Constructing Childhoods: Age, Race, and Nationality in Latin American Courts
Conference on Latin American History 32
This panel advances the study of childhood, inequality and law in Latin America by exploring how legislative acts surrounding age intersected with judges’ understanding of race, class and nationality to create different "childhoods" in Latin America. Specifically, presentations demonstrate that legislators and judges utilized concepts of race, class and nationality to construct multiple meanings of childhood in Argentina and Brazil. Juandrea Bates’ presentation will demonstrate that immigrants’ inability to procure birth certificates and court approved guardians often deprived foreign-born youth the legal protection afforded native born children in turn-of-the-century Argentina. Julia Ogden’s paper investigates a related phenomena in the criminal courts of Buenos Aires at the same time. The failure of immigrant parents to provide birth certificates as proof of the age of their sexually abused children often lowered the sentences judges gave to accused molesters, resulting in different forms justice for foreign and native-born victims of assault. The panel highlights how laws and judicial practices surrounding family and childhood served as a powerful way to perpetuate inequality in Latin American history.