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Interamerican Dialogues and Experimentations in the Spanish South American Gradual Abolitionist Process (1810–1870)  

Magdalena Candioti

Between 1811 and 1870, policies of gradual abolition of slavery were deployed in Hispanic South America. They consisted of two fundamental measures: the prohibition of the transatlantic slave trade and the enactment of free womb laws that prevented the enslavement of newborn children. These antislavery policies were adopted in contemporary Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay in an implicit and explicit Interamerican and Atlantic dialogue as well as with strong doses of experimentation. The processes also unfolded as the second slavery expanded in Brazil and the Caribbean. A first set of antislavery policies was deployed between 1811 and 1830, and the wave of definitive abolitions occurred mostly in the 1850s. There were exceptions to this periodization with very early examples of complete abolition (such as Chile in 1826) or very late examples of gradual abolition (Paraguay in 1842). In any case, a common feature in these processes was the extension of the dependency of persons of African descent through the creation of different kinds of freedmen’s status, tutelages, or patronatos. Laws declared the right to freedom but established conditions that extended unfree labor and subjection for years and even decades, othering and stigmatizing the free and freed offspring of the African diaspora in Spanish South America.