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The Decline of Slavery in Mexico

  • Dennis N. Valdés (a1)
Extract

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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1 See, e.g., Heroles, Jesus Reyes, El Liberalismo Mexicano (3 vols., Mexico, 1957–1961), 1, 2829 ; Acuna, Rodolfo, Occupied America (San Francisco, 1972), 12 ; Morris, Richard B., “The American Revolution and the Mexican War for Independence; Parallels and Divergences,” in El Colegio de Mexico and American Historical Association, eds, Dos Revoluciones: Mexico y los Estados Unidos (Mexico, 1976), 27.

2 Smith, Justin H., The Annexation of Texas (New York, 1941), 9 ; Barker, Eugene H., Mexico and Texas, 1821–1835 (Dallas, 1928), 7778 ; Parkes, Henry Bamford, A History of Mexico (Boston, 1970), 201 ff.

3 Palmer, Colin, Slaves of the White God: Blacks in Mexico, 1570–1650 (Cambridge, Mass., 1976), 3 ; Beltran, Gonzalo Aguirre, “The Integration of the Negro in the National Society of Mexico,” in Morner, Magnus, ed., Race and Class in Latin America (New York, 1970), 16 ; Chavez-Hita, Adelo Naveda, “La esclavitud negra en la jurisdiccion de la villa de Cordoba en el siglo XVIII,” (Tésis de maestria en historia, Universidad Veracruzana, 1977), 67.

4 Palmer, , Slaves, 3.

5 Borah, Woodrow and Cook, Sherburne F., Essays in Population History. Vol. 2. Mexico and the Caribbean. (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1974), 180.

6 Borah, Woodrow, New Spain’s Century of Depression (Berkeley, 1951); Chevalier, Francois, Land and Society in Colonial Latin America: The Great Hacienda (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1970).

7 See especially Gibson, Charles, the Aztecs Under Spanish Rule, (Stanford, 1964), Ch. 9. See also Bakewell, Peter, Silver Mining and Society in Colonial Mexico: Zacatecas, 1546–1700 (Cambridge, 1972), 200, whose case study of the silver mining region of Zacatecas, concludes, “The most obvious inference to be drawn from these observations is that there were enough Indians available to man the Zacatecas mining industry, so long as the rewards were attractive enough.”

8 Palmer, , Slaves, 187.

9 Palmer, , Slaves, 79 ; Bakewell, , Silver Mining, 124.

10 Barrett, Ward, The Sugar Hacienda of the Marqueses del Valle, (Minneapolis, 1970), 7980.

11 Gibson, , The Aztecs, 243 ; Super, John C., “Queretaro Obrajes: Industry and Society in Provincial Mexico, 1600–1810,” Hispanic American Historical Review (hereafter cited as HAHR), 56 (May 1976), 208.

12 Gage, Thomas, The English-American, or a New Survey of the West Indies (London, 1928), 8587 ; Palmer, , Slaves, 4546.

13 Gibson, , The Aztecs, 249–52.

14 The most important price index, maize, is examined in Florescano, Enrique, Precios del maíz y crisis agrícolas en México (1708–1810) (Mexico, 1969), 181, cuadro 19.

15 Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City (hereafter cited as AGN), Inquisicion, 912.24 (1747). Also in the year 1747, the Governor of the Estate of the Cortes family abolished the practice of using Indian prisoners in sugar mills, Barrett, , The Sugar Hacienda, 86.

16 Beltran, Gonzalo Aguirre, “The Slave Trade in Mexico,” HAHR 24 (Aug. 1944), 414, 427.

17 Palmer, , Slaves, 26.

18 Beltran, Aguirre, “The Slave Trade”, 427.

19 Data for the period 1580 to 1650 taken from Bowser, Frederick, “The Free Person of Color in Mexico City and Lima: Manumission and Opportunity, 1580–1650,” in Engerman, Stanley L. and Genovese, Eugene D., eds., Race and Slavery in the Western Hemisphere: Quantitative Studies (Stanford, 1975), 331–68. For the period from the 1660s to the 1780s, samples of the notarial registers, taken by notary number, of the Archivo de Notarías del Departamento del Distrito Federal, Mexico City (here-after cited as AN), were taken. Notaries’ numbers listed as follows: 9, 14, 18, 20, 132, 142, 143, 196, 209, 253, 257, 270, 338, 350, 382, 386, 391, 392, 400, 403, 415, 454, 480, 504, 519, 569, 589, 590, 591, 632, 687, 700, 741, 742, and 745. The sample periods cover the years 1663–69 (35 cases), 1692–1698 (210 cases), 1721–1727 (222 cases), 1750–1756 (122 cases) and 1779–1785 (26 cases). The small sample of the 1660s was taken only to establish a link with the Bowser data. The small sizes of the 1750s and 1780s are due to the disappearance of deeds of slave sales from the registers at these periods in time. The same registers were used for gathering Cartas de libertad.

20 On the flood, see especially, Gibson, , The Aztecs, 236 ff.; Hoberman, , “Bureaucracy and Disaster: Mexico City and the Great Flood of 1629,” Journal of Latin American Studies, 6 (1974), 211–30; Boyer, Richard Everett, “Mexico City and the Great Flood: Aspects of Life and Society 1629–1635,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Connecticut, 1973).

21 Chávez-Hita, Naveda, “La esclavitud negra,” 68.

22 Adriana Naveda Chávez-Hita, “Trabajadores esclavos en las haciendas azucareras de Córdoba, Ver., 1714–1763,” paper presented at the V Reunion de Historiadores Mexicanos y Norteamericanos, Patzcuaro, Michoacan, 12–15 Octubre, 1977, 6.

23 See, e.g., Naveda Chávez-Hita, 1 lTrabajadoes esclavos,” 5; Aimes, Hubert H.S., A History of Slavery in Cuba 1511–1868 (New York and London, 1907), 267 ; Rout, Leslie B., The African Experience in Spanish America (London, New York and Melbourne, 1976); 72, 324, 325; Beltran, Gonzalo Aguirre, La población negra de Mexico (Mexico, 1972), 30 ; Fraginals, Manuel Moreno, Klein, Herbert S. and Engerman, Stanley L., “The Level and Structure of Prices on Cuban Slave Plantations in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: some Comparative Perspectives,” American Historical Review 88 (Dec. 1983), 1210 ; Sharp, William Frederick, Slavery on the Spanish Frontier: The Colombian Choco, 1680–1810 (Norman, 1976), 203 ; Dean, Warren, Rio Claro: A Brazilian Plantation System, 1820–1920 (Stanford, 1976), 58.

24 For urban cases in Latin America, see Bowser, , “The Free Person,” 336337 ; Fraginals, Moreno et al., “Level and Structure,” 1211–12.

25 For the urban United States, see Goldin, Claudia Dale, Urban Slavery in the American South, 1820–1860: A Quantitative History (Chicago and London, 1976), 7273.

26 Taken from calculations of Beltran, Aguirre, La población negra, 210 219, 222. (Tables VI, X and XII).

27 Barrett, , The Sugar Hacienda, 7879 ; Chávez-Hita, Naveda, “Trabajadores esclavos,” 3.

28 Brading, David, Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1759–1810 (Cambridge, 1971), 254, 259.

29 Greenleaf, Richard E., “The Obraje in the Late Mexican Colony,” The Americas, 23 (Jan. 1967), 227–50, the most recent work on the topic, makes no mention of labor. However, court cases of the Audiencia and Inquisition offer many cases of free mulatto obraje workers.

30 AGN, Padrones, 52.

31 Mclaughlin, Colin and Jaime Rodriguez, O. The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1980), 222.

32 Instrucciónes que los virreyes de Nueva Espana dejaron a sus sucesores (Mexico, 1873), I, 72, 106, 259; Gemelli Careri, John Francis, A Voyage Round the Word, in Vol 4 of Churchill, Awsham, ed., A Collection of Voyages and Travels (London, 1704), 4, 520 ; Gage, , The English-American, 8587.

33 Discussion of the price differences between bozales and American-born blacks appears in Moreno Fraginals et. al., “Level and structure,” 1213 and n.

34 Sutch, Richard, “The Breeding of Slaves for Sale and the Westward Expansion of Slavery, 1850–1860,” in Race and Slavery, 178 ff.; Craton, Michael, “Jamaican Slavery,” in Race and Slavery, 269 ; Engerman, Stanley L., “Comments on the Study of Race and Slavery,” in Race and Slavery, 503 ; Corwin, Arthur, Spain and the Abolition of Slavery in Cuba 1817–1886 (Austin, 1967); 33, 133, 136; Lockhart, James, Spanish Peru (Madison, 1968), 178–79; Bowser, Frederick L., The African Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524–1650 (Stanford, 1974), 255, 257–258.

35 Bowser, , “The Free Person,” 348.

36 See, for example, Johnson, Lyman L., “Manumission in Colonial Buenos Aires, 1776–1810,” HAHR 59 (May 1979), 258279 ; Bowser, , “The Free Person”, 339351 ; Schwartz, Stuart B., “The Manumission of Slaves in Colonial Brazil; Bahia, 1684–1745,” HAHR 54 (Nov. 1974), 603635 ; de Queiros Mattoso, Katia M., “A proposito de Cartas de Alforria, Bahia, 1779–1850,” Anais de Historia 4 (1972), 2345.

37 In regression, the question being asked is how well the variable x (age) accounts for y (price), assuming a linear relationship.

38 Schwartz, , “The Manumission,” 611 ; Mattoso, , “A proposito,” 41 ; Bowser, , “The Free Person,” 350 ; Johnson, , “Manumission,” 262263 ; Russell-Wood, A.J.R., The Black Man in Slavery and Freedom in Colonial Brazil (New York, 1982), 48 ; Higman, B.W., Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica 1807–1834 (London, New York and Melbourne, 1976), 176.

39 AN, 391 (1721); AN, 196 (1722).

40 AN, 391 (1722).

41 Scott, Rebecca J., “Gradual Abolition and the Dynamics of Slave Emancipation in Cuba, 1868–1886,” HAHR 63 (Aug. 1983), 449 ff.

42 AN, 392 (1692).

43 AN, 325 (1666)

44 AN, 257 (1727).

45 AN, 391 (1723); AN, 391 (1721).

46 AN, 589 (1752).

47 AN, 700 (1725).

48 AN, 454 (1725).

49 AN, 454 (1725).

50 AN, 350 (1751).

51 AN, 196 (1723).

52 AN, 569 (1723).

53 The most recent literature on runaway slaves in Mexico can be found in Palmer, , Slaves, 52 ff.; Taylor, William B., “The Foundation of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de los Morenos de Amapa,” The Americas 26 (Apr. 1970), 439–46; Carroll, Patrick J., “Mandiga; The Evolution of a Mexican Runaway Slave Community, 1737–1827,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 19 (Oct. 1977), 488505 ; Davidson, David M., “Negro Slave Control and Resistance in Colonial Mexico, 1519–1650,” HAHR 46 (Aug. 1966), 243 ff.

54 AGN, Inquisicion, 832.52 (1731); AGN, Inquisicion, 832.53 (1731); AGN, Inquisicion, 832.54 (1731).

55 AGN, Inquisicion, 1035.35 (1763); AGN, Inquisicion, 1035.4.

56 Archivo Judicial del Tribunal Superior del Distrito Federal, Mexico City, 92.18 (1738).

57 AGN, Inquisicion, 856.5 (1735).

58 AGN, Inquisicion, 849 ff. 504 a 545 (1734).

59 Zorrilla, Luis G., Historia de lds relaciones entre Mexico y los Estados Unidos de America 1800–1958 (2 vols.; Mexico, 1977), 1, 87.

60 Palmer, , Slaves, 140.

61 Barrett, , The Sugar Hacienda, 85, suggests that there were more runaways in the Morelos region in the mid-eighteenth century than at any other time, and that masters exerted, “less trouble to capture them than formerly.”

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The Americas
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