HIST 325 Latin American Slavery

Slavery in the Americas (Klein):

Spanish slavery based on traditional ethos, historical institutions such as the 13th century Siete Partidas (based on ancient Roman law), the Crown, and the Church.  Lots of protections for slaves in terms of rights (property, security, marriage, religion, family, manumission (coartacion from tradition to law late 18C and early 19C).

1580s: first comprehensive legal code for Cuba. Big concern was that urban slaves lived like free people.  “How effective these ordinances (p. 73-74) controlled self-employed slaves is questionable, for throughout later centuries it appears the slaves who hired themselves out lived virtually free lives in the cities…”

Black slaves could not legally be armed, except enslaved cowboys, free people of color could carry weapons.

Repressive legislation for cimarrons.  Racial mixing ok.

By 1705 “Virginia’s ‘Legislation of Iron’ was created by ‘pure capitalism’” engineered by Virginia planters themselves with no oversight from Crown or Church.  No legal recourse, property, religion, marriage, assembly (including funerals), education, manumission, arms, etc.  After 1800 efforts to reduce “rights and independence of free colored class to reduce its status to a close to the level of slaves as possible.”

Racial mixing “prohibited.”  English colony of Jamaica very different.

**Economic (and demographic) function of free colored classes in Latin America versus North America.

See pages 202-207, 225-226, 243.


"Black Slaves in Early Guatemala" (Herrera)
1500s Much variation, small scale, highly skilled, Latinized, expensive.  Santiago 3rd most important city after Mexico City and Lima.  Native slaves much more “disposable.”  Branding (3 functions).  Mostly for native slaves, but also for black and “white” slaves.  Mutilation v “damaging investment”

(Afro-Spaniard Juan Bardales received annual subsidy for conquest of Honduras.)

p. 259 re slave (male and female) supervisors and managers in commercial enterprises and household businesses (masons, wheat fields, cacao groves, animal husbandry, bakeries, mines) oversee, keep records, hire labor, etc. much independence, including real estate.

“Black slaves and their descendants, despite their relatively small population, contributed greatly to the development of Santiago’s society, culture, and economy.  For many years the history of this important ethnic group remained largely forgotten or ignored….In addition to black slaves there also lived in Guatemala a large and rapidly expanding population of free Blacks… [they along with enslaved blacks] contributed to the growth of Santiago from little more than a village to an important colonial center of commerce.”


“Slaves and Freedmen in Colonial Central America” (Fiehrer)

Indigo in San Salvador province in Guatemala required intense labor for short time.

“Slavery…never became the dominant source of agricultural labor…Blacks held as chattel amounted to a small part of the African population in the late colonial period.  The ranks of the slave were continually reduced by flight, as bondsmen were drawn to the towns where the posed as free men, or were lured to the isolated conclaves of cimarrons, which in many cases proved to be stable and enduring settlements.” p. 45

In San Salvador Black and native slaves “through manumission, social integration, upward mobility, and miscegenation had all but disappeared by the late 19th century.” p. 53

“In most cases the goal of Spanish colonial policy was institutionalize ethnic divisiveness and political factionalism to distract subject peoples from the primary role of European domination and weaken their attempts to unify against it.  It some areas of the empire this policy preserved racial identity, but in others—and San Salvador offers a prime example—the result was the virtual elimination of such identity.” p. 53