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creoles sought freedom from a Spanish rule which (especially after the mid-eighteenth-century Bourbon reforms implemented by Charles III) virtually excluded them from administrative posts beyond local municipalities (cabildos), Indians and blacks adopted the ideals of independence to broadly challenge colonial hierarchies-including the hegemony of the creole land-owning class. At this time, slaves sought their freedom through their military service to the patria and by means of legal petitions. Significantly, the latter were largely based on the same ideas of equality promoted by creoles to justify independence. Thus the ideological rearticulations and political instability of the time provided the context for blacks and Indians to promote their own cause for freedom and equality, and the fact that they adopted the independence rhetoric to their own struggle demonstrates the political consciousness3 of the oppressed classes.

As Camilla Townsend argues, the shift of power from the Spanish Crown to local Spanish-American governments, contrary to the claims of the revisionist view of independence, actually enhanced the political consciousness of "common people."4 This author analyzes the case of Angela Batallas, a Guayaquil slavewoman, who appealed to independence values and the patriarchal social system to further her legal battle for freedom. In clear reference to the enlightened human equality rhetorically employed by creoles to legitimize the struggle for independence, Angela Batallas argued that independence was incomplete if it did not abolish slavery, and she pointed out the irony in a struggle to end colonial bondage which, at the same time, perpetuated internal oppression. Referring to her unfulfilled union with a white creole (and his unfulfilled promise to grant her freedom), she portrayed the emerging republic as a body that was only half free. In addition to the egalitarian discourse, Batallas appealed to the values of a traditionally paternalistic society as she appealed to Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan Libertador, for protection.

 


3. I use this term advisedly; 'consciousness' here refers to its primordial meaning, 'awareness' (in this case, political), and should not be equated with Marxist class consciousness.
4. "'Half My Body Free, the Other Half Enslaved': the Politics of the Slaves of Guayaquil at the End of the Colonial Era," Colonial Latin American Review 7.1 (1998): 105-128. This article was the required reading for the lecture.
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