Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru by Rachel Sarah O’Toole (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2015-01-25 17:53Z by Steven

Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru by Rachel Sarah O’Toole (review)

Journal of Social History
Volume 48, Number 2, Winter 2014
pages 465-466

Erick D. Langer, Professor of Latin American History
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

O’Toole, Rachel Sarah, Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).

The presence of Africans and their descendants is much more important than often realized in Peru. During the colonial period, tens of thousands of Africans were forced to cross the isthmus at Panama City and be sold as slaves in Peru. Even today, the rhythms of chicha, a combination of African and indigenous sounds, resonate in popular Peruvian music. The famous Peruvian cuisine was forged with important ingredients of European, Andean and African food heritages (as well as the nineteenth-century Chinese influences). More than anywhere else in the Andean region, African culture has melded with that of the Andes.

Rachel O’Toole documents Andean and African contributions to colonial society in the northern Peruvian coast during the seventeenth century. She breaks new ground by reexamining the interactions between Andeans and Africans and also explores how Andean peoples became “Indians” and Africans became “blacks.” The supposition, based on Spanish sources, had been that Africans were the enemies of the Indians, since they had more in common with their masters and abused the Andeans when they entered indigenous villages. However, O’Toole shows that that was not necessarily the case; Andeans and Africans interacted in many ways, including helping each other, intermarrying, being godparents to each other, and maintaining intense commercial relations.

Most of all, O’Toole emphasizes the new legal environment in Peru, where Africans became a legal category, a type of casta, that made human beings from Africa into merchandise and flattened out as much as possible the slaves’ diverse origins on the African continent. The Indians in turn came into a different category, of people who, according to the Spanish, were vulnerable to black castas and who enjoyed greater protections and higher legal status than people of African descent. She uses the metaphor of location to position each group into its respective legal category and how that changed over time.

After dealing with African-Andean interactions and the creation of the legal positions of each group, the author takes the last three chapters to delineate not so much the interactions between the two, but rather the making of the “Indian” category (Chapter 3) and the slave category (Chapter 2) within the casta system, which reified racial categories and created the divisions between the races. In the case of the Indians, she focuses on land and water, while for slaves she zeroes in on labor conditions. As O’Toole notes, “casta did the work of race” (164). Within the colonial system, this permitted Spaniards to divide and rule based on the differing regulations each category of human being, whether Spaniard, Indian, or black casta, had to follow. O’Toole takes to task in the conclusion of her book the towering seventeenth-century work of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala and his negative perception of Africans. Guaman Poma, an indigenous nobleman, wrote a 1,189 page missive to the Spanish king, in which he complained about abuses against the indigenous population, especially that of the Africans. O’Toole asserts that this opinion is much too negative an assessment and that “Africans and their descendants were central to the making of the colonial Andes” (161).

This book is an important addition to the field because for the first time it focuses on the complex relationships between indigenous peoples and Africans in a central region of the Spanish empire. O’Toole also fruitfully used legal documents to “read along the grain” (66) to understand the construction of the Indian categories, centering on the judicial performances of Andeans, who consciously chose laws that favored their positions. This follows work done by many other scholars of the colonial Andes to further refine how the diverse indigenous peoples ended up in a flattened category of “Indian.” The creation of the Indian category paralleled what happened to the Africans through their experience of slavery, as the author makes clear.

Using the northern Peruvian coast as the case study for understanding the interaction between Andeans and Africans has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, this was the Andean region where the majority of Africans were imported and so there is enough evidence to document the relations between the two groups. On the other hand, the…

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Family Stories, Local Practices, and the Struggle for Social Improvement in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Latin America

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, Mexico, Papers/Presentations on 2012-11-23 05:39Z by Steven

Family Stories, Local Practices, and the Struggle for Social Improvement in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Latin America

127th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association
New Orleans, Louisiana
2013-01-03 through 2013-01-06

AHA Session 25: Conference on Latin American History 3
Thursday, 2012-01-03: 13:00-15:00 CST (Local Time)
Conti Room (Roosevelt New Orleans)

Chair: Matt D. O’Hara, University of California, Santa Cruz


Comment: Elizabeth A. Kuznesof, University of Kansas

Over the last three decades, scholars of colonial and early national Latin America have worked to organize archives and compile quantitative data relative to the demographic composition and patterns of social interaction that marked those societies. Thanks to their efforts, we now have a better understanding of the impact Iberian, African and Indigenous peoples had on the formation of a colonial population; what the dominant patterns of family formation and population growth were; how the social and economic behavior of colonial elites supported the social reproduction of white privilege; how the social and economic behavior of Blacks and Indios challenged or at least complicated the existing social and racial hierarchies. These efforts, moreover, have now resulted in rich datasets that allow historians to follow individuals and their families over time to understand better the impact family formation and their various social and economic behaviors have had on the experiences of different ethnic and racial groups, as well as the history of particular localities, in this formative period of Latin American societies. The papers in this panel employ the study of families in a generational perspective as a new methodological approach to explore further issues of social mobility among persons of non-Iberian of mixed descent and their relevance to the development of a colonial or early national social order in Latin America. Through their focus on specific families and their local connections, moreover, the papers help to elucidate questions about the long term impact of individual social improvement on, and the importance of local practices and circumstances to, the social standing of families whose members transcended the social boundaries between free and slave, black/indio and white. Together these papers advance the current scholarship on race relations and social mobility in colonial and early national Latin America in two fundamental ways. First, they integrate historical narratives of black, white, and indigenous social experiences—which still tend to be developed separately—and demonstrate that certain social practices and behaviors that shaped social orders in the past resulted sometimes from the coordinated (and not oppositional) actions and efforts of members of mixed-race family and social units. Second, they highlight how socio-economic practices and behaviors that influenced local realities first, and broader regional, national, or imperial realities second, were born out of strategies individual families pursued generation after generation to ensure the well-being of their members.

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Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery on 2012-06-30 02:06Z by Steven

Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru

University of Pittsburgh Press
April 2012
272 pages
6 x 9
Paper  ISBN: 9780822961932

Rachel Sarah O’Toole, Associate Professor of History
University of California, Irvine

Bound Lives chronicles the lived experience of race relations in northern coastal Peru during the colonial era. Rachel Sarah O’Toole examines how Andeans and Africans negotiated and employed casta, and in doing so, constructed these racial categories. Royal and viceregal authorities separated “Indians” from “blacks” by defining each to specific labor demands. Casta categories did the work of race, yet, not all casta categories did the same type of work since Andeans, Africans, and their descendants were bound by their locations within colonialism and slavery. The secular colonial legal system clearly favored indigenous populations. Andeans were afforded greater protections as “threatened” native vassals. Despite this, in the 1640s during the rise of sugar production, Andeans were driven from their assigned colonial towns and communal property by a land privatization program. Andeans did not disappear, however; they worked as artisans, muleteers, and laborers for hire. By the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Andeans employed their legal status as Indians to defend their prerogatives to political representation that included the policing of Africans. As rural slaves, Africans often found themselves outside the bounds of secular law and subject to the judgments of local slaveholding authorities. Africans therefore developed a rhetoric of valuation within the market and claimed new kinships to protect themselves in disputes with their captors and in slave-trading negotiations. Africans countered slaveholders’ claims on their time, overt supervision of their labor, and control of their rest moments by invoking customary practices. Bound Lives offers an entirely new perspective on racial identities in colonial Peru. It highlights the tenuous interactions of colonial authorities, indigenous communities, and enslaved populations and shows how the interplay between colonial law and daily practice shaped the nature of colonialism and slavery.


  • acknowledgments
  • introduction: Constructing Casta on Peru’s Northern Coast
  • chapter 1. Between Black and Indian: Labor Demands and the Crown’s Casta
  • chapter 2. Working Slavery’s Value, Making Diaspora Kinships
  • chapter 3. Acting as a Legal Indian: Natural Vassals and Worrisome Natives
  • chapter 4. Market Exchanges and Meeting the Indians Elsewhere
  • chapter 5. Justice within Slavery
  • conclusion. The Laws of Casta, the Making of Race
  • appendix 1. Origin of Slaves Sold in Trujillo over Time by Percentage (1640–1730)
  • appendix 2. Price Trends of Slaves Sold in Trujillo (1640–1730)
  • explanation of Appendix Data
  • notes
  • glossary
  • bibliography
  • index
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