Loyalty and Disloyalty in the Spanish Empire

AHA Session 268
Conference on Latin American History 87
Sunday, January 6, 2013: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Borgne Room (Sheraton New Orleans)
Matt D. Childs, Univ. of South Carolina Columbia
Timothy Paul Hawkins, Indiana State University

Session Abstract

     The onset of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701 and the Spanish American Independence movements in 1810 alarmed royal bureaucrats and strained the limits of loyalty in the New World.  While scholars have acknowledged that the death of Spain's last Habsburg monarch in 1699 provoked a crisis of loyalty in Iberia’s Spanish kingdoms, its reverberations in the New World have been relatively overlooked.  Although scholars have examined the persistent loyalty of Cuba's economic elites in the wake of the early nineteenth-century Independence movements, only a few studies have examined the expressions of fidelity made by large segments of the island's Afro-Cuban population.  The papers featured in this panel focus on how religious and political elites promoted the legitimacy of Spain's Bourbon monarchy and the varied ways groups and individuals came to express either loyalty or disloyalty when confronted by political developments that challenged the legitimacy of the Crown.

            Frances Ramos' "Selling the Bourbon Monarchy across the Atlantic" focuses on how public ceremonies worked to promote the legitimacy of Spain's first Bourbon monarch, Philip V, in Mexico City, the capital of the empire's most lucrative viceroyalty. Witness testimony from many disloyalty cases reveal that colonial subjects from all walks of life gossiped extensively about the transition, illustrating how even on the periphery of Spain’s vast empire, people proved well-versed in the language of political legitimacy.  These cases serve as a backdrop to Ramos' paper, which focuses on how the capital's religious and political elite sought to persuade the populace of Philip V's legitimate authority.  In a related but significantly different vein, Aaron Olivas' "Resistance to the Bourbon Dynasty in the Pacific Rim" is part of a broader study of cases of disloyalty to Spain's first Bourbon monarch in the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru.  His paper focuses on the inter-connections between supporters of Austria in the viceroyalty of Peru and in the Philippines, and how the fears of royal bureaucrats regarding the contagious influence of seditious material proved well-founded.

            David Sartorius' paper "On Becoming Spanish" is part of a book manuscript focusing on the responses of Afro-Cubans to pervasive messages about freedom and democracy during the Age of Revolution.  His paper questions the value of invoking loyalty as a colonial subject when national citizenship was a real, albeit distant, possibility for the island's Afro-Cubans.  Through the concept of "loyal subjectivity," he argues that many militiamen and well-placed slaves expressed their loyalty, conditioned, as they were, by the paternalistic relationship between whites and blacks, and specifically masters and slaves.  Nevertheless, colonial elites policed the borders of "loyal subjectivity". 

            Matt Childs, an expert on nineteenth-century Cuba, will chair the panel, and Timothy Hawkins, who has published extensively on Spanish American Independence movements, will comment.  The panel should attract a broad audience composed of Latin Americanists, those interested in Atlantic history during the Age of Revolution, and scholars of the African Diaspora.

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