Latin America: Its cities and ideas. 1999

To María Luz, María Sol y Luis Alberto


TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 1: LATIN AMERICA WITHIN THE EUROPEAN EXPANSION

The First Expansion Towards the Margins of Europe

The Role of the Cities in the Expansion Towards the Margins of Europe

Two Casts of Mind: The Lords and the Bourgeoisie

Adjustments in the Feudal-Bourgeois Society

The Second European Expansion

The Societies that Created the Empires

CHAPTER 2: THE CYCLE OF FOUNDATIONS

The Cities and Their Original Functions

The Original Urban Groups

The Foundational Act

The Founding Mentality

CHAPTER 3: THE HIDALGO CITIES OF THE INDIES

The Forming of a Baroque Society

The Political Process

Hidalguia and Lifestyle

From Naked Blueprint to Actual City

From Conquistador to Hidalgo: A Shift in Mentality

CHAPTER 4: THE Criollo CITIES

Old and New Economy

A Criollo Society

The New Cityscape

Reform and Revolution

The Criollo Bourgeoisie. Enlightenment and Change

CHAPTER 5: THE PATRICIAN CITIES

The City and the Countryside

Bourgeoisies and Patriciates

Struggle over Ideologies

A View of the City

An Acriollada Social Life

CHAPTER 6: THE BOURGEOIS CITIES

Transformation or Stagnation

Mobility in Urban Societies

The Haussmann Example

Europe Imitated in Everyday Life

Tension and Confrontation

The Height of Bourgeois Mentality

CHAPTER 7: THE CITIES OF THE MASSES

The Urban Explosion

A Split Society

Metropolis and Slums

Mass Formation and Lifestyle

Mass Formation and Ideology

INDEX OF CITED AUTHORS


INTRODUCTION

This book is an inquiry into the role that cities have played in the historical process of Latin America. That process has been diverse to the point of appearing chaotic, but it contains nonetheless a common thread. It is certainly difficult to find that thread now, because the original commonalties across the continent began to fade, as deep-seated conflicts arose with the wars for independence. But certain constant traits suggest that such a thread may lie hidden beneath some more visible aspects of the process. Thus, for a social historian, the only road to follow in search of this common thread is the one that Latin American societies traveled— through the particular circumstances in which they took shape and through the many and often obscure incidents that ultimately made each one of these societies unique. On that road, the role of the cities—that is, of urban societies and their complex creation—seems to offer some clues to understanding a rather perplexing design.

It is true that the city has not played the same role everywhere. Brazil, for instance, is an extreme case, where society and culture were primarily shaped in rural areas during the first centuries of the colonial expansion; to a lesser extent, the same happened in other places in the Hispanic world where the presence of large haciendas,[1] born out of the encomienda,[2] accounted for certain predominant features. But even in those places, cities would eventually acquire the same importance they had elsewhere in the new continent since the very start of the colonial enterprise, perhaps because Latin America was, from the sixteenth century on, a projection of Europe’s mercantile and bourgeois world. As bustling centers of power, the cities ensured the presence of European culture; they set the direction of the economic process and, above all, determined the profile of the regions under their immediate influence and of Latin America as a whole. This was the role played by urban societies, some from the first day of settlement, others after a process in which they took control of the rural areas and shaped their forms of life.

The fabric of Latin American history is both urban and rural. But if we are trying to find clues to understanding its development into the present day, we must search for them in the cities, in the role that urban societies and the cultures they created played in the process; for, while the rural world remained more stable, it was the cities that ushered in change—a change triggered by external influences and by the ideologies those societies fashioned with materials from the outside as well as materials of their own. This study intends to engage in a search for those clues. It is, indeed, a work of history, but one that seeks to offer more than what is usually expected of a history.

We usually demand of a historical work only what political history can offer and give. This is an old and sad limitation not only for historians but also for those who seek answers to the enigma posed by a group of seemingly disjointed facts. But this study intends to establish and order the process of the social and cultural development of Latin American cities; and we can expect much more from this kind of history, precisely because it relates facts to one another and uncovers their deep structure. In that structure we may find the clues to understanding the history of urban societies and, in a less direct way, that of society as a whole.

In Brazil the dominant society was for quite some time the primarily rural one of the beginnings. In the Hispanic areas, in turn, what prevailed from the start was a conglomerate of urb