In the early nineteenth century, all the previously Spanish possessions in South America as well as Brazil achieved independence. With this new freedom, countries turned their attention to asserting their statehood through the delineation of three constitutive elements: government, territory and population. The new governments had to define who were going to be considered as nationals, citizens and foreigners, and the rights that pertained to each of these categories. These countries were all concerned with attracting new settlers and very early on introduced constitutional provisions on open borders and equal treatment for foreigners. White, male Europeans were the principal addresses of open borders provisions in an effort to entice them to settle in territories presented as empty to the exclusion of indigenous groups, bring new industries, and contribute to the whitening of mixed race populations that had also resulted from the forced migration of migration of millions of Africans. Whilst weak statehood came with independence, forming nations was a much longer process and States used migration and citizenship policies as tools to define nationhood in countries with profound divisions by race and class. The presentation will conclude with some reflections on the ongoing importance of early configurations of nationality in today´s legal regime of migration and citizenship in South America.