In the nineteenth century, the most significant feature of Latin America was unequal relations between elites and masses, men and women, white and non-white, free and unfree in economic and political and social politics. During this period, power and authority were the symbols of one’s status. I will list evidence or examples one by one to highlight how unequal relationships existed in those areas.
Elites and Masses
Many of the people from all social classes, ethnic and racial groups who participated in the independence wars felt that they deserved freedom, the right to be equal and the exercise of sovereignty. However, people in both Europe and America, did not assume that such rights as liberty, equality, and fraternity should be extended to the masses. Moreover, during the nineteenth century, social change for the masses and for women came slowly. The elite maintained social order by sharing a general understanding that obedience merited protection.
Over time, the revolutionary elites withdrew from their initial attack on hierarchical societies, hoping to re-establish the command of the masses mobilized by the revolution, but at the same time, as the revolution succeeded to a great extent in rearranging solidarity along the horizontal plane, it smashed the tradition of respect. By the late 18th century Creole elites questioned the necessity of remaining colonial subjects. The mass of the population is dissatisfied with government policies. Due to the elites feared losing the power of their rulers, early attempts at revolution failed.
Throughout Latin America marriage placed restrictions on a woman’s status and power, particularly when gender and class intersected, as it did for the most elite women who severely restrict participation in public places. By comparison, in the non-elite class, women became heads of household when men died or abandoned the family. They were often assuming the full management of businesses, farms and mines.
Free and Unfree
A crucial rule is that a child was born to be a slave or not, decided by the mother, but not the father, if the mother was a slave and the child would be born to be a slave, even if the father was a free man. In contrast, there was one exception which is a child given rise to by the master could become free after the death of father under the premise of being recognized by the latter as his own child. What is more, a mortgaged slave could never buy their freedom. If unfreed slaves wanted to be free, they must have been hard-working, loyal and obedient. In simpler terms, masters wished that it is a correct decision to release the slave and let they have their freedom.
For society, the freed slave was supposed to be a good citizen and would not become a public burden in a country where charity took responsibility for private individuals. Whereas, free citizen could dispose of his own property in a manner that he considered appropriate even he could not fully enjoy civil rights. For instance, if he died without children and intestate, his legacy went to his wife or other successors. If he died unmarried, then his tenure would give back to the state. From above examples, we can clearly see the distinctions between free and unfree that compare to being free citizens, unfreed one had to follow the rules and tried to gain their freedom.
Men and Women
Men as the patriarchs in their households indicated that the relative positions of men and women had not become observably more equal. Women were still defined as weaker than men and mainly suitable for domesticity. Nevertheless, women gained a little place during the nineteenth century. They kept on being as wives and mothers under the power of men. They could not neither vote nor be in office. While, lower class women had more personal and economic freedom, but otherwise belonged to slavery. In order to make women play a more enlightened role in the family, public education became more open to women.
On the contrary, when men joined the military to earn a salary or guarantee daily rations, women needed to stay behind and took jobs the men vacated or managed the crops on landholding ranging from small plots to large estates. What is more, women had taken part in the independence armies, moving with the troops, preparing food, sewing and repairing uniforms. They worked as nurses, messengers, spies, and even sometimes as soldiers. Some women had joined the effort because of their ideological convictions, while others did so because they needed to be protected in the face of the marauders on the other side, and many women were forced to engage sexual enslavement against their will.
White and Non-white
Talked about the inequality between men and women, let’s move forward a single step to understand how white and non-white being treated in the nineteenth century. Talked about the inequalities a between men and women, let’s move forward a single step to understand how white and non-white being treated in the nineteenth century. For example, white women may have strong power over black slaves or family affairs, while at the same time, have no real voice in wider social management. On the other hand, any dark-skinned individual was identified as a slave and his life was barely different from most slaves.
To sum up, a hierarchy and social order influenced the way how people lived and how they interacted with each other, even how to make their choices to decide their own life or future. What is more, gender, race, class and social status affected not only the person himself but also brought influence on their children. I would like to say that it is unfair to children’s life or fate by their parents’s status in a society. However, in the nineteenth century, people who had power and authority is the one who had the ability to make changes and own privileges.