Essay on Africans in Colonial Mexico

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Africans in Colonial Mexico

The history of Africans in Mexico is an oft-neglected facet of the cultural complexities of that country. In 1519, Hernando Cortes brought 6 African slaves with him to Mexico; these individuals served the conquest as personal servants, carriers, and laborers.[1] In the years to come, slavery would become a critical component of the colonial economy with approximately 2,000 slaves arriving each year 1580-1650; it is estimated that a total of 200,000 Africans were brought to Mexico during the colonial period.[2] Given this large number of slaves, the lengthy period of their importation, and the inevitable mixing of races, which took place throughout the colony, the historical and cultural significance of
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One of the early historical examinations of African slavery in Mexico is Colin A. Palmer’s Slaves of the White God: Blacks in Mexico, 1570-1650, published in 1976.[7] Palmer sees his book as part of a larger historiographic trend at work in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, as scholars began paying increasing attention to social and cultural aspects of minority groups; as historians sought to investigate the condition of black slaves in the United States, Palmer recognized a need to examine a broader range of African history in the Americas.[8] His study attempts to reconstruct the life of a slave during an 80-year segment of the colonial period by looking at labor conditions, societal roles, relationships to other ethnic groups, and the persistence of African culture through social networks and religious practices.[9] By examining a wide range of documents, including royal and colonial decrees, court transcripts, and Inquisition records, Palmer’s study makes a valuable contribution to the AfroMexican historiography. He successfully places the AfroMexican in a cultural, economic, and legal context, which sheds light on the reality of life for slaves,
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