Inventing the Coffeehouse as the Emblem of Enlightenment in Spain and Peru at the End of the 18th Century

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 12:10 PM
Room M106 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Susy M. Sanchez Rodriguez, University of Notre Dame
This paper offers a transatlantic approach to the study of the coffee-house, comparing metropolitan cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Cádiz against the city of Lima, the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Throughout the eighteenth century, coffee played a leading role in refashioning global commerce, consumption and sociability in Europe and its colonies. This paper will examine official regulations, administrative memoranda, newspapers, cookbooks, plays, medical treatises, and travelers’ descriptions published in the aforementioned cities at the end of the eighteenth century. Based upon these sources, the paper will examine how enlightened thinkers used an exotic substance like Coffee to create an innovative space of sociability that ultimately became an emblem of the Enlightenment. First, this paper will convey how the writings of enlightened thinkers described the benefits of the exotic product as an “intellectual stimulus.” Second, it will focus on the distinction that policy-makers and thinkers made between the coffee-house and traditional spaces of social relations, especially emphasizing the former’s modernizing role. Third, it will explain the portrayal of the coffee-house as a symbol of elite virtuosity, learning, knowledge, luxury, and “policía.” The paper concludes by suggesting that a transatlantic approach to the study of the coffee-house, together with an examination of a variegated array of sources, ranging from political and historical to literary and scientific texts, has the potential to fully uncover the influence that new ideas had on policy-making.