Chapter

From Household to Nation: The Economic and Political Impact of Women and Alcohol in Nineteenth-Century Guatemala

René Reeves

in Distilling the Influence of Alcohol

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780813041629
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780813043432 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813041629.003.0003
From Household to Nation: The Economic and Political Impact of Women and Alcohol in Nineteenth-Century Guatemala

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This chapter by René Reeves focuses on aguardiente in nineteenth-century Guatemala to uncover the crucial, albeit hidden, role that women played in the economy and politics of the era. Aguardiente not only generated a large proportion of the revenues collected by the national treasury, but it also was critical to sugar growers and the domestic economy of innumerable Guatemalan households. Based on archival sources from western Quezaltenango, this chapter demonstrates that women were overwhelmingly present in the illegal facets of the aguardiente industry given their traditional importance as domestic petty commodity producers and vendors. With so many women depending on contraband aguardiente—they were referred to as clandestinistas—it was but a short step for them to intervene collectively in the local- and national-level conflicts that marked state efforts to formulate and enforce alcohol restrictions. Rural women struggled to use aguardiente to sustain themselves and their families, and in the process they connected their households to the nation by creating an exceptionally dynamic sector of the Guatemalan economy and contributing to the watershed political events of the nineteenth century.

Keywords: Aguardiente (or alcohol); Clandestinistas (bootleggers); Domestic economy; Politics; Sugar; Women

Chapter.  12191 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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