Commemoration, Celebration, and Memory in Spanish America before the Bicentennials, 1780–1975

AHA Session 246
Conference on Latin American History 78
Sunday, January 6, 2013: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Preservation Hall, Studio 3 (New Orleans Marriott)
Frances L. Ramos, University of South Florida
The Audience

Session Abstract

Spanish America’s history or tradition of commemoration dates back over half a millennium.  The Conquistadors not only marked their arrival and the creation of outposts and cities with elaborate rituals but also observed the anniversaries of these events and other foundational moments.  Since independence in the early nineteenth century (1808-1825, circa 1898 for Cuba and Puerto Rico), Spanish American nations have celebrated the break with Spain with annual festivals and holidays, most notably the centennials, sesquicentennials, and bicentennials.  Throughout the Americas, historians are currently leading public discussions on the significance of two hundred years of independence, participating in countless conferences and an increasing number of publications. Scholars in Mexico, Argentina, and Chile speak of bicentennial frenzy and even fatigue.

            Seeking to contribute to these debates as well as the current multidisciplinary fascination with memory, this panel focuses on the long history of commemoration in Spanish America, from the colonial period to the late twentieth century, from Mexico to Argentina.  Rebecca Earle analyses the textual commemorations of 'ecological imperialism' in early colonial sources. Charles Walker studies how nascent Argentina converted the Peruvian indigenous rebel leader José Gabriel Tupac Amaru into a national hero in the early nineteenth century. Michael Gonzales examines contested views of Argentina's past, present, and future among elites, immigrants, and Spanish monarchists and republicans during the centennial celebration of independence in 1910.  Carlos Aguirre looks at the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Independence in Peru, led by the peculiar military and nationalist government of Velasco Alvarado (1968-1975).

                Together, these papers highlight the lengthy history of commemoration, seeking to provide the bicentennial discussions a longue durée perspective. They develop intriguing comparisons and highlight transnational trends and misconnections.  They also provide particularly important grounds for reflection on contemporary bicentennials.  Because the themes of the paper connect so well, we have decided not to have a discussant but instead leave time for our own comments and for audience participation.

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