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How Some Black Slaves were able to free themselves in Colonial America. The history of Blacks under the yoke of slavery is not a kind one. Colonial (A) Latin America was the first and perhaps the worst perpetrator in the crime of slavery. Brought from across the sea to work without wages and to suffer horrible treatment the African element of Latin American society lived a life of extreme disadvantage.
Eventually the restrictions placed upon Blacks and the measure of prejudice against them lessened in severity. These changes in views and attitudes came slowly but surely whether Blacks and Spanish whites lived and worked in close proximity with one another. Despite the wishes of the Crown the people of White and Black mixed together commonly (prof switched mixed together and commonly. It was in the urban environment that this intermingling of peoples was bound to happen and where Blacks enjoyed the most opportunities for freedom. Black slaves in colonial Latin America suffered under extreme prejudice and institutionalized inequality. Transplanted from their homeland and lacking a common culture or language, Black slaves were forcibly integrated into an oppressive Spanish Colonial society and economy.
However, certain environments for Black slaves were less oppressive than others. The urban landscape afforded Black with some opportunity to better their position i the Americas. Close contact withthe Spanish commoner and the enormous physical presence of Blacks, free and slave, gave many Black Americans the chance to rise out of bondage into self determination. Lima, Peru was a prime example of this dynamic. Here Black slave labor was in even higher demand than was usual for most of Latin America due to the extremely high mortality rate of the Indian populations upon contact with European and African disease. The Indians that survived were reluctant to leave the village after the extreme decline in population andthe widespread abuse of the mita system.
As a result, Black labor was income demand than it ever was and especially in the urban centres. Because Lima was located in a mineral rich coastal area (B) the potential for economic development was immense if enough labor could be found. Lima developed one of the largest populations in the New World wither half of its inhabitants from the Black or Mulatto caste. The economy of Peru was administered and much of its business and trades were performed in the capital city of Lima. Lima was a busy coastal seaport that linked with Pacific trade routes, processed precious metals, defended the highness against Dutch and Portuguese invasion, housed the administration ofthe colony, enjoyed a construction boom and all of the other economic amenities associated with a growing metropolis.
The needy state of the labor market in Lima provided Black slaves with opportunities to learn skilled trades through apprenticeships and experience. With labor in such high demand, slaveowners were more willing provide their slaves with incentives to work and to learn skillestrades. Better wages, options to buy freedom through a percentage of their wages. The prospect of eventual freedom and equal wages strenghthenedblack economic independence and social status. Slaves and freemen in urban areas gained access to most manual trades, despite discriminatory laws These positions in the urban economy gave slaves opportunities to earn and accumulate money, which led to manumission and the growth of a free black community. The use of Black labor, free or slave, was widespread throughout the colony but especially so in the urban areas.
Crown corporations meuse of Black skilled and unskilled slave labor. The Church also saw the benefits of using black labor in for skill required functions. Slaves were desperately needed to perform labor in nearly every aspect of Limaseconomy except the most exclusive. Despite the fact that the presence of Blacks in great quantities was necessary and welcomed by business the Spanish elite of the society remained apprehensive. The colonial government were well aware of the possible problems that a large Black population in the city would have on their racial caste society. Laws were passed that were intended to segregate the races and prevent race mixing.
These laws could not control the tide of popular reality which was that traces were already mixing and that the urban labor of Black people was necessary for the economy. Another characteristic of Peruvian slave labor was the existence in every region and every craft of free black and mulatto workers employed alongside slaves. For the Black slave to know and come in regular contact with Blacks who had freed themselves from enslavement must have been inspirational for them. The existence of these role model for liberty must have spurred an even greater resolve among Blacks to eventually secure admeasure of self-determination. Race mixture contributed greatly to the number of free colored people. When the number of mixed race people escalated the strict impositions of teh state soon became difficult to uphold.
The mixture of African and Native was impossible to prevent despite the wishes of the crown. Relations between white Spaniards, usually men, and black mistresses were commonplace in the early colonial period. The resulting offspring were in a state of legal ambiguity in the context of the slave caste system. This was quite significant because they were a growing percentage of the urban population. In their eyes and in the view of society at large race mixture produced types who combined the worst defects and vices of both parents. So strong was the prejudice that this view tended to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Despite this viewpoint urban slaves and colored people of mixed parentage were becoming more important to the society as a whole and more readily acceptable to the white population. The seeming generosity of some masters allowed black artisans to apply a portion of wages towards freedom. Slaveowners would lease out their slaves to certain businesses for profit. Complex web of direct ownership, rentals, and self-employment made the slaves an extremely mobile and adjustable labor force.
While being of great benefit to business the increased numbers of mestizos was testament to the fact that the Black population was also accepted by a great number of Spanish peoples. Color was gradually becoming less important in defining social status. The adherence to European or Spanish culture and tradition was now becoming the yardstick for social acceptance. Because a majority of the urban Black slaves were employed domestically a familiarity with Spanish culture already existed among many Blacks. Despite the successes that some Urban Blacks could achieve, the majority of the Black population, both urban and rural, suffered throughout Latin America. The Urban environment was not a haven for Black people but least it allowed for some of the Black population to become more than just slaves.
The reality of the demographics and needs of business demanded the presence of Blacks in the urban landscape. The presence of large numbers of Blacks working and living in close proximity to the Spanish commoner and the Spanish elite ran in direct conflict with testate position on racial intermixing and racial prejudice. The position ofthe State was frequently ignored by the general populace in the face of the physical reality. Slave ownership in Peru would become a model for all Spanish almost of Portuguese America as well. The same pattern of Black urbanization and social mixing was eventually experienced throughout Latin America.
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