Racial diversity has been a central experience of Latin America.
Latin America was the main destination of people enslaved and taken out of Africa between 1500- 1850.
Mestizo refers to Latin America’s populations that have a blend of indigenous and European heritage (such as Mexico, El Salvador, and Paraguay).
Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador and Bolivia still have large pockets of indigenous people who still speak indigenous languages.
When Chasteen refers to the “original sin” in Latin America, he is referring to the conquest and colonization by the Spanish and Portuguese that created patterns of social domination.
Non-sedentary peoples were mainly hunters/ gatherers who lived in difficult environments such as deserts and plains.
Semi-sedentary peoples (such as those living in the Amazonian rainforest) practiced “shifting cultivation”, or “slash and burn” agriculture.
Fully sedentary people such as the “Aztecs” and the “Incas” had stationary, permanently sustainable forms of agriculture.
In Brazil, native people were enslaved to work on sugar plantations, but because they were decimated by diseases, Africans were then imported in large numbers to work on sugar plantations.
Africans were picked off from their homelands to be brought as slaves in the Americas because they were agricultural peoples and had a knowledge of ironworks.
African slaves brought to the Americas to work on plantations were just as susceptible to Old World diseases as the native peoples here were.
Horses, steel, gunpowder and germs gave the Spanish and Portuguese a significant advantage over the native peoples they conquered.
When the Spanish parceled out native communities to each other as part of the “encomienda”, religion was used to justify the exploitation of native peoples.
The Dominican friar who wrote about the encomienda abuses (though he himself had been an encomendero) was:
Colonial control in Latin America relied on hegemony. Hegemony refers to a kind of domination that implies a measure of consent by those at the bottom.
Transculturation implied that the Spanish and Portuguese imposed their own cultures on the natives and that the cultures of the natives disappeared.
Though prospering first with sugar, the Brazilian colony changed shape as gold pulled its demographic and economic center southward.
Because of the ethnic and racial hierarchy imposed by the Europeans, there was hardly any race-mixing in Latin America during the colonial period.
It was the most important of colonial rebellions that shook the Andes from 1780-1783. Its leader, a mestizo, called first for an anti-peninsular alliance among American born whites, mestizos and indigenous peoples, but the movement became primarily indigenous and raged out of control- terrifying the Peruvian elite. The name of the leader was:
The outcome of the Spanish American and Brazilian independence was in essence, conservative. That is, the white people at the top of the social hierarchy stayed there, while blacks and indigenous people stayed at the bottom.
In most cases, the independence movements of the Americas were initiated by slaves and angry indigenous people who had been dispossessed of their lands.
The individual who began the independence movement in Mexico in 1810 that began as a revolt against Spain but became a massive rebellion of indigenous and mestizo peasants was:
In order to garner support from the masses, the land-owning Creoles employed a strategy of nativism. Nativism glorified the idea of an American identity defined by birthplace.
Unlike Spanish America, Brazil achieved its independence when Prince Pedro (King Joao’s son) of the Braganza royal family chose to stay in Brazil and declared Brazil an independent constitutional monarchy.
Independence in Latin America did not undo colonialism in the new Latin American nations. Rather independence made them post-colonial: self governing, but still shaped by its colonial heritage.