Brazil had the largest population of free and freed Black people on the continent, starting in the early 19th century, despite being the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery. The 1872 General Census of the Empire reported that six out of every ten Black or brown people could claim a series of rights associated with citizenship by virtue of not being enslaved. These included some individuals who were literate and active in the cultural and political spaces in which plans for the country’s present and future were drawn up. Especially in the second half of the 19th century, a time of deepening crisis for the slaveholding system, individuals such as José Ferreira de Menezes, Luiz Gama, Machado de Assis, José do Patrocínio, Ignácio de Araújo Lima, Arthur Carlos, and Theophilo Dias de Castro, all of whom were born free and resided in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, invested in their individual aspirations but also joined groups that defended the citizenship rights of free, freed, and enslaved Black people. Facing daily experiences of “color prejudice,” they not only participated in debates waged in the abolitionist, Black, literary, and general press, but they also played leading roles in the creation of mechanisms and instruments of resistance, confrontation, and dialogue. Although this aspect has not received much attention in recent historical accounts that recognize their existences, these and other Black intellectuals developed bonds of affection and solidarity over the course of their careers. To reflect on the scope of this shared racial identity in the latter 19th century and the possible impact of these ties on public positions taken by Black intellectuals, the demonstrations of friendship and companionship experienced by these individuals are traced, as well as by some others. An exercise in approaching the traces of different practices surrounding the politicization of race is given, and paths for future research on the social history of ideas and antiracism in Brazil are suggested.
Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto
Joanna Crow and Allison Ramay
Mapuche intellectuals and political activists in early- to mid-20th-century Chile both worked within and subverted dominant modernizing and “civilizing” educational discourses. Mapuche women played an important role in the movement to democratize schooling in early-20th-century Chile by publishing articles in little-known Mapuche-run newspapers and advocating for Mapuche education broadly as well as specifically for women. There was also an important transnational dimension of Mapuche political organizing around education rights during this period. These two underexplored but important aspects of indigenous activism in Chile open interesting questions about the intersections between race, gender, and nation in the sphere of education.
Several voices inside and outside Brazil define it as a racial democracy—that is, a nation without segregation or rigid boundaries separating the different groups of race and color. This understanding interacts with issues like nationality and a positive image that this nation conveys for itself worldwide as a land of cordiality, happiness, and racial integration. More than origin, personal appearance is the basis of social interactions. Society can identify a continuum of hues of skin color among its individuals who are racially classified according to their social class and the social spaces in which they interact. However, it does not mean that the social prestige assigned to an individual’s skin color is neutral. The literature shows that the pattern of race relations in Brazil is characteristically ambiguous, based on constant racial prejudice and discrimination against the Afro-Brazilian population while systematically denying its existence. As such, Brazil’s individuals have an asymmetrical standard of social acceptance and access to economic, political, and symbolic power, based on their physical features, including their skin color, their hair type, and the shape or size of their lips and nose. Despite methodological complexities, several research pieces from 1990–2020 confirm that a racial hierarchy system exists in Brazil and that racial injustice, violence, and inequality are prevalent. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Brazil has implemented comprehensive social policies to combat poverty and affirmative action policies that target Afro-Brazilian individuals in an effort to improve the quality of the lives of Brazil’s poorest citizens. Nevertheless, these endeavors were not enough to overcome the consequences of a long historical period of slavery, discrimination, and racial injustice.
The Second Reign (1840–1889), the monarchic times under the rule of D. Pedro II, had two political parties. The Conservative Party was the cornerstone of the regime, defending political and social institutions, including slavery. The Liberal Party, the weaker player, adopted a reformist agenda, placing slavery in debate in 1864. Although the Liberal Party had the majority in the House, the Conservative Party achieved the government, in 1868, and dropped the slavery discussion apart from the parliamentary agenda. The Liberals protested in the public space against the coup d’état, and one of its factions joined political outsiders, which gave birth to a Republic Party in 1870. In 1871, the Conservative Party also split, when its moderate faction passed a Free Womb bill. In the 1880s, the Liberal and Conservative Parties attacked each other and fought their inner battles, mostly around the abolition of slavery. Meanwhile, the Republican Party grew, gathering the new generation of modernizing social groups without voices in the political institutions. This politically marginalized young men joined the public debate in the 1870s organizing a reformist movement. They fought the core of Empire tradition (a set of legitimizing ideas and political institutions) by appropriating two main foreign intellectual schemes. One was the French “scientific politics,” which helped them to built a diagnosis of Brazil as a “backward country in the March of Civilization,” a sentence repeated in many books and articles. The other was the Portuguese thesis of colonial decadence that helped the reformist movement to announce a coming crisis of the Brazilian colonial legacy—slavery, monarchy, latifundia. Reformism contested the status quo institutions, values, and practices, while conceiving a civilized future for the nation as based on secularization, free labor, and inclusive political institutions. However, it avoided theories of revolution. It was a modernizing, albeit not a democrat, movement. Reformism was an umbrella movement, under which two other movements, the Abolitionist and the Republican ones, lived mostly together. The unity split just after the shared issue of the abolition of slavery became law in 1888, following two decades of public mobilization. Then, most of the reformists joined the Republican Party. In 1888 and 1889, street mobilization was intense and the political system failed to respond. Monarchy neither solved the political representation claims, nor attended to the claims for modernization. Unsatisfied with abolition format, most of the abolitionists (the law excluded rights for former slaves) and pro-slavery politicians (there was no compensation) joined the Republican Party. Even politicians loyal to the monarchy divided around the dynastic succession. Hence, the civil–military coup that put an end to the Empire on November 15, 1889, did not come as a surprise. The Republican Party and most of the reformist movement members joined the army, and many of the Empire politician leaders endorsed the Republic without resistance. A new political–intellectual alignment then emerged. While the republicans preserved the frame “Empire = decadence/Republic = progress,” monarchists inverted it, presenting the Empire as an era of civilization and the Republic as the rule of barbarians. Monarchists lost the political battle; nevertheless, they won the symbolic war, their narrative dominated the historiography for decades, and it is still the most common view shared among Brazilians.
Mariano Ben Plotkin
The life of Italian-Argentine scientist and intellectual José Ingenieros (1877–1925) has been considered a clear example of the potential for upward social mobility based on talent that existed in Buenos Aires at the turn of the 20th century. Born Giuseppe Ingegnieros in Palermo, Sicily, from a working-class family, Ingenieros was able to become both one of the most internationally renowned Latin American intellectuals and scientists—his scientific and philosophical works were translated into several languages—and also a socialite of high visibility befriending some of the most prominent members of the Argentine social elite. His trajectory seems to be an example of unparalleled success. Nevertheless, a close look at recently unearthed sources, particularly his private correspondence, not only shows a different picture of Ingenieros’s life and works, but also forces us to reconsider accepted knowledge about the possibilities offered to immigrants by turn-of-the-century Argentine society. His trajectory constitutes an excellent case study for the analysis of both the potentials and the limits of social mobility in Argentina at the time, as well as the relationship between intellectuals and power during the transition from the oligarchic republic established in 1862, after the unification of the country, to the really democratic republic based on universal (male) suffrage introduced in 1912. An analysis of the context of production of his most popular work, El hombre mediocre, provides an opportunity to contrast his public image with the social insecurities he expressed to his relatives and friends.