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Through his exploration of marriage applications, focusing on spouse and testigo witness selection patterns, Bennett argues that household a core community extending beyond a single racial or legal status , extra-household, occupational, residential, ethnic, familial real and fictive , and gender ties intersected with and mitigated against race and status slave or free in the formulation of specific identities among blacks and mulattos in New Spain.

For Bennett, the articulation of an Afro-creole consciousness represented more than cultural exchange; it also included the acquisition of a "legal consciousness. Central to his notions of creolization, Bennett contends that the ability of these accused bigamists to navigate within the Inquisition and manipulate their testimony to their own benefit, and to the detriment of others, highlights a highly sophisticated understanding of the dominant moral discourses in New Spain.

Auteurs - Bernand Carmen

Yet, an understanding of the norms that governed their lives and identities was tantamount to neither complete acculturation nor absolute compliance. Interestingly, in his discussions of the perceived threats to social stability posed by blacks and mulattos, Bennett did not include a well-known instance when those fears were realized. The Mexico City slave rebellion of —which resulted in the execution of as Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570-1640

He ably shows how recuperating the notion of African sovereignty, abundantly recognized in early exchanges, can fundamentally change our understanding of African polities and African subjects. Herman Bennett is especially sensitive to the multisited nature of the contests set in motion by colonial encounters.

In the process, Iberians developed an understanding of Africa's political landscape in which they recognized specific sovereigns, plotted the extent and nature of their polities, and grouped subjects according to their ruler. Bennett mines the historical archives of Europe and Africa to reinterpret the first century of sustained African-European interaction.


These encounters were not simple economic transactions. Unlike other areas of western Europe, slavery played a significant role in Iberian society at the dawn of the early modern era.

A comparable scenario existed in parts of southern Spain; 44, slaves made up nearly 10 percent of the population of the entire archbishopric of Seville in Rural slave labor in Iberia during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries mainly involved herding livestock, guarding fields and flocks, clearing land, and harvesting and processing crops. Enslaved people also commonly worked as sailors and boatmen on small vessels designed for coastal trade and river traffic.


In urban areas, slaves performed a wide range of occupations, laboring as artisans and apprentices, domestic servants, stevedores and porters, construction workers, and street vendors. In early modern Iberia, slavery was not exclusively associated with racial categories as it would be in the colonial Americas.

Why Did Europeans Enslave Africans?

One recent study suggests that as many as , to , African captives may have been transported to Spain and Portugal during the two centuries from to Many enslaved women and men in Iberia were Muslims born in North Africa or the eastern Mediterranean, either captured abroad or purchased as slaves in foreign or local markets. Given the prominence of sub-Saharan Africans among other ethnic minorities in early modern Spain and Portugal, and the significant role of slavery in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Iberian society, it should come as no surprise that Africans and people of African descent participated in Iberian efforts to colonize the Americas from the very beginning.

When Cabral first landed in Brazil, he sent a black sailor ashore to attempt to communicate with indigenous people. During the s, Portuguese vessels trading for brazilwood along the Brazilian coast likewise employed small numbers of black mariners, both free and enslaved. Though North African, eastern Mediterranean, and morisco slaves were common in Iberia, the Spanish Crown repeatedly prohibited their transportation to the Americas for fear of spreading Islam to the fledgling colonies.