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.
Basques in the Atlantic World, 1450–1824
African Women and Commerce in the Atlantic World
Vanessa S. Oliveira
Women have been active players in the history of the Atlantic world from early times to the present. They have contributed to the economic and social fabric of Atlantic societies as food producers, mothers, healers, queens, and merchants, just to mention a few roles. Despite their importance, women were not part of the mainstream narrative neither in the early days of African history nor in the history of other geographic areas in the Atlantic world. The first wave of Africanist scholars in the 1960s were more interested in recovering the stories of great kingdoms and states and their leaders, who were, for the most part, men. It was not until the late 1970s that Africanist scholars incorporated women as a category of analysis with the publication of collections and monographs dedicated to their contribution to African societies. Women merchants commonly known as donas, signares, nharas, and senoras were among those who benefited from the new approach. Since then, scholars have explored the trajectories of women merchants and petty traders in places such as the Gold Coast, Luanda, Benguela, Saint-Louis, Gorée, Freetown, Lagos, Bissau, and Cacheu. This growing scholarship has shown that women participated actively in the trade in foodstuffs, manufactured goods, and captives, as well in tropical commodities. African women’s ability to trade crossed the Atlantic Ocean, where they and their descendants continued to control the retail trade in port cities in Brazil, the southern United States, and in the West Indies.
Muslims in Brazil
Muslims have been settling and integrating in Brazilian colonial, slaveholding, and democratic societies for almost half a millennium. The chronicles of Islam in Brazil and its enduring heritage are less defined and more unknown to many audiences. Greater scholarly attention is needed, not only to enrich and develop the study of Islam in Brazil but also to better disseminate the premise that Islam is not new to Brazil, as previously thought. In the early 21st century, although only 0.09 percent of the total population, Muslims have become an integral part of the multicultural landscape of modern-day Brazil. Despite the small numbers, studies have shown that for five hundred years Islam has been present, forgotten, revived, and reclaimed in the chronicles of colonial and contemporary Brazil. Thematically and chronologically, Islam took shape in Terra do Brasil during four time periods spanning over five centuries of distinctive historical, social, political, and cultural contexts. Islam in Brazil—and the Americas as a whole—follows four different historical moments: pre-Columbian and early colonial contacts, the transatlantic slave trade, Arab immigration, and conversion to Islam.
Black Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods: Participatory Christianity in New Spain’s Mining Towns
Nicole von Germeten
Free and enslaved Africans played an important role in developing a unique form of participatory Christianity in New Spain’s mining towns, especially Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Parral. Afro-Mexicans founded, organized, and led religious organizations, called cofradías, shaping them to their own needs and understandings of the sacred and its connections to social ties, gatherings, and celebrations. The practical goals of cofradías included helping sick members and paying for burials and funerals. Historians observe a kind of Latin American African-influenced Baroque piety in cofradías, with embodied practices concentrating on annual flagellant processions held during Holy Week, and an evolving internal gender dynamic, which suggests assimilative goals, even as cofradías strengthened Afro-Mexican communities.