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Slavery in Latin America

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 Slavery in the Americas was quite diverse. Mining operations in the tropics experienced

different needs and suffered different challenges than did plantations in more temperate areas of

Norther Brazil or costal city's serving as ports for the exporting of commodities produced on the

backs of the enslaved peoples from the African continent. This essay will look at these different

situations and explore the factors that determined the treatment of slaves, the consequences of

that treatment, and the conditions that lead to resistance by the slaves working in their various


After the initial conquest of Mexico and South America it was time to develop the

economy and export the resources that would benefit the monarchy back home in Spain and

Portugal. Silver and Gold were two such commodities. Silver mines in Northern Mexico were

supervised by blacks who directed the Indians in the arduous task of extracting the precious

metal. Gold in Central Mexico was also mined by blacks. The Gold mining regions were hot,

tropical, isolated areas of the jungle. The regions were sparsely populated and it was difficult to

keep the locals as a work force. The introduction of disease in the tropics made these areas

death zones to the indigenous people as they had no resistance to the virulent plagues. There was

a need to get cheap or free labor that would be capable of resisting the disease and who would be

easier to dominate than the locals who could run off and establish themselves elsewhere

relatively easily. The natural answer was to obtain slaves from the African continent. The slave

trade was already in operation on the African continent. Coastal cities there often enslaved

inland peoples so it was not difficult to obtain the stock and export them to the Americas.

Slaves in the mining regions were subject to harsh, isolated conditions. There were few

females and little or no community amongst the slaves. Some of the workers did have access to

money and as a result could negotiate there freedom for a price. In 1732 1/3 of the African

population of Choco was free as a result. Less fortunate slaves who found the conditions

unbearable fled to even more isolated areas of the back country to survive on their own or in

small colonies.

The Sugar plantations of Northern Brazil were a major client of the slave trade. The

more temperate climate made of better environmental conditions for the blacks but the work was

hard and after working for the plantation the slaves had to work a spot of land for their own

sustenance as well. They could sell what they produced and this gave them money with which to

effect manumissions. The plantation life had a hierarchy that separated the slaves into three

levels with value attached to each one. The lowest level of the hierarchy was the "Bozal."

These were slave born on the African continent with little or no acculturation with the Spaniards

and Portuguese

who enslaved them. They were of the least value as the least skilled and plenty

there were plenty more where they came from. Though they were not completely disposable

they were of the least consequence should they die or run off.

Next up the pecking order were the "Ladino." These slaves had more time in country

and had developed skills useful to the plantation owner. They were often in working positions

of a bit higher value as well.

The top of the chain were the "Criollo." These were slaves that were born in Latin

America. They were often times offspring of Spaniards or Portuguese

and as such had more ties

to the community. Mulatto's were not looked down upon as they were in the American south.

The Criollo held trusted positions in transportation, and were most often manumitted. Also

enjoying frequent manumission was the criollo involved in the processing of the crops.

Field hands made up the bulk of the population of any given plantation. They were most

often women and very nearly always Bozal. They were rarely able to achieve manumission and

the conditions in which they worked were the worst of the plantation economy. Thought they

were able to have a social life as the whites really did not care what they did with their own

time, they were the most likely to resist their conditions. This is done in a variety of ways which

will be discussed later.

There was a fairly healthy community life amongst plantation slaves. They spent time

together, had cultural activities and because of the near equal ratio of men to women were able

to marry and raise families. The slave population was fully 80-90% of the overall population in

these regions as they did all the work and there were no towns in the area where whites and

Indians went for jobs.

Cities were a third environment that utilized slaves. These slaves,



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