Slavery in Latin America
Slavery in Latin America was practiced in precolonial times.
During the Atlantic slave trade, Latin America was the main destination of millions of black people transported from Africa to French, Portuguese, and Spanish colonies. Slavery was a cornerstone of the Spanish Casta system, and its legacy is the presence of large Afro-Latino populations.
After the gradual emancipation of most black slaves, slavery continued along the Pacific coast of South America throughout the 19th century, as Peruvian slave traders kidnapped Polynesians, primarily from the Marquesas Islands and Easter Island and forced them to perform physical labour in mines and in the guano industry of Peru and Chile.
Enslaved Africans in Latin America
The African presence in Latin America had an effect on the culture across Latin America. Black slaves arrived in the Americas during the early stages of exploration and settlement. By the first decades of the sixteenth century they were commonly participating in Spain's military expeditions.
Marriage was allowed in some areas and some slaves were taught to read and write. Colonial Brazil had the highest recorded number of legal marriages among slaves in Latin America.
While most slaves were baptized upon arrival to the New World, the Catholic Church did come to the defense of slaves. Some brotherhoods raised money to purchase the freedom of some of their slave members. Although the church owned slaves themselves, they never embraced the racist justifications for slavery so common among Protestant denominations in the United States.
According to the television series, Black in Latin America, Mexico and Peru, combined, imported more African slaves than the United States. Between 1502 and 1866, of the 11.2 million Africans, only 450,000 arrived in the United States, while the rest arrived in Latin America and the Caribbean. These slaves were brought as early as the 16th and 17th centuries. The evidence of the African population is not readily apparent due to the mixing of the indigenous population, Africans, and European peoples and the early inception of African slaves into the Mexican society. According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s film on the slave trade in Mexico, the integration of African peoples was so pervasive that every Mexican has an "African grandma hiding in their closet." The slaves would be forced to work in mines and plantations. Today, the most African communities live in coastal towns, "Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico, the Costa Chica region on the Pacific".
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