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HIST 5622 Prof. Mark Healey.

Orlando Deavila 28 Sep 2012

Assignment: Dissertation survey - Race in the urban Latin America


In 1973, Mauricio Solaun and Sidney Kronus published Discrimination without violence: miscegenation and racial conflict in Latin America, a complex effort to understand why racial discrimination in urban Latin America had not been accompanied by substantial violence. One of their conclusions was that local societies, albeit where organized according with racial lines, expressed their grievances about their position of subordination in terms of class rather than race conflict1. Although many of their contributions have been questioned, is truth that not only Latin American color people did not express their grievances in racial terms, but also social scientist avoid to use racial schemes to interpret social dynamics. Sometimes, race only appears subordinated to other social identifies like class or gender. Perhaps, because of that, when I searched dissertations about relationship between race and urban context, using race and urban like key words in abstracts and titles, just appeared nine in the historical framework established (s XIX - XX). Yet, Brodwyn Fischers dissertation of 1999 was excluded because it just showed the abstract, and this did not allow a good comparison with its similars. All these dissertations belonged to the last twenty years, and were done in universities of United States. My purpose in this survey is to analyze different approaches to the relationship among race, race relations, racism and urban environments, from historical perspective, identifying tendencies, common questions and theoretical influences.

Mauricio Solaun Sidney Kronus. Discrimination without violence: miscegenation and racial conflict in Latin America, John Wiley & Sons, 1973, p vii.

Although Latin Americans countries shared a common experience of slavery, colonialism and urban developments, the majority of these dissertations focused on Cuba and Brazil. These were the last places in America were slavery was abolished, shared a long legacy of domination under Iberian empires and were the center of sugar transnational commerce and slave importations. However, the earliest dissertation I got, it was about San Juan, capital city of Puerto Rico. In this work, Felix Mattos (1994) studies the experience of urban women in San Juan during nineteenth century, when the island remained under Spanish domination along with Cuba, and how urban reforms applied by colonial state brought consequences to the everyday life of women and in the level of social relationship among women and men from different classes, status or races. In this sense, Mattos asserts that gender and race perspectives must dialogue between them, and San Juans nineteenth century cannot be explained simply as a matter of class conflict and difference. Yet, in his dissertation, the theme of race doesnt occupy a central role, and it works only as a complement to the gender perspective. Although, shows that urban reform and demographic changes in San Juan changed the racial composition of population, he does not explain how this influenced the use and occupation of urban space. A common element in the historical literature about Latin America is that race is always subordinated to other social dimensions (class, gender, status). But, in other of our dissertations, race has a meaningful role, although is poorly connected with spatial or urban dimensions. Alexandra Kelly Brown (1998) studies dynamics of urban slavery in Salvador da Bahia (Brazil) and state strategies for controlling the slave population, and how police institutions stood in relation to masters, slaves and the state. She shows, also, how black race and low social status were strongly connected (poor people were almost always free people of color and slaves), and how control policies applied to these groups were influenced by terms like civilizacin and barbarie. This dissertation has details descriptions about the city, its race composition and its

distribution by neighborhood. Yet, it doesnt try to explain any racial segregation patterns, or any spatial dynamics. City only works as a geographical background for main questions around race, public, and private power. Erica Windler (2003), who examines the role of childrens in the promotion of social order within urban modernization process in Rio da Janeiro, also follows this same tendency. She focuses on the experience and treatment of abandoned children, from infancy to adulthood, by five city orphanages. Race played a determining role in this institutions practices, and evidences of children socialization reflected how this contributed to the fortification of gender, race and class hierarchies. Albeit she does a detailed description of city, thanks to her sources (census by race and class, newspaper articles, travel literature), this does not link race with spatial practices in Rio. In this group, also could be included the Chisu Teresa Kos dissertation (2009) what analyses how cultural discourses interact with political mechanisms for building whiteness identity of Argentina nation from the nineteenth century to the rise of Peron in 1940s. She poorly link race with urban spaces, beyond the connection between negro appellative, previously used to defined afro argentines, and more recently used as a broader category to describe first generation of immigrants, working class, Perons supporters and slums inhabitants. Here, city (especially Buenos Aires) is just a backdrop. However, her conception about race as a social construction that evolves over time can help for explaining similar realities in other Latin American countries. Although previous dissertations study race and urban spaces obliquely connected, a new generation of dissertations began to incorporate this variable analysis. Guadalupe Garcia (2006), for instance, examines the course of urban expansion in Havana during nineteenth century, how social sectors, specially lower class, forced expansion beyond the walls. Lower classes, in that period, according with Garcia, were integrated mostly by slaves and free people of color. These

new spaces out of the city walls became throughout years, non-desirables spaces, under discourses of modernizacin and civilizacin. New policies of social and space control emerged for controlling inhabitants and spaces, attempting simultaneously, to separate social classes, sowing the seeds of a new urban and racial segregation in Havana. Luz Maria Mena (2001), also studies the nineteenth century Havana. She explores not only the material consequences of Havanas urban modernization for free people of color, but also, how this changed their daily spatial practices, and how they responded to this, through new spatial strategies that transform Havana beyond the control of urban spaces. She focuses, especially, in free women of color and their presence in the urban space, mainly as street vendors. Street vendors were also studied by Patricia Acerbi (2010), during the transition from slaved to free labor in Rio de Janeiro. Her dissertations concerns that during this process, street vending became a strategy of subsistence among the post-abolition urban poor (former slaves, people of color, new immigrants), who had their own understanding of freedom, free labor and citizenship. Through their claims for free labor and use of public space, they expressed a racialized class ideology shaped in slavery. Acerbi considers that street vending in Rio became part of transnational uses of urban space, not only because were diasporic communities who take part in street vending (slaves came from Africa and immigrants came from Europe), but also this allow to reproduce transnational practices of use and control or urban space. This new theoretical approach is also applied by Elizabeth Cooper (2007), who examines the historical and social spaces of work between 1880 and 1930 in Havana and Salvador da Bahia in order to illuminate the meaning of freedom and community in the urban post-emancipation Atlantic World, comparing the last strongholds of slavery in America. Through the analysis of daily actions and daily struggles, poor people of color were able to express their claims out of the

formal spheres of political domination. Like Luz Maria Mena, she sets that daily practices in the public spaces shaped the identity and character of Latin American cities. One of the main conclusions of Elizabeth Cooper is that study of city, in her case Salvador and Havana, require the use of interdisciplinary approaches and analytical tools in particular geography, anthropology and history. These dissertations show the progress in the last twenty years in the comprehension or urban process in Latin America. They have been in permanent dialogue with other disciplines, and have integrated successfully new theoretical frameworks to historiography, from her history model of Joan Wallach Scoot, applied by Felix Matos, to Foucault, Bourdieu and Angel Rama theories taken by Mena and Cooper, and, of course, Atlantic world and Paul Gilroys Black Atlantic, who influenced to Cooper and Acerbi. Albeit all the advances, goals and achievements in the study of race in urban context of Latin America, this assignments reveals that there is no progress in the study of another urban realities beyond Cuba and Brazil. Obviously, this is a consequence of late abolition of slavery and slave trade. Richness of historical sources, census by race for example, permits to examine racialized character of urban societies there. In countries like Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela, with large afro descendant population before and after independence, the absence of sources, due to the early abolition of slavery and the application of liberal legal structures that avoid the use of racial terms, have hampered any study about race beyond early nineteenth century. Yet, new theoretical approaches, and historical sources (literature, pictures, travel literature, all of them well used in these dissertations) will open more opportunities to study historical link between race and urban environments in Latin America.

Dissertations consulted 1. Felix Matos. Economy, society and urban life: Women in nineteenth century, San Juan, Puerto Rico (1820-1870), PhD, diss, History. Columbia University, New York, 1994. P 359. Umi number: 9427106. 2. Alexandra Kelly Brown, On the vanguard of civilization: Slavery, the police, and conflicts between public and private power in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, 1835-1888. PhD, diss, History. University of Texas, Austin. 1998. P 328. Umi: 9905696. 3. Luz Maria Mena, No common folk: Free blacks and race relations in the early modernization of Havana, 1830s 1840s. PhD, diss, History. University of California, Berkeley. 2001. P 261. Umi number: 3044593. 4. Erica M. Windler, City of children: boys, girls, family and state in imperial Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. PhD, diss, History. University of Miami, Coral Gables, 2003. P 253. Umi number: 3081280 5. Guadalupe Garcia, Beyond the walled city: urban expansion in and around Havana, 18281909. PhD, diss, History. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2006. P 237. Umi number: 3919132 6. Elizabeth Cooper, Freedom betwixt and between: Work, revelry and race in the urban post-emancipation Atlantic world, Salvador da Bahia and Havana, 1880-1930. PhD, diss, History. Illinois, University of Chicago. P 178. Umi number: 3272996 7. Chisu Teresa Ko, Making identities visible and invisible: the uses of race in Argentine national identity. PhD, diss, History. New York, Columbia University, 2009. P 213. Umi number: 3388427. 8. Patricia Acerbi, Slave legacies, ambivalent modernity: street commerce and the transition to free labor in Rio de Janeiro, 1850-1925. PhD, diss, History. College Park, University of Maryland. 2010. P 364. Umi number: 3426322.