Of the estimated 4.9 million African captives disembarked in Brazil, 70 % were shipped from Central Africa, 24 % from West Africa, and the remaining 6 % from the East Coast of the continent. Despite their diverse political and cultural backgrounds, Africans were classified by slavers with a discrete number of generic categories often referred to as “nations.” The enslaved appropriation of such external labels, like Mina and Angola—distinguishing Western and Central Africans respectively—resulted in the formation of new collective identities. The novel ways of colonial belonging and behavior shaped and expressed themselves as distinct forms of Afro-Brazilian culture when organized around social institutions such as Catholic lay brotherhoods or other African-inspired associative dynamics. Religious practice, including music, language, bodily performance, cooking and dress, became a privileged domain for African cultural production, subsequently irradiating into other secular manifestations. The colonial calundu, concerned with healing and oracular functionalities, greatly influenced by the Bantu-speaking people, coexisted and intermingled with the more ecclesiastical West-African traditions of initiatory ritual dedicated to the worship of multiple deities. Despite common elements of celebration, healing and mediumship, Afro-Brazilian religious pluralism was historically marked by an extraordinary eclecticism. Different local interactions with the hegemonic Iberian Catholicism, Amerindian healing practices and French Spiritism, together with the circulation of people and ideas between Africa and Brazil after the end of the Atlantic slave trade, led to a wide range of regional variation. This heterogeneous Afro-Brazilian religious field, prone to continuous discrimination and selective tolerance by the authorities, is stressed by a discursive contrast between the alleged traditional pure African forms and the mixed syncretic Brazilian ones, all claiming their share of legitimacy and ritual efficiency.
Africans in Brazil and Afro-Brazilian Religion and Culture
Luis Nicolau Parés
African Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Rio de la Plata Region
María Verónica Secreto
Historiography has traditionally divided the policy of introducing enslaved people to Spanish America into three periods based on the legal framework in effect at the time. These divisions are: the period of licensing from 1493 to 1595; the period of asientos from 1595 to 1789: and the period of free trade in enslaved people from 1789 to 1812. However, Spanish enslaved traffic did not end in 1812; it remained for decades thereafter, with the main destinations being Cuba and Puerto Rico. Spanish colonial expeditions to the Americas included enslaved Black people from the outset. The Instructions to Comendador Fray Nicolás de Ovando, published in 1501, contain the earliest reference to Black slavery in the West Indies. Supply was seen as an increasingly important problem as demand grew. Systematic mechanisms were needed to ensure a regular supply of enslaved people. The joining of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns under Phillip II, known as the Iberian Union (1580–1640), seemed to solve the problem of supplying enslaved labor to Spanish possessions throughout the world. The Rio de la Plata played an important role in the extensive route linking Angola to Potosí, which, together with its hinterland, constituted a rich market made enormously attractive by the silver mined from the mountain for which the city was named. The lure of Peruvian silver hung over the slave trade and the institution of slavery in the Rio de la Plata region throughout the entire slaveholding period. During the 1789–1812 period, local merchants and traders in leather, tallow, and timber vied for position in this profitable market.
Alcohol in the Atlantic
David Carey Jr.
Dating from the earliest times in Latin America, alcohol has played a crucial social, economic, political, and cultural role. Often reserved for politico-religious leaders, alcohol was a conduit through which power flowed in many pre-contact indigenous societies; indigenous drinkways (production, commerce, and consumption habits) were associated with communal ritual events and social prestige. Introduced to the Americas by Europeans, distillation profoundly altered the potency of alcoholic drinks for people who were accustomed to fermentation. Even as the social and cultural practices of alcohol consumption changed over time, alcohol continued to have political and economic implications in the colonial and national periods in Latin America. Fearing that inebriation bred disorder and recognizing that moonshining undercut their own revenues, colonial and national governments alike sought to regulate, if not control, the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol. In nations as diverse as Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, and Guatemala, indigenous women came to play integral roles in the (oftentimes illicit) sale and production of alcohol. A cash nexus for moving labor and land and a crucial component of the economic system by which (often unscrupulous) labor brokers recruited workers, alcohol was a currency of local economies. As a commodity of local, national, and international significance, alcohol shaped the fate of nation-states. People’s class, ethnic, race, and gender identities all played into their access to alcohol. Although a person’s choice of libation could define their position, some of the more fascinating histories of alcohol are punctuated with women and men who used alcohol to disrupt social conventions. Through the consumption of alcohol, rituals and ceremonies created and reconstituted community both within and across ethnic groups. Imbibing could also divide people. Even while they sipped their cognacs and brandies, elites portrayed indigenous people, the poor, and other marginalized people getting drunk on moonshine to discount and denigrate them. Often associated with (particularly violent) crime, alcohol was seen as a vice by many and excoriated during temperance movements. Yet defendants across Latin America took advantage of judicial systems that considered alcohol a mitigating circumstance in many crimes. As 20th-century evangelical sects that preached abstinence as the route to wealth and marital bliss grew to unprecedented numbers, traditional healers and biomedical practitioners continued to tout alcohol’s medicinal value. In short, alcohol was a marker of social position and cultural identity, a crucial component in community and state building, and a commodity around which different cultural traditions, healing practices, and policing policies developed and evolved.
The Alphabetic Colonization of Amerindian Oral Ecologies in Early Brazil
Diogo de Carvalho Cabral
Although it has received less scholarly attention than firearms, microbes, domestic animals and plants, market economy, and statecraft, alphabetic reading and writing was crucial in the European conquest and colonization of the Americas from the late 15th century on. Unlike the agrarian empires the Spaniards encountered in the Andes and the Mexican highlands, the Portuguese frontier advanced upon tribal peoples who relied exclusively on oral language, such as the Tupi of Atlantic Brazil. These were semi-sedentary horticultural villagers whose entire socio-ecology (myths and knowledge, territoriality, subsistence strategies, etc.) was conditioned by the face-to-faceness and fugacity of spoken words. In turn, their Portuguese colonizers—for a while rivaled by the French, who enjoyed short periods of stable settlement through the early 17th century—were urban-based, oceangoing merchants, bureaucrats, soldiers, and religious missionaries whose organization strictly depended on the durability and transferability of written texts. Even if most of the Portuguese who came to Brazil in the 16th century were themselves illiterate, colonization as a social enterprise framed their actions according to prescribed roles set down in writing (both handwriting and printed script). Thus, the Portuguese colonization of Brazilian native lands and human populations can be interpreted from the point of view of the imposition of an alphabetically organized way of life. Two major dimensions of this “letterscaping” can be discerned as to its impact on Amerindian bodies (human and nonhuman) and modes of understanding. Although the 16th century was only the introductory act in that drama, its historical record shows the basic outlines of the alphabetic colonization that would play out through the early 19th century: native decimation and enslavement, territory usurpation by sesmaria grants, forest recovery in former native croplands (then resignified as “virgin forest”), loss of native ecological knowledge not recorded in writing, disempowerment of native cultural attunement to the wild soundscape, among other processes.
Antislavery and Abolition in the Spanish American Mainland
One of the major changes that was produced by the wars of independence and the consequent foundation of new republics across the Spanish American mainland during the first five decades of the 19th century was the abolition of slavery. The history of the abolition of slavery in this region illustrates how economic, political, and social factors were entwined in the Spanish American revolutions as processes that were at once embedded in the broader imperial and transimperial dynamics of the 19th century, yet also singular in the origins and consequences that the end of slavery had in that region due to its connection to republican formation and the integration of African-descended people in legal and political terms.
Atlantic Sugar Trade in 17th-century Brazil
During the first half of the 17th century, trade in Brazilian sugar was as a profitable enterprise, despite Maghrebi piracy and imperial rivalry between the Netherlands and the Iberian Crowns. Then, Brazil was the Western Hemisphere’s main producer of sugar, which attracted high prices in Europe. Trade profitability diminished in the second half of the century as competition from the Caribbean dropped prices in Europe while nominal prices in Brazil were fixed. Regulated shipping reduced price gaps further and increased transaction costs. Finally, French and English mercantilist policies closed their markets to Brazilian sugar, and credit grew increasingly risky in Brazil. To make this trade feasible and profitable, merchants developed of a wide range of maritime transportation strategies, risk mitigation methods, and payment and credit practices. The organization of shipping sought to make the most of the supply and demand along the route and reduce transportation costs with idle cargo space. By mixing more expensive goods along with cheaper products, merchants tried to keep many vessels sailing between those ports to increase the flow of information, to profit from arbitrage, and to spread the risk. Being a semi-luxury item, the value sugar in absolute terms afforded insurance premiums more than the products with lower value per volume traditionally traded by the Dutch. Yet the value of sugar was not as high as Asian spices or Spanish American bullion, therefore, the costs of concentrating shipping in convoys protected by well-armed vessels was burdensome to the sugar trade. Attempts to coerce sailing in convoys and establish monopolies on certain exports (and imports) to Brazil by the Dutch and the Portuguese found fierce opposition among most traders, particularly modest ones. Being quite fungible, easily priced, and widely traded, sugar roughly fit the modern concept of a commodity. As such, it was convenient means of payment and also functioned as commodity money in Brazil, where it was the main merchandise sourced in the colony. As planters grew increasingly indebted, they secured various legal hindrances to their properties’ foreclosure and compulsory acceptance of sugar as payment at officially tariffed prices unless otherwise stipulated, which increased merchants’ credit risk while reducing their gains.
Atrocity, Race, and Region in the Early Haitian Revolution: The Fond d’Icaque Rising
Set within a larger analysis of class relations in the Haitian Revolution, this is a microhistory that intersects with several important themes in the revolution: rumor, atrocity, the arming of slaves, race relations, and the origins and wealth of the free colored population. It is an empirical investigation of an obscure rebellion by free men of color in the Grande Anse region in 1791. Although the rebellion is obscure, it is associated with an atrocity story that has long resonated in discussion of the revolution. Formerly the least-known segment of Caribbean society, research has shed much new light on free people of color in recent decades, but much remains to be clarified. In certain ways, they are the key to understanding the Haitian Revolution, because of their anomalous position in Saint Domingue society and the way their activism precipitated its unraveling. The Grande Anse region had a unique experience of the revolution in that white supremacy and slavery were maintained there longer than in any other part of the colony. Based primarily on unexploited or little-known sources the article demonstrates the range and depth of research that remains possible and suggests that a regional focus is best way to advance current scholarship on the Haitian Revolution.
Aztec Apocalypse, 1519–1521
The Conquest of Mexico is typically explained in terms of European military superiority, and although this offered an advantage to the forces arrayed against the Aztecs, it was merely part of a broader picture required to understand their downfall. Indigenous political circumstances played the key role in the Conquest, which can best be understood as an Indian victory over other Indians. The Spaniards represented less a conquering force, with which other native groups opportunistically allied, than an opportunity for groups opposed to the Aztecs to employ the relatively minor Spanish forces to multiply their own superior military strength. The Spaniards recognized their own pivotal role and shifted much of the timing of the conquest to sustain it. Other circumstances of the Spanish arrival, including the massive population loss from the accompanying smallpox, did play a role, but one that was primarily understood and used against the Aztecs by the allied Indians. So ultimately, the Conquest can be best understood as an Indian victory over other Indians, but with the Spaniards manipulating the outcome to ultimately win the peace.
Basques in the Atlantic World, 1450–1824
Basques formed a minority ethnic group whose diaspora had a significant impact on the history of colonial Latin America. Basques from the four Spanish or peninsular Basque territories—the Lordship of Vizcaya, the provinces of Álava and Guipúzcoa, and the Kingdom of Navarra—migrated to the New World in significant numbers; the French Basques were also prominent in the Atlantic, particularly in the Newfoundland fisheries. The population density of the Basque Atlantic valleys, which was the highest of any region in Spain, was an important factor that encouraged emigration. And, in response to demographic pressure, in the second half of the 15th century most villages and towns adopted an impartible inheritance system that compelled non-inheriting offspring to seek their fortunes outside the country. Castile was the immediate choice for the Basque émigré, but after 1492 America gradually became an attractive destination. Outside their home country, their unique language and sense of collective nobility (hidalguía universal) were to become two outstanding features of Basque cultural identity. The Basques’ share of total Spanish migration to the New World increased significantly in the second half of the 17th century. By the 18th century they were one of the largest and most influential peninsular regional groups in America. The typical Basque émigré was a young, single man aged between fifteen and thirty. In the New World they left their mark in economic activities that their countrymen had developed in their homeland for centuries: trade, navigation, shipbuilding, and mining. Furthermore, Basques’ collective nobility and limpieza de sangre (blood purity) facilitated their access to important official positions.
Biography of a Colonial Document
What can we learn about the documents we work with if we incorporate a study of document creation, travel, and storage into the consideration of document content? Some well-known documents, such as the Popol Vuh, have backstories that reveal as much as their content. But even obscure documents, such as a dispute over a road detour in 18th-century Guatemala, can be read productively as objects with life trajectories. Understanding the “life” of this document—the world in which it was made, the tools and knowledge of its making, its travel while being written, its storage in colonial and national archives—sheds new light on its meaning. Similarly, all colonial documents can be interpreted in new ways if their lives are treated as part of the interpretation.
Black Brotherhoods in the Iberian Atlantic
Miguel A. Valerio
Black confraternities or lay Catholic brotherhoods were colonial Afro-Latin Americans’ main site of social action and expression, striking a balance between rebellion and flight and assimilation. Modeled on the Roman collegia, burial of deceased members was a central preoccupation. Black brothers and sisters cared for infirm cofrades (confraternity members) in their own hospitals and other hospitals of colonial Latin America. They commissioned, fashioned, and maintained ornate altars and shrines for their saints, thereby engaging in artistic patronage and art collecting. They staged lavish festivities for their patron’s feast and other holidays, so dazzling that they were incorporated into local public festivities. But their festive practices were also seen by colonial authorities as unorthodox and even subversive. Yet, despite all opposition, colonial Afro-Latin Americans managed to avail themselves of religious brotherhoods to fashion meaningful existence in the diaspora through community formation, mutual aid, and religious and festive expression. Brotherhoods thus allowed Afro-Latin Americans to fashion group cohesion and a sense of belonging they would translate into political action in future generations. As colonial Afro-Latin Americans’ principal site of social action, confraternities offer us important avenues for studying black subjectivities and ways to account for black vocality in Latin America.
Black Tribute in the Spanish Americas
From the late 16th to the early 19th centuries, free individuals, families, and corporate groups whose reputations or self-descriptions defined them as Black in the Spanish Americas were subject to a specific tax. The royal tribute tax established the relationship between loyal vassals and a responsive Crown. Under Habsburg rule, tribute circumscribed the freedom of Black subjects but offered a path to privileges for those who provided services to the Crown. Attempts to levy the tax in the 16th and 17th centuries were wide-ranging but yielded comparatively small amounts of revenue. Tribute, nevertheless, affected many regions of the Spanish Americas, either by its collection or via the strategies Black people took to avoid it or contest its imposition. The responses of Black people and local officials to the tax determined how regularly it was enforced and how much revenue it would generate. Even where it failed, debates over tribute and attempts to collect it can reveal what it meant to be Black for colonial officials and ordinary people. Bourbon reforms led to an increasing emphasis on the fiscal potential of Black tribute, much of which became concentrated in the heart of New Spain. Hundreds of thousands of people not only paid tribute but were registered using new methods. The information produced within the tribute regime approximated the density, distribution, and interconnectedness of Black and Indian populations. In addition to the revenue and data its collection yielded, the imposition of Black tribute remains fundamental to understanding the colonial status, sense of identity, and experiences of Black people in the Spanish Empire.
The Book in the Iberian Atlantic, 1492–1824
Eugenia Roldán Vera
The Atlantic world has not only been a geographic space for the exchange of people and products. Since the 16th century, it has also been a cultural space for the production, exchange, diffusion, reading, and rewriting of printed objects. Historians of the independence era constructed the view that Latin America had been “closed to the outside world” during the years of the Spanish and Portuguese domination; however, later research has shown that this was not the case. Latin American countries, especially from the 18th century onward, were part of a print network through which all kinds of information was being produced, circulated, and read. During the Spanish Enlightenment, especially at the time of the wars of independence (1808–1824), this circulation intensified. The end of the Spanish and Portuguese trade monopoly in the region, changes in the regime of print rights, technological developments that lowered the costs of publishing, and transformations of the forms of sociability that the wars of independence themselves generated gave way to an explosion of print all over the Atlantic word. Newspapers, pamphlets, and books on topics that were not only religious but also political, literary, satirical, and educational were printed and circulated in the region. This helped to change forever the way the Latin Americans viewed themselves and contributed to the formation of new nations. Although the circulation of ideas throughout the Atlantic does not account for the development of political and social transformations that led to the independence of the Latin American countries, print culture and political culture are connected in many different ways. This article explores some of these forms of interaction.
Bourbon Reforms in Central America, 1700–1808
Jorge González Alzate
The Kingdom of Guatemala, a neglected backwater of the Spanish Empire under the Habsburgs, figured prominently in the long-term strategic planning of the Bourbon state. Royal preoccupation with this impoverished colony was reflected in the wide-ranging program of reform that the crown sought to put into practice in the isthmus over the course of the 18th century. For Philip V and his successors, the most pressing concern was the crown’s lack of control over the colony’s Caribbean coast (also known as the Mosquito Shore), a swampy and insalubrious region that for decades had been under the effective control of British interlopers and their native allies, the indomitable Sambo-Mosquitos. The main thrust of the reform project was therefore directed at addressing that serious security gap, a situation which, at the same time, severely limited Spain’s capacity to reap the benefits of Central America’s economy and trade. In its initial stages, the effort to implement the reforms proved to be a protracted and frustrating process, hampered by resistance from vested interests, lack of funds and personnel, natural disasters, and above all by recurring military conflict. It was not until the aftermath of the Seven Years War (1756–1763) that Charles III, facing the prospect of an even more damaging British attack, resolved to take decisive action and commanded his ministers to expedite the pace of reform. Royal orders were then issued that called for the de-Americanization and overhauling of the civil administration, direct state intervention to stimulate economic productivity and expand maritime trade, the establishment of a modern, efficient, crown-administered fiscal structure, the strengthening of the defense system, and the assertion of royal authority over the ecclesiastical establishment. Initially, the uncompromising manner utilized by the crown in introducing the changes, particularly the reforms to the fiscal system, provoked much unrest and resistance among wide segments of the population. But in the end, the reforms survived and, by the closing years of the century, most of the measures had largely met the crown’s objectives. The fiscal surplus generated by the economic and commercial expansion of the second half of the 18th century enabled the Bourbons to attain their principal strategic objective in Central America, namely dislodging the British enemy from much of the Atlantic coast. Unfortunately, not long after this climatic point, the decades-long effort quickly unraveled as the monarchy began to collapse in 1808. In the end, the reform project proved insufficient; the dream of attaining modernization and preeminent status among European powers remained elusive. As conditions in the mother country deteriorated, so did the economic and political stability of Central America. The kingdom’s provinces were engulfed by increasing political volatility and economic depression. Following the example of neighboring New Spain, Central Americans declared their independence in 1821. Thus, in the end, the Bourbons had “gained a revenue and lost an empire.”
Brazilian Colonial Art and the Decolonization of Art History
There are at least two ways to think about the term “Brazilian colonial art.” It can refer, in general, to the art produced in the region presently known as Brazil between 1500, when navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral claimed the coastal territory for the Lusitanian crown, and the country’s independence in the early 19th century. It can also refer, more specifically, to the artistic manifestations produced in certain Brazilian regions—most notably Bahia, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro—over the 18th century and first decades of the 19th century. In other words, while denotatively it corresponds to the art produced in the period during which Brazil was a colony, it can also work as a metonym valid to indicate particular temporal and geographical arcs within this period. The reasons for its widespread metonymical use are related, on the one hand, to the survival of a relatively large number of art objects and buildings produced in these arcs, but also to a judicative value: at least since the 1920s, artists, historians, and cultivated Brazilians have tended to regard Brazilian colonial art—in its more specific meaning—as the greatest cultural product of those centuries. In this sense, Brazilian colonial art is often identified with the Baroque—to the extent that the terms “Brazilian Baroque,” “Brazilian colonial art,” and even “barroco mineiro” (i.e., Baroque produced in the province of Minas Gerais) may be used interchangeably by some scholars and, even more so, the general public. The study of Brazilian colonial art is currently intermingled with the question of what should be understood as Brazil in the early modern period. Just like some 20th- and 21st-century scholars have been questioning, for example, the term “Italian Renaissance”—given the fact that Italy, as a political entity, did not exist until the 19th century—so have researchers problematized the concept of a unified term to designate the whole artistic production of the territory that would later become the Federative Republic of Brazil between the 16th and 19th centuries. This territory, moreover, encompassed a myriad of very different societies and languages originating from at least three different continents. Should the production, for example, of Tupi or Yoruba artworks be considered colonial? Or should they, instead, be understood as belonging to a distinctive path and independent art historical process? Is it viable to propose a transcultural academic approach without, at the same time, flattening the specificities and richness of the various societies that inhabited the territory? Recent scholarly work has been bringing together traditional historiographical references in Brazilian colonial art and perspectives from so-called “global art history.” These efforts have not only internationalized the field, but also made it multidisciplinary by combining researches in anthropology, ethnography, archaeology, history, and art history.
The Cabanagem in Pará, 1835–1840
On January 7, 1835 a group of landowners, artisans, soldiers, and peasants stormed Belém, the capital of the Amazon region. Now known as the Cabanagem, this rebellion occurred during a time of social upheaval in not just Pará but also Brazil. On that first day a prominent landowner, Felix Malcher, was released from prison and declared the new president by popular proclamation. The administration in Rio refused to recognize him, despite his statement of allegiance to the Empire of Brazil. Soon factions erupted, aligned with differences between the local elites and their poorer allies; Malcher and a subsequent president were killed. After battles with imperial forces the third rebel president, Eduardo Angelim, was adopted by a victorious crowd in August 1835. The capital reverted to imperial hands on May 13, 1836; however, the rebellion had not been quelled as the rest of the region became embroiled in conflict. As it developed, ethnic and class alliances changed, and the battles continued for four more years. While rebels gradually lost towns and fortified rural encampments, they were never defeated militarily. Organized attacks continued until a general amnesty was granted to all rebels by Emperor Pedro II in July 1840. The Cabanagem, which involved indigenous people, was a broad and fragile alliance composed of different interests with an international dimension. Radical liberal ideas brought together those living in rural and urban districts and appealed to long-standing animosities against distant control by outsiders, the inconsistent use of the law to protect all people, and compulsory labor regimes that took people away from their families and lands. Yet the regency administration feared the break-up of the newly independent Brazil. The violent pacification of the region was justified by portraying the movement as a race war, dominated by “people of color” incapable of ruling themselves.
Canary Island Immigration to the Hispanic Caribbean
Manuel Hernández González
The configuration of Canarian migration during the Conquest and colonization of the Spanish Caribbean was significantly influenced by its historic continuity, familial nature (with an elevated presence of women and children), dedication to agriculture, and contribution to the settlement of towns. This migration gave rise to quintessentially rural prototypes, such as the Cuban guajiro, linked to self-sustaining agriculture and tobacco; the Puerto Rican jíbaro, a coffee grower; and the Dominican montero or farmer from Cibao. All of these contributed a great many aspects of their speech, idiosyncrasies, and culture. The migratory dynamic has evolved since the Conquest and includes such processes as Cuban tobacco colonization, the foundation of townships in Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico (in order to further analyze their adaptation to the economic boom of sugar plantations in Cuba and Puerto Rico), and the uprising of slaves in French Santo Domingo, as well as the cession of the Spanish portion of the island to this country in 1795. This event merits special focus, due to its great transcendence in terms of the signs of identity that emerged during the rebellion of the Canarian vegueros against the monopoly within the Havana context, and the defense of their configuration as a distinct people in San Carlos de Tenerife: processes that explain their response to 19th-century innovations in Cuba and Puerto Rico and to Dominican political avatars, as well as their attitudes toward criollismo and emancipation. Their singularities are reflected in the mass Cuban emigration that took place during the early decades of the 20th century.
Cartography and European Expansion and Consolidation in Colonial Spanish America, 1500–1700
During the period of European expansion and consolidation (1500–1700) Mapping the world during the European expansion and consolidation (1500–1700) was a challenging intellectual activity which included the development of new ways of making knowledge, the invention of new instruments, the creation of unprecedented scientific-political institutions, a wider circulation of knowledge thanks to the improvements in printing, and the emergence of radical questions about the nature of the world. In order to record the information provided by travelers, new cartographic genres and languages began to be created in Spanish institutions. On the one hand, they made use of and readapted well-established traditions, like Mediterranean portolans; on the other, they introduced more and more systematic methodological protocols, that would become solid cartographical traditions by the end of the 17th century, specifically sea charts, world maps, and atlases, among others. This new accuracy and updated geographical information elevated the ideal of scientific mapping and cartographical activities. The expansion of the book market and particularly, within that market, the rapidly expanding demand for atlases in the Low Countries in the 17th century, contributed to the dissemination of cartographical images of a changing world (constantly being modified as a result of ongoing expeditions and explorations) to the educated public. The buyers of these images were not only scientists but also wealthy and curious people who could afford the high prices charged for the luxurious atlases produced by some of the most renowned publishers. From this time onward, maps were no longer exclusively scientific instruments but also commodities that helped “common people” to imagine how the world looked; in effect, they helped to create a shared modern geographical imagination.
Central America in the 17th Century
When the 16th century—the Conquest Century—drew to a close, the territory of what is today called Central America was already organized as a colonial domain. The system of “Two Republics”—segregating autochthonous populations from the Spanish in order to protect the former from the abuses and potential perversions of the latter, but also to better control the former and demand labor, goods, and money from them—was well established, and colonial institutions (Audiencia, royal treasury offices, town councils (cabildos), dioceses, parishes, etc.) had been put in place. The Spanish governing and enriched elite were clearly on top but were surrounded, nonetheless, by a plethora of dominated ethnic groups, such as the indigenous and the African—either slave or free—populations, the non-elite Spanish immigrants, and those of mixed race. The process of miscegenation between all ethnic groups of colonial society, slow and faltering at first, was already a fact in the region, and a caste society was firmly established. At the same time, Spanish settlement in the territory was entrenched, with consolidated cities and established rural properties. Trade and mining were also active, creating economic cycles linked to the global economy, as well as to internal markets. However, resistance and rebellions by the dominated populations and an extended frontier—made of unconquered and uncontrolled zones—as well as the irruption of enemies in the uncontrolled regions, were not absent from the region. What was the destiny of this complex newly born society over the century to come? In Central America, the new century would be characterized by processes of stabilization and consolidation of colonial life in all aspects, but also by strong geostrategical interests, brutal social asymmetries, and an overwhelming peripheral status.
The Colonial Amazon
Rafael Chambouleyron and Pablo Ibáñez-Bonillo
The region known as the Amazon represents approximately forty percent of the territory of the South American continent. Today, it spreads through the territory of eight countries and one European overseas territory. In the colonial period, this vast area, which stretched from the piedmont of the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean, was an essential space for European imperial conflict in the Americas. The Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French struggled for the possession of the region from the 16th century onward. However, the history of this vast region begins much earlier. A multiplicity of ethnically and linguistically distinct peoples occupied this territory, and their social, political, and economic arrangements were crucial for European conquest and colonization. Many of these peoples were directly affected by the arrival and settlement of the Europeans, especially by disease and wars. Others integrated into colonial society through religious missions, voluntary settlement, and forced labor. The Indian labor force was crucial for the development of the colonial economy in the Amazon. However, European dominion over this territory was limited to the banks of the main rivers, and most of the Amazonian lands remained indigenous.