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that defines it; rather, a primordial essence is constructed a posteriori to justify specific political movements seeking to be national.

Nationalist rhetoric was a means by which creoles sought to legitimize the struggle for independence. By appealing to the 'nation' rather than to any particular sector, creoles could universalize the aims of independence; these objectives thus appeared as the liberation of the whole society rather than as the advancement of creoles. Creoles did not necessarily believe to be on an equal footing with Indians and blacks; they merely sought the adherence of these groups to the struggle for independence. But by stating that a national identity existed which blurred internal divisions (as Meisel pointed out), creoles opened the discursive space for Indians and blacks to claim their equality based on that very national identity.

A comment on discourse is due. Rhetoric may be internalized over time, and the continuous assertion of equality and national identity may lead to the belief in these ideas and their materialization.12 This means that equality may result from egalitarian rhetoric, but not that egalitarian rhetoric necessarily follows from the belief in equality. The fact that creoles argued for a national identity beyond socioracial divisions does not mean that they believed in the artificiality of those divisions. In other words, creoles' appeal to equality does not imply their belief in it.13 In turn, while Indians and blacks adopted this rhetoric to reclaim their own liberty and equality, this does not mean that they believed in the rhetorical honesty of creoles. Rather, by taking creoles at face value and adopting the very appeals that creoles used in their rhetoric, Indians and slaves could present their claims as legitimate.14 While this picture is undoubtedly complex, it describes the tensions inherent to a rhetorical system in which a single discourse becomes a strategy for groups in mutual opposition.


12. I do not mean to say here that a lie becomes truth if repeated enough, nor that racial equality exists, even today, in Latin American nations.
13. In a way, a corrupt government official is no less corrupt if he condemns corruption.
14. A good rhetorical strategy to remove the corrupt government official from office is to cite his/her own condemnation of corruption.
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