Lokken LASA 2003 - Latin American Studies Association

Sugar Plantations and African Origins in Colonial Guatemala, 1650-1720* Paul Lokken, Bryant College Prepared for delivery at the 2003 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, Dallas, Texas, March 27-29, 2003 African immigration to colonial Guatemala played a key role in the early formation of the population known in modern times as ladino. Nowhere was this more the case than in the region surrounding Lake Amatitlán, just south of present-day Guatemala City and home during the seventeenth century to several large sugar plantations worked by hundreds of enslaved Africans and their American-born descendants. The first decades of the century saw a wave of immigration into that territory from West Central Africa in particular, as slave imports into mainland Spanish America peaked. Thereafter, descendants of those immigrants moved increasingly into the population of villages near the sugar plantations. The steadily growing sector of that population comprised neither of indigenous village tributaries nor Spaniards was at the same time beginning to be identified collectively with the term gente ladina. Free individuals of partial African origins, defined as mulato/a libre in most contemporary documentation, dominated that sector numerically in the Amatitlán area.1 The demographic impact of the African presence in the Amatitlán region during the seventeenth century can be documented with reasonable certainty, although the ingenio, marriage, and other records used to do so here hardly approach either completeness or infallibility. The precise economic, social, and cultural impact of that presence is more difficult to discern on the basis of the limited sources available. This paper focuses primarily on outlining the contours of the demographic processes in which the region’s people of African origins were caught up during the seventeenth century. By providing glimpses into the daily lives of some of those people, however, it also reveals the degree to which they were not members of a tiny, peripheral group on the margins of seventeenth-century Guatemalan society, but rather at the center of that society’s production and reproduction. Sugar and Angolans Looking back on his experiences as a parish priest in the villages of San Juan Amatitlán and San Miguel Petapa during the 1630s, the English renegade and exDominican friar Thomas Gage recalled a local sugar plantation that “seemed to be a little town by itself for the many cottages and thatched houses of Blackamoor slaves which belong unto it, who may be above a hundred, men, women, and children.”2 The property of which he spoke carried the formal name of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, but was more commonly known as the “Anís” ingenio, a corruption of the name of its founder, * The temporal focus of this paper has shifted since first proposed, and now rests heavily on the first half of the seventeenth century. A better title might be “Sugar Plantations and African Origins in Mid-Colonial Guatemala.” Research was funded in part by a Beveridge grant from the American Historical Association. 1 The old notion that “mulato” must have carried the meaning of mestizo in colonial Guatemala because there were so few Africans there is no longer tenable. For an example of this claim, see Arturo Taracena Arriola, “El vocablo ‘Ladino’ en Guatemala (S.XVI-XIX),” in Jorge Luján Muñoz, ed., Historia y antropología de Guatemala: ensayos en honor de J. Daniel Contreras R. (Guatemala: Universidad de San Carlos, 1982), 89-104, esp. 96-99. 2 Thomas Gage, Travels in the New World, J. Eric S. Thompson, ed. (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1958), 203-204.


Juan González Donis, who had begun producing sugar on property near San Juan Amatitlán during the late sixteenth century.3 By the time that property passed to the heirs of González Donis in 1621, it was the site of “un poderoso ingenio y haziendas de cañaverales donde se haze mucho azúcar.”4 The size of its workforce was actually underestimated by Gage a decade later, despite his reputation as an observer who routinely exaggerated for purposes of encouraging an English invasion of Central America. According to the record of an inventory drawn up in 1630, 191 slaves of both sexes and all ages resided on the plantation. 5 The same notarial source records the concession by various members of the González Donis clan of control over the massive sugar operation to Pedro Crespo: son-in-law of the deceased patriarch, postmaster of the realm, and, eventually, key benefactor--by means of a large bequest in his will--of the Universidad de San Carlos.6 Gage’s stay in Guatemala during the years 1627-1637 coincided with the era in which forced African immigration into mainland Spanish America as a whole reached its height, an era lasting roughly from 1595 to 1640. The number for African arrivals to Spanish America during those decades is one of the few figures to have been revised sharply upward since Philip Curtin made his now-classic estimates,7 and evidence from Guatemalan sugar plantations certainly bears out at the local level the sense that the early seventeenth century witnessed a notable spike in African immigration. The emergence of operations like the Anís ingenio as major enterprises precisely at that time no doubt intensified demand for imported African labor in and around Santiago de Guatemala, where traffic in slaves had previously been quite light.8 Most Africans arriving in Central


Juan José Falla, Extractos de escrituras públicas, años 1567 a 1648, Archivo General de Centro América, vol. 1 (Guatemala: Editorial Amigos del País, 1994), 21. 4 Antonio Vásquez de Espinosa, Compendio y descripción de las Indias Occidentales, Charles Upson Clark, ed., Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections vol. 108 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1948), 206; Juan José Falla, Extractos de escrituras públicas: años 1543 a 1659, Archivo General de Centroamérica, vol. 2 (Guatemala: Editorial Amigos del País, Fundación para la Cultura y el Desarrollo, 1996), 285-286. 5 Archivo General de Centro América (hereafter AGCA), A1.20. 536. fols. 296v.-302 (1630). 6 AGCA, A1.20. 536. fols. 255-262. On Crespo’s bequest in favor of the university, which was finally established in 1681, see Falla, Extractos, 1: 456; Francisco Vázquez, Crónica de la Provincia del Santísimo Nombre de Jesús de Guatemala de la Orden de Nuestro Seráfico Padre San Francisco en el Reino de la Nueva España, 4 vols., 2nd ed., Biblioteca “Goathemala” 14-17 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografía e Historia, 1937), 4: 375; J. Joaquín Pardo, Efemérides para escribir la historia de la muy noble y muy leal ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros del reino de Guatemala (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografía e Historia, 1944), 57, 76. 7 In his recent reassessment of the Atlantic slave trade’s numbers, David Eltis accepts Enriqueta Vila Vilar’s 1977 estimates of 268,200 arrivals to Spanish America between 1595 and 1640 (30 percent of this total arriving during the last half-decade of the sixteenth century alone). Curtin’s figure for the period 1595-1640 was 132,600. See David Eltis, “The Volume and Structure of the Transatlantic Slave Trade: A Reassessment,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d Series, 58:1 (2001): 24; Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 23-25. Robin Blackburn also cites Vila’s figures in The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 14921800 (London: Verso, 1997), 143. 8 An end-of-century surge in imports due at least in part to the expansion of sugar might help explain the significant discrepancy between Robinson Herrera’s numbers for slaves (249) traded in Santiago during the period 1544-1587, and Christopher Lutz’s estimate that more than 1,000 slaves lived in the city in the 1590s. See Robinson Herrera, “The African Slave Trade in Early Santiago,” Urban History Workshop


America during the sixteenth century had ended up in the mining areas of Honduras and Nicaragua, but they may increasingly have been diverted to areas near the capital of the Audiencia as silver production declined while sugar expanded.9 Evidence for a significant wave of immigration appears in the 1630 inventory from the Anís ingenio. At least ninety of the ingenio’s enslaved residents--about half the total and some two-thirds of the 137 slaves identified as being 18 years of age or older-are likely to have been African immigrants. The key position of West Central Africa in the Atlantic slave trade by the early seventeenth century, reflected in the arrival to Central America of at least four slaveships from that region during the period 1613-1622 alone,10 is revealed in the composition of the immigrant population on the ingenio. No fewer than 48 of the new arrivals were listed as “angola,” with 16 others defined either as “anchico” or “congo.”11 The skewed sex ratio on the plantation, meanwhile, mirrored Table 1. Ascribed Origins of 73 African Immigrants on the Anís Ingenio, 1630*

Angola Anchico Vran (Bran) Congo Vanon (Bañon)

Men 33 9 4 3 2

Women 15 2 2 2 1

Source: AGCA, A1.20. 536. fols. 296v-302. *Includes only the five most common “ethnic” labels listed in the inventory.

rather faithfully an especially notorious demographic characteristic of the transatlantic trade in humans.12 One hundred and twenty-eight men and boys outnumbered 63 women and girls almost precisely two-to-one. Similar demographic circumstances pertained on other sugar plantations for which extensive, roughly contemporary information is available. When Gonzalo de Peralta died in 1625, the inventory of a trapiche he owned near Petapa named 23 slaves: Review 4 (1998): 7; Christopher H. Lutz, Santiago de Guatemala, 1541-1773: City, Caste, and the Colonial Experience (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), 242. 9 Murdo J. Macleod, Spanish Central America: A Socioeconomic History, 1520-1720 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), 60-61, 148; Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales, “Economía y sociedad en Centroamérica (1540-1680),” in Julio César Pinto Soria, ed., Historia General de Centroamérica, vol. 2, 2nd ed. (San José: FLACSO, 1994), 191. Macleod notes that silver production declined after 1584. 10 On the four slaveships mentioned, see AGCA, A3.5. 67. 1291 (1613); AGCA, A1.20. 4553. 38611 (1614); AGCA, A1.56. 5356. 45251 (1622); Lutz, Santiago, 85. Lutz identifies six additional shiploads of slaves whose origins are unclear for the period 1615-1628. On West Central Africa’s place in the trade, see Eltis, “Volume and Structure,” 33, 44; John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1680 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 118. 11 There were several other slaves of probable West Central African origins as well. In attempting to track down the geographical or “ethnic” referents of the more obscure labels I have relied especially on the maps and map sources in Thornton, Africa and Africans, xii-xxxviii. 12 Leslie B. Rout, Jr., The African Experience in Spanish America: 1502 to the Present Day (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), pp. 71-72.


14 men and boys and 9 women and girls. Eleven of 16 adults listed in the inventory were identified as West Central African in origin: four men and three women as Angolan, and three men and one woman as “congo/a.”13 A few years earlier, an inventory from an ingenio located along the Guacalate River near Escuintla, subject of a family dispute between the prominent merchant Francisco de Mesa and his daughter and son-in-law, indicated that at least 18 of the 28 slaves listed were immigrants. West Central Africans dominated the ranks of the newcomers in this labor force as well, but there were also several individuals identified by diverse West African origins--Mandinga, Bañon, Berbisi, Biafara, and Balanta--and one Pedro “Mazanbique.” Remarkably, just three of the 28 slaves listed were female.14 Demographic conditions akin to those evident on the Anís, Peralta, and Mesa properties presumably also existed on Guatemala’s other large sugar operations during the first decades of the seventeenth century. Those operations included the ingenio of Esteban de Zavaleta, near Petapa, said by Gage to employ about 60 slaves;15 an Augustinian trapiche in the vicinity, home to another 20 slaves;16 and the extensive Dominican operation at San Jerónimo, north in the district of Verapaz, where perhaps more than 150 slaves already toiled on a complex that would eventually be the largest sugar-producing enterprise in Guatemala.17 It should be noted that sugar was hardly the only employer of slave labor in the region; the capital probably held far more slaves in the early seventeenth century than all of the ingenios and trapiches combined, while many others worked in twos and threes in rural household labor and on indigo obrajes and other agricultural enterprises.18 Sugar production, though, was the only local economic activity that regularly concentrated large numbers of Africans and their descendants together in close-knit residential settings. As such, the impact of African immigration may have been especially profound in areas immediately surrounding plantations. The plantations themselves, as Gage noted, often seemed to be self-contained communities. This may have been particularly the case during a time of high immigration, when large numbers of newly arrived Africans had yet to develop extensive social networks outside the narrow bounds of the properties on which they worked. The inventories cited above reveal that, where possible, immigrants were involved in family relationships internal to the plantations themselves. There was, however, a major and obvious barrier to the formation of heterosexual family units--a rare area of mutual 13

AGCA, A1.43. 5925. 51614 (1625). AGCA, A1.15. 4103. 32523 (1619). The ascribed origins of the immigrants: six “angola,” four “congo,” two “mandinga,” two “vanon,” one “biafara,” one “valanda,” one “vervesi,” one “mazanbique.” 15 Gage calls Zavaleta “Sebastián,” but notarial records indicate that his name was Esteban. See Gage, Travels, 203; Falla, Extractos, 1: 344-345, 363. 16 Gage, Travels, 203. This may formerly have been the Peralta property. 17 Juan José Falla, Extractos de escrituras públicas: años 1538 a 1657, Archivo General de Centroamérica, vol. 3 (Guatemala: Editorial Amigos del País, Fundación para la Cultura y el Desarrollo, 2001), 37-38; Milagros Ciudad Suárez, Los dominicos, un grupo de poder en Chiapas y Guatemala, siglos XVI y XVII (Sevilla: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, 1996), 264; Christophe Belaubre, “Poder y redes sociales en Centroemérica: el caso de la orden de los dominicos (1757-1829),” Mesoamérica 41 (2001): 5253. 18 Lutz, Santiago, 242; Falla, Extractos, 2: 102, 158, 160, 194; 3: 12; Paul Thomas Lokken, “From Black to Ladino: People of African Descent, Mestizaje, and Racial Hierarchy in Rural Colonial Guatemala, 16001730” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, 2000), Chapter 2, esp. 45-48. 14


interest for most slaves and slaveowners--and that was the demographic imbalance between women and men. Both aspects of plantation life were evident in varying degrees on the Mesa, Peralta, and Anís properties. On the Mesa ingenio, the one woman clearly identified as an African immigrant, María “angola,” was noted to be the wife of Pedro Mazanbique. The two had at least one child, Juana, not mentioned in the original inventory but listed during the course of a later inspection by officials charged with reassessing the property’s holdings. A second woman, “Ysavel esclava negra,” was identified as the wife of Antón García, also labeled simply as a “black slave.” These two may or may not have been immigrants; they were among the few slaves on the property who were identified neither by specific African “ethnic” origins nor as criollo/a. The third enslaved adult woman on the ingenio, a “mulata esclava criolla” named Agustina, appears to have stood apart socially from the others. She was not identified as the partner of any of the remaining 23 men on the property. Notably, only two of those men were classified, like her, as mulatto.19 The Mesa ingenio clearly provided few opportunities for its enslaved male residents to participate in heterosexual family formation within the confines of the property’s African labor force. At least five of those men, as a consequence, had forged relationships with women who were neither enslaved nor, with one exception, African in origin. The wives of the two slaves who were listed explicitly as skilled workers-Gregorio, the maestro de azúcar, and the carretero Juan Grande--were identified as indias.20 Two other enslaved men also had “Indian” partners, including Antón the Angolan, the only one of the four to be clearly defined as a newcomer to Guatemala. Another Angolan, Pablo, was alone in having a free partner of African origins: Inés, negra libre. Pablo and Inés made for a rare couple in Guatemala, where free women of “pure” African origins were always scarce.21 The inventory of the Peralta trapiche offers a somewhat different picture from the one that emerges from the Mesa property’s records, demonstrating that obstacles to the formation of families within the slave population itself were not always all but insurmountable. Nineteen of the 23 slaves named in the Peralta records belonged to one or another of a total of six heterosexual family units organized within the bounds of the property’s slave population, although just two of those families included any children--at least any who remained on the property. One of these multigenerational families included the “Congo” slaves Mateo and Agustina, both said to be about 40, and their four children, who ranged in age from three to roughly 18 years. The other was comprised of parents named Margarita and Antón--the latter identified somewhat oddly as “bran de angola”--and three children of indeterminate age.22 The apparent success of these two sets of parents in establishing cohesive and relatively large households must be balanced against the ever-present threat of family break-up. That threat, very real despite the famed protections of Spanish slave law, 23 is 19

AGCA, A1.15. 4103. 32523. The women were most likely to have been Pipil in this area. 21 AGCA, A1.15. 4103. 32523. 22 AGCA, A1.43. 5925. 51614. One of the 23 slaves listed was no longer owned by Peralta. See below. 23 For an examination of Spanish slave law in the Guatemalan context, see Beatriz Palomo de Lewin, “La esclavitud negra en Guatemala durante los siglos XVI y XVII” in Ernesto Chinchilla Aguilar, ed., Dominación española, desde la Conquista hasta 1700, vol. 2 in Jorge Luján Muñoz, ed., Historia General de Guatemala, 6 vols. (Guatemala: Asociación de Amigos del País, 1994), 281-282. 20


more than evident in the fact that Justino, the oldest of Mateo and Agustina’s four children, no longer lived with the family in 1625. He had, in fact, resided in the capital for three years with a new owner, the Bishop of Guatemala. Legal maneuvering upon the death of an owner could destabilize slave families as well. Margarita and her three children, evidently the property of Gonzalo Peralta’s widow, had been removed to Santiago by the time the inventory was drawn up. Antón, meanwhile, remained on the trapiche.24 The Peralta inventory confirms that enslaved women on early seventeenth-century Guatemalan sugar plantations--always in the minority--were almost certain to be involved in a conjugal relationship with a man who was a slave on the same property. The six family units on the Peralta trapiche involved all of the enslaved adult women on it. At least four of those women had come from Africa, while none possessed the mulata status that may have set the unpartnered criolla, Agustina, apart from the rest of the slaves on the Mesa ingenio. The degree to which masters benefited in other than a purely reproductive sense when slaves were able to form families, meanwhile, is indicated by the fact that two of the four men among the Peralta trapiche’s slave population who appeared to have no family relationships within that population had escaped before the inventory was effected, and remained absent.25 The patterns discerned among the Peralta slaves were more or less repeated among the residents of the much larger Anís plantation. At least 33 of the 37 women said to be 18 years or older, along with three 16-year-old girls, were listed as “married to” or “wife of” men who were also slaves on the plantation.26 No fewer than 130 of the plantation’s 191 slaves, including all 54 of those under the age of 18, were linked by family ties to other slaves on the property. The precise number of heterosexual family units internal to the slave workforce itself is difficult to ascertain due to inconsistencies in the use of names in the inventory, but there were at least 40 and as many as 46. Roughly half of the families were multigenerational, with six involving three or more children.27 The “little town by itself” described by Gage, thus, indeed had some internal cohesiveness as a community. The stark imbalance between the sexes, however, left some two-thirds of the adult men on the plantation with little or no possibility of finding a partner among the property’s women. The Anís inventory, unlike the Mesa one, gives no hint of the relationships that may have been sustained by any of those 64 men outside of the ingenio’s slave population.28 Such relationships surely existed, though, no doubt contributing in substantial measure to the emergence in the Amatitlán region of a free non-indigenous population that was largely identified as mulatto.


AGCA, A1.43. 5925. 51614. AGCA, A1.43. 5925. 51614. 26 Two of the other adult women were identified as partners of men whose names do not appear in the list of male slaves, and the remaining two were listed as soltera. 27 AGCA, A1.20. 536. fols. 296v.-302. 28 Three of the 64 had children on the property, but no partner, having perhaps lost spouses to death or sale. 25


Sugar and Mulattos By 1640, forced African migration to Guatemala had largely ceased. Imports remained low for the rest of the century.29 Slave-driven sugar production, however, appeared to lose none of its vitality. A visita of ingenios and trapiches conducted by the oidor don Gerónimo Chacón Abarca y Piedra in 1679-1680 reveals that the region was then home to five ingenios employing more than 100 slaves each, and at least 15 smaller operations scattered throughout the corregimientos of the Valley of Guatemala and Escuintepeque, on which some 230 additional slaves toiled.30 The major center of production continued to be the region surrounding Lake Amatitlán, home to four of the largest five ingenios. The fifth, San Jerónimo, was probably the largest operation in Guatemala by the late seventeenth century.31 It was not mentioned in the visita, however, which explains in part the focus in this paper on the Amatitlán area. One of the more notable features of Guatemalan sugar production after midcentury was the crucial role that religious orders, particularly the Dominicans, played in it. By 1665, the Dominican order owned three of the five largest ingenios in the region, having added the Anís property and the nearby Rosario ingenio to an expanding stable of economic interests that had long included San Jerónimo.32 A fourth, smaller ingenio in the corregimiento of Escuintepeque, identified simply as “Santo Domingo” and perhaps the former Mesa property, was also under the order’s control by this time. The visita of 1679-1680 reported that the Anís and Rosario properties then held 119 and 111 slaves, respectively, while the smaller operation in Escuintepeque employed thirty.33 The Dominicans were not alone in exploiting the profits to be gained in the production of sugar. A Jesuit-owned ingenio named La Santíssima Trinidad, located near San Cristóbal Amatitlán (today Palín), was reported to be employing 108 slaves in 1679, making it a rival to its Dominican counterparts.34 The Mercedarians and Augustinians, too, were active participants, again in the Amatitlán region. The Mercedarian ingenio,


AGCA, A1.23. 1517. 10072. fols. 108-108v (1646); A1.23. 2197. 15751. fol. 97 (1664); A1.23. 2199. 15755. fol. 50 (1670); Frederick P. Bowser, “Africans in Spanish American Colonial Society,” in Leslie Bethell, ed., Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 362; Lutz, Santiago, 86. 30 “Autos hechos sobre la visita de ingenios y trapiches en que trabajan indios hechos con comisión de la Real Audiencia por el señor doctor don Jerónimo Chacón Abarca y Piedra, oidor de ella, por ante Miguel de Porres escribano de provincia, año de 1679,” Archivo General de Indias (hereafter AGI), Audiencia de Guatemala 27, fols. 57v-124v. Many thanks to Christopher Lutz for having graciously provided me with a transcription of this document. This visita has been examined very usefully before in J.C. Pinto Soria, El valle central de Guatemala (1524-1821): un análisis acerca del origen histórico-económico del regionalismo en Centroamérica, Colección Estudios Universitarios 31 (Guatemala: Editorial Universitaria, 1988), and Jorge Luján Muñoz, Agricultura, mercado, y sociedad en el corregimiento del valle de Guatemala (Guatemala: author’s publication, 1988). I make minor corrections to their numbers below. 31 I am assuming that San Jerónimo’s slave population had, if anything, grown since the 1630s. 32 According to Francisco Ximénez, Fray Francisco Morán purchased the Rosario property as prior of the convent in Santiago before 1663, while Fray José de Ocampo purchased the Anís holding as prior of the convent at San Juan Amatitlán sometime before 1665. Elsewhere, Ximénez describes improvements made later at Rosario by Fray Francisco Gallegos. See Francisco Ximénez, Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala de la Orden de Predicadores, Libro 5, Biblioteca “Goathemala” 29 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografía e Historia, 1973), 104, 210. 33 “Visita de ingenios y trapiches, 1679” fols. 71-72, 81v-82, 93-93v. 34 “Visita de ingenios y trapiches, 1679” fols. 72-72v.


San Ramón de la Vega, possessed 84 slaves in 1679, while the Augustinian trapiche, San Nicolás, remained the relatively modest enterprise Gage had seen, with 28 slaves.35 The only major sugar-producing operation not owned by a religious order in the late seventeenth century was the one formerly belonging to Esteban de Zavaleta. When Zavaleta died in 1635, the property passed to his heirs, Juan and Domingo Arrivillaga, who within four years were employing more than 80 slaves on it.36 The operation evidently continued to expand over the next several decades; there were 115 slaves attached to it in 1675, by which time don Tomás de Arrivillaga Coronado was the owner, and 121 in 1679.37 The creole chronicler Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán, himself the owner of a trapiche in the Amatitlán area and a jaundiced observer of the economic expansion of the religious orders, averred with more than a touch of vicarious pride that the family-run Arrivillaga property, near to his own, was “the most outstanding” of all of the area’s ingenios.38 Altogether, the nine ingenios and trapiches surveyed by royal officials in the Amatitlán region employed nearly 600 slaves in 1679 (see Table 2).39 At least 255 “free” laborers also worked on these properties, whose owners were furthermore allotted a total of 440 indios en repartimiento, most from the nearby villages of San Juan and San Cristóbal Amatitlán, San Miguel and Santa Inés Petapa, and Santa Catarina Pinula. The village tributaries sent out on a weekly basis from these communities, mostly Pokomam Maya, were to be employed only on the wheat labores that the owners of the ingenios and trapiches also maintained. As the visita determined, this law was regularly flouted. The indigenous tributary population of the five villages mentioned probably totaled at least 8,000 at the time the visita was made, and may well have been substantially higher.40 Slaves on sugar plantations, thus, comprised far less than ten percent of the total population in the region. Records of diligencias matrimoniales involving local residents, however, suggest that people of African origins, both slave and free, easily dominated the local non-indigenous minority. These records also hint at the processes by which plantation slaves moved their descendants into the surrounding free population.41


“Visita de ingenios y trapiches, 1679” fols. 82-83v. Falla, Extractos, 1: 363; 2: 115, 178. 37 “Autos hechos sobre la visita de los ingenios y trapiches de hacer azúcar de este valle de Guatemala [por] el señor doctor don Jacinto Roldán de la Cueva oidor y alcalde del crimen de la Real Audiencia que reside en la ciudad de Santiago, escribano Bérnabe Rojel, año de 1675,” in “Visita de ingenios y trapiches, 1679,” fol. 54; “Visita de ingenios y trapiches, 1679,” fols. 84-85. 38 Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida: discurso historial y demostración natural, material, militar, y política del reyno de Guatemala, 3 vols, Biblioteca “Goathemala” 6-8 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografía e Historia, 1932-1933), 1: 224; Macleod, Spanish Central America, 304. 39 I have included Pedro Arochiguí’s trapiche near Cerro Redondo in the Amatitlán region, although it lay some distance to the southeast. For helpful maps, see Luján, Agricultura, 14, 77. 40 Luján, Agricultura, 26. Luján uses the relatively low multiplier of three to derive an estimate of the total indigenous population from the number of tributaries listed. 41 The diligencias are held in the Archivo Histórico Arquidiocesano “Francisco de Paula García Peláez,” Guatemala City (hereafter AHA), Section A4.16 (Informaciones Matrimoniales). A useful guide, although it leaves out the “racial” designations employed, is José Fernando Mazariegos Anleu, Indice General de Informaciones Matrimoniales en Guatemala, 1614-1900, Libro 1, Tomo 1 (Guatemala: AHA, 1999). 36


Unfortunately, there are very few of these records available for the period before 1671. One, though, which may be from 1630, lists “María Casilda esclaba,” 51, of the Anís ingenio as the intended spouse of Vicente Samayoa (whose legal status is illegible), and identifies the former as the hija legítima of Diego and María “Negros esclabos” of Table 2 Labor Force on Ingenios and Trapiches in the Amatitlán Region, 1679

Arrivillaga Anísa Rosarioa Jesuit Mercedarian Augustinian Arochiguí Fuentesb Melgarb Total



121 119 111c 108 84d 28 14e 7 2 594

43 79 57 29 17 2(18?)g 18 10 255(271?)

Indios meseros



Indios en repartimiento 92 97 28 74h 21 19 45 44 20 440

Source: “Visita de ingenios y trapiches, 1679,” AGI, Guatemala 27. For full citation, see note 30. a Dominican-owned. b Pinto does not discuss these trapiches, owned by Fuentes y Guzmán and Tomás de Melgar, presbítero. c Includes five escaped slaves. d Luján errs in giving a figure of 66. See Luján, Agricultura, 80. e Number taken from Pedro Arochiguí’s declaration, fol. 110v. Luján gives the number 12, taken from Chacón’s observations, fol. 82. See Luján, Agricultura, 80. f Almost all of the free workers on these properties were identified as mulattos and mulattas. g Chacón reported the presence of 2 free mulattas and 18 “indios meseros avecindados con mujeres y familias” (fols. 82v-83). Arochiguí said he employed 18 mestizos and mulatos libres (fol. 110v). h Pinto errs in giving a figure of 220. See Pinto, El valle central, 27.

the same property. These names do not seem to match any in the 1630 inventory of the property, which suggests that I have read the date incorrectly. The record does demonstrate, nevertheless, that the slave couples listed in that inventory were indeed able to formalize their marriages in accordance with official Church policy. It also illustrates the legal standing of slaves as witnesses in the Church’s mandatory investigations of prospective spouses.42 Luis Antonio, 44-year-old slave of the ingenio, was one of the individuals who testified on behalf of María Casilda.43 42

These investigations were intended to confirm the free will of partners and to block unions between couples the Church deemed to be too closely related to marry without a dispensation. See Antonio de Remesal, Historia general de las Indias Occidentales y particular de la gobernación de Chiapa y Guatemala, 2 vols. (Mexico: Editorial Porrúa, 1988), 2:346; Pedro de Contreras Gallardo, Manual de administrar los sanctos sacramentos a los Españoles, y naturales desta Nueua España conforme à la reforma de Paulo V. Pont. Max. (Mexico: Ioan Ruyz, 1638), 64-72; Susan Migden Socolow, The Women of Colonial Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 11. 43 AHA, A4.16, T5 1.21 (caja 192, 1618-1669): expediente 101.


Two other pre-1671 diligencias from the Amatitlán area reveal more clearly the impact of African immigration on the region’s population. The 1638 marital investigation of Vicente Solada and María Lorenza Catalán identifies the pair, and all three witnesses, as free mulattos of San Juan Amatitlán, also noting that the prospective spouses were third cousins through their mothers.44 A record from 1655, meanwhile, underscores more directly the links forged between enslaved and free populations in the plantation world. It documents the marriage of Pedro de la Cruz, “negro de nasion angola” and property of Francisco de Fuentes y Guzmán--the chronicler’s father, who eventually passed the trapiche near Petapa to his son--and Micaela de la Cruz, a “mulata libre” raised on the Anís property but by then a resident of the Jesuit ingenio. The witnesses included three slaves--Domingo de Fuentes, “Angolan”; Diego de la Cruz, “black”; and Pascual de la Cruz, “mulatto”--and the prospective bride’s brother, a free mulatto named Nicolás Manuel.45 Evidence drawn from 48 diligencias matrimoniales examined at ten-year intervals from 1671 to 1711, a period for which a more extensive although clearly incomplete data set is available in the archive, indicates that the impact of earlier African immigration on the population of the Amatitlán region had been profound (see Table 3).46 Two-thirds of marital partners appearing in the records were identified as “negro/a” or “mulato/a,” and more than 20 percent as slaves.47 It is significant in light of immigration patterns that only three of 21 marital partners who were identified as slaves appeared after 1691, and none of the eight slaves who were defined as black.48 The data provide the sense of a slave population on the decline numerically by the beginning of the eighteenth century, and increasingly of plural origins. The free people of African descent who appear as partners, meanwhile, were identified almost entirely as mulatto throughout the period examined, and outnumbered slaves two-to-one overall.49 The growth of this free population of plural origins probably owed a good deal to the extensive development--in light of the severe demographic imbalances on plantations noted earlier--of relationships between enslaved men and free


AHA, A4.16, T5 1.21: 96. AHA, A4.16, T5 1.21: 63. 46 AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12 (caja 157, 1670-1671), expedientes 94, 102, 125, 146, 190, 191, and 195; T4 1.11 (caja 197, 1671), expedientes 216 and 293; T4 105 (caja 2, 1680-1681), expedientes 244, 252, 271, 309, and 361; T5 106 (caja 200, 1691), expedientes 16, 22, 23, 24, 32, 33, 61, 80, 81, 82, 95, 97, 100, 102, 104, 108, 115, and 147; T5 107 (caja 205, 1691), expedientes 255, 295, and 313; T6 105 (caja 77, 1701), expedientes 2368, 2392, 2413, 2417, and 2421; T7 104 (caja 110, 1711), expedientes 3937, 3940, 3988, 4015, 4059, 4070, and one unnumbered; and T7 103 (caja 124, 1711), expediente 4106. These 48 records were produced in or involve residents of San Miguel Petapa (17), San Juan Amatitlán (8), the Arrivillaga ingenio (6), the Jesuit ingenio (6), the Anís ingenio (4), the Rosario ingenio (3), the Augustinian trapiche (3), and Santa Inés Petapa (1). 47 It is crucial to note that “indios tributarios,” who made up the majority of the population, turned up in these documents only when marrying outside the village and/or the tributary population. Thus the diligencias primarily reflect the marriage patterns of the non-indigenous population. 48 When witnesses are included, 34 of the 40 slaves who appear in the records show up in or before 1691. Eleven of 19 black slaves appear in 1671 or 1681, but just one of 21 mulatto slaves appears before 1691. 49 The term “mulato” was used to define children of African-indigenous as well as African-Spanish unions in Guatemala during this period. “Zambo” rarely appears. 45


women of indigenous or mixed descent.50 The children of Pedro de la Cruz and Micaela de la Cruz, for example, would have been free from birth, owing to the “law of the womb.” The operation of this law provides a clear explanation for the fact that none of Table 3. Marriage Partners in the Amatitlán region, 1671-1711

1671 1681 1691 1701 1711 Total

BS MS FB FM M I IL IT ME SP UN Total 2 1 13 1 1 18 2 4 1 1 2 10 4 10 16 1 1 2 6 1 1 42 2 1 2 1 4 10 1 3 1 1 2 3 3 2 16 8 13 2 38 2 4 7 2 9 4 7 96

Source: See notes 41, 46. BS=Black Slave, MS=Mulatto or Mulatta Slave, FB=Free Black, FM=Free Mulatto or Mulatta, M=Mulatto or Mulatta (no other designation); I=Indio/a (no other designation), IL=Indio/a Laborío/a, IT=Indio/a Tributario/a, ME=Mestizo/a, SP=Spanish, UN=Undefined

the eight enslaved women who appear in the diligencias examined here was marrying a free man, while five of the 13 enslaved men were marrying free women (see Table 4).51 Although direct evidence of this phenomenon is for the most part lacking for the pre1671 period, and next to nothing is known concretely about non-marital relationships at any point in the seventeenth century,52 the scant evidence that is available from, for example, the Mesa ingenio in 1619 suggests that such relationships had long been quite common. Planters’ efforts to prevent the loss of “property” via such relationships may have intensified as the drought in new imports persisted. Marital investigations involving slaves from the Arrivillaga ingenio appear to substantiate this notion. There are two such records for the year 1671, produced in Santiago on the same day. Both list the male partner as a slave of the ingenio and the female partner as free.53 In all three of the records available from 1691, meanwhile--again filed on a single day in Santiago--both partners were slaves of the ingenio.54 The Jesuits, too, appear to have discovered a new interest in marriage between their slaves by 1691. No records involving Jesuit slaves as


Master-slave sexual relations also contributed to the emergence of a “mulatto” population. Gage recalled the mule-train owner Juan Palomeque, who purchased enslaved women whom he wished to exploit sexually and “hasted to fill [the Mixco area] with bastards of all sorts and colors.” See Gage, Travels, 199. 51 Outside the plantation zone, most enslaved men married free women. See Lutz, Santiago, 88-89, 94; Paul Lokken, “Marriage as Slave Emancipation in Seventeenth-Century Rural Guatemala,” The Americas 58:2 (2001): 175-200. 52 The likely demographic importance of non-marital relationships is illustrated in Lutz’ findings that rates of illegitimacy in Santiago ran, with few exceptions, at rates greater than 50 percent among gente ordinaria during the seventeenth century. See Lutz, Santiago, Appendix 3. 53 AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12: 190 and 191. 54 AHA, A4.16, T5 106: 80, 81, and 82. The one Arrivillaga record from 1681 also involves two slaves.


partners appear in the sample before that year, when suddenly three, all listing both partners as slaves of the Jesuit ingenio, turn up.55 The data presented in Tables 3 and 4 should be taken at best as a very rough guide to demographic trends in the Amatitlán region, given the widely varying availability of records for different years. It is interesting to note, nonetheless, that the proportion of all partners identified by African origins falls from fully 89 percent of the total in 1671 to just over 30 percent in 1711, while the mestizo/a, español/a, and undefined categories, empty before 1691, hold 50 percent of all partners two decades later. The shift is less striking, but still evident, among the witnesses to marital investigations: half were defined Table 4 Marriage Sample from the Amatitlán region, 1671-1711 Women BS MS FB FM M I Men BS MS FB FM M I IL IT ME ES U

2 1

1 4



1 1 13


1 1

1 3


3 1

1 1


1 1 1 1



2 1

Source: See notes 41, 46. BS=Black Slave, MS=Mulatto or Mulatta Slave, FB=Free Black, FM=Free Mulatto or Mulatta, M=Mulatto or Mulatta (no other designation); I=Indio/a (no other designation), IL=Indio/a Laborío/a, IT=Indio/a Tributario/a, ME=Mestizo/a, SP=Spanish, UN=Undefined

as black or mulatto in 1671, and less than one-third in 1711. There were, of course, individuals identified as Spaniards living in the Amatitlán region long before 1691; some of them show up among the witnesses in earlier marital investigations. It is not unreasonable to suppose, though, that their ranks may have been swelled over time by people of partial African ancestry, who increasingly slipped the bounds of classification as mulattos at the same time as the “black” population all but disappeared. One thing is certain. There were relatively few African immigrants remaining in the slave population of the Amatitlán region by the end of the seventeenth century. Domingo de España, transported from Cape Verde to Spain around 1657 and then on to Guatemala, where he ended up on the Arrivillaga ingenio, appears to have been the only immigrant among ten marital partners and more than 20 witnesses who are defined as 55

AHA, A4.16, T5 106: 61, 100, and 115.


“black” in the records examined, and he showed up in 1671, at age 30. Lutz notes that small numbers of African immigrants continued to turn up in Santiago’s parish registers throughout the century, but their impact in the main sugar-producing area of the region appears to have been minimal.56 By the 1690s, most slaves, let alone free people of color, were at least two generations removed from Africa, whose natives had so dominated the populations of Guatemalan sugar plantations just sixty years before. Mulattos and Ladinos It would be a mistake to imagine that a significant process of biological and cultural mestizaje was initiated in the Amatitlán region only upon the arrival in the early seventeenth century of large numbers of African newcomers. Such a process had been operating locally ever since the Spanish invasion, with an intensity that was probably unmatched anywhere else in Guatemala outside the capital and its immediate environs. What Lutz calls the “gradual decay” of local Pokomam villages was well underway already by the mid-sixteenth century, due both to the early and relatively substantial influx of both Spanish and African outsiders into the region and the crucial role its indigenous labor force and agricultural production played in sustaining the economy of nearby Santiago.57 One might see evidence of that “decay”--or, if one prefers, Fernando Ortíz’ “transculturation”58 --in Gage’s description of Pokomam villagers “us[ing] our Morris dances, and Blackamoor dances with sonajas (rattles) in their hands.” More telling, perhaps, is the same observer’s recollection of witnessing bull-baiting contests in Petapa on the feast of San Miguel “with some Spaniards and Blackamoors on horseback, and other Indians on foot.”59 The latter observation speaks volumes about the nature of social relationships in Guatemala’s most important plantation zone. Simply put, the Africans coming into the Amatitlán region before 1640 were undoubtedly quick to discover that the status of “slave” did not, in Guatemala, necessarily equal what Orlando Patterson has famously called “social death.”60 Indeed, slaves of African origins often found themselves supervising indigenous village tributaries on the plantations and adjacent wheat farms, as the 1679 visita reveals. The reverse situation, to my knowledge, never occurred. Charged with imposing the will of Spanish masters on indigenous workers, these supervisors were directly responsible for extracting the maximum amount of labor possible. Not surprisingly, repartimiento laborers complained bitterly about abuses by their black and mulatto bosses whenever they had the chance.61 56

Lutz, Santiago, 86. Lutz, Santiago, 53, 270 note 27; Luján, Agricultura, Chapters 4-7; Pinto, El valle central, 17-42; Azzo Ghidinelli, “Reconstrucción histórica de las relaciones interétnicas en el área pocomam oriental durante el período colonial, Guatemala Indígena 11:1-2 (1976): 22-35. 58 Fernando Ortíz, Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar, trans. Harriet de Onís with a new introduction by Fernando Coronil (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1995), 97-103. 59 Gage, Travels, 202, 246. 60 Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), esp. Chapter 2. 61 The 1679-1680 visita of ingenios and trapiches resulted in the imprisonment of nine labor supervisors accused of abusing indigenous workers. Eight of the nine were identified as black or mulatto, and seven as slaves. See “Visita de ingenios y trapiches, 1679,” fols. 117-124v. For a broader discussion of this issue, see Christopher Lutz and Matthew Restall, “Wolves and Sheep?: Black-Maya Relations in Colonial Times”, in Matthew Restall, ed., Black and Red: African-Native Relations in Colonial Latin America (forthcoming from University of New Mexico Press). Severo Martínez Peláez’ brief discussion of the slave 57


Spanish dependence on Africans and their descendants for assistance in controlling the indigenous population extended well beyond the realm of economic production. Gage, an honorary Spaniard while a priest in Guatemala, recalled the crucial aid he received from a “Blackamoor” named Miguel Dalva during a campaign to extirpate indigenous “idolatry” in the village of Mixco. Dalva served as a sort of bodyguard on this and other occasions to the English cleric, and his lack of trouble in acquiring weapons underscored the ineffectiveness of repeated Crown prohibitions on the arming of people of African origins.62 During the campaign in question, he was charged with organizing a force of “those Spaniards that knew the business, and some more Blackamoors, his friends” to protect Gage from possible retaliation from the families targeted in the investigation.63 One imagines that the distinctions of color and origin these “outsiders” drew among themselves meant relatively little to the local indigenous villagers. Those distinctions did, of course, mean something to Spaniards, who endeavored to maintain them by imposing legal and social disabilities on free people of African origins. In the Amatitlán region, though, neither legal nor social exclusion seems to have been enforced very effectively, if for no other reason than that there were few “Spaniards” around to do so. The social license that many free people of color apparently believed they enjoyed is well illustrated in a 1675 incident in which Lázaro del Castillo, a Spanish vecino of San Juan Amatitlán, accused a free black resident of the village named Joseph María of having abused his hospitality and insulted his wife and family. The aggrieved Spaniard claimed his generous offer of lodging to a down-at-the-heels acquaintance had been repaid by thievery and--following the offender’s ejection from the house--an assault “in word and deed” in the street outside. It “could not be right,” the plaintiff complained, “that a black man should exhibit such insolence towards Spaniards.”64 While Joseph paid for his “insolence” in this case with a sentence of permanent exile from the village, his evident lack of respect for his accuser suggests that Spanish efforts to instill a sense of inferiority in people like him had been somewhat less than successful. The Amatitlán region, in fact, was a sort of refuge for “less desirable” elements whom leading capitalinos disdained for both their origins and their unruliness, a sign no doubt that the locals did not submit properly to control by their “betters.”65 Fuentes y Guzmán, who vigorously opposed the pretensions to the status of villa of both San Juan Amatitlán and San Miguel Petapa because such a legal move would remove the two villages from Santiago’s jurisdiction, intimated that the “gran número de vecinos españoles, mulatos, mestizos y negros” in those places, vagrants all, might best be as supervisor also remains valuable, in spite of his clear desire to dispense as quickly as possible with the history of Africans in Guatemala. See Severo Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo: ensayo de interpretación de la realidad colonial guatemalteca, 13th ed. (México, D.F.: Ediciones en Marcha, 1994), 276-277. 62 See a 1663 order reminding colonists of earlier bans on the possession of weapons by “slaves, mulattos, and mestizos,” in AGCA, A1.23. 1519. 10074. fols. 108-108v. 63 Gage, Travels, 274-291. The quotation is from page 283. 64 AGCA, A1.15. 5905. 50087 (1675). 65 For a fascinating account of a local mulatta accused of sacrilege during the 1690s, see Mario Humberto Ruz, “Sebastiana de la Cruz, alias ‘La Polilla’, mulata de Petapa y madre del hijo de Dios,” Mesoamérica 23 (1992): 55-66.


employed at the remote fortresses of the realm, a common punishment for criminals.66 Other contemporary observers noted that couples living in illicit relationships--especially those which crossed presumed social and “racial” boundaries--often fled Santiago to take up residence in the Amatitlán region, undoubtedly to escape scrutiny from royal and clerical officials, and “respectable” society in general.67 One of San Juan Amatitlán’s residents in 1691 was Juan Antonio de Castellanos, offspring of one of the more scandalous relationships of the later seventeenth century: the love match involving don Pedro Henríquez de Castellanos, son of a prominent Santiago family, and Nicolasa Morán, mulatta slave of Pedro de Almengor.68 While Pedro and Nicolasa had in fact sought persistently to wed,69 other individuals in similar relationships were generally less enthusiastic about attracting the Church’s attention. In 1684, Bishop Andrés de las Navas y Quevedo tracked down a number of those people during a war on adultery in Petapa. They included Lucía de la Cruz, a free black widow who had set up house locally with a Spanish bachelor named Nicolás de Alvarado, and--perhaps more strikingly--the free mulatto Juan de Miranda, who had abandoned his wife in the capital for a relationship with the española Juana Muñoz.70 The views of Fuentes y Guzmán and other elite residents of the capital, in fact, are not likely to have reflected very accurately the local standing of the Amatitlán region’s “undesirables.” There is good reason to think that many members of the free population of African origins in the area had relatively high social status. This was not a new phenomenon, as Gage’s observations indicate. Family connections were especially likely to result in the sort of social mobility that had led the Crown in Madrid to complain as early as 1622 about posts underwritten by royal funds going to “algunas Personas de poca satisfacion como son mulatos y mestiços.”71 The very next year, Antonio Meléndez y Valdés, resident of the Petapa area and the son of Juana de Aguilar, a slave woman, had the audacity to request the rights and privileges due the illegitimate children of prominent Spaniards. His father, Capitán Gonzalo Meléndez y Valdés, a native of Asturias and the former governor of Soconusco, would no doubt have supported the petition had he still been alive. The elder Meléndez y Valdés had freed Antonio at birth, mandated that he be treated as an hidalgo “although he [was] a mulatto,” told an alguacil that his son was


Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 1: 197, 254. In 1670, for example, a married Spaniard was found to be living with a mestiza in San Juan Amatitlán after the two had been forced out of Santiago. One witness indicated that there were many such couples in town. See AGCA, A2.2. 137. 2472 (1670). 68 Juan Antonio, identified as a free mulatto, was marrying the free mulatta María de la Candelaria. Both were natives of Santiago and residents of San Juan Amatitlán. See AHA, T5 106: 147 (1691). It is perhaps significant that the final auto from Santiago dropped the candidates’ “race,” an uncommon occurrence. 69 AHA, A4.16, T4 105: 232 (1680); Falla, Extractos, 195. 70 “Visitas de don Fray Obispo Andrés de las Navas y Quevedo, 1683-1690,” AHA, Visitas Pastorales, Tomo 1, T1 63, fols. 228-228v. The Bishop sentenced a total of eighteen people to exile from the village, excepting only women who agreed either to marry or take a nun’s habit. Those who took up this offer were to be placed in depósito--restrictive seclusion--while awaiting their eventual fate. It should be noted that Spanish women had more room for maneuver than Spanish notions of “honor” would suggest. See Ann Twinam, “Honor, Sexuality, and Illegitimacy in Colonial Spanish America,” in Asunción Lavrin, ed., Sexuality and Marriage in Colonial Latin America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 124. 71 AGCA, A1.23. 4578. 39531. fols. 26v.-27. 67


“freer than I am,” and left him land near Jalpatagua, in the alcaldía mayor of Guazacapán. 72 In a sense, it is only to be expected that free mulattos would have held a wide variety of social statuses in the Amatitlán region. Who else was there to occupy the positions from which slaves and indigenous tributaries were excluded? It is perhaps more interesting to consider the degree to which some sort of “corporate identity” defined this free mulatto population.73 By the late seventeenth century, one can see evidence in the Amatitlán region of a well established and clearly defined free population of African descent, but also of a larger and more amorphous group standing apart from the indigenous tributary majority for whom distinctions based on origins were increasingly irrelevant. The diligencias matrimoniales examined here, for example, indicate the presence of a fairly strong tendency in the direction of endogamy among people identified as free mulattos: nearly three-quarters wed other individuals who were likewise defined by African origins. That endogamy, however, may have owed to nothing other than the clear demographic preponderance of free mulattos in the local population, as the evidence also shows that those mulattos were clearly willing, as well as able, to marry both mestizos and indios laboríos74 (see Table 4). Relatively few outside social pressures existed to favor rigid distinctions among these groups,75 which were in fact being lumped together locally under the term “gente ladina” as early as 1655.76 It would be wildly inaccurate, though, to claim that “ladino” had come to mean “non-Indian” in a roughly modern sense by the 1650s, or that “mulattos” and “mestizos” had become “ladinos.” The term carried complex and seemingly contradictory meanings in the late seventeenth century, and was still used most commonly in Guatemala to identify members of the indigenous population who spoke Spanish, as in the phrase “indio ladino en lengua castellana,” which appears countless times in contemporary sources. An even narrower association of the term “ladino” specifically with “indios laboríos” is evident in a 1675 letter to the Bishop of Guatemala from the prior of the Dominican monastery in San Juan Amatitlán regarding the foundation of a cofradía dedicated to the recently canonized Santa Rosa de Lima. Santa Rosa’s image in the local parish church, the prior said, was the object of veneration by “todos los Españoles, pardos y ladinos” of the community.77


AGCA, A1.29.2. 2327. 17286 (1623). It is important to note that none of the other ten slaves mentioned in Gonzalo’s will benefited from similar favor, least of all Antonio’s mother, long since sold. 73 For a useful examination of the issues involved in such an undertaking, see Herman L. Bennett, “A Research Note: Race, Slavery, and the Ambiguity of Corporate Consciousness,” Colonial Latin American Historical Review 3, no. 2 (1994): 207-213. 74 “Indians” who were not tied by tribute and labor obligations to any specific village. 75 The most significant basis for distinction was the requirement that indios laboríos and free blacks and mulattos, but not mestizos, pay the alternative tribute known as the “laborío.” 76 See testimony of Joseph de Melgar, 9 March 1655, in expediente entitled “La Iglesia del Pueblo de San Juan de Amatitlán de Guatemala,” in Crown to don Martín Carlos de Mencos, 1663, AGI, Guatemala, 72. 77 Fray Francisco de la Trinidad to the Bishop of Guatemala, 31 July 1675, AHA, A4.14, T2 109: 9. A roughly contemporary letter to the Bishop from indigenous cofrades in Almolonga makes this association even clearer, referring to the “naboríos, españoles, negros y mulatos” with whom they shared resources and then later in the same letter to “dichos Ladinos, Españoles, negros y mulatos.” See AHA, A4.14, T2 108: 21 (1664). Pardo, incidentally, appears much less often than “mulato,” but tended to be employed by people of part-African origins themselves, no doubt owing to the pejorative origins of “mulato.”


The “indio ladino y tributario” was not yet a contradiction in terms, however. Indigenous residents of San Cristóbal Amatitlán and Mataquescuintla are described in this manner in marital investigations dating from 1701.78 But the dissociation of the word “ladino” from any sort of “Indianness” was already underway. According to Fuentes y Guzmán, “ladino” was “what we call those people in Indian villages who are Spaniards, mestizos, mulattos and blacks,” while a Franciscan visita of 1689 counted 680 “personas ladinas (esto es, españoles, mestizos y mulatos)” in communities under the order’s jurisdiction. 79 The term, in other words, was beginning to emerge as a useful means of emphasizing the most carefully policed social division in colonial Guatemala: the one between the tributary “Indian” majority and everyone else. It should be noted that African immigrants, too, had long been identified as “ladino” once they had picked up the rudiments of the Spanish language and some understanding of Spanish cultural norms.80 This process of linguistic and cultural acquisition was embedded in the identification of Africans who had spent some time in Guatemala as occupying a status “entre bozal y ladino.”81 By the later seventeenth century, though, the vast majority of slaves were criollos--“ladino” from birth and not therefore, from the point of view of masters, in need of explicit designation as such. There was precedent, nonetheless, for applying the term to people of African origins. In the sugar zone surrounding Lake Amatitlán, those people clearly formed the bulk of the ladino population--if understood in Fuentes y Guzmán’s sense--during the mid-colonial era. As many as 850 people of at least partial African origins, both free and enslaved, lived and worked on the ingenios and trapiches of the area (see Table 2), and many more resided in the nearby communities of San Juan Amatitlán and San Miguel Petapa. Altogether, the non-tributary population of those two places probably numbered around a thousand in the late seventeenth century: something over 400 in the former and as many as 600 in the latter.82 Marital investigations from 1691 suggest that no less than half of that population was comprised of people defined as mulattos.83 Those same records suggest an answer to the question posed earlier about the possible existence of a “corporate identity” tied specifically to African origins. While eight of the eleven records involving residents of the two communities identify at least one partner as mulatto, only four identify both partners in this way. More telling, perhaps, are the eight records produced in San Miguel Petapa twenty years later, in 1711. 78

AHA, A4.16, T6 105: 2390 and 2443. Adriaan Van Oss’ claim that the term “indio ladino” was always used by this time to identify “Hispanicized Indians who no longer paid tribute . . . as opposed to indio tributario,” thus requires some qualification. See Adriaan C. Van Oss, Catholic Colonialism: A Parish History of Guatemala, 1524-1821 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 69-71. 79 Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2: 242; “Descripción de los conventos de la Santa Provincia del Nombre de Jesús de Guatemala, hecha el año de 1689,” transcription by J. Joaquín Pardo, in Vázquez, Crónica, 4: 64. 80 AGCA, A1.15. 4092. 32462. fol. 3 (1607); A1.15. 4103. 32524 (1607); A1.15. 4093. 32474. fol. 7v (1609). 81 AGCA, A1.15. 4111. 32578 (1638); Falla, Extractos, 2: 237-238. See also the discussion in Constantino Láscaris, Historia de las ideas en Centroamérica, 2nd ed. (San José: EDUCA, 1982), 194. 82 Magnus Mörner, “La política de segregación y el mestizaje en la Audiencia de Guatemala,” Revista de Indias 24: 95-96 (1964): 147; Luján, Agricultura, 30. 83 Eight of twelve partners from San Juan Amatitlán were identified as mulato/a libre, and one as a mulatto slave. Three of ten partners in San Miguel Petapa were defined as mulato/a libre. None of the partners, incidentally, was identified as black.


Four of those records define one of the partners as mulatto, but in only one case are both so identified.84 The 1711 marital investigations are also notable for the utter absence from the ranks of either marital partners or witnesses of slaves from the ingenios and trapiches of the Amatitlán region. It is unclear to what extent those properties were still producing sugar--the phenomenal growth of remote San Jerónimo in the eighteenth century probably came at the expense of the Amatitlán plantations--but they appear to have been relying less on enslaved workers to do so.85 The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Angola, though, remained. Further investigation of their circumstances may reveal more clearly the ways in which they worked out their own place in a society that was ever more distant from Africa.

84 85

No records from San Juan Amatitlán appear. Belaubre, “Poder y redes,” 42-45, 52-54.



Lokken LASA 2003 - Latin American Studies Association

Sugar Plantations and African Origins in Colonial Guatemala, 1650-1720* Paul Lokken, Bryant College Prepared for delivery at the 2003 meeting of the L...

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