EDITED: Bryant, O’Toole, and Vinson on Africans to Spanish America


Sherwin K. Bryant, Rachel Sarah O’Toole, and Ben Vinson, eds. Africans to Spanish America: Expanding the Diaspora. University of Illinois Press, 2014.

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ARTICLE: Deusen on Indigenous Slaves in Castile

“Gold Smelting, Panama, 1560s-1570s,” [Image Reference MA3900f102] as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. (Click image for details)


This article considers the construction of indigenous (indio) slave identity within the contexts of the sixteenth-century Atlantic and Mediterranean worlds. Of the more than two thousand indio slaves from Latin America who were forced to migrate to Castile during the sixteenth century, nearly two hundred questioned the legality of their enslaved condition based upon the tenets of the New Laws (1542), which declared indios to be free vassals of the Spanish Crown. This resulted in the initiation of 123 before the tribunals of the House of Trade and the Council of the Indies. Because of the need to identify the imperial (Spanish versus Portuguese) origins of indio litigants, witnesses navigated physiognomic identity markers and other criteria. But identification was a subjective art that depended on the legal culture of the courtroom, the experiences and incentives of deponents, and the presence of other slaves in Castile from Brazil, West and North Africa, South and East Asia, or Granada. Analyzing the complex process of labeling indios in such a globalized context shows not only how notions of indigenous enslaveability evolved over the course of the sixteenth century but how Castilian interpretations of phenotype and identity were varied and complex.

van Deusen on Diaspora and Bondage in Lima

Editors Note:  This blog prioritizes scholarship and other items related to the Atlantic African diaspora.  However, the following article is a poignant reminder that Africans and people of African descent do not have a monopoly on the history and heritage of chattel slavery.


van Deusen, Nancy E. “Diasporas, Bondage, and Intimacy in Lima, 1535 to 1555.” Colonial Latin American Review 19, no. 2 (2010): 247.

Paragraph steal:

“We can rely upon the meticulous work of historical demographers and ethnohistorians who have pored over royal decrees, census records, and ordinances to detail the loss of life of the hundreds of thousands of indigenous slaves and servants.2 Seminal works by Saacutenchez-Albornoz (1974), Cook (1981, 1989, 2002), Newson (1986, 1987, 1995) and many others demonstrate the severe demographic collapse of Andean peoples. Their findings iterate the position taken by the indefatigable Bartolomeacute de las Casas, who exposed, albeit with inflated figures, the decimation wrought by microbes and the brutality of Spanish labor practices (Cook 1992; Newson 1995). Other ethnohistorians focus on the migratory patterns and labor practices of those who survived the Spanish invasion (Saignes 1986; Wachtel 1977; Wightman 1990). In particular, Powers’ analyses of migration patterns show how much the movement of peoples in the pre- and post-contact periods reflected what she calls Spanish-directed, or forced, and Andean-initiated, or voluntary and strategic, relocations (Cook 1989, 126; Powers 1995, 14)…”

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