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Socio Cultural Mobility Essay

2952 words - 12 pages

Conflict, incorporation, mestizaje, and social mobility have been unremitting, formative topics through the history of Latin America. Whether social and cultural mixing between the Indians and the Europeans, the Indians and the Africans, or the Europeans and the Africans, it cannot be denied that the theme of mestizaje and the social structures that came to exist in Latin America were definitive in shaping nearly every aspect of this time period from formation to revolution. This cross-mixing and combination of groups and people across varied social strata brought to the region a myriad of cultural, political, religious, and economic impositions, but what is most interesting is the role that marriage, concubinage, and romantic relations played in this period. Within this paper, I will argue that within the Colonial World, these institutions were hardly founded either solely or even minutely in love, but in fact, were economic and social institutions that served as a primary outlet to both uphold and build social hierarchy, to achieve honor and status, and to abet as a tool for socio-cultural mobility.
Within our course, we spoke extensively about the life and story of Chica Da Silva, and how concubinage was one of the most common ways for female slaves to earn liberty in the colonial period. We learned that there was opportunity for upward mobility and social ascension for those women who could “maintain long-standing affairs with white men.” Chica was the prime example of a slave who ascended from nothing to a position of incredible prestige, wealth, and stature stemming from the manumission papers granted by her lover Joao Fernandes. Romantic relations (in this example, concubinage) served as an economic and social means of ascension first and foremost. We learned in our study of Fertado’s work that matrimony was a means toward status and network building, and served in the establishment of familial relations that brought social and economic promotion. It was hardly an institution of love. Indeed, “not only was love not a condition of marriage, but the sentiment was totally dissociated from the institution.” It was because of this that such unions were often designated “marriages of reason…separate from the passions which all too often blinded the young.”
That Chica was able to accomplish such impressive upward mobility (i.e. From slave herself to slave owner in possession of more than 104 others, and from a childhood debased of education to sending her children to the finest schools in Portugal and Brazil) showcases the powerful opportunity for mobility espoused within romantic relations and pseudo-marriage. However, that she and Joao were never able to marry offers further support that marriage had little to do with love and much more to do with economics and hierarchical structures, as legal matrimony in this era was only permitted between individuals of equal status so as not to blur the lines of the elites or contaminate the...

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