The history of African slave societies in the New World can be divided into three distinct phases—formation, maturity and decline. The third, the demise of the slave order, will be the focus of attention in the present discussion. There appear to be three general patterns to the decline of slave societies in the Americas. The first, exemplified by the United States and Haiti, came quickly, but at a time when the slave order was deeply entrenched, engendering profound resistance accompanied by a civil war. In the second, demonstrated by Cuba and Brazil, it occurred over the course of a few decades, involving a more varied combination of international pressure, slave resistance and a transformation of the labor regime utilizing both recently freed slaves and imported foreign workers. Of the third prototype, in which Mexico and Colombia represent cases in point, it was a seemingly undramatic, very slow process encompassing several generations, during which slavery appeared to wither away. This essay will examine the fate of slavery in Mexico, a topic which has been mentioned in various works, but has not been examined in detail. It is important not only for comparative purposes, but also for understanding the social history of late-colonial Mexico.
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