Legitimacy, the recognized right to rule, was a primary force behind maintaining the hegemony of Latin America during the colonial era. A hegemony of the white male minority maintained the power through the systems of Catholicism, castes, and patriarchy throughout the region. Everyone either worked within the system, bettering their own lives at the expense of their native ideologies, or dissented and were dealt with by institutional coercion.  This is not to say there was a political elite ruling Latin America, rather there was a culture of conformity that shaped the regions to the benefit of the white male minority.

Simon Bolivar

Some fall in line, some question the legitimacy of an illegitimate state

The Catholic Church backed the legitimacy of the colonizers through its “religious authority”.  By converting the populations of Latin America to Catholicism it was culturally instilled that the Church, and the whites who ran it, were the true leaders.  Everything from the time of day, the names of towns, and the afterlife fell under the Church’s power.  This influence pushed the colored peoples of Latin America towards the hegemony.  Racial castes further supported this political development.

These castes broke people into groups based on the colors of their pedigree.  Those with more white in their blood had more privileges and prestige those with less white were worse off.  This placed a cultural imperative for families to pursue white relationships over others.  Putting the white families on a pedestal gave the hegemony even more influence.  One caveat to this situation is that exceptional families, with much wealth, could buy a white legal status if they were willing to pay for it.  While this undermined the color scheme of the castes it further enforced that white was best as colored people jumped for the legal title.

Another force backing the small white male leadership of the country was patriarchy.  This principle, instilled by the Church and economic forces, placed the father in the head of the family.  Women, especially curious and potentially intelligent women, were shut away.  Honor grew in importance as patriarchy grew in strength.  Duels were common, hindering transculturation especially among the upper classes by killing anyone not white or prestigious enough to marry “up.”

Coercion, political power stemmed from the use and threat of force, dealt with problems that the Church, the castes, and the patriarchy.  Nonconformists who threatened the framework of the Catholic and patriarchal state were silenced and in some cases physically confronted.  The Spanish Inquisition, using the “religious authority” of the Church silenced dissonance.  Controversial books were banned and indigenous religions and rituals were stamped out with accusations of witch craft.

The hegemony of white males ruled Latin America till the end of colonial rule.  The forces of legitimacy, The Church, castes, and patriarchy, influenced the ideals of society towards conformity.  Swift coercion disciplined dangerous renegades.  This study can better help us understand the duality of legitimacy and coercion in a sound, but not necessary moral, political system.  The legitimacy of power can create a political atmosphere which a specific group can benefit.  With this legitimacy that group can use coercion to eliminate threats to their political power.  As legitimacy strengthens, due to coercion of nonconformists, the reach of coercion lengths, as lessening dissonance strengthens the status quo.  I imagine both of these forces would be necessary for an authoritarian state, such as those in colonial Latin America to maintain control.

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