Social Division in Latin America

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To what extent are the current social divisions in Latin America the result of colonial socio-political structures?


To what extent are the current social divisions in Latin America the result of colonial socio-political structures?

The Spanish and Portuguese colonial period in Latin America lasted from 1492 to 1810. 300 years of violent domination, genocides, exploitation, repression of the native religion and culture, and native history re-writing. Also, the slave trade was at his peak time and thousands of persons kidnapped in Africa have been brought to America in slavery condition.

“The destruction of whole cultures – in every sense – left the majority of the population lost and struggling to find their identities, a struggle which continues to this day. (, 2009)

In this essay I will explore the historical roots of “race stratification” and national elite during the colonial and postcolonial period in Latin America.

Colonial “castas” system

Colons developed a complex caste system based on race. This determined a person’s position in the. They created over one hundred miscegenation. * Peninsular: Spaniard from Spain
* Criollo; criolla: Spanish descendant born in Latin America * Indio; India: Indigenous descendant
* Negro; Negra: African descendant.

Ethnic Mixing in Spanish Colonial Times |
African| ———| Spaniard| ———| Spaniard| ———| Amerindian| ———| African| | ↓| | ↓| | ↓| | ↓| |
| Mulatto| | Criollo| | Mestizo| | Zambo| |
(Wikipedia, 2010)

Each groups of “castas” had their privileges. For example only Spaniards and Indians deemed to be “pure race” had the possibility to be ennobled. Use of Indigenous elite was a vital necessity for the Spaniards to exploit indigenous. “The Indian nobility in Mexico and Peru acquired Spanish honorific titles of Don and Doña, won the right to intermarry with the conquistadores, and kept a portion of the tribute labor. Indian commoners maintained their way of life intact… Indian mayors and town councils to function under Spanish direction.” (American historical association, 2008)

Legally African descendants were “slaves” but in practice they were intermediaries between Europeans and Indigenous. They often supervised indigenous workers on the “haciendas”. Also colons proceeded to a forced “hispanization” of both communities.

After fighting together for the independence, Indigenous and African descendant stagnated in the same situation. Slavery was not abolished in most of Latin America and the “white” elites kept the politic power. Any attempts to create any alternative political organizations were severely repressed. “The "Race War of 1912" in Cuba, in which thousands of Afro-Cuban militants were massacred in a matter of weeks, was the most dramatic example of how white rulers responded to demands for racial equality.” (American historical association, 2008)

The Forgotten Indigenous
During the conquest by the Spaniards, “Indians” have been massacred and spoiled from their lands. Since then, Indigenous population live in “resguardos” (shelters).
Indigenous lived under the threat of “haciendas” owners and local public authorities trying to expand their properties. Excluded from societies, their civilizations and cultures was considered underdeveloped. They were depicted as “racially inferior”, “savage”, and “ignorant” (James Sanders, 2003 p: 62-69).

I will discuss the Great Granada’s (Columbia) Indigenous.
Strangely, during the colonial period Indigenous often supported the Spanish Monarchy.
In fact, they feared local patriot armies.
Following the downfall of the Spain’s once-great empire they had to conform to this new Era to survive.
Like most of post-independence nations, Columbia was torn apart by sporadic civil conflict between Conservatives and Liberals. Indigenous first turned to the Conservatives despite the fact...
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