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"Political Consciousness and National Identities in the Latin American Struggle for Independence, 1808-1826"
by Federico Sor

This paper comprises three parts: a summary of a lecture given by Seth Meisel on nationalist discourse during the Spanish-American independence movements (pages 1-3); an interview to Meisel after the lecture (4-6); and my commentary, which intends to deconstruct nationalist rhetoric and question the way we understand it--an ambitious undertaking indeed (7-13).

I. The Lecture1

Spanish-American wars of independence, led by creoles (Americans of European ascendance) were the first stage of national liberation. The enlightened ideals of democracy and self-determination served as ideological justification for the creole insurrection against Spain. Napoleon's 1808 seizure of the Spanish Crown and the subsequent legitimacy crisis of Spanish rule provided the ripe situation for the insurrection.

Creoles had been conscious of the possibility of liberation since before the beginning of the Wars of Independence. For example, in 1806 and 1807 local forces defeated British troops invading the city of Buenos Aires. At this time, creoles and slaves under the leadership of local leaders such as Santiago de Liniers and Cornelio Saavedra2 had demonstrated that they could protect their land without Spanish intervention. Moreover, this event signified that, if they could defeat the British invasions on their own, they could well put an end to Spanish colonial rule.

Although the Wars of Independence were primarily a creole movement, its enlightened ideological legitimation opened spaces of political negotiation previously nonexistent. While


1 This is the summary of a lecture given by Seth Meisel, professor of history at Yale University. The lecture was delivered on December 6, 2000 at a Latin American history survey course taught by Daryle Williams at UMCP.
2 In fact, Saavedra was a peninsular (born in Spain).
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