slavery in latin america

Ayrson Heráclito

Divider II


“In Divider II, Heráclito highlights social divisions and the history of slavery. He nearly fills the large aquariums to the top with palm oil and salt water. He uses the ‘heterogeneity’ of water to underscore the ‘disparate character’ of different groups’ roles and experiences during the era of slavery. During that period in history, the sea held enslaved Africans captive, carrying them further and further away from their homelands. However, in an ‘arbitrary inversion’, here the ‘black’ oil floats above the sea, the salt water, as a sign of resistance and survival.” 
- Black Art in Brazil (2013), by Kimberly L. Cleveland
Blackout: How Argentina ‘Eliminated’ Africans From Its History And Conscience

Black Africans, who were a large portion of Argentina’s population in the early 19th century, seem to have vanished. Or have they?

According to historical accounts, Africans first arrived in Argentina in the late 16th century in the region now called the Rio de la Plata, which includes Buenos Aires, primarily to work in agriculture and as domestic servants. By the late 18th century and early 19th century, black Africans were numerous in parts of Argentina, accounting for up to half the population in some provinces, including Santiago del Estero, Catamarca, Salta and Córdoba.

Slavery was officially abolished in 1813, but the practice remained in place until about 1853. Ironically, at about this time, the black population of Argentina began to plunge.

Historians generally attribute two major factors to this sudden “mass disappearance” of black Africans from the country – the deadly war against Paraguay from 1865-1870 (in which thousands of blacks fought on the frontlines for the Argentine military) as well as various other wars; and the onset of yellow fever in Buenos Aires in 1871.

The heavy casualties suffered by black Argentines in military combat created a huge gender gap among the African population – a circumstance that appears to have led black women to mate with whites, further diluting the black population. Many other black Argentines fled to neighboring Brazil and Uruguay, which were viewed as somewhat more hospitable to them.

Others claim something more nefarious at work.

It has been alleged that the president of Argentina from 1868 to 1874, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, sought to wipe out blacks from the country in a policy of covert genocide through extremely repressive policies (including possibly the forced recruitment of Africans into the army and by forcing blacks to remain in neighborhoods where disease would decimate them in the absence of adequate health care).

By 1895, there were reportedly so few blacks left in Argentina that the government did not even bother registering African-descended people in the national census.

The CIA World Factbook currently notes that Argentina is 97 percent white (primarily comprising people descended from Spanish and Italian immigrants), thereby making it the “whitest” nation in Latin America.

But blacks did not really vanish from Argentina – despite attempts by the government to eliminate them (partially by encouraging large-scale immigration in the late 19th and 20th century from Europe and the Near East). Rather, they remain a hidden and forgotten part of Argentine society.

“People of mixed ancestry are often not considered ‘black’ in Argentina, historically, because having black ancestry was not considered proper,” said Alejandro Frigerio, an anthropologist at the Universidad Catolica de Buenos Aires, according to Planete Afrique.

“Today the term ‘negro’ is used loosely on anyone with slightly darker skin, but they can be descendants of indigenous Indians [or] Middle Eastern immigrants.”

AfricaVive, a black empowerment group founded in Buenos Aires in the late 1990s, claimed that there are 1 million Argentines of black African descent in the country (out of a total population of about 41 million). A report in the Washington Post even suggested that 10 percent of Buenos Aires’ population may have African blood (even if they are classified as “whites” by the census).

“People for years have accepted the idea that there are no black people in Argentina,” Miriam Gomes, a professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires, who is part black herself, told the Post.

“Even the schoolbooks here accepted this as a fact. But where did that leave me?”

She also explained that almost no one in Argentina with black blood in their veins will admit to it.

“Without a doubt, racial prejudice is great in this society, and people want to believe that they are white,” she said. “Here, if someone has one drop of white blood, they call themselves white.”

Gomes also told the San Francisco Chronicle that after many decades of white immigration into Argentina, people with African blood have been able to blend in and conceal their origins.

Ironically, Argentina’s most famous cultural gift to the world – the tango – came from the African influence.

“The first paintings of people dancing the tango are of people of African descent,” Gomes added.

On a broader scale, the “elimination” of blacks from the country’s history and consciousness reflected the long-cherished desire of successive Argentine governments to imagine the country as an “all-white” extension of Western Europe in Latin America.

“There is a silence about the participation of Afro-Argentines in the history and building of Argentina, a silence about the enslavement and poverty,” said Paula Brufman, an Argentine law student and researcher, according to Planete Afrique.

“The denial and disdain for the Afro community shows the racism of an elite that sees Africans as undeveloped and uncivilized.”

Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas

Restoring the Links

Gwendolyn Midlo Hall

Publication Year: 2005

Enslaved peoples were brought to the Americas from many places in Africa, but a large majority came from relatively few ethnic groups. Drawing on a wide range of materials in four languages as well as on her lifetime study of slave groups in the New World, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall explores the persistence of African ethnic identities among the enslaved over four hundred years of the Atlantic slave trade. Hall traces the linguistic, economic, and cultural ties shared by large numbers of enslaved Africans, showing that despite the fragmentation of the diaspora many ethnic groups retained enough cohesion to communicate and to transmit elements of their shared culture. Hall concludes that recognition of the survival and persistence of African ethnic identities can fundamentally reshape how people think about the emergence of identities among enslaved Africans and their descendants in the Americas, about the ways shared identity gave rise to resistance movements, and about the elements of common African ethnic traditions that influenced regional creole cultures throughout the Americas.Drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary materials in four languages, Hall explores the persistence of African ethnic identity among slaves in the Americas and the Caribbean. 
Go Set A Watchman

The Most Important Book You’ll Ever Read (Spoilers)

What You Need To Know

  • To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) is the prequel to Go Set A Watchman (which is why Watchman is considered a “sequel”). Watchman was written in 1957, but it wasn’t published until 2015.
  • Watchman is not ‘just a draft’ of Mockingbird. The plot and lessons have absolutely nothing to do with Mockingbird.
  • Watchman is not a parallel universe or alternate reality. There isn’t a single thing in Watchman that contradicts Mockingbird’s events, characters, or the narrator’s ‘voice.’ For instance, I keep hearing people say that the Tom Robinson trial exists in Watchman and that Atticus wins the case. That’s simply not true. In Mockingbird, Mr. Robinson is a 25 year old man who is married and has three kids. He is a field worker and handyman. He can’t use one of his arms because it got caught in a cotton gin. A 19 year old white woman named Mayella Ewell falsely accuses him of raping her when in fact she tried to rape him. Atticus loses the case. The case is the main focus of the book’s plot. In Watchman, a 14 year old white girl falsely accuses a black teenage guy of raping her. The guy only has one arm because he lost the other in a sawmill accident. The sex was consensual and Atticus wins the case. The case is only mentioned in passing. Scout later mentions that when she was a kid, she knew a black field worker named Tom. Jack Finch says white supremacists accuse black people of rape all the time in order to scare people.

Why It’s Phenomenal

  • Watchman is unique in the genre. Southern Gothic, a subgenre of Gothic literature, uses elements of Gothic literature to expose social problems in the American South. Mockingbird fits very neatly into this mold - a ghostly man fittingly named Boo lives in a spooky old house, people do Voodoo and Hoodoo to keep spirits (haints) away, there are murders, etc. Watchman has a much subtler, more complex approach. Southern Gothic normally sound like Edgar Allan Poe, but Watchman’s narration sounds more like a coming of age novel. Southern Gothic normally are loaded with symbolism, but Watchman focuses on Scout’s thoughts with literary allusions peppered in (Scout loves to read). Southern Gothic normally have an overarching plot, but Watchman is more like a series of conversations and flashbacks that add depth to the characters. However, Watchman is still a Southern Gothic because it has gender-bending, eccentric characters, social issues, and dark themes (ex. Scout is suicidal).
  • The moral of the story is be yourself. I’m going to compare this to Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll because Scout calls Jack Finch the Mad Hatter. Scout is masculine the majority of the time, doesn’t like kids, and doesn’t like the idea of marriage. Alice’s personality is a parody of the ideal Victorian gentleman, which is clearest when she meets the White Knight, who is trying to be a perfect gentleman. Scout wants to go around Maycomb, Alabama to find out why Southerners are racist. Alice wants to go around Wonderland to find out the rules for everything so she can write a rule book. Neither Scout nor Alice succeed in fitting in. They both realize that most of the rules and protocol are nonsense, so they have to think for themselves.
  • A heroine, not the usual hero. In Mockingbird, Atticus gets to be the gentleman hero who preserves the status quo, while Scout passively admires him. She is narrating the story in her adult years, but she only conveys to us the ideal way she used to see her father. In Watchman, Scout gets to be a tragic hero and calls people out on their racism and hypocrisy.
  • It centers around the topic of racism in its more nuanced yet equally appalling forms. Scout comes home for a visit and thinks everyone has a different personality. Jack Finch explains to her that they’ve been this way all along, she just wasn’t paying enough attention. Accordingly, you can find instances in Mockingbird that show Atticus isn’t always morally sound, but those are eclipsed by his good deeds, so they get lost unless you’re looking for them. For instance, even though Scout and Jem see their black maid Calpurnia as almost a mother to them, Atticus never brings them to her house and makes her come in through the back door. In Watchman, we see that he’s not the easy to spot type of racist who sets black people’s houses on fire, but the kind who is anti-integration (’They’re going to take our jobs’ …sound familiar?), anti-affirmative action, only wants black people to be unharmed and treated equal under the law (as opposed to him being a lawyer who fights institutional racism), and doesn’t realize that black people can organize and prosper. (Even during slavery, black people formed complex communities and support systems to buy each other out of slavery, provide health care, etc., such as the confraternities in Latin America.) A progressive would’ve become a Civil Rights lawyer and would’ve actively looked for cases of injustice to pursue out of compassion. Instead, black people come to Atticus for help and he agrees to help. That makes him a great hero and a great villain.
  • It will force you to look at your own actions and ethics.

Go set a watchman… to wake you up from your childhood dreamland.

‘Fewer people will be freed’: Brazil accused of easing anti-slavery rules 

The Brazilian government has been accused of reducing its ability to protect workers from slave-like labour conditions after abruptly changing the rules. Campaigners, commentators and prosecutors said the move was a “social regression” aimed at buying the support of a powerful agribusiness lobby ahead of a crucial vote in congress that could cost President Michel Temer his mandate.

Continue reading.


September 24th 1537: First Mexican slave rebellion

On this day in 1537, the first rebellion of African slaves occurred in the Spanish colony of Mexico. Despite 1537 being relatively early in the history of Atlantic slavery, this was not the first such revolt in Latin America, with rebellions dating back from 1512. Mexican slavery expanded following the rise of silver mines and sugar plantations - labour-intensive work which required importation of more slaves from Africa. This created concentrated slave populations, as in Mexico City, and saw slaves outnumber Spanish conquistadors. Additionally, slaves were aware of the political turmoil that beset the Spanish king, and seized on this information to plan their revolt. The rebellion was a co-ordinated decision between slaves and Native Americans in Mexico City and Tlaltelolco to murder their Spanish oppressors, led by a chosen slave king. The uprising was planned for midnight on September 24th, but the plans were thwarted when one slave revealed the plot to Viceroy Mendoza. The viceroy - the Spanish representative in the colony - ordered the arrest of the ringleaders. One female and four male slaves were executed for their role in the plot, with Native Americans acting on the viceroy’s orders and killing the instigators themselves. The plot worried the Spanish authorities, and the viceroy suspended the dispatch of new slaves to Mexico to prevent further rebellions. This incident demonstrates that African slaves continually resisted their oppression, as whilst this was the first rebellion in Mexico, it was by no means the last. Mexican slaves rejected their enslavement not just with violent uprisings, but also by establishing runaway slave settlements called ‘palenques’. Slave resistance was thus ubiquitous during the centuries preceding the abolition of slavery in Mexico in 1829.

mightyisobel  asked:

In comparing the Free Cities to Slaver's Bay, do you think their economies have an equivalent level of technological sophistication? My guess is that literacy rates in the Free Cities are probably higher (compare Braavosi scripted entertainment to Meereenese blood sports as leisure activities), and that science and technology there are producing economic growth that outstrips Slaver's Bay's. But is that enough to overcome the inherited infrastructure and culture of the old Ghiscari Empire?

Oh, I think the Free Cities are a good bit ahead. 

1. The Ghiscari infrastructure is crumbling to pieces. The Masters aren’t putting anything into repair, let alone improvements.

1a. The Free Cities have inherited infrastructure and culture of their own - the Valyrian Empire. The roads, the walls, the aquaducts, etc. are all still there; the language and what remains of the writings are still there; etc. So it’s a case of the remnants of an Empire that went out on top vs. the re-imagining of an Empire that got given the Carthage treatment. 

2. The Free Cities have a much more diverse economy: Myr alone is expert in producing lace, carpets, fine woolens, glass, mechanical devices and weaponry, as well as probably agricultural products from its part of the Disputed Lands. Slaver’s Bay just produces slaves. 

3. There’s a historical phenomenon by which slavery tends to lead to a slowdown of innovation. Agricultural slavery tends to monocrop exporting - whether it’s grain in the ancient world, tobacco/cotton/etc. in the American case, sugar/coffee/etc. in the Caribbean and Latin America. Industrial slavery tends strongly toward to precious mineral extraction (silver and gold mining in Mexico, Peru, Brazil). Given the enormous profits in these extractive/export industries, there’s little incentives to diversify and invest in new industries; given the nature of slavery, there’s little incentive to look for productivity-enhancing technology (after all, it’s a lot cheaper to buy more slaves and drive the ones you have harder).  

So yeah, I think the Free Cities are a good bit ahead when it comes to technology.