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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 59
Año: 1999
Autor: José Luis Romero
Título: Latin America: Its Cities and Ideas

Mobility in Urban Societies

What was most typical of the stagnant cities was not so much that their urban plan and architecture remained intact; it was more that their societies endured. In fact, the old lineages and the lower classes were preserved just as they had been as far back as the colonial era or the patrician era. Little or nothing had changed; there was certainly nothing to trigger any shift in the structure of the dominant classes or the formation of new middle classes or any diversification of the lower classes.

Quite the opposite happened in the cities that, either directly or indirectly, were part of the new economic system. There, old societies began to transform themselves. Their ranks swelled with new people who had moved to the city, some from the countryside and others from abroad. But very quickly this influx—coupled with the normal population growth—altered the old demographic structure qualitatively as well, as new job opportunities offered unusual chances for social mobility. The results were quickly apparent, and the traditional system of social relations began to change. Whereas before there had been a place for everyone, there was now a tide of candidates for every slot that opened up. It was not just the new arrivals looking for adventure who destroyed the harmony of the traditional, stable society; there were also those who had always been so poor that they had lived on the fringes of society, without truly participating in it. Many of them now began to enter into society because they had skills and found the occasion to use them. The nouveau riche, the small businessman who had a stroke of luck, the enterprising employee, the talented artisan, the hard worker, and all those who discovered within the intricate network of commercial activities a vein that they could mine, began to penetrate into the chinks of the social scaffolding and ended up dislocating it.

That was not their purpose, of course. Anyone who moved up wanted to make his way into traditional society, to be one of “them,” to enjoy the privileges that came with being one of its members, just like those who had belonged to traditional society from time immemorial. But the structure was unable to withstand so many invasions and began to buckle. All of a sudden, the old patrician class discovered, before anyone else, that its city, “the village writ large,” was becoming a mixed, confusing conglomerate, where society was beginning to lose its ability to control its individual members, as the old one-on-one direct relations among them were vanishing.

In rural areas and in small- or medium-sized cities, the old patrician class had grown very deep roots and become a strong and homogeneous aristocracy. It constituted that “democracy of hidalgos” that was talked about in Arequipa as well as Tunja, Trujillo, Salta, or Popayán. There were no groups in those cities that suggested any trend toward diversification, nor did the lower-and middle-class groups refuse to acquiesce in the authority of the aristocracy. In these cities, therefore, the aristocracy most successfully resisted the onslaught of modern times. In the capitals, the ports and the cities undergoing change, however, circumstances began to undermine the structure and strength of the patrician class, even though it may have been well established and in full exercise of its powers. Natives of a city lived alongside the more cosmopolitan, less prejudiced people who had come from various parts of the country. Some had power, some were looking for power; some had fortunes, others were in search of fortune. These were the cities where foreign groups became more important, more influential, and more prestigious. The interplay of so many and such diverse groups threatened the position of the patrician class and made it easier for some of its groups to open themselves to new attitudes that would end up compromising the situation of the entire class.

Some within the patrician class looked at the new economic prospects created in the final decades of the century and seemed more willing to modify their principles and tendencies planning to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. Others, by contrast, either would not or could not do this, as they had grown too accustomed to older ways of life to involve themselves in pursuits that required conditions for which they were not prepared. They began to take a step backward that would make them the kind of arrogant elite that was as passive as it was peripheral.

By the final decades of the nineteenth century, the republican patrician class that took shape following Independence had already been established for several generations. Those of the old colonial vintage and those who had moved up following independence or the civil wars were a class known as “old wealth.” Certainly they were the aristocrats of that society. In Brazil (where the imperial era coincided with the patrician era in the rest of Latin America) there were self-proclaimed racists like Oliveira Vianna who regarded the imperial aristocracy as a superior race: it was white, and its “Germanic ancestry” gave it the strength to push “into the backlands in search of gold or Indians.” But in his book Evolução do Povo Brasileiro [Evolution of the Brazilian People], Oliveira Vianna had his own explanation for what happened next: “The triumph of the republican revolution breaks down the old political and party structures that fifty years of the old regime slowly developed; the instability of the nation, taken by surprise, is exacerbated by the victorious new ideals. The social strata are being undermined, inverted and intermingled. Astounded, the nation is witnessing the emergence, alongside the great figures of the republican movement, of a gang of impostors without the credentials to back up their rise, battling boldly and relentlessly to take power and lead the country. The elements of society are in disarray, like molecules agitated by conflicting forces. In that interplay of indescribable actions and reactions, the structure of society acquires incredible plasticity under the pressure of such conflicting interests.”

Most significant, perhaps, was the lordly air that the wealthy and politically hegemonic class had started to adopt, not just in Brazil—where the empire had generously handed out aristocratic titles—but in the more modest and more austere republics as well. By this time, several generations had often passed since a family first rose in social status. Just as the first generations were known for their tenacity in conquering fortune and power, the later generations ceased to be so demanding of themselves. Many of their ranks became idle gentlemen, leaving subordinates in charge of their affairs and abandoning any concern for moving the country in the direction that they thought best.

The idleness of the new generations of the old classes manifested itself in various ways in the emerging society where productive activity was the rule. At times, the tendency was to seek the peace and quiet of some remote hacienda, fleeing the mercantile bourgeois city, so full of demands and upstarts ready and willing to satisfy those demands. This was one of the favorite subjects of the naturalist novel in which authors like Gamboa, Pocaterra, and Cambaceres examined the reaction of these so-called urban hidalgos to the changes in society. The countryside, in fact, seemed to be a fitting context for the gentry, and asserting one’s “gentility” in itself constituted a spiteful, almost vengeful response towards a society that was beginning to embrace other values. Idleness at times took the form of an elegant and skeptical indolence, an open disdain for asserting one’s will in the day-to-day struggles of society. Sometimes it was an aesthetic indolence that placed a higher premium on personal experiences gained through study, reading, or leading a certain kind of life, somewhat in the style of Oscar Wilde, where simply admiring the beauty of a painting, a piece of porcelain or furniture had a sense of purpose. Or it might be a rather costly tendency to assert one’s status by maintaining a circle of parasites. At times, the decline of gentility into the playboy’s vulgarity which often ended up in vice and depravity.

A nostalgic image of the past used to sustain the melancholy marginality of these patricians of the Empire, of the “old nation, of the “village writ large,” in the new nation and in the changing cities. By sheer inertia, they managed to preserve not only their wealth but some kind of power: the Senate seat that no one dared challenge because it was held by the heir of an old family, the high judicial office, and on occasion even the office of chief magistrate, sometimes offered by friends, other times offered by friends and enemies alike if the situation was serious enough to call for a “patrician” believed to be above passion and party. But in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, it became increasingly apparent that men with a patrician mentality were not cut out for the new times. They retained their prestige and even their authority in areas where they owned property and where they constituted what was mistakenly called the “feudal” oligarchy. They also retained them in the provincial cities, in more or less the same way and without their dwindling influence on the life of the nation becoming too apparent, particularly if the province and the city were also becoming less and less influential as the new economic system took over. But the realm of national affairs was geared toward fully exploiting the new opportunities that the world market had to offer; in that realm, people with a different mentality and temperament began to take control. As they emerged, they formed a new social group to respond to the new challenge; these were the “impostors” of whom the Brazilian Oliveira Vianna spoke as he expressed the old patrician’s resentment at being displaced.

As circumstances changed, the new bourgeoisie was preparing to replace the old patrician class. Business picked up quickly as demand from international markets increased. Those who controlled the market articulated the demand for certain things, and it had to be met not only by adjusting the production system but also by creating the necessary infrastructure. There was buying and selling everywhere, but there were also those hoping to make huge profits from small investments or with foreign money. The speculating was reckless, undertaken with a kind of blind faith that the volume of wealth and business would increase indefinitely, without the traditional fiscal system that had until then controlled agriculture and business and without the moral scruples that were central to both hidalgo and bourgeois honor. A new style had taken over: that of the great bourgeoisie of the industrial world, depersonalized and anonymous in affairs of business; a bold, sweeping style that supplanted the more cautious traditional one, in which—whatever the volume of business or the margin of risk—the prejudices of the hidalgo and the petit bourgeoisie still raised their heads.

The new bourgeois groups were made up of those who had the aptitudes needed to cope with the new circumstances, abandoning forever the limitations imposed by traditional habits and opting instead for other forms of behavior. But who were they, and where did they come from? Doubtless, some were old patricians, heirs of fortune and surname who had abandoned their own class to embrace “progress” and modernization. They took advantage of their social connections, their position, and their experience to reap the first and surest benefits of the change. In the eyes of many, they were the models of the new behavior: they had abandoned the easy life, the routine, the indolence, perhaps even the debauchery of many of their kind to make themselves part of the new wave of work and progress. And with that prestige, they took the lead in concrete modernization programs in their private businesses. Most of them were mine owners or hacendados of old families who had abandoned their holdings and now renovated them, introducing new methods and modern industrial equipment, thereby increasing their earnings. They frequently formed partnerships with foreign companies, and many took a decisive step by involving themselves in the world of finance and stock exchanges. A railroad increased the value of their land, and as the cities grew they got back into the urban real estate and development business, founding new neighborhoods and communities along the railroad tracks.

But the truly active group within the new middle classes were people with fewer ties to the past. They were people seeking with some sense of urgency to move up quickly, both socially and economically, with some sense of urgency and with little money, but with an uncanny ability to discover some hidden opportunity. The group came into being through a process of natural selection: they were those best suited to the new situation, those who discovered not only the basic businesses—production and marketing—but also the countless spin-offs that surfaced within the vast brokerage network and even in high finance and speculation. Businessmen were the gentlemen of the new society, with their imagination inflamed by dreams of overnight wealth through a stock market killing, through land speculation, through a development deal or through some industrial enterprise. But there were also opportunities in less significant occupations, such as cornering the market for a product, obtaining some privileged concession, solving a transportation, packaging, or storage problem, or simply making arrangements that brought in a hefty commission. Agents working on commission were the middlemen between producers and exporters, wholesalers, government officials, attorneys, foreign businesses. Together they constituted a mysterious kindom that one could enter poor and come out rich, because it extended over the entire machinery of brokerage. Capital was not a necessity. All one needed was an office, and sometimes not even that. Deals could be made in clubs, social events, the waiting rooms of some minister of state, or the halls of congress.

Although the members of these new middle classes were usually natives of the country, sometimes they were foreigners with diverse backgrounds. The latter played a very important role because frequently they brought with them a wealth of experience in the intricate network of international business. Perhaps with a more or less honest failure behind him, the new arrival on the scene made his approach, sounding out the possibilities of the country and the real or potential businesses that presented themselves. He would approach the more influential groups where he was generally well received, as a foreigner, if he was well mannered and able to strike a spark at the aristocratic parties or the clubs where gentlemen met. He then began to frequent the offices of ministers of state, perhaps looking for concessions and privileges, arranging investments and charging the corresponding commissions, or simply collecting information with a view to speculation. Fortune could make him a winner; but if he lost, compromising his new-found friends in the process, he might disappear, leaving behind dramas such as the Argentine Julián Martel recounted in La bolsa [The Stock Market], the novel in which he described the business world of Buenos Aires around 1890. When the catastrophe occurs, Martel’s character Fouchez, a French adventurer, gives the following explicit if somewhat ingenuous soliloquy:

I don’t deny that duty demands that I pay my creditors; but I did not come to America to do my duty, but rather to make my fortune. Who knows me here? Who knows that I am the Marquis de Charompfeux? True, I feel some gratitude to this land because it was here that I found work and made my fortune.... Did I say gratitude? How foolish of me! Should I be grateful to a country that, after making me rich, wants to leave me poorer than when I came? What a way to get rich! And, while it has given me money, I have given it my labors, I have worked for its aggrandizement.... No, the matter is settled. I shall escape to Paris without paying anyone.... What does it matter to me if I leave this little American republic, when, with what I have, I can live a glorious life in Paris, like the most elegant dandy of the Faubourg Saint-Germain?.... Argentina is not the center of my universe.... I miss Paris, the only city in the world where life is bearable. I’m going back.

There were many Fouchez in Latin America in those decades, perhaps even more cynical than the character depicted by Martel. But there were also many foreigners, some of them distinguished personalities, who simply applied their inventiveness and entrepreneurial skills in their chosen country. With very strong ties to capitalist groups in their countries of origin, William Russell Grace and John Thomas North were active in the pacific coast countries. Grace, who was from the United States, was active in Peru, especially in the maritime transportation businesses; North, an Englishman, was active in Chile and ended up as the owner of countless businesses and the “arbiter of the future,” as he himself said, in the saltpeter and railway industries. In Manaus, the German Waldemar Scholz controlled rubber extraction and marketing. The Spaniard José Menéndez managed to make Punta Arenas an economic hub serving southern Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. In Mexico, the Englishman Weetman Pearson developed the textile industry and railroads, while the Frenchmen Henri Tron, Honoré Reynaud, and, especially, Ernest Pugibet, controlled a vast portion of the textile and tobacco production. A Catalán by the name of Emilio Reus was a promoter of economic development in Montevideo and left behind an important legacy. All of them, and many others of varying talents, founded companies, united capitals and people, made cities the bustling command posts from which the immediate and long-range destiny of countries was planned. Men of experience, they not only opened up unknown avenues to the local middle classes but also shared their experience of the international world and a practical knowledge of how to run a business. In each city, the relation between émigré entrepreneurs and the middle classes became increasingly closer, and it certainly strengthened the dependence of the national on the great centers of the industrialized world. But that relation also gave the urban bourgeoisie a cosmopolitan air. The rich who visited London or Paris returned to their native cities in Latin America dazzled by what they had seen and able to shake off the feeling of provincialism that had tormented them. They were now a modern group who knew how to keep in step with the times.

Such status was the aspiration of many in the urban middle classes, to whom, from their many and diverse activities, the last benefits of the accelerated circulation of money filtered down. Wholesalers and retailers, professionals or average savers who had a certain amount of money, tried to become part of the great adventure. And those who succeeded were catapulted to the highest point on the pyramid, leaving those who failed in similar adventures to ponder their business acumen or their luck. This is precisely why the new bourgeoisie came to be regarded as risk-takers or adventurers. Strictly speaking, not all of them had those personal qualities. Countless numbers of them were enterprising and hard-working men who, once they learned of some promising prospect or of something that had to be built, applied themselves and were extremely effective. But adventure was at the heart of the system, which was changing precisely because it opened up new prospects that required imagination to discover and sometimes a certain lack of prejudice to undertake, seeking whatever support was needed. These aptitudes and attitudes combined configured this social group which, knowingly or not, was changing the face of its city and its country.

Effectiveness was all-important for these new urban bourgeois. Despite their ill-concealed exclusivist sentiments, the premium they placed on effectiveness forced them to remain open and receptive to any and all aspirations for upward social mobility that people in the middle and working classes entertained. Urban society as a whole became more fluid, and the channels for moving from one stratum to another more varied and passable. One only needed to be effective—and of course lucky—to overcome the obstacles and reach the peak of the little Olympus of all Mexico City, all Rio de Janeiro, or all Buenos Aires. Once there, one could enjoy the delights that easy wealth and a diffuse power could provide.

The members of the new bourgeoisie, especially in the capitals, were able to simultaneously control the world of business and the world of politics, and from both worlds, they first set in motion and then took advantage of the process of change. They managed the centers of economic decision-making by establishing or controlling banks, sometimes by devious means, or by controlling the stock market insofar as they were able, working through low-profile agents to form partnerships with the foreign capital operating in the country. They also controlled the import and export mechanisms by regulating quotations, fixing prices, and plotting schemes to surprise and defeat the competition; from the governments they put into operation well-assembled devices which had an effect on trade and ultimately on production. Everyone knew the limits of the game, imposed by those who controlled the world market. But there was some margin left for action that allowed them to feel somewhat powerful. A world of agents, attorneys, deal-makers, and commission agents was there to grease the wheels of the machinery when necessary, while the master controls were in the hands of the political power.

But the very same people, or those they had selected to represent them wielded political power. Members of the new bourgeoisie gradually came to control the centers of political decision-making. They or their representatives were ministers of state, high-ranking officials in major government agencies, members of congress or of the judiciary. The law, the decree, the statute that a given policy required was studied and drafted by the very same groups that used it to achieve their personal ends. The political parties in power defended the ideas behind the laws, whether they were the traditional parties or the party of the moment. The influence of bourgeois groups was evident in party leadership. That unity of action and cohesiveness reflected the internal consistency that the new bourgeoisie was achieving. Although made up of men and groups from different backgrounds, the bourgeois were of one mind about the kind of response they believed appropriate to meet the challenge from the major economic and financial centers in Europe and the United States.

Their cohesiveness was the result of a plan devised for the international economic situation, a plan advocated by the individuals and groups that constituted the governing class in those Latin American cities where local decisions were made. Individuals and groups were attached to the project largely for the sake of their particular interests. Something in their notion of economic liberalism weakened their sense of public goals. At base, the group consisted not so much of those who shared a risk, but more as of those who joined in a promising venture. And so the new bourgeoisie—unlike the old patrician class—had very little internal solidarity. They did not have the family ties and close understanding of each other that the patrician class had. Quite the contrary, the new bourgeoisie was formed through commercial partnerships, each one betting everything he had, in a ruthless competitive race in which triumph or defeat—which is to say fortune or poverty—would be the last act in the drama.

The repeated financial crises brought out these features. The euphoria of the economic risk-takers was followed by irresponsible and overly ambitious projects, above all by wild investments and mishandled loans. Speculation undermined the scaffolding, and when the structure fell it dragged down all those who had overreached. Fraudulent bankruptcies, suicides, plummeting descents from the highest peaks of wealth to the depths of poverty were material for the naturalist novels of the era—among others Martel’s La bolsa, and Carlos María Ocantos Quilito. These novels depicted a society whose law seemed to be the social ascent founded upon the rapid acquisition of wealth, an expectation that has always characterized societies of great mobility. Fortune was always fickle: those congratulated for success today might be scorned for failure tomorrow.

It was the chance and hope for social ascent that drove immigration: from abroad to the various Latin American countries, and from within, from poor regions to rich ones, from the countryside to the cities. The intense geographic mobility mirrored the obsession with social mobility. Although a few thousand new arrivals moved directly into the middle or upper classes, the vast majority swelled the ranks of the common people. The old Creoles were somewhat taken aback by a society that was becoming increasingly cosmopolitan; they were struck by the middle-class foreigners, who in some cities had a virtual monopoly on commerce (like the Germans in Maracaibo or the Spaniards in Veracruz) and seemed to feel like they owned the city. Even more striking was the racial intermarriage among the working classes, especially in the big cities. More than one city was called a modern-day Babel. Immigrants were drawn to the big cities precisely because that was where they hoped to find the widest array of opportunities to try their fortunes.

Transformed by the presence of many immigrant groups, or with their traditional profile almost unchanged, the urban working classes acquired a new importance. New sources of employment developed, some spontaneously, others created by hustlers well versed in the secrets of urban life. Those who had only the strength of their arms could guarantee themselves a daily wage working in the ports, in construction, or in public works. They could also find regular work as employees and laborers in businesses and workshops. But a city that was growing offered new opportunities. One could be the doorman at a public office building, a waiter in a cafe or restaurant, an usher in a theater or movie house, a bus driver, cabby, or chauffeur, a messenger or a shoe-shiner, a vendor of lottery tickets or countless other jobs. Household work absorbed a considerable number of people, as did the public services and urban transportation systems. The opportunities for modest employment that opened up not only served as outlets for the expectations of the new working classes, but also shook up the more indolent elements of the traditional groups that had once been content with their lot in life but now watched their more imaginative neighbors prosper. Immigrants were exemplars of small savers. But by steady sacrifice, an employee or a street vendor could get together enough capital to set himself up in business. From then on, the move up to the middle class was almost a certainty. One generation later the family of a shopkeeper could boast a doctor or a son with a university degree. The move from the subsidiary services of urban life to small business was one of the typical avenues of social mobility among the working classes of growing cities. As new districts cropped up, a kind of pioneer mentality developed: there, everyone was embarking upon a new kind of life; old prejudices no longer served any purpose, and questions about people’s past no longer made sense. The haberdashery or the general store that the enterprising immigrant opened up became the hub of the new district, which had only a few houses. Within a short space of time, the enterprising immigrant had profited by the growth of the district and perhaps amassed a small fortune. This was the beginning of a new phase in an unending dream of aspirations.

For others, the daily job was in the new plants and industries that began to be established. There was work in the railroad workshops, in the factories making textiles, cigarettes, glass, sandals, and various articles that the manufacturer believed could compete with imported goods. Little by little, a new sector of the working classes appeared: the industrial proletariat, not very big but with a very definite social identity.

In some countries entrepreneurs preferred to recruit among foreign immigrants, although in others the new industrial proletariat included national workers as well, generally mestizos, blacks, and mulattos who rapidly adjusted to the system. At times they were city people who simply changed jobs. Many, however, came from the countryside or rural villages, lured by the high salaries they hoped to earn. In industry, everyone had to conform to an unusual discipline: the one that the business impersonally imposed through its middle-level teams. In the process, the working-class group began to organize and to direct its actions and reactions towards the defense of its interests.

Members of the new industrial proletariat could not enjoy the happy-go-lucky spirit of the street vendor or of the trolley conductor who always had a moment for some friendly, idle conversation. Little by little they became a combative class, discontent and capable of rising in revolt. In the cities, the working class groups that gradually began to appear abandoned the patriarchal system. Their relationship to employers was not that of servants to their lords or of restaurant waiters to the gentlemen they served. Like the factories, the big cities were depersonalizing social relations and creating tensions that had been unknown until then.

Depersonalized social relations altered the face of the marginal classes. These classes grew in number but, above all, they changed their make-up. The number of beggars increased, but it was very difficult for a charitable lady to continue to have “her poor:” the number of the resigned and even philosophical poor decreased while the number of the aggressive ones went up. The nature of crime also changed; it became more subtle and better organized, even to the level of international conspiracies. First gambling and later drug trafficking had their international criminal conspiracies, but the biggest was the white slave trade. Houses of prostitution in prosperous cities undergoing change were taken over by clever European managers who recruited blonde prostitutes to seduce a copper-colored clientele. In the increasing anonymity of the big cities, vice and poverty were both becoming rougher and more cruel.

Those who squeezed together in the cities hoping for a day’s work, or for some charity that would make up for the lack of work, and those earning salaries too low to live on were really no less marginal than those who lived a life of crime. Until they raised above certain levels and got on the road to upward mobility, these people did not really participate in the life of a society that loved luxury and measured the significance of a group or an individual in monetary terms. Beneath those levels were the atorrantes (“vagabonds”) of Buenos Aires, who found shelter in the pipes that were stacked along the streets waiting to be laid for the sewer systems. In Santiago they were the rotos. The novelist Joaquín Edwards Bello described the poverty in his own milieu: the poor neighborhoods, like those that formed around the Alameda Station. There people crowded into tenements, like those who lived in Tepito in Mexico City, or in the alleys of Lima, the cortiços of Rio, or the slums of Buenos Aires. Those who took refuge in these slums endured subhuman conditions of life. They were at risk; for there lived those who struggled to move up together with those who had resigned themselves to their marginality and had drifted into prostitution and crime. And that contact was enough to take away any possibility to reach the point at which one could at least entertain the aspiration to enter that paradise called the middle class.

What were most surprising and significant in the cities affected by economic change were their growth and a kind of transformation in the middle classes. Certainly, they had been there all along. They were made up of people engaged in commerce or in the liberal professions, of bureaucrats, military men, clergymen, and civil servants. But in all these sectors there was quite an expansion that opened up new possibilities and raised new expectations. Cities were, essentially, brokerage centers, and its demands increased the need production. More bureaucracy, more services, more civil servants, more military, more police were needed all the time. Those who belonged to the old middle class and were native to the city had a better chance of getting those jobs. But those who came to the city and started at the bottom usually moved up slowly, by dint of sheer determination and at the price of countless humiliations; working efficiently and setting aside savings, they would manage to live with the modest dignity that the middle class required. As a rule, only then could they make their fortunes or become members of the political clientele of some influential person or a power group.

The transition from the lower classes to the middle class was frequent and sometimes happened very fast. The usual ways of access were commerce, the professions practiced by the sons of those who had taken the first step, the association with businesses that put a premium on the loyalty and efficiency of their employees, and politics. At the other extreme, the chances of moving up through the layers of the middle class increased with the development of business and the broadening of opportunities in the new societies. Social ascent required perhaps some wealth, amassed over a very long period of time and then cautiously invested; but the protection of someone in power, or an advantageous, marriage might do as well. Mobility was the golden rule of these middle classes, whose magnitude and particular profile characterized the transformation of the cities; this was so not just because they reflected the unique social process at work but also because their members chose to renew their way of life. They bought the newspapers, discussed their opinions in cafes, brought Paris fashion to the new stores, lined the streets outside the stock exchange and the banks, and ran the businesses and offices. They also began to think that they, too, were entitled to their share of power and so joined the new political parties that challenged the power of the old oligarchies to create a more inclusive democracy.

Within a few years, twenty or thirty Latin American cities, to varying degrees, saw their societies transformed and the lifestyles and mentality of the traditional classes marginalized. In their place, the new societies slowly put together the rudiments of a different urban culture that would begin to develop in cities whose landscape would soon be completely altered.