- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0064
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0064
The family has been at the center of the history of Latin America since Europeans first confronted the region’s indigenous peoples. Conquest, religious conversion, and the introduction of African slavery placed sexual practices, kinship systems, marriage, gender relations, and child rearing in a politically and ideologically charged context. The Roman Catholic Church held authority over the family cycle while Spanish and Portuguese law imposed new inheritance systems. After the colonies won independence from Spain and Portugal in the early 1800s, the spread of liberalism prompted Latin America’s political classes to view the family as the cradle of citizens and the foundation of social stability and economic productivity. But social hierarchies rooted in colonial status and caste systems perpetuated inequalities whose legacies persist today. These shared histories produced distinctive patterns of family formation and practice throughout the region. Formal families sanctioned by church and state have constituted a small minority, and historians have approached them as institutions for organizing labor, property, commerce, power, and prestige. Studies of socially marginalized populations have revealed that the majority of Latin American families have been informal in the eyes of the law and often composed of single mothers and illegitimate children. These patterns demonstrate that family practice often diverges from legal and social norms, and they also prompt fundamental questions about the meaning of “family” in the past. As a result, Latin American family history has been methodologically diverse. Some scholars have adopted anthropological models for analyzing kinship, while others have construed kinship more broadly to encompass cultural practices such as godparenthood and religious associations. Many family historians use legal records to explore changing definitions of family relations. Demographic methods help reconstruct the impact of disease and migration on household composition and headship, marriage, and reproduction. Viewing family in the aggregate as “population,” however, reflects the legacy of modernization and development theories laden with First World cultural biases. Recently, historians of women’s and gender history have focused on intrafamilial relations to expose hierarchies of gender, class, and power within families and households. This bibliography is organized to highlight the distinctive circumstances that have shaped family formations in Latin America. Sections are devoted to elite families and to families in indigenous and slave societies. Studies are also grouped according to their focus on different phases of the family cycle. Because the majority of children in Latin America were born outside of formal marriage, one section focuses on illegitimacy. Finally, other sections include collections of works that examine important dimensions of family life, such as domesticity, work, and pictorial representations of the family.
The long chronological span of Latin American history and the diversity of regional characteristics have discouraged a synthetic monographic approach to the history of the family. Thus, the works selected for inclusion in this section are largely historiographical. Balmori 1981 offers a useful overview of family history in the early 1980s. Kuznesof and Oppenheimer 1985 argues that families were central to, and generative of, Latin America’s social, political, and economic institutions. Potthast-Jutkeit 1997 places Latin American and Caribbean family history in a comparative context of colonialism. More recently, a new generation of scholars has revisited family history and offers new perspectives. Rodríguez 2004 highlights regional and Atlantic connections as well as the discipline’s visual turn. Milanich 2007 and Premo 2008 both point to insights to be gained from the history of childhood in Latin America, while Robichaux, et al. 2007 proposes interdisciplinary approaches to family history in the region.
Balmori, Diana. “A Course in Latin American Family History.” In Special Issue: Teaching Latin American History. Edited by William F. Slater. The History Teacher 14.3 (May 1981): 401–411.
This essay provides a valuable overview of the field of Latin American family history in the early 1980s. The author notes that the historiography of elite families, mainly hacienda studies and studies of commerce, was the most developed area of research at that time, but she also points to emerging studies focusing on women’s roles. The article includes a bibliography that lists important works in the field.
Kuznesof, Elizabeth A., and Robert Oppenheimer. “The Family and Society in Nineteenth-Century Latin America: A Historiographical Introduction.” Journal of Family History 10.3 (1985): 215–234.
The guest editors for a special journal issue focusing on families in 19th-century Latin America note the field’s recent growth. They argue that in Latin America, the family should be seen as central to political, social, and economic institutions and that historical study of the family also illuminates agrarian structures, urban spatial organization, regional and national politics, and the economy and law.
Milanich, Nara. “Whither Family History? A Road Map from Latin America.” American Historical Review 112.2 (April 2007): 439–458.
The author argues that after an energetic start, family history of Latin America is no longer a dynamic subfield. She proposes reviving the field by examining the family within the context of broad cultures of inequality. In particular, she argues that a focus on children exposes social vulnerabilities that are intrinsic not only to Latin America’s social hierarchies, but also to other colonial and postcolonial settings.
Potthast-Jutkeit, Barbara. “The History of Family and Colonialism: Examples from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.” History of the Family 2.2 (1997): 115–122.
This essay proposes that colonization is a more productive analytical framework than modernization for family history because the latter presupposes European or North American social models and slights the importance of politics, religion, and culture. Both essay and issue explore links among Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean and reveal the flexibility of family formations in response to colonization.
Premo, Bianca. “How Latin America’s History of Childhood Came of Age.” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 1.1 (Winter 2008): 63–76.
The author identifies key differences between the history of childhood in Latin America and in Europe and the United States. Whereas European and US historians have attributed the advent of the concept of childhood to the advent of modernity, historians of Latin America have studied children within the context of uneven regional responses to modernity and only recently have defined themselves as historians of childhood per se.
Robichaux, David, and Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales, Grupo de Trabajo sobre Familia e Infancia. Familia y diversidad en América Latina estudios de casos. Buenos Aires, Argentina: CLACSO, 2007.
Despite the contemporary focus of the latter three sections of the book (on couples, children, and ethnic or social groups, respectively), the first section presents essays that address theoretical and methodological considerations for family studies in Latin America. The authors provide interdisciplinary frameworks for historians of the family to apply in conceptualizing subaltern cultures, power, and genealogy.
Rodríguez, Pablo, ed. La familia en iberoamericana, 1550–1980. Bogotá: Convenio Andrés Bello, Universidad Externado de Colombia, 2004.
The contributions to this volume provide synthetic geographic overviews by country or region, including Spain and Portugal, the Caribbean, and Central America. The volume is also richly illustrated with reproductions of well-chosen and evocative paintings, portraits, and family photographs.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500-1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Football (Soccer) in Latin America
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Indigenous Voices in Literature
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521–1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in 19th-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- São Paulo
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas