Slavery in the Americas was quite diverse. Mining operations in the tropics experienced different needs and suffered different challenges than did plantations in more temperate areas of Norther Brazil or costal city's serving as ports for the exporting of commodities produced on the backs of the enslaved peoples from the African continent. This essay will look at these different situations and explore the factors that determined the treatment of slaves, the consequences of that treatment, and the conditions that lead to resistance by the slaves working in their various capacities.
After the initial conquest of Mexico and South America it was time to develop the economy and export the resources that would benefit the monarchy back home in Spain and Portugal. Silver and Gold were two such commodities. Silver mines in Northern Mexico were supervised by blacks who directed the Indians in the arduous task of extracting the precious metal. Gold in Central Mexico was also mined by blacks. The Gold mining regions were hot, tropical, isolated areas of the jungle. The regions were sparsely populated and it was difficult to keep the locals as a work force. The introduction of disease in the tropics made these areas death zones to the indigenous people as they had no resistance to the virulent plagues. There was a need to get cheap or free labor that would be capable of resisting the disease and who would be easier to dominate than the locals who could run off and establish themselves elsewhere relatively easily. The natural answer was to obtain slaves from the African continent. The slave trade was already in operation on the African continent. Coastal cities there often enslaved inland peoples so it was not difficult to obtain the stock and export them to the Americas.
Slaves in the mining regions were subject to harsh, isolated conditions. There were few females and little or no community amongst the slaves. Some of the workers did have access to money and as a result could negotiate there freedom for a price. In 1732 1/3 of the African population of Choco was free as a result. Less fortunate slaves who found the conditions unbearable fled to even more isolated areas of the back country to survive on their own or in small colonies.
The Sugar plantations of Northern Brazil were a major client of the slave trade. The more temperate climate made of better environmental conditions for the blacks but the work was hard and after working for the plantation the slaves had to work a spot of land for their own sustenance as well. They could sell what they produced and this gave them money with which to effect manumissions. The plantation life had a hierarchy that separated the slaves into three levels with value attached to each one. The lowest level of the hierarchy was the "Bozal." These were slave born on the African continent with little or no acculturation with the Spaniards and Portuguese
who enslaved them. They were of the least value as the least skilled and plenty there were plenty more where they came from. Though they were not completely disposable they were of the least consequence should they die or run off.
Next up the pecking order were the "Ladino." These slaves had more time in country and had developed skills useful to the plantation owner. They were often in working positions of a bit higher value as well.
The top of the chain were the "Criollo." These were slaves that were born in Latin America. They were often times offspring of Spaniards or Portuguese and as such had more ties
to the community. Mulatto's were not looked down upon as they were in the American south. The Criollo held trusted positions in transportation, and were most often manumitted. Also enjoying frequent manumission was the criollo involved in the processing of the crops.
Field hands made up the bulk of the population of any given plantation. They were most often women and very nearly always Bozal....
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