?Slavery in the Americas was quite diverse. Mining operations in the tropics experienceddifferent needs and suffered different challenges than did plantations in more temperate areas ofNorther Brazil or costal citys serving as ports for the exporting of commodities produced on thebacks of the enslaved peoples from the African continent. This essay will look at these differentsituations and explore the factors that determined the treatment of slaves, the consequences ofthat treatment, and the conditions that lead to resistance by the slaves working in their variouscapacities.
After the initial conquest of Mexico and South America it was time to develop theeconomy and export the resources that would benefit the monarchy back home in Spain andPortugal. Silver and Gold were two such commodities. Silver mines in Northern Mexico weresupervised by blacks who directed the Indians in the arduous task of extracting the preciousmetal. Gold in Central Mexico was also mined by blacks. The Gold mining regions were hot,tropical, isolated areas of the jungle.
The regions were sparsely populated and it was difficult tokeep the locals as a work force. The introduction of disease in the tropics made these areasdeath zones to the indigenous people as they had no resistance to the virulent plagues. There wasa need to get cheap or free labor that would be capable of resisting the disease and who would beeasier to dominate than the locals who could run off and establish themselves elsewhererelatively easily. The natural answer was to obtain slaves from the African continent. The slavetrade was already in operation on the African continent. Coastal cities there often enslavedinland peoples so it was not difficult to obtain the stock and export them to the Americas. Slaves in the mining regions were subject to harsh, isolated conditions. There were fewfemales and little or no community amongst the slaves. Some of the workers did have access tomoney and as a result could negotiate there freedom for a price. In 1732 1/3 of the Africanpopulation of Choco was free as a result. Less fortunate slaves who found the conditionsunbearable fled to even more isolated areas of the back country to survive on their own or insmall colonies.
The Sugar plantations of Northern Brazil were a major client of the slave trade. Themore temperate climate made of better environmental conditions for the blacks but the work washard and after working for the plantation the slaves had to work a spot of land for their ownsustenance as well. They could sell what they produced and this gave them money with which toeffect manumissions. The plantation life had a hierarchy that separated the slaves into threelevels with value attached to each one. The lowest level of the hierarchy was the Bozal. These were slave born on the African continent with little or no acculturation with the Spaniardsand Portugese who enslaved them. They were of the least value as the least skilled and plentythere were plenty more where they came from. Though they were not completely disposablethey were of the least consequence should they die or run off. Next up the pecking order were the Ladino. These slaves had more time in countryand had developed skills useful to the plantation owner. They were often in working positionsof a bit higher value as well. The top of the chain were the Criollo. These were slaves that were born in LatinAmerica. They were often times offspring of Spaniards or Portugese and as such had more tiesto the community. Mulattos were not looked down upon as they were in the American south.
The Criollo held trusted positions in transportation, and were most often manumitted. Alsoenjoying frequent manumission was the criollo involved in the processing of the crops. Field hands made up the bulk of the population of any given plantation. They were mostoften women and very nearly always Bozal. They were rarely able to achieve manumission andthe conditions in which they worked were the worst of the plantation economy. Thought theywere able to have a social life as the whites really did not care what they did with their owntime, they were the most likely to resist their conditions. This is done in a variety of ways whichwill be discussed later. There was a fairly healthy community life amongst plantation slaves. They spent timetogether, had cultural activities and because of the near equal ratio of men to women were ableto marry and raise families. The slave population was fully 80-90% of the overall population inthese regions as they did all the work and there were no towns in the area where whites andIndians went for jobs.Cities were a third environment that utilized slaves. These slaves, however, tended to bemade from the Criollo group. An exception was the slaves taken right off the ships by whiteartisans who taught them to be smiths and coopers and the like. These trades were then passeddown to the slave children and to their children after them. Europeans immigrated to LatinAmerica in far fewer numbers than in the U.S. and as a result otherwise menial jobs held bywhite lower classes there were held by free blacks and slaves working toward manumission.
Where you might find an Irish maid on the Main Line in Philadelphia, you would find a black, ormulatto in Latin America. This helped in keeping the racial prejudice at bay in Latin America asit served no purpose to create the perception that blacks were an inferior race. City slaves enjoyed a good amount of freedom to associate and they took advantage of itto form societies and groups that worked to systematically manumit slaves. Resistance to enslavement came in a variety of forms and much went into whether aslave would resist or not. It was clear that all out revolt would not have any lasting affect.
Therefore resistance came in a more passive form.Slaves would pretend not to understand thedirection of their masters or they would sabotage equipment and crops. Suicide was another wayto freedom. When this method was employed the slave often killed their master and then turnedthemselves in to suffer their fate. This gave value to their own death as they knew their masterwas now unable to replace him with another slave.
Flight was the most plausible form of resistance. Often plantation slaves would take offand go to another plantation to visit for a number of days. The slave knew what the punishmentwould be upon his return and was willing to endure it for the needed break. Sometimes theywould even get a white person to negotiate their return or outright trade to the plantation theyhad been visiting. More permanent forms of flight were undertaken by groups of slaves whowould organize and flee to the edges of the plantation and beyond to form renegade settlements.
The larger the group and the further from the plantation they fled, the more chance they had tosucceed. Criollos often fled alone to cities where they attempted to pass themselves off as freemen living by their wits in order to outsmart any who would suspect them as runaways. In short, slaves who were the most recent arrivals to the new land endured the worstconditions and were the least likely candidates for manumission and therefore most likely toresist. The field workers and the gold miners were high risks for resistance. Ladinos were lesslikely to resist though conditions in the mines only slightly tempered there likelihood of flight.
Mulattos had it relatively easy in comparison to the Bozals and were less likely to resist asthere was a great probability that they would achieve manumission and life was not all that badin the mean time. Especially in the cities where they had family and social community. Therewere jobs for free slaves in the cities and little competition from immigrants from Europemaking them necessary as freemen even outside of slavery. Climate, disease, economic conditions and geographic location were critical to slavereproduction, mortality, productivity and resistance. For instance, a highly capitalized, fairlynew plantation would equate to harsher conditions for a slave as the owner tried to eak. out asmuch profit from the plantation as possible. If economic times were bad then slaves werepushed less as the profit increase was not available in depressed economies. At the same time itmight benefit an owner to divest of weaker workers and so manumission possibilities increased.
Slaves isolated from family life and culture working in miserable conditions were often flightrisks as they had no real options and the terrain lent to good hiding. There were also no whitesaround to hire as cheap labor to search them out and return them. Mulatto and Criollo slaveswere higher on the socioeconomic ladder than the Bozal and were therefore less likely to resistas they were a step away from freedom which meant they would not consider fleeing as good anoption as remaining in the social circle and family they had established. Slavery under any conditions is not the optimum existence for human beings. It is a factthat human nature seeks to dominate. Greed and money are often at the root of such efforts. TheIsraelites, the Irish, the Africans, and enumerable other groups have heritage that includes aperiod of slavery or of enslaving or both. African Cimarron communities even enslaved otherAfrican fleeing the plantations. It is not rooted in race as much as it is rooted in human nature.
The preceding essay is just a synopsis of how it functioned for Africans in certain regionsduring a space in history.Words/ Pages : 1,602 / 24
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