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Colonial Blackness

A History of Afro-Mexico

Herman L. Bennett

Publication Year: 2009

Asking readers to imagine a history of Mexico narrated through the experiences of Africans and their descendants, this book offers a radical reconfiguration of Latin American history. Using ecclesiastical and inquisitorial records, Herman L. Bennett frames the history of Mexico around the private lives and liberty that Catholicism engendered among enslaved Africans and free blacks, who became majority populations soon after the Spanish conquest. The resulting history of 17th-century Mexico brings forth tantalizing personal and family dramas, body politics, and stories of lost virtue and sullen honor. By focusing on these phenomena among peoples of African descent, rather than the conventional history of Mexico with the narrative of slavery to freedom figured in, Colonial Blackness presents the colonial drama in all its untidy detail.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Blacks in the Diaspora


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pp. ix

List of Tables

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pp. x

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pp. xi-xiii

The ideas for Colonial Blackness crystallized in the postcolonial aura flourishing in and around the Curriculum in African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For much of the eighties, Chapel Hill (both the university and the town) constituted a palenque where a diverse assortment of exiles and expatriates ...

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pp. xv-xvi

A lot of labor and love—not all mine—went into the making of this book, a reality that I gladly acknowledge. Having spent years deliberating over the multi-faceted aspects of black domesticity and interiority, it seems only fitting that I begin by thanking my family. ...

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Introduction: Writing Afro-Mexican History

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pp. 1-22

This book examines how Africans, blacks, and mulattos—slave and free—forged communities in colonial Mexico over the course of the seventeenth century. In subjecting converted Africans, blacks, and mulattos to ecclesiastical law (canon law), the Catholic Church authorized certain forms of private life among slaves. ...

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One: Discipline and Culture

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pp. 23-57

Seventeenth-century Mexico City was a turbulent cosmopolitan center. As the principal site of Spanish power, Mexico City emerged from the remnants of the Mexicas’ destroyed capital, Tenochtitlán. Beginning with its reconstruction in the sixteenth century, Mexico housed a diverse population of impoverished Spaniards, ...

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Two: Genealogies of a Past

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pp. 58-85

German political philosopher Karl Marx eloquently questioned the notion of historical transcendence by asking “What is a Negro slave?” His answer: “A man of the black race. . . . He only becomes a slave in certain relations.”1 Slaves (and consequently slavery) continually had to be made. ...

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Three: Creoles

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pp. 86-113

The origin of the creole lies in African social reproduction in the New World.1 African women of sixteenth-century New Spain bore children despite the hardships of the Atlantic passage, the new disease environment, and the misfortunes of slavery. Their surviving offspring and the offspring of African men and Spanish and Indian women ...

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Four: Provincial Black Life

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pp. 114-136

After establishing villages and cities throughout New Spain, the victorious Spaniards allotted themselves encomiendas, royal grants whereby a Spaniard assumed the title encomendero of a specific area and with it acquired command—but not ownership—over the resident Indian population. The encomenderos collected tribute from the subjugated Indians, ...

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Five: Local Blackness

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pp. 137-160

In Mexico City on 6 March 1674, the free mulatto María de San Diego appeared before the ecclesiastical judge (provisor) intent on opposing the marriage of Manuel Figueroa and Manuela Ortiz. The announcement of the couple’s banns (amonestaciones) compelled María to act, and her motivation was strictly personal. ...

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Six: Narrating Freedom

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pp. 161-182

In the conventional characterization of Mexican history, including social histories, seventeenth-century New Spain slept.1 In these narratives of Mexican history, social and cultural quiescence defined the middle period, a contrast to the tumult of conquest and the era of independence. These scholars view colonialism through conventional formulations of politics and economics. ...

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Seven: Sin

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pp. 183-209

In 1740, a local priest informed his superiors that he was granting the free mulattos Joseph Antonio de Ochoa and Veronica de Guerra a special dispensation to marry.1 “Joseph,” observed the priest, “had violated Veronica de Guerra’s virginity under the faith and promise of marriage and was in habit of knowing her carnally.” ...

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Epilogue: Colonial Blackness?

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pp. 210-216

In recent years, one of the most insightful intellectual interventions among Latin Americanists has focused on postcolonial studies and its relevance for discerning the realities of the region. In surveying the engagement with “postcolonial theory” and “postcolonial studies,” anthropologist and historian Mark Thurner identified ...


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pp. 217-224


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pp. 225-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780253003614
E-ISBN-10: 025300361X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253353382

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: none
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Blacks in the Diaspora