This article examines the civic festivals held in nineteenth-century Spanish America to commemorate independence from Spain. Through such festivals political leaders hoped, in Hobsbawm's words, ‘to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past’. But when did the ‘past’ begin? If in nineteenth-century France the French Revolution was the time of history, in Spanish America there was no consensus on when history began. The debates about national origins embedded within the nineteenth-century civic festival not only suggest how political elites viewed their Patrias but also shed light on the position of indigenous culture (usually separated hygienically from indigenous peoples themselves) within the developing national histories of post-independence Spanish America.
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