Teaching Module

Love & Authority in Argentina (19th c)


This teaching module incorporates a variety of primary sources that shed light on the shifting boundaries of parental roles and expectations, young people's behaviors, and social status in early to mid-19th century Argentina.

One strategy is to divide the sources into two sets. The first set might include evidence on the expectations that both parents and political leaders had for children. Parents, especially fathers, in early 19th century Argentina wanted their children to marry for particular strategic reasons (e.g., to maintain wealth across generations) rather than for romantic love. In addition, Argentina's leaders sought to socialize children by closely regulating dress, public behavior, and education. Young people today should have little difficulty understanding the weight of parents' expectations on their lives and the rules that authorities create to govern their conduct. Thus, it might be a good exercise to relate these ideas to the students' lives.

A second set of documents would be organized around the variety of ways in which Argentina's youth responded to the rules and regulations that governed their lives. The evidence from the era shows that young people adopted a variety of political viewpoints. Manuelita Rosas's portrait, for example, represents one way in which young people supported the regime. However, legal documents reveal the willingness and capability of young people to use the court system to advance their interests, which were often at odds with those of their parents. Camila's story demonstrates one young person's challenge to both parental and state authority. This evidence not only demonstrates sharp generational differences but also how legal institutions became increasingly involved in family matters as parental authority began to wane.

Examining official records, however, presents special challenges. For example, legal language may be confusing, and biases may be difficult to detect. Nevertheless, it is possible to make sense of these documents by following some general advice.

First, it is necessary to understand that the primary role of civil courts in any adversarial system is to satisfy demands. Typically, this involved two parties, who were recognized as legitimate groups before the courts. Children or their legal guardians had the right to sue, especially when property or transfer of wealth was involved.

Second, gather basic information from the document about what happened. The "facts" of a case might be incongruous with our own understanding of prevailing norms and practices. For example, students today might have a hard time reconciling the fact that people in their early 20s were still considered minors.

Discussion Questions

  • What areas of young people's lives did parental and state authorities try to control in Argentina during the early 19th century?
  • What strategies did young people in early 19th-century Argentina use to resist parental control?

How to Cite This Source

"Love & Authority in Argentina (19th c)," in Children and Youth in History, Item #60, https://cyh.rrchnm.org/items/show/60 (accessed August 10, 2021).