The Corporal Punishment of Minors in Lima (Peru), 1821–c. 1900

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:20 AM
Columbia Hall 9 (Washington Hilton)
G. Antonio Espinoza, Virginia Commonwealth University
The goal of this paper is to analyze elite ideas, official regulations, and actual uses of corporal punishment against minors in Lima during the post-independence period. Governmental efforts to regulate corporal punishment had limited effects due to the inability of the state to enforce its own laws, as well as the contradiction between enlightened and liberal ideals and the realities of a stratified society. Within a society where corporal punishment was common, contemporaries distinguished between various types. Since the colonial period enlightened intellectuals and politicians criticized whipping because they considered it degrading to free, rational men. In the early years after independence, political authorities forbade flogging but authorized its use to punish slaves and sailors. Despite the official prohibition, teachers kept on using the whip because it was a prompt, exemplary form of punishment that some parents approved.

Since the late 1840s the use of corporal punishments in Lima, especially the lash, became a controversial subject Incidents related to whipping were not only about law-abidance or children’s feelings. Honor, authority, and effective school discipline were also at stake. As private and public involvement in education intensified, teachers were under greater scrutiny.  Parents became more sensitive about the schooling process. They wanted to protect their parental authority, their rights as fee-paying clients, and their child’s dignity and – by extension – their family’s reputation. It is possible that the abolition of slavery in 1854, which also meant the end of whipping as an acceptable punishment for slaves, had some effect over the public perception of this practice. Even after the passing of new regulations in the second half of the nineteenth century, the sanctions on teachers who flogged their students were inconsistent. The status of the accuser and the past performance of the accused teacher were both influential in the outcome.