Slavery in Latin America

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Slavery in Latin America was practiced in precolonial times.

During the Atlantic slave trade, Latin America was the main destination of millions of black people transported from Africa to French, Portuguese, and Spanish colonies. Slavery was a cornerstone of the Spanish Casta system, and its legacy is the presence of large Afro-Latino populations.

After the gradual emancipation of most black slaves, slavery continued along the Pacific coast of South America throughout the 19th century, as Peruvian slave traders kidnapped Polynesians, primarily from the Marquesas Islands and Easter Island and forced them to perform physical labour in mines and in the guano industry of Peru and Chile.

Enslaved Africans in Latin America[edit]

The African presence in Latin America had an effect on the culture across Latin America. Black slaves arrived in the Americas during the early stages of exploration and settlement. By the first decades of the sixteenth century they were commonly participating in Spain's military expeditions.[1]

Marriage was allowed in some areas and some slaves were taught to read and write. Colonial Brazil had the highest recorded number of legal marriages among slaves in Latin America.[1]

While most slaves were baptized upon arrival to the New World, the Catholic Church did come to the defense of slaves. Some brotherhoods raised money to purchase the freedom of some of their slave members. Although the church owned slaves themselves, they never embraced the racist justifications for slavery so common among Protestant denominations in the United States.[1]

The impact of slavery in culture is greatly apparent in Latin America. The mixing of cultures and races provides a rich history to be studied. [1]


According to the television series, Black in Latin America,[2] Mexico and Peru, combined, imported more African slaves than the United States. Between 1502 and 1866, of the 11.2 million Africans, only 450,000 arrived in the United States, while the rest arrived in Latin America and the Caribbean.[3] These slaves were brought as early as the 16th and 17th centuries.[4] The evidence of the African population is not readily apparent due to the mixing of the indigenous population, Africans, and European peoples and the early inception of African slaves into the Mexican society.[4] According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s film on the slave trade in Mexico, the integration of African peoples was so pervasive that every Mexican has an "African grandma hiding in their closet." The slaves would be forced to work in mines and plantations. Today, the most African communities live in coastal towns, "Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico, the Costa Chica region on the Pacific".[4]

Further reading[edit]

  • Aguirre Beltrán, Gonzalo. La población negra de México, 1519-1810. Mexico City: Fuente Cultural 1946.
  • Bennett, Herman Lee. Africans in Colonial Mexico. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2005.
  • Bowser, Frederick. The African Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524-1650. Stanford: Stanford University Press 1974.
  • Foner, Laura and Eugene D. Genovese, eds. Slavery in the New World: A Reader in Comparative History. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall 1969.
  • Fuente, Alejandro de la. "From Slaves to Citizens? Tannenbaum and the Debates on Slavery, Emancipation, and Race Relations in Latin America," International Labor and Working-Class History 77 no. 1 (2010) 154-73.
  • Fuente, Alejandro de la. "Slaves and the Creation of Legal Rights in Cuba: Coartación and Papel," Hispanic American Historical Review 87, no. 4 (2007): 659-92.
  • Geggus, David Patrick. "Slave Resistance in the Spanish Caribbean in the Mid-1790s," in A Turbulent Time: The French Revolutionn and the Greater Caribbean, David Barry Gaspar and David Patrick Geggus. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1997, pp. 130-55.
  • Helg, Aline, Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770-1835. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 2004.
  • Heuman, Gad and Trevor Graeme Burnard, eds. The Routledge History of Slavery. New York: Taylor and Francis 2011.
  • Hünefeldt, Christine. Paying the Price of Freedom: Family and Labor among Lima's Slaves, 1800-1854. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1994.
  • Johnson, Lyman L. "A Lack of Legitimate Obedience and Respect: Slaves and Their Masters in the Courts of Late Colonial Buenos Aires," Hispanic American Historical Review 87, no. 4 (2007) 631-57.
  • Landers, Jane. Black Society in Spanish Florida. Urbana: University of Illinois Press 1999.
  • Landers, Jane and Barry Robinson, eds. Slaves, Subjects, and Subversives: Blacks in Colonial Latin America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 2006.
  • Love, Edgar F. "Negro Resistance to Spanish Rule in Colonial Mexico," Journal of Negro History 52, no. 2 (April 1967) 89-103.
  • Martínez, María Elena. "The Black Blood of New Spain: Limpieza de Sangre, Racial Violence, and Gendered Power in Early Colonial Mexico," William and Mary Quarterly 61, no. 3 (July 2004), 479-520.
  • Restall, Matthew and Jane Landers, "The African Experience in Early Spanish America," The Americas 57, no. 2 (2000) 167-70.
  • Rout, Leslie B. The African Experience in Spanish America, 1502 to the Present Day. New York: Cambridge University Presss 1976.
  • Tannenbaum, Frank. Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the Americas. New York Vintage Books 1947.
  • Vinson, Ben, III and Matthew Restall, eds. Black Mexico: Race and Society from Colonial to Modern Times. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 2009.
  • Walker, Tamara J. "He Outfitted His Family in Notable Decency: Slavery, Honour, and Dress in Eighteenth-Century Lima, Peru," Slavery & Abolition 30, no. 3 (2009) 383-402.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Slavery In America". slavery2003 JOURNAL. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  2. ^ "Black in Latin America". Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Eltis, David; Richardson, David. "Search the Voyages Website". Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Emory University. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Gates, Jr., Henry Louis (2011). Black in Latin America. NYU. ISBN 9780814732984. 

External links[edit]

Slavery in the Americas