Race and Nation
Race and Nation
The Democratic Caesarism of Vallenilla Lanz
This chapter examines the second period of the republican era in Latin American political thought to consider the role of race in the making of nationalism. After the collapse of the Bolivarian dream of a united Latin America, nation-states began to sprout all over the Americas. In the making of these nations, racial identity was a crucial factor. Writing in a period of virulent racism in Europe, the United States, and many parts of Latin America, Venezuelan sociologist, historian, and journalist Laureano Vallenilla Lanz proposed that race had no biological basis and ought to be understood as socially constructed, particularly through political projects of nation-making. Not only were all Latin Americans of mixed descent, but the same could be said of Spaniards, owing to their mix of Roman, Iberian, Celtic, Jewish, and Moorish origins. In this manner, Vallenilla assailed the notion that racial purity provides moral or political legitimacy. Vallenilla posited that miscegenation was not only natural but in fact beneficial to social development (what he called “evolution”). Vallenilla was a fraught thinker, someone who explicitly owed much to Machiavelli and Bolívar for his idea of “democratic Caesarism.”
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