Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru by Rachel Sarah O’Toole (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2015-01-25 17:53Z by Steven

Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru by Rachel Sarah O’Toole (review)

Journal of Social History
Volume 48, Number 2, Winter 2014
pages 465-466

Erick D. Langer, Professor of Latin American History
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

O’Toole, Rachel Sarah, Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).

The presence of Africans and their descendants is much more important than often realized in Peru. During the colonial period, tens of thousands of Africans were forced to cross the isthmus at Panama City and be sold as slaves in Peru. Even today, the rhythms of chicha, a combination of African and indigenous sounds, resonate in popular Peruvian music. The famous Peruvian cuisine was forged with important ingredients of European, Andean and African food heritages (as well as the nineteenth-century Chinese influences). More than anywhere else in the Andean region, African culture has melded with that of the Andes.

Rachel O’Toole documents Andean and African contributions to colonial society in the northern Peruvian coast during the seventeenth century. She breaks new ground by reexamining the interactions between Andeans and Africans and also explores how Andean peoples became “Indians” and Africans became “blacks.” The supposition, based on Spanish sources, had been that Africans were the enemies of the Indians, since they had more in common with their masters and abused the Andeans when they entered indigenous villages. However, O’Toole shows that that was not necessarily the case; Andeans and Africans interacted in many ways, including helping each other, intermarrying, being godparents to each other, and maintaining intense commercial relations.

Most of all, O’Toole emphasizes the new legal environment in Peru, where Africans became a legal category, a type of casta, that made human beings from Africa into merchandise and flattened out as much as possible the slaves’ diverse origins on the African continent. The Indians in turn came into a different category, of people who, according to the Spanish, were vulnerable to black castas and who enjoyed greater protections and higher legal status than people of African descent. She uses the metaphor of location to position each group into its respective legal category and how that changed over time.

After dealing with African-Andean interactions and the creation of the legal positions of each group, the author takes the last three chapters to delineate not so much the interactions between the two, but rather the making of the “Indian” category (Chapter 3) and the slave category (Chapter 2) within the casta system, which reified racial categories and created the divisions between the races. In the case of the Indians, she focuses on land and water, while for slaves she zeroes in on labor conditions. As O’Toole notes, “casta did the work of race” (164). Within the colonial system, this permitted Spaniards to divide and rule based on the differing regulations each category of human being, whether Spaniard, Indian, or black casta, had to follow. O’Toole takes to task in the conclusion of her book the towering seventeenth-century work of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala and his negative perception of Africans. Guaman Poma, an indigenous nobleman, wrote a 1,189 page missive to the Spanish king, in which he complained about abuses against the indigenous population, especially that of the Africans. O’Toole asserts that this opinion is much too negative an assessment and that “Africans and their descendants were central to the making of the colonial Andes” (161).

This book is an important addition to the field because for the first time it focuses on the complex relationships between indigenous peoples and Africans in a central region of the Spanish empire. O’Toole also fruitfully used legal documents to “read along the grain” (66) to understand the construction of the Indian categories, centering on the judicial performances of Andeans, who consciously chose laws that favored their positions. This follows work done by many other scholars of the colonial Andes to further refine how the diverse indigenous peoples ended up in a flattened category of “Indian.” The creation of the Indian category paralleled what happened to the Africans through their experience of slavery, as the author makes clear.

Using the northern Peruvian coast as the case study for understanding the interaction between Andeans and Africans has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, this was the Andean region where the majority of Africans were imported and so there is enough evidence to document the relations between the two groups. On the other hand, the…

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TCK TALENT: Gene Bell-Villada, literary critic, Latin Americanist, novelist, translator and TCK memoirist

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Caribbean/Latin America, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-24 20:22Z by Steven

TCK TALENT: Gene Bell-Villada, literary critic, Latin Americanist, novelist, translator and TCK memoirist

The Displaced Nation: A home for international creatives
2015-01-21

Elizabeth (Lisa) Liang


Professor Gene Bell-Villada (own photo)

Elizabeth (Lisa) Liang is here with her first column of 2015. For those who haven’t been following: she is building up quite a collection of stories about Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs) who work in creative fields. Lisa herself is a prime example. A Guatemalan-American of Chinese-Spanish-Irish-French-German-English descent, she has developed her own one-woman show about growing up as a TCK, which is receiving rave reviews wherever it goes.

—ML Awanohara

Happy New Year, readers! Today I’m honored to be interviewing Gene Bell-Villada, author of the Third Culture Kid memoir Overseas American: Growing Up Gringo in the Tropics and co-editor of my first published essay in the TCK/global-nomad anthology: Writing Out of Limbo. Gene grew up in Latin America and “repatriated” to the USA for college and beyond; he is a Professor of Romance Languages (Spanish), Latin American Literature, and Modernism at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He is also a published writer of fiction and nonfiction.

Welcome to The Displaced Nation, Gene. Like me, you’re an Adult Third Culture Kid of mixed heritage. Since you were born in Haiti and grew up in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Venezuela as the son of an Asian-Polynesian mother from Hawaii and a WASP father from Kansas, your identity development was complex and nuanced, as you make clear in your memoir. Can you tell us how you identify yourself these days?

Like the title of my memoir, I identify myself as an Overseas American, of mixed WASP and Chinese-Filipino-Hawaiian ethnicity, with a Caribbean-Hispanic upbringing. I wrote my memoir in great measure to disentangle and explain that background—for myself and others! More broadly, in my middle 20s, it dawned on me that, by default, I happened to be a cosmopolitan, and that I couldn’t feel “local” even if I wished to. And so, I set out to make the best of that cosmopolitanism and build on it…

Read the entire interview here.

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Overseas American: Growing Up Gringo in the Tropics

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-01-23 01:45Z by Steven

Overseas American: Growing Up Gringo in the Tropics

University Press of Mississippi
March 2005
240 pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-57806-720-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61703-222-6

Gene H. Bell-Villada, Professor of Romance Languages
Williams College, Williamstown, Pennsylvania

Born in 1941 of a Hawaiian mother and a white father, Gene H. Bell-Villada, grew up an overseas American citizen. An outsider wherever he landed, he never had a ready answer to the innocuous question “Where are you from?”

By the time Bell-Villada was a teenager, he had lived in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Cuba. Though English was his first language, his claim on U.S. citizenship was a hollow one. All he knew of his purported “homeland” was gleaned from imported comic books and movies. He spoke Spanish fluently, but he never fully fit into the culture of the Latin American countries where he grew up.

In childhood, he attended an American Catholic school for Puerto Ricans in San Juan, longing all the while to convert from Episcopalianism so that he could better fit in. Later at a Cuban military school during the height of the Batista dictatorship, he witnessed fervent political debates among the cadets about Fidel Castro’s nascent revolution and U.S. foreign policy. His times at the American School in Caracas, Venezuela, are tinged with reminiscences of oil booms and fights between U.S. and Venezuelan teen gangs.

When Bell-Villada finally comes to the United States to stay, he finds himself just as rootless as before, moving from New Mexico to Arizona to California to Massachusetts in quick succession. His accounts of life on the campuses of Berkeley and Harvard during the tumultuous 1960s reveal much about the country’s climate during the Cold War era.

Eventually the “Gringo” comes home, finding the stability in his marriage and career that allows him to work through and proudly claim his identity as a “global nomad.”

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Black Cubans: Restoring US Ties Is Cool, but America, Keep Your Hang-Ups About Race at Bay

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2015-01-21 22:57Z by Steven

Black Cubans: Restoring US Ties Is Cool, but America, Keep Your Hang-Ups About Race at Bay

The Root
2015-01-21

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele, Staff Writer

Will the current racial tensions in America seep into Cuba and awaken a sleeping giant? Black Cubans say probably not.

It doesn’t matter how much Cuba’s culture changes now that the U.S. has restored diplomatic relations; if you’re waiting for black Cubans to set off some sort of racial revolution, don’t hold your breath.

That’s according to some black Cubans who shared their thoughts on race with The Root in the edited Q&A below.

Omar Diaz is a 28-year-old black Cuban actor living in Miami who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 4 years old. He said that while he’s rooting for a democratic Cuba, he hopes that black Cubans will continue to benefit from the Castro revolution’s decree that Cubans prioritize nationalism over race.

Ruben* is a 52-year-old black photographer and book publisher. He is the only interviewee still living in Cuba. Even though he spoke passionately about racial inequality in Cuba, he explained why he and most black Cubans don’t quite see themselves as Afro-Cuban or black Cuban—just Cuban.

First cousins Elia E. Espuet and Sira Perez, on the other hand, both strongly identify as Afro-Cubans. Both women, ages 63 and 62 respectively, immigrated to the U.S. when they were teenagers in the late 1960s, Fidel Castro having assumed power in 1959. They could easily pass as African Americans, though they vividly remember how they were advised not to, in order to escape the brutality facing black Americans fighting for civil rights. That distinction—Cuba’s kind of racism versus America’s kind of racism—stuck with them. They maintain that black Cubans have it better in some ways on that front.

Georgina Rodriguez, 53—their mulatto, as she describes herself, cousin (who was categorized as “white” in Cuba when she was born)—doesn’t want Americans spewing their “racial framework” and “neoconservatism” all over Cuba. She argues that the former doesn’t account for all of Cuba’s ethnicities, and the latter will only widen the inequality gap…

Read the entire article here.

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A Multiethnic Movement Emerges in Guyana to Counter Politics-as-Usual

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2015-01-20 18:51Z by Steven

A Multiethnic Movement Emerges in Guyana to Counter Politics-as-Usual

The New York Times
2015-01-17

Girish Gupta

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Swaying to the rhythms of Afro-Guyanese reggae, the protesters, descendants of African slaves and indentured laborers from India, gathered on the streets of Georgetown in a show of unity against the country’s president.

A few years ago, a gathering of members of Guyana’s two main ethnic groups, which have long been at opposite ends of the country’s political divide, would have been unusual.

But the protest in November, after President Donald Ramotar suspended Parliament in order to fend off a no-confidence motion, reflected an important change taking place in this tiny English-speaking country of just 740,000 people perched on the shoulder of South America.

Politics in Guyana have long been delineated by race. But a multiethnic movement that has emerged in recent years has given voice to a new generation of Guyanese who say that politics as usual has held the country back by favoring race over merit, undermining economic progress.

“This shows the true reality of Guyana now,” Marcia de Costa, 37, a manager of a beauty salon, said, pointing toward the diverse crowd at the rally. “This is new for us.”

The two main political parties in Guyana have traditionally hewed to racial lines: one drawing support from the descendants of Africans brought over by the Dutch in the 17th century, and the other from the descendants of the Indians brought by the British a couple of centuries later.

But the emergence of a third party in recent years has changed the dynamics…

Read the entire article here.

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“Does it take work leaving your hair like that?” – We resist! Sou negra (I am a black woman)!” – The development of black identity for a negro-mestiça

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Autobiography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2015-01-15 18:22Z by Steven

“Does it take work leaving your hair like that?” – We resist! Sou negra (I am a black woman)!” – The development of black identity for a negro-mestiça

Black Women of Brazil
2015-01-15

We resist! Negra Soy (I am a black woman)!” (August, 2014) from Biscate Social Club

Lia Siqueira


Lia Siqueira

“Yes, it takes work. Prejudice beats us, but we resist.” That’s what I said when a lady on the bus asked: “Does it take work leave your hair like that?” I understood what she wanted to know. But what suffocated me at that moment needed to be said. I didn’t want to exchange secrets to give freshness and volume to the hair. I didn’t want to speak of aloe, bepantol (1) or the potential for a good hydration schedule. Until then, I had been giving the aesthetic responses to that type of question. Those responses were expected by those who had their curiosity aroused by my “petulant” hair. However, there comes a time that all we need to transcend the aesthetic question of resistance – to communicate the subversion of our blackness and assume responsibly, our place – to show what is most valuable was born from the roots on our heads. The intimacy of looking at our roots without relaxing, which infests them, and celebrating our heads, our ideas.

Cultivating a relationship of love with our black hair and taking from ourselves the most powerful us. I don’t mean some natural mix ups provoked by the texture of the curls. I speak of what makes it difficult for us, the looks, the ridicule, judgments, the racism…

…I am the daughter of a white woman and a black man. I was born of the mixture so hypocritically celebrated by the gringos in this our pseudo-racial democracy. I came into the world like this: mixed up in this being-not being black. With “morena” (brown/light brown) skin, in this Brazil where todas as gatas são “pardas” (all the cats are “brown”) (2), “toasted ones”, “mulatas”, “brown colored”, but not “negras”. In my home, I learned not to reject blackness or to whiten myself. I was loved with my curly hair, by my white mother – there I was me and I was secure. But socialization comes, it is inevitable. With it, we are run over by filters of prejudices. The incomprehension of classmates at school quickly became racism. As in the beginning of the poem by Victoria Eugenia Santa Cruz Gamarra, “Me gritaron negra” (they screamed negra at me), I retreated before the laughter because of my cabelo crespo (curly/kinky hair). Before the age of thirteen I was using straighteners and relaxers

Read the entire article here.

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Machado de Assis: The Brazilian Master and His Novels

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-01-13 20:34Z by Steven

Machado de Assis: The Brazilian Master and His Novels

University of California Press
1970
270 pages
ISBN: 9780520016088

Helen Caldwell

Machado de Assis is among the most original creative minds in Brazils rich, four-century-long literary tradition. Miss Caldwell’s critical and biographical study explores Machado’s purpose, meaning, and artistic method in each of his nine novels, published between 1872 and 1908. She traces the ideas and recurrent themes, and identifies his affinities with other authors.

In tracing Machado’s experimentation with narrative techniques, Miss Caldwell reveals the increasingly subtle use he made of point of view, sometimes indirect or reflected, sometimes multiple and “nested” like Chinese boxes.

Miss Caldwell shows the increasing sureness with which he individualized his characters, and how. in advance of his time, he developed action, not by realistic detail, but by the boldest use of allusion and symbol. Each novel is shown to be an artistic venture, and not in any sense a regurgitation from a sick soul as some critics have argued.

In searching out the unity of his novels. Miss Caldwell explores the other aspects of Machado’s intellectual life—as poet, journalist, playwright, conversationalist, and academician. Of particular interest is her attention to his shift away from the social criticism of his early novels into the labyrinth of individual psychology in the last five—all of which rank among world literature. But this perceptive account never loses sight of the one element present in every piece of Machado’s fiction, in every one of his personages; that is, superlative comedy, in its whole range: wit, irony, satire, parody, burlesque, humor.

Altogether, Miss Caldwell reveals to us a writer, in essence a poet, who is still the altus prosator of Brazilian letters.

Read the entire book here or here.

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Machado de Assis: A Literary Life

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2015-01-13 19:49Z by Steven

Machado de Assis: A Literary Life

Yale University Press
2015-05-26
360 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
2 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300180824

K. David Jackson, Professor of Portuguese and Director of Undergraduate Studies of Portuguese
Yale University

Novelist, poet, playwright, and short story writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839–1908) is widely regarded as Brazil’s greatest writer, although his work is still too little read outside his native country. In this first comprehensive English-language examination of Machado since Helen Caldwell’s seminal 1970 study, K. David Jackson reveals Machado de Assis as an important world author, one of the inventors of literary modernism whose writings profoundly influenced some of the most celebrated authors of the twentieth century, including José Saramago, Carlos Fuentes, and Donald Barthelme. Jackson introduces a hitherto unknown Machado de Assis to readers, illuminating the remarkable life, work, and legacy of the genius whom Susan Sontag called “the greatest writer ever produced in Latin America” and whom Allen Ginsberg hailed as “another Kafka.” Philip Roth has said of him that “like Beckett, he is ironic about suffering.” And Harold Bloom has remarked of Machado that “he’s funny as hell.”

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Carl N. Degler, Scholarly Champion of the Oppressed in America, Dies at 93

Posted in Articles, Biography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-11 17:21Z by Steven

Carl N. Degler, Scholarly Champion of the Oppressed in America, Dies at 93

The New York Times
2015-01-10

Sam Roberts, Urban Affairs Correspondent

For four decades, as a Stanford University scholar, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and a commentator who envisioned a future that did not repeat the mistakes of the past, Carl N. Degler endeavored to remedy American myopia.

“Virtually from the beginning,” Professor Degler once lamented, “Americans have seen themselves outside history, as a people constituting a nation of the future.”

Delving into overlooked corners of history, he illuminated the role of women, the poor and ethnic minorities in the nation’s evolution and was embraced as a feminist and defender of affirmative action. He explored the 19th century American South; compared race relations in the United States and Brazil; and traced a revival of biological Darwinism in debates over human behavior.

He died on Dec. 27 at 93 in Palo Alto, Calif., his wife, Therese, confirmed.

As an emeritus professor of American history at Stanford, Professor Degler encouraged his students to pursue less traveled intellectual paths, as he had with his book “Neither Black Nor White,” which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1972. In it he compared the origins and legacy of slavery in the United States and Brazil…

Read the entire obituary here.

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Tracking the First Americans

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico on 2015-01-11 00:25Z by Steven

Tracking the First Americans

National Geographic
January 2015

Glenn Hodges, Staff Writer

New finds, theories, and genetic discoveries are revolutionizing our understanding of the first Americans.

The first face of the first Americans belongs to an unlucky teenage girl who fell to her death in a Yucatán cave some 12,000 to 13,000 years ago. Her bad luck is science’s good fortune. The story of her discovery begins in 2007, when a team of Mexican divers led by Alberto Nava made a startling find: an immense submerged cavern they named Hoyo Negro, the “black hole.” At the bottom of the abyss their lights revealed a bed of prehistoric bones, including at least one nearly complete human skeleton.


Photograph by Paul Nicklen.  Set upside down to keep its teeth in place, the skull of a young woman found in an underwater cave in Mexico has put a face on the New World’s first inhabitants.

Nava reported the discovery to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, which brought together an international team of archaeologists and other researchers to investigate the cave and its contents. The skeleton—affectionately dubbed Naia, after the water nymphs of Greek mythology—turned out to be one of the oldest ever found in the Americas, and the earliest one intact enough to provide a foundation for a facial reconstruction. Geneticists were even able to extract a sample of DNA.


Photograph by Timothy Archibald. Re-Creation: James Chatters, Applied Paleoscience; Tom McClelland.  Divers who discovered her bones named her Naia. A facial reconstruction reveals that the first Americans didn’t look much like later Native Americans, though genetic evidence confirms their common ancestry.

Together these remnants may help explain an enduring mystery about the peopling of the Americas: If Native Americans are descendants of Asian trailblazers who migrated into the Americas toward the end of the last ice age, why don’t they look like their ancient ancestors?

Read the entire article here.

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