Blacks and Blackness in Central America: Between Race and Place

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science on 2010-06-24 21:47Z by Steven

Blacks and Blackness in Central America: Between Race and Place

Duke University Press
September 2010
400 pages
21 photographs, 14 tables, 4 maps
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4787-3
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-4803-0

Edited By:

Lowell Gudmundson, Professor of Latin American Studies and History
Mount Holyoke College

Justin Wolfe, William Arceneaux Associate Professor of Latin American History
Tulane University

Contributors: Paul Lokken, Russell Lohse, Karl H. Offen, Rina Cáceres Gómez, Catherine Komisaruk , Juliet Hooker, Lara Putnam, Ronald Harpelle, Mauricio Meléndez Obando

Many of the earliest Africans to arrive in the Americas came to Central America with Spanish colonists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and people of African descent constituted the majority of nonindigenous populations in the region long thereafter. Yet in the development of national identities and historical consciousness, Central American nations have often countenanced widespread practices of social, political, and regional exclusion of blacks. The postcolonial development of mestizo or mixed-race ideologies of national identity have systematically downplayed African roots and participation in favor of Spanish and Indian antecedents and contributions. In addition, a powerful sense of place and belonging has led many peoples of African descent in Central America to identify themselves as something other than African American, reinforcing the tendency of local and foreign scholars to see Central America as peripheral to the African diaspora in the Americas. The essays in this collection begin to recover the forgotten and downplayed histories of blacks in Central America, demonstrating the centrality of African Americans to the region’s history from the earliest colonial times to the present. They reveal how modern nationalist attempts to define mixed race majorities as “Indo-Hispanic,” or as anything but African American, clash with the historical record of a region considered by many to be one of the most successful cases of African American achievement, political participation, and power following independence from Spain in 1821.

Table of Contents

Introduction / Lowell Gudmundson and Justin Wolfe

Part I. Colonial Worlds of Slavery and Freedom

Part II. Nation Building and Reinscribing Race 

  • “The Cruel Whip”: Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century Nigaragua / Justin Wolfe
  • What Difference did Color Make? Blacks in the “White Towns” of Western Nicaragua in the 1880s / Lowell Gudmundson
  • Race and the Space of Citizenship: The Mosquito Coast and the Place of Blackness and Indigeneity in Nicaragua / Juliet Hooker
  • Eventually Alien: The Multigenerational Saga of British Western Indians in Central America, 1870-1940 / Lara Putnam
  • White Zones: American Enclave Communities of Central America / Ronald Harpelle
  • The Slow Ascent of the Marginalized: Afro-Descendents in Costa Rica and Nicaragua / Mauricio Meléndez Obando


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Transforming Mulatto Identity in Colonial Guatemala and El Salvador; 1670-1720

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2010-01-19 01:17Z by Steven

Transforming Mulatto Identity in Colonial Guatemala and El Salvador; 1670-1720

Transforming Anthropology
Volume 12, Issue 1-2 (January 2004)
Pages 9 – 20
DOI: 10.1525/tran.2004.12.1-2.9

Paul Lokken, Assistant Professor of Latin American History
Bryant University, Smithfield Rhode Island

This article examines an important moment in the history of people of African origins in the region now encompassed by the republics of Guatemala and El Salvador. That moment has received relatively little attention in modern scholarship because the entire subject of the colonial African presence in the region was largely ignored until recently. The lingering effects of nineteenth-century scientific racism contributed to the “forgetting” of African origins, but developments during the colonial era initiated the process. During that era, the dependence of Spaniards primarily on the labor of the region’s indigenous majority allowed members of an African-defined minority—both free and enslaved—to rework the contours of the identity assigned to them, via marriage, militia service, and other avenues. This transformation in identity was marked by shifts away from association with the “inferiority” of tributary status and toward incorporation into a broader category—gente ladina (hispanized people)—that carried connotations unrelated to African identity.

…Increased fluidity in classification was perhaps inevitable, at least where identification of “mixed” origins was concerned. For instance, while marriage records demonstrate clearly that in seventeenth-century Guatemala the term “mulato” was generally applied to people who actually possessed some African origins, examples of labeling “mistakes” were beginning to crop up as well, notably in San Salvador and San Miguel. In 1671, the son of an “espafiol” and an “india” from San Miguel was identified as “mulato libre” in a marriage record produced in Olocuilta, just outside San Salvador, and in 1691, a record filed in Amapala listed the parents of a “mulato libre” as “indios vecinos” (Indian residents) of San Miguel.” The vulnerability of Spanish efforts to enforce boundaries between “types” of individuals with plural origins as a means of divide-and-rule (Cope 1994:3-26, Lutz 1994:79-112, 140) is also underscored in court cases in which people whom others defined as mulatto claimed mestizo status in order to avoid tribute or otherwise dissociate themselves from the “taint” of African ancestry (Few 1997:120).”…

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , ,