Notes on reading Black agency in Guatemala: dismantling Black slavery while upholding White supremacy?

Notes on reading Black agency in Guatemala: dismantling Black slavery while upholding White supremacy?

 

 

In “Becoming free, becoming Ladino,” Catherine Komisaruk argues that the Guatemalan Black slavery crumbled before the 1824 dramatic emancipation. Though she acknowledged the arguments of other historians pointing to external causes (from the Haitian Revolution to the emancipation of the Spanish-American colonies), she relies more on internal and gradual developments to explain slavery’s demise.

 

“By the late eighteenth century slavery in Guatemala was increasingly unsustainable. Slaves were availing themselves of legal institutions and social structures to unravel their enslavement, and as the numbers of people of African descent are in free society, so too did the possibilities of slave liberation. Kingship and social networks, as well as passing unstopped into free society, continued as primary mechanisms of emancipation, while the state and reigning social ideologies persisted in legitimizing manumissions… The emancipation law of 1824 essentially ratified a long-term social transformation that was already almost complete.”

This was not a small achievement. Guatemalan Blacks, free and enslaved, neutralized the racial barriers that sustained the institution. And as the free community increased, the pulled away from slavery amplified too, forcing the Guatemalan society to disallow even the very racial terms that had categorized them into “fit” for slavery. They ceased to be Black, African, or Mulatta.

“The records show slippage among racial and ethnic categories… The colonial nomenclature of ethnic and racial labels, which had recognized African ancestry in terms such as negra/o, mulata/o, and occasional Guinea, was ushered out of official use at the time of independence.”

The result, however, was the loss of the Guatemalan African cultural heritage, and the creation of a new cast: ladino, a hispanicized person of color. The term makes a clear distinction between acculturated and assimilated people, moving willingly under the umbrella of a malleable Hispanic culture, and those who stood at the opposite social spectrum, like Indians invested in preserving their indigenous way of life. Though color continued to open and close doors (e.g., Blacks could become ladinos, but could not “evolve” into Whites), culture took up significantly more weight. Yet, this way out of slavery required shedding off conspicuous African forms of identities.

“The enslavement of people of African heritage in Guatemala ended because of a specific kind of social mestizaje: slaves had used physical mobility, access to wages and credit, and the judicial system to mix into free Hispanic society. On the one hand, the ongoing emancipation of slaves contributed to the growing numbers of blacks and mulattos in the free population. On the other hand, this crossing over into free Hispanic society helped occlude consciousness in the nineteenth century of African heritage in Guatemala. Former slaves were absorbed into a free populace whose members increasingly viewed their ethnically mixed society not as Africanized, but Hispanicized, or ladino, a term that came to be defined as Paul Lokken shows, in contrast to the non-Hispanic cultures of the region’s Indians.”

Bibliography

Catherine Komisaruk, “Becoming free, becoming Ladino,” chapter in Lowell Gudmundson and Justin Wolfe, Blacks and Blackness in Central America: Between Race and Place (Duke University Press, 2010), 150-176.

Reviews of Blacks and Blackness in Central AmericaMargaret OlsenFrank Trey ProctorAnne S. Macpherson Claudia LealCristián Castro García, and Glenn A. Chambers.

*Other Komisaruk’s publications:

(2013) Labor and Love in Guatemala: The Eve of Independence  (book)

(2008) Rape Narratives, Rape Silences: Sexual Violence and Judicial Testimony in Colonial Guatemala (article)

(2008) Something Other than Autobiography: Collaborative Life-Narratives in the Americas—An Introduction (article)

#Slavery: African Heritage and Memories of Slavery in Brazil and the South Atlantic World (Ana Lucia Araujo) now available!

CAMBRIA PRESS

#slavery #slavery: New Essential Book for scholars in slave studies, world history, Africana studies, and Latin American Studies: African Heritage and Memories of Slavery in Brazil and the South Atlantic World (Ana Lucia Araujo)

“Brazil imported the largest number of enslaved Africans during the Atlantic slave trade era […] Today, with the exception of Nigeria, the largest population of people of African descent is in Brazil […] Yet, Brazil has a complex relationship with its slave past; consequently, these complications spill over into the various dimensions of Brazil’s rich African heritage that originated from this tragic period.”
– Ana Lucia Araujo (introduction to African Heritage and Memories of Slavery in Brazil and the South Atlantic World)

This unprecedented interdisciplinary volume led by Ana Lucia Araujo (Professor of History at Howard University and general editor of the Cambria Studies in Slavery: Past and Present book series) is now available. African…

View original post 245 more words

Santa Barbara of Samaná, 1869: the imperial gaze.

Most of the images we have of the Dominican Republic and of Haiti in the 19th century come to us through imperial eyes.

Dennis R. Hidalgo

I am also finding my hard-drive swelling with illustrations which I cannot yet use in publications.  Hopefully, by sharing them here, these historical documents find themselves useful to others.  The picture below, which appeared in the Harper’s Weekly (1869), in the eve of the 1870-71 Annexation Treaty with the U.S., illustrates a couple of lines I wrote in my book’s epilogue:

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Samaná shifted in the world’s imagination from a presqu’île with a useful gulf to a bay with a funky peninsula attached to it. This conceptual turn was the work of the Atlantic print culture (blogosphere) becoming progressively fascinated with the Samaná harbor. Foreigners invoked the term “Samaná Bay” even when they had the peninsula in mind, referring to it as an exceptional harbor that shortsighted Dominicans were ready to trade for temporary debt-relief.

Santa Barbara of Samaná, 1869. Santa Barbara of Samaná, 1869.

The main purpose…

View original post 148 more words

New Book—”Market Aesthetics: The Purchase of the Past in Caribbean Diasporic Fiction”

Repeating Islands

get-img

Elena Machado Sáez’s Market Aesthetics: The Purchase of the Past in Caribbean Diasporic Fictionis coming soon from University of Virginia Press (March 2015):

Description:In Market Aesthetics, Elena Machado Sáez explores the popularity of Caribbean diasporic writing within an interdisciplinary, comparative, and pan-ethnic framework. She contests established readings of authors such as Junot Díaz, Julia Alvarez, Edwidge Danticat, and Robert Antoni while showcasing the work of emerging writers such as David Chariandy, Marlon James, and Monique Roffey. By reading these writers as part of a transnational literary trend rather than within isolated national ethnic traditions, the author is able to show how this fiction adopts market aesthetics to engage the mixed blessings of multiculturalism and globalization via the themes of gender and sexuality.

Elena Machado Sáez, Associate Professor of English at Florida Atlantic University, is coauthor with Raphael Dalleo of The Latino/a Canon and the Emergence of Post-Sixties Literature

View original post 6 more words

Maria Cristina Fumagalli’s On the Edge: Writing the Border Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

On The Edge is a book high on my reading list. But Amazon says it will only come out in hardcover by June, 2015, and the price is prohibitive for many of us. We can still urge our libraries to acquire it, and if we see it fitting, find ways to use it in the classroom.

Could not find evidence of a Kindle edition, and could not read even a page from the author’s hands, but in an editorial review Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert says: “Anchored in a detailed understanding of the history of this complex and deeply conflicted contact zone, and offering insightful readings of the broadest possible range of literary and artistic works, the book challenges static representations of the border, offering in their stead innovative and multi-layered interpretations of the role of mobility and permeability in creating a multi-ethnic transnational territory that both bridges and separates the peoples of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The book’s depth of research and analysis will make it the must-read study for anyone interested in this often-misunderstood contact zone.”

It is definitively needed and promising.

Repeating Islands

9781781381601I love this book, which I read in manuscript form and enthusiastically recommended. This is what I had to say about the manuscript, which offers a most comprehensive study for anyone interested in the dynamics of the Haitian-Dominican border:

Maria Cristina Fumagalli’s remarkable On the Edge: Writing the Border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic offers the most richly nuanced study of the Haiti-Dominican border to date. Anchored in a detailed understanding of the history of this complex and deeply conflicted contact zone, and offering insightful readings of the broadest possible range of literary and artistic works, the book challenges static representations of the border, offering in their stead innovative and multi-layered interpretations of the role of mobility and permeability in creating a multi-ethnic transnational territory that both bridges and separates the peoples of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The book’s depth of research and analysis will make it the…

View original post 315 more words

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba | CLACS | NYU

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World, 1807-1844

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba seeks to explain how a series of historical events that occurred in West Africa from the mid-1790s— including Afonja’s rebellion, the Owu wars, the Fulani-ledjihad, and the migrations to Egbaland—had an impact upon life in cities and plantations in western Cuba and Bahia. Manuel Barcia examines the extent to which a series of African-led plots and armed movements that took place in western Cuba and Bahia between 1807 and 1844 were the result—or a continuation—of events that had occurred in and around the Yoruba and Hausa kingdoms in the same period.
Why did these two geographical areas serve as the theatre for the uprising of the Nagos, the Lucumis, and other West African men and women? The answer, Barcia argues, relates to the fact that plantation economies supported by unusually large numbers of African-born slaves from the same—or close— geographical and ethnic heritage, which transformed the rural and urban landscape in western Cuba and Bahia. To understand why these two areas followed such similar social patterns it is essential to look across the Atlantic—it is not enough to repeat the significance of the African background of Bahian and Cuban slaves. By establishing connections between people and events, with a special emphasis on their warfare experiences, Barcia presents a coherent narrative which spans more than three decades and opens a wealth of archival research for future study.

– See more at: http://clacs.as.nyu.edu/object/clacs.events.special.040115#sthash.4lVRxEGk.dpuf

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World, 1807-1844

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba seeks to explain how a series of historical events that occurred in West Africa from the mid-1790s— including Afonja’s rebellion, the Owu wars, the Fulani-ledjihad, and the migrations to Egbaland—had an impact upon life in cities and plantations in western Cuba and Bahia. Manuel Barcia examines the extent to which a series of African-led plots and armed movements that took place in western Cuba and Bahia between 1807 and 1844 were the result—or a continuation—of events that had occurred in and around the Yoruba and Hausa kingdoms in the same period.
Why did these two geographical areas serve as the theatre for the uprising of the Nagos, the Lucumis, and other West African men and women? The answer, Barcia argues, relates to the fact that plantation economies supported by unusually large numbers of African-born slaves from the same—or close— geographical and ethnic heritage, which transformed the rural and urban landscape in western Cuba and Bahia. To understand why these two areas followed such similar social patterns it is essential to look across the Atlantic—it is not enough to repeat the significance of the African background of Bahian and Cuban slaves. By establishing connections between people and events, with a special emphasis on their warfare experiences, Barcia presents a coherent narrative which spans more than three decades and opens a wealth of archival research for future study.

– See more at: http://clacs.as.nyu.edu/object/clacs.events.special.040115#sthash.4lVRxEGk.dpuf

Book talk for those in the NYC neighborhood (not fair for those exiled to the US country side):

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World, 1807-1844

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World, 1807-1844 - See more at: http://clacs.as.nyu.edu/object/clacs.events.special.040115#sthash.4lVRxEGk.dpuf

Manuel Barcia

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World, 1807-1844

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba seeks to explain how a series of historical events that occurred in West Africa from the mid-1790s— including Afonja’s rebellion, the Owu wars, the Fulani-ledjihad, and the migrations to Egbaland—had an impact upon life in cities and plantations in western Cuba and Bahia. Manuel Barcia examines the extent to which a series of African-led plots and armed movements that took place in western Cuba and Bahia between 1807 and 1844 were the result—or a continuation—of events that had occurred in and around the Yoruba and Hausa kingdoms in the same period.
Why did these two geographical areas serve as the theatre for the uprising of the Nagos, the Lucumis, and other West African men and women? The answer, Barcia argues, relates to the fact that plantation economies supported by unusually large numbers of African-born slaves from the same—or close— geographical and ethnic heritage, which transformed the rural and urban landscape in western Cuba and Bahia. To understand why these two areas followed such similar social patterns it is essential to look across the Atlantic—it is not enough to repeat the significance of the African background of Bahian and Cuban slaves. By establishing connections between people and events, with a special emphasis on their warfare experiences, Barcia presents a coherent narrative which spans more than three decades and opens a wealth of archival research for future study.

– See more at: http://clacs.as.nyu.edu/object/clacs.events.special.040115#sthash.4lVRxEGk.dpuf

– See more at: http://clacs.as.nyu.edu/object/clacs.events.special.040115#sthash.4lVRxEGk.dpuf

West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba | CLACS | NYU.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015, 12:30 p.m.
Location: KJCC room 607, 53 Washington Square South, New York, 10012 (map)

Defiant Haiti: Free-Soil Runaways, Ship Seizures and the Politics of Diplomatic Non-Recognition in the Early Nineteenth Century

Dennis R. Hidalgo

Johnhenry Gonzalez has written an article with engaging stories and on a topic that deserves even more attention.

I finally got to read Johnhenry Gonzalez’s article published in the latest issue of Abolition & Slavery 36:1 (2015): 124-135.  It deals with an understudied topic, but one that is important to me.  If this is an indication of a trend, I am happy for this budding interest in post-revolutionary Haiti (1820s) and the Atlantic World.

Runaways escaping by boat Runaways escaping by boat

No images survive of Mary Prince herself, but this is the photo that has often been used to illustrate her story No images survive of Mary Prince herself, but this is the photo that has often been used to illustrate her story

It is only at the end of the article that the reader notices that Gonzalez had nicely weaved in pirates’ and runaway accounts into a foreign policy study. Gonzalez knows that Prince Mary’s remarkable autobiography fits perfectly when talking about runaways from the Caicos’ islands. So, there she is.  Attention to stories like…

View original post 716 more words