Bringing Thomas Paine to Latin America: An Overview of the Geopolitics of Translating Common Sense into Spanish

  • Paul Cahen


The reception of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense in Latin America did not come as a surprise to legislators, politicians, intellectuals, aristocrats, and radical reformers in Latin America during the mid-eighteenth century.1 Neither did it happen by pure chance. Like his ongoing legacy in the United States and his contested fame in England and France, there are specific reasons why Paine gained popularity in this southern region of the world. Moreover, it is clear from studying authors like Manuel García de Sena, Vicente Rocafuerte, and others like them that Paine’s influence and ideas would, in fact, spread much further afield to places that we rarely associate with Paine such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, and Mexico,2 not to mention Namibia and Haiti.3


Common Sense Source Text Spanish Translation Constitutional Reform Target Text 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    In the opening Preface to Manuel García de Sena’s translation, Pedro Grases states: “Texts from the North American Constitution have been cited three times—emphasizing the fact that de Sena’s translation should be used for this purpose.” Pedro Grases, Preface to La Independencia de la Costa Firme Justificada por Thomas Paine Treinta Años Ha, trans. Manuel Garcia de Sena (Caracas, Venezuela: Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia, 1949), 3.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Zuñiga provides a key quote about the importance of Rocafuerte’s translation and its relationship with Mexico: “The first work he would publish would be “Ideas that are Necessary for all Independent Peoples who Wish to be Free” with the “main objective of propagating Republican ideas in Mexico.” Neptalí Zuñiga, Vicente Rocafuerte. Sintesis Biográfica. Selección de Textos (Quito: Universidad Central, 1984), 27.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    A. Owen Aldridge, Thomas Paine’s American Ideology (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1984), 9.Google Scholar
  4. 17.
    Douglas Robinson, Translation and Empire (New York: Routledge, 1997), 16.Google Scholar
  5. 18.
    Anselmo Nateiu, Reflecciones Políticas Escritas bajo el título Instinto Común por el Ciudadano Tomas Paine y Traducidas Abreviadamente por Anselmo Nateiu, Indígena del Perú (Lima: Imprenta de Rio, 1821), 13.Google Scholar
  6. 19.
  7. 20.
    Thomas Paine, Common Sense (Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Company, [ca. 1890]), 13.Google Scholar
  8. 21.
    According to Jack Fruchtman, Common Sense was one of the books that inspired General Francisco de Miranda to liberate his native Venezuela from Spain. Paine was also responsible for Juan Germán Roscio conversion to “Royalism” to Republicanism, as we can see in his book Patristismo de Nirgua y abuso de los reyes, which shows the strong influence of Thomas Paine’s thoughts on monarchy and abuse of power. Jack Fruchtman, The Political Philosophy of Thomas Paine (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), 38.Google Scholar
  9. 36.
    E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Random House, 1963), 157.Google Scholar
  10. 38.
    It is stated in the Introduction to Rocafuerte’s Complete Works, that his translation of Common Sense was well-received in Mexico. Vincente Rocafuerte, Ideas Necesarias a Todo Pueblo Americano Independiente Que Quiera Ser Libre (Philadelphia, PA: D. Huntington, 1821), 278–280.Google Scholar
  11. 54.
    B. Hatim and Ian Mason, Discourse and the Translator (New York: Routledge, 1990), 137.Google Scholar
  12. 57.
    Parra Pérez, La Constitución Federal de Venezuela de 1811 (Spain: Ediciones Guadarrama, S.L. Madrid, 1959), 26.Google Scholar

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© Paul Cahen 2016

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  • Paul Cahen

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