By Manuel Lucena Giraldo, Associate Professor of Humanities at IE
In a brilliant reflection about the history of Mexico contained at the beginning of Sor Juana, Or, The Traps of Faith (1982), Octavio Paz stated that the Spanish American revolutionaries who embarked on the movements for independence in 1810 were inspired by enlightened ideas, because apparently »there was no political thought that could provide intellectual and moral justification for their rebellion. « Certainly, throughout the liberation movements, the enlightened modernity, highly regarded among the members of Spanish American elites, covered up the importance of a Hispanic constitutional tradition, whose languages and political uses rooted in baroque tradition were as much disdained by the said elites as comprehended by mestizos [half-breed], mulatos [mulattos], indigenous people and slaves. Being connected to medieval prerogatives and to the rights of vecinos [neighbours] and descendants of the »worthy conquistadors«, who had founded the kingdoms of the Indies in the 16th century, this political thought included theories of Jesuit origin about a critique of tyrannical governments and the justification of assassinating a head of state as a wayof bringingdespotic governments to an end. Or strong criticism by criollos [persons of European descent born in Spanish America] of the excesses by ignorant and troublesome ministers, who arrived periodically from Spain to govern the Americas with disastrous results both for the king and his subjects.
The Spanish imperial crisis that took place between 1808 and 1825 and which gave way to a European peninsular Spain and to multiple Latin American republics may be regarded as part of a process of constitutional adaptation in the Atlantic world, with some elements common to other cases and some elements that are specific. The former refer to the integration of the revolutionary independence movements in Spanish America in the transforming cycle that began in 1776 with the independence of the United States, continued with the French Revolution in 1789, returned to the Atlantic coast of the Americas with the independence of Haiti in 1804, and culminated in the independence of the Ibero-American nations, including that of Brazil, between 1810 and 1825….
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