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Similarly to what occurred in Europe, however, and despite all the killings, slavery, and elimination of Native Americans, in Latin America multiethnic and multiracial "Nations" could not be completely avoided. With the very relative exception of a few lands of recent settlement Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica whose cities were populated by a majority of Europeans, the rest of the region had to accommodate large numbers of people representing different cultures, races, and ethnicities.

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Lord Acton once argued that nations became stronger when possessing different centers of power represented by different nationalities and cultures: "A state which is incompetent to satisfy different races condemns itself; a state which labors to neutralize, to absorb or expel them, destroys it own vitality; a state who does not include them is destitute of the chief basis of self-government.

Only slowly did the Latin American nation state acknowledge diversity. When in the twentieth century it did so, it perceived it as something that needed to be integrated into a larger and stronger "national culture".

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This explains the policies that states designed from the onset to reduce the influence and physical presence of undesired groups African Americans, Indigenous populations by marginalization and extermination. We know that immigration policy was used to "purify" the population as well. As has been amply documented, the Argentinean, Uruguayan, Peruvian, and Brazilian states aggressively encouraged immigration of the desired "races". At many points in its development- Colombia tried to do the same. One can argue that all these tensions were associated with the imposition of a modern model of nation making.

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A modern landscape of nation-states did emerge in the region. Most of them instituted policies aimed at creating their desired nation. Figure 2 pictures the very early rise of a number of nation-states in Latin America, some of them already republics. A few of the new states are still missing in this picture, which represents post-colonial Latin America right after independence.

As has often been said, this political map has experienced only a few alterations to the present day. Colonial possessions notwithstanding, the picture is quite similar to that of the twentieth century. South America in Therefore, Europe and Latin America can be said to represent very different and yet complementary processes of nation-state formation and modernity, both belonging to the West.


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Europe was definitely more "modern" in terms of economic development, patterns of centralization of authority, organization of bureaucracies, educational systems, and the development of science and technology. Latin America represented a modern, yet different experience in terms of the emergence of nation-states at an earlier time in conjunction with globalization, and the development of polities that, from scratch, accepted the notion that the state could craft the characteristics of a unifying nation.

None of the Latin American republics seriously thought of reproducing European models of rule.


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Europe was mentioned, dreamed, imagined, fantasized, criticized, and many times praised. At the same time, there existed a solid awareness that it could not really be "copied". The U. But nobody really seriously considered that the United States could be reproduced down south either. We should not forget either that, in the eyes of Latin American republics, most of Europe did not just represent modernity: it also embodied monarchical rule, colonialism, and archaic institutions. Regarding the United States, most Latin American nation makers viewed the First Republic as a model worth imitating; President Faustino Sarmiento in Argentina has been often cited as a well-known example of admiration for the u.

Yet, as we shall see, the United States was also perceived as too different a republican experience from that of Latin America, with its emphasis on religious communitarian values, land grant policies, a code of communal laws inherited from the Tudors, and a Federal system that at mid-nineteenth century seemed too difficult to reproduce in different Latin American regions. Both the Old and New Worlds confronted the task of "accommodating the masses" into politics and creating identity.

Since the eighteenth century "the nation" that elites and government tried to construct was designed, in part, to keep the masses at bay. But in the end the "masses" had to be integrated. In the late s Ortega y Gasset argued that modernity made "the people" believe that it was sovereign: "To this day, the ideal has been changed into a reality, not only in legislation To my mind, anyone who does not realize this curious situation of the masses, can understand nothing of what today is beginning to happen in the world.

State formation was shaped by pressures to accommodate the masses into a republican model of power centralization. This had advantages and disadvantages. European states, bearers of long established traditions, seemed less free to innovate than the new republics. Rulers in Latin America, in a vacuum of established glorious traditions that would fit the new republics, appeared freer to innovate. The result was that they mixed a number of colonial practices with liberal republican institutions of government and a number of foreign influences, both from outside from the international system and from inside the nation immigrants.

Yet this freedom to innovate and choose from possible types of regimes remained more limiting in Latin America than in Europe. European states, stronger and possessing well-established traditions that glorified rulers, political institutions, and national histories could resort to past glories and heroes and thus opt from a wider arrange of possible models of government. Even as late as the nineteenth century the return of monarchy, empire, colonialism, and other forms of traditional aristocratic rule remained a possibility and a reality France, Austria, Germany, Italy, etc.

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After the s, liberal and socialist doctrines were popular in intellectual and political thinking as well, and many in Europe feared that the advent of the masses into politics would bring about a sort of wild socialism or communism able to undermine the status quo.

In Latin America, practically the opposite was true. To the question of modern democracy, republican rule, monarchy, socialism, or imperialism, the region had but one answer: modern liberal republics. Mexico of course debated it, and similar controversies can be found across the region. And yet, again, shortly after independence most countries adopted republican rule and constitutional regimes. In a way, Francis Fukuyama's argument of "the end of history" could apply here.

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Most ruling elites considered that republican rule and some sort of participatory political system was their only available alternative. Of course pro-colonial and monarchical factions did emerge in Latin America. But, unlike those in Europe, they did not possess the power to establish monarchical regimes. Rather, in most of the continent the new ruling elites claimed to exercise power in the name of change and newness, rather than in the name of "pre-modern forms of rule".

In terms of monarchical and imperial rule, there surely existed honorable indigenous precedents. But when General San Martin argued that perhaps the best thing for the new emerging polities was to rescue a Latin American royal tradition as opposed to borrowing it from Europe and thus to elect an Inca Emperor as a supreme ruler, his proposal provoked utter rejection. As the assembly put it, to revert to an "inferior Indian royal house" was deemed backwards and against modernity.

Another aspect of the process of incorporation of the "masses" into the nation-state that differentiated Europe from Latin America -and which points to Latin American modernity- was the type of incorporation. On both shores of the Atlantic, elites and the emerging middle classes shared a number of concerns about the ascent of the populace as an actor in the process of decision-making. In Europe, many believed that the mob was taking over the politics of their time.

Similarly to the current situation, in Europe, at the time, it was believed that the "ghosts" of "the crowd" and "the "masses" represented a serious threat to European culture. Progressives and liberals on both sides of the Atlantic saw it differently: the masses represented the glorious armies of proletarians and peasants defending self-determination and progress. Thus, urban crowds seemed to symbolize, at the same time, the most dangerous manifestations of modern life and a source of promise and inspiration.

In the region as a whole, weak states faced demands from below. The rank and file of political parties, guerrilla-type groups, and dissident regional leaders could often threaten the state. In Europe, these threats were not as powerful. Thus, in Latin America demands coming from local caudillos and the lower classes, as well as the evolving pacts between the central power and rebellious forces were incorporated into the institutions of the state and the conceptualization of the nation.

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Therefore, the institutional vehicle of incorporation stronger monarchies and larger states in Europe, weak republics in Latin America separated the two worlds. In some regions of Latin America like the River Plate, where indigenous populations were less numerous, prior identities were weakened either by war, displacement, or genocide. In Colombia, we find a similar situation in many ways. Unlike Europe, elites had to create a new sense of belonging. In heterogeneous societies whose inhabitants remained deeply divided along racial, ethnic, and class lines, and where large contingents of immigrants kept their allegiance to foreign nationalities, elites needed to create some sort of national identity to build legitimacy.

Here, Europe also experienced something different, not because states did not house immigrants from distant regions of the continent, but because of much smaller sheer numbers. Europe and Latin America shared a similar conceptualization of the nation in that "the nation" was conceived as representing a defined hierarchy. In Latin America, horizontal camaraderie, as defined especially by Benedict Anderson, was hardly a part of the imagining of the national community. The nation was going to be status and class- oriented. In both Latin America and North America, race remained an unresolved issue from the beginning.

In Europe, ethnicity, religion, and race also represented obstacles to integration into a "nation". In both Europe and Latin America, the "emotional attachment" that united people to their nations depended upon race, ethnicity, status, and class. Europe differed from Latin America on this score, since in Latin America those who were disenfranchised by race and ethnicity constituted the majority of the population in most of the region.

As has often been remarked, another very important difference with the European scene was that by the s and beyond, Latin American nations were, for the most part, not strong enough to wage war on neighbors. Therefore, these nations were described, perceived, and imagined in different ways from those in which Europeans defined theirs.