With Colonialism came the "soft," however extremely effective force of hegemony. This omnipresent political strategy did devastating damage to the people at the bottom of colonial society and was one of many major contributions to the future of Latin American society. Hegemonic rule was excessively utilized by colonists due to the fact that it guided the natives to affirm colonial power as well as leading them to acquiesce their own inadequacy. Hegemony arose in two distinct ways, cultural hegemony and patriarchy. Cultural Hegemony came in the form of religion. Under religious hegemony the common people began to accept that Catholicism was the "true religion" which further perpetuated their deficiency. By accepting this ecclesiastical status, Latin Americans bestowed the church with the capability to monopolize power. Religious hegemony may have been one of the most effective ways of controlling a population because it passively enables the lower class to accept the same values. 

Religious HegemonyEdit

People falling higher up on the social ladder, whether being European or of mixed race, can be identified as having the intention of controlling the lower class to the point of being complaisant with religion. The spread of Catholicism was the primary motivation for conquest and although the social elite believed that they were benefitting the natives through this, in actuality, they were imposing religious hegemony. This view largely held by such colonists is represented in The First New Chronicle by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala. Guaman Poma himself 

was an indigenous noble born in Peru and therefore takes on the role of representing the Indians’ views and concerns during colonization. Poma includes himself in the Indian population when asking Don Felipe III in his letter to “not permit the end of us poor Indians or the depopulation of your kingdom,”(Poma, 37). Throughout all of his recommendations to Felipe III, his actual intention to encourage labor and further spread Catholicism is masked by a paternalistic sense of caring. For example, Poma is very critical of the Spaniards impregnating Indian women and producing mestizo children. He also goes on to say that Spaniards that abuse or impregnate and Indian woman should be forced to pay a legal penalty. While all of this seems in favor of the Indian population he then says, “Enforce the laws, and the Indians will multiply,”(Poma,40).  Once again the Spanish motivation for conquest enters the picture. Felipe III responds by saying, “I only send my judges to honor the poor Indians that they may thrive and multiply in the service of God.”(Poma ,39). Poma is concerned with the Spaniards impregnating and abusing Indian women because it does not allow the Indians themselves to multiply, therefore hindering the ability to impose Christianity on them which was the initial motivation for conquest. The ideal Latin American in this case belongs to a specific social class which determines the influence they have on power as well as being malleable to Christianity.


Another inescapable hegemonic force is patriarchy which functions under the general principle that fathers have ultimate authority. Patriarchy is largely rooted in the belief of male dominance, as well as religious hegemony and oppressed the freedom of women. The "honor system" was created to provide a check on the action of women and thus encroached women in a patriarchical society. Patriarchy characterized all social configurations in the colonial period from male hierarchy in the church to men having legal control over their wives and children. This omnipotent force enraged women at the time and motivated them to change their status however most were unsuccesful at doing so. To cross the barrier of hegemonic force was conceivably an impossible task. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was one woman who challenged the colonial norm and although she eventually collapsed under hegemonic rule she served as an example for what other women should strive to do.


Retrato de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Miguel Cabrera)

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by Miguel Cabrera

Sor Juana's early life was remarkable, she was a bright child ahead of her time. When the University of Mexico had opened she had announced that she wanted to attend at the age of seven. But during this era, women did not have the option of attending universities because the education would be "over their head." Women were cornered with only two options for their life: Devote the rest of her life to the Catholic faith as a nun, or devote the rest of her life to a husband and children, through marriage. 

Sor Juana chose the life of a nun, seeing that there was more room for independence in a convent than in marriage. this is when she was finally able to spread her wings and show all of Latin America how equal women can be in comparison to men. Her poetry was philosophical and critiqued the judgement of women's sexual ethics by men. Sor Juana colleceted her own library and read hundres of books, expanding her knowledge and curiosity of who really sinned more, men or women? In the beginning Sor Juana was able to fly under the radar of patriarchy because she was a woman of God. She took care of God's children and held on to her chastity, making her an "ideal woman" in the eyes of the church. However, at the peak of Sor Juana's greatness, the fathers of her church grew worried  of her quick rise in influence and denounced her actions as unnatural for a woman, other than her religious devotion. 

Unfortunately, this put an end to Sor Juana's primitive insight on a potential womens rights movement, but she is still a renowned "ideal" Latin American because of her actions, in-depth poetry, and inquieries that defended womens rights for education. All women during this time were persecuted and prosecuted. Women were expect to follow a code of honor which was a measure of how well they played their prescribed role in society. Women who went against this belief were violently punished for their independent minds. Women were seen as suspicious if they were living alone, whether it be as a widow or just a single woman. In the eyes of the church, which speaks on behalf of the citizens, the ideal woman was a quiet, clean, godly, and maternal figure. However, a typical woman living under hegemonic control internally resisted the plague of patriarchy and some others did so openly. 


Across Latin America urban institutions were a center for hegemonic authority. Colonizers tended to congregate in cities to maintain a dominant European way of living. Colonial cities were specifically structured to accomodate the lives of European colonizers so that they could socialize among one another. However, creating uniformity amidst the entire urban population was strenuous. Tranculturation occured mostly among the natives that dwelled in the urban areas as opposed to rural folk where the influence of transculturation occured mostly among the landowners. Because the Europeans living in urban centers excerised hegemonic control, a framework for society was manifested. However, the gradual abundance of quick confrontations and interactions allowed the native people to make subtle adjustments to those imposed broad outlines of European culture. An apparent example of this is religion. Once again the ideal Latin Americans were to be seen as passive and for the most part accepting European control, and this was true to an extent. Under hegemonic rule, Latin Americans did accept their own inferiority, however, over time the native people grew somewhat resistant and adopted the general framework of Catholicism but added aspects of their own culture to it: an important example being La Virgen de Guadalupe.
Virgen de Guadalupe

Virgen de Guadalupe complexion differentiation. (left - darker)

Although the Virgin of Guadalupe is a saint brought over by the Europeans, she is sometimes depicted with a darker complexion. This darker coloration drew a similarity among the indigenous to their earth goddess, Tonantzin. Therefore, the Nahuatl-speaking Mexicans began to relate to the European religion which made implementing Christianity with Spanish rule easier. The natives began to slightly trust the Europeans after realizing that they had similar religious idols. They accepted Christianity as part of their beliefs simply because the Virgin of Guadalupe resembled their goddess so it was familiar to them, which made them less skeptical about the Europeans and their faith.

Transculturation was a blessing and a curse to Latin America's  European rulers. Since transculturation and hegemony went hand in hand, bringing the rise of social patriachy about as a result, social heiarchy was destined to follow. Transculturation did not necessarily involve the mixing of races as much as it did the mixing of cultures, however it eventually did contribute to this process. The mixing of races had a significant impact on the stratification of society as well as the general quality of life a Latin American could have. The predominant social ladder consisted of Europeans at the top, Indigenous in the middle, and the Africans at the bottom, but the hybridization of races added more social classes to the three-rung ladder. The emergence of  creoles, peninsulares, and mestizos brought forth social pressure for all classes, and would be the collapse of inequality and the caste system in Latin America. 

By the 1800s many colonial rebellions all across Latin America were materializing due to the rising tensions of the pressure put on the colonial heiarchy. Consequently the fight for independence begins to take its place.

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