XXX International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association
Maria Hermínia Tavares de Almeida
University of São Paulo
Timothy J. Power
University of Oxford
A number of Latin American countries already are celebrating, or soon will celebrate, the achievement of 200 years of national independence. The bicentennial commemorations represent not only an opportunity to convey and promote a sense of national unity based on collective accomplishments, but also an occasion for political, intellectual, and cultural reassessments of the past and present. In general, they are characterized by more complex views of the meaning of the revolutionary wars and of the scale of the social, economic, and human costs of nation- building and modernization, especially in relation to indigenous and other subaltern populations. The result of this reconsideration is a relatively more diverse and inclusive notion of collective identity—one that takes into account the coexistence of many different (at times antagonistic) ethnic, sexual, and social histories. Although deep social inequalities still persist, the celebrations also coincide with an unprecedented period of democratic rule. The bicentennials offer an excellent opportunity for a multidisciplinary discussion about the multiple ways of constructing the past and forecasting the future; the new meanings of “independence,” “revolution,” and “national identity;” the role of Latin America in the new global economic order; and the transformative power and limitations of democratic institutions in Latin America’s third century of national independence.