Region and Nation in a Changing World: The Americas in the 19th Century

AHA Session 292
Conference on Latin American History 72
Sunday, January 8, 2017: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Room 402 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
John Tutino, Georgetown University
Forging States, Reforming Societies: Guatemala and Zacatecas in the Era of Federations
Alfredo Ávila, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Unsavory Compromises of Region and Empire: Slavery and the End of the Farroupilha War
Daniela Vallandro de Carvalho, Universidade Estadual do Centro-Oeste; Bryan McCann, Georgetown University

Session Abstract

Nations are often imagined as born whole—or built from a center out. In many cases, the fall of the European empires in the Americas left regions as primary units of politics, production, and social relations, with nations built in long, conflictive interactions among them. Regions were often defined by a city and its hinterland. In some cases a region became the defining center of a nation: in our examples, Guatemala City departed a Central American Federation to shape a Guatemalan nation; Santiago defined the center of Chile, drawing in a resistant south. In other cases regions struggled to forge roles in larger nations as both changed: New Orleans and the Mississippi basin first engaged the U.S. as a region of cotton and slavery; later a larger Mississippi Valley remade itself as the heartland of an agro-industrial nation. Zacatecas was the only region of Mexico where silver boomed after independence; it pressed regional rights in an early national federation—to later face a centralizing regime. Porto Alegre centered Rio Grande do Sul, long part of Portuguese Brazil, yet similar to the agro-pastoral societies the Spanish Rio de la Plata basin just south. When regional leaders fought a war for independence beginning in the 1830s, they faced a Brazilian empire funded by a slave economy—and insistent on preserving slavery in a rebel region that freed men who fought for independence.  

            All our regions were linked to the Iberian empires in 1800. Three were fully within Spain’s domains, yet different in important ways: Zacatecas was a center of silver mining; Guatemala a deeply indigenous province of limited commercial dynamism; Santiago led a region of Hispanic cultivators supplying Lima. Two others sat at the border of empires: New Orleans and the west bank of the Mississippi were Spanish, while Anglo-Americans free of British rule (and bringing slaves) charged toward the east bank. Rio Grande do Sul formed the southern flank of Portuguese America, a rich agro-pastoral region supplying cities and slave plantations to the north, while the Spanish Rio de la Plata, engaged in parallel production and trades lay just beyond.

           Our presenters are established scholars deep into the histories of the regions and nations they discuss. All are pursuing projects in which relations between region and nation remain central. All will engage the central theme. Yet each will bring perspectives that will broaden and complicate our conversations. Around shared concerns with political economy, questions of ideology and policy, family and gender, race, ethnicity, and slavery will illuminate the regional and national variety inherent in nation making. We will explore how regions were the building blocks of nations, and the variety of polities and societies that emerged from their interactions. We aim to open conversations to deepen understandings of regions and complicate discussions of nation making.

Participants: John Tutino, Georgetown University, Chair

                   Alfredo Ávila, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Presenter

                   Sarah Chambers, Univesity of Minnesota, Presenter

                   Danina Vallandro de Carvalho, Unicentro, Paraná, Brazil; and Bryan McCann, Georgetown U., co-presenters

                   Adam Rothman, Georgetown U., presenter

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