During the period of Ferdinand’s captivity 1808-1814, they could present themselves as loyal sons safeguarding their parent-king’s rights in a moment of family crisis.  When Ferdinand returned to the throne and launched a counterattack, American patriots could assert that they had reached full political maturity and no longer needed the protection of a mother country to take care of their own affairs.  In the 1820s, they reconstituted new national families with themselves in the familiar paternal role acting in loco parentis for their less-sophisticated children-citizens.  

    This paper will discuss the parent-child metaphor of emancipation and coming of age across a range of Spanish American contexts.  It will point out the ways in which emancipation was framed as a family issue, encompassing not just male political authority, but also the space for action available to women/mothers/daughters/wives. It is based on archival research, pamphlets, newspapers, histories, and other primary sources.

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