Masculinity and Politics in Latin America since 1800
Conference on Latin American History 72
This panel examines the role of masculinity in the political development of modern Latin America. Gender studies for Latin American history have shown a variety of ways in which gender ideas, including those about women’s roles and the family, have influenced political discourses since independence. One of the newer avenues of exploration along these lines centers not on women, however, but on men and masculinity. Various studies have shown the importance of masculine participation in military for the development of nationalisms and alternative nationalisms in the nineteenth century, while other studies have addressed issues of male sexuality and the state. The papers on this panel contribute to and further historical studies of Latin American masculinity and their relevance to political developments in different periods and regions, pushing forward our understanding of how gender shaped politics and politics shaped gender. Reuben Zahler’s paper addresses how patriarchal notions of male responsibility marked the transition from colony to republic in Venezuela. His paper is particularly important for using masculinity to explore the shift from religious to state control of morality and social order. Nicola Foote examines how Ecuadorian authorities manipulated ideas about aberrant masculinity in order to justify the marginalization of Afro-Ecuadorians. Her paper offers an especially important contribution to the history of race and nation through its focus on Afro-Latin American masculinities and state formation—a topic that is far less well understood than Indian-state relations, particularly for Ecuador. Thomas Rath tackles masculinity in the post-revolutionary Mexican military, scrutinizing how military reforms were limited and shaped by Mexican politics and policies in the mid twentieth century. Rath’s work provides important insights on the process of demilitarization in post-revolutionary Mexico. Finally, Erin O’Connor examines the theme of masculinity—in terms of sex, warfare, and politics—in Che Guevara’s writings. Her paper asserts that although gender has not been a topic of much historical research regarding Guevara, an investigation of masculinity in his works offers to deepen our understanding of not only Guevara himself, but of twentieth-century Latin American socialism. Together, these papers reveal how and why notions of either idealized or exaggerated masculinities were crucial in various moments of political transition and state formation in modern Latin American history, adding new layers to understandings of gender and nation.