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From black to Ladino

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From black to Ladino People of African descent, Mestizaje, and racial hierarchy in rural colonial Guatemala, 1600-1730
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People of African descent, Mestizaje, and racial hierarchy in rural colonial Guatemala, 1600-1730
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Lokken, Paul Thomas, 1960-
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vii, 290 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.

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African Americans ( jstor )
Demography ( jstor )
Hispanics ( jstor )
Indigenous populations ( jstor )
Marriage ( jstor )
Militia ( jstor )
Petitioners ( jstor )
Slavery ( jstor )
Tributaries ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Blacks -- History -- Guatemala ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- History -- UF ( lcsh )
History thesis, Ph.D ( lcsh )
Mestizaje -- History -- Guatemala ( lcsh )
Race relations -- History -- Guatemala ( lcsh )
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theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2000.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 277-289).
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Printout.
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Vita.
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by Paul Thomas Lokken.

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FROM BLACK TO LADINO:
PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT, MESTIZAJE, AND RACIAL HIERARCHY
IN RURAL COLONIAL GUATEMALA, 1600-1730












By

PAUL THOMAS LOKKEN


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2000














ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


I thank the Tinker Foundation, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the

University of Florida, and the University of Florida's History Department for funding my

dissertation research. I also wish to express my sincere gratitude to the staffs of the

Archivo General de Centroamerica and the Archivo Historico Arquidiocesano

"Francisco de Paula Garcia Peliez," both in Guatemala City, and the Archivo General de

Indias, in Seville, for the assistance they provided to me.

Many individuals contribute to the writing of a doctoral dissertation, more than I

can name in this brief space. I wish, however, to single out a few people to whom I owe

a particular debt of gratitude. My advisor, Murdo MacLeod, supported me unstintingly

throughout my graduate career at the University of Florida. He also provides a model

for would-be scholars that is notable for the degree to which it is unlikely to be matched.

The other members of my committee--David Geggus, Kathryn Bums, Irma McClaurin,

and Tim Cleaveland--each directly influenced my work, although none bears (much)

responsibility for how I have chosen to interpret what they taught me. Jeffrey Needell,

Mark Thurner, and Jim Handy also had substantial input into my formation as a historian

of Latin America, Louise Newman introduced me to important theoretical literature

which I might otherwise have avoided, to my loss, and Marvin Harris reminded me of the

significance of material factors in the evolution of human societies.

ii








Graduate students, at their best, form mutual support groups that are both

intellectual and convivial in nature. At the University of Florida, my thanks go in

particular to Caleb Finegan, Kym Morrison, Mike Cole, Jim Meier, and, especially, Doug

Tompson, and, in the archives, to Leo Hernandez, Christophe Belaubre, and Giulia

Tarantola. I am also indebted to Franz Binder, who is not a graduate student, but knows

the archives of Guatemala as well as anyone, and the sources for my own topic better

than I do.

My debts to family are the greatest. I owe thanks to my mother, Borgny Lokken,

who has always supported my academic endeavors, and to my in-laws, Peter and Mary

van der Veen, for their many kindnesses. Paula van der Veen needs little reminder of the

peculiar demands of academic life, and Annelise and Martine are learning fast. My

father, John Lokken, did not live to see me finish this dissertation, but never failed to

demonstrate an interest both in my specific work and in Central America in general. I

have lost, among much else, an attentive reader.














TABLE OF CONTENTS



A CK N O W LED G M EN T S ....................................................................................... ii

A B S T R A C T ............................................................................................................. vi

CHAPTERS

I IN T R O D U C T IO N ............................................................................................... 1

2 THE "BLACK THREAT" IN EARLY
SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY GUATEMALA ........................................... 19

The Establishment of an African Presence in Guatemala .............................. 25
African-descended Slaves in Rural Guatemala ............................................. 40
Ranch Hands, "Vagabonds," and Maroons ................................................. 52

3 MUL TOS, LADINOS, AND RACIAL HIERARCHY ...................................... 74

The Emergence of Militias of Color ............................................................ 74
From B lack to M estizo? .............................................................................. 78
The Many Faces of the Seventeenth-Century Ladino ...................................... 103

4 FROM BLACK TO MULATTO: MARRIAGE AND MESIZAJE ..................... 112

Region, Demography, and the Politics of Marriage ........................................ 112
S o u rce s ......................................................................................................... 1 19
The V alle de las V acas .................................................................................. 126
Chiquimula de la Sierra to the Caribbean ....................................................... 140
Sonsonate and San Salvador y San Miguel .................................................... 151
The W estern H ighlands 1................................................................................ 165

5 MULATTOS AND MESTIZAJE ON THE PACIFIC COAST ............................. 172

E scuintepequ e ............................................................................................... 176
Z ap o titldn ...................................................................................................... 19 3








G u azacap n ............................................. ..................................................... 2 0 3

6 TESTING THE BOUNDS:
SOCIAL RELATIONS AND RACIAL HIERARCHY ................................. 213

Cofradias and "C annibals" .............................................................................. 213
"Slave": A "M iddling R ole"? ......................................................................... 223
Contesting Social Mobility: Free Mulattos and Spaniards .............................. 237
From Mulato Libre to Ladino? ..................................................................... 250

7 MILITIAMEN OF COLOR
AND THE REORDERING OF RACIAL HIERARCHY ............................. 253

Foreign Threats and the Challenge to the Tributo de Laborios ....................... 256
From Black To Ladino, But Slowly ............................................................... 262
C o nclu sio n ..................................................................................................... 2 7 0

APPENDIX: MARRIAGE PETITIONS FROM SONSONATE AND
SAN SALVADOR AND SAN MIGUEL .................................................... 276

SO U R C E S C ITE D .................................................................................................. 277

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................................................................... 290














Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

FROM BLACK TO LADINO:
PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT, MESTIZAJE, AND RACIAL HIERARCHY
IN RURAL COLONIAL GUATEMALA, 1600-1730

By

Paul Thomas Lokken

May 2000

Chair: Murdo J. MacLeod
Major Department: History

This dissertation focuses on a little-studied aspect of the African diaspora in the

Americas: the seventeenth-century demographic and social contours of Spanish

Guatemala's rural African-descended population. It also contributes to literature which

examines the unstable nature of identities tied to origin, by exploring the apparent

disappearance of this population from the historical stage. Over the course of the

seventeenth century, an African-descended sector consisting in 1600 largely of enslaved

and marginalized individuals who were defined as black was transformed into one made

up of people who were mostly free, called mulatto, and linked with a broader and more

amorphous social category: gente ladina. The term ladino, of key importance in

Guatemalan history, was at the same time just beginning to be understood in a manner

consistent with its modem status as a catch-all label for people defined as non-Indian.








Several factors contributed to the transformation outlined here. These factors

included a drastic reduction in slave imports after the 1630s, the Spanish need to employ

non-indigenous people of color in military and administrative capacities, and the efforts

of blacks and mulattos to escape the position of inferiority assigned to them under the

Spanish colonial racial hierarchy. Underlying and fundamentally shaping these processes

was the dependence of Spaniards in Guatemala primarily on indigenous rather than

African labor. Socially exclusionary policies intended, in theory, to relegate individuals

of African descent to the bottom of the social ladder were undermined in practice

because the full weight of racial hierarchy fell on the Indian majority.

Marriage records, especially, reveal that imposed distinctions based on origin did

not constrain the mobility of individuals of African origins to the extent desired by the

Spanish. Enslaved black men secured free birth for their children by marrying indigenous

women, while those free children, defined as mulattos, might wed mestizos or even

Spaniards. Free women of color were most likely to slip the allegedly fixed bounds of

classification by origin, as other studies of marriage in Spanish America have predicted.

Examined in conjunction with population counts, marriage records also indicate

that people defined by African origins formed a large proportion of Guatemala's non-

Indian sector by the late seventeenth century, and the majority in some regions. At the

same time, though, free mulatto social mobility was undermining distinctions among the

non-indigenous population. A key signal of this development occurred early in the

eighteenth century, when militiamen of color gained relief from an alternative tribute

owed by free people of African descent. They thus shed a key marker of "inferior"

origins that was henceforth to be associated only with Indians: tribute status.

vii













CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Visiting Guatemala City's Museo Popul Vuh in the spring of 1998, 1 encountered

a puzzling inscription at the entrance to the lone room dedicated to the colonial period.

The inscription described social stratification in Spanish Guatemala by stating that

colonial society was comprised of five groups: "los espafioles (nacidos en Espafia), los

criollos (espafioles nacidos en Am6rica), los mestizos (hijos de espafioles e indigenas),

indigenas y negros." At first, I was pleasantly surprised to see people of African origins

mentioned as having been a significant presence in colonial Guatemala. The inscription

seemed to depart from the common depiction of early Guatemalan history as a field of

struggle between "Spaniards" and "Indians" alone. This apparent departure was

welcome to someone interested in the colonial African presence in areas of Spanish

America not traditionally considered to have much African background.'




'Like Guatemala, central Mexico (New Spain) and Andean Peru had large
indigenous majorities during the colonial period, a fact which has often led scholars to
overlook the social significance of African-descended minorities in these areas. The
historiographies of New Spain and Peru do, nevertheless, include classic studies of these
minorities, notably Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrin, Lapoblaci6n negra de Mxico, 1519-1810
(M6xico, D.F.: Ediciones Fuente Cultural, 1946); Frederick P. Bowser, The African
Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524-1650 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974); Colin
A. Palmer, Slaves of the White God. Blacks in Mexico, 1570-1650 (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1976). Presently, historians of Mexico are beginning to pay
sustained attention to the colonial African presence, now sometimes called "la tercera
raiz" of the modem nation. See Adriana Naveda Chivez-Hita, "Los estudios

1










After reflecting a bit on this description of colonial Guatemala's social order,

however, its overall implications dawned on me. Those implications actually undermined

any intent which might have existed to incorporate the African presence into public

historical understanding of Guatemala's colonial roots. Blacks, the description

suggested, reproduced only among themselves, if at all, in Spanish Guatemala. Members

of the Spanish and indigenous populations, meanwhile, intermingled to produce mestizos,

but no one from either group found sexual partners of African origin. Thus mestizaje--

roughly understood as the mixing of diverse populations--operated in such a way in

colonial Guatemala as to exclude entirely the inconvenient classificatory (not to mention

other) complications that the forced importation of Africans introduced into most

colonial Spanish American societies.

The starkest interpretation of the museum's inscription, quite simply, is that the

negros of colonial Guatemala died out. This conclusion would be the one to draw, at

any rate, if one were to integrate the museum's description of colonial society with what

might be described as the "hegemonic" understanding--scholarly as well as popular--of

Guatemalan origins. Local African roots, if any, have been associated with small and

relatively isolated groups of English- and Garifuna-speaking peoples concentrated near




afromexicanos: los cimientos y las fuentes locales," La Palabray el Hombre 97 (1996):
125-139. Recent work on Peru's African background includes Christine Hunefeldt,
Paying the Price of Freedom: Family and Labor Among Lima's Slaves, 1800-1854
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). The most widely known scholarly
exploration into "forgotten" populations of African descent in Spanish America may be
George Reid Andrews, The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1800-1900 (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1980).










the country's Caribbean outlet.2 The presence in Guatemala of these groups, though,

does not date back further than the 1790s, when the British expelled the "black Caribs,"

or Garifuna, from St. Vincent.' The descendants of earlier immigrants who came directly

from Africa as slaves, meanwhile, are evidently no longer around.

Another curious aspect of the Popol Vuh museum's description of colonial

society is that the term ladino is not mentioned at all. This category is ubiquitous today

as the one into which the entire non-Mayan4 population of Guatemala is often slotted.

The failure to include the term cannot have been based on its absence from histories of




2The best example of this merges the scholarly and the popular. Ralph Lee
Woodward, Jr., the noted historian of Central America, does not mention a colonial
African presence at all in his extensive entry on Guatemala in Microsoft's Encarta
encyclopedia, other than to note the arrival of "black Caribs." See Ralph Lee
Woodward, Jr., "Guatemala," Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia.

3Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Central America: A Nation Divided, 2n ed. (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 291.

4In this dissertation I use the term "Indian" rather than "Mayan," now preferred.
My reasoning is simple: this dissertation focuses on eastern and southern parts of the
colonial Province of Guatemala (including the territory of modern El Salvador) where
much of the indigenous population was not Maya in origin, but rather Nahuatl-speaking
Pipil, with pockets of Xinci and other groups in Guazacapan. The label indio was
applied indiscriminately to all of these people. Furthermore, indio, like negro and
mulato, carried specific connotations within the Spanish colonial racial hierarchy that is
in part the subject of this study. All three must be employed for their ramifications to be
understood. On the indigenous presence in Pacific-coast and eastern Guatemala, see
Richard N. Adams, Encuesta sobre la cultura de los ladinos en Guatemala, Joaquin
Noval, trans. (Guatemala: Editorial del Ministerio de Educaci6n Pfiblica, 1956), 48;
Sandra Orellana, Ethnohistory of the Pacific Coast (Lancaster, Ca.: Labyrinthos, 1995),
24-27; Lawrence H. Feldman, A Tumpline Economy: Production and Distribution
Systems in Sixteenth-Century Eastern Guatemala (Culver City, Ca.: Labyrinthos, 1985),
6, figure 5. On El Salvador's indigenous roots, see David Browning, El Salvador:
Landscape and Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), Chapter 1.










the colonial period--it is universally noted to have been in use during colonial times.

Instead, the description's unspoken assumption is that ladino and mestizo meant, and

mean, the same thing. Such an assumption merely echoes standard modem definitions of

the term, which routinely slip suggestions to the effect that ladinos are of "mixed

indigenous and European descent" or a "mixture of Indians and Spaniards" into claims

that the category has no "racial" content, and applies purely to the use of "Western" or

"Spanish" cultural practices.5 But this definition appears to have had a relatively short

existence. It is perhaps indicative of a twentieth-century trend toward "forgetting" the

colonial African presence in Guatemala that dictionaries from 1958 and 1984,

respectively, gave the Central American definition of ladino as "descendiente de espafiol

e india" and "mestizo," while a 1916 encyclopedia--in a racist but perhaps more

historically informed entry--said "the ladinos of Guatemala are not properly speaking an

anthropological unit, but resulted from triple mestizaje in which the frizziness of the hair,

the black color of the skin, and the distinctive odor of the black have disappeared."6




'In other words, ladinos are "racially" mestizo. The quotations are taken from
"Color y amistad," in "Guia turistica," insert in La Prensa Grtfica (Guatemala), 4 enero,
1996, 2; Woodward, "Guatemala," Encarta 98. The anthropologist Richard N. Adams
warned as early as 1956 against confusing ladino with mestizo or blanco, but meant only
to say that "racially, a ladino can be white, mestizo, or even indigenous." He did allow
for the possibility that persons defined as ladino might have some African descent, but
his association of this possibility only with Guatemala's Caribbean coast was made clear
in his sole example, the town of Livingston. See Adams, Encuesta, 8-20.
6See "Ladino," in Real Academia Espafiola, Diccionario de la lengua espahola
(Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1984); "Ladino," in Martin Alonso Pedraz, Enciclopedia del
idioma: diccionario hist6rico y moderno de la lengua espaiola (siglos XII al XX)
etimol6gico, tecnol6gico, regional e hispanoamericano (Madrid: Aguilar, 1958);










In this dissertation, I seek to unravel some of the apparent contradictions in

Guatemalan myths of origin by writing two intimately related histories: one about

African-descended people in the mid-colonial period, and the other on the nature and

effects of the Spanish colonial racial hierarchy within which those people operated. The

two histories are inextricably intertwined, because the "disappearance" of colonial

Guatemala's black population was in part a matter of definition, or classification, which

is the stuff of racial hierarchies. Understanding how the Spanish categorized individuals,

and why, provides clues, for example, about the nature and direction of demographic and

social change. In turn, it was the social relationships in which people of African origins

were involved, and, most important, the material circumstances which surrounded their

forced immigration to and subsequent participation in colonial Guatemalan society, that

both infused the categories of the racial hierarchy with meaning, and changed that

meaning over time.7

I use the term "racial hierarchy" as a shorthand for the Spanish colonial system of

human classification--the sistema de castas--because that system was intended to assign

differential social status on the basis of individuals' actual or ascribed origins. I do not




"Ladinos," in Enciclopedia universal ilustrada europeo-americano (Madrid: Espasa-
Calpe, 1916). The definition's modem history and its relation to Guatemalan self-
imaginings certainly bears further investigation.

7The contrast in the Americas between highland colonial labor systems based
primarily on indigenous workers versus lowland ones built on the backs of imported
African laborers, and the consequences for subsequent "racial" and "cultural"
development, has been drawn most notably in Marvin Harris, Patterns of Race in the
Americas, (New York: Walker, 1964), esp. Chapter 2.










mean to imply that the term raza was used in colonial Guatemala, or that the

connotations assigned to "race" following the nineteenth-century advent of "scientific"

racism applied in earlier societies. It would be anachronistic in the extreme to suggest

that the residents of Spanish colonial America held modem notions about "race." But by

the same token, as Nancy Leys-Stepan has argued, nineteenth-century conceptions of

fundamental biological divisions among humankind did not emerge ex nihilo, but

received acceptance precisely because they resonated with older ideas about human

difference based on origin.'

Sixteenth-century Spaniards, for example, brought with them to the Americas a

conception of society as hierarchically ordered by divine will on the basis of hereditary

privilege. Nobility was conferred by birth, at least in theory. In addition, the Spanish

were increasingly obsessed at exactly this point with limpieza de sangre (purity of

blood), a result of both the Reconquest of Muslim-ruled portions of the Iberian peninsula

by Catholic monarchs, completed in 1492, and the Inquisition's war after 1478 on

Spanish Jews and conversos: forcibly converted and, hence, suspect "New Christians."

By 1501, applicants for many public offices in the Spanish kingdoms were required to

prove descent from "Old Christian" stock. Emphasis on "purity" of ancestry only

intensified in the following decades.9




"Nancy Leys-Stepan, "Race and Gender: The Role of Analogy in Science," in
ISIS 77 (1986): 261-277, esp. 265-266.

9Mark A. Burkholder, "Honor and Honors in Colonial Spanish America," in
Lyman L. Johnson and Sonya Lipsett-Rivera, eds., The Faces of Honor: Sex, Shame,










But while limpieza de sangre was linked primarily to religious origins in the

Spanish homeland, the notion underwent modification upon translation to the Spanish

American colonies. There, "Spanishness" came to be defined, at least in part, as a

quality that set one apart from, and above, members of large indigenous and African-

descended populations."0 The colonial social hierarchy which Spaniards endeavored to

impose in their American possessions was anchored firmly enough in categories intended

to reflect Spanish, African, or indigenous origins for the purposes of implementing

discriminatory legislation that it may, with some reservations, be termed "racial.""

The mechanics of this study involve an exploration of mostly seventeenth-century

documentation relating to the demographic and social history of that sector of the





and Violence in Colonial Latin America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
Press, 1998), 19-22; Ann Twinam, "The Negotiation of Honor," in Johnson and Lipsett-
Rivera, eds., Sex, Shame, and Violence, 74-76.

l"Burkholder, "Honor and Honors," 28, 34-37; Twinam, "Negotiation," 76-77.
Spaniards in the Americas were not a homogeneous lot, however. Occupational status,
legitimacy, and numerous other factors produced significant differentiation among them.

"Theodore Allen is largely correct in asserting that "[h]owever one may choose
to define the term 'racial,' it concerns the historian only as it relates to a pattern of
oppression (subordination, subjugation, exploitation) of one set of human beings by
another." See Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Volume One:
Racial Oppression and Social Control (London: Verso, 1994), 27. On "race" itself,
Noel Ignatiev, discussing the U.S. context, cites the "well-known phenomenon that a
white woman can give birth to a black child, but a black woman can never give birth to a
white child" to argue that the "only logical conclusion is that people are members of
different races because they have been assigned to them." See Noel Ignatiev, How the
Irish Became White (New York: Routledge, 1995), 1. For a classic comparative
demonstration of the logical absurdities inherent in systems of racial classification, see
Harris, Patterns of Race, 54-58.










colonial population which was identified by terms connoting African descent: negro and

mulato. The most important sources employed include correspondence between the

Spanish Crown and the audiencia in Santiago de Guatemala, capital of Spanish Central

America;12 the records of civil and criminal processes; a partial census of Central

America conducted during the 1680s; and, especially, marriage petitions filed by

members of the non-tributary3 population during the last half of the seventeenth century.

I also examine slave sales, some records of wills and estates, and petitions to the

audiencia from militias of color and sundry other groups and individuals. By casting my

research net more widely than deeply, I have hoped to produce a broad portrait of the

mid-colonial population of African origins, and the social relations in which its members

were involved.'4




2The term audiencia was applied both to the administrative district--the
audiencia of Guatemala, which stretched from present-day Chiapas to Costa Rica--and
to the royal court which sat in the capital, comprised of a President, sometimes also
Captain-General, and three or four oidores, or justices. See C.H. Haring, The Spanish
Empire in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947), 70-77.

3"Tributary" is used in this dissertation to refer to those members of the
indigenous population--the vast majority--who owed tribute and labor to the Spanish
Crown or its most favored representatives. Although blacks, mulattos, and some Indians
owed an alternative tribute called the laborio--see Chapter 3-I align them with non-
tributaries in order to emphasize what I argue became a key distinction of the colonial
racial hierarchy: that between Indians who owed regular tribute, and everyone else.
14This research strategy has also been necessitated by gaps in seventeenth-century
documentation. For example, I found few marriage petitions from rural areas before the
1650s. It would be unduly pessimistic, though, to presume that efforts to conduct
demographic inquiry into what a well known historian of Latin American populations
called the "pre-statistical period (1555-1744)" are futile because of a paucity of
documentation. That documentation has yet to be exhausted. See Nicolis Sinchez-










The dissertation's specific geographic focus is the colonial provincia de

Guatemala, an administrative unit within the audiencia of the same name which

encompassed roughly the present-day republics of Guatemala and El Salvador. The

boundaries of this provincia essentially matched those of the ecclesiastical diocese of

Guatemala and Verapaz, which lends a substantial degree of territorial cohesiveness to

the documentation produced. Secular as well as ecclesiastical administrations were

centered on Santiago de Guatemala,5 capital of the audiencia and by far the most

important city in colonial Central America. Santiago, though, is little discussed here. I

concentrate instead on areas outside the capital and its environs, for two reasons. First,

much of rural mid-colonial Guatemala--particularly areas south and east of the capital--

has received relatively little scholarly attention.16 Yet, as Murdo MacLeod has noted, the

countryside was increasingly central to colonial life in Guatemala during the seventeenth

century, as long-term economic depression drove urban residents into rural areas in

search of subsistence."7 Second, Christopher H. Lutz's Santiago de Guatemala is as



Albornoz, The Population of Latin America: A History (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1974), 9-10, 88.

5Originally Santiago de los Caballeros. The site which the capital occupied from
1541 to 1773 is presently Antigua Guatemala, located just west of Guatemala City.

6Significant exceptions include Murdo J. MacLeod, Spanish CentralAmerica: A
Socioeconomic History, 1520-1720 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973) and
J.C. Pinto Soria, El valle central de Guatemala (1524-1821): un andlisis acerca del
origen hist6rico-econ6mico del regionalismo en centroamirica (Guatemala:
Universidad de San Carlos, 1988).

'7MacLeod, Spanish Central America, esp. 381-385. MacLeod's thesis has been
challenged by scholars who argue that a seventeenth-century decline in an export-










thorough and impressive a demographic examination of the capital as is likely to be

done." Although African-descended populations are not his specific subject, his clear

demonstration of their importance in Guatemala's urban life serves as a starting point for

my own work.'9




oriented economy centered on indigo production produced more vibrant and diverse
internal markets, not depression. See, for example, Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales,
"Econonia y sociedad en Centroamerica (1540-1680)," in Julio C~sar Pinto Soria, ed.
Historia General de Centroamrica, 2"d ed. (San Jose: FLACSO, 1994), 2:138-140;
Gustavo Palma Murga, "Economia y sociedad en Centromerica (1680-1750)," in Pinto
Soria, ed., Historia General, 2:219-224. While I do not enter this debate directly, I see
my focus on rural demography and social relations as one response to Palma Murga's
suggestion that there "still remains much to investigate" with regard to seventeenth-
century "ruralization" in Central America. I might note also that Pinto Soria calls
mestizaje "one of the lacunae in Central American historiography." See Palma Murga,
"Economia y sociedad (1680-1750)," 223; Julio C6sar Pinto Soria, "Conclusiones," in
Pinto Soria, ed., Historia General, 2:311-312.

"SChristopher H. Lutz, Santiago de Guatemala, 1541-1773, City, Caste, and the
Colonial Experience (Norman: University of Nebraska Press, 1994).

1If Lutz is in many ways responsible for having brought the topic to the level of
historical consciousness, Guatemalan students were among the first to examine the
region's African background in any depth. See Ofelia Calder6n Diemecke de Gonzalez,
"El negro en Guatemala durante la epoca colonial" (Tesis de Licenciatura, Universidad
de San Carlos, 1973); Danilo Palma Ramos, "El negro en las relaciones etnicas de la
segunda mitad del siglo XVIII y principios del siglo XIX en Guatemala" (Tesis de
Licenciatura, Universidad de San Carlos, 1974). General histories by MacLeod, Miles
Wortman, and Severo Martinez Peliez, meanwhile, refer often to blacks and mulattos,
especially in their labor role. See MacLeod, Spanish CentralAmerica; Miles L.
Wortman, Government and Society in Central America, 1680-1840 (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1982); Severo Martinez Peliez, La patria del criollo: ensayo
de interpretaci6n de la realidad colonial guatemalteca, 13t ed. (Mexico, D.F.:
Ediciones en Marcha, 1994). I discuss the latter work's scholarly ambivalence regarding
the African presence in Chapter 3. Calls for additional study of the African presence in
colonial Guatemala have appeared, for example, in Murdo J. MacLeod, "Ethnic
Relations and Indian Society in the Province of Guatemala, ca. 1620--ca. 1800," in
Murdo J. MacLeod and Robert Wasserstrom, eds., Spaniards and Indans in




















CHIAPA GUATEMALA
fof
/Honduras
Castillo de NP
San Felipee dN'
Huehuet enango a cobim
San Crist6bal
Quezalt:enango Acasaguastln i HONDURAS
:Chiquiraulaq
3ANTIAGO
Xnazatenango oPetopa
Escuintla. "Jutiapa
O~uaz ac apikn
*'.a qoera
PACIFIC N Sonsonate San Salvador
OCEAN San Miguel.
Figure 1-1. Provincia de Guatemala, ca. 1670
Sources: Lovell and Lutz, Demography and Empire, 2,
figure 1; Feldman, Tumpline Economy, 3, figure 3.


Thus far I have stressed the demographic and social aspects of the study which

follows. Demographic and social analysis of colonial Guatemala's African-descended

population is slippery, however, and not only because of the difficulties posed by the

relative absence of consistent data. Such analysis is complicated by the existence of the





Southeastern Mesoamerica: Essays on the History of Ethnic Relations (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1983), 204-205; and W. George Lovell and Christopher
H. Lutz, Demography and Empire: A Guide to the Population History of Spanish
CentralAmerica, 1500-1821 (Boulder: Westview, 1995), 12.










colonial Spanish American racial hierarchy, and its particular manifestation in the

Province of Guatemala. Examination of the workings of that hierarchy, and of the terms

employed to distinguish among individuals positioned differently within it, is key to

achieving any useful understanding of colonial demographic and social developments.

Not only must the meanings of terms like espafol, indio, mestizo, mulato, negro, and

ladino be understood in the contexts in which they were used, but the nature of social

relationships between the people slotted into different categories must be determined.

A fundamental problem embedded in this endeavor may apply to all demographic

study. The problem is perhaps best illustrated with an observation taken from the work

of Sanchez-Albornoz. Remarking on a phenomenon whereby Indians fleeing their

villages in the Norte Chico of Chile became mestizos if they returned, he said it

constituted "an interesting sociological point, but one which is beyond the scope of a

purely demographic study."2 It would seem, instead, that understanding the nature of

such transformations should be at the very core of this work. What factors, for example,

determined the stability of labels across, and even within, generations? Rather than

simply "counting heads," then, demographic work should assess a host of inherently

unstable factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, the relative attractiveness

of labels to the people identified with them, the degree of difficulty in escaping from

unflattering or undesirable categories, and the effects of variables such as marriage or






20Sfnchez-Albornoz, Population of Latin America, 94.










migration on classification.21 In other words, the study of demography and of identity

must be intertwined.

Understanding how identities are constructed over time is surely nowhere more

important than in accounting for the apparent historical disappearance of an entire group

of people defined by a shared geographical origin, in this case Africa. Stuart Hall, a

prominent student of the African diaspora in the Americas, has called attention to the

manner in which emphasis among the descendants of Africans in the Americas on a

common African ancestry has sometimes obscured understanding of disparate identities

created by divergent New World experiences. Hall's focus is solely on the Caribbean,

where African roots do not go unrecognized, but even there, he says, there are "critical

points of deep and significant difference" in experience, especially across boundaries

resulting from diverse colonial histories.22 Such a view is "unsettling," Hall goes on, and

"reminds [people of African descent in the Americas] that what [they] share is precisely

the experience of a profound discontinuity."' How much more unsettling might it be to

consider the case of Guatemala, regularly left out of general works that focus explicitly





2It should be evident that I emphasize imposed aspects of identity, which I see as
crucial to the maintenance of racial hierarchies. For an analysis of imposed "ethnic"
identity in a modem context, see Judith Friedlander, Being Indian in Hueyapan: A Study
of Forced Identity in Contemporary Mexico (New York: St. Martin's, 1975).
22Stuart Hall, "Cultural Identity and Cultural Diaspora," in Patrick Williams and
Laura Chrisman, eds., Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1994), 394. Emphasis in original.
23Hall, "Cultural Identity," 394-395.










on the African presence in Latin America?24 Perhaps the concept of"hybridity" which

Hall evokes to understand changes in cultural identity could be deployed to re-integrate a

sense of African as well as European and indigenous backgrounds in areas of the

Americas, like Guatemala, where what was once known is only now beginning again to

impinge on shared historical consciousness. The reasons why this knowledge was

"forgotten" in the first place, however, must first be understood.25

A brief outline of the dissertation follows. Chapter 2 provides a historical profile

of the African-descended population in the Province of Guatemala up to the 1640s. It

focuses particular attention on the character of the threat which a growing population of

blacks and mulattos was said to pose to social order, at least in the minds of Spaniards.

Chapter 3 briefly discusses the formal incorporation of free blacks and mulattos into

colonial Guatemalan militias in the 1640s--a highly significant event--before exploring

the nature and operation of the Spanish colonial racial hierarchy in the Province of

Guatemala around the middle of the seventeenth century. By examining labels tied to





24See, for example, Luz Maria Martinez Montiel, cdra., Presencia africana en
Centroamnrica (Mexico: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1993); Dari6n J.
Davis, ed., Slavery and Beyond: the African Impact on Latin America and the
Caribbean (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1995).

2It is encouraging in this respect that one scholar of colonial Central America
who downplayed the role of people of African descent quite recently--referring to them
only in the context of slavery and avoiding mention of free mulattos--has shifted, 6 ia the
Mexican example, to saying that the "element of African origin was present in Central
America from the sixteenth century on... and ought to be considered as our third root."
See Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales, "Economia y sociedad (1540-1680)," passim; Elizabeth
Fonseca, Centroam&ica: su historia (San Jos6: FLACSO/EDUCA, 1996), 113.








15

origin as well as the manner in which identities were ascribed, it acts as a prelude to the

following two chapters, which center on demography.

In Chapters 4 and 5, I present a demographic portrait of the black and mulatto

presence in the Province of Guatemala during the second half of the seventeenth century.

This portrait is based primarily on marriage petitions that all colonial subjects save

tributary Indians were required to file, a 1683 census of Central America, and

information drawn from the observations of contemporary chroniclers like Francisco

Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmfn.26 These chapters reveal that, by the end of the

seventeenth century, the African-descended population of colonial Guatemala was

largely free and mulatto--due in part to a near-absence of slave imports after the 1630s--

and increasingly operated at the middle ranges of society.27 They also demonstrate that

free mulattos and other people of African origins generally constituted the largest non-

indigenous sector in eastern and southern portions of the Province of Guatemala.

Chapter 4 divides the Province into five regions in order to enhance through

comparative analysis the importance of factors such as geography and the nature of local

economies in determining where people of African origins lived, and how they fit into

local social hierarchies. Chapter 5 focuses in relatively microscopic detail on the three




26Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzman, Recordaci6nflorida: discurso
historial y demostraci6n natural, material, militar, y politica del reyno de Guatemala,
3 vols, Biblioteca "Goathemala" 6-8 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografia e Historia,
1932-1933).
271 mean the middle ranges of society in terms of social status. Most colonial
subjects, including many espaholes, would best be described as poor.










districts making up one of the five regions isolated in Chapter 4: the southern and

southwest Pacific coast. I do this in part to underscore the effects of regional

differentiation within even relatively small areas, and also to emphasize the particular

importance of black and mulatto populations along the Pacific coast.2

If regional differences appear in Chapters 4 and 5 as crucial determinants of the

manner in which diverse populations were distributed throughout the Province of

Guatemala, gender emerges in the same chapters as a key factor in structuring the nature

and direction of the processes of mestizaje that linked together people of diverse origins.

Far from being arranged hierarchically solely on the basis of "racial" origin, Spanish

colonial society was, at the least, doubly stratified, in such a way that "gender [was]

always also a racial category and race a gender category."'29 In colonial Guatemala, this




28Colombia is one of the best known Spanish American examples of regional
differentiation in processes of mestizaje involving people of African descent. Peter
Wade notes the importance historically of "the local economic and social context" in
producing this differentiation. See Peter Wade, Blackness and Race Mixture: The
Dynamics of Racial Identity in Colombia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1993), 56.

'The quotation, a reference to "cultures stratified by both race and gender," is in
Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University
Press, 1986), 18, cited in Elizabeth Anne Kuznesof, "Ethnic and Gender Influences on
'Spanish' Creole Society in Colonial Spanish America," Colonial Latin American
Review 4:1 (1995): 159. I employ the concept of gender, in which is entailed the social
construction of differing male and female roles, because, as Verena Stolcke (Martinez-
Alier) has put it, the biological facts of sex difference "acquire social significance only
within wider systems of meaning." Gender in colonial Spanish America encompassed,
among other things, the socially organized subordination of women, with a primary aim
being control over the processes by which social hierarchy was reproduced. See Verena
Stolcke (Martinez-Alier), "Introduction to the Second Edition," in Verena Martinez-
Alier, Marriage, Class, and Colour in Nineteenth-Century Cuba: A Study of Racial










double stratification was reflected, for example, in the fact that marriage between

partners of differing origins tended to involve women of lower and men of higher

"racial" status. Most striking in this regard is evidence that "free" indigenous women

who wed enslaved men of African descent were actually marrying up on the racial

hierarchy, and thus ensuring that their children would enjoy status as non-Indians. The

enslaved husbands of these women, meanwhile, gained free birth for those same children,

making use of a gendered pathway to emancipation, at least for their offspring, to which

slave women did not have access.

Chapter 6 relies especially on the records of civil disputes and criminal cases to

delve more closely into the social relations in which members of the African-descended

population were involved. In doing so, it largely confirms what the evidence presented

in the previous chapters suggests: that the social position of free mulattos, in particular,

was increasingly at odds with the lowly status ascribed to them under the racial

hierarchy. That status was enforced, in theory, through the collection of an alternative

tribute and segregated militia service. In practice, the very fact that free mulattos

participated in defending the realm helped undermine their tribute status, the decline of

which in turn eliminated a marker that had singled them out for segregated militia duty in

the first place.







Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society, 2nd ed. (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, 1989), xiv.








18

The concluding chapter looks closely at the process by which militiamen of color

shed their tribute status in the early eighteenth century. Their success vividly illustrates

how the fact that the heaviest burdens of racial hierarchy in Guatemala fell on the

indigenous majority allowed members of the African-descended minority some space in

which to renegotiate the terms of their lives. That process of renegotiation did not

undermine the entire racial hierarchy, however. The Spanish elite remained on top, and

the tributary majority on the bottom. If anything, the escape by people of African origins

from the lowest rungs of the social ladder strengthened the position of Spaniards, by

clarifying and cementing distinctions between non-Spaniards who owed tribute--indios--

and those who did not--ladinos.3












3Both the persistence of tribute status as a mark of "inferiority," and the vital
role of "divide-and-rule" strategies in undergirding Spanish colonial power, are exhibited
in a 1788 warning from the governor of Nicaragua against royal efforts to reimpose
tribute on blacks and mulattos there. The latter would fiercely resist such an action, the
governor said, because they were "falsely persuaded of the superiority of their class over
the Indians, whom they judge as degraded because of [Indians'] status as tribute-payers.
." However "false" the governor may have believed the distinctions between the two
non-Spanish groups to be, he was clearly in no hurry to see them ended. The document
is in Richard Konetzke, ed., Colecci6n de documentospara la historia de laformaci6n
social de Hispanoamerica, 1493-1810, 3 vols. (Madrid: Consejo Superior de
Investigaciones Cientificas, 1953- ), 3:628-631; and cited in Ronald Escobedo Mansilla,
"El tributo de los zambaigos, negros y mulatos libres en el virreinato peruano," in
Revista de Indias 41:163-164 (1981): 45, footnote 6.














CHAPTER 2
THE "BLACK THREAT" IN EARLY SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY GUATEMALA

On October 26'h, 1624, members of the audiencia of Guatemala left the chambers

where they deliberated as the highest court in Spanish Central America and walked out

onto the main plaza of the capital, Santiago, on their way to the city jail. Once there,

following weekly ritual, they carried out an inventory of the institution's involuntary

residents. The list they made that day included several different categories of prisoners.

Along with four people jailed "por crimen" were five others incarcerated for crossing the

tax-collecting arm of the Spanish Crown, and two for debts. A further ten individuals

were listed under two other categories headed by references not only to the type of

infraction involved, but also to the origin of those listed: "yndios por crimen" and

"yndios tributos." The largest group of prisoners, though, was denoted exclusively by

origin, without reference to any sort of transgression at all. Fifteen of the thirty-six

unfortunates in jail that day fell under the simple heading "Negros y Mulatos."'



'Archivo General de Centroamerica (hereafter AGCA), Al.43, Legajo 4876,
Expediente 41801 (hereafter in the following format: A1.43. 4876. 41801). This
expediente contains the complete records of 12 visitas of the jail carried out between 24
October 1624 and 21 June 1625. This equals roughly one-third of the total number of
weekly inspections that would have been effected during this period if inspections were
done regularly. There is no record of inspections conducted during the period from
20 December 1624 to 5 April 1625, except that the last page of an otherwise-missing
visita precedes the first page recording the inspection of 5 April. The category "Negros
y Mulatos" appears in all of the visitas except the final one, from 21 June 1625, in which

19










The inconsistency in the audiencia's system of prisoner classification suggests

the ascription of a single, shared origin to the various individuals categorized according

to type of infraction alone. All were undoubtedly deemed espaiioles. As in any colonial

society where individuals were ranked in law according to a hierarchy of ancestry, the

people in colonial Guatemala most likely to have their ascribed designation within the

prevailing hierarchy go unmentioned were those presumed to share the origins of the

officials doing the classifying. The primary intent of the Spanish racial hierarchy, after

all, was to identify and mark non-Spaniards in order to facilitate the maintenance of a

stratified social order and restrict access to colonial wealth, power, and privilege.2 The

exigencies of this social order were evidently such as to require that even jail populations

be classified carefully by origin. In all categories save one, the 1624 prisoner inventory

exhibits as clearly as any other seventeenth-century document the great social division

said to characterize colonial Guatemala, that between "Spaniards" and "Indians."3





a revised version of the category appears: "Mestizos, Negros, y Mulatos."

2Recent works examining the operation of the mid-colonial Spanish racial
hierarchy in major urban areas include Lutz, Santiago de Guatemala; and R. Douglas
Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City,
1660-1720 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994). Lutz emphasizes rather
more than Cope the ultimate success of a Spanish "divide-and-rule" strategy. See Lutz,
Santiago, esp. 140 and Chapter 4; Cope, Limits, esp. Introduction and Chapter 1.

3In theory, colonial society in Spanish America was divided into two "republics"-
-the reputblica de los espaholes and the repuiblica de los indios--with the protection of
indigenous populations a stated aim. The introduction of African slaves and the growth
of mixed, or casta, populations rapidly undermined this neat social division in many
places, including the capital of Guatemala. See Lutz, Santiago, Chapter 3.










The final, and largest, category of prisoners listed on the inventory somewhat

disturbs the rather tidy social portrait which the others appear to suggest. The existence

of what might be termed a "middle group" situated between the two major opposing

populations is not surprising. Such groups, often comprised largely of people of plural

origins, have frequently emerged in societies sharply divided along lines of "race" or

"caste." It has been argued, in fact, that rule by a small, foreign population could not be

maintained for long in any society without the existence of a social sector able to mediate

between governors and governed.4 The obvious question to arise in the case of the

prison inventory described above is why its "middle" category was not "Mestizos," given

that individuals of mixed Spanish and indigenous descent might have been expected to

dominate such a group in colonial Guatemala. The category "Negros y mulatos" does

not by any conventional understanding imply mestizaje involving Spaniards and Indians

at all. Nor, as seen below, did it in colonial Guatemala. Arguments to the effect that

mulato did not connote African descent in Guatemala aside,5 Christopher Lutz's work,

and the present dissertation, demonstrate that the terms mestizo and mulato largely

retained their original meanings for the purposes of classification into the eighteenth

century.6




'See, for example, Harris, Patterns of Race, 86-89.

5See Chapter 3.
6See Lutz, Santiago, passim; Chapter 3, below. The classic studies of "racial"
terminology and the sociedad de castas in Spanish America are Lyle N. McAllister,
"Social Structure and Social Change in New Spain." Hispanic American Historical








22

The most important reason for the retention in seventeenth-century Guatemala of

the original meaning of the term mulato was the existence of a clearly identified

population of Afiican descent which was more substantial than is generally recognized,

and whose members operated within relatively well defined social parameters. A final

illustration drawn from the 1624 prison inventory mentioned above serves nicely to hint

at the relative demographic weights of the categories mulato and mestizo within the

population at large. A search on the prison list for individuals defined as mestizo turns

up just two names: Juan Clemente and Jacinto Ramirez. These men, along with the

"yndio" Juan de la Tieta, formed a trio of thieves placed by the official who compiled the

inventory under the category "Negros y mulatos."

As noted above, in only one of twelve jail inspections recorded between October,

1624 and June, 1625 was the term mestizo actually employed in a category heading, and

then only in conjunction with rather than as a replacement for negro and mulato.' The

classification mestizo, it seems, was simply not significant enough to rate much notice.'




Review 43, no.3 (1963): 349-3 70; and Magnus MOrner, Race Mixture in the History of
Latin America, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967). Both are discussed in Chapter 3. For a
recent restatement of the need to understand "socio-racial and ethnic terms" in the
"immediate historical and social context in which they were used," see David Cahill,
"Colour by Numbers: Racial and Ethnic Categories in the Viceroyalty of Peru, 1532-
1824," in Journal of Latin American Studies 26 (1994): 341-342.

7See footnote 1, above.

8Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales notes, regarding mestizos, that "it would appear that
they were not very numerous during the seventeenth century." She makes little
reference, however, to the existence of a sizeable mulatto population. See Fonseca
Corrales, "Economia y sociedad (1540-1680)," 119.








23

Meanwhile, eleven of the twelve prisoners with whom Juan Clemente, Jacinto Ramirez,

and Juan de la Tieta shared a category on the October 24, 1624 prison inventory were

defined explicitly as negro or mulato, and constituted a third of the jail's total

population.9

A number of historians of colonial Spanish America, drawing mostly on

eighteenth-century evidence, have left the impression that the Spanish colonial racial

hierarchy was at all times extremely mutable, and bore little relation to social reality.'"

Such interpretations have tended to focus on the late-colonial hierarchy's fluid middle

reaches--between espahol and indio tributario in heavily-indigenous regions like

Guatemala--a range where distinctions had perhaps ceased to matter a great deal by the

later years of the eighteenth century. Early in the seventeenth century, though, legal

distinctions based, for example, on the perceived presence or absence of African descent

were enforced quite systematically, through such means as the imposition of a form of

tribute status on mulattos and blacks, but not mestizos." In Guatemala, attention to

these distinctions was sharpened by a steady growth in the number of Africans and their

descendants, both slave and free, a demographic development which colonial authorities

viewed as the source of significant social problems.




9AGCA, A1.43.4876. 41801.

1For a recent example, see Robert H. Jackson, "Race/Caste and the Creation and
Meaning of Identity in Colonial Spanish America," Revista de Indias 55, no. 203 (1995):
149-173.


"For a detailed discussion, see Chapter 3.










In the capital, Santiago de Guatemala, gangs of unruly slaves appeared to

threaten social peace and order.2 In the countryside, meanwhile, the concerns of royal

officials centered on three specific phenomena involving blacks and mulattos. The first

of these was cimarronaje, or escape from enslavement, particularly as it related to the

establishment of maroon communities in coastal areas along both the Caribbean and

Pacific flanks of the Province of Guatemala. The second revolved around illicit activities

associated with the ranching economy. Highly skilled vaqueros of African origin, both

free and enslaved, were prominent in widespread and illegal cattle slaughter that reached

epidemic proportions during the first years of the seventeenth century. Finally, official

worries focused on persistent patterns of residence in and commerce with indigenous

communities on the part of non-Indians, despite repeated bans.

The black and mulatto actors involved in each of these developments had

acquired some combination of skills and independence that reduced, to varying degrees,

Spanish social control over them. Long desired as slaves by labor-starved Spaniards,

Africans and their descendants were increasingly viewed with suspicion, fear, and

outright hostility, as many achieved freedom, and more developed a sophisticated

understanding of Spanish society that had never been envisioned by their European

overlords. A precise demographic assessment of the rural African presence during the

early seventeenth century is not possible here, but Spaniards saw too many blacks and

mulattos, and feared being "overwhelmed." Ironically, in the 1640s Spanish officials




2See the description of a feud between the slaves of two households, below.








25

would begin incorporating into their defense forces many members of the very Afiican-

descended population viewed as dangerous during the previous decades. Those earlier

decades, as this chapter reveals, were crucial to the "pacification" of the people of

African origins who were least willing to accommodate themselves to inferior status

within the Spanish colonial social order.

The Establishment of an African Presence in Guatemala

The presence of Africans and their descendants in colonial Guatemala, as

elsewhere in the contemporary Americas, was a result almost entirely of the Atlantic

slave trade which operated between the African continent and the "New World.'13 Black

slaves likely accompanied Pedro de Alvarado's invasion force in 1524,"4 and were almost

certainly present in Alvarado's Guatemalan capital by 1533. In February of that year, the

cabildo decreed punishment for unspecified misdeeds it said were being committed in

and around water sources by both espaioles and negros. The miscreants, the municipal




3The literature on this commerce is voluminous. Good places to start include
Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin
Press, 1969); John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World,
1400-1680 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

4Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran states categorically that Alvarado brought black slaves
with him, but cites no evidence for this assertion. The historian best acquainted with
African slavery in sixteenth-century Guatemala, meanwhile, says such evidence "remains
undiscovered." See Aguirre Beltrin, Lapoblaci6n negra, 8; Robinson Herrera, "The
African Slave Trade in Early Santiago," Urban History Workshop Review 4 (1998): 6.
Alvarado did take as many as two hundred black slaves with him to Peru in 1534,
including Juan Valiente, a slave from Puebla who rose to the status of encomendero in
Chile, surely one of the most startling examples of upward mobility in Spanish colonial
history. See Bowser, The African Slave, 4; Peter Boyd-Bowman, "Negro Slaves in
Early Colonial Mexico," The Americas 26, no.2 (1969): 150-151.










council warned, were setting a "bad public example" for the conquered indigenous

peoples." This decree set two precedents. First, it identified people of African descent

as an "unruly" element in the new colonial society, and a negative influence on the

region's original inhabitants. Second, it underscored the social division between

European and African newcomers, establishing harsher punishment for offenders from

the latter category.16

However many people of African origins were present in Guatemala in 1533, no

large-scale importation of Africans to Central America took place prior to the Spanish

Crown's publication of the "New Laws" in 1542.17 This royal threat to the excessive and

unregulated Spanish exploitation of a native population that was already in severe decline

due to disease and overwork helped prompt a turn to African labor in certain

enterprises."i News of the Crown's legislation had yet to reach Central America, though,



18 February, 1533 order of the cabildo of Santiago, cited in Antonio de
Remesal, Historia general de las Indias Occidentales y particular de la gobernaci6n de
Chiapay Guatemala, 2 vols. (Mexico: Editorial Porrja, 1988), 1:45. On a similar
decree emitted in Ciudad Real de Chiapas in 1537, see 1:434.

16Remesal, Historia general, 1:45. The cabildo mandated sentences of four days
in the stocks and 100 lashes for black offenders. Spaniards were to be jailed for four
days and fined four gold pesos. In 1537, allegations that blacks were creating disorder in
the public market brought a decree barring entry to them, also on pain of 100 lashes for
disobedience, plus a ten-peso fine. See Remesal, Historia general, 1:46.
17On the New Laws and their initial impact in Guatemala, see Silvio Zavala,
Contribuci6n a la historia de las instituciones coloniales en Guatemala, 4' ed.
(Guatemala: Universidad de San Carlos, 1967), 28-32.

"8MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 109-116; William S. Sherman, Forced
Native Labor in Sixteenth-Century Central America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Press, 1979), 11, 130-132. MacLeod emphasizes the long-term impact of indigenous










when the first recorded arrival of a slave cargo from Africa took place: 150piezas de

indias landed on the Honduran coast, via Santo Domingo, early in 1543.19 The vast

majority of the slaves brought in during the period immediately following appears to

have been destined for labor in gold deposits on the Guayape River, in the Olancho

district of eastern Honduras. As many as 1,500 African slaves may have been working

there by 1545.20 Gold and, later, silver mining concentrated especially in Honduras and

northeastern Nicaragua consumed a substantial proportion of the slaves who arrived

during the following decades. The supply of slaves to these mining regions was never

sufficient, however, to satisfy the demand of colonists eager for quick riches.21

Sixteenth-century slave imports into the colonial province of Guatemala are less

well understood. There was no one enterprise similar to mining in Honduras which

produced both the capital and the labor requirements necessary to initiate imports on a

large scale. The exact nature of slave importation into early colonial Guatemala is in fact



demographic decline in promoting more cautious Spanish deployment of Indian labor,
while Sherman credits royal officials--the audiencia president Alonso Lopez de Cerrato
in particular--with instigating change.

'9J. Joaquin Pardo, Efemerides para escribir la historia de la muy noble y muy
leal ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros del reino de Guatemala (Guatemala:
Sociedad de Geografia e Historia, 1944), 8. The term pieza de india referred to one
slave "unit," defined as a healthy, young male and hence not necessarily representative of
the actual number of individuals, including women and children, being transported. See
Curtin, Atlantic Slave Trade, 22-23.
2MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 60-61.

21The boom in Honduran silver mining hit a peak in 1584, with much of the
proceeds invested in African slaves. See MacLeod, Spanish CentralAmerica, 148;
Fonseca Corrales, "Economia y sociedad (1540-1680)," 119.








28

only now receiving the attention needed to establish a better demographic understanding

of the African presence there. Robinson Herrera has indicated recently that Spanish

colonists in Guatemala imported African slaves in "piecemeal fashion" rather than in

large blocks of humans because of their expense and the lack of highly lucrative

enterprises in which to employ them profitably. People of African origin entered the

region in twos and threes, many as personal servants of royal officials under license from

the King.22

In 1581, for example, the Crown granted the newly appointedfiscal of the

audiencia the right to take three slaves with him to Santiago, free from payment of the

duties usually required.2 Officials were prohibited from selling such slaves in the Indies,

although, as Herrera notes, this ban "likely went unheeded." It was rare during this

period, however, for three or more slaves to be sold at once in Santiago. The largest

sale, evidently, was a 1570 transfer of five male and four female bondservants between

Juan Maldonado de Guzman and don Francisco de la Cueva. By that year, nevertheless,









22Herrera, "African Slave Trade," 7. Herrera's article includes data on 249 slaves
bought and sold in Santiago between 1544 and 1587. See table on 7.

23Federico Argiiello Sol6rzano y Carlos Molina Arguello, eds., Monumenta
Centroamericae Hist6rica: Colecci6n de documentos y materialespara el estudio de la
history de la vida de los pueblos de la America Central (Managua: Instituto
Centroamericano de Historia, 1965), 764, document 622. Documents 623 and 624
exhibit two similar licences, granted in 1600.








29

the number of small-scale transactions was significant enough that a permanent location

for the conducting of slave sales had been established in Santiago.24

While the number of African slaves entering the Province of Guatemala during

the sixteenth century must have been relatively small, the black and mulatto population

of the capital was expanding steadily by 1600. According to Christopher Lutz's

estimates, the number of slaves in Santiago surpassed 1,100 in the 1 590s--some six

percent of the city's total population.25 The city probably also held around three hundred

free individuals of African descent, the core of a population that would expand at an

exponential rate over the following century.26 Figures for the countryside are much

harder to come by, since direct evidence for this period is almost non-existent, but Lutz's

estimates for Santiago provide a basis on which to begin building a portrait of rural

areas.

It may be assumed reasonably safely that the number of slaves entering

Guatemala during the sixteenth century was somewhat higher than any figures drawn

from surviving records might suggest. Many slaves were not imported directly into

Central America through the audiencia's official point of entry, Puerto Caballos on

Honduras' Caribbean coast, but came overland instead, from southern New Spain in





24Herrera, "African Slave Trade," 7-8.

25Lutz, Santiago, 239-242. Lutz's estimates are based on extrapolations from
parish records that are unfortunately incomplete for this early period.

26Lutz, Santiago, table on 242.










particular.27 This pattern apparently persisted well into the following century.

According to Lutz, some 150 piezas de indias were brought into Central America each

year by ship during the early decades of the seventeenth century--legally and illegally--

while an unknown number of others entered the territory by land.28 Citing evidence from

Santiago's baptismal records, he goes on to suggest that bozales continued to enter

Guatemala from New Spain in small numbers between the 1630s and 1690s, when

official imports had all but ceased.29






27Herrera, "African Slave Trade," 7-8. These slaves would quite naturally not
have been recorded as cargo on ships arriving off the Honduran coast, nor would they
necessarily have appeared in notary records in Santiago if purchased in, say, Oaxaca.

28Lutz, Santiago, 85-86. See also the suggestion, based on an estimate by an
aspiring slave trader, that the number of slaves brought into the Spanish Indies as a
whole before 1645 may have been substantially higher than is generally thought, in
Palmer, Slaves of the White God, 30.

29Lutz, Santiago, 86. According to one official, imports stopped altogether after
1638 for more than three decades. A Spanish ban on the slave trade between 1640 and
1662 due to imperial crises, plus low demand, were the most important factors in this
development, although imports did not pick up again even when officials in Santiago
began requesting new supplies after the ban was lifted. See AGCA, A1.23. 1517. 10072.
ff.108-108v. (1646); A1.23. 2197. 15751. ff.97 and copies on ff.1 Iv., 113 (1664);
A1.23. 2199. 15755. f.50 (1670); Frederick P. Bowser, "Africans in Spanish American
Colonial Society," in Leslie Bethell, ed., Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. 2
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 362. Some smuggling did occur. No
fewer than 86 slaves were landed illegally at Trujillo from the ship Santa Maria de los
Remedios y San Lorenzo in 1641, and as many as 76 of these made it to San Miguel the
following year. In 1660, meanwhile, the audiencia sold two slaves at auction who were
known to have escaped from a Dutch slaver docked for "re-supply" in Trujillo after
being "blown off course." See AGCA, A1.24. 1559. 10203. ff.35-37v., 93-95v. (1642);
A1.23. 1519. 10074. ff. 90-90v. (1662); Alonso Moratalla Tobar a la Corona, 10
February 1644, Archivo General de Indias (hereafter AGI), Guatemala, 16, R.5, N.30.










But no matter how many slaves remain unaccounted for, the total number

imported into the Province of Guatemala during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

can have represented no more than a small minority of the overall population. That

population was at all times overwhelmingly indigenous. The greater significance of

Africans and their descendants, which I explore extensively in subsequent chapters, lay in

their importance to the demographic, social, and "racial" development of the non-Indian

population, especially south and east of Santiago de Guatemala.

It suffices here to consider that recent estimates of the number of Spanish

vecinos3' present in Central America as a whole during the 1620s range around 2,800."'

Somewhat more than half of this total resided in the Province of Guatemala, which was

home to the capital, the largest city by far in the audiencia of the same name. Following

the historical demographer Woodrow Borah's lead,32 one might use a multiplier of six to

account for the total population of espaiioles, including both family members and the

various hangers-on who typically resided in Spanish households, and still arrive at a

figure of fewer than 17,000 persons identified as Spaniards33 in the entire isthmus.





"Roughly speaking, the term vecino referred to a propertied head of household.

3Lovell and Lutz, Demography and Empire, 13.
32Cited in Lutz, Santiago, 104, table 8, note a.

33The total would have included Spaniards from the Iberian peninsula as well as
American-born persons defined by Spanish origin. Members of both groups were
commonly identified as espaiiol at this time. See Chapter 3. Note also that Spaniards in
religious orders are not included in this estimate.










Meanwhile, in the Valle de las Vacas alone--the present location of Guatemala

City and at the time a largely rural valley of sugar plantations, wheat farms, and cattle

ranches--the renegade English Dominican friar Thomas Gage saw more than 600 black

slaves during the early 1630s.34 While this important agricultural region near the colonial

capital might have been expected to hold a substantial number of slaves, it surely

absorbed nowhere near the number who went to the mines of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Increasing Spanish concern during the early decades of the seventeenth century over

steadily mounting numbers of both free and enslaved blacks and mulattos, discussed

below, reflected the growing fears of Europeans in Central America that people of

African descent were beginning to outnumber them.

Throughout the later sixteenth century and into the opening decade of the

seventeenth, Spanish colonists in Central America had petitioned steadily for more slaves

from Africa. The mining sector, especially, wanted an increase in imports, but the

demand for African slaves rose from a broad cross-section of Spanish entrepreneurs, as

the demographic catastrophe experienced by indigenous populations after the European

invasion was followed by increasingly insistent royal efforts to shield Indians from labor

not only in mining but also in the production of sugar, indigo, and textiles." Suddenly,




34Thomas Gage, Travels in the New World, J. Eric S. Thompson, ed. (Norman:
University of Olahoma Press, 1958), 198-199, 203-204.

"On Central American colonists' requests for more slaves, see letter of 12
March, 1570 from the cabildo of Santiago to the King, requesting 1,000 African slaves,
"Colecci6n de documentos antiguos del ayuntamiento de Guatemala," in Isagoge
historica apologtica de las Indias Occidentales y especial de la Provincia de San










though, Santiago's cabildo pleaded for a halt to imports in 1612. The petition was

repeated in 1617, and again in 1620.36 By the second decade of the seventeenth century,

it seems, the growing African presence had become a social threat no longer outweighed

by the need for an imported labor force.

Why was this? There is no evidence of any dramatic explosion in the African-

descended population during the second decade of the seventeenth century. Nor were

the profound economic difficulties which beset Central America toward mid-century yet

evident on the horizon.7 Furthermore, increasing the slave population had been the






Vicente de Chiapay Guatemala, Biblioteca "Goathemala" 13 (Guatemala: Sociedad de
Geografia e Historia, 1935), 327-328; 1579 request for 400 slaves for the mines of
Honduras, in Carlos Alfonso Alvarez-Lobos Villatoro y Ricardo Toledo Palomo, eds.,
Libro de los Pareceres de la Real Audiencia de Guatemala, 1571-1655 (Guatemala:
Academia de Geografia e Historia de Guatemala, 1996), 22-23; request of 20 October
1604 from vecinos of Nueva Segovia for 300 slaves to mine gold, in AGCA, A1.24.
1514. f.61; 1609 request from Santiago's cabildo for 2,000 slaves, in don Carlos
Vizquez de Coronado a la Corona, 19 May 1609, AGI, Guatemala, 42, N. 12. See also
MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 149-150. For discussion of estimates made
regarding the dimensions of indigenous population decline, see Lovell and Lutz,
Demography and Empire, 4-10. Royal decrees ordering the substitution of African or
"otro genero de servicio" for indigenous labor in various enterprises include those of 24
November 1601, AGCA, A1.23. 4576. 39529. ff.45v.-50; 24 November 1602, AGCA,
A1.23. 1514. ff.33-34; 26 May 1609, AGCA, A1.23. 1514. 67. See also extracts of
cedulas of 26 May 1605, 11 September 1610, 8 October 1631, and 12 March 1643, in
"Recopilaci6n de las Reales Cedulas que gobiernan en el Supremo Tribunal de la Real
Audiencia de Guatemala," Boletin del Archivo General de la Naci6n, 2a. epoca 1:1
(1967): 23, 37, 85, 108.
36Pardo, Efemerides, 41, 43.

37Central America's first indigo boom, in fact, was at its height between 1580 and
1620. See MacLeod, Spanish CentralAmerica, 176.








34

desire of many Spaniards as late as 1609.3 Instead, factors having to do with the threat,

real or imagined, that the African-descended population had begun to assume in the

minds of many Spaniards appear to have played a key role in the desire to halt imports.

One of these factors, almost certainly, was the news of an alleged conspiracy of

blacks and mulattos in Mexico City, savagely repressed early in 1612. Twenty-nine men

and four women of African origins were hanged, and the audiencia of New Spain

decreed severe restrictions on the public movements and dress of the entire African-

descended population.9 But while events in Mexico City may have finally tipped

Spanish sentiment in Guatemala against further growth in the African population, that

sentiment had been taking root for at least a decade.

During the century's opening years, both free and enslaved blacks and mulattos

appeared frequently as protagonists in illegal activities. Many Spaniards in the colony

believed these activities threatened both their own personal safety and economic well-




38Don Carlos Vizquez de Coronado a la Corona, 19 May 1609, AGI, Guatemala,
42, N. 12. It should be noted, however, that if Santiago's cabildo had yet to express
misgivings about the growth of Guatemala's black population in 1609, Coronado, the
royal official who relayed its request for 2,000 slaves to the Crown, revealed clear
discomfort at the prospect of such a large number of African imports. Don Carlos
indicated his own belief that half of the requested number would be quite sufficient, in
part because the audiencia was "inhabited by few Spaniards, and there are in [it] a great
number of blacks and mulattos, slave and free."

39rving Leonard, Baroque Times in Old Mexico (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, 1959), 19-20; David M. Davidson, "Negro Slave Control and
Resistance in Colonial Mexico, 1519-1650," Hispanic American Historical Review 46,
no. 3 (1966): 250-251. See also the "Ordenanzas de la Real Audiencia de Nueva Espafia
sobre las juntas y trajes de los negros y mulatos," 14 April 1612, in Konetzke, ed.,
Colecci6n de documentos, 2, bk. 1:182-183.










being, and the peace and orderliness of indigenous communities. Ultimately, the

activities appeared as a threat to the social hierarchy itself The growth of a free

population of color not under the direct control of Spanish masters may seem at first to

have been most responsible for this development, but things were more complicated.

Slaves as well as free people of African origins openly flouted the law, as often as not

with the support of their Spanish owners or employers.

In 1609, officials in the capital opened an investigation into incidents involving

death threats made against slaves belonging to a prominent resident of the capital,

Francisco de Mesa.' The threats were directed in particular against a slave named

Lorenzo. As the investigation unfolded, the testimony of various witnesses hinted at a

world in which gangs of black slaves traversed the city streets at will, armed and

mounted on horseback, and with little fear of the Spaniards to whom they were bound in

theory to pay the utmost respect. The tangle of testimony hints at a rivalry between two

households: the one Mesa ruled, and another whose head was Andr6s de Molina. These

two men's slaves met in sometimes violent confrontation on back streets, in the main

square, and even at Mesa's house. The authorities, it appears, did little to intervene.

Part of the trouble stemmed from assistance Lorenzo was said to have provided

to an officer of the local jail, in an evidently unsuccessful attempt to arrest Molina for




40AGCA, Al. 15. 4093. 32467. Although rich, Mesa was seen as an upstart by
Santiago's elite families, who were outraged by the efforts of this "hombre sin m6ritos y
calidad" to buy his way into their ranks by purchasing municipal offices. See letters from
cabildo to Crown of 4 July 1597, 15 May 1599, and 29 April 1601 in "Colecci6n de
documentos antiguos," 357-358, 360-361, 362-364.










unknown reasons. Molina's slaves had defended their master during the incident, and

undoubtedly had his full blessing to take revenge for it. More immediately, though,

Lorenzo, backed by several other slaves belonging to Mesa, had accosted and harassed a

slave from the Molina household named Diego on a street in the neighborhood of Santo

Domingo. The affront to Diego brought his brother Domingo, also a slave, into the

feud. Domingo was owned not by Molina but, remarkably enough, by Melchor Godoy

de Santa Cruz, an alcalde of the Santa Hermandad, more or less the police force of the

realm. Domingo then evidently set out to hunt down Lorenzo with the assistance of a

number of Molina's slaves, the most prominent among them named Juan Criollo and

Ambrosio. As many as eight slaves at once from the Molina camp were alleged on

various occasions to have accosted one or another of Mesa's bondservants, both in the

city's main plaza and at Mesa's door. Witnesses had seen Domingo and Ambrosio

carrying swords, and had heard both Domingo and Juan Criollo making repeated threats

to kill Lorenzo or, if they could not find him, another of Mesa's slaves.4'

The testimony provided in the case must be approached cautiously, since it was

largely elicited from members of Francisco de Mesa's household, including his son and

five of his slaves. But a dispute clearly took place, apparently involving angry, armed

slaves roaming the streets of the capital at will and settling scores on their own. A

situation like this would have represented a frightening scenario for many Spanish

residents. One of these, Onofrio de Colindres Fuente, said he had seen Domingo and




41AGCA, A1.15. 4093. 32467.










two other negros come to Francisco de Mesa's house in search of Lorenzo. The most

striking aspect of the incident he witnessed, it seems, was Domingo's possession of a

sword. More disturbing to Colindres, though, may have been the scene he said he

encountered later in Santiago's central plaza, on his way to fetch an odor at Mesa's

request. Milling about on horseback in front of the jail and openly discussing their hunt

for Lorenzo, Colindres reported, were perhaps eight blacks and mulattos, at least three

of whom he recognized as Molina's slaves. That the odor and officers of the Santa

Hermandad were unsuccessful in apprehending this group can only have added to

Colindres' discomfort.42

The sight of armed, mounted slaves gathering in large groups in the heart of the

city was not likely to inspire much confidence among local Spaniards. Most

disconcerting, though, may have been the attitudes of the slaves engaged in these

activities rather than the activities themselves. Insolence on the part of people who

theoretically occupied the bottom rung of the social ladder could well have been taken as

the most ominous threat to the established hierarchy. The testimony of Francisco de

Mesa's son, don Tornis L6pez de Mesa, reveals dismay at the utter lack of respect

accorded him by Molina's slaves during an incident in which he had confronted them

demanding to know their intentions. Juan Criollo apparently replied without hesitation

that they sought to kill Lorenzo. Worse for the young Spaniard, though, was his

recollection of Ambrosio standing "with his cape aslant and a sword in hand." This




42AGCA, A].15. 4093. 32467.








38

haughty manner of personal presentation, don Tomas no doubt thought, was reserved to

people of his own elevated social condition, and certainly no prerogative of slaves. He

expressed grave concern over the matter to other Spaniards, complaining bitterly to don

Antonio de la Cueva and Luis de Monterroso "about the freedom with which Molina's

blacks lived."'43

As this case shows, urban slaves, as elsewhere in the Americas, often had a good

deal of freedom to move about the city on their own, especially if they were highly

valued artisans or domestic workers in charge of key aspects of the household

economy." It is also clear that in Santiago at least some owners armed their slaves along

the lines of private militias. This would have required a good deal of trust on the part of

the former, trust most likely maintained by the granting of a substantial measure of

liberty, privilege and protection from the law in return for obedient service to the master.

Most Spaniards, though, did not enjoy the economic or social position necessary to





43AGCA, Al. 15. 4093. 32467. Interestingly enough, the year after this episode
Francisco de Mesa was appealing for the release from jail of Lorenzo and another slave
on apparently unrelated charges, an indication perhaps that Molina's slaves were not
exceptional in their disregard for the law. See AGCA, A1.15. 5905. 50033 (1610).

"For some examples from sixteenth-century Santiago de Guatemala, see
Robinson Antonio Herrera, "The People of Santiago: Early Colonial Guatemala, 1538-
1587" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Los Angeles, 1997), 277. For
examples from colonial Lima, Mexico City, and Havana, see Bowser, African Slave, esp.
Chapter 6; Cope, Limits, 95-98; Manuel Moreno Fraginals, "Peculiaridades de la
esclavitud en Cuba," Islas 85 (1986): 3-12. A fascinating first-person account from
outside Spanish America which suggests the relative advantages of life as an urban
versus a rural, plantation slave is Frederick Douglass, My Bondage andMy Freedom,
William L. Andrews, ed. (Urbana, I1.: University of Illinois Press, 1987), esp. 186.








39
afford either a substantial number of slaves or the open disdain for legal niceties inherent

in the creation of what amounted--at least for Andr6s de Molina--to a small, private

security force.45 It is not hard to imagine the fear as well as the resentment that the

behavior of slaves like Molina's would have aroused among the majority of the European

sector in Santiago. A growing chorus of complaints about slave misdeeds in the city was

quite possibly a major factor in the cabildo's sudden turnabout on the issue of further

slave imports.

Spanish perceptions early in the seventeenth century that "unruly" blacks and

mulattos posed a threat to the social order were not limited in scope to the capital,

however. True, the majority of Europeans probably encountered slaves most often in the

city, where the former were concentrated in the early seventeenth century. Santiago's

Spanish residents were also increasingly witness to unlawful activities conducted in and

around the capital by members of the small but growing sector of free people of African

descent.' But it was in the countryside where Spaniards felt the least sense of control

over both free and enslaved people of African origins--not to mention mestizos and poor




45The possession of expensive slaves in cities like Santiago de Guatemala and
Mexico served also as a status symbol. See a 1628 license allowing two men involved in
business dealings with the audiencia in Santiago to retain armed slaves "para la defensa y
ornato de su[s] personals]," extract of AGCA, A1.20. 685. f 446 (1628) in Juan Jos6
Falla, Extractos de escrituras pblicas, a/los 1567 a 1648, Archivo General de Centro
America (Guatemala: Editorial Amigos del Pais, 1994), 404; Cope, Limits, 13-14.

'Lutz notes that many free blacks and mulattos were pushed by numerous
occupational restrictions into illicit enterprises, including the waylaying of Indian traders
on the outskirts of town in order to obtain market goods by force at cheap prices--or
steal the goods outright--for resale later at a profit. See Lutz, Santiago, 142-143.










Europeans--and hence a much more serious problem, at least potentially, for the entire

colonial enterprise. The remainder of this chapter explores the contours of the rural

African presence in the early seventeenth century and, finally, the nature of the danger

which this presence appeared to offer to the Spanish colonial social order.

African-descended Slaves in Rural Guatemala

People of African descent--both slave and free--worked on three major types of

agricultural enterprises in early colonial Guatemala: indigo obrajes,47 sugar ingenios and

trapiches,48 and estancias on which cattle, especially, were run. Ranch hands of color

were probably the rural laborers considered most potentially dangerous to social

stability, but African-descended workers on the other types of agricultural enterprises

mentioned above carried more demographic as well as economic weight. In the late

sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, indigo produced in southern and eastern

lowland areas of the Province of Guatemala drove the entire regional economy,








47A term which in Spanish America generally signified a textile-manufacturing
establishment but was used frequently in Guatemala to refer to the dye works--the
obrae de afi/--found on indigo-producing plantations. The term was often in practice
applied to the entire operation: fields and dye works.

48These terms referred most narrowly to two types of sugar mill. The more
technologically advanced ingenio was generally powered by water, and the trapiche by
beasts of burden. The term ingenio, especially, was often applied more broadly, taking
in all facets of a sugar-producing operation. For examples from New Spain, see Ward
Barrett, The Sugar Hacienda of the Marqueses del Valle (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1970), 54.










providing shipments of highly valued dyestuffs for European markets.49 Sugar

plantations supplying a largely domestic demand, meanwhile, consumed the greatest

number of black and mulatto laborers.

While indigo growers initially employed an almost exclusively indigenous

workforce, they were eventually forced to rely in part on free blacks and castas--

mulattos and mestizos--for their labor needs. By the end of the sixteenth century, royal

authorities were endeavoring to ban the use by obraje owners of apparently fragile and

increasingly scarce Indian workers in the notoriously harsh conditions under which

harvested indigo was processed.5" But if this ban might have been expected to produce

large-scale importation of African slaves, it was never particularly well enforced. The

blacks and castas who ended up employed in indigo often avoided the most unpleasant

aspects of the work, tending instead to fill supervisory positions. Indians continued to

perform the hardest labor, illegally coerced by growers and their henchmen.51




49Gage, Travels, 192; Antonio Visquez de Espinosa, Compendioy descripci6n
de las Indias Occidentales (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1948), 208; MacLeod,
Spanish Central America, 178, 181; Robert S. Smith, "Indigo Production and Trade in
Colonial Guatemala," Hispanic American Historical Review 39, no. 2 (1959): 182.

5Smith, "Indigo Production," 182-186; MacLeod, Spanish CentralAmerica,
185. See also the extract of AGCA, A1.20. 706. f.41 (1598), a contract under which
Pedro Hernandez, mulato libre of the milpa of Santa Isabel, outside Santiago, agreed to
harvest indigo in 1598 on the obraje of Pedro Velisquez Berdugo near Siquinali,
Escuintepeque, in exchange for an advance on his wages, in Falla, Extractos, 482.

"The Crown tried to enforce its ban on Indian labor, and encourage the use of
African slaves or other workers, through regular visitas of indigo-producing regions.
The officials conducting these visitas were quickly corrupted by indigo growers,
however. See texts of autos emitted by the audiencia in 1583, 1590, and 1636, and of a










The peculiar nature of the indigo cycle mitigated against a significant turn to

African slavery, because intensive labor was required for only a couple of months a year.

Costly slaves, thus, were generally unprofitable. In fact, the relatively small number of

enslaved blacks and mulattos who were employed on indigo plantations were as likely as

their free counterparts to serve as administrators of indigenous laborers during harvest

season, a striking instance of upward mobility which may have made more than a few

Spaniards uncomfortable. On the other hand, although the often skilled labor performed

by blacks and mulattos in indigo production was vital economically, the typical obraje

did not bring them together in large numbers, maintaining only a skeleton crew of

workers for much of the year.2

Sugar, by contrast, consistently united relatively large concentrations of Africans

and their descendants, free as well as enslaved.53 Ironically, labor forces on ingenjos

appear to have caused relatively less concern to authorities than those on other types of

rural holdings, in part perhaps because the sugar workforce was far more regimented,





real cedula of 3 June, 1631, in Manuel Rubio Sanchez, Historia de ahil o xiquilite en
Centro Amrica (San Salvador: Ministerio de Educaci6n, 1976), 12-14, 20-27. See also
MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 186-192; Smith, "Indigo Production," 186-190.

5MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 184-185.

5MacLeod suggests that sugar "was never of great importance in seventeenth-
century Guatemala," although the contemporary observer Fuentes y Guzrnn suggested
that local production largely satisfied domestic demand. More important, though, as I
indicate below, was the significant role of sugar plantations in the incorporation of blacks
and mulattos into colonial Guatemalan society. See MacLeod, "Ethnic Relations," 197;
Fuentes y Guzman, Recordaci6nflorida, 1:224.










providing fewer opportunities to acquire either dangerous skills or attitudes. But

ingenios also constituted probably the single most important site of interaction between

people of varying origins and legal statuses in rural Guatemala, especially later in the

seventeenth century. In addition, they brought large numbers of blacks and mulattos into

unusually close contact with the one colonial institution that might have been expected to

take an interest in their welfare: the Church. Religious orders--especially the

Dominicans--came to dominate large-scale sugar production in Guatemala. There is

little reason to believe, though, that many clerics were ever troubled by African slavery,

or took more than a cursory interest in their African-descended charges.'

By the early decades of the seventeenth century, much of colonial Guatemala's

sugar production was centered on ingenios and trapiches operating in and around the

Valle de las Vacas. In the 1630s, the ingenio Nuestra Sefiora del Rosario near Petapa--

owned by Esteb.n de Zavaleta, alcalde of the Santa Hermandad, and passed on to his

heirs Juan and Domingo Arrivillaga on Zavaleta's death in 1635--held some sixty









54Slaves were an important component in the households of prominent
Guatemalan churchmen. The notably refined environment in which Juan Cabezas
Altamirano, Bishop of Guatemala from 1610 to 1615, was said to have lived included
"the music of blacks that he brought from Havana." The 1612 mortual of the can6nigo
Hernando de Guti6rrez de Sibaja y Zarate, meanwhile, listed no fewer than nine slaves
among his possessions. See Remesal, Historia general, 2:662; Domingo Juarros,
Compendlo de la historia del Reino de Guatemala 1500-1800 (Guatemala: Editorial
Piedra Santa, 1981), 152-153; AGCA Al.15. 4109. 32563 (1612).










slaves.55 Around twenty more labored on a nearby, Augustinian-owned trapiche.6 The

largest sugar-growing estate in the area, though, lay in the vicinity of San Juan

Amatitlin. Formally named Nuestra Sefiora de la Encarnaci6n, it was known as the

"Anis" ingenio--a corruption of the name of its original owner, Juan Gonzi1ez Donis.

During the 1620s, it had passed under the control of Gonzi1ez Donis' son-in-law, Pedro

Crespo Suirez, postmaster of the realm. A 1630 inventory indicates the presence of

nearly 200 slaves on the property, said by the friar Thomas Gage to resemble "a little

town by itself for the many cottages and thatched houses of Blackamoor slaves which

belong unto it.''"





"Gage, Travels, 203; extracts of AGCA, A1.20. 588. 6 (1632), and A1.20.
590. f.93v. (1635) in Falla, Extractos, 344-345, 363.

56Gage, Travels, 203. I assume, but am not entirely sure, that the Augustinian
trapiche near Petapa was the same one owned, along with 22 slaves, by Gonzalo de
Peralta until his death in 1625. Its majordomo in 1632 was a black freedman named
Francisco de Mayorga, who had learned to read and write while a slave in the household
of a royal official in Panama and Mexico. Mayorga was able to obtain an unrestricted
license to carry weapons, since he carried money around. See AGCA, A1.43. 5925.
51614 (1625); A1.56. 5356. 45252 (1632).
1 AGCA, A1.20. 536. ff.296v.-302 (1630); extracts of AGCA, A1.20. 536.
ff 238, 250, 260, 277v., 281, in Falla, Extractos, 228-230; Gage, Travels, 203-204;
Visquez, Compendio, 206. It is interesting to note that funds from Crespo's estate,
augmented by the proceeds of slave-driven sugar production, helped underwrite the
establishment of the Universidad de San Carlos in 1681. See extract of AGCA, A1.20.
693. f.31 (1646) in Falla, Extractos, 456; Francisco Vazquez, Cronica de la Provincia
del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus de Guatemala de la Orden de Nuestro Serafico Padre
San Francisco en el Reino de la Nueva Espaia, 4 vols., 2' ed., Biblioteca
"Goathemala" 14-17 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografia e Historia, 1937), 4:375;
Pardo, Efemerides, 57, 76. My sincere thanks to Doug Tompson for taking time from
his own research to provide me with details from the GonzAlez Donis inventory.










Sugar was also produced on the Dominican holding of San Geronimo in the

northern region of Verapaz. Gage said the ingenio at San Ger6nimo held "a multitude of

slaves," and by the eighteenth century it would be the largest in the region, employing

hundreds of blacks and mulattos, both slave and free, and probably an even greater

number of Indians.8 Other land-holdings devoted to sugar production lay south of the

capital, in the Pacific lowlands. There were ten "piezas de esclavos" in 1604 on an

ingenio near Cerro Redondo in Guazacapin that was owned by Nufio Siez Marroquin.59

A hacienda and trapiche on the Guacalate River in Escuintepeque, meanwhile, held at

least 28 slaves in 1619, the year it became the subject of a lawsuit between Francisco de

Mesa and his daughter, dofia Francisca de Mesa, and son-in-law, don Juan de Ayala.6

Rural slave-holding was more dispersed both occupationally and geographically

than the foregoing suggests, however. According to Thomas Gage, around three

hundred--or roughly half--of the slaves he saw in the Valle de las Vacas during the 1630s

were distributed among forty to fifty houses and small farms owned by the hermitage of

Nuestra Sefiora del Carmel.6' Another one hundred or so belonged to the mule-train



"8Gage, Travels, 210-211. The number of slaves alone at San Ger6nimo ranged
from no fewer than 150 to as many as 700 during the eighteenth century. See A.C.
Beatriz Palomo de Lewin, "Esclavos negros en Guatemala, 1723-1773" (Tesis de
Licenciatura, Universidad del Valle, 1992), 72; Wortman, Government and Society, 55;
Martinez Peliez, Lapatria del criollo, 285 and 702 note 79.

59Extract of AGCA, Al.20. 432. f.267 (1604) in Falla, Extractos, 77.

6AGCA, Al. 15. 4103. 32523. The neighboring property was also a "hazienda
de a~ucar" established by a prominent Spaniard, in this case Francisco de Maldonado.
61Gage, Travels, 199.










entrepreneur Juan Palomeque, who lived nearby in the vicinity of Mixco.62 The obraje

and estancia of don Garcia de Avila Valenzuela near the Pacific coast in Escuintepeque,

meanwhile, was home to some 25 slaves on Avila's death in 1636, along with substantial

herds of livestock.3 And the 1642 will of Santiago's alguacil mayor, Capitin Pedro de

Nijera, described a set of land-holdings in Guazacapin--including the hacienda El Salto-

-which were said to be the "grandest" in the district, on which Nijera kept 18,000 to

20,000 cattle, more than 1,000 horses, 300 mules, and 35 to 40 "piezas de esclavos."'

Smaller rural operations often included a slave component among their labor

forces as well. The 1597 estate of dofia Isabel de Molina included an estancia and

indigo obraje located between Jalpatagua and Ahuachapain, and four slaves.6" Domingo

Rodriguez had fifteen slaves on a wheat farm in the valley of Mixco in 1603, and Pedro

G6mez ten more on a similar operation near Mataquescuintla, inventoried in 1610.6'

Maria de Silazar of San Antonio Suchitep6quez, widow of a cacao grower, was said to

have brought twelve slaves with her when she entered a lay religious order in the capital







62Gage, Travels, 199.
63See extract of AGCA, A1.20. 592. f 11 (1636) in Falla, Extractos, 371-372.

"See extract of AGCA, A1.20. 691. f 326 (1642) in Falla, Extractos, 442-443.
I focus much more extensively on ranching later in the chapter.
61AGCA, A1.43. 4820. 41532 (1600). Molina's husband also owned a slave.

66See extracts of AGCA, A1.20. 432. f210 (1603); A1.20. 1128. f.218 (1610) in
Falla, Extractos, 75, 504.








47
shortly after its founding in 1613.67 In his 1619 will, finally, Santos Lopez discussed the

hacienda Nuestra Sefiora de la Limpia Concepci6n, established between Zinacantan and

Nestiquipaque in Guazacapan and containing two indigo obrajes and four slaves.6

Slaves also turned up in areas far removed from the major agricultural enterprises

of the valleys just east of the capital and the coastal lowlands. Miguel Gonzalez, a

Portuguese merchant residing in the upland easternpartido of Chiquimula de la Sierra,

listed a black slave among his possessions in 1605.69 A cura in the same district,

Francisco Joseph de Ventimilla, owned three slaves when he died in 1642: the mulatta

Luisa de Molina and her two children, Eugenio Nicolis and Nicolks del Espiritu Santo.7"

More striking is the appearance of slaves in the western highlands, where the supply of

indigenous labor was seemingly endless. Five slaves were working in 1628 on the 1,000-

acre Mazariegos estancia near the major Quiche community of Quezaltenango, and

various members of the Mazariegos family were involved in a number of local slave sales

transacted between 1625 and 1632.7' Prominent residents of other major highland



67Vizquez, Cronica, 4:446-447.

68AGCA, A1.43. 4877. 41805 (1625).

69Extract of AGCA, A1.20. 433. f.226v. (1605), in Falla, Extractos, 88.

70AGCA, A1.24. 1559. 10203. ff. 355-357, 471-471v. (1642). It is possible that
Ventimilla and his slaves actually made up an informal family unit. The priest's will--
vigorously contested by his sister and sole heir--not only manumitted his three slaves, but
carefully specified religious vocations for each of them.

71AGCA, A1.20. 1488. 9968. ff.29v.-30 (1635?), ff 97-98v. (1632); extracts
from AGCA, A1.20. 564. f 14 (1625), f16 (1625); A1.20. 567. f.101v. (1630) in Falla,
Extractos, 277, 288. The date of the first sale noted here was unlikely to have been








48

centers like Totonicapin and Huehuetenango also bought and sold slaves, if never in lots

of more than two.' As elsewhere, highland slaves were a diverse lot at this time. They

included recently imported men and women listed as Angolan, Guatemalan-born black

and mulatto men, one mulatta woman and her infant daughter, and a young mulatto

boy.73

Finally, there were many slaves who were not, properly speaking, tied exclusively

either to urban or rural environments, but nevertheless passed a good deal of time in the

countryside in the employ of mule trains, traders, and the occasional shipbuilder.7

Independent and possessed of a certain degree of status, like urban artisans, some of

these slaves often held responsibilities for significant portions of their owners'

businesses." An especially revealing case involved slaves who were not technically

residents of Guatemala, but whose owner, one Gaspar Fernandes of Puebla, fell sick and





1635, as I recorded it, but rather pre-1629.
72AGCA, A1.20. 1488. 9968. f.30v. (1629?), ff.39-40v. (1629), ff.53-54v.
(1630), ff.61-62v. (1630), ff.91v.-92v. (1632), ff.99-100 (1632); extract from AGCA,
A1.20. 583. f434 (1624) in Falla, Extractos, 323. The record of the first sale listed is
incomplete.
73See the two footnotes above.

74Pantale6n de Herrera, who spent much of 1602-1604 building a ship on a river
in the coastal district of Guazacapan, had at least five slaves in his employ. See AGCA,
Al. 15. 4090. 32446 (1605), a substantial portion of which is apparently missing. The
mule-train owner Juan Palomeque, as noted above, had dozens of slaves at his disposal.

"In 1584, for example, Magdalena de Escobar of Santiago placed legal control of
a mule train in the hands of her slave Pedro Xolofe (Jolof). See extract of AGCA,
A1.20. 423. f.43 (1584), in Falla, Extractos, 12.








49
died in the community of San Antonio Suchitepequez in 1620. At the time that he made

his will, Fernandes had sent two separate mule trains, comprised in total of 127 mules

loaded with cacao and indigo, back to New Spain. The majority of Fernandes' arrieros,

or muleteers, were slaves, including the individuals in charge of the respective outfits.

Most remarkable, though, is that at the very same time that Fernandes had entrusted his

entire investment into the hands of enslaved administrators, he was endeavoring to

recover at least three other bondservants who had fled him: two in Santiago de

Guatemala and one in Oaxaca.76

Most of the enterprises mentioned above employed free blacks and mulattos in

addition to slaves. Specific numbers are much harder to come by in the case of free

people of African descent, especially because they were not in a literal sense anyone's

property, and do not turn up, for example, in wills. Later chapters of this dissertation

contain demographic assessments of this population during the latter half of the

seventeenth century, a period for which marriage data are available for rural areas. The

argument that remains to be made here concerning the significance of the black and

mulatto "threat" in the early seventeenth century, however, relies on evidence that is

demographic in only the broadest of senses.




76AGCA, A1.43. 4876. 41796 (1625). Several of Fernandes' slaves remained in
Guatemala after his death, sold to local residents or, in the case of one runaway, in jail.
It is interesting to note that, in the sixteenth century at least, nearly half of the slaves in
Puebla, New Spain, were arrieros. See Boyd-Bowman, "Negro Slaves," 136, 147. On
free black and mulatto muleteers in Guatemala, see AGCA, A1.43. 5925. 51603 (1614);
Al.15. 4103. 32526 (1619).










It will also be apparent that enslaved, let alone free, women of African descent

receive relatively little attention in the present chapter. This absence is due in part to the

disproportionately male character of forced African immigration, which contributed to

situations like the one existing in 1619 on the trapiche which was the subject of a dispute

among members of the Mesa family, where 25 of a total of 28 slaves were male.77 But

the archival traces left by negras and mulatas living in rural areas during this period are

few in number for at least one other reason: they were less often than men the

protagonists in cases involving the sorts of infractions of the law that caught the

authorities' attention.

Just prior to refocusing on the nature of those infractions, I would note that one

role played by women of African descent which does emerge clearly from documents

such as wills and estates, although applying only to those who were enslaved, was the

reproduction of a slave labor force. On the Peralta trapiche, for example, two slave

women, Agustina Conga and one Margarita, had seven children between them. Both

were also listed as the wives of male slaves, a status which female slaves outnumbered by

their male counterparts seem frequently to have inhabited."8




"The Mesa property represented an extreme example of the skewed sex ratio
often associated with sugar production. The workforce on Gonzalo Peralta's trapiche
may have represented a sex division closer to the norm. Thirteen of its 22 slaves were
male in 1625, including seven of the eleven who appear to have been born in Africa. See
AGCA, Al.15. 4103. 32523.; A1.43. 5925. 51614.

7In fact, all six adult women on the Peralta trapiche were listed as wives of male
slaves. On the disputed trapiche in Escuintepeque, two of three enslaved women were
married to male slaves. See AGCA, A1.43. 5925. 51614.; Al.15. 4103. 32523.










The tolerance, and even encouragement of, such slave marriage in Spanish

American regions is a well established peculiarity of American slavery under Spanish

Catholic rule.'9 It is also widely known, however, that the legal and religious protections

extended to slaves under medieval Spanish law were frequently ignored when they ran

counter to compelling economic, or other similar, imperatives.' While slave women,

always in short supply in Guatemala, did often marry their male counterparts--and very

occasionally free men" --they remained largely subject to their masters' whims, as

arbitrary as those of slaveholders anywhere. Thus the wealthy mule-train owner Juan

Palomeque, mentioned above, was reputedly so intent on the sexual conquest of slave

women that he was said to purchase those belonging to other masters if they rejected his

advances, in order to submit them to his will. Thomas Gage's comment that Palomeque




79During a visita of his diocese in 1669-1670, for example, the Bishop of
Guatemala, Doctor don Juan de Santo Matias Sienz de Maliosca y Murillo, had as one
explicit goal the correction of anyone who was "trying to prevent, or ha[d] prevented,
the Indians, blacks and mulattos in his service from marrying, or, being married, from
pursuing conjugal life." See Maiosca y Murillo's decree of 4 November, 1669, in
Archivo Hfist6rico Arquidiocesano "Francisco de Paula Garcia Peliez" (hereafter AHA),
Visitas Pastorales, Tomo 1, T 163, f.5v.

8Spanish law, drawing on the Siete Partidas, confirmed slaves' right to marry in
the Americas, but also underscored owners' authority. See cidulas of 11 May 1526,
"Que no sean libres los esclavos negros que se casen, ni los hijos que tuvieron," and 26
October 1541, "Que los negros se casen con negras," in Konetzke, ed., Colecci6n de
documentos, 1:81-82, 210. David Brion Davis' comparative assessment of legal versus
actual conditions experienced by slaves across time, space and changing economic
circumstances remains insightful. See David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in
Western Culture (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1966), esp. 227-243.

8This was rare because children assumed the status of the mother. The
ramifications of the "law of the womb" are discussed at some length in later chapters.










as a consequence "hasted to fill that valley [of Mixco] with bastards of all sorts and

colors" presents, of course, a far different aspect of slave women's role in reproducing

labor than that suggested by the evidence from the Peralta ingenio. "

Ranch hands, "Vagabonds," and Maroons

I turn finally to the three categories of "social danger" which constituted the

primary focus of Spanish concern regarding the rural African-descended population in

the early seventeenth century, beginning with the one great rural enterprise not yet

explored in any depth: ranching. One does not have to look far in order to find the

reasons for Spanish trepidation regarding cattle industry workers: ranch hands of color,

both slave and free, were notorious for their quasi-martial horsemanship. Indeed, in the

1640s, one agitated official would report that Spanish colonists had long grown "soft"

through city living, while the only people left in the region who could handle horses well

were the mestizos, mulattos and blacks of the countryside, natural rebels all.3

Perhaps the most important reason for the emergence of this much feared group

was that the period from the 1590s to the 1630s was the first great era of Spanish land




82Gage, Travels, 199. Gage's description of Palomeque's tormenting a male
slave named Macaco nearly to suicide is another indication of the arbitrary system under
which slaves ultimately lived, however socially mobile certain of them might be.
13MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 212. It is not entirely coincidental that
these same folks would begin to be incorporated into colonial militias en masse exactly
at this moment. The historical importance in colonial Latin America of African-
descended vaqueros, both slave and free, would be difficult to overstate. See, for
example, Davidson, "Negro Slave Control and Resistance," 237; Peter Stem, "Gente de
Color Quebrado: Africans and Afromestizos in Colonial Mexico," Colonial Latin
American Historical Review 3, no. 2 (1994): 198.










acquisition in the Guatemalan countryside.84 During this time there was significant

expansion in a ranching workforce whose permanent members tended less to be tributary

Indians than black and mulatto slaves and free castas. It was in the peculiar nature of

ranching, which differed in important ways from other rural labor, to afford those who

practised it both considerable freedom and training of a kind such as to transform them

collectively into a sector which Spanish authorities could construe as a near-military

threat to the colony.

The development of large livestock-running estates was a phenomenon

manifested most significantly in the same Pacific coastal region to the southeast of the

capital where indigo flourished. As the sixteenth century gave way to the seventeenth,

authorities in Santiago grew increasingly concerned over unprecedented shortages of

meat in the realm, and tried to exert strict control over both production and sale in the

wake of a precipitous decline in formerly abundant cattle populations. Officials sought

especially to clamp down on the practice of dejarretar6--or indiscriminate cattle

slaughter--by ranch owners and their employees in the region roughly between Taxisco,






4MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 3 81.

"Castas, it might be noted, were an important source of labor on Spanish-owned
rural enterprises for at least two reasons: they had little access to land and thus had to
hire themselves out; and they were frequently used to supervise mostly indigenous or
enslaved black workforces with whom they were unlikely to identify. See MacLeod,
Spanish Central America, 191-192, 212.

6The term meant literally to slice the leg tendons of cattle.








54

in Guazacapan, and La Villa de la Trinidad de Sonsonate.87 Cattle slaughter of alarming

proportions was producing a steady stream of contraband beef and tallow, and at the

same time sharply reducing herds. In their edicts forbidding dejarretar, authorities

targeted castas in particular. A 1599 prohibition mandated that perpetrators "fueze

negro, mulato o mestizo" receive 100 lashes for a first offense, and 200 lashes plus five

years unpaid royal service for a second. Indians found guilty of the practice would

receive fifty lashes. Espaholes went unmentioned.8

In 1600, the royal official Alonso Diego de Villegas Carasa was despatched from

Santiago to investigate illicit slaughter of cattle near Taxisco. Villegas found a tallow-

producing operation in an area called La Caiba de Mayorgua, complete with two huts

built "in the manner of fugitives" and a large quantity of tallow--as much as 60 arrobas,

or some 1,500 pounds--in various stages of processing. His informants attributed the

management of the operation to Ant6n del Chaves, the mulato majordomo of the

estancia on which the illicit establishment was located. One witness claimed to have

seen Chaves there in the company of fifteen or sixteen "mulatos e indios todos








87The practice was also rampant in the district of Acasaguastln, another
prominent cattle-ranching area northeast of Santiago de Guatemala, along the route to
the Caribbean. For the tale of a legendary mulatto cowboy said to have won fame for his
daring exploits in that region early in the seventeenth century, see Fuentes y Guzman,
Recordaci6nflorida, 2:242, 287-290.

88C~dula of 8 May 1599, AGCA, A1.23. 4588. 39541.










vaqueros."89 It is unlikely that the owner of the estancia, Alonso de Becerra Brizuela,

was ignorant of the doings of his majordomo, and probable, in fact, that he had ordered

them.

The site at La Caiba de Mayorgua, Villegas alleged, had played a major role in

the "great destruction" of cattle that was occurring in the region. Worse, though, it was

a refuge for "all of the delinquents and cattle-slaughterers and black runaways on the

coast." He ordered the huts burned and issued a warning against tolerating similar

operations to all of the surrounding estancieros. But the closest he came to

apprehending Chaves was to seize the latter's possessions at his hideout in the port of

Lztapa. Chaves himself escaped into the surrounding countryside as the Crown's

investigator arrived in town."

The audiencia launched another investigation into illegal cattle slaughter in the

same coastal region in 1605, spearheaded in this instance by an official named Antonio

de Leiba. By the time Leiba was finished with his work, he had arrested a total often

people in connection with various incidents of dejarretar, including Gaspar de Moraga

Monroy, the owner of an obraje in Guazacapfn, who was apprehended alongside his

mulatto servant, Jusepe, and two black slaves, Agustin and Matias. The latter three were





"AGCA, Al.43. 4820. 41525 (1601). That another witness testified to having
seen a mulato speaking in "la lengua mexicana" to an Indian woman grinding corn at the
site suggests the degree to which people of African descent were integrated into the life
of the area, sometimes no doubt for the reason that they had indigenous mothers.

9'AGCA, A1.43. 4820. 41525.










not the only people defined by African descent taken into custody by Leiba. Six of the

ten accused, in fact, were blacks or mulattos. One, a self-described deer hunter named

Diego Velisquez, revealed clearly his perception that Spaniards associated African

origins with criminality when he appealed his conviction by claiming that although he

was a mulatto he had not engaged in illicit activities."

At the end of 1605, the Spanish Crown emitted a cedula in which it expressed

concern over the news that the principal cause of cattle depletion in the audiencia was

the fact that "many free mulattos and blacks" were engaged in slaughter. Worse, it was

rumored that these outlaws actually had the support of the estancieros who employed

them. The Crown warned landowners to withdraw their backing for such activities

forthwith, under pain of forfeiting both land and herds. But the most severe

consequences were reserved for negrosy mulatos, forbidden henceforth from riding

horses at all, with disobedience to be punished with 200 lashes and 10 years on the

galleys.92





91Velisquez also procured two Spanish witnesses to testify on his behalf, one of
whom referred to him as a "buen mulato." He was sentenced, nevertheless, to hard labor
on the new fortress at Santo Tomas de Castilla. See AGCA, Al. 15. 4092. 32461, esp.
ff.7-20v., 30-35.

92La Corona a la Audiencia de Guatemala, 22 December 1605, AGCA, Al.23.
1514. f 77-77v. This decree came in response to a letter from an oidor of the
audiencia, don Manuel de Ungria Gir6n, who blamed soaring prices for beef both on
estancieros' lack of concern for their herds and the fact that "there are many free
mulattos and blacks who move about the countryside with a pair of nags or mares [and]
have slaughtered all the cattle they can ... ." See Ungria Giron a la Corona, 20 March
1605, AGI, Guatemala, 12, R.2, N. 12.










There is little evidence that this decree was ever successfully enforced, which

says a good deal about the degree of control Spanish authorities were able to exercise

over these rural workers, and the value of the latter to their bosses. Indeed, yet another

mulatto majordomo was soon at the center of accusations involving dejarretar: Melchor

Velasquez, manager of an estancia named Mopicalco, which was located near

Guazacapin and owned by Luis Aceituno de Guzmni. In 1607, Guzman's neighbor,

dofia Beatriz de las Barillas, launched a lawsuit against both men, charging that they had

been systematically butchering her herds and selling the product in Sonsonate.

According to testimony turned up in the course of the civil action, the activities of

GuzmAn and Velasquez were notorious in the area. One witness charged that in the

winter of 1605 the two had culled 30 head of cattle a week from just one of the several

estancias that they preyed upon. During an especially prolific fifteen-day period, said the

witness, Guzmin, Velisquez and a band of hired hands had slaughtered 800 head of

cattle, which "wasn't much" to them.93

This particular case of cattle rustling and rural tension in Guatemala is

dominated, if anything, even more by blacks and mulattos than the ones previously cited.

The band of cattle thieves headed by Velisquez and his employer included at least five

other people denoted by African origin, including a black slave of Guzmin's named




93AGCA, Al.15. 4092. 32462 (1607). Velisquez, ironically, was at about the
same time accusing a mestizo named Diego Recinos of having entered his own land
under the pretext of fishing, then slaughtering some of Velisquez' cattle and selling the
tallow to two residents of Guazacapin. Recinos was one of those arrested by Leiba in
1605. See AGCA, Al.15. 4092. 32461. ff.1-2.










Domingo.94 The main witness in the case, meanwhile, was identified as a mulato libre

from the coast named Gaspar de la Cruz. He, in turn, testified that the accused

ringleaders told him they were selling large quantities of their ill-gotten booty to the

mulato Pedro L6pez, a vecino of Sonsonate."

The notoriety which surrounded the province's black and mulatto ranch hands

during the first years of the seventeenth century only grew with each succeeding decade.

Drawing on his residence in Guatemala during the 1630s, Thomas Gage reported to the

English that the region's greatest potential military asset lay with "a desperate sort of

Blackamoors" employed on estancias and indigo obrajes. Possessing only machetes or

lances "to run at the wild cattle," Gage went on, these people of African origin were "so

desperate that the city of Guatemala hath often been afraid of them, and the masters of

their own slaves and servants." In the 1640s, threats along the coasts from foreign

privateers would finally push the audiencia to utilize the reserve of military force to





94 The others were Francisco Dongolin, moreno libre of Sonsonate; Matheo,
mulato of Sonsonate; Francisco Gil, mulato; and Miguel Ger6nimo, mulato. The band
also included one Xim6nez, whose lack of designation may have indicated espahol
status, and Fernando Lopez, an employee of the estancia Mopicalco said to be
Velisquez' compadre and described as "mestizo o criollo." The ambiguity inherent in
L6pez' "racial" designation hints at the degree of access to the "Spaniard" category that
individuals labeled as mestizo might have had, at least in rural areas. His evidently close
friendship with Velasquez indicates that the barriers theoretically constructed between
individuals of differing origins were in many cases relatively easy to cross.

95AGCA, Al. 15. 4092. 32462. It is interesting that L6pez was referred to as a
vecino, a term originally reserved for propertied Spanish heads of households.

96Gage, Travels, 192-193.








59

which Gage alluded. But such a development was not foreseen as late as 1638, when the

President of the audiencia requested funds to purchase more arms for Spanish residents,

portrayed as largely defenseless in the face not only of a massive Indian population, but

also of a "great number of skilled blacks and mulattos, discontented with their

condition."'97

The relationship between the two "dangerous" sectors named by the President,

and especially the allegedly deleterious impact of African-descended people on

indigenous groups, was a second, longstanding source of Spanish discomfort with the

black and mulatto population. In rural areas, especially to the south and east of the

capital, mulatosy negros worked and lived alongside not only poor Spaniards and

mestizos, but Indians as well. The last group was assumed by the Crown to be under

both physical and moral threat from all the others, and a litany of royal complaints and

orders from the late sixteenth century on stressed the need to keep indigenous

communities segregated from all such contact. Beginning in the 1570s, order after order

forbade the residence of espaholes, mestizos, blacks, and mulattos in Indian villages. In

1578, a landmark royal decree declared that Indians and castas must be kept separate

because mulattos, blacks, and mestizos, "being universally so evilly inclined," were a

threat to Indians' souls.98 Subsequent decrees demanding that this order be heeded




97Don Alvaro Quifiones y Osorio a la Corona, 26 May 1638, AGI, Guatemala 15,
R.17, N.99.

98Real cdula, 25 November 1578, AGCA, A1.22. 1513. f. 557. On evolving
royal attitudes during the sixteenth century, see Magnus M6rner, La corona espaholay








60

oscillated between expressing the Crown's concern over the danger to Indians of the bad

moral example set by individuals whose obedience to civil as well as religious authority

was less than exemplary, and anger at the threat posed to royal revenues by petty traders

and con men operating in and around indigenous communities." The very frequency of

these orders indicated a failure of enforcement.

While decrees emanating from both Madrid and Santiago often characterized the

entire non-Indian rural population as vagabonds and thieves," they sometimes singled

out groups identified specifically by African descent. In 1580, the Crown warned its

officials in Guatemala that "the blacks brought to that Province" were not to live among

Indians, or trade with them, because of the great physical and spiritual harm that would

result from such contact.'' Five years later, an oidor of the audiencia complained that




losforaneos en los pueblos de indios de Am&ica (Stockholm: Alnqvist & Wiksell,
1970), esp. 94-99.

"Subsequent decrees include those of 3 February 1587, AGCA, A1.23. 4575.
39528. f 433v.; 22 December 1605, AGCA, A1.23. 1514. ff.77-77v.; 27 July 1634,
AGCA A1.24. 2245. 16190. ff4-5. See also "Ordenanzas para el buen gobierno de los
indios en las provincias de Soconusco y Verapaz," 20 September 1628, in Konetzke,
ed., Colecci6n de documentos, 2, bk. 1:319-322, esp. 321. Officials in both Peru and
New Spain expressed similar concerns in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth
centuries over the allegedly deleterious social effects produced by interaction between
Indians and people of African origins. See Bowser, African Slave, 22-24, 147; Stem,
"Gente de Color Quebrado," 190-191.

"See, for example, La Corona a la Audiencia, 24 November, 1601, AGCA,
A1.23. 4576. 39529. ff 45v.-50, which orders that "espailoles de condicion serbil y
ociosos que ubiere y los mesti~os negros mulatos y gambahigos libres" be made to work.

'01La Corona a la Audiencia de Guatemala, 23 September 1580, AGCA, A1.22.
1513. f579.








61

negros y mulatos were like "wolves in sheep's clothing" among the Indians.'02 By 1603,

the Crown was expressing alarm at reports that black servants of prominent Guatemalan

officials were accosting and robbing Indians transporting goods to market, a practice

that, like others mentioned above, was quite likely to have been approved by the masters

of the alleged assailants.3 This situation was particularly ironic in light of the fact that

the Crown was at the same time demanding that the "vagabond" rural population of free

status be reduced to serving and residing with specific Spanish masters, in order to

eradicate the sort of illicit activity which supposedly resulted from a lack of supervision

by responsible Spaniards.

The most enduring action taken by the audiencia to eliminate the "plague" of

blacks and mulattos in Indian communities was the establishment of the town of San

Diego de la Gomera near the coast of Escuintepeque, some time after the Conde de la

Gomera took up the post of President of the audiencia in 1611. Informed of the

inconveniences presented by negros y mulatos libres living illegally in and around

indigenous villages south of the capital, the new President swiftly ordered their

"reduction," or settlement." A decade later, Visquez de Espinosa described the villa of




'02Magnus MOrner, "La politica de segregaci6n y el mestizaje en la Audiencia de
Guatemala," Revista de Indias 24, nos. 95-96 (1964): 139.

'03La Corona a la Audiencia de Guatemala, 26 March 1603, AGCA, A1.23.
1514. f".37.

"Conde de la Gomera a la Corona, 14 November 1611, AGI, Guatemala 13,
R.3, N.33; Jos6 Milla, Historia de laAmerica Central, 2 vols., 5"' ed., Colecci6n "Juan
Chapin," Obras completas de Salome Jil (Jos6 Milla) 11-12 (Guatemala: Tipografia










San Diego as a "village of free blacks and mulattos, with their own cabildo, alcaldes,

and regidores," unique in the province of Guatemala.05 The town's residents, who

would emerge from the historical shadows at key points over the following century, were

granted certain privileges, including control over saltpans at Sipacate on the coast.'6 In

return, they were to fulfill specific duties, including tracking down and capturing escaped

slaves. 107

Cimarrones, to be sure, were quite naturally seen as an even graver danger to

social peace than those slaves who, though under the direct control of masters, already

provided headaches for the authorities. Maroons constituted the third major source of

problems which Spaniards saw as resulting from the African presence in rural Guatemala




Nacional, 1976), 2:318-319.

'0Vfisquez de Espinosa, Compendio, 208-209.

1"In 1683 the corregidor of Escuintepeque said of the saltpans at Sipacate that
"se les consedieron a los de la villa quando fue fundada." The town's residents
reasserted this claim to the saltpans in 1700 when they appealed to a royal visitador
about attempts by prominent officials to usurp them. See "Raz6n de las ciudades, villas
y lugares, vecindarios y tributarios de que se componen las Provincias del Distrito de
este Audiencia (1682)," AGI, Contaduria 815, f.6v.; "Testimonio de los Autos
Proveydos Por El Sefior Licenciado Don Francisco G6mez de la Madriz en favor de los
Mulatos de la Villa de San Diego de la Gomera, 1700," AGI, Guatemala 285.

"iVasquez de Espinosa, Compendio, 208-209. Although it is not clear if the
original settlers of San Diego included maroons among their number, catching escaped
slaves was often a part of the bargains maroon communities made to "legalize" their
status vis-a-vis colonial regimes in the Americas. On the maroon community of
Yanga/San Lorenzo de los Negros in early colonial Veracruz, see Patrick J. Carroll,
Blacks in Colonial Veracruz: Race, Ethnicity, and Regional Development (Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1991), 91-92. For an example from Surinam, see Robin
Blackburn, The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848 (London: Verso, 1988), 56.








63

during the early seventeenth century. Individual examples of escaped slaves abound,'

while nearly half of the black and mulatto prisoners listed in the visitas of the Santiago

jail conducted between October 1624 and June 1625 were incarcerated as cimarrones9

Most worrisome to the audiencia, though, was the founding near both coasts of outlaw

maroon communities which demonstrated an impressive ability not only to survive off

the surrounding society via both peaceable commerce and extortion, but also to resist

repeated efforts made to eradicate them.

The demand that the new residents of San Diego de la Gomera hunt down

cimarrones may have been spurred most directly by the audiencia's experience during

the early 1600s with a small but notorious band of maroons ensconced in a remote

settlement near the Pacific coast south of San Antonio Suchitep6quez." The Conde de

la Gomera, in fact, averred that on his first visit to Santiago's churches after arriving in




'O8One of the more striking cases is that of Isabel, an Arara woman about 36
years old in 1622. Isabel went through no fewer than four owners within the space of a
couple of years. One, a priest named NicolAs Sanchez, sought to have his 1621 purchase
of Isabel annulled on grounds that her "defects" had been obscured at the time of the
sale. Sanchez made this claim despite the fact that Isabel's seller had explicitly called her
a "thieving, wild, and mad runaway." Sanchez himself unloaded his troublesome
"property" during the course of his suit. See AGCA, Al. 15. 4105. 32534 and 32535.
(1622). Other cases mentioning instances of cimarronaje include AGCA, A1.56. 5920.
51250 (1603); Al.15. 4090. 32446 (1605); Al.15. 4103. 32524 (1607); Al.15. 4109.
32563 (1612); A1.56. 5355. 45247 (1615); A1.43. 4876. 41796 (1620); A1.43. 4876.
41801 (1623); A1.29.2. 2327. 17286. f15 (1623); A1.43. 4914. 41973 (1624).

'The visitas, discussed earlier, are in AGCA, A1.43. 4876. 41801.

"'The history of this community is detailed in "Autos del servicio que hizo el
capitin Juan ruiz dAvil6s. .. de la conquista y pacificaci6n de los negros algados que
estaban en la barra i montafias de tulat" (1626), AGI, Guatemala 67.










the fall of 1611 he heard a number of sermons urging him to subdue the "negros y

mulatos cimarrones del Guayaval de la costa de Yzquintepeque," both because of the

great harm the maroons had visited on Indians and others along the region's roads, and

to stop them from taking more slaves out of the capital. "No master had a secure slave"

as long as the outlaw band remained at large, the dean of the Cathedral was said to have

assured the new President."' Indeed, the maroons had only recently "stolen" a mulata

from the house of Ger6nimo de Aldana. As a result, they were said to be on the alert for

the possibility of retaliation, having activated Indian spies who operated on their behalf

between the coast and the capital.'

Witnesses said that a negro from Sonsonate had established the community of

maroons about nine years previously, in a remote region inland from the bar along the

coast at Tulate. The closest indigenous community was Xicalapa,"3 but the maroons

traded fish and iguanas caught in the estuary at Tulate to Indians from Mazatenango, and

even as far away as Quezaltenango, in return for clothing, axes, machetes, arrows, and







""'Conquista y pacificaci6n de los negros," AGI, Guatemala 67, ff.25-26v.

""Conquista y pacificaci6n de los negros," AGI, Guatemala 67, ff.6v.-7.

"'A now-defunct village located in a remote coastal area between the Nahualate
and Tulate rivers. Xicalapa may have held two hundred or so indigenous inhabitants in
the late sixteenth century, but had disappeared by the eighteenth. See Orellana,
Ethnohistory, 121-122; reproduction of 1579 map of Zapotitlhn in Adriaan C. Van Oss,
Catholic Colonialism: A Parish History of Guatemala, 1524-1821 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1986), 63.








65

tobacco.4 One slave each from the households of Francisco de Mesa and Luis Aceituno

de Guzman, mentioned above, were present in the settlement, with Guzmin's mulato

slave, Juan G6mez, reputed to be the most ruthless of the lot, terrorizing the owners of

nearby estancias and obrajes with threats to burn down their properties if they gave the

maroons any trouble.

There had been previous efforts to dislodge the outlaws. A mestizo named

Gaspar de la Cruz who participated in the militia force which eventually defeated and

captured the members of the community said he had previously taken part in forays

which had resulted in the recapture of a total of eight maroons, two of them women.

Perhaps as a result of this pressure, those members of the community who remained free

had moved inland from an original settlement. Nine "large houses" still stood at the first

site, however, as well as plentiful evidence of the cimarrones' capacity to produce corn,

cotton, squash, chiles, and even sugar cane."5

The militia force, about forty men sent out by the President in October of 1611

under the command of an experienced soldier named Juan Ruiz de Avil6s, managed, after

an arduous nighttime trek along the coast from the bar at Nahualate, to ambush the men

of the community as the latter descended one morning to Tulate in their canoes. Avil~s'





'According to Fuentes y GuzmAn, the area around San Antonio Suchitep~quez
had no iguanas. They thus had to be imported, at least in the 1680s. Supplying them to
the district from remote Tulate may have been one key to the maroon economy's success
earlier in the century. See Fuentes y Guzmin, Recordaci6nflorida, 2:161-162.

n""Conquista y pacificaci6n de los negros," AGI, Guatemala 67, f.45, 46v.








66

men accomplished this feat with the assistance of a petty Spanish trader who--no doubt

to save his own skin--betrayed the maroons, with whom he had been carrying on a

thriving commerce for about a year. In a brief battle, the captain of the cimarrones, a

certain Diego, was shot and killed while trying to escape by swimming across the

estuary, and another maroon also died. Avil~s subsequently led a small group several

leagues inland under the guidance of one of those captured, where the rest of the

community, mostly women, was also rounded up. Aside from the two men killed, a total

of seventeen people were found in the settlement: eight black and mulatto men--all

maroons--and one male infant; and six cimarronas, one free mulatta, and one india. In

accordance with the harsh punishment requested by many Spaniards in order to set an

example, all except the two free women were jailed in the capital following their

capture. "'6

Ruiz de Aviles afterwards spent years attempting to collect the reward he claimed

the Conde de la Gomera had promised to him: an encomienda worth 2,000 pesos

annually. He was eventually successful, at least in part, and in the 1690s his descendant

Sebastiin Ruiz de Alvarado was appealing to hold onto the encomienda Ruiz de Avil~s

finally managed to obtain under the Conde de la Gomera's successor. Interestingly, the

grandson included letters from 1630 and 1631 in which Ruiz de Avil6s claimed he had




l"Conquista y pacificaci6n de los negros," AGI, Guatemala 67; Conde de la
Gomera a la Corona, 14 November 1611, AGI, Guatemala 13, R.3, N.33. A mulatto
named Antonio de Ledesma from San Antonio Suchitep6quez was also jailed, for trading
with the community. There is no record of punishment for either the Indians or the
Spaniards who were involved in commerce with the settlement.










not only subjugated a small band of maroons at Tulate in 1611, but had returned

subsequently to capture the leaders of five hundred to six hundred blacks who had later

repopulated the region."7 Evidence for such a large community of cimarrones does not

appear elsewhere, although the temporary re-establishment of some sort of maroon

outpost on the Pacific coast may well have occurred, given the resilience of maroon

bands along the audiencia's other flank.

Unfortunately, no account similar to the one left by Ruiz de Avil6s has surfaced

which details entradas made in search of maroon redoubts near the Caribbean. Enough

evidence exists, nevertheless, to piece together a portrait which suggests that cimarrones

in the region of the Golfo Dulce were a thorn in the side of Spanish colonists for several

decades. In fact, don Diego de Avendafho, President of the audiencia in 1642, claimed

that the period of torment had lasted seventy years, and was still not ended. Avendaio

in that year had another, pressing concern: a wave of destruction wreaked by foreign

privateers along the Caribbean coast of Guatemala and Honduras. It was this danger

which prompted him to take a step that would signal a major turning point for the

population identified by African descent, namely the general enlistment of mestizos and

free blacks and mulattos in Chiquimula and Acasaguastlin. But in order to reduce the

pressure around the Golfo Dulce he also wanted to eliminate the maroon presence there

once and for all. He hoped to do so by abandoning a never fully successful policy of

armed pursuit, and instead despatching a friar not only to pacify the rebels, but also to




1"7Autos que sigue Sebastiin Ruiz de Alvarado," AGGA, Al. 2. 25 (1698).








68

persuade them to turn their knowledge of the area in favor of the society they had fled by

acting as scouts against the foreign enemy."8

Whenever it was that escaped slaves first established themselves in outlaw

communities around the Golfo Dulce, the cabildo of Santiago was complaining to the

Conde de la Gomera in 1617 that many maroons lived along the trade road between the

capital and the gulf, threatening commerce."9 In 1627, 4,030 tostones were reported to

have been spent on an expedition sent out "against the black maroons along the Gulf

road."'20 That expedition apparently led to the capture of at least some of the outlaw

slaves,'2' but a prolonged battle over who should pay the costs of securing the roads--the

King or local merchants--also ensued.22

One reason the problem of funding for security persisted was that the maroons

did not disappear. Thomas Gage, who participated in a missionizing expedition among




"'Don Diego de Avendaiio a la Corona, 7 July 1642, AGI, Guatemala 16, R.3,
N.19.

"..Francisco de Paula Garcia Peliez, Memorias para la historia del antiguo reino
de Guatemala, 3 vols., Yd ed., Biblioteca "Goathemala" 21-23 (Guatemala: Sociedad de
Geografia e Historia de Guatemala, 1968-1973), 2:28.

"2Garcia PelAez, Memorias, 2:28.
12'In a 1633 request for favor from the Crown, Juan de Sevilla Guerrero indicated
that he had been captain of an infantry company which had taken part in the "reduction
and imprisonment of the black maroons of the Golfo Dulce," although it is not clear if he
was referring to the 1627 expedition or a later one. See Alvarez-Lobos Villatoro and
Toledo Palomo, eds., Libro de los Pareceres, 236-237.

'22"Liquidaci6n hecha de la cantidad que se gast6 en la rreducci6n de los negros
cimarrones del golfo dulce," AGCA, Al.12. 4060. 31537 (1646).








69

the Chol north of Coban during 1629 and 1630, reported that a community of some 200

to 300 escaped slaves still lived in the mountains near the Golfo Dulce at this time.

Armed only with bows and arrows, they regularly held up mule trains traveling between

the capital and the Gulf, supplying themselves with "wine, iron, clothing and weapons"

and encouraging slaves accompanying the caravans to join them. That efforts to

dislodge them had met with no enduring success is revealed in Gage's comment that the

band was much feared by Spanish residents, especially those from nearby Acasaguastlin,

who had been unable to eliminate it despite "having often attempted it.""

Gage indicated that the maroons were widely believed to be ready to "join with

the English or Hollanders, if ever they land in that gulf"124 This assertion, however,

must be seen in light of the former Dominican friar's concerted propaganda campaign to

spur an English invasion of Guatemala. But the President of the audiencia in 1632, don

Diego de Acufia, did appeal to the Crown in that year for weapons to be used in an

expedition against "black maroons who are in rebellion in the mountains next to the

Golfo Dulce," and explicitly expressed the concern that they might ally with the Dutch.125

The fact that outlaw bands of slaves had yet to be fully eradicated along the Caribbean

ten years later suggests that these were even more troublesome over the long term to the





'23Gage, Travels, 195-196.
124Gage, Travels, 195-196.

125La Corona a don Diego de Acufla, 8 December 1632, AGCA, Al.23. 1516.
10071. f 57.










authorities, and to Spanish colonists in general, than was the better documented Pacific

settlement at Tulate.'26

Cimarronaje, thus, added more fuel to the uneasiness aroused among Spaniards

in the early seventeenth century by insolent and violent urban slaves, expert and

independent black and mulatto ranch hands, and rural "vagabonds" of color. There

were, of course, individual Spaniards who maintained mutually beneficial relationships

with both slaves and free people of color. Spanish estancieros were often fully complicit

in the depredations carried out against neighbors' livestock by their workers, while the

black slaves who accosted and robbed Indian traders along the colony's roads probably

could not have done so for long without the backing of powerful Spanish patrons. It

would also be inaccurate to suggest that either free or enslaved blacks and mulattos were

uniformly rebellious and insubordinate. Many people of color already operated on behalf

of "law and order" in Guatemala, including a number of mulattos who accompanied Juan

Ruiz de Avil6s on his expedition of repression against the cimarrones of Tulate.127 But





126The eventual fate of the maroons of the Golfo Dulce remains unclear. It is
interesting to note in this regard, however, that the Dominican friar Francisco Gallegos'
account of a missionizing effort into Chol territory in 1674-1676 included reference to
the village "of the Mulattos," whose "Indians" were said to be "amulatados y distintos de
los otros que son mAs blancos." See Francisco Xim(nez, Historia de la Provincia de
San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala de la Orden de Predicadores, Libro 5, Biblioteca
"Goathemala" 29 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografia e Historia, 1973), 212.

'27See also Thomas Gage's recollections about his bodyguard, a "Blackamoor"
named Miguel Dalva, particularly the description of the protection Gage received from
Dalva and other blacks and mulattos in 1635 while investigating indigenous idolatry as
parish priest of Mixco and Pinula, in Gage, Travels, 269-272, 279-292, esp. 283.










two things seem clear. First, there was little general approval among the Spanish

population as a whole for the license accorded to blacks and mulattos in the employ of

certain Spanish individuals. Second, the striking social mobility evidenced by some

members of the African-descended population was largely unwelcome even to those

Spaniards who helped enable it.

That social mobility, however, sometimes arose out of a circumstance which has

received little attention thus far, although it threatened not only Spanish property, or

Spanish control of labor and tribute, but "Spanishness" itself. Spanish inability to control

the process by which the colonial population was reproduced meant that many

Spaniards, rather than being simply the bosses or owners of people defined by African

descent, were related to them as well. Those Spaniards who acknowledged these

relations often assisted their non-Spanish relatives, whatever they may have thought

about mulattos and mestizos in general. Thus, when the Crown expressed its concern in

a 1622 letter to the audiencia that "algunas Personas de poca satisfaci6n como son

mulatos y mestizos" might be obtaining posts as notaries or escribanos by obscuring

their origins, the individuals in question were almost certain to have had family

connections among the powerful. The Crown's decree that applications from such

people must be rejected without exception--retroactively if necessary--undoubtedly

struck Spaniards in Guatemala as eminently fair and just, except, of course, in the case of

a particular mulatto son, or similar relation, whom they personally favored.128



128AGCA, A1.23. 4578. 39531. ff.26v.-27 (1622).










There is no better illustration of this type of relationship than the situation of

Antonio Melendez y Valdes. A mulatto resident of the valley of Petapa, Mel6ndez y

Valdes made application in 1623, the year following the one in which the decree referred

to above was emitted, to be granted the rights and privileges due to illegitimate children

of prominent espaholes. He claimed to be the son of Capitin Gonzalo Melendez y

Vald~s, a native of Asturias and former governor of Soconusco, and Juana de Aguilar,

the Spaniard's morena slave. The witnesses who spoke in favor of the petition, all high-

ranking local officials, testified that Gonzalo had called Antonio "son" on many

occasions, and had also given him land in Jalpatagua. One witness, an officer of the law

in Santiago named Gaspar Peres de Figueroa, said Gonzalo had once prevented him from

seizing Antonio in execution of an order obtained against Gonzalo's property by a

creditor, saying "What, you want to arrest my son, who is freer than I am?"'" As it

turned out, according to Gonzalo's 1614 will, Antonio had received a carta de libertad

at birth. The father had also mandated that his son be treated as an hidalgo "although he

is a mulatto."30

The contradictions inherent in the Spanish effort to arrange society hierarchically

according to origin would, in combination with demographic developments and a

heightened military threat from foreigners, expand the social space in which blacks and,




"29AGCA, A1.29.2. 2327. 17286 (1623).

'None of the ten other slaves mentioned in Gonzalo's will benefitted from
similar favor, least of all Antonio's mother, Juana, long since sold by her erstwhile sexual
companion to a woman from Ayutla. See AGCA, Al.29.2. 2327. 17286. ff. 18, 20.








73

especially, mulattos operated as the seventeenth century progressed. Spanish uneasiness

over the potential danger presented by the African-descended population by no means

faded away, but came to be balanced to a significant extent by the usefulness of blacks

and castas as auxiliaries in the governance of the indigenous majority. Because Indians,

rather than blacks and mulattos, constituted the primary target of discriminatory

treatment in Guatemala, the sharp lines delineating a clearly identifiable African-

descended population would begin to blur as members of that population escaped the

confines of supposedly rigid occupational and social boundaries. But the sistema de

castas was far from dead--legal distinctions intended to divide mulattos from mestizos,

for example, would remain in force into the eighteenth century. In the meantime, the

conditions under which an increasingly amorphous sector of people standing between

colonial Guatemala's Spanish elite and indigenous masses would begin to take on a new

identity--that of the ladino--slowly emerged.














CHAPTER 3
MULA TOS, LADINOS, AND RACIAL HIERARCHY

The Emergence of Militias of Color

In October 1643 the President of the audiencia of Guatemala, don Diego de

Avendafio, informed the Spanish Crown that he had ordered the enlistment for possible

military service of all Spaniards, mestizos, blacks, and mulattos in the districts under his

jurisdiction. Avendafilo said he had advised the corregidores of Chiquimula de la Sierra

and Acasaguastl*i, and the alcalde mayor of Verapaz, to have troops on the ready for

deployment to the Golfo Dulce and Trujillo on the Province of Guatemala's Caribbean

flank. He had also advised the district administrator of San Salvador and San Miguel to

prepare for possible action along the Pacific coast. The mulatto privateer Dieguillo, the

President wrote, had been pillaging along the coast of Honduras, and had sacked Trujillo

itself To add to Avendafio's troubles, the garrison at Santo Tomas de Castilla had been

forced to repel a landing by English invaders in August.'







'Don Diego de Avendafio a la Corona, 1 October 1643, AGI, Guatemala, 16,
R.4, N.27. Dieguillo was apparently Diego, an infamous escaped slave from Havana
who had made cause with Dutch privateers and terrorized, among others, Thomas Gage.
See Gage, Travels, 315-317. The chronicle of VAzquez contains a detailed description
of the 1643 sack of Trujillo, and that of Xim6nez discusses an incursion by Dieguillo into
the Golfo Dulce. See Vizquez, Cr6nica, 4:275-279; Xim6nez, Historia, 5:57.

74










This was by no means the province's first experience with incursions by

foreigners. As early as the 1580s, militia forces were dispatched from Santiago de

Guatemala to the Pacific port of Acajutla, in Sonsonate, to ward off attacks by the

English marauder Francis Drake.' In 1615, Capitan Lucas Garcia Serrano of San Miguel

led a force of as many as five hundred men to the defense of another Pacific port,

Amapala, in the Gulf of Fonseca, after enemy lights were sighted offshore.' Meanwhile,

French privateers burned the Caribbean port at Puerto Caballos in 1595, and Dutch ships

were threatening the Golfo Dulce by 1606.' This foreign presence typically invited at

least a cursory military response, despite a growing Spanish colonial appetite for the

smuggled goods that Dutch merchants in particular were able to provide. In April 1618,

for example, ill-provisioned militia forces that had been hastily organized in Chiquimula

and Acasaguastlin spent a brief but miserable time reinforcing the Caribbean garrison

after three alien ships were sighted in the Golfo Dulce.5



2Pardo, Efemerides, 29-30; Fuentes y Guzmin, Recordaci6nflorida, 3:419-420.
The danger Drake posed was even greater toward the southern reaches of the audiencia
of Guatemala, closer to Panamanian transshipment points for Peruvian silver. In 1579,
he seized a ship bound from Costa Rica to Panama bearing sarsaparilla and other Central
American products. See MacLeod, Spanish CentralAmerica, 407, note 11.

3Alvarez-Lobos Villatoro and Toledo Palomo, Libro de los Pareceres, 99-100.

'See letter of 29 August 1595 from Comendador Carranza to cabildo of Santiago
de Guatemala, and letters of 18 May 1606 from cabildo of Santiago to Crown, in
"Colecci6n de documentos antiguos," 434-436, 372-381, esp. 374, 376. See also
Colecci6n de documentos in~ditos de ultramar, 2-d series, 17 (Madrid: Tipografia de la
"Rev. de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos," 1925), 235-238; Fuentes y Guzman,
Recordaci6nflorida, 3:419-420.

5Audiencia (?) a la Corona, 1619 (?), AGI, Guatemala, 14, R.3, N.47, ff.8-20v.








76

The actions taken to enlist blacks and mulattos during the 1640s, though, marked

a significant shift in the audiencia's defense policy. Avendahio's decision to form

military units from among the African-descended population indicated the gravity with

which the renewed foreign threat was taken in the wake of recent Spanish reverses on

the global front.6 Previously, militia duty had been the province of local encomenderos--

whose obligations included the maintenance of martial skills and equipment--and

eventually of espaholes in general.' While blacks and mulattos, both slave and free, had

participated in earlier efforts to defend the colony,' they had never before been explicitly

organized to do so by the Crown's representatives.

Significantly, Avendaiio was endeavoring to pacify once and for all a last maroon

redoubt near the Golfo Dulce at the same time as many of the rest of Guatemala's free





6Sixty years of Spanish rule in Portugal concluded in 1640, for example, while
Spanish sovereignty over the rebellious (and rich) Netherlands--long ended in all but the
most formal sense--would cease officially in 1648. See J.H. Elliott, Spain and its World,
1500-1700: Selected Essays (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 126-133.

7The Spanish Crown relied almost entirely on local militias to defend its
American possessions until the implementation of the Bourbon reforms in the latter half
of the eighteenth century. See Lyle N. McAllister, The 'Fuero Militar' in New Spain,
1764-1800 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1957), 1-3.

'Blacks and mulattos, both slave and free, were rewarded for their participation
in a battle with the French privateers who burned Puerto Caballos in 1595. In 1615,
Garcia Serrano claimed to have commanded and provisioned a force of 30 espaholes,
300 Indian bowmen, and 150 "negros mulatos y mestizos." The expeditionary force
gathered for duty in the Golfo Dulce in 1618 included at least five armed slaves. See
Colecci6n de documentos injditos, 17:237; Alvarez-Lobos Villatoro and Toledo
Palomo, Libro de los Pareceres, 99-100; Audiencia (?) a la Corona, 1619 (?), AGI,
Guatemala, 14, R.3, N.47, f. Ov.










blacks and mulattos were being enlisted for military duty.' This parallel development

serves nicely to represent the partial transition underway by the mid-seventeenth century

in the position of people of African descent within colonial Guatemalan society. There

would be few further efforts to establish communities entirely outside the confines of that

society, owing in part to a drastic reduction after the 1630s in the forced immigration of

African slaves--social outsiders par excellence. The opening of militia ranks to free

blacks and mulattos, meanwhile, signaled expanded social opportunity and increased

potential for the heightening of individual status,"0 even if military service was frequently

onerous and often resented.

But the colonial racial hierarchy would continue to constrain the mobility of

people defined by African descent, ordering in important ways their relations with

Spaniards, Indians, and mestizos. Since that hierarchy was built in Guatemala primarily

on the labor of the indigenous majority, however, the categories ranged around its

middle reaches would grow ever more permeable. Such classificatory fluidity would

arise in part from the increasingly mulato rather than negro status of the African-

descended population, a demographic development flowing in substantial measure out of

the near-absence of slave imports during much of the later seventeenth century.







9See Chapter 2.

'In the 1640s, companies ofgente parda--free blacks and mulattos--emerged in
the capital as well as in the districts mentioned above. See Lutz, Santiago, 43.








78

It would be inaccurate, nevertheless, to argue that the abstract distinctions made

under the Spanish colonial sistema de castas lost all social meaning during this period.

Guatemala was not, by 1700, a society divided between indos and ladinos, as is often

presumed. Instead, as succeeding chapters demonstrate, there was underway a process

tending slowly in the direction of the elimination of substantive distinctions based on

origin among those groups that were defined neither as indigenous tributaries nor as

espaoles. This process occurred in a social context in which the majority of the casta

population was defined categorically as mulato, not mestizo. African origin remained

both clearly evident and a phenomenon requiring explicit classification. Before

proceeding to an examination of the demographic and social contours of the African-

descended population within that context, though, a closer exploration of the colonial

racial hierarchy's classificatory terminology, and the effectiveness of measures taken by

the Spanish Crown and the audiencia of Guatemala to enforce distinctions based on

origin, is in order. I pay particular attention here to the social meanings of the terms

mestizo and mulato, and to seventeenth-century usages of the word ladino, a term of

extraordinary historical significance in Guatemala.

From Black to Mestizo?

In Lapatria del criollo, a provocative interpretation of Guatemala's colonial

history which remains widely influential three decades after it was first published,





""Este libro es fundamental para nosotros!" a bookstore owner in Guatemala
City informed me when I purchased my own copy of it a few years ago.










Severo Martinez PelAez argued that the Spanish colonial sistema de castas was little

more than a fig leaf obscuring an incipient, class-based social order. In particular,

Martinez Pelaez claimed that the distinctions based on origin which held sway in theory

under the sistema de castas did not, in reality, carry social meaning among the various

groups constituting what he termed the capas medics, or middle sectors, of colonial

Guatemalan society. Such divisions as existed among those people who fell into the

capas medias, he said, "had absolutely nothing to do with the formulation of their ethnic

mixture, but only with their economic situation." "It would be the same," he went on,

"to call them mestizos, mulatos, pardos, castas, or ladinos."'2

This argument was not without merit, and indeed has had many echoes elsewhere

in colonial historiography.3 It suffered in the context of colonial Guatemala from at

least two major flaws, however. First, Martinez Peliez relied on claims made in early

nineteenth-century documents for much of his discussion of early colonial population

history,'4 in fact consulting only one seventeenth-century source with any frequency:




12Martinez Peliez, La patria del criollo, 340-341.

"See, for example, the debate which raged over the importance of "estate"
versus "class" in late-colonial Oaxaca in the pages of Comparative Studies in Society
and History during the late 1970s and early 1980s, including John K. Chance and
William B. Taylor, "Estate and Class in a Colonial City: Oaxaca in 1792," CSSH 19, no.
4 (1977): 454-487; Robert McCaa, Stuart B. Schwartz and Arturo Grubessich, "Race
and Class in Colonial Latin America: A Critique," and Chance and Taylor's reply, CSSH
21, no. 3 (1979): 421442; and Patricia Seed and Philip F. Rust, "Estate and Class in
Colonial Oaxaca Revisited," with McCaa and Schwartz' response, and rejoinder by Seed
and Rust, in CSSH 25, no. 4 (1983): 703-724.
S4Martinez Peliez, La patria del criollo, 276, 316, 709 note 48.










Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmin's Recordaci6nflorida. Second, and more

telling, despite his avowed assertion that "ethnic" labels were meaningless, he sought

almost uniformly--except in the case of individuals defined explicitly as negro--to impose

the term mestizo on those sectors of the colonial population defined neither as Spanish

nor as indigenous. That he did so in the face of his own frank acknowledgment that

people of African origins had been important social players in colonial Guatemala during

the seventeenth century," and to the point of arguing with and even altering the use of

terms such as mulato and pardo in documents so as to accord more closely with his

desired understanding,6 undermined seriously his stance of indifference to classification

by origin.

Despite these flaws, Lapatria del criollo actually underscores the importance of

the African presence in early colonial Guatemala. Martinez Pelaez correctly noted, for

example, that it was not uncommon to encounter black slaves in positions of authority

over indigenous workers during the seventeenth century, a finding belying the received

notion that the former occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder.'7 Subsequently,




"See, for example, Martinez Peliez, Lapatria del criollo, 434.

6For example, when presenting excerpts from documents containing the terms
mulato orpardo, Martinez Peliez almost without fail suggested that mestizo or ladino
would have been more properly employed. See Martinez Peliez, Lapatria del criollo,
187-188, 194, 338, 698 note 43, 718 note 214, 770 note 32.

"7This observation also poses a problem--according to the logic of the racial
hierarchy--for Martinez Peliez' own claim that blacks were"ya muy pocos" in the
eighteenth century because they had been "absorbed" into the indigenous population.
See Martinez Peliez, Lapatria del criollo, 276-277. Succeeding chapters will show the











however, many scholars relying on this work's portrait of colonial Guatemala ignored

entirely the evidence it contains of a significant black sector worthy of further study,

while adopting wholeheartedly the book's general assignment of the colonial African

background to irrelevance."8 Prominent historians from both within and outside of

Guatemala have written confidently that mulato must have carried the meaning of

mestizo during the colonial period, because blacks were clearly few in number.9

The most significant exception to the above trend is contained in Christopher

Lutz's thorough demographic analysis of Central America's colonial capital. Based on

extensive archival investigation, Lutz's work reveals beyond any doubt the presence in

large numbers of negros and mulatos--both slave and free--in seventeenth-century

Santiago de Guatemala.2" Lutz also outlines clearly the existence during this period of





particular applicability to colonial Guatemala of James Lockhart's suggestion that
"[w]ithin Spanish American society overall, 'slave,' aside from some obvious
disadvantages, was a rather middling role." See James Lockhart, "Social Organization
and Social Change in Colonial Spanish America," in Leslie Bethell, ed., Cambridge
History of Latin America, vol.2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 278.

8Thus replicating the traditional portrait of colonial society drawn, for example,
in a Guatemalan textbook which mentioned the African presence only to indicate that it
"was extremely slight." See J. Daniel Contreras R., Breve historia de Guatemala, 2' ed.
(Guatemala: Editorial "Jos6 de Pineda Ibarra," 1961), 56.

9Arturo Taracena Arriola, "El vocablo 'Ladino' en Guatemala (S.XVI-XIX)," in
Jorge Luj in Mufioz, Historiay antropologia de Guatemala: ensayos en honor de J.
Daniel Contreras R. (Guatemala: Universidad de San Carlos, 1982), 89-104, esp. 97-98;
David McCreery, Rural Guatemala 1760-1940 (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1994), 7.


2Lutz, Santiago, esp. Chapter 4.











legal, hierarchical divisions between mestizos and mulatos, including the fact that only

the latter owed the alternative tribute known as the laborio.2" His work thus provides an

excellent starting point for refuting the notion that mestizo and mulato were much

confused during this period in terms of meaning. Categorization by the former carried

significant benefits with relation to the latter, and encouraged, if anything, division rather

than amalgamation.

Lutz appears, nonetheless, to support the notion that an inexorably biological

process of mestizaje rapidly undermined distinctions between mulatos libres and

mestizos. He claims the two groups were already lumped together as ladinos in the

capital by the 1670s.22 The dictates of biology thus apparently sufficed--in a city where

residents of differing origins formed unions with relative ease--to undermine rather

quickly the Spanish desire to maintain hierarchical distinctions among castas.

This view has much to recommend it. Given that imports of African slaves

dwindled after the 1630s, and that those imported, as elsewhere, were disproportionately

male,' the eventual dominance of the African-descended population by persons of plural



21Lutz, Santiago, 253-254. The laborio is explored in detail below.

22Lutz, Santiago, 95.

23Leslie B. Rout, Jr., The African Experience in Spanish America: 1502 to the
Present Day (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 71-72. A 1613 inspection
of the slaveship Nuestra Seflora de Nazar6n at Santo Tomis de Castilla, for example,
revealed a "cargo" from Angola of 97 men and boys and 39 women and girls. The
inventory of the GonzAlez Donis, or "Anis," ingenio done in 1630 reveals both that men
outnumbered women more than two to one, and that there were more criollas than
criollos. See AGCA, A3.5. 67. 1291. (1613); A1.20. 536. ff.296v.-302 (1630).











descent seemed assured. Increasingly of free status as a result of birth to non-slave

mothers, manumission, and other factors, the subsuming of mulattos within a larger

group of mixed ancestry as the black population declined was perhaps inevitable.

Working against this "natural" process, however, was the existence of the

Spanish racial hierarchy--a product of conscious policy, not biology. No one was born in

colonial Guatemala with the innate understanding that he or she was mulato/a, mestizo/a,

or any of the other "racial" categories employed by the Spaniards.24 Furthermore, the

use of categories other than "Spaniard" was intended clearly to exclude individuals from

social privilege.25 As long as legal disabilities were distributed and enforced differentially

among various categories of non-espaholes, the racial hierarchy retained a certain

capacity for organizing and reinforcing social divisions.26

There is little question, of course, that by the mid-seventeenth century the

ancestral origins of individuals whose great-grandparents may already have been of




24Theodore Allen argues in discussing seventeenth-century Virginia that identities
like "white" and "black" were learned, or more exactly, taught. See Allen, Invention, 19.

25For another argument along this line, see Jack D. Forbes, Black Africans and
Native Americans: Color, Race and Caste in the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), 269.

26Significantly, Lutz himself provides evidence to contradict his suggestion that
an amorphous ladino population emerged rapidly in Santiago. He alludes, for example,
to "countless seventeenth- and eighteenth-century historical references to a sizable free
mulatto population." See Lutz, Santiago, 281 note 30. Douglas Cope suggests that the
sistema de castas was also rapidly decaying at this time in seventeenth-century Mexico
City--demographically similar in many ways to Santiago--owing to a certain "plebeian"
solidarity. His argument weighs heavily, though, on the proto-revolutionary nature of a
1692 riot, which remains, I think, to be proven. See Cope, Limits, esp. Chapter 7.











plural descent were no longer as clear as they might have been among members of the

first post-contact generations. Indeed, as seen below, the arbitrary and ambiguous

nature of efforts to classify humans on the basis of origin was on full display by this

point in Spanish colonial history. Classificatory confusion hardly negated the social

ramifications of the designations that were made, however. Definition as mulato or

mulata, for example, carried specific social consequences, even if those consequences

were sometimes successfully avoided.

The Byzantine nature of the Spanish colonial system of social classification is

infamous, so the first order of business here must be to indicate which of its categories

were actually used with any frequency in seventeenth-century Guatemala.27 There were

eight: espaiol/a,8 mestizo/a, mulato/a libre, negroia libre, mulato/a esclavo/a, negro/a



27The Church's Third Mexican Provincial Council, held in 1585, produced a
schema of human classification listing 22 different categories of"mixture." The official
published account of the Council's proceedings was made available in Guatemala in
1623. See Agustin Estrada Monroy, Datos para la historia de la iglesia en Guatemala,
vol. 1, Biblioteca "Goathemala" 26 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografia e Historia,
1972), 195, 264. For examples of the classificatory regimes which supposedly held sway
in New Spain and Peru during the eighteenth century--containing sixteen and fourteen
categories, respectively--see Mrmer, Race Mixture, 58-59.
28The distinction between criollo and peninsular--American-born espaholes
versus those from Iberia--was rarely made in seventeenth-century Guatemalan sources,
except in the context of disputes over leadership in religious orders. A claim by Amos
Megged that a distinct criollo identity was emerging by 1600 is seriously undermined by
Megged's reading of the criollo category into documents in which it does not appear, as
well as by his contradictory assertions to the effect that criollos both identified closely
with mestizos, blacks, and Indians, and shunned such identification in favor of definition
as Spaniards. The latter attitude, in fact, prevailed. Interestingly, the category espahol
europeo was used commonly in seventeenth-century Antequera, Oaxaca, in southern
New Spain. See Amos Megged, "The Rise of Creole Identity in Early Colonial











esclavo/a, indio/a laborio/a, and indio/a tributarioia.29 The word ladino was also

important in a social sense, but is left aside for the moment. A final term needing

attention from among the bewildering array of classifications employed in theory is

zambo.3 A designation of individuals of African and Indian descent, it was hardly used

in Guatemala. Mulato, instead, was applied to all persons assumed to be of partial

African descent, although the meaning of zambo given here was clearly understood, a

point demonstrated below."







Guatemala: Differential Patterns in Town and Countryside," in Social History 17, no. 3
(1992): 421-440; John K. Chance, Race and Class in Colonial Oaxaca (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1978), 126.

9The social ramifications of identification on the basis of the categories listed
also varied by gender, a phenomenon explored later in this and subsequent chapters.

3Sambo, zambahigo.

31The eight primary categories mentioned in this paragraph were used especially
insistently in informaciones matrimoniales dating from the latter half of the seventeenth
century, and held in the AHA. For further explanation of these sources, see Chapters 4
and 5. Other categories showing up from time to time between the late sixteenth and
early eighteenth centuries included moreno/a, loro/a, and pardo/a. The first two
generally appeared as synonyms for negro/a, and the third as an approximation of
mulato/a. See AGCA, A1.56. 5355. 45246 (1593); A1.43.6071. 54671 (1605); A1.15.
4092. 32461. ff.7, 19-20v. (1605); Al.29.2.2327. 17286 (1623); Al.29.2. 2610. 21509
(1676); Al.15. 5905. 50092 (1678); A1.56. 2453. 18943 (1693); A1.56. 5357. 45265
(1701);A3.16.2812. 40737(1702). See also AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:233 (1671). On
similar usages ofpardo and moreno in Cuba and New Spain, see "Consulta del Consejo
de las Indias sobre que V.M. podria servirse de dispensar que en el presidio de La
Habana se sienten plazas de soldados a cuatro pardos mulatos" (1671), in Konetzke, ed.,
Colecci6n de documentos, 2, bk. 2:565-566; Naveda ChAvez-Hita, "Los estudios
afromexicanos," 134-135.











The categories mentioned above, not surprisingly, bled into each other, some

more than others. If the classic dichotomy of Spaniard and Indian reflected the most

abiding social chasm existing in colonial Guatemalan society, black and mulatto slaves

were far less distinguishable in terms of general social status. Indeed, all of the

categories other than Spaniard and tributary Indian--with the exception, perhaps, of the

aforementioned slaves--might easily be collapsed into a single broad one designated

imperfectly by the term casta.32 But such a move makes little sense for the seventeenth

century. As I have argued already, this period was marked by historical processes

tending, at best, in the direction of a tripartite social structure.

What factors, then, ensured the translation into colonial Guatemalan social reality

of theoretical divisions between mestizo and mulato, for example, and how effective

were these? One important source of division among castas was the alternative tribute

called the laborio.33 This tax was levied in theory on persons defined as negros libres,

mulatos libres, and indios laborios34 from the 1570s on, but never on mestizos. An




32The classic exposition of this move is McAllister, "Social Structure," passim.
Martinez Peliez' "capas medias" perform much the same function.

33On the origins of the laborio as levied against negros and mulatos libres, see
Libro VII, titulo quinto, ley primera, "Que los Negros, y Negras, Mulatos, y Mulatas
libres paguen tributo al Rey" (1574), and Libro VII, titulo quinto, ley tercera, "Que los
Mulatos,y negros libres vivan con amos conocidos, para que se puedan cobrar sus
tributos" (1577), in Recopilaci6n de leyes de los Reynos de las Indias, 4 vols. (Madrid:
Ediciones Cultura Hispinica, 1973), 2:285-285v.; AGCA, A1.24. 2245. 16190 (1585);
A1.22. 1513. f.719 (1591); Garcia Peliez, Memorias, 2:30; M6rner, La corona, 96.

'From the Caribbean naboria. In colonial Guatemala, the term was originally
applied to personal indigenous servants tied to Spanish households rather than Indian











important reservation concerning the laborio is that it is generally held to have been

collected sporadically, at best, and hence insignificant.3 Unquestionably, nothing

approaching consistent and full records of its payment seems to exist.' There are

scattered references to amounts collected in the nineteenth-century history of Garcia

Pelaez, which notes laborio payments totalling 2,568 tostones registered in a libro de

caja from 1679, and a record as late as 1729 of 500 tostones "procedentes de morenos

de la provincia de Suchitep6quez."37 But even if collected regularly, the laborio's




communities, and eventually to all individuals defined as Indian who were not on the
tribute rolls of an indigenous community. Laborio/a was used interchangeably with
naborio/a in seventeenth-century documents.

"See, for example, Michel Bertrand, "La tierra y los hombres: la sociedad rural
en Baja Verapaz durante los siglos XVI al XIY," in Stephen Webre, ed., La sociedad
colonial en Guatemala: estudios regionalesy locales (Antigua: Centro de
Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamnrica, 1989), 163. Bertrand errs in claiming that
mestizos as well as mulattos owed tribute, but then royal authorities were not themselves
always clear on this point. See decree of 29 November 1674, "Para que el virrey y
audiencia de M6xico informen sobre las 6rdenes en cuya virtud ejecutan la tasaci6n de
tributarios solo en los indios y mulatos y no en los mestizos," in Konetzke, ed.,
Colecci6n de documentos, 2, bk. 2:610-611.

36On early efforts to collect the laborio in Guatemala, see the reference to a 1611
order (a reference conflating the laborio with the servicio del tost6n, a one tost6n levy
tacked onto tribute payments to cover the costs of collection), in Pardo, Efemirides, 84-
86; "Libro y cuademo de los yndios mulatos y negros fibres naborios que en
conformidad de lo dispuesto y mandado por su magestad se empadronan en el partido de
quealtenango" (1613), AGCA. Al.24. 2801. 40502, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
Day Saints (hereafter LDS) microfilm 0747059. On similar collection efforts elsewhere
in Spanish America, see royal decree of 27 July, 1627, "Que los negros y mulatos fibres
paguen tributo," in Konetzke, ed., Colecci6n de documentos, 2, bk. 1:306; Escobedo
Mansilla, "El tributo," passim; Bowser, The African Slave, 121.
37Garcia Pelaez, Memorias, 2:30, 36. Citations from AGCA documents kindly
provided to me by Franz Binder suggest that a concerted study of laborio payment











proceeds would have been dwarfed by the revenues produced for the Crown by

indigenous communities. There is, nevertheless, a good deal of evidence other than

actual records of payment to suggest that this tribute mattered to those required by law

to pay it, to individuals claiming to be mestizos, and to royal officials charged with the

collection of Crown revenues.

When, for instance, a free mulatto named Francisco de Sosa was charged in 1631

with assaulting a royal official, his legal representative drew up a list of questions for

prospective witnesses to answer which included a statement alleging Sosa's good

character, propensity for hard work, and regular payment of the "tributo de naborio" he

owed.38 Eleven years later, Matheo Hernandez, mulato fibre of San Diego de la

Gomera, complained that the alcalde of his town was trying to extort a bribe from him in

return for relief from the laborio. Hernandez asserted that he had always paid the tribute

despite the fact that he no longer even owed it, being about 70 and thus some fifteen

years past the age of exemption.9 In fact, the laborio was perhaps nowhere more

relevant than in the town of San Diego, whose largely black and mulatto residents would










records might turn up more substantial sums than previously thought.
3AGCA, Al.15. 4109. 32564.

39AGCA, A1.24. 1559. 10203. ff458-458v. (1642).









89

argue in 1700 that disputed saltpans they had long worked had been granted to them on

the town's founding to facilitate its payment.'

The clearest evidence that the laborio was not entirely irrelevant in colonial

Guatemalan life is provided in petitions for relief from it made by militia units of color

during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. These petitions are examined

in detail toward the end of this dissertation, but it will suffice here to note that audiencia

officials concerned with falling revenues strenuously opposed them almost without fail.

Crown officials, it seems, would not easily be persuaded to give up any potential sources

of revenue, however poor the record of collection. The case of Matheo Hernandez,

mentioned above, is instructive in this regard. He was forced to make the trip to the

capital and appear before the audiencia in person so that its members could determine

for themselves whether or not he was old enough to be exempted from tribute.4

Royal officials in Spain itself also turned their attention to the laborio from time

to time during the seventeenth century. A particularly striking example of this interest

arose out of a complaint sent to Spain in 1681 by Don Ger6nimo Chac6n Abarca, an

oidor in Santiago de Guatemala. Chac6n alleged that mulatto militia captains charged

with collecting the laborio from communities in and around the capital went armed door

to door, threatening residents, in an effort to extract the Crown's revenue. In an




"'Testimonio de los Autos Proveydos ... en favor de los Mulatos de la Villa de

San Diego de la Gomera, 1700," AGI, Guatemala, 285.

41AGCA, A1.24. 1559. 10203. ff.458-458v.









90

especially notorious incident, these officers had broken the arm of one hapless individual.

On complaining of mistreatment to the authorities, the victim had been thrown in jail.42

Responding to Chac6n's letter in 1682, the Crown made its primary concern

clear. It ordered that an officer of the peace and a treasury official be appointed to

collect the laborio directly, and in the most benign manner possible. This course of

action would ensure that those who owed the tribute paid it without rancor and, more

important, with "utmost punctuality." The Crown also mandated punishment for the

offending militia officers, who had apparently met until then with nothing but solid

approval for their abusive tactics. Other efforts to mend tattered relations with potential

taxpayers included a ban henceforth on the employment of mulattos in tribute collection.

This signaled apparent agreement with the assessment of the oidor--appropriately

justifying Spanish attempts to arrange society hierarchically according to ancestry--that

the mulato captains were "impudent and discourteous by nature."'

Of course, the existence of mulatto militia captains in late seventeenth century

Guatemala suggests that the incorporation of free people of African descent into militias

during the 1640s had indeed increased their opportunities for social mobility. Such

evidence of actual colonial practice indicates clearly that ongoing efforts by the Crown to



42AGCA, A1.23. 4587. 39540. ff. 106v-108v. (1682).

43AGCA, A1.23. 4587. 39540. ff 106v-108v. Emphasis added. Continued royal
concern over the collection of the laborio extended beyond Guatemala. See decree of
31 December 1674, "A la audiencia de Guadalajara que ponga todo cuidado en que se
continue la paga del empadronaniento de los mulatos y negros libres," in Konetzke, ed.,
Coleccirn de documents, 2, bk. 2:613-614.











restrict the activities of blacks and mulattos--by prohibiting them, for example, from

carrying weapons"--were increasingly meaningless in the face of contrary Spanish needs.

On the other hand, militia service, like the laborio, provided a specific area of practice in

which hierarchical distinctions were drawn between mulattos and mestizos. Mestizos

often served with companies of gente espai~ola. These units were segregated from ones

whose troops were identified with terms such as gente parda or gente de color. In the

early 1680s, for instance, the corregimiento of Guazacapan was able to muster three

militia companies: one whose 150 members were listed as espaboles and mestizos, and

two others totaling 250 men described as mulatos and gente parda.4" In 1700,

meanwhile, one Andr~s Graviel of Santiago de Guatemala complained that he was being

harassed to pay the laborio even though he was "known as a mestizo'" and had marched







"See Libro VII, titulo quinto, ley 15, "Que los Negros, y Loros, libres, 6
esclavos, no traigan armas"(155 1); Libro VII, titulo quinto, ley 14, "Que los Mulatos, y
Zambaigos no traigan armas, y los Mestizos las puedan traer con licencia" (1568), in
Recopilaci6n, 2:287; real cdula of 4 April, 1628, "Que los ministros de las Indias no
den licencia para traer negros con armas" in Konetzke, ed., Coleccidn de documentos, 2,
bk. 1:317; reference to ordinance of 8 April 1634 forbidding mulattos, free blacks, and
mestizos from carrying swords or knives in Santiago de Guatemala, in Pardo,
Efemirides, 51; and 1663 order reminding colonists of earlier prohibitions on the
possession of weapons by "slaves, mulattos, and mestizos," in AGCA, A1.23. 1519.
10074. ff. 108-108v. (1663).
45"Raz6n," AGI, Contaduria, 815, ff.32v. See also Stephen Webre, "Las
compaiiias de milicia y la defensa del istmo centroamericano en el siglo XVII: el
alistamiento general de 1673," Mesoamrica 14 (1987): 511-529, esp. 518. In at least
one district, Chiquimula de la Sierra, mulattos and mestizos apparently served together.
The significance of this circumstance emerges in Chapters 4 and 7.










as such for 16 years in the barrio of Santo Domingo's militia company of gente

espahola.&

Given the benefits of definition as mestizo over mulato, it is not surprising to

encounter examples of individuals claiming membership in the former category even as

other people, often representing the opposing side in criminal or civil disputes, suggested

that they fell into the latter. During an effort in the 1690s by one Juan de Cirdenas to

have his daughter Catalina absolved of any obligation to pay either regular tribute or the

laborio, Cirdenas insistently referred to both his wife and himself as mestizos. The

Indian alcaldes of the neighborhood of San Geronimo in Santiago, and the various

witnesses the alcaldes called, just as insistently called Cardenas a mulato libre and his

wife an india tributaria.47







CGraviel's argument evidently made sense to the audiencia. It supported his
petition. See AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6534 (1700).
47AGCA, A3.16. 2812. 40737 (1702). Similar cases of auto-identification as
mestizo/a contradicted by definition as mulato/a by others may be found in Martha Blair
Few, "Mujeres de Mal Vivir: Gender, Religion, and the Politics of Power in Colonial
Guatemala, 1650-1750" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Arizona, 1997), 120 note 22.
Further illustrations of popular understanding of the racial hierarchy's logic include the
1660 case of Joseph de Meza, a muleteer charged with attempting to kill his wife while
inebriated. Meza called himself an espahol, and his wife a mulata libre, but Spanish
artisans witnessing against him labeled them both mestizo/a. In 1701, meanwhile, Bias
de Santiago stood accused of stealing from Santiago's Oratorio de Nuestra Sefiora del
Patrocinio while employed as sexton. The formal complaint identified him as a mulatto,
but a witness who claimed Santiago owed her money called him an Indian. See AGCA
A1.56. 2453. 18930 (1660); A2.2. 137. 2481 (1701).









93

That the relationship between the categories mestizo and mulatto was hierarchical

in nature is underscored by the absence of evidence indicating that persons defined as

mestizo ever sought identification as mulattos. That many mulattos may actively have

pursued classification as mestizos, however, does not entail the rapid "disappearance" of

populations identified by African descent either in colonial Guatemala or elsewhere in

Spanish America, as is often intimated.48 Indeed, the present dissertation demonstrates

that despite ongoing and undoubtedly significant movement out of the mulatto category,

individuals identified as mulatos actually far outnumbered those called mestizos in

Guatemala until at least 1701, nearly two hundred years after the Spanish first arrived.

Nor does an imprecise suggestion made by Christopher Lutz that parish priests

"increasingly omitted racial designations from parish registers altogether" during the late

seventeenth century give a proper sense of the timing or the magnitude of this

development.49 Lutz is absolutely right that the phenomenon occurred, but leaves the

impression, perhaps unwittingly, that it had undermined traditional efforts at

classification well before the eighteenth century. His own data from the capital

contradict that impression.5" And evidence that I have taken from 674 informaciones





8See, for example, Aguirre Beltrin, Lapoblaci6n negra, 278; Wendy Kramer,
W. George Lovell, and Christopher H. Lutz, "La conquista espafiola de Centroamerica,"
in Pinto Soria, ed., Historia General de Centroamirica, 2:87.

49Lutz, Santiago, 95.

5See columns for Other/Unidentified under the Marriage Tables in Appendix 1 in
Lutz, Santiago, 177-206.




Full Text
FROM BLACK TO LADINO:
PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT, MESTIZAJE, AND RACIAL HIERARCHY
IN RURAL COLONIAL GUATEMALA, 1600-1730
By
PAUL THOMAS LOKKEN
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
2000

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I thank the Tinker Foundation, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the
University of Florida, and the University of Florida’s History Department for funding my
dissertation research. I also wish to express my sincere gratitude to the staffs of the
Archivo General de Centroamérica and the Archivo Histórico Arquidiocesano
“Francisco de Paula García Peláez,” both in Guatemala City, and the Archivo General de
Indias, in Seville, for the assistance they provided to me.
Many individuals contribute to the writing of a doctoral dissertation, more than I
can name in this brief space. I wish, however, to single out a few people to whom I owe
a particular debt of gratitude. My advisor, Murdo MacLeod, supported me unstintingly
throughout my graduate career at the University of Florida. He also provides a model
for would-be scholars that is notable for the degree to which it is unlikely to be matched.
The other members of my committee—David Geggus, Kathryn Bums, Irma McClaurin,
and Tim Cleaveland—each directly influenced my work, although none bears (much)
responsibility for how I have chosen to interpret what they taught me. Jeffrey Needell,
Mark Thumer, and Jim Handy also had substantial input into my formation as a historian
of Latin America, Louise Newman introduced me to important theoretical literature
which I might otherwise have avoided, to my loss, and Marvin Harris reminded me of the
significance of material factors in the evolution of human societies.
ii

w
Graduate students, at their best, form mutual support groups that are both
intellectual and convivial in nature. At the University of Florida, my thanks go in
particular to Caleb Finegan, Kym Morrison, Mike Cole, Jim Meier, and, especially, Doug
Tompson, and, in the archives, to Leo Hernández, Christophe Belaubre, and Giulia
Tarantola. I am also indebted to Franz Binder, who is not a graduate student, but knows
the archives of Guatemala as well as anyone, and the sources for my own topic better
than I do.
My debts to family are the greatest. I owe thanks to my mother, Borgny Lokken,
who has always supported my academic endeavors, and to my in-laws, Peter and Mary
van der Veen, for their many kindnesses. Paula van der Veen needs little reminder of the
peculiar demands of academic life, and Annelise and Martine are learning fast. My
father, John Lokken, did not live to see me finish this dissertation, but never failed to
demonstrate an interest both in my specific work and in Central America in general. I
have lost, among much else, an attentive reader.
in

TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ii
ABSTRACT vi
CHAPTERS
1 INTRODUCTION 1
2 THE “BLACK THREAT” IN EARLY
SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY GUATEMALA 19
The Establishment of an African Presence in Guatemala 25
African-descended Slaves in Rural Guatemala 40
Ranch Hands, “Vagabonds,” and Maroons 52
3 MULATOS, LADINOS, AND RACIAL HIERARCHY 74
The Emergence of Militias of Color 74
From Black to Mestizo? 78
The Many Faces of the Seventeenth-Century Ladino 103
4 FROM BLACK TO MULATTO: MARRIAGE AND MESTIZAJE 112
Region, Demography, and the Politics of Marriage 112
Sources 119
The Valle de las Vacas 126
Chiquimula de la Sierra to the Caribbean 140
Sonsonate and San Salvador y San Miguel 151
The Western Highlands 165
5 MULATTOS AND MESTIZAJE ON THE PACIFIC COAST 172
Escuintepeque 176
Zapotitlán 193
iv

Guazacapán
203
6 TESTING THE BOUNDS:
SOCIAL RELATIONS AND RACIAL HIERARCHY 213
Cofradías and “Cannibals” 213
“Slave”: A “Middling Role”? 223
Contesting Social Mobility: Free Mulattos and Spaniards 237
From Mulato Libre to Ladino? 250
7 MILITIAMEN OF COLOR
AND THE REORDERING OF RACIAL HIERARCHY 253
Foreign Threats and the Challenge to the Tributo de Laboríos 256
From Black To Ladino, But Slowly 262
Conclusion 270
APPENDIX: MARRIAGE PETITIONS FROM SONSONATE AND
SAN SALVADOR AND SAN MIGUEL 276
SOURCES CITED 277
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 290
v

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
FROM BLACK TO LADINO:
PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT, MESTIZAJE, AND RACIAL HIERARCHY
IN RURAL COLONIAL GUATEMALA, 1600-1730
By
Paul Thomas Lokken
May 2000
Chair: Murdo J. MacLeod
Major Department: History
This dissertation focuses on a little-studied aspect of the African diaspora in the
Americas: the seventeenth-century demographic and social contours of Spanish
Guatemala’s rural African-descended population. It also contributes to literature which
examines the unstable nature of identities tied to origin, by exploring the apparent
disappearance of this population from the historical stage. Over the course of the
seventeenth century, an African-descended sector consisting in 1600 largely of enslaved
and marginalized individuals who were defined as black was transformed into one made
up of people who were mostly free, called mulatto, and linked with a broader and more
amorphous social category: gente ladina. The term ladino, of key importance in
Guatemalan history, was at the same time just beginning to be understood in a manner
consistent with its modem status as a catch-all label for people defined as non-Indian.
vi

Several factors contributed to the transformation outlined here. These factors
included a drastic reduction in slave imports after the 1630s, the Spanish need to employ
non-indigenous people of color in military and administrative capacities, and the efforts
of blacks and mulattos to escape the position of inferiority assigned to them under the
Spanish colonial racial hierarchy. Underlying and fundamentally shaping these processes
was the dependence of Spaniards in Guatemala primarily on indigenous rather than
African labor. Socially exclusionary policies intended, in theory, to relegate individuals
of African descent to the bottom of the social ladder were undermined in practice
because the full weight of racial hierarchy fell on the Indian majority.
Marriage records, especially, reveal that imposed distinctions based on origin did
not constrain the mobility of individuals of African origins to the extent desired by the
Spanish. Enslaved black men secured free birth for their children by marrying indigenous
women, while those free children, defined as mulattos, might wed mestizos or even
Spaniards. Free women of color were most likely to slip the allegedly fixed bounds of
classification by origin, as other studies of marriage in Spanish America have predicted.
Examined in conjunction with population counts, marriage records also indicate
that people defined by African origins formed a large proportion of Guatemala’s non-
Indian sector by the late seventeenth century, and the majority in some regions. At the
same time, though, free mulatto social mobility was undermining distinctions among the
non-indigenous population. A key signal of this development occurred early in the
eighteenth century, when militiamen of color gained relief from an alternative tribute
owed by free people of African descent. They thus shed a key marker of “inferior”
origins that was henceforth to be associated only with Indians: tribute status.
vi 1

CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Visiting Guatemala City’s Museo Popul Vuh in the spring of 1998,1 encountered
a puzzling inscription at the entrance to the lone room dedicated to the colonial period.
The inscription described social stratification in Spanish Guatemala by stating that
colonial society was comprised of five groups: “los españoles (nacidos en España), los
criollos (españoles nacidos en América), los mestizos (hijos de españoles e indígenas),
indígenas y negros.” At first, I was pleasantly surprised to see people of African origins
mentioned as having been a significant presence in colonial Guatemala. The inscription
seemed to depart from the common depiction of early Guatemalan history as a field of
struggle between “Spaniards” and “Indians” alone. This apparent departure was
welcome to someone interested in the colonial African presence in areas of Spanish
America not traditionally considered to have much African background.1
'Like Guatemala, central Mexico (New Spain) and Andean Peru had large
indigenous majorities during the colonial period, a fact which has often led scholars to
overlook the social significance of African-descended minorities in these areas. The
historiographies of New Spain and Peru do, nevertheless, include classic studies of these
minorities, notably Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, La población negra de México, 1519-1810
(México, D.F.: Ediciones Fuente Cultural, 1946); Frederick P. Bowser, The African
Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524-1650 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974); Colin
A. Palmer, Slaves of the White God: Blacks in Mexico, 1570-1650 (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1976). Presently, historians of Mexico are beginning to pay
sustained attention to the colonial African presence, now sometimes called “la tercera
raíz” of the modem nation. See Adriana Naveda Chávez-Hita, “Los estudios
1

2
After reflecting a bit on this description of colonial Guatemala’s social order,
however, its overall implications dawned on me. Those implications actually undermined
any intent which might have existed to incorporate the African presence into public
historical understanding of Guatemala’s colonial roots. Blacks, the description
suggested, reproduced only among themselves, if at all, in Spanish Guatemala. Members
of the Spanish and indigenous populations, meanwhile, intermingled to produce mestizos,
but no one from either group found sexual partners of African origin. Thus mestizaje—
roughly understood as the mixing of diverse populations—operated in such a way in
colonial Guatemala as to exclude entirely the inconvenient classificatory (not to mention
other) complications that the forced importation of Africans introduced into most
colonial Spanish American societies.
The starkest interpretation of the museum’s inscription, quite simply, is that the
negros of colonial Guatemala died out. This conclusion would be the one to draw, at
any rate, if one were to integrate the museum’s description of colonial society with what
might be described as the “hegemonic” understanding—scholarly as well as popular—of
Guatemalan origins. Local African roots, if any, have been associated with small and
relatively isolated groups of English- and Garifuna-speaking peoples concentrated near
afromexicanos: los cimientos y las fuentes locales,” La Palabra y el Hombre 97 (1996):
125-139. Recent work on Peru’s African background includes Christine Hiinefeldt,
Paying the Price of Freedom: Family and Labor Among Lima’s Slaves, 1800-1854
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). The most widely known scholarly
exploration into “forgotten” populations of African descent in Spanish America may be
George Reid Andrews, The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1800-1900 (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1980).

3
the country’s Caribbean outlet.2 The presence in Guatemala of these groups, though,
does not date back further than the 1790s, when the British expelled the “black Caribs,”
or Garifiina, from St. Vincent.3 The descendants of earlier immigrants who came directly
from Africa as slaves, meanwhile, are evidently no longer around.
Another curious aspect of the Popol Vuh museum’s description of colonial
society is that the term ladino is not mentioned at all. This category is ubiquitous today
as the one into which the entire non-Mayan4 population of Guatemala is often slotted.
The failure to include the term cannot have been based on its absence from histories of
2The best example of this merges the scholarly and the popular. Ralph Lee
Woodward, Jr., the noted historian of Central America, does not mention a colonial
African presence at all in his extensive entry on Guatemala in Microsoft’s Encarta
encyclopedia, other than to note the arrival of “black Caribs.” See Ralph Lee
Woodward, Jr., “Guatemala,” Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia.
3Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Central America: A Nation Divided', 2nd ed. (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 291.
4In this dissertation I use the term “Indian” rather than “Mayan,” now preferred.
My reasoning is simple: this dissertation focuses on eastern and southern parts of the
colonial Province of Guatemala (including the territory of modern El Salvador) where
much of the indigenous population was not Maya in origin, but rather Nahuatl-speaking
Pipil, with pockets of Xincá and other groups in Guazacapán. The label indio was
applied indiscriminately to all of these people. Furthermore, indio, like negro and
mulato, carried specific connotations within the Spanish colonial racial hierarchy that is
in part the subject of this study. All three must be employed for their ramifications to be
understood. On the indigenous presence in Pacific-coast and eastern Guatemala, see
Richard N. Adams, Encuesta sobre la cultura de los ladinos en Guatemala, Joaquín
Noval, trans. (Guatemala: Editorial del Ministerio de Educación Pública, 1956), 48;
Sandra Orellana, Ethnohistory of the Pacific Coast (Lancaster, Ca.: Labyrinthos, 1995),
24-27; Lawrence H. Feldman, A Tumpline Economy: Production and Distribution
Systems in Sixteenth-Century Eastern Guatemala (Culver City, Ca.: Labyrinthos, 1985),
6, figure 5. On El Salvador’s indigenous roots, see David Browning, El Salvador:
Landscape and Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), Chapter 1.

4
the colonial period-it is universally noted to have been in use during colonial times.
Instead, the description’s unspoken assumption is that ladino and mestizo meant, and
mean, the same thing. Such an assumption merely echoes standard modem definitions of
the term, which routinely slip suggestions to the effect that ladinos are of “mixed
indigenous and European descent” or a “mixture of Indians and Spaniards” into claims
that the category has no “racial” content, and applies purely to the use of “Western” or
“Spanish” cultural practices.5 But this definition appears to have had a relatively short
existence. It is perhaps indicative of a twentieth-century trend toward “forgetting” the
colonial African presence in Guatemala that dictionaries from 1958 and 1984,
respectively, gave the Central American definition of ladino as “descendiente de español
e india” and “mestizo,” while a 1916 encyclopedia—in a racist but perhaps more
historically informed entry-said “the ladinos of Guatemala are not properly speaking an
anthropological unit, but resulted from triple mestizaje in which the frizziness of the hair,
the black color of the skin, and the distinctive odor of the black have disappeared.”6
5In other words, ladinos are “racially” mestizo. The quotations are taken from
“Color y amistad,” in “Guía turística,” insert in La Prensa Gráfica (Guatemala), 4 enero,
1996, 2; Woodward, “Guatemala,” Encarta 98. The anthropologist Richard N. Adams
warned as early as 1956 against confusing ladino with mestizo or bianco, but meant only
to say that “racially, a ladino can be white, mestizo, or even indigenous.” He did allow
for the possibility that persons defined as ladino might have some African descent, but
his association of this possibility only with Guatemala’s Caribbean coast was made clear
in his sole example, the town of Livingston. See Adams, Encuesta, 8-20.
6See “Ladino,” in Real Academia Española, Diccionario de la lengua española
(Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1984); “Ladino,” in Martín Alonso Pedraz, Enciclopedia del
idioma: diccionario histórico y moderno de la lengua española (siglos XII al XX)
etimológico, tecnológico, regional e hispanoamericano (Madrid: Aguilar, 1958);

5
In this dissertation, I seek to unravel some of the apparent contradictions in
Guatemalan myths of origin by writing two intimately related histories: one about
African-descended people in the mid-colonial period, and the other on the nature and
effects of the Spanish colonial racial hierarchy within which those people operated. The
two histories are inextricably intertwined, because the “disappearance” of colonial
Guatemala’s black population was in part a matter of definition, or classification, which
is the stuff of racial hierarchies. Understanding how the Spanish categorized individuals,
and why, provides clues, for example, about the nature and direction of demographic and
social change. In turn, it was the social relationships in which people of African origins
were involved, and, most important, the material circumstances which surrounded their
forced immigration to and subsequent participation in colonial Guatemalan society, that
both infused the categories of the racial hierarchy with meaning, and changed that
meaning over time.7
I use the term “racial hierarchy” as a shorthand for the Spanish colonial system of
human classification—the sistema de castas—because that system was intended to assign
differential social status on the basis of individuals’ actual or ascribed origins. I do not
“Ladinos,” in Enciclopedia universal ilustrada europeo-americano (Madrid: Espasa-
Calpe, 1916). The definition’s modern history and its relation to Guatemalan self¬
imaginings certainly bears further investigation.
7The contrast in the Americas between highland colonial labor systems based
primarily on indigenous workers versus lowland ones built on the backs of imported
African laborers, and the consequences for subsequent “racial” and “cultural”
development, has been drawn most notably in Marvin Harris, Patterns of Race in the
Americas, (New York: Walker, 1964), esp. Chapter 2.

6
mean to imply that the term raza was used in colonial Guatemala, or that the
connotations assigned to “race” following the nineteenth-century advent of “scientific”
racism applied in earlier societies. It would be anachronistic in the extreme to suggest
that the residents of Spanish colonial America held modem notions about “race.” But by
the same token, as Nancy Leys-Stepan has argued, nineteenth-century conceptions of
fundamental biological divisions among humankind did not emerge ex nihilo, but
received acceptance precisely because they resonated with older ideas about human
difference based on origin.8
Sixteenth-century Spaniards, for example, brought with them to the Americas a
conception of society as hierarchically ordered by divine will on the basis of hereditary
privilege. Nobility was conferred by birth, at least in theory. In addition, the Spanish
were increasingly obsessed at exactly this point with limpieza de sangre (purity of
blood), a result of both the Reconquest of Muslim-ruled portions of the Iberian peninsula
by Catholic monarchs, completed in 1492, and the Inquisition’s war after 1478 on
Spanish Jews and conversos, forcibly converted and, hence, suspect “New Christians.”
By 1501, applicants for many public offices in the Spanish kingdoms were required to
prove descent from “Old Christian” stock. Emphasis on “purity” of ancestry only
intensified in the following decades.9
8Nancy Leys-Stepan, “Race and Gender: The Role of Analogy in Science,” in
ISIS 77 (1986): 261-277, esp. 265-266.
9Mark A. Burkholder, “Honor and Honors in Colonial Spanish America,” in
Lyman L. Johnson and Sonya Lipsett-Rivera, eds., The Faces of Honor: Sex, Shame,

7
But while limpieza de sangre was linked primarily to religious origins in the
Spanish homeland, the notion underwent modification upon translation to the Spanish
American colonies. There, “Spanishness” came to be defined, at least in part, as a
quality that set one apart from, and above, members of large indigenous and African-
descended populations.10 The colonial social hierarchy which Spaniards endeavored to
impose in their American possessions was anchored firmly enough in categories intended
to reflect Spanish, African, or indigenous origins for the purposes of implementing
discriminatory legislation that it may, with some reservations, be termed “racial.”11
The mechanics of this study involve an exploration of mostly seventeenth-century
documentation relating to the demographic and social history of that sector of the
and Violence in Colonial Latin America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
Press, 1998), 19-22; Ann Twinam, “The Negotiation of Honor,” in Johnson and Lipsett-
Rivera, eds., Sex, Shame, and Violence, 74-76.
10Burkholder, “Honor and Honors,” 28, 34-37; Twinam, “Negotiation,” 76-77.
Spaniards in the Americas were not a homogeneous lot, however. Occupational status,
legitimacy, and numerous other factors produced significant differentiation among them.
"Theodore Allen is largely correct in asserting that “[hjowever one may choose
to define the term ‘racial,’ it concerns the historian only as it relates to a pattern of
oppression (subordination, subjugation, exploitation) of one set of human beings by
another.” See Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Volume One:
Racial Oppression and Social Control (London: Verso, 1994), 27. On “race” itself,
Noel Ignatiev, discussing the U S. context, cites the “well-known phenomenon that a
white woman can give birth to a black child, but a black woman can never give birth to a
white child” to argue that the “only logical conclusion is that people are members of
different races because they have been assigned to them.” See Noel Ignatiev, How the
Irish Became White (New York: Routledge, 1995), 1. For a classic comparative
demonstration of the logical absurdities inherent in systems of racial classification, see
Harris, Patterns of Race, 54-58.

8
colonial population which was identified by terms connoting African descent: negro and
mulato. The most important sources employed include correspondence between the
Spanish Crown and the audiencia in Santiago de Guatemala, capital of Spanish Central
America;12 the records of civil and criminal processes; a partial census of Central
America conducted during the 1680s; and, especially, marriage petitions filed by
members of the non-tributary13 population during the last half of the seventeenth century.
I also examine slave sales, some records of wills and estates, and petitions to the
audiencia from militias of color and sundry other groups and individuals. By casting my
research net more widely than deeply, I have hoped to produce a broad portrait of the
mid-colonial population of African origins, and the social relations in which its members
were involved.14
12The term audiencia was applied both to the administrative district-the
audiencia of Guatemala, which stretched from present-day Chiapas to Costa Rica—and
to the royal court which sat in the capital, comprised of a President, sometimes also
Captain-General, and three or four oidores, or justices. See C.H. Haring, The Spanish
Empire in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947), 70-77.
^“Tributary” is used in this dissertation to refer to those members of the
indigenous population—the vast majority—who owed tribute and labor to the Spanish
Crown or its most favored representatives. Although blacks, mulattos, and some Indians
owed an alternative tribute called the laborío—see Chapter 3—1 align them with non¬
tributaries in order to emphasize what I argue became a key distinction of the colonial
racial hierarchy: that between Indians who owed regular tribute, and everyone else.
14This research strategy has also been necessitated by gaps in seventeenth-century
documentation. For example, I found few marriage petitions from rural areas before the
1650s. It would be unduly pessimistic, though, to presume that efforts to conduct
demographic inquiry into what a well known historian of Latin American populations
called the “pre-statistical period (1555-1744)” are futile because of a paucity of
documentation. That documentation has yet to be exhausted. See Nicolás Sánchez-

9
The dissertation’s specific geographic focus is the colonial provincia de
Guatemala, an administrative unit within the audiencia of the same name which
encompassed roughly the present-day republics of Guatemala and El Salvador. The
boundaries of this provincia essentially matched those of the ecclesiastical diocese of
Guatemala and Verapaz, which lends a substantial degree of territorial cohesiveness to
the documentation produced. Secular as well as ecclesiastical administrations were
centered on Santiago de Guatemala,15 capital of the audiencia and by far the most
important city in colonial Central America. Santiago, though, is little discussed here. I
concentrate instead on areas outside the capital and its environs, for two reasons. First,
much of rural mid-colonial Guatemala-particularly areas south and east of the capital-
has received relatively little scholarly attention.16 Yet, as Murdo MacLeod has noted, the
countryside was increasingly central to colonial life in Guatemala during the seventeenth
century, as long-term economic depression drove urban residents into rural areas in
search of subsistence.17 Second, Christopher H. Lutz’s Santiago de Guatemala is as
Albornoz, The Population of Latin America: A History (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1974), 9-10, 88.
15Originally Santiago de los Caballeros. The site which the capital occupied from
1541 to 1773 is presently Antigua Guatemala, located just west of Guatemala City.
^Significant exceptions include Murdo J. MacLeod, Spanish Central America: A
Socioeconomic History, 1520-1720 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973) and
J.C. Pinto Soria, El valle central de Guatemala (1524-1821): un análisis acerca del
origen histórico-económico del regionalismo en centroamérica (Guatemala.
Universidad de San Carlos, 1988).
17MacLeod, Spanish Central America, esp. 381-385. MacLeod’s thesis has been
challenged by scholars who argue that a seventeenth-century decline in an export-

10
thorough and impressive a demographic examination of the capital as is likely to be
done.18 Although African-descended populations are not his specific subject, his clear
demonstration of their importance in Guatemala’s urban life serves as a starting point for
my own work.19
oriented economy centered on indigo production produced more vibrant and diverse
internal markets, not depression. See, for example, Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales,
“Economía y sociedad en Centroamérica (1540-1680),” in Julio César Pinto Soria, ed.
Historia General de Centroamérica, 2nd ed. (San José: FLACSO, 1994), 2:138-140;
Gustavo Palma Murga, “Economía y sociedad en Centromérica (1680-1750),” in Pinto
Soria, ed., Historia General, 2:219-224. While I do not enter this debate directly, I see
my focus on rural demography and social relations as one response to Palma Murga’s
suggestion that there “still remains much to investigate” with regard to seventeenth-
century “ruralization” in Central America. I might note also that Pinto Soria calls
mestizaje “one of the lacunae in Central American historiography.” See Palma Murga,
“Economía y sociedad (1680-1750),” 223; Julio César Pinto Soria, “Conclusiones,” in
Pinto Soria, ed., Historia General, 2:311-312.
18Christopher H. Lutz, Santiago de Guatemala, 1541-1773, City, Caste, and the
Colonial Experience (Norman: University of Nebraska Press, 1994).
19If Lutz is in many ways responsible for having brought the topic to the level of
historical consciousness, Guatemalan students were among the first to examine the
region’s African background in any depth. See Ofelia Calderón Diemecke de González,
“El negro en Guatemala durante la época colonial” (Tesis de Licenciatura, Universidad
de San Carlos, 1973); Danilo Palma Ramos, “El negro en las relaciones étnicas de la
segunda mitad del siglo XVIII y principios del siglo XIX en Guatemala” (Tesis de
Licenciatura, Universidad de San Carlos, 1974). General histories by MacLeod, Miles
Wortman, and Severo Martínez Peláez, meanwhile, refer often to blacks and mulattos,
especially in their labor role. See MacLeod, Spanish Central America-, Miles L.
Wortman, Government and Society in Central America, 1680-1840 (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1982); Severo Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo: ensayo
de interpretación de la realidad colonial guatemalteca, 13th ed. (Mexico, D.F.:
Ediciones en Marcha, 1994). I discuss the latter work’s scholarly ambivalence regarding
the African presence in Chapter 3. Calls for additional study of the African presence in
colonial Guatemala have appeared, for example, in Murdo J. MacLeod, “Ethnic
Relations and Indian Society in the Province of Guatemala, ca. 1620—ca. 1800,” in
Murdo J. MacLeod and Robert Wasserstrom, eds., Spaniards and Indians in

11
Sources: Lovell and Lutz, Demography and Empire, 2,
figure 1; Feldman, Tumpline Economy, 3, figure 3.
Thus far I have stressed the demographic and social aspects of the study which
follows. Demographic and social analysis of colonial Guatemala’s African-descended
population is slippery, however, and not only because of the difficulties posed by the
relative absence of consistent data. Such analysis is complicated by the existence of the
Southeastern Mesoamerica: Essays on the History of Ethnic Relations (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1983), 204-205; and W. George Lovell and Christopher
H. Lutz, Demography and Empire: A Guide to the Population History of Spanish
Central America, 1500-1821 (Boulder: Westview, 1995), 12.

12
colonial Spanish American racial hierarchy, and its particular manifestation in the
Province of Guatemala. Examination of the workings of that hierarchy, and of the terms
employed to distinguish among individuals positioned differently within it, is key to
achieving any useful understanding of colonial demographic and social developments.
Not only must the meanings of terms like español, indio, mestizo, mulato, negro, and
ladino be understood in the contexts in which they were used, but the nature of social
relationships between the people slotted into different categories must be determined.
A fundamental problem embedded in this endeavor may apply to all demographic
study. The problem is perhaps best illustrated with an observation taken from the work
of Sánchez-Albornoz. Remarking on a phenomenon whereby Indians fleeing their
villages in the Norte Chico of Chile became mestizos if they returned, he said it
constituted “an interesting sociological point, but one which is beyond the scope of a
purely demographic study.”20 It would seem, instead, that understanding the nature of
such transformations should be at the very core of this work. What factors, for example,
determined the stability of labels across, and even within, generations? Rather than
simply “counting heads,” then, demographic work should assess a host of inherently
unstable factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, the relative attractiveness
of labels to the people identified with them, the degree of difficulty in escaping from
unflattering or undesirable categories, and the effects of variables such as marriage or
20Sánchez- Albornoz, Population of Latin America, 94.

13
migration on classification.21 In other words, the study of demography and of identity
must be intertwined.
Understanding how identities are constructed over time is surely nowhere more
important than in accounting for the apparent historical disappearance of an entire group
of people defined by a shared geographical origin, in this case Africa. Stuart Hall, a
prominent student of the African diaspora in the Americas, has called attention to the
manner in which emphasis among the descendants of Africans in the Americas on a
common African ancestry has sometimes obscured understanding of disparate identities
created by divergent New World experiences. Hall’s focus is solely on the Caribbean,
where African roots do not go unrecognized, but even there, he says, there are “critical
points of deep and significant difference” in experience, especially across boundaries
resulting from diverse colonial histories.22 Such a view is “unsettling,” Hall goes on, and
“reminds [people of African descent in the Americas] that what [they] share is precisely
the experience of a profound discontinuity.”23 How much more unsettling might it be to
consider the case of Guatemala, regularly left out of general works that focus explicitly
21It should be evident that I emphasize imposed aspects of identity, which I see as
crucial to the maintenance of racial hierarchies. For an analysis of imposed “ethnic”
identity in a modem context, see Judith Friedlander, Being Indian in Hueyapan: A Study
of Forced Identity in Contemporary Mexico (New York: St. Martin’s, 1975).
22Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Cultural Diaspora,” in Patrick Williams and
Laura Chrisman, eds., Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1994), 394. Emphasis in original.
23Hall, “Cultural Identity,” 394-395.

14
on the African presence in Latin America?24 Perhaps the concept of “hybridity” which
Hall evokes to understand changes in cultural identity could be deployed to re-integrate a
sense of African as well as European and indigenous backgrounds in areas of the
Americas, like Guatemala, where what was once known is only now beginning again to
impinge on shared historical consciousness. The reasons why this knowledge was
“forgotten” in the first place, however, must first be understood.25
A brief outline of the dissertation follows. Chapter 2 provides a historical profile
of the African-descended population in the Province of Guatemala up to the 1640s. It
focuses particular attention on the character of the threat which a growing population of
blacks and mulattos was said to pose to social order, at least in the minds of Spaniards.
Chapter 3 briefly discusses the formal incorporation of free blacks and mulattos into
colonial Guatemalan militias in the 1640s—a highly significant event—before exploring
the nature and operation of the Spanish colonial racial hierarchy in the Province of
Guatemala around the middle of the seventeenth century. By examining labels tied to
24See, for example, Luz María Martínez Montiel, cdra., Presencia africana en
Centroamérica (Mexico: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1993); Darién J.
Davis, ed., Slavery and Beyond: the African Impact on Latin America and the
Caribbean (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1995).
23It is encouraging in this respect that one scholar of colonial Central America
who downplayed the role of people of African descent quite recently—referring to them
only in the context of slavery and avoiding mention of free mulattos-has shifted, á la the
Mexican example, to saying that the “element of African origin was present in Central
America from the sixteenth century on . . . and ought to be considered as our third root.”
See Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales, “Economía y sociedad (1540-1680),” passim, Elizabeth
Fonseca, Centroamérica: su historia (San José: FLACSO/EDUCA, 1996), 113.

15
origin as well as the manner in which identities were ascribed, it acts as a prelude to the
following two chapters, which center on demography.
In Chapters 4 and 5,1 present a demographic portrait of the black and mulatto
presence in the Province of Guatemala during the second half of the seventeenth century.
This portrait is based primarily on marriage petitions that all colonial subjects save
tributary Indians were required to file, a 1683 census of Central America, and
information drawn from the observations of contemporary chroniclers like Francisco
Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán.26 These chapters reveal that, by the end of the
seventeenth century, the African-descended population of colonial Guatemala was
largely free and mulatto—due in part to a near-absence of slave imports after the 1630s—
and increasingly operated at the middle ranges of society.27 They also demonstrate that
free mulattos and other people of African origins generally constituted the largest non-
indigenous sector in eastern and southern portions of the Province of Guatemala.
Chapter 4 divides the Province into five regions in order to enhance through
comparative analysis the importance of factors such as geography and the nature of local
economies in determining where people of African origins lived, and how they fit into
local social hierarchies. Chapter 5 focuses in relatively microscopic detail on the three
“Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida: discurso
historial y demostración natural, material, militar, y política del reyno de Guatemala,
3 vols, Biblioteca “Goathemala” 6-8 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografía e Historia,
1932-1933).
27I mean the middle ranges of society in terms of social status. Most colonial
subjects, including many españoles, would best be described as poor.

16
districts making up one of the five regions isolated in Chapter 4: the southern and
southwest Pacific coast. I do this in part to underscore the effects of regional
differentiation within even relatively small areas, and also to emphasize the particular
importance of black and mulatto populations along the Pacific coast.28
If regional differences appear in Chapters 4 and 5 as crucial determinants of the
manner in which diverse populations were distributed throughout the Province of
Guatemala, gender emerges in the same chapters as a key factor in structuring the nature
and direction of the processes of mestizaje that linked together people of diverse origins.
Far from being arranged hierarchically solely on the basis of “racial” origin, Spanish
colonial society was, at the least, doubly stratified, in such a way that “gender [was]
always also a racial category and race a gender category.”29 In colonial Guatemala, this
28Colombia is one of the best known Spanish American examples of regional
differentiation in processes of mestizaje involving people of African descent. Peter
Wade notes the importance historically of “the local economic and social context” in
producing this differentiation. See Peter Wade, Blackness and Race Mixture: The
Dynamics of Racial Identity in Colombia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1993), 56.
29The quotation, a reference to “cultures stratified by both race and gender,” is in
Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca, N.Y.. Cornell University
Press, 1986), 18, cited in Elizabeth Anne Kuznesof, “Ethnic and Gender Influences on
‘Spanish’ Creole Society in Colonial Spanish America,” Colonial Latin American
Review 4 :1 (1995): 159. I employ the concept of gender, in which is entailed the social
construction of differing male and female roles, because, as Verena Stolcke (Martinez-
Alier) has put it, the biological facts of sex difference “acquire social significance only
within wider systems of meaning.” Gender in colonial Spanish America encompassed,
among other things, the socially organized subordination of women, with a primary aim
being control over the processes by which social hierarchy was reproduced. See Verena
Stolcke (Martinez-Alier), “Introduction to the Second Edition,” in Verena Martinez-
Alier, Marriage, Class, and Colour in Nineteenth-Century Cuba: A Study of Racial

17
double stratification was reflected, for example, in the fact that marriage between
partners of differing origins tended to involve women of lower and men of higher
“racial” status. Most striking in this regard is evidence that “free” indigenous women
who wed enslaved men of African descent were actually marrying up on the racial
hierarchy, and thus ensuring that their children would enjoy status as non-Indians. The
enslaved husbands of these women, meanwhile, gained free birth for those same children,
making use of a gendered pathway to emancipation, at least for their offspring, to which
slave women did not have access.
Chapter 6 relies especially on the records of civil disputes and criminal cases to
delve more closely into the social relations in which members of the African-descended
population were involved. In doing so, it largely confirms what the evidence presented
in the previous chapters suggests: that the social position of free mulattos, in particular,
was increasingly at odds with the lowly status ascribed to them under the racial
hierarchy. That status was enforced, in theory, through the collection of an alternative
tribute and segregated militia service. In practice, the very fact that free mulattos
participated in defending the realm helped undermine their tribute status, the decline of
which in turn eliminated a marker that had singled them out for segregated militia duty in
the first place.
Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society, 2nd ed. (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, 1989), xiv.

18
The concluding chapter looks closely at the process by which militiamen of color
shed their tribute status in the early eighteenth century. Their success vividly illustrates
how the fact that the heaviest burdens of racial hierarchy in Guatemala fell on the
indigenous majority allowed members of the African-descended minority some space in
which to renegotiate the terms of their lives. That process of renegotiation did not
undermine the entire racial hierarchy, however. The Spanish elite remained on top, and
the tributary majority on the bottom. If anything, the escape by people of African origins
from the lowest rungs of the social ladder strengthened the position of Spaniards, by
clarifying and cementing distinctions between non-Spaniards who owed tribute—indios—
and those who did not—ladinos.*3
30Both the persistence of tribute status as a mark of “inferiority,” and the vital
role of “divide-and-rule” strategies in undergirding Spanish colonial power, are exhibited
in a 1788 warning from the governor of Nicaragua against royal efforts to reimpose
tribute on blacks and mulattos there. The latter would fiercely resist such an action, the
governor said, because they were “falsely persuaded of the superiority of their class over
the Indians, whom they judge as degraded because of [Indians’] status as tribute-payers .
. . However “false” the governor may have believed the distinctions between the two
non-Spanish groups to be, he was clearly in no hurry to see them ended. The document
is in Richard Konetzke, ed., Colección de documentos para la historia de la formación
social de Hispanoamérica, 1493-1810, 3 vols. (Madrid: Consejo Superior de
Investigaciones Científicas, 1953-), 3:628-631; and cited in Ronald Escobedo Mansilla,
“El tributo de los zambaigos, negros y mulatos libres en el virreinato peruano,” in
Revista de Indias 41:163-164 (1981): 45, footnote 6.

CHAPTER 2
THE “BLACK THREAT” IN EARLY SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY GUATEMALA
On October 26th, 1624, members of the audiencia of Guatemala left the chambers
where they deliberated as the highest court in Spanish Central America and walked out
onto the main plaza of the capital, Santiago, on their way to the city jail. Once there,
following weekly ritual, they carried out an inventory of the institution’s involuntary
residents. The list they made that day included several different categories of prisoners.
Along with four people jailed “por crimen” were five others incarcerated for crossing the
tax-collecting arm of the Spanish Crown, and two for debts. A further ten individuals
were listed under two other categories headed by references not only to the type of
infraction involved, but also to the origin of those listed: “yndios por crimen” and
“yndios tributos.” The largest group of prisoners, though, was denoted exclusively by
origin, without reference to any sort of transgression at all. Fifteen of the thirty-six
unfortunates in jail that day fell under the simple heading “Negros y Mulatos.”1
'Archivo General de Centroamérica (hereafter AGCA), Al .43, Legajo 4876,
Expediente 41801 (hereafter in the following format: A1.43. 4876. 41801). This
expediente contains the complete records of 12 visitas of the jail carried out between 24
October 1624 and 21 June 1625. This equals roughly one-third of the total number of
weekly inspections that would have been effected during this period if inspections were
done regularly. There is no record of inspections conducted during the period from
20 December 1624 to 5 April 1625, except that the last page of an otherwise-missing
visita precedes the first page recording the inspection of 5 April. The category “Negros
y Mulatos” appears in all of the visitas except the final one, from 21 June 1625, in which
19

The inconsistency in the audiencia ’s system of prisoner classification suggests
the ascription of a single, shared origin to the various individuals categorized according
to type of infraction alone. All were undoubtedly deemed españoles. As in any colonial
society where individuals were ranked in law according to a hierarchy of ancestry, the
people in colonial Guatemala most likely to have their ascribed designation within the
prevailing hierarchy go unmentioned were those presumed to share the origins of the
officials doing the classifying. The primary intent of the Spanish racial hierarchy, after
all, was to identify and mark non-Spaniards in order to facilitate the maintenance of a
stratified social order and restrict access to colonial wealth, power, and privilege.2 The
exigencies of this social order were evidently such as to require that even jail populations
be classified carefully by origin. In all categories save one, the 1624 prisoner inventory
exhibits as clearly as any other seventeenth-century document the great social division
said to characterize colonial Guatemala, that between “Spaniards” and “Indians.”3
a revised version of the category appears: “Mestizos, Negros, y Mulatos.”
2Recent works examining the operation of the mid-colonial Spanish racial
hierarchy in major urban areas include Lutz, Santiago de Guatemala, and R. Douglas
Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City,
1660-1720 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994). Lutz emphasizes rather
more than Cope the ultimate success of a Spanish “divide-and-rule” strategy. See Lutz,
Santiago, esp. 140 and Chapter 4; Cope, Limits, esp. Introduction and Chapter 1.
3In theory, colonial society in Spanish America was divided into two “republics”-
-the república de los españoles and the república de los indios—with the protection of
indigenous populations a stated aim. The introduction of African slaves and the growth
of mixed, or casta, populations rapidly undermined this neat social division in many
places, including the capital of Guatemala. See Lutz, Santiago, Chapter 3.

21
The final, and largest, category of prisoners listed on the inventory somewhat
disturbs the rather tidy social portrait which the others appear to suggest. The existence
of what might be termed a “middle group” situated between the two major opposing
populations is not surprising. Such groups, often comprised largely of people of plural
origins, have frequently emerged in societies sharply divided along lines of “race” or
“caste.” It has been argued, in fact, that rule by a small, foreign population could not be
maintained for long in any society without the existence of a social sector able to mediate
between governors and governed.4 The obvious question to arise in the case of the
prison inventory described above is why its “middle” category was not “Mestizos,” given
that individuals of mixed Spanish and indigenous descent might have been expected to
dominate such a group in colonial Guatemala. The category “Negros y mulatos” does
not by any conventional understanding imply mestizaje involving Spaniards and Indians
at all. Nor, as seen below, did it in colonial Guatemala. Arguments to the effect that
mulato did not connote African descent in Guatemala aside,5 Christopher Lutz’s work,
and the present dissertation, demonstrate that the terms mestizo and mulato largely
retained their original meanings for the purposes of classification into the eighteenth
century.6
4See, for example, Harris, Patterns of Race, 86-89.
5See Chapter 3.
6See Lutz, Santiago, passim, Chapter 3, below. The classic studies of “racial”
terminology and the sociedad de castas in Spanish America are Lyle N. McAllister,
“Social Structure and Social Change in New Spain.” Hispanic American Historical

22
The most important reason for the retention in seventeenth-century Guatemala of
the original meaning of the term mulato was the existence of a clearly identified
population of African descent which was more substantial than is generally recognized,
and whose members operated within relatively well defined social parameters. A final
illustration drawn from the 1624 prison inventory mentioned above serves nicely to hint
at the relative demographic weights of the categories mulato and mestizo within the
population at large. A search on the prison list for individuals defined as mestizo turns
up just two names: Juan Clemente and Jacinto Ramirez. These men, along with the
“yndio” Juan de la Tieta, formed a trio of thieves placed by the official who compiled the
inventory under the category “Negros y mulatos.”
As noted above, in only one of twelve jail inspections recorded between October,
1624 and June, 1625 was the term mestizo actually employed in a category heading, and
then only in conjunction with rather than as a replacement for negro and mulato1 The
classification mestizo, it seems, was simply not significant enough to rate much notice.8
Review 43, no.3 (1963): 349-370; and Magnus Momer, Race Mixture in the History of
Latin America, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967). Both are discussed in Chapter 3. For a
recent restatement of the need to understand “socio-racial and ethnic terms” in the
“immediate historical and social context in which they were used,” see David Cahill,
“Colour by Numbers: Racial and Ethnic Categories in the Viceroyalty of Peru, 1532-
1824,” in Journal of Latin American Studies 26 (1994): 341-342.
7See footnote 1, above.
8Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales notes, regarding mestizos, that “it would appear that
they were not very numerous during the seventeenth century.” She makes little
reference, however, to the existence of a sizeable mulatto population. See Fonseca
Corrales, “Economía y sociedad (1540-1680),” 119.

23
Meanwhile, eleven of the twelve prisoners with whom Juan Clemente, Jacinto Ramirez,
and Juan de la Tieta shared a category on the October 24, 1624 prison inventory were
defined explicitly as negro or mulato, and constituted a third of the jail’s total
population.9
A number of historians of colonial Spanish America, drawing mostly on
eighteenth-century evidence, have left the impression that the Spanish colonial racial
hierarchy was at all times extremely mutable, and bore little relation to social reality.10
Such interpretations have tended to focus on the late-colonial hierarchy’s fluid middle
reaches—between español and indio tributario in heavily-indigenous regions like
Guatemala—a range where distinctions had perhaps ceased to matter a great deal by the
later years of the eighteenth century. Early in the seventeenth century, though, legal
distinctions based, for example, on the perceived presence or absence of African descent
were enforced quite systematically, through such means as the imposition of a form of
tribute status on mulattos and blacks, but not mestizos11 In Guatemala, attention to
these distinctions was sharpened by a steady growth in the number of Africans and their
descendants, both slave and free, a demographic development which colonial authorities
viewed as the source of significant social problems.
9AGCA, A1.43. 4876. 41801.
10For a recent example, see Robert H. Jackson, “Race/Caste and the Creation and
Meaning of Identity in Colonial Spanish America,” Revista de Indias 55, no. 203 (1995):
149-173.
uFor a detailed discussion, see Chapter 3.

24
In the capital, Santiago de Guatemala, gangs of unruly slaves appeared to
threaten social peace and order .12 In the countryside, meanwhile, the concerns of royal
officials centered on three specific phenomena involving blacks and mulattos. The first
of these was cimarronaje, or escape from enslavement, particularly as it related to the
establishment of maroon communities in coastal areas along both the Caribbean and
Pacific flanks of the Province of Guatemala. The second revolved around illicit activities
associated with the ranching economy. Highly skilled vaqueros of African origin, both
free and enslaved, were prominent in widespread and illegal cattle slaughter that reached
epidemic proportions during the first years of the seventeenth century. Finally, official
worries focused on persistent patterns of residence in and commerce with indigenous
communities on the part of non-Indians, despite repeated bans.
The black and mulatto actors involved in each of these developments had
acquired some combination of skills and independence that reduced, to varying degrees,
Spanish social control over them. Long desired as slaves by labor-starved Spaniards,
Africans and their descendants were increasingly viewed with suspicion, fear, and
outright hostility, as many achieved freedom, and more developed a sophisticated
understanding of Spanish society that had never been envisioned by their European
overlords. A precise demographic assessment of the rural African presence during the
early seventeenth century is not possible here, but Spaniards saw too many blacks and
mulattos, and feared being “overwhelmed.” Ironically, in the 1640s Spanish officials
12See the description of a feud between the slaves of two households, below.

25
would begin incorporating into their defense forces many members of the very African-
descended population viewed as dangerous during the previous decades. Those earlier
decades, as this chapter reveals, were crucial to the “pacification” of the people of
African origins who were least willing to accommodate themselves to inferior status
within the Spanish colonial social order.
The Establishment of an African Presence in Guatemala
The presence of Africans and their descendants in colonial Guatemala, as
elsewhere in the contemporary Americas, was a result almost entirely of the Atlantic
slave trade which operated between the African continent and the “New World.”13 Black
slaves likely accompanied Pedro de Alvarado’s invasion force in 1524,14 and were almost
certainly present in Alvarado’s Guatemalan capital by 1533. In February of that year, the
cabildo decreed punishment for unspecified misdeeds it said were being committed in
and around water sources by both españoles and negros. The miscreants, the municipal
13The literature on this commerce is voluminous. Good places to start include
Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison. University of Wisconsin
Press, 1969); John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World,
1400-1680 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
14Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán states categorically that Alvarado brought black slaves
with him, but cites no evidence for this assertion. The historian best acquainted with
African slavery in sixteenth-century Guatemala, meanwhile, says such evidence “remains
undiscovered.” See Aguirre Beltrán, La población negra, 8; Robinson Herrera, “The
African Slave Trade in Early Santiago,” Urban History Workshop Review 4 (1998): 6.
Alvarado did take as many as two hundred black slaves with him to Peru in 1534,
including Juan Valiente, a slave from Puebla who rose to the status of encomendero in
Chile, surely one of the most startling examples of upward mobility in Spanish colonial
history. See Bowser, The African Slave, 4; Peter Boyd-Bowman, “Negro Slaves in
Early Colonial Mexico,” The Americas 26, no.2 (1969): 150-151.

26
council warned, were setting a “bad public example” for the conquered indigenous
peoples.15 This decree set two precedents. First, it identified people of African descent
as an “unruly” element in the new colonial society, and a negative influence on the
region’s original inhabitants. Second, it underscored the social division between
European and African newcomers, establishing harsher punishment for offenders from
the latter category.16
However many people of African origins were present in Guatemala in 1533, no
large-scale importation of Africans to Central America took place prior to the Spanish
Crown’s publication of the “New Laws” in 1542.17 This royal threat to the excessive and
unregulated Spanish exploitation of a native population that was already in severe decline
due to disease and overwork helped prompt a turn to African labor in certain
enterprises.18 News of the Crown’s legislation had yet to reach Central America, though,
1518 February, 1533 order of the cabildo of Santiago, cited in Antonio de
Remesal, Historia general de las Indias Occidentales y particular de la gobernación de
Chiapay Guatemala, 2 vols. (Mexico: Editorial Porrúa, 1988), 1:45. On a similar
decree emitted in Ciudad Real de Chiapas in 1537, see 1:434.
16Remesal, Historia general, 1:45. The cabildo mandated sentences of four days
in the stocks and 100 lashes for black offenders. Spaniards were to be jailed for four
days and fined four gold pesos. In 1537, allegations that blacks were creating disorder in
the public market brought a decree barring entry to them, also on pain of 100 lashes for
disobedience, plus a ten -peso fine. See Remesal, Historia general, 1:46.
17On the New Laws and their initial impact in Guatemala, see Silvio Zavala,
Contribución a la historia de las instituciones coloniales en Guatemala, 4th ed.
(Guatemala: Universidad de San Carlos, 1967), 28-32.
18MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 109-116; William S. Sherman, Forced
Native Labor in Sixteenth-Century Central America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Press, 1979), 11, 130-132. MacLeod emphasizes the long-term impact of indigenous

27
when the first recorded arrival of a slave cargo from Africa took place: 150 piezas de
indias landed on the Honduran coast, via Santo Domingo, early in 1543.19 The vast
majority of the slaves brought in during the period immediately following appears to
have been destined for labor in gold deposits on the Guayape River, in the Olancho
district of eastern Honduras. As many as 1,500 African slaves may have been working
there by 1545.20 Gold and, later, silver mining concentrated especially in Honduras and
northeastern Nicaragua consumed a substantial proportion of the slaves who arrived
during the following decades. The supply of slaves to these mining regions was never
sufficient, however, to satisfy the demand of colonists eager for quick riches.21
Sixteenth-century slave imports into the colonial province of Guatemala are less
well understood. There was no one enterprise similar to mining in Honduras which
produced both the capital and the labor requirements necessary to initiate imports on a
large scale. The exact nature of slave importation into early colonial Guatemala is in fact
demographic decline in promoting more cautious Spanish deployment of Indian labor,
while Sherman credits royal officials—the audiencia president Alonso López de Cerrato
in particular—with instigating change.
19J. Joaquin Pardo, Efemérides para escribir la historia de la muy noble y muy
leal ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros del reino de Guatemala (Guatemala:
Sociedad de Geografía e Historia, 1944), 8. The term pieza de india referred to one
slave “unit,” defined as a healthy, young male and hence not necessarily representative of
the actual number of individuals, including women and children, being transported. See
Curtin, Atlantic Slave Trade, 22-23.
20MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 60-61.
21The boom in Honduran silver mining hit a peak in 1584, with much of the
proceeds invested in African slaves. See MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 148;
Fonseca Corrales, “Economía y sociedad (1540-1680),” 119.

28
only now receiving the attention needed to establish a better demographic understanding
of the African presence there. Robinson Herrera has indicated recently that Spanish
colonists in Guatemala imported African slaves in “piecemeal fashion” rather than in
large blocks of humans because of their expense and the lack of highly lucrative
enterprises in which to employ them profitably. People of African origin entered the
region in twos and threes, many as personal servants of royal officials under license from
the King.22
In 1581, for example, the Crown granted the newly appointed fiscal of the
audiencia the right to take three slaves with him to Santiago, free from payment of the
duties usually required.23 Officials were prohibited from selling such slaves in the Indies,
although, as Herrera notes, this ban “likely went unheeded.” It was rare during this
period, however, for three or more slaves to be sold at once in Santiago. The largest
sale, evidently, was a 1570 transfer of five male and four female bondservants between
Juan Maldonado de Guzmán and don Francisco de la Cueva. By that year, nevertheless,
22Herrera, “African Slave Trade,” 7. Herrera’s article includes data on 249 slaves
bought and sold in Santiago between 1544 and 1587. See table on 7.
23Federico Argüello Solórzano y Carlos Molina Argüello, eds., Monumenta
Centroamericae Histórica: Colección de documentos y materiales para el estudio de la
historia y de la vida de los pueblos de la América Central (Managua: Instituto
Centroamericano de Historia, 1965), 764, document 622. Documents 623 and 624
exhibit two similar licences, granted in 1600.

29
the number of small-scale transactions was significant enough that a permanent location
for the conducting of slave sales had been established in Santiago.24
While the number of African slaves entering the Province of Guatemala during
the sixteenth century must have been relatively small, the black and mulatto population
of the capital was expanding steadily by 1600. According to Christopher Lutz’s
estimates, the number of slaves in Santiago surpassed 1,100 in the 1590s—some six
percent of the city’s total population.25 The city probably also held around three hundred
free individuals of African descent, the core of a population that would expand at an
exponential rate over the following century.26 Figures for the countryside are much
harder to come by, since direct evidence for this period is almost non-existent, but Lutz’s
estimates for Santiago provide a basis on which to begin building a portrait of rural
areas.
It may be assumed reasonably safely that the number of slaves entering
Guatemala during the sixteenth century was somewhat higher than any figures drawn
from surviving records might suggest. Many slaves were not imported directly into
Central America through the audiencia ’s official point of entry, Puerto Caballos on
Honduras’ Caribbean coast, but came overland instead, from southern New Spain in
24Herrera, “African Slave Trade,” 7-8.
25Lutz, Santiago, 239-242. Lutz’s estimates are based on extrapolations from
parish records that are unfortunately incomplete for this early period.
26Lutz, Santiago, table on 242.

30
particular.27 This pattern apparently persisted well into the following century.
According to Lutz, some 150 piezas de indias were brought into Central America each
year by ship during the early decades of the seventeenth century—legally and illegally—
while an unknown number of others entered the territory by land.28 Citing evidence from
Santiago’s baptismal records, he goes on to suggest that bozales continued to enter
Guatemala from New Spain in small numbers between the 1630s and 1690s, when
official imports had all but ceased.29
27Herrera, “African Slave Trade,” 7-8. These slaves would quite naturally not
have been recorded as cargo on ships arriving off the Honduran coast, nor would they
necessarily have appeared in notary records in Santiago if purchased in, say, Oaxaca.
28Lutz, Santiago, 85-86. See also the suggestion, based on an estimate by an
aspiring slave trader, that the number of slaves brought into the Spanish Indies as a
whole before 1645 may have been substantially higher than is generally thought, in
Palmer, Slaves of the White God, 30.
29Lutz, Santiago, 86. According to one official, imports stopped altogether after
1638 for more than three decades. A Spanish ban on the slave trade between 1640 and
1662 due to imperial crises, plus low demand, were the most important factors in this
development, although imports did not pick up again even when officials in Santiago
began requesting new supplies after the ban was lifted. See AGCA, A1.23. 1517. 10072.
ff. 108-108v. (1646); Al.23. 2197. 15751. ff.97 and copies on ffl 1 lv., 113 (1664);
A1.23. 2199. 15755. f.50 (1670); Frederick P. Bowser, “Africans in Spanish American
Colonial Society,” in Leslie Bethell, ed., Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. 2
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 362. Some smuggling did occur. No
fewer than 86 slaves were landed illegally at Trujillo from the ship Santa María de los
Remedios y San Lorenzo in 1641, and as many as 76 of these made it to San Miguel the
following year. In 1660, meanwhile, the audiencia sold two slaves at auction who were
known to have escaped from a Dutch slaver docked for “re-supply” in Trujillo after
being “blown off course.” See AGCA, A1.24. 1559. 10203. ff.35-37v., 93-95v. (1642);
A1.23. 1519. 10074. ff. 90-90v. (1662); Alonso Moratalla Tobar a la Corona, 10
February 1644, Archivo General de Indias (hereafter AGI), Guatemala, 16, R.5, N.30.

31
But no matter how many slaves remain unaccounted for, the total number
imported into the Province of Guatemala during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
can have represented no more than a small minority of the overall population. That
population was at all times overwhelmingly indigenous. The greater significance of
Africans and their descendants, which I explore extensively in subsequent chapters, lay in
their importance to the demographic, social, and “racial” development of the non-Indian
population, especially south and east of Santiago de Guatemala.
It suffices here to consider that recent estimates of the number of Spanish
vecinos30 present in Central America as a whole during the 1620s range around 2,800.31
Somewhat more than half of this total resided in the Province of Guatemala, which was
home to the capital, the largest city by far in the audiencia of the same name. Following
the historical demographer Woodrow Borah’s lead,32 one might use a multiplier of six to
account for the total population of españoles, including both family members and the
various hangers-on who typically resided in Spanish households, and still arrive at a
figure of fewer than 17,000 persons identified as Spaniards33 in the entire isthmus.
30Roughly speaking, the term vecino referred to a propertied head of household.
3'Lovell and Lutz, Demography and Empire, 13.
32Cited in Lutz, Santiago, 104, table 8, note a.
33The total would have included Spaniards from the Iberian peninsula as well as
American-born persons defined by Spanish origin. Members of both groups were
commonly identified as español at this time. See Chapter 3. Note also that Spaniards in
religious orders are not included in this estimate.

32
Meanwhile, in the Valle de las Vacas alone—the present location of Guatemala
City and at the time a largely rural valley of sugar plantations, wheat farms, and cattle
ranches-the renegade English Dominican friar Thomas Gage saw more than 600 black
slaves during the early 1630s.34 While this important agricultural region near the colonial
capital might have been expected to hold a substantial number of slaves, it surely
absorbed nowhere near the number who went to the mines of Honduras and Nicaragua.
Increasing Spanish concern during the early decades of the seventeenth century over
steadily mounting numbers of both free and enslaved blacks and mulattos, discussed
below, reflected the growing fears of Europeans in Central America that people of
African descent were beginning to outnumber them.
Throughout the later sixteenth century and into the opening decade of the
seventeenth, Spanish colonists in Central America had petitioned steadily for more slaves
from Africa. The mining sector, especially, wanted an increase in imports, but the
demand for African slaves rose from a broad cross-section of Spanish entrepreneurs, as
the demographic catastrophe experienced by indigenous populations after the European
invasion was followed by increasingly insistent royal efforts to shield Indians from labor
not only in mining but also in the production of sugar, indigo, and textiles.35 Suddenly,
34Thomas Gage, Travels in the New World, J. Eric S. Thompson, ed. (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1958), 198-199, 203-204.
350n Central American colonists’ requests for more slaves, see letter of 12
March, 1570 from the cabildo of Santiago to the King, requesting 1,000 African slaves,
“Colección de documentos antiguos del ayuntamiento de Guatemala,” in Isagoge
histórica apologética de las Iridias Occidentales y especial de la Provincia de San

33
though, Santiago’s cabildo pleaded for a halt to imports in 1612. The petition was
repeated in 1617, and again in 1620.36 By the second decade of the seventeenth century,
it seems, the growing African presence had become a social threat no longer outweighed
by the need for an imported labor force.
Why was this? There is no evidence of any dramatic explosion in the African-
descended population during the second decade of the seventeenth century. Nor were
the profound economic difficulties which beset Central America toward mid-century yet
evident on the horizon.37 Furthermore, increasing the slave population had been the
Vicente de Chiapay Guatemala, Biblioteca “Goathemala” 13 (Guatemala: Sociedad de
Geografía e Historia, 1935), 327-328; 1579 request for 400 slaves for the mines of
Honduras, in Carlos Alfonso Alvarez-Lobos Villatoro y Ricardo Toledo Palomo, eds.,
Libro de los Pareceres de la Real Audiencia de Guatemala, 1571-1655 (Guatemala:
Academia de Geografía e Historia de Guatemala, 1996), 22-23; request of 20 October
1604 from vecinos of Nueva Segovia for 300 slaves to mine gold, in AGCA, A 1.24.
1514. f.61; 1609 request from Santiago’s cabildo for 2,000 slaves, in don Carlos
Vázquez de Coronado a la Corona, 19 May 1609, AGI, Guatemala, 42, N.12. See also
MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 149-150. For discussion of estimates made
regarding the dimensions of indigenous population decline, see Lovell and Lutz,
Demography and Empire, 4-10. Royal decrees ordering the substitution of African or
“otro género de servicio” for indigenous labor in various enterprises include those of 24
November 1601, AGCA, A1.23. 4576. 39529. ff.45v.-50; 24 November 1602, AGCA,
A1.23. 1514. ff.33-34; 26 May 1609, AGCA, A1.23. 1514. f.67. See also extracts of
cédulas of 26 May 1605, 11 September 1610, 8 October 1631, and 12 March 1643, in
“Recopilación de las Reales Cédulas que gobiernan en el Supremo Tribunal de la Real
Audiencia de Guatemala,” Boletín del Archivo General de la Nación, 2a. época 1:1
(1967): 23, 37, 85, 108.
36Pardo, Efemérides, 41, 43.
37Central America’s first indigo boom, in fact, was at its height between 1580 and
1620. See MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 176.

34
desire of many Spaniards as late as 1609.38 Instead, factors having to do with the threat,
real or imagined, that the African-descended population had begun to assume in the
minds of many Spaniards appear to have played a key role in the desire to halt imports.
One of these factors, almost certainly, was the news of an alleged conspiracy of
blacks and mulattos in Mexico City, savagely repressed early in 1612. Twenty-nine men
and four women of African origins were hanged, and the audiencia of New Spain
decreed severe restrictions on the public movements and dress of the entire African-
descended population.39 But while events in Mexico City may have finally tipped
Spanish sentiment in Guatemala against further growth in the African population, that
sentiment had been taking root for at least a decade.
During the century’s opening years, both free and enslaved blacks and mulattos
appeared frequently as protagonists in illegal activities. Many Spaniards in the colony
believed these activities threatened both their own personal safety and economic well-
38Don Carlos Vázquez de Coronado a la Corona, 19 May 1609, AGI, Guatemala,
42, N. 12. It should be noted, however, that if Santiago’s cabildo had yet to express
misgivings about the growth of Guatemala’s black population in 1609, Coronado, the
royal official who relayed its request for 2,000 slaves to the Crown, revealed clear
discomfort at the prospect of such a large number of African imports. Don Carlos
indicated his own belief that half of the requested number would be quite sufficient, in
part because the audiencia was “inhabited by few Spaniards, and there are in [it] a great
number of blacks and mulattos, slave and free.”
39Irving Leonard, Baroque Times in Old Mexico (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, 1959), 19-20; David M. Davidson, “Negro Slave Control and
Resistance in Colonial Mexico, 1519-1650,” Hispanic American Historical Review 46,
no. 3 (1966): 250-251. See also the “Ordenanzas de la Real Audiencia de Nueva España
sobre las juntas y trajes de los negros y mulatos,” 14 April 1612, in Konetzke, ed.,
Colección de documentos, 2, bk. 1:182-183.

35
being, and the peace and orderliness of indigenous communities. Ultimately, the
activities appeared as a threat to the social hierarchy itself. The growth of a free
population of color not under the direct control of Spanish masters may seem at first to
have been most responsible for this development, but things were more complicated.
Slaves as well as free people of African origins openly flouted the law, as often as not
with the support of their Spanish owners or employers.
In 1609, officials in the capital opened an investigation into incidents involving
death threats made against slaves belonging to a prominent resident of the capital,
Francisco de Mesa.40 The threats were directed in particular against a slave named
Lorenzo. As the investigation unfolded, the testimony of various witnesses hinted at a
world in which gangs of black slaves traversed the city streets at will, armed and
mounted on horseback, and with little fear of the Spaniards to whom they were bound in
theory to pay the utmost respect. The tangle of testimony hints at a rivalry between two
households: the one Mesa ruled, and another whose head was Andrés de Molina. These
two men’s slaves met in sometimes violent confrontation on back streets, in the main
square, and even at Mesa’s house. The authorities, it appears, did little to intervene.
Part of the trouble stemmed from assistance Lorenzo was said to have provided
to an officer of the local jail, in an evidently unsuccessful attempt to arrest Molina for
40AGCA, A1.15. 4093. 32467. Although rich, Mesa was seen as an upstart by
Santiago’s elite families, who were outraged by the efforts of this “hombre sin méritos y
calidad” to buy his way into their ranks by purchasing municipal offices. See letters from
cabildo to Crown of 4 July 1597, 15 May 1599, and 29 April 1601 in “Colección de
documentos antiguos,” 357-358, 360-361, 362-364.

36
unknown reasons. Molina’s slaves had defended their master during the incident, and
undoubtedly had his full blessing to take revenge for it. More immediately, though,
Lorenzo, backed by several other slaves belonging to Mesa, had accosted and harassed a
slave from the Molina household named Diego on a street in the neighborhood of Santo
Domingo. The affront to Diego brought his brother Domingo, also a slave, into the
feud. Domingo was owned not by Molina but, remarkably enough, by Melchor Godoy
de Santa Cruz, an alcalde of the Santa Hermandad, more or less the police force of the
realm. Domingo then evidently set out to hunt down Lorenzo with the assistance of a
number of Molina’s slaves, the most prominent among them named Juan Criollo and
Ambrosio. As many as eight slaves at once from the Molina camp were alleged on
various occasions to have accosted one or another of Mesa's bondservants, both in the
city’s main plaza and at Mesa’s door. Witnesses had seen Domingo and Ambrosio
carrying swords, and had heard both Domingo and Juan Criollo making repeated threats
to kill Lorenzo or, if they could not find him, another of Mesa’s slaves.41
The testimony provided in the case must be approached cautiously, since it was
largely elicited from members of Francisco de Mesa’s household, including his son and
five of his slaves. But a dispute clearly took place, apparently involving angry, armed
slaves roaming the streets of the capital at will and settling scores on their own. A
situation like this would have represented a frightening scenario for many Spanish
residents. One of these, Onofrio de Colindres Fuente, said he had seen Domingo and
41AGCA, A1.15. 4093. 32467.

37
two other negros come to Francisco de Mesa’s house in search of Lorenzo. The most
striking aspect of the incident he witnessed, it seems, was Domingo’s possession of a
sword. More disturbing to Colindres, though, may have been the scene he said he
encountered later in Santiago’s central plaza, on his way to fetch an oidor at Mesa’s
request. Milling about on horseback in front of the jail and openly discussing their hunt
for Lorenzo, Colindres reported, were perhaps eight blacks and mulattos, at least three
of whom he recognized as Molina’s slaves. That the oidor and officers of the Santa
Hermandad were unsuccessful in apprehending this group can only have added to
Colindres’ discomfort.42
The sight of armed, mounted slaves gathering in large groups in the heart of the
city was not likely to inspire much confidence among local Spaniards. Most
disconcerting, though, may have been the attitudes of the slaves engaged in these
activities rather than the activities themselves. Insolence on the part of people who
theoretically occupied the bottom rung of the social ladder could well have been taken as
the most ominous threat to the established hierarchy. The testimony of Francisco de
Mesa’s son, don Tomás López de Mesa, reveals dismay at the utter lack of respect
accorded him by Molina’s slaves during an incident in which he had confronted them
demanding to know their intentions. Juan Criollo apparently replied without hesitation
that they sought to kill Lorenzo. Worse for the young Spaniard, though, was his
recollection of Ambrosio standing “with his cape aslant and a sword in hand.” This
42AGCA, A1.15. 4093. 32467.

38
haughty manner of personal presentation, don Tomás no doubt thought, was reserved to
people of his own elevated social condition, and certainly no prerogative of slaves. He
expressed grave concern over the matter to other Spaniards, complaining bitterly to don
Antonio de la Cueva and Luis de Monterroso “about the freedom with which Molina’s
blacks lived.”43
As this case shows, urban slaves, as elsewhere in the Americas, often had a good
deal of freedom to move about the city on their own, especially if they were highly
valued artisans or domestic workers in charge of key aspects of the household
economy.44 It is also clear that in Santiago at least some owners armed their slaves along
the lines of private militias. This would have required a good deal of trust on the part of
the former, trust most likely maintained by the granting of a substantial measure of
liberty, privilege and protection from the law in return for obedient service to the master.
Most Spaniards, though, did not enjoy the economic or social position necessary to
43AGCA, Al. 15. 4093. 32467. Interestingly enough, the year after this episode
Francisco de Mesa was appealing for the release from jail of Lorenzo and another slave
on apparently unrelated charges, an indication perhaps that Molina’s slaves were not
exceptional in their disregard for the law. See AGCA, A1.15. 5905. 50033 (1610).
44For some examples from sixteenth-century Santiago de Guatemala, see
Robinson Antonio Herrera, “The People of Santiago: Early Colonial Guatemala, 1538-
1587” (Ph D. dissertation, University of California at Los Angeles, 1997), 277. For
examples from colonial Lima, Mexico City, and Havana, see Bowser, African Slave, esp.
Chapter 6; Cope, Limits, 95-98; Manuel Moreno Fraginals, “Peculiaridades de la
esclavitud en Cuba,” Islas 85 (1986): 3-12. A fascinating first-person account from
outside Spanish America which suggests the relative advantages of life as an urban
versus a rural, plantation slave is Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom,
William L. Andrews, ed. (Urbana, II.: University of Illinois Press, 1987), esp. 186.

39
afford either a substantial number of slaves or the open disdain for legal niceties inherent
in the creation of what amounted—at least for Andrés de Molina—to a small, private
security force.45 It is not hard to imagine the fear as well as the resentment that the
behavior of slaves like Molina’s would have aroused among the majority of the European
sector in Santiago. A growing chorus of complaints about slave misdeeds in the city was
quite possibly a major factor in the cabildo’s sudden turnabout on the issue of further
slave imports.
Spanish perceptions early in the seventeenth century that “unruly” blacks and
mulattos posed a threat to the social order were not limited in scope to the capital,
however. True, the majority of Europeans probably encountered slaves most often in the
city, where the former were concentrated in the early seventeenth century. Santiago’s
Spanish residents were also increasingly witness to unlawful activities conducted in and
around the capital by members of the small but growing sector of free people of African
descent .46 But it was in the countryside where Spaniards felt the least sense of control
over both free and enslaved people of African origins—not to mention mestizos and poor
45The possession of expensive slaves in cities like Santiago de Guatemala and
Mexico served also as a status symbol. See a 1628 license allowing two men involved in
business dealings with the audiencia in Santiago to retain armed slaves “para la defensa y
ornato de su[s] persona[s],” extract of AGCA, A1.20. 685. f.446 (1628) in Juan José
Falla, Extractos de escrituras públicas, años 1567 a 1648, Archivo General de Centro
América (Guatemala: Editorial Amigos del País, 1994), 404; Cope, Limits, 13-14.
46Lutz notes that many free blacks and mulattos were pushed by numerous
occupational restrictions into illicit enterprises, including the waylaying of Indian traders
on the outskirts of town in order to obtain market goods by force at cheap prices—or
steal the goods outright—for resale later at a profit. See Lutz, Santiago, 142-143.

40
Europeans—and hence a much more serious problem, at least potentially, for the entire
colonial enterprise. The remainder of this chapter explores the contours of the rural
African presence in the early seventeenth century and, finally, the nature of the danger
which this presence appeared to offer to the Spanish colonial social order.
African-descended Slaves in Rural Guatemala
People of African descent—both slave and free—worked on three major types of
agricultural enterprises in early colonial Guatemala: indigo obrajes,*1 sugar ingenios and
trapiches,48 and estancias on which cattle, especially, were run. Ranch hands of color
were probably the rural laborers considered most potentially dangerous to social
stability, but African-descended workers on the other types of agricultural enterprises
mentioned above carried more demographic as well as economic weight. In the late
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, indigo produced in southern and eastern
lowland areas of the Province of Guatemala drove the entire regional economy,
47A term which in Spanish America generally signified a textile-manufacturing
establishment but was used frequently in Guatemala to refer to the dye works—the
obraje de añil—found on indigo-producing plantations. The term was often in practice
applied to the entire operation: fields and dye works.
48These terms referred most narrowly to two types of sugar mill. The more
technologically advanced ingenio was generally powered by water, and the trapiche by
beasts of burden. The term ingenio, especially, was often applied more broadly, taking
in all facets of a sugar-producing operation. For examples from New Spain, see Ward
Barrett, The Sugar Hacienda of the Marqueses del Valle (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1970), 54.

41
providing shipments of highly valued dyestuffs for European markets.49 Sugar
plantations supplying a largely domestic demand, meanwhile, consumed the greatest
number of black and mulatto laborers.
While indigo growers initially employed an almost exclusively indigenous
workforce, they were eventually forced to rely in part on free blacks and castas-
mulattos and mestizos—for their labor needs. By the end of the sixteenth century, royal
authorities were endeavoring to ban the use by obraje owners of apparently fragile and
increasingly scarce Indian workers in the notoriously harsh conditions under which
harvested indigo was processed.50 But if this ban might have been expected to produce
large-scale importation of African slaves, it was never particularly well enforced. The
blacks and castas who ended up employed in indigo often avoided the most unpleasant
aspects of the work, tending instead to fill supervisory positions. Indians continued to
perform the hardest labor, illegally coerced by growers and their henchmen.51
49Gage, Travels, 192; Antonio Vasquez de Espinosa, Compendio y descripción
de las Indias Occidentales (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1948), 208; MacLeod,
Spanish Central America, 178, 181; Robert S. Smith, “Indigo Production and Trade in
Colonial Guatemala,” Hispanic American Historical Review 39, no. 2 (1959): 182.
50Smith, “Indigo Production,” 182-186; MacLeod, Spanish Central America,
185. See also the extract of AGCA, A1.20. 706. f.41 (1598), a contract under which
Pedro Hernández, mulato libre of the milpa of Santa Isabel, outside Santiago, agreed to
harvest indigo in 1598 on the obraje of Pedro Velásquez Berdugo near Siquinalá,
Escuintepeque, in exchange for an advance on his wages, in Falla, Extractos, 482.
51The Crown tried to enforce its ban on Indian labor, and encourage the use of
African slaves or other workers, through regular visitas of indigo-producing regions.
The officials conducting these visitas were quickly corrupted by indigo growers,
however. See texts of autos emitted by the audiencia in 1583, 1590, and 1636, and of a

42
The peculiar nature of the indigo cycle mitigated against a significant turn to
African slavery, because intensive labor was required for only a couple of months a year.
Costly slaves, thus, were generally unprofitable. In fact, the relatively small number of
enslaved blacks and mulattos who were employed on indigo plantations were as likely as
their free counterparts to serve as administrators of indigenous laborers during harvest
season, a striking instance of upward mobility which may have made more than a few
Spaniards uncomfortable. On the other hand, although the often skilled labor performed
by blacks and mulattos in indigo production was vital economically, the typical obraje
did not bring them together in large numbers, maintaining only a skeleton crew of
workers for much of the year.52
Sugar, by contrast, consistently united relatively large concentrations of Africans
and their descendants, free as well as enslaved.55 Ironically, labor forces on ingenios
appear to have caused relatively less concern to authorities than those on other types of
rural holdings, in part perhaps because the sugar workforce was far more regimented.
real cédula of 3 June, 1631, in Manuel Rubio Sánchez, Historia de añil o xiquilite en
Centro América (San Salvador: Ministerio de Educación, 1976), 12-14, 20-27. See also
MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 186-192; Smith, “Indigo Production,” 186-190.
52MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 184-185.
53MacLeod suggests that sugar “was never of great importance in seventeenth-
century Guatemala,” although the contemporary observer Fuentes y Guzmán suggested
that local production largely satisfied domestic demand. More important, though, as I
indicate below, was the significant role of sugar plantations in the incorporation of blacks
and mulattos into colonial Guatemalan society. See MacLeod, “Ethnic Relations,” 197;
Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 1:224.

43
providing fewer opportunities to acquire either dangerous skills or attitudes. But
ingenios also constituted probably the single most important site of interaction between
people of varying origins and legal statuses in rural Guatemala, especially later in the
seventeenth century. In addition, they brought large numbers of blacks and mulattos into
unusually close contact with the one colonial institution that might have been expected to
take an interest in their welfare: the Church. Religious orders—especially the
Dominicans—came to dominate large-scale sugar production in Guatemala. There is
little reason to believe, though, that many clerics were ever troubled by African slavery,
or took more than a cursory interest in their African-descended charges.54
By the early decades of the seventeenth century, much of colonial Guatemala’s
sugar production was centered on ingenios and trapiches operating in and around the
Valle de las Vacas. In the 1630s, the ingenio Nuestra Señora del Rosario near Petapa—
owned by Estebán de Zavaleta, alcalde of the Santa Hermandad, and passed on to his
heirs Juan and Domingo Arrivillaga on Zavaleta’s death in 1635—held some sixty
54Slaves were an important component in the households of prominent
Guatemalan churchmen. The notably refined environment in which Juan Cabezas
Altamirano, Bishop of Guatemala from 1610 to 1615, was said to have lived included
“the music of blacks that he brought from Havana.” The 1612 mortual of the canónigo
Hernando de Gutiérrez de Sibaja y Zárate, meanwhile, listed no fewer than nine slaves
among his possessions. See Remesal, Historia general, 2:662; Domingo Juarros,
Compendio de la historia del Reino de Guatemala 1500-1800 (Guatemala: Editorial
Piedra Santa, 1981), 152-153; AGCA Al. 15. 4109. 32563 (1612).

44
slaves.55 Around twenty more labored on a nearby, Augustinian-owned trapiche 56 The
largest sugar-growing estate in the area, though, lay in the vicinity of San Juan
Amatitlán. Formally named Nuestra Señora de la Encamación, it was known as the
“Anís” ingenio—a corruption of the name of its original owner, Juan González Donis.
During the 1620s, it had passed under the control of González Donis’ son-in-law, Pedro
Crespo Suárez, postmaster of the realm. A 1630 inventory indicates the presence of
nearly 200 slaves on the property, said by the friar Thomas Gage to resemble “a little
town by itself for the many cottages and thatched houses of Blackamoor slaves which
belong unto it.”57
55Gage, Travels, 203; extracts of AGCA, A1.20. 588. f.6 (1632), and A1.20.
590. f.93v. (1635) in Falla, Extractos, 344-345, 363.
56Gage, Travels, 203. I assume, but am not entirely sure, that the Augustinian
trapiche near Petapa was the same one owned, along with 22 slaves, by Gonzalo de
Peralta until his death in 1625. Its majordomo in 1632 was a black ffeedman named
Francisco de Mayorga, who had learned to read and write while a slave in the household
of a royal official in Panama and Mexico. Mayorga was able to obtain an unrestricted
license to carry weapons, since he carried money around. See AGCA, A1.43. 5925.
51614 (1625); A1.56. 5356. 45252 (1632).
57AGCA, A1.20. 536. ff.296v.-302 (1630); extracts of AGCA, A1.20. 536.
ff.238, 250, 260, 277v., 281, in Falla, Extractos, 228-230; Gage, Travels, 203-204;
Vásquez, Compendio, 206. It is interesting to note that funds from Crespo’s estate,
augmented by the proceeds of slave-driven sugar production, helped underwrite the
establishment of the Universidad de San Carlos in 1681. See extract of AGCA, A1.20.
693. f.31 (1646) in Falla, Extractos, 456; Francisco Vázquez, Crónica de la Provincia
del Santísimo Nombre de Jesús de Guatemala de la Orden de Nuestro Seráfico Padre
San Francisco en el Reino de la Nueva España, 4 vols., 2nd ed., Biblioteca
“Goathemala” 14-17 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografía e Historia, 1937), 4:375;
Pardo, Efemérides, 57, 76. My sincere thanks to Doug Tompson for taking time from
his own research to provide me with details from the González Donis inventory.

45
Sugar was also produced on the Dominican holding of San Gerónimo in the
northern region of Verapaz. Gage said the ingenio at San Gerónimo held “a multitude of
slaves,” and by the eighteenth century it would be the largest in the region, employing
hundreds of blacks and mulattos, both slave and free, and probably an even greater
number of Indians.58 Other land-holdings devoted to sugar production lay south of the
capital, in the Pacific lowlands. There were ten “piezas de esclavos” in 1604 on an
ingenio near Cerro Redondo in Guazacapán that was owned by Ñuño Sáez Marroquín.59
A hacienda and trapiche on the Guacalate River in Escuintepeque, meanwhile, held at
least 28 slaves in 1619, the year it became the subject of a lawsuit between Francisco de
Mesa and his daughter, doña Francisca de Mesa, and son-in-law, don Juan de Ayala.60
Rural slave-holding was more dispersed both occupationally and geographically
than the foregoing suggests, however. According to Thomas Gage, around three
hundred—or roughly half—of the slaves he saw in the Valle de las Vacas during the 1630s
were distributed among forty to fifty houses and small farms owned by the hermitage of
Nuestra Señora del Carmel.61 Another one hundred or so belonged to the mule-train
58Gage, Travels, 210-211. The number of slaves alone at San Gerónimo ranged
from no fewer than 150 to as many as 700 during the eighteenth century. See A.C.
Beatriz Palomo de Lewin, “Esclavos negros en Guatemala, 1723-1773” (Tesis de
Licenciatura, Universidad del Valle, 1992), 72; Wortman, Government and Society, 55;
Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo, 285 and 702 note 79.
59Extract of AGCA, Al.20. 432. f.267 (1604) in Falla, Extractos, 77.
“AGCA, Al .15. 4103. 32523. The neighboring property was also a “hazienda
de acucar” established by a prominent Spaniard, in this case Francisco de Maldonado.
61Gage, Travels, 199.

46
entrepreneur Juan Palomeque, who lived nearby in the vicinity of Mixco.62 The obraje
and estancia of don García de Avila Valenzuela near the Pacific coast in Escuintepeque,
meanwhile, was home to some 25 slaves on Avila’s death in 1636, along with substantial
herds of livestock.61 And the 1642 will of Santiago’s alguacil mayor, Capitán Pedro de
Nájera, described a set of land-holdings in Guazacapán—including the hacienda El Salto-
-which were said to be the “grandest” in the district, on which Nájera kept 18,000 to
20,000 cattle, more than 1,000 horses, 300 mules, and 35 to 40 “piezas de esclavos.”64
Smaller rural operations often included a slave component among their labor
forces as well. The 1597 estate of doña Isabel de Molina included an estancia and
indigo obraje located between Jalpatagua and Ahuachapán, and four slaves.65 Domingo
Rodriguez had fifteen slaves on a wheat farm in the valley of Mixco in 1603, and Pedro
Gómez ten more on a similar operation near Mataquescuintla, inventoried in 1610.66
María de Sálazar of San Antonio Suchitepéquez, widow of a cacao grower, was said to
have brought twelve slaves with her when she entered a lay religious order in the capital
62Gage, Travels, 199.
61See extract of AGCA, A1.20. 592. f. 11 (1636) in Falla, Extractos, 371-372.
64 See extract of AGCA, A1.20. 691. f.326 (1642) in Falla, Extractos, 442-443.
I focus much more extensively on ranching later in the chapter.
65AGCA, A1.43. 4820. 41532 (1600). Molina’s husband also owned a slave.
^See extracts of AGCA, A1.20. 432. f.210 (1603); A1.20. 1128. f.218 (1610) in
Falla, Extractos, 75, 504.

47
shortly after its founding in 1613.67 In his 1619 will, finally, Santos López discussed the
hacienda Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción, established between Zinacantán and
Nestiquipaque in Guazacapán and containing two indigo obrajes and four slaves.68
Slaves also turned up in areas far removed from the major agricultural enterprises
of the valleys just east of the capital and the coastal lowlands. Miguel González, a
Portuguese merchant residing in the upland eastern partido of Chiquimula de la Sierra,
listed a black slave among his possessions in 1605.69 A cura in the same district,
Francisco Joseph de Ventimilla, owned three slaves when he died in 1642: the mulatta
Luisa de Molina and her two children, Eugenio Nicolás and Nicolás del Espíritu Santo.70
More striking is the appearance of slaves in the western highlands, where the supply of
indigenous labor was seemingly endless. Five slaves were working in 1628 on the 1,000-
acre Mazariegos estancia near the major Quiché community of Quezaltenango, and
various members of the Mazariegos family were involved in a number of local slave sales
transacted between 1625 and 1632.71 Prominent residents of other major highland
67Vázquez, Crónica, 4:446-447.
68 AGCA, Al.43. 4877. 41805 (1625).
69Extract of AGCA, A1.20. 433. f.226v. (1605), in Falla, Extractos, 88.
70AGCA, A1.24. 1559. 10203. ff. 355-357, 471-471v. (1642), It is possible that
Ventimilla and his slaves actually made up an informal family unit. The priest’s will—
vigorously contested by his sister and sole heir—not only manumitted his three slaves, but
carefully specified religious vocations for each of them.
71 AGCA, A1.20. 1488. 9968. ff.29v.-30 (1635?), ff.97-98v. (1632); extracts
from AGCA, A1.20. 564. f. 14 (1625), f. 16 (1625); A1.20. 567. f.lOlv. (1630) in Falla,
Extractos, 277, 288. The date of the first sale noted here was unlikely to have been

48
centers like Totonicapán and Huehuetenango also bought and sold slaves, if never in lots
of more than two.72 As elsewhere, highland slaves were a diverse lot at this time. They
included recently imported men and women listed as Angolan, Guatemalan-born black
and mulatto men, one mulatta woman and her infant daughter, and a young mulatto
boy.73
Finally, there were many slaves who were not, properly speaking, tied exclusively
either to urban or rural environments, but nevertheless passed a good deal of time in the
countryside in the employ of mule trains, traders, and the occasional shipbuilder.74
Independent and possessed of a certain degree of status, like urban artisans, some of
these slaves often held responsibilities for significant portions of their owners’
businesses.75 An especially revealing case involved slaves who were not technically
residents of Guatemala, but whose owner, one Gaspar Fernandes of Puebla, fell sick and
1635, as I recorded it, but rather pre-1629.
72AGCA, A1.20. 1488. 9968. f.30v. (1629?), ff.39-40v. (1629), ff.53-54v.
(1630), ff.61-62v. (1630), ff.91v.-92v. (1632), ff.99-100 (1632); extract from AGCA,
A1.20. 583. f.434 (1624) in Falla, Extractos, 323. The record of the first sale listed is
incomplete.
73See the two footnotes above.
74Pantaleón de Herrera, who spent much of 1602-1604 building a ship on a river
in the coastal district of Guazacapán, had at least five slaves in his employ. See AGCA,
A1.15. 4090. 32446 (1605), a substantial portion of which is apparently missing. The
mule-train owner Juan Palomeque, as noted above, had dozens of slaves at his disposal.
75In 1584, for example, Magdalena de Escobar of Santiago placed legal control of
a mule train in the hands of her slave Pedro Xolofe (Jolof). See extract of AGCA,
A1.20. 423. f.43 (1584), in Falla, Extractos, 12.

49
died in the community of San Antonio Suchitepéquez in 1620. At the time that he made
his will, Fernandes had sent two separate mule trains, comprised in total of 127 mules
loaded with cacao and indigo, back to New Spain. The majority of Fernandes’ arrieros,
or muleteers, were slaves, including the individuals in charge of the respective outfits.
Most remarkable, though, is that at the very same time that Fernandes had entrusted his
entire investment into the hands of enslaved administrators, he was endeavoring to
recover at least three other bondservants who had fled him: two in Santiago de
Guatemala and one in Oaxaca.76
Most of the enterprises mentioned above employed free blacks and mulattos in
addition to slaves. Specific numbers are much harder to come by in the case of free
people of African descent, especially because they were not in a literal sense anyone’s
property, and do not turn up, for example, in wills. Later chapters of this dissertation
contain demographic assessments of this population during the latter half of the
seventeenth century, a period for which marriage data are available for rural areas. The
argument that remains to be made here concerning the significance of the black and
mulatto “threat” in the early seventeenth century, however, relies on evidence that is
demographic in only the broadest of senses.
76AGCA, A1.43. 4876. 41796 (1625). Several of Fernandes’ slaves remained in
Guatemala after his death, sold to local residents or, in the case of one runaway, in jail.
It is interesting to note that, in the sixteenth century at least, nearly half of the slaves in
Puebla, New Spain, were arrieros. See Boyd-Bowman, “Negro Slaves,” 136, 147. On
free black and mulatto muleteers in Guatemala, see AGCA, A1.43. 5925. 51603 (1614);
A1.15. 4103. 32526(1619).

50
It will also be apparent that enslaved, let alone free, women of African descent
receive relatively little attention in the present chapter. This absence is due in part to the
disproportionately male character of forced African immigration, which contributed to
situations like the one existing in 1619 on the trapiche which was the subject of a dispute
among members of the Mesa family, where 25 of a total of 28 slaves were male.77 But
the archival traces left by negras and mulatas living in rural areas during this period are
few in number for at least one other reason: they were less often than men the
protagonists in cases involving the sorts of infractions of the law that caught the
authorities’ attention.
Just prior to refocusing on the nature of those infractions, I would note that one
role played by women of African descent which does emerge clearly from documents
such as wills and estates, although applying only to those who were enslaved, was the
reproduction of a slave labor force. On the Peralta trapiche, for example, two slave
women, Agustina Conga and one Margarita, had seven children between them. Both
were also listed as the wives of male slaves, a status which female slaves outnumbered by
their male counterparts seem frequently to have inhabited.78
77The Mesa property represented an extreme example of the skewed sex ratio
often associated with sugar production. The workforce on Gonzalo Peralta’s trapiche
may have represented a sex division closer to the norm. Thirteen of its 22 slaves were
male in 1625, including seven of the eleven who appear to have been bom in Africa. See
AGCA, A1.15. 4103. 32523.; A1.43. 5925. 51614.
78In fact, all six adult women on the Peralta trapiche were listed as wives of male
slaves. On the disputed trapiche in Escuintepeque, two of three enslaved women were
married to male slaves. See AGCA, A1.43. 5925. 51614.; A1.15. 4103. 32523.

51
The tolerance, and even encouragement of, such slave marriage in Spanish
American regions is a well established peculiarity of American slavery under Spanish
Catholic rule.79 It is also widely known, however, that the legal and religious protections
extended to slaves under medieval Spanish law were frequently ignored when they ran
counter to compelling economic, or other similar, imperatives.80 While slave women,
always in short supply in Guatemala, did often marry their male counterparts--and very
occasionally free men81--they remained largely subject to their masters’ whims, as
arbitrary as those of slaveholders anywhere. Thus the wealthy mule-train owner Juan
Palomeque, mentioned above, was reputedly so intent on the sexual conquest of slave
women that he was said to purchase those belonging to other masters if they rejected his
advances, in order to submit them to his will. Thomas Gage’s comment that Palomeque
79During a visita of his diocese in 1669-1670, for example, the Bishop of
Guatemala, Doctor don Juan de Santo Matías Sáenz de Mañosea y Murillo, had as one
explicit goal the correction of anyone who was “trying to prevent, or ha[d] prevented,
the Indians, blacks and mulattos in his service from marrying, or, being married, from
pursuing conjugal life.” See Mañosea y Murillo’s decree of 4 November, 1669, in
Archivo Histórico Arquidiocesano “Francisco de Paula García Peláez” (hereafter AHA),
Visitas Pastorales, Tomo 1, T1 63, f.5v.
80Spanish law, drawing on the Siete Partidas, confirmed slaves’ right to marry in
the Americas, but also underscored owners’ authority. See cédulas of 11 May 1526,
“Que no sean libres los esclavos negros que se casen, ni los hijos que tuvieron,” and 26
October 1541, “Que los negros se casen con negras,” in Konetzke, ed., Colección de
documentos, 1:81-82, 210. David Brion Davis’ comparative assessment of legal versus
actual conditions experienced by slaves across time, space and changing economic
circumstances remains insightful. See David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in
Western Culture (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1966), esp. 227-243.
81This was rare because children assumed the status of the mother. The
ramifications of the “law of the womb” are discussed at some length in later chapters.

52
as a consequence “hasted to fill that valley [of Mixco] with bastards of all sorts and
colors” presents, of course, a far different aspect of slave women’s role in reproducing
labor than that suggested by the evidence from the Peralta ingenio82
Ranch hands, “Vagabonds,” and Maroons
I turn finally to the three categories of “social danger” which constituted the
primary focus of Spanish concern regarding the rural African-descended population in
the early seventeenth century, beginning with the one great rural enterprise not yet
explored in any depth, ranching. One does not have to look far in order to find the
reasons for Spanish trepidation regarding cattle industry workers: ranch hands of color,
both slave and free, were notorious for their quasi-martial horsemanship. Indeed, in the
1640s, one agitated official would report that Spanish colonists had long grown “soft”
through city living, while the only people left in the region who could handle horses well
were the mestizos, mulattos and blacks of the countryside, natural rebels all.83
Perhaps the most important reason for the emergence of this much feared group
was that the period from the 1590s to the 1630s was the first great era of Spanish land
82Gage, Travels, 199. Gage’s description of Palomeque’s tormenting a male
slave named Macaco nearly to suicide is another indication of the arbitrary system under
which slaves ultimately lived, however socially mobile certain of them might be.
83MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 212. It is not entirely coincidental that
these same folks would begin to be incorporated into colonial militias en masse exactly
at this moment. The historical importance in colonial Latin America of African-
descended vaqueros, both slave and free, would be difficult to overstate. See, for
example, Davidson, “Negro Slave Control and Resistance,” 237; Peter Stem, “Gente de
Color Quebrado. Africans and Affomestizos in Colonial Mexico,” Colonial Latin
American Historical Review 3, no. 2 (1994): 198.

53
acquisition in the Guatemalan countryside.84 During this time there was significant
expansion in a ranching workforce whose permanent members tended less to be tributary
Indians than black and mulatto slaves and free castas,85 It was in the peculiar nature of
ranching, which differed in important ways from other rural labor, to afford those who
practised it both considerable freedom and training of a kind such as to transform them
collectively into a sector which Spanish authorities could construe as a near-military
threat to the colony.
The development of large livestock-running estates was a phenomenon
manifested most significantly in the same Pacific coastal region to the southeast of the
capital where indigo flourished. As the sixteenth century gave way to the seventeenth,
authorities in Santiago grew increasingly concerned over unprecedented shortages of
meat in the realm, and tried to exert strict control over both production and sale in the
wake of a precipitous decline in formerly abundant cattle populations. Officials sought
especially to clamp down on the practice of dejarretar*6—or indiscriminate cattle
slaughter—by ranch owners and their employees in the region roughly between Taxisco,
84MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 381.
85Castas, it might be noted, were an important source of labor on Spanish-owned
rural enterprises for at least two reasons: they had little access to land and thus had to
hire themselves out; and they were frequently used to supervise mostly indigenous or
enslaved black workforces with whom they were unlikely to identify. See MacLeod,
Spanish Central America, 191 -192, 212.
86The term meant literally to slice the leg tendons of cattle.

54
in Guazacapán, and La Villa de la Trinidad de Sonsonate.87 Cattle slaughter of alarming
proportions was producing a steady stream of contraband beef and tallow, and at the
same time sharply reducing herds. In their edicts forbidding dejarretar, authorities
targeted castas in particular. A 1599 prohibition mandated that perpetrators “iueze
negro, mulato o mestizo” receive 100 lashes for a first offense, and 200 lashes plus five
years unpaid royal service for a second. Indians found guilty of the practice would
receive fifty lashes. Españoles went unmentioned.88
In 1600, the royal official Alonso Diego de Villegas Carasa was despatched from
Santiago to investigate illicit slaughter of cattle near Taxisco. Villegas found a tallow-
producing operation in an area called La Caiba de Mayorgua, complete with two huts
built “in the manner of fugitives” and a large quantity of tallow-as much as 60 arrobas,
or some 1,500 pounds~in various stages of processing. His informants attributed the
management of the operation to Antón del Chaves, the mulato majordomo of the
estancia on which the illicit establishment was located. One witness claimed to have
seen Chaves there in the company of fifteen or sixteen “mulatos e indios todos
87The practice was also rampant in the district of Acasaguastlán, another
prominent cattle-ranching area northeast of Santiago de Guatemala, along the route to
the Caribbean. For the tale of a legendary mulatto cowboy said to have won fame for his
daring exploits in that region early in the seventeenth century, see Fuentes y Guzmán,
Recordación florida, 2:242, 287-290.
88Cédula of 8 May 1599, AGCA, A1.23. 4588. 39541.

vaqueros.”89 It is unlikely that the owner of the estancia, Alonso de Becerra Brizuela,
was ignorant of the doings of his majordomo, and probable, in fact, that he had ordered
them.
The site at La Caiba de Mayorgua, Villegas alleged, had played a major role in
the “great destruction” of cattle that was occurring in the region. Worse, though, it was
a refuge for “all of the delinquents and cattle-slaughterers and black runaways on the
coast.” He ordered the huts burned and issued a warning against tolerating similar
operations to all of the surrounding estancieros. But the closest he came to
apprehending Chaves was to seize the latter’s possessions at his hideout in the port of
Iztapa. Chaves himself escaped into the surrounding countryside as the Crown’s
investigator arrived in town.90
The audiencia launched another investigation into illegal cattle slaughter in the
same coastal region in 1605, spearheaded in this instance by an official named Antonio
de Leiba. By the time Leiba was finished with his work, he had arrested a total of ten
people in connection with various incidents of dejarretar, including Gaspar de Moraga
Monroy, the owner of an obraje in Guazacapán, who was apprehended alongside his
mulatto servant, Jusepe, and two black slaves, Agustín and Matías. The latter three were
89AGCA, A 1.43. 4820. 41525 (1601). That another witness testified to having
seen a mulato speaking in “la lengua mexicana” to an Indian woman grinding corn at the
site suggests the degree to which people of African descent were integrated into the life
of the area, sometimes no doubt for the reason that they had indigenous mothers.
^AGCA, A1.43. 4820. 41525.

56
not the only people defined by African descent taken into custody by Leiba. Six of the
ten accused, in fact, were blacks or mulattos. One, a self-described deer hunter named
Diego Velásquez, revealed clearly his perception that Spaniards associated African
origins with criminality when he appealed his conviction by claiming that although he
was a mulatto he had not engaged in illicit activities.91
At the end of 1605, the Spanish Crown emitted a cédula in which it expressed
concern over the news that the principal cause of cattle depletion in the audiencia was
the fact that “many free mulattos and blacks” were engaged in slaughter. Worse, it was
rumored that these outlaws actually had the support of the estancieros who employed
them. The Crown warned landowners to withdraw their backing for such activities
forthwith, under pain of forfeiting both land and herds. But the most severe
consequences were reserved for negros y mulatos, forbidden henceforth from riding
horses at all, with disobedience to be punished with 200 lashes and 10 years on the
galleys.92
91Velásquez also procured two Spanish witnesses to testify on his behalf, one of
whom referred to him as a “buen mulato.” He was sentenced, nevertheless, to hard labor
on the new fortress at Santo Tomás de Castilla. See AGCA, A1.15. 4092. 32461, esp.
ff.7-20v„ 30-35.
92La Corona a la Audiencia de Guatemala, 22 December 1605, AGCA, A1.23.
1514. ff.77-77v. This decree came in response to a letter from an oidor of the
audiencia, don Manuel de Ungría Girón, who blamed soaring prices for beef both on
estancieros’ lack of concern for their herds and the fact that “there are many free
mulattos and blacks who move about the countryside with a pair of nags or mares [and]
have slaughtered all the cattle they can . . . ” See Ungría Girón a la Corona, 20 March
1605, AGI, Guatemala, 12, R.2, N.12.

57
There is little evidence that this decree was ever successfully enforced, which
says a good deal about the degree of control Spanish authorities were able to exercise
over these rural workers, and the value of the latter to their bosses. Indeed, yet another
mulatto majordomo was soon at the center of accusations involving dejarretar. Melchor
Velásquez, manager of an estancia named Mopicalco, which was located near
Guazacapán and owned by Luis Aceituno de Guzmán. In 1607, Guzmán’s neighbor,
doña Beatriz de las Barillas, launched a lawsuit against both men, charging that they had
been systematically butchering her herds and selling the product in Sonsonate.
According to testimony turned up in the course of the civil action, the activities of
Guzmán and Velásquez were notorious in the area. One witness charged that in the
winter of 1605 the two had culled 30 head of cattle a week from just one of the several
estancias that they preyed upon. During an especially prolific fifteen-day period, said the
witness, Guzmán, Velásquez and a band of hired hands had slaughtered 800 head of
cattle, which “wasn’t much” to them.93
This particular case of cattle rustling and rural tension in Guatemala is
dominated, if anything, even more by blacks and mulattos than the ones previously cited.
The band of cattle thieves headed by Velásquez and his employer included at least five
other people denoted by African origin, including a black slave of Guzmán’s named
93AGCA, A1.15. 4092. 32462 (1607). Velásquez, ironically, was at about the
same time accusing a mestizo named Diego Recinos of having entered his own land
under the pretext of fishing, then slaughtering some of Velásquez’ cattle and selling the
tallow to two residents of Guazacapán. Recinos was one of those arrested by Leiba in
1605. See AGCA, A1.15. 4092. 32461. ff.1-2.

58
Domingo.94 The main witness in the case, meanwhile, was identified as a mulato libre
from the coast named Gaspar de la Cruz. He, in turn, testified that the accused
ringleaders told him they were selling large quantities of their ill-gotten booty to the
mulato Pedro López, a vecino of Sonsonate.95
The notoriety which surrounded the province’s black and mulatto ranch hands
during the first years of the seventeenth century only grew with each succeeding decade.
Drawing on his residence in Guatemala during the 1630s, Thomas Gage reported to the
English that the region’s greatest potential military asset lay with “a desperate sort of
Blackamoors” employed on estancias and indigo obrajes. Possessing only machetes or
lances “to run at the wild cattle,” Gage went on, these people of African origin were “so
desperate that the city of Guatemala hath often been afraid of them, and the masters of
their own slaves and servants.”96 In the 1640s, threats along the coasts from foreign
privateers would finally push the audiencia to utilize the reserve of military force to
94 The others were Francisco Dongolín, moreno libre of Sonsonate; Matheo,
mulato of Sonsonate; Francisco Gil, mulato; and Miguel Gerónimo, mulato. The band
also included one Ximénez, whose lack of designation may have indicated español
status, and Fernando López, an employee of the estancia Mopicalco said to be
Velásquez’ compadre and described as “mestizo o criollo.” The ambiguity inherent in
López’ “racial” designation hints at the degree of access to the “Spaniard” category that
individuals labeled as mestizo might have had, at least in rural areas. His evidently close
friendship with Velásquez indicates that the barriers theoretically constructed between
individuals of differing origins were in many cases relatively easy to cross.
95AGCA, A1.15. 4092. 32462. It is interesting that López was referred to as a
vecino, a term originally reserved for propertied Spanish heads of households.
96Gage, Travels, 192-193.

59
which Gage alluded. But such a development was not foreseen as late as 1638, when the
President of the audiencia requested funds to purchase more arms for Spanish residents,
portrayed as largely defenseless in the face not only of a massive Indian population, but
also of a “great number of skilled blacks and mulattos, discontented with their
condition.”97
The relationship between the two “dangerous” sectors named by the President,
and especially the allegedly deleterious impact of African-descended people on
indigenous groups, was a second, longstanding source of Spanish discomfort with the
black and mulatto population. In rural areas, especially to the south and east of the
capital, mulatos y negros worked and lived alongside not only poor Spaniards and
mestizos, but Indians as well. The last group was assumed by the Crown to be under
both physical and moral threat from all the others, and a litany of royal complaints and
orders from the late sixteenth century on stressed the need to keep indigenous
communities segregated from all such contact. Beginning in the 1570s, order after order
forbade the residence of españoles, mestizos, blacks, and mulattos in Indian villages. In
1578, a landmark royal decree declared that Indians and castas must be kept separate
because mulattos, blacks, and mestizos, “being universally so evilly inclined,” were a
threat to Indians’ souls.98 Subsequent decrees demanding that this order be heeded
97Don Alvaro Quiñones y Osorio a la Corona, 26 May 1638, AGI, Guatemala 15,
R.17, N.99.
98Real cédula, 25 November 1578, AGCA, A1.22. 1513. f.557. On evolving
royal attitudes during the sixteenth century, see Magnus Mómer, La corona española y

60
oscillated between expressing the Crown’s concern over the danger to Indians of the bad
moral example set by individuals whose obedience to civil as well as religious authority
was less than exemplary, and anger at the threat posed to royal revenues by petty traders
and con men operating in and around indigenous communities " The very frequency of
these orders indicated a failure of enforcement.
While decrees emanating from both Madrid and Santiago often characterized the
entire non-Indian rural population as vagabonds and thieves,100 they sometimes singled
out groups identified specifically by African descent. In 1580, the Crown warned its
officials in Guatemala that “the blacks brought to that Province” were not to live among
Indians, or trade with them, because of the great physical and spiritual harm that would
result from such contact .101 Five years later, an oidor of the audiencia complained that
los foráneos en los pueblos de indios de América (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell,
1970), esp. 94-99.
"Subsequent decrees include those of 3 February 1587, AGCA, A1.23. 4575.
39528. f.433v.; 22 December 1605, AGCA, A1.23. 1514. ff.77-77v.; 27 July 1634,
AGCA A1.24. 2245. 16190. ff.4-5. See also “Ordenanzas para el buen gobierno de los
indios en las provincias de Soconusco y Verapaz,” 20 September 1628, in Konetzke,
ed., Colección de documentos, 2, bk. 1:319-322, esp. 321. Officials in both Peru and
New Spain expressed similar concerns in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth
centuries over the allegedly deleterious social effects produced by interaction between
Indians and people of African origins. See Bowser, African Slave, 22-24, 147; Stem,
“Gente de Color Quebrado," 190-191.
100See, for example, La Corona a la Audiencia, 24 November, 1601, AGCA,
A1.23. 4576. 39529. ff.45v.-50, which orders that “españoles de condición serbil y
ociosos que ubiere y los mestizos negros mulatos y gambahigos libres” be made to work.
101La Corona a la Audiencia de Guatemala, 23 September 1580, AGCA, Al .22.
1513. f.579.

61
negros y mulatos were like “wolves in sheep’s clothing” among the Indians.102 By 1603,
the Crown was expressing alarm at reports that black servants of prominent Guatemalan
officials were accosting and robbing Indians transporting goods to market, a practice
that, like others mentioned above, was quite likely to have been approved by the masters
of the alleged assailants.103 This situation was particularly ironic in light of the fact that
the Crown was at the same time demanding that the “vagabond” rural population of free
status be reduced to serving and residing with specific Spanish masters, in order to
eradicate the sort of illicit activity which supposedly resulted from a lack of supervision
by responsible Spaniards.
The most enduring action taken by the audiencia to eliminate the “plague” of
blacks and mulattos in Indian communities was the establishment of the town of San
Diego de la Gomera near the coast of Escuintepeque, some time after the Conde de la
Gomera took up the post of President of the audiencia in 1611. Informed of the
inconveniences presented by negros y mulatos libres living illegally in and around
indigenous villages south of the capital, the new President swiftly ordered their
“reduction,” or settlement.104 A decade later, Vásquez de Espinosa described the villa of
102Magnus Mómer, “La política de segregación y el mestizaje en la Audiencia de
Guatemala,” Revista de Indias 24, nos. 95-96 (1964): 139.
103La Corona a la Audiencia de Guatemala, 26 March 1603, AGCA, Al .23.
1514. f.37.
104Conde de la Gomera a la Corona, 14 November 1611, AGI, Guatemala 13,
R.3, N.33; José Milla, Historia de la América Central, 2 vols., 5th ed., Colección “Juan
Chapín,” Obras completas de Salome Jil (José Milla) 11-12 (Guatemala: Tipografía

62
San Diego as a “village of free blacks and mulattos, with their own cabildo, alcaldes,
and regidores ,” unique in the province of Guatemala.105 The town’s residents, who
would emerge from the historical shadows at key points over the following century, were
granted certain privileges, including control over saltpans at Sipacate on the coast.106 In
return, they were to fulfill specific duties, including tracking down and capturing escaped
slaves.107
Cimarrones, to be sure, were quite naturally seen as an even graver danger to
social peace than those slaves who, though under the direct control of masters, already
provided headaches for the authorities. Maroons constituted the third major source of
problems which Spaniards saw as resulting from the African presence in rural Guatemala
Nacional, 1976), 2:318-319.
105Vásquez de Espinosa, Compendio, 208-209.
106In 1683 the corregidor of Escuintepeque said of the saltpans at Sipacate that
“se les consedieron a los de la villa quando fue fimdada.” The town’s residents
reasserted this claim to the saltpans in 1700 when they appealed to a royal visitador
about attempts by prominent officials to usurp them. See “Razón de las ciudades, villas
y lugares, vecindarios y tributarios de que se componen las Provincias del Distrito de
este Audiencia (1682),” AGI, Contaduría 815, f.6v.; “Testimonio de los Autos
Proveydos Por El Señor Licenciado Don Francisco Gómez de la Madriz en favor de los
Mulatos de la Villa de San Diego de la Gomera, 1700,” AGI, Guatemala 285.
107Vásquez de Espinosa, Compendio, 208-209. Although it is not clear if the
original settlers of San Diego included maroons among their number, catching escaped
slaves was often a part of the bargains maroon communities made to “legalize” their
status vis-a-vis colonial regimes in the Americas. On the maroon community of
Yanga/San Lorenzo de los Negros in early colonial Veracruz, see Patrick J. Carroll,
Blacks in Colonial Veracruz: Race, Ethnicity, and Regional Development (Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1991), 91-92. For an example from Surinam, see Robin
Blackburn, The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848 (London: Verso, 1988), 56.

63
during the early seventeenth century. Individual examples of escaped slaves abound,108
while nearly half of the black and mulatto prisoners listed in the visitas of the Santiago
jail conducted between October 1624 and June 1625 were incarcerated as cimarrones,109
Most worrisome to the audiencia, though, was the founding near both coasts of outlaw
maroon communities which demonstrated an impressive ability not only to survive off
the surrounding society via both peaceable commerce and extortion, but also to resist
repeated efforts made to eradicate them.
The demand that the new residents of San Diego de la Gomera hunt down
cimarrones may have been spurred most directly by the audiencia’s experience during
the early 1600s with a small but notorious band of maroons ensconced in a remote
settlement near the Pacific coast south of San Antonio Suchitepéquez.110 The Conde de
la Gomera, in fact, averred that on his first visit to Santiago’s churches after arriving in
108One of the more striking cases is that of Isabel, an Arara woman about 36
years old in 1622. Isabel went through no fewer than four owners within the space of a
couple of years. One, a priest named Nicolás Sánchez, sought to have his 1621 purchase
of Isabel annulled on grounds that her “defects” had been obscured at the time of the
sale. Sánchez made this claim despite the fact that Isabel’s seller had explicitly called her
a “thieving, wild, and mad runaway.” Sánchez himself unloaded his troublesome
“property” during the course of his suit. See AGCA, A1.15. 4105. 32534 and 32535.
(1622). Other cases mentioning instances of cimarronaje include AGCA, A 1.56. 5920.
51250 (1603); A1.15. 4090. 32446 (1605); A1.15. 4103. 32524 (1607); A1.15. 4109.
32563 (1612); A1.56. 5355. 45247 (1615); A1.43. 4876. 41796 (1620); A1.43. 4876.
41801 (1623); Al.29.2. 2327. 17286. f 15 (1623); A1.43. 4914. 41973 (1624).
109The visitas, discussed earlier, are in AGCA, A1.43. 4876. 41801.
110The history of this community is detailed in “Autos del servicio que hizo el
capitán Juan ruiz dAvilés ... de la conquista y pacificación de los negros aleados que
estaban en la barra i montañas de tulat” (1626), AGI, Guatemala 67.

64
the fall of 1611 he heard a number of sermons urging him to subdue the “negros y
mulatos cimarrones del Guayaval de la costa de Yzquintepeque,” both because of the
great harm the maroons had visited on Indians and others along the region’s roads, and
to stop them from taking more slaves out of the capital. “No master had a secure slave”
as long as the outlaw band remained at large, the dean of the Cathedral was said to have
assured the new President.1" Indeed, the maroons had only recently “stolen” a mulata
from the house of Gerónimo de Aldana. As a result, they were said to be on the alert for
the possibility of retaliation, having activated Indian spies who operated on their behalf
between the coast and the capital."2
Witnesses said that a negro from Sonsonate had established the community of
maroons about nine years previously, in a remote region inland from the bar along the
coast at Tulate. The closest indigenous community was Xicalapa,113 but the maroons
traded fish and iguanas caught in the estuary at Tulate to Indians from Mazatenango, and
even as far away as Quezaltenango, in return for clothing, axes, machetes, arrows, and
'"“Conquista y pacificación de los negros,” AGI, Guatemala 67, ff.25-26v.
"2“Conquista y pacificación de los negros,” AGI, Guatemala 67, ff.6v.-7.
"3A now-defunct village located in a remote coastal area between the Nahualate
and Tulate rivers. Xicalapa may have held two hundred or so indigenous inhabitants in
the late sixteenth century, but had disappeared by the eighteenth. See Orellana,
Ethnohistory, 121-122; reproduction of 1579 map of Zapotitlán in Adriaan C. Van Oss,
Catholic Colonialism: A Parish History of Guatemala, 1524-1821 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1986), 63.

65
tobacco.114 One slave each from the households of Francisco de Mesa and Luis Aceituno
de Guzmán, mentioned above, were present in the settlement, with Guzmán’s mulato
slave, Juan Gómez, reputed to be the most ruthless of the lot, terrorizing the owners of
nearby estancias and obrajes with threats to burn down their properties if they gave the
maroons any trouble.
There had been previous efforts to dislodge the outlaws. A mestizo named
Gaspar de la Cruz who participated in the militia force which eventually defeated and
captured the members of the community said he had previously taken part in forays
which had resulted in the recapture of a total of eight maroons, two of them women.
Perhaps as a result of this pressure, those members of the community who remained free
had moved inland from an original settlement. Nine “large houses” still stood at the first
site, however, as well as plentiful evidence of the cimarrones’ capacity to produce com,
cotton, squash, chiles, and even sugar cane.115
The militia force, about forty men sent out by the President in October of 1611
under the command of an experienced soldier named Juan Ruiz de Avilés, managed, after
an arduous nighttime trek along the coast from the bar at Nahualate, to ambush the men
of the community as the latter descended one morning to Tulate in their canoes. Avilés’
114According to Fuentes y Guzmán, the area around San Antonio Suchitepéquez
had no iguanas. They thus had to be imported, at least in the 1680s. Supplying them to
the district from remote Tulate may have been one key to the maroon economy’s success
earlier in the century. See Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:161-162.
115“Conquista y pacificación de los negros,” AGI, Guatemala 67, f.45, 46v.

66
men accomplished this feat with the assistance of a petty Spanish trader who—no doubt
to save his own skin-betrayed the maroons, with whom he had been carrying on a
thriving commerce for about a year. In a brief battle, the captain of the cimarrones, a
certain Diego, was shot and killed while trying to escape by swimming across the
estuary, and another maroon also died. Avilés subsequently led a small group several
leagues inland under the guidance of one of those captured, where the rest of the
community, mostly women, was also rounded up. Aside from the two men killed, a total
of seventeen people were found in the settlement: eight black and mulatto men—all
maroons—and one male infant; and six cimarronas, one free mulatta, and one india. In
accordance with the harsh punishment requested by many Spaniards in order to set an
example, all except the two free women were jailed in the capital following their
capture.116
Ruiz de Avilés afterwards spent years attempting to collect the reward he claimed
the Conde de la Gomera had promised to him: an encomienda worth 2,000 pesos
annually. He was eventually successful, at least in part, and in the 1690s his descendant
Sebastián Ruiz de Alvarado was appealing to hold onto the encomienda Ruiz de Avilés
finally managed to obtain under the Conde de la Gomera’s successor. Interestingly, the
grandson included letters from 1630 and 1631 in which Ruiz de Avilés claimed he had
I16“Conquista y pacificación de los negros,” AGI, Guatemala 67; Conde de la
Gomera a la Corona, 14 November 1611, AGI, Guatemala 13, R.3, N.33. A mulatto
named Antonio de Ledesma from San Antonio Suchitepéquez was also jailed, for trading
with the community. There is no record of punishment for either the Indians or the
Spaniards who were involved in commerce with the settlement.

67
not only subjugated a small band of maroons at Tulate in 1611, but had returned
subsequently to capture the leaders of five hundred to six hundred blacks who had later
repopulated the region.117 Evidence for such a large community of cimarrones does not
appear elsewhere, although the temporary re-establishment of some sort of maroon
outpost on the Pacific coast may well have occurred, given the resilience of maroon
bands along the audiencia 's other flank.
Unfortunately, no account similar to the one left by Ruiz de Avilés has surfaced
which details entradas made in search of maroon redoubts near the Caribbean. Enough
evidence exists, nevertheless, to piece together a portrait which suggests that cimarrones
in the region of the Golfo Dulce were a thorn in the side of Spanish colonists for several
decades. In fact, don Diego de Avendaño, President of the audiencia in 1642, claimed
that the period of torment had lasted seventy years, and was still not ended. Avendaño
in that year had another, pressing concern: a wave of destruction wreaked by foreign
privateers along the Caribbean coast of Guatemala and Honduras. It was this danger
which prompted him to take a step that would signal a major turning point for the
population identified by African descent, namely the general enlistment of mestizos and
free blacks and mulattos in Chiquimula and Acasaguastlán. But in order to reduce the
pressure around the Golfo Dulce he also wanted to eliminate the maroon presence there
once and for all. He hoped to do so by abandoning a never fully successful policy of
armed pursuit, and instead despatching a friar not only to pacify the rebels, but also to
117ic
Autos que sigue Sebastián Ruiz de Alvarado,” AGGA, Al. 2. 25 (1698).

68
persuade them to turn their knowledge of the area in favor of the society they had fled by
acting as scouts against the foreign enemy.118
Whenever it was that escaped slaves first established themselves in outlaw
communities around the Golfo Dulce, the cabildo of Santiago was complaining to the
Conde de la Gomera in 1617 that many maroons lived along the trade road between the
capital and the gulf, threatening commerce.119 In 1627, 4,030 tostones were reported to
have been spent on an expedition sent out “against the black maroons along the Gulf
road.”120 That expedition apparently led to the capture of at least some of the outlaw
slaves,121 but a prolonged battle over who should pay the costs of securing the roads—the
King or local merchants—also ensued.122
One reason the problem of funding for security persisted was that the maroons
did not disappear. Thomas Gage, who participated in a missioning expedition among
118Don Diego de Avendaño a la Corona, 7 July 1642, AGI, Guatemala 16, R.3,
N.19.
119Francisco de Paula García Peláez, Memorias para la historia del antiguo reino
de Guatemala, 3 vols., 3rd ed., Biblioteca “Goathemala” 21-23 (Guatemala. Sociedad de
Geografía e Historia de Guatemala, 1968-1973), 2:28.
12l)García Peláez, Memorias, 2:28.
121In a 1633 request for favor from the Crown, Juan de Sevilla Guerrero indicated
that he had been captain of an infantry company which had taken part in the “reduction
and imprisonment of the black maroons of the Golfo Dulce,” although it is not clear if he
was referring to the 1627 expedition or a later one. See Alvarez-Lobos Villatoro and
Toledo Palomo, eds., Libro de los Pareceres, 236-237.
122“Liquidación hecha de la cantidad que se gastó en la rreducción de los negros
cimarrones del golfo dulce,” AGCA, Al.12. 4060. 31537 (1646).

69
the Choi north of Cobán during 1629 and 1630, reported that a community of some 200
to 300 escaped slaves still lived in the mountains near the Golfo Dulce at this time.
Armed only with bows and arrows, they regularly held up mule trains traveling between
the capital and the Gulf, supplying themselves with “wine, iron, clothing and weapons”
and encouraging slaves accompanying the caravans to join them. That efforts to
dislodge them had met with no enduring success is revealed in Gage’s comment that the
band was much feared by Spanish residents, especially those from nearby Acasaguastlán,
who had been unable to eliminate it despite “having often attempted it.”123
Gage indicated that the maroons were widely believed to be ready to “join with
the English or Hollanders, if ever they land in that gulf.”124 This assertion, however,
must be seen in light of the former Dominican friar’s concerted propaganda campaign to
spur an English invasion of Guatemala. But the President of the audiencia in 1632, don
Diego de Acuña, did appeal to the Crown in that year for weapons to be used in an
expedition against “black maroons who are in rebellion in the mountains next to the
Golfo Dulce,” and explicitly expressed the concern that they might ally with the Dutch.125
The fact that outlaw bands of slaves had yet to be fully eradicated along the Caribbean
ten years later suggests that these were even more troublesome over the long term to the
123Gage, Travels, 195-196.
I24Gage, Travels, 195-196.
125La Corona a don Diego de Acuña, 8 December 1632, AGCA, A1.23. 1516.
10071. f.57.

70
authorities, and to Spanish colonists in general, than was the better documented Pacific
settlement at Tulate.126
Cimarronaje, thus, added more fuel to the uneasiness aroused among Spaniards
in the early seventeenth century by insolent and violent urban slaves, expert and
independent black and mulatto ranch hands, and rural “vagabonds” of color. There
were, of course, individual Spaniards who maintained mutually beneficial relationships
with both slaves and free people of color. Spanish estancieros were often fully complicit
in the depredations carried out against neighbors’ livestock by their workers, while the
black slaves who accosted and robbed Indian traders along the colony’s roads probably
could not have done so for long without the backing of powerful Spanish patrons. It
would also be inaccurate to suggest that either free or enslaved blacks and mulattos were
uniformly rebellious and insubordinate. Many people of color already operated on behalf
of “law and order” in Guatemala, including a number of mulattos who accompanied Juan
Ruiz de Avilés on his expedition of repression against the cimarrones of Tulate.127 But
126The eventual fate of the maroons of the Golfo Dulce remains unclear. It is
interesting to note in this regard, however, that the Dominican friar Francisco Gallegos’
account of a missionizing effort into Choi territory in 1674-1676 included reference to
the village “of the Mulattos,” whose “Indians” were said to be “amulatados y distintos de
los otros que son más blancos.” See Francisco Ximénez, Historia de la Provincia de
San Vicente de Chiapay Guatemala de la Orden de Predicadores, Libro 5, Biblioteca
“Goathemala” 29 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografía e Historia, 1973), 212.
I27See also Thomas Gage’s recollections about his bodyguard, a “Blackamoor”
named Miguel Dalva, particularly the description of the protection Gage received from
Dalva and other blacks and mulattos in 1635 while investigating indigenous idolatry as
parish priest of Mixco and Pínula, in Gage, Travels, 269-272, 279-292, esp. 283.

71
two things seem clear. First, there was little general approval among the Spanish
population as a whole for the license accorded to blacks and mulattos in the employ of
certain Spanish individuals. Second, the striking social mobility evidenced by some
members of the African-descended population was largely unwelcome even to those
Spaniards who helped enable it.
That social mobility, however, sometimes arose out of a circumstance which has
received little attention thus far, although it threatened not only Spanish property, or
Spanish control of labor and tribute, but “Spanishness” itself. Spanish inability to control
the process by which the colonial population was reproduced meant that many
Spaniards, rather than being simply the bosses or owners of people defined by African
descent, were related to them as well. Those Spaniards who acknowledged these
relations often assisted their non-Spanish relatives, whatever they may have thought
about mulattos and mestizos in general. Thus, when the Crown expressed its concern in
a 1622 letter to the audiencia that “algunas Personas de poca satisfación como son
mulatos y mestizos” might be obtaining posts as notaries or escribanos by obscuring
their origins, the individuals in question were almost certain to have had family
connections among the powerful. The Crown’s decree that applications from such
people must be rejected without exception—retroactively if necessary—undoubtedly
struck Spaniards in Guatemala as eminently fair and just, except, of course, in the case of
a particular mulatto son, or similar relation, whom they personally favored.128
128AGCA, A1.23. 4578. 39531. ff.26v.-27 (1622).

72
There is no better illustration of this type of relationship than the situation of
Antonio Meléndez y Valdés. A mulatto resident of the valley of Petapa, Meléndez y
Valdés made application in 1623, the year following the one in which the decree referred
to above was emitted, to be granted the rights and privileges due to illegitimate children
of prominent españoles. He claimed to be the son of Capitán Gonzalo Meléndez y
Valdés, a native of Asturias and former governor of Soconusco, and Juana de Aguilar,
the Spaniard’s morena slave. The witnesses who spoke in favor of the petition, all high-
ranking local officials, testified that Gonzalo had called Antonio “son” on many
occasions, and had also given him land in Jalpatagua. One witness, an officer of the law
in Santiago named Gaspar Peres de Figueroa, said Gonzalo had once prevented him from
seizing Antonio in execution of an order obtained against Gonzalo’s property by a
creditor, saying “What, you want to arrest my son, who is freer than I am?”129 As it
turned out, according to Gonzalo’s 1614 will, Antonio had received a carta de libertad
at birth. The father had also mandated that his son be treated as an hidalgo “although he
is a mulatto.”130
The contradictions inherent in the Spanish effort to arrange society hierarchically
according to origin would, in combination with demographic developments and a
heightened military threat from foreigners, expand the social space in which blacks and,
I29AGCA, Al.29.2. 2327. 17286 (1623).
130None of the ten other slaves mentioned in Gonzalo’s will benefitted from
similar favor, least of all Antonio’s mother, Juana, long since sold by her erstwhile sexual
companion to a woman from Ayutla. See AGCA, Al.29.2. 2327. 17286. if 18, 20.

73
especially, mulattos operated as the seventeenth century progressed. Spanish uneasiness
over the potential danger presented by the African-descended population by no means
faded away, but came to be balanced to a significant extent by the usefulness of blacks
and castas as auxiliaries in the governance of the indigenous majority. Because Indians,
rather than blacks and mulattos, constituted the primary target of discriminatory
treatment in Guatemala, the sharp lines delineating a clearly identifiable African-
descended population would begin to blur as members of that population escaped the
confines of supposedly rigid occupational and social boundaries. But the sistema de
castas was far from dead—legal distinctions intended to divide mulattos from mestizos,
for example, would remain in force into the eighteenth century. In the meantime, the
conditions under which an increasingly amorphous sector of people standing between
colonial Guatemala’s Spanish elite and indigenous masses would begin to take on a new
identity—that of the ladino--slowly emerged.

CHAPTER 3
MULATOS, LADINOS, AND RACIAL HIERARCHY
The Emergence of Militias of Color
In October 1643 the President of the audiencia of Guatemala, don Diego de
Avendaño, informed the Spanish Crown that he had ordered the enlistment for possible
military service of all Spaniards, mestizos, blacks, and mulattos in the districts under his
jurisdiction. Avendaño said he had advised the corregidores of Chiquimula de la Sierra
and Acasaguastlán, and the alcalde mayor of Verapaz, to have troops on the ready for
deployment to the Golfo Dulce and Trujillo on the Province of Guatemala’s Caribbean
flank. He had also advised the district administrator of San Salvador and San Miguel to
prepare for possible action along the Pacific coast. The mulatto privateer Dieguillo, the
President wrote, had been pillaging along the coast of Honduras, and had sacked Trujillo
itself. To add to Avendaño’s troubles, the garrison at Santo Tomás de Castilla had been
forced to repel a landing by English invaders in August.1
'Don Diego de Avendaño a la Corona, 1 October 1643, AGI, Guatemala, 16,
R.4, N.27. Dieguillo was apparently Diego, an infamous escaped slave from Havana
who had made cause with Dutch privateers and terrorized, among others, Thomas Gage.
See Gage, Travels, 315-317. The chronicle of Vázquez contains a detailed description
of the 1643 sack of Trujillo, and that of Ximénez discusses an incursion by Dieguillo into
the Golfo Dulce. See Vázquez, Crónica, 4:275-279; Ximénez, Historia, 5:57.
74

75
This was by no means the province’s first experience with incursions by
foreigners. As early as the 1580s, militia forces were dispatched from Santiago de
Guatemala to the Pacific port of Acajutla, in Sonsonate, to ward off attacks by the
English marauder Francis Drake.2 In 1615, Capitán Lucas Garcia Serrano of San Miguel
led a force of as many as five hundred men to the defense of another Pacific port,
Amapala, in the Gulf of Fonseca, after enemy lights were sighted offshore.3 Meanwhile,
French privateers burned the Caribbean port at Puerto Caballos in 1595, and Dutch ships
were threatening the Golfo Dulce by 1606.4 This foreign presence typically invited at
least a cursory military response, despite a growing Spanish colonial appetite for the
smuggled goods that Dutch merchants in particular were able to provide. In April 1618,
for example, ill-provisioned militia forces that had been hastily organized in Chiquimula
and Acasaguastlán spent a brief but miserable time reinforcing the Caribbean garrison
after three alien ships were sighted in the Golfo Dulce.5
2Pardo, Efemérides, 29-30; Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 3:419-420.
The danger Drake posed was even greater toward the southern reaches of the audiencia
of Guatemala, closer to Panamanian transshipment points for Peruvian silver. In 1579,
he seized a ship bound from Costa Rica to Panama bearing sarsaparilla and other Central
American products. See MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 407, note 11.
3Alvarez-Lobos Villatoro and Toledo Palomo, Libro de los Pareceres, 99-100.
4See letter of 29 August 1595 from Comendador Carranza to cabildo of Santiago
de Guatemala, and letters of 18 May 1606 from cabildo of Santiago to Crown, in
“Colección de documentos antiguos,” 434-436, 372-381, esp. 374, 376. See also
Colección de documentos inéditos de ultramar, 2nd series, 17 (Madrid: Tipografía de la
“Rev. de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos,” 1925), 235-238; Fuentes y Guzmán,
Recordación florida, 3:419-420.
5Audiencia (?) a la Corona, 1619 (?), AGI, Guatemala, 14, R.3, N.47, ff.8-20v.

76
The actions taken to enlist blacks and mulattos during the 1640s, though, marked
a significant shift in the audiencia’s defense policy. Avendaño’s decision to form
military units from among the African-descended population indicated the gravity with
which the renewed foreign threat was taken in the wake of recent Spanish reverses on
the global front .6 Previously, militia duty had been the province of local encomenderos—
whose obligations included the maintenance of martial skills and equipment—and
eventually of españoles in general.7 While blacks and mulattos, both slave and free, had
participated in earlier efforts to defend the colony,8 they had never before been explicitly
organized to do so by the Crown’s representatives.
Significantly, Avendaño was endeavoring to pacify once and for all a last maroon
redoubt near the Golfo Dulce at the same time as many of the rest of Guatemala’s free
6Sixty years of Spanish rule in Portugal concluded in 1640, for example, while
Spanish sovereignty over the rebellious (and rich) Netherlands—long ended in all but the
most formal sense-would cease officially in 1648. See J.H. Elliott, Spain and its World,
1500-1700: Selected Essays (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 126-133.
7The Spanish Crown relied almost entirely on local militias to defend its
American possessions until the implementation of the Bourbon reforms in the latter half
of the eighteenth century. See Lyle N. McAllister, The ‘Fuero Militar ’ in New Spain,
1764-1800 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1957), 1-3.
"Blacks and mulattos, both slave and free, were rewarded for their participation
in a battle with the French privateers who burned Puerto Caballos in 1595. In 1615,
Garcia Serrano claimed to have commanded and provisioned a force of 30 españoles,
300 Indian bowmen, and 150 “negros mulatos y mestizos.” The expeditionary force
gathered for duty in the Golfo Dulce in 1618 included at least five armed slaves. See
Colección de documentos inéditos, 17:237; Alvarez-Lobos Villatoro and Toledo
Palomo, Libro de los Pareceres, 99-100; Audiencia (?) a la Corona, 1619 (?), AGI,
Guatemala, 14, R.3, N.47, f.lOv.

77
blacks and mulattos were being enlisted for military duty.9 This parallel development
serves nicely to represent the partial transition underway by the mid-seventeenth century
in the position of people of African descent within colonial Guatemalan society. There
would be few further efforts to establish communities entirely outside the confines of that
society, owing in part to a drastic reduction after the 1630s in the forced immigration of
African slaves—social outsiders par excellence. The opening of militia ranks to free
blacks and mulattos, meanwhile, signaled expanded social opportunity and increased
potential for the heightening of individual status,10 even if military service was frequently
onerous and often resented.
But the colonial racial hierarchy would continue to constrain the mobility of
people defined by African descent, ordering in important ways their relations with
Spaniards, Indians, and mestizos. Since that hierarchy was built in Guatemala primarily
on the labor of the indigenous majority, however, the categories ranged around its
middle reaches would grow ever more permeable. Such classificatory fluidity would
arise in part from the increasingly mulato rather than negro status of the African-
descended population, a demographic development flowing in substantial measure out of
the near-absence of slave imports during much of the later seventeenth century.
9See Chapter 2.
10In the 1640s, companies of gente parda-iree blacks and mulattos-emerged in
the capital as well as in the districts mentioned above. See Lutz, Santiago, 43.

78
It would be inaccurate, nevertheless, to argue that the abstract distinctions made
under the Spanish colonial sistema de castas lost all social meaning during this period.
Guatemala was not, by 1700, a society divided between indios and ladinos, as is often
presumed. Instead, as succeeding chapters demonstrate, there was underway a process
tending slowly in the direction of the elimination of substantive distinctions based on
origin among those groups that were defined neither as indigenous tributaries nor as
españoles. This process occurred in a social context in which the majority of the casta
population was defined categorically as mulato, not mestizo. African origin remained
both clearly evident and a phenomenon requiring explicit classification. Before
proceeding to an examination of the demographic and social contours of the African-
descended population within that context, though, a closer exploration of the colonial
racial hierarchy’s classificatory terminology, and the effectiveness of measures taken by
the Spanish Crown and the audiencia of Guatemala to enforce distinctions based on
origin, is in order. I pay particular attention here to the social meanings of the terms
mestizo and mulato, and to seventeenth-century usages of the word ladino, a term of
extraordinary historical significance in Guatemala.
From Black to Mestizo?
In La patria del criollo, a provocative interpretation of Guatemala’s colonial
history which remains widely influential three decades after it was first published,11
"“Este libro es fundamental para nosotros!” a bookstore owner in Guatemala
City informed me when I purchased my own copy of it a few years ago.

79
Severo Martínez Peláez argued that the Spanish colonial sistema de castas was little
more than a fig leaf obscuring an incipient, class-based social order. In particular,
Martínez Peláez claimed that the distinctions based on origin which held sway in theory
under the sistema de castas did not, in reality, carry social meaning among the various
groups constituting what he termed the capas medias, or middle sectors, of colonial
Guatemalan society. Such divisions as existed among those people who fell into the
capas medias, he said, “had absolutely nothing to do with the formulation of their ethnic
mixture, but only with their economic situation.” “It would be the same,” he went on,
“to call them mestizos, mulatos, pardos, castas, or ladinos.”12
This argument was not without merit, and indeed has had many echoes elsewhere
in colonial historiography.13 It suffered in the context of colonial Guatemala from at
least two major flaws, however. First, Martínez Peláez relied on claims made in early
nineteenth-century documents for much of his discussion of early colonial population
history,14 in fact consulting only one seventeenth-century source with any frequency:
12Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo, 340-341.
13See, for example, the debate which raged over the importance of “estate”
versus “class” in late-colonial Oaxaca in the pages of Comparative Studies in Society
and History during the late 1970s and early 1980s, including John K. Chance and
William B. Taylor, “Estate and Class in a Colonial City: Oaxaca in 1792,” CSSH 19, no.
4 (1977): 454-487; Robert McCaa, Stuart B. Schwartz and Arturo Grubessich, “Race
and Class in Colonial Latin America: A Critique,” and Chance and Taylor’s reply, CSSH
21, no. 3 (1979): 421-442; and Patricia Seed and Philip F. Rust, “Estate and Class in
Colonial Oaxaca Revisited,” with McCaa and Schwartz’ response, and rejoinder by Seed
and Rust, in CSSH 25, no. 4 (1983): 703-724.
14Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo, 276, 316, 709 note 48.

80
Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán’s Recordación florida. Second, and more
telling, despite his avowed assertion that “ethnic” labels were meaningless, he sought
almost uniformly—except in the case of individuals defined explicitly as negro—to impose
the term mestizo on those sectors of the colonial population defined neither as Spanish
nor as indigenous. That he did so in the face of his own frank acknowledgment that
people of African origins had been important social players in colonial Guatemala during
the seventeenth century,15 and to the point of arguing with and even altering the use of
terms such as midato and pardo in documents so as to accord more closely with his
desired understanding,16 undermined seriously his stance of indifference to classification
by origin.
Despite these flaws, La patria del criollo actually underscores the importance of
the African presence in early colonial Guatemala. Martínez Peláez correctly noted, for
example, that it was not uncommon to encounter black slaves in positions of authority
over indigenous workers during the seventeenth century, a finding belying the received
notion that the former occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder.17 Subsequently,
15See, for example, Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo, 434.
16For example, when presenting excerpts from documents containing the terms
mulato or pardo, Martínez Peláez almost without fail suggested that mestizo or ladino
would have been more properly employed. See Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo,
187-188, 194, 338, 698 note 43, 718 note 214, 770 note 32.
17This observation also poses a problem—according to the logic of the racial
hierarchy—for Martínez Peláez’ own claim that blacks were”ya muy pocos” in the
eighteenth century because they had been “absorbed” into the indigenous population.
See Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo, 276-277. Succeeding chapters will show the

81
however, many scholars relying on this work’s portrait of colonial Guatemala ignored
entirely the evidence it contains of a significant black sector worthy of further study,
while adopting wholeheartedly the book’s general assignment of the colonial African
background to irrelevance.18 Prominent historians from both within and outside of
Guatemala have written confidently that mulato must have carried the meaning of
mestizo during the colonial period, because blacks were clearly few in number.19
The most significant exception to the above trend is contained in Christopher
Lutz’s thorough demographic analysis of Central America’s colonial capital. Based on
extensive archival investigation, Lutz’s work reveals beyond any doubt the presence in
large numbers of negros and mulatos--both slave and free—in seventeenth-century
Santiago de Guatemala.20 Lutz also outlines clearly the existence during this period of
particular applicability to colonial Guatemala of James Lockhart’s suggestion that
“[w]ithin Spanish American society overall, ‘slave,’ aside from some obvious
disadvantages, was a rather middling role.” See James Lockhart, “Social Organization
and Social Change in Colonial Spanish America,” in Leslie Bethell, ed., Cambridge
History of Latin America, vol.2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 278.
18Thus replicating the traditional portrait of colonial society drawn, for example,
in a Guatemalan textbook which mentioned the African presence only to indicate that it
“was extremely slight.” See J. Daniel Contreras R., Breve historia de Guatemala, 2nd ed.
(Guatemala: Editorial “José de Pineda Ibarra,” 1961), 56.
19Arturo Taracena Arriola, “El vocablo ‘Ladino’ en Guatemala (S.XVI-XIX),” in
Jorge Luján Muñoz, Historia y antropología de Guatemala: ensayos en honor de J
Daniel Contreras R. (Guatemala: Universidad de San Carlos, 1982), 89-104, esp. 97-98;
David McCreery, Rural Guatemala 1760-1940 (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1994), 7.
20Lutz, Santiago, esp. Chapter 4.

82
legal, hierarchical divisions between mestizos and mulatos, including the fact that only
the latter owed the alternative tribute known as the laborío}1 His work thus provides an
excellent starting point for refuting the notion that mestizo and mulato were much
confused during this period in terms of meaning. Categorization by the former carried
significant benefits with relation to the latter, and encouraged, if anything, division rather
than amalgamation.
Lutz appears, nonetheless, to support the notion that an inexorably biological
process of mestizaje rapidly undermined distinctions between mulatos libres and
mestizos. He claims the two groups were already lumped together as ladinos in the
capital by the 1670s.22 The dictates of biology thus apparently sufficed-in a city where
residents of differing origins formed unions with relative ease—to undermine rather
quickly the Spanish desire to maintain hierarchical distinctions among castas.
This view has much to recommend it. Given that imports of African slaves
dwindled after the 1630s, and that those imported, as elsewhere, were disproportionately
male,23 the eventual dominance of the African-descended population by persons of plural
21Lutz, Santiago, 253-254. The laborío is explored in detail below.
“Lutz, Santiago, 95.
“Leslie B. Rout, Jr., The African Experience in Spanish America: 1502 to the
Present Day (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 71-72. A 1613 inspection
of the slaveship Nuestra Señora de Nazarén at Santo Tomás de Castilla, for example,
revealed a “cargo” from Angola of 97 men and boys and 39 women and girls. The
inventory of the González Donis, or “Anís,” ingenio done in 1630 reveals both that men
outnumbered women more than two to one, and that there were more criollas than
criollos. See AGCA, A3.5. 67. 1291. (1613); A1.20. 536. ff.296v.-302 (1630).

83
descent seemed assured. Increasingly of free status as a result of birth to non-slave
mothers, manumission, and other factors, the subsuming of mulattos within a larger
group of mixed ancestry as the black population declined was perhaps inevitable.
Working against this “natural” process, however, was the existence of the
Spanish racial hierarchy—a product of conscious policy, not biology. No one was born in
colonial Guatemala with the innate understanding that he or she was mulato/a, mestizo/a,
or any of the other “racial” categories employed by the Spaniards.24 Furthermore, the
use of categories other than “Spaniard” was intended clearly to exclude individuals from
social privilege.25 As long as legal disabilities were distributed and enforced differentially
among various categories of non -españoles, the racial hierarchy retained a certain
capacity for organizing and reinforcing social divisions.26
There is little question, of course, that by the mid-seventeenth century the
ancestral origins of individuals whose great-grandparents may already have been of
24Theodore Allen argues in discussing seventeenth-century Virginia that identities
like “white” and “black” were learned, or more exactly, taught. See Allen, Invention, 19.
25For another argument along this line, see Jack D. Forbes, Black Africans and
Native Americans: Color, Race and Caste in the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), 269.
“Significantly, Lutz himself provides evidence to contradict his suggestion that
an amorphous ladino population emerged rapidly in Santiago. He alludes, for example,
to “countless seventeenth- and eighteenth-century historical references to a sizable free
mulatto population.” See Lutz, Santiago, 281 note 30. Douglas Cope suggests that the
sistema de castas was also rapidly decaying at this time in seventeenth-century Mexico
City-demographically similar in many ways to Santiago-owing to a certain “plebeian”
solidarity. His argument weighs heavily, though, on the proto-revolutionary nature of a
1692 riot, which remains, I think, to be proven. See Cope, Limits, esp. Chapter 7.

84
plural descent were no longer as clear as they might have been among members of the
first post-contact generations. Indeed, as seen below, the arbitrary and ambiguous
nature of efforts to classify humans on the basis of origin was on full display by this
point in Spanish colonial history. Classificatory confusion hardly negated the social
ramifications of the designations that were made, however. Definition as mulato or
mulata, for example, carried specific social consequences, even if those consequences
were sometimes successfully avoided.
The Byzantine nature of the Spanish colonial system of social classification is
infamous, so the first order of business here must be to indicate which of its categories
were actually used with any frequency in seventeenth-century Guatemala.27 There were
eight: española,28 mestizo a, mulato/a libre, negro/a libre, mu lato a esclavo a, negro a
27The Church’s Third Mexican Provincial Council, held in 1585, produced a
schema of human classification listing 22 different categories of “mixture.” The official
published account of the Council’s proceedings was made available in Guatemala in
1623. See Agustín Estrada Monroy, Datos para la historia de la iglesia en Guatemala,
vol. 1, Biblioteca “Goathemala” 26 (Guatemala: Sociedad de Geografía e Historia,
1972), 195, 264. For examples of the classificatory regimes which supposedly held sway
in New Spain and Peru during the eighteenth century—containing sixteen and fourteen
categories, respectively—see Mómer, Race Mixture, 58-59.
28The distinction between criollo and peninsular— American-born españoles
versus those from Iberia—was rarely made in seventeenth-century Guatemalan sources,
except in the context of disputes over leadership in religious orders. A claim by Amos
Megged that a distinct criollo identity was emerging by 1600 is seriously undermined by
Megged’s reading of the criollo category into documents in which it does not appear, as
well as by his contradictory assertions to the effect that criollos both identified closely
with mestizos, blacks, and Indians, and shunned such identification in favor of definition
as Spaniards. The latter attitude, in fact, prevailed. Interestingly, the category español
europeo was used commonly in seventeenth-century Antequera, Oaxaca, in southern
New Spain. See Amos Megged, “The Rise of Creole Identity in Early Colonial

85
esclavo/a, indio/a laborío/a, and indio/a tributario/a29 The word ladino was also
important in a social sense, but is left aside for the moment. A final term needing
attention from among the bewildering array of classifications employed in theory is
zambo30 A designation of individuals of African and Indian descent, it was hardly used
in Guatemala. Mulato, instead, was applied to all persons assumed to be of partial
African descent, although the meaning of zambo given here was clearly understood, a
point demonstrated below.31
Guatemala: Differential Patterns in Town and Countryside,” in Social History 17, no. 3
(1992): 421-440; John K. Chance, Race and Class in Colonial Oaxaca (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1978), 126.
29The social ramifications of identification on the basis of the categories listed
also varied by gender, a phenomenon explored later in this and subsequent chapters.
30Sambo, zambahigo.
31The eight primary categories mentioned in this paragraph were used especially
insistently in informaciones matrimoniales dating from the latter half of the seventeenth
century, and held in the AHA. For further explanation of these sources, see Chapters 4
and 5. Other categories showing up from time to time between the late sixteenth and
early eighteenth centuries included moreno/a, loro/a, and pardo/a. The first two
generally appeared as synonyms for negro/a, and the third as an approximation of
mulato/a. See AGCA, A1.56. 5355. 45246 (1593); A1.43. 6071. 54671 (1605); A1.15.
4092. 32461. ff.7, 19-20v. (1605); Al.29.2. 2327. 17286 (1623); Al.29.2. 2610. 21509
(1676); A1.15. 5905. 50092 (1678); A1.56. 2453. 18943 (1693); A1.56. 5357. 45265
(1701); A3.16. 2812. 40737(1702). See also AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:233 (1671). On
similar usages of pardo and moreno in Cuba and New Spain, see “Consulta del Consejo
de las Indias sobre que V.M. podría servirse de dispensar que en el presidio de La
Habana se sienten plazas de soldados a cuatro pardos mulatos” (1671), in Konetzke, ed.,
Colección de documentos, 2, bk. 2:565-566; Naveda Chávez-Hita, “Los estudios
afr omexicanos,” 134-135.

86
The categories mentioned above, not surprisingly, bled into each other, some
more than others. If the classic dichotomy of Spaniard and Indian reflected the most
abiding social chasm existing in colonial Guatemalan society, black and mulatto slaves
were far less distinguishable in terms of general social status. Indeed, all of the
categories other than Spaniard and tributary Indian—with the exception, perhaps, of the
aforementioned slaves—might easily be collapsed into a single broad one designated
imperfectly by the term casta32 But such a move makes little sense for the seventeenth
century. As I have argued already, this period was marked by historical processes
tending, at best, in the direction of a tripartite social structure.
What factors, then, ensured the translation into colonial Guatemalan social reality
of theoretical divisions between mestizo and mulato, for example, and how effective
were these? One important source of division among castas was the alternative tribute
called the laborío33 This tax was levied in theory on persons defined as negros libres,
mulatos libres, and indios laborío.y34 from the 1570s on, but never on mestizos. An
32The classic exposition of this move is McAllister, “Social Structure,” passim
Martínez Peláez’ “capas medias” perform much the same function.
330n the origins of the laborío as levied against negros and mulatos libres, see
Libro VII, título quinto, ley primera, “Que los Negros, y Negras, Mulatos, y Mulatas
libres paguen tributo al Rey” (1574), and Libro VII, título quinto, ley tercera, “Que los
Mulatos,y negros libres vivan con amos conocidos, para que se puedan cobrar sus
tributos” (1577), in Recopilación de leyes de los Reynos de las Indias, 4 vols. (Madrid:
Ediciones Cultura Hispánica, 1973), 2:285-285v.; AGCA, Al.24. 2245. 16190 (1585);
Al.22. 1513. f.719 (1591); García Peláez, Memorias, 2:30; Mómer, La corona, 96.
34From the Caribbean naboría. In colonial Guatemala, the term was originally
applied to personal indigenous servants tied to Spanish households rather than Indian

87
important reservation concerning the laborío is that it is generally held to have been
collected sporadically, at best, and hence insignificant.35 Unquestionably, nothing
approaching consistent and full records of its payment seems to exist.36 There are
scattered references to amounts collected in the nineteenth-century history of Garcia
Peláez, which notes laborío payments totalling 2,568 tostones registered in a libro de
caja from 1679, and a record as late as 1729 of 500 tostones “procedentes de morenos
de la provincia de Suchitepéquez ”37 But even if collected regularly, the laborío’s
communities, and eventually to all individuals defined as Indian who were not on the
tribute rolls of an indigenous community. Laborio/a was used interchangeably with
naborio/a in seventeenth-century documents.
35See, for example, Michel Bertrand, “La tierra y los hombres: la sociedad rural
en Baja Verapaz durante los siglos XVI al XIX,” in Stephen Webre, ed., La sociedad
colonial en Guatemala: estudios regionales y locales (Antigua: Centro de
Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica, 1989), 163. Bertrand errs in claiming that
mestizos as well as mulattos owed tribute, but then royal authorities were not themselves
always clear on this point. See decree of 29 November 1674, “Para que el virrey y
audiencia de México informen sobre las órdenes en cuya virtud ejecutan la tasación de
tributarios solo en los indios y mulatos y no en los mestizos,” in Konetzke, ed.,
Colección de documentos, 2, bk. 2:610-611.
360n early efforts to collect the laborío in Guatemala, see the reference to a 1611
order (a reference conflating the laborío with the servicio del tostón, a one tostón levy
tacked onto tribute payments to cover the costs of collection), in Pardo, Efemérides, 84-
86; “Libro y cuaderno de los yndios mulatos y negros libres naborios que en
conformidad de lo dispuesto y mandado por su magestad se empadronan en el partido de
que?altenango” (1613), AGCA. Al.24. 2801. 40502, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
Day Saints (hereafter LDS) microfilm 0747059. On similar collection efforts elsewhere
in Spanish America, see royal decree of 27 July, 1627, “Que los negros y mulatos libres
paguen tributo,” in Konetzke, ed., Colección de documentos, 2, bk. 1:306; Escobedo
Mansilla, “El tributo,” passim, Bowser, The African Slave, 121.
37García Peláez, Memorias, 2:30, 36. Citations from AGCA documents kindly
provided to me by Franz Binder suggest that a concerted study of laborío payment

88
proceeds would have been dwarfed by the revenues produced for the Crown by
indigenous communities. There is, nevertheless, a good deal of evidence other than
actual records of payment to suggest that this tribute mattered to those required by law
to pay it, to individuals claiming to be mestizos, and to royal officials charged with the
collection of Crown revenues.
When, for instance, a free mulatto named Francisco de Sosa was charged in 1631
with assaulting a royal official, his legal representative drew up a list of questions for
prospective witnesses to answer which included a statement alleging Sosa’s good
character, propensity for hard work, and regular payment of the “tributo de naborío” he
owed.38 Eleven years later, Matheo Hernández, mulato libre of San Diego de la
Gomera, complained that the alcalde of his town was trying to extort a bribe from him in
return for relief from the laborío. Hernández asserted that he had always paid the tribute
despite the fact that he no longer even owed it, being about 70 and thus some fifteen
years past the age of exemption.39 In fact, the laborío was perhaps nowhere more
relevant than in the town of San Diego, whose largely black and mulatto residents would
records might turn up more substantial sums than previously thought.
38AGCA, A1.15. 4109. 32564.
39AGCA, A1.24. 1559. 10203, ff.458-458v. (1642).

89
argue in 1700 that disputed saltpans they had long worked had been granted to them on
the town’s founding to facilitate its payment.40
The clearest evidence that the laborío was not entirely irrelevant in colonial
Guatemalan life is provided in petitions for relief from it made by militia units of color
during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. These petitions are examined
in detail toward the end of this dissertation, but it will suffice here to note that audiencia
officials concerned with falling revenues strenuously opposed them almost without fail.
Crown officials, it seems, would not easily be persuaded to give up any potential sources
of revenue, however poor the record of collection. The case of Matheo Hernández,
mentioned above, is instructive in this regard. He was forced to make the trip to the
capital and appear before the audiencia in person so that its members could determine
for themselves whether or not he was old enough to be exempted from tribute.41
Royal officials in Spain itself also turned their attention to the laborío from time
to time during the seventeenth century. A particularly striking example of this interest
arose out of a complaint sent to Spain in 1681 by Don Gerónimo Chacón Abarca, an
oidor in Santiago de Guatemala. Chacón alleged that mulatto militia captains charged
with collecting the laborío from communities in and around the capital went armed door
to door, threatening residents, in an effort to extract the Crown’s revenue. In an
^‘Testimonio de los Autos Proveydos . . . en favor de los Mulatos de la Villa de
San Diego de la Gomera, 1700,” AGI, Guatemala, 285.
41AGCA, Al.24. 1559. 10203. ff.458-458v.

90
especially notorious incident, these officers had broken the arm of one hapless individual.
On complaining of mistreatment to the authorities, the victim had been thrown in jail .42
Responding to Chacon’s letter in 1682, the Crown made its primary concern
clear. It ordered that an officer of the peace and a treasury official be appointed to
collect the laborío directly, and in the most benign manner possible. This course of
action would ensure that those who owed the tribute paid it without rancor and, more
important, with “utmost punctuality.” The Crown also mandated punishment for the
offending militia officers, who had apparently met until then with nothing but solid
approval for their abusive tactics. Other efforts to mend tattered relations with potential
taxpayers included a ban henceforth on the employment of mulattos in tribute collection.
This signaled apparent agreement with the assessment of the oidor—appropriately
justifying Spanish attempts to arrange society hierarchically according to ancestry-that
the mulato captains were “impudent and discourteous by nature.”*3
Of course, the existence of mulatto militia captains in late seventeenth century
Guatemala suggests that the incorporation of free people of African descent into militias
during the 1640s had indeed increased their opportunities for social mobility. Such
evidence of actual colonial practice indicates clearly that ongoing efforts by the Crown to
42AGCA, A1.23. 4587. 39540. ff,106v-108v. (1682).
43AGCA, A1.23. 4587. 39540. ff. 106v-108v. Emphasis added. Continued royal
concern over the collection of the laborío extended beyond Guatemala. See decree of
31 December 1674, “A la audiencia de Guadalajara que ponga todo cuidado en que se
continue la paga del empadronamiento de los mulatos y negros libres,” in Konetzke, ed.,
Colección de documentos, 2, bk. 2:613-614.

91
restrict the activities of blacks and mulattos-by prohibiting them, for example, from
carrying weapons44—were increasingly meaningless in the face of contrary Spanish needs.
On the other hand, militia service, like the laborío, provided a specific area of practice in
which hierarchical distinctions were drawn between mulattos and mestizos. Mestizos
often served with companies of gente española. These units were segregated from ones
whose troops were identified with terms such as gente parda or gente de color. In the
early 1680s, for instance, the corregimiento of Guazacapán was able to muster three
militia companies: one whose 150 members were listed as españoles and mestizos, and
two others totaling 250 men described as mulatos and gente parda.** In 1700,
meanwhile, one Andrés Graviel of Santiago de Guatemala complained that he was being
harassed to pay the laborío even though he was “known as a mestizo " and had marched
^See Libro VII, título quinto, ley 15, “Que los Negros, y Loros, libres, ó
esclavos, no traigan armas”(1551); Libro VII, título quinto, ley 14, “Que los Mulatos, y
Zambaigos no traigan armas, y los Mestizos las puedan traer con licencia” (1568), in
Recopilación, 2:287; real cédula of 4 April, 1628, “Que los ministros de las Indias no
den licencia para traer negros con armas” in Konetzke, ed., Colección de documentos, 2,
bk. 1:317; reference to ordinance of 8 April 1634 forbidding mulattos, free blacks, and
mestizos from carrying swords or knives in Santiago de Guatemala, in Pardo,
Efemérides, 51; and 1663 order reminding colonists of earlier prohibitions on the
possession of weapons by “slaves, mulattos, and mestizos,” in AGCA, A 1.23. 1519.
10074. ffl08-108v. (1663).
45“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría, 815, ff.32v. See also Stephen Webre, “Las
compañías de milicia y la defensa del istmo centroamericano en el siglo XVII: el
alistamiento general de 1673,” Mesoamérica 14 (1987): 511-529, esp. 518. In at least
one district, Chiquimula de la Sierra, mulattos and mestizos apparently served together.
The significance of this circumstance emerges in Chapters 4 and 7.

92
as such for 16 years in the barrio of Santo Domingo’s militia company oí gente
española46
Given the benefits of definition as mestizo over mulato, it is not surprising to
encounter examples of individuals claiming membership in the former category even as
other people, often representing the opposing side in criminal or civil disputes, suggested
that they fell into the latter. During an effort in the 1690s by one Juan de Cárdenas to
have his daughter Catalina absolved of any obligation to pay either regular tribute or the
laborío, Cárdenas insistently referred to both his wife and himself as mestizos. The
Indian alcaldes of the neighborhood of San Gerónimo in Santiago, and the various
witnesses the alcaldes called, just as insistently called Cárdenas a mulato libre and his
wife an india tributaria47
46Graviel’s argument evidently made sense to the audiencia. It supported his
petition. See AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6534 (1700).
47AGCA, A3.16. 2812. 40737 (1702). Similar cases of auto-identification as
mestizo/a contradicted by definition as mulato/a by others may be found in Martha Blair
Few, “Mujeres de Mal Vivir: Gender, Religion, and the Politics of Power in Colonial
Guatemala, 1650-1750” (Ph D. dissertation, University of Arizona, 1997), 120 note 22.
Further illustrations of popular understanding of the racial hierarchy’s logic include the
1660 case of Joseph de Meza, a muleteer charged with attempting to kill his wife while
inebriated. Meza called himself an español, and his wife a mulata libre, but Spanish
artisans witnessing against him labeled them both mestizo/a. In 1701, meanwhile, Bias
de Santiago stood accused of stealing from Santiago’s Oratorio de Nuestra Señora del
Patrocinio while employed as sexton. The formal complaint identified him as a mulatto,
but a witness who claimed Santiago owed her money called him an Indian. See AGCA
A1.56. 2453. 18930 (1660); A2.2. 137. 2481 (1701).

93
That the relationship between the categories mestizo and mulatto was hierarchical
in nature is underscored by the absence of evidence indicating that persons defined as
mestizo ever sought identification as mulattos. That many mulattos may actively have
pursued classification as mestizos, however, does not entail the rapid “disappearance” of
populations identified by African descent either in colonial Guatemala or elsewhere in
Spanish America, as is often intimated.48 Indeed, the present dissertation demonstrates
that despite ongoing and undoubtedly significant movement out of the mulatto category,
individuals identified as mulatos actually far outnumbered those called mestizos in
Guatemala until at least 1701, nearly two hundred years after the Spanish first arrived.
Nor does an imprecise suggestion made by Christopher Lutz that parish priests
“increasingly omitted racial designations from parish registers altogether” during the late
seventeenth century give a proper sense of the timing or the magnitude of this
development.49 Lutz is absolutely right that the phenomenon occurred, but leaves the
impression, perhaps unwittingly, that it had undermined traditional efforts at
classification well before the eighteenth century. His own data from the capital
contradict that impression.50 And evidence that I have taken from 674 informaciones
48See, for example, Aguirre Beltrán, La población negra, 278; Wendy Kramer,
W. George Lovell, and Christopher H. Lutz, “La conquista española de Centroamérica,”
in Pinto Soria, ed., Historia General de Centroamérica, 2:87.
49Lutz, Santiago, 95.
5üSee columns for Other/Unidentified under the Marriage Tables in Appendix 1 in
Lutz, Santiago, 177-206.

94
matrimoniales dating from the years 1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701, and produced
throughout the Province of Guatemala, including the capital, show that despite a steady
upward progression in the number of marriage candidates left unidentified by origins, the
number not defined at all in 1701 had barely surpassed sixteen percent of the total.51
Of course, the fact that classification by origin was practiced says little about the
relationship between that practice and the content or accuracy of the identifications
made. Categorization on the basis of origin is always selective, particularly where people
of “mixed” or “plural” parentage are concerned. Such categorization is also notorious
for being socially produced, such that the same individual may be classified in
significantly varied ways from society to society, and even under differing circumstances
within a single society.52
Perhaps the best that can be accomplished in determining the content and
relationship to social practice of colonial classifications is to attempt to discover how
terms were understood, and to isolate examples either corroborating or contradicting
that understanding. Was the term mulato, for instance, understood in colonial
51The increase from 1671 to 1701 is clearly significant, rising steadily from
4.4 percent of the total in 1671 to 7 .1 percent in 1681, 12 percent in 1691, and
16 .1 percent in 1701. Nevertheless, more than four-fifths of petitioners continued to be
defined according to origin in the latter year. Indeed, a study of petitions from 1750
reveals little change from 1701 in the percentage of marriage candidates left undefined.
The 1750 statistics, however, must be presented with the caveat that no effort was made
to examine marriages during the intervening half-century in systematic fashion. Again,
for detailed discussion of these sources, see Chapters 4 and 5 and, for 1750, Chapter 7.
52See, for example, Harris, Patterns of Race, 54-58.

95
Guatemala to mean an individual with African and Spanish antecedents, in line with the
classifications which operated in theory? Were there individuals labeled mulato whose
ancestry accorded with accepted definitions? To what extent did these individuals
constitute the societal norm? Finally, and most important, what difference did
classification as mulato make? These questions can never be answered definitively, but
nevertheless require extensive investigation if a fuller comprehension of the African
experience in colonial Guatemala is to be attained.
It might be argued relatively safely that the least problematic classifications made
on the basis of origin in colonial Guatemala were those forming the social triangle
español—negro-indio. Even these, however, can hardly be said to have represented the
sort of “purity” of origin with which they are often associated. Among American-born
“Spaniards,” for example, descent from unions between Spanish invaders and Indian
women extended into the upper ranks of the “Spanish” sector.53 This is not to mention,
“Martínez Peláez claimed the term criollo “designated children of Spaniards bom
in the Americas without any mestizaje,” but such “purity” was simply not maintained
among elite ranks. The most famous Guatemalan example of elite mestizaje involved
doña Leonor de Alvarado, the daughter of Pedro de Alvarado and the tlaxcalteca
noblewoman doña Luisa Xicotencatl who wed two prominent Spaniards in succession.
Another mestiza descendant of Alvarado and doña Luisa, doña Francisca Maldonado de
Guzmán Villacreces y Alvarado, was similarly well placed. They were not alone. See
Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo, 23; Pilar Sanchiz Ochoa, “Españoles e indígenas:
estructura social del valle de Guatemala en el siglo XVI,” in Webre, ed., La sociedad
colonial, 49-51, 73 note 47; Murdo J. MacLeod, “Self-Promotion: The Relaciones de
Méritos y Servicios and their Historical and Political Interpretation,” Colonial Latin
American Historical Review 7, no. 1 (1998): 32-33. On “Spaniards” and mestizaje
elsewhere in the sixteenth century, see Kuznesof, “Ethnic and Gender Influences,” 156-
159; Kathryn Bums, Colonial Habits: Convents and the Spiritual Economy of Cuzco,
Peru (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999), esp. 34-38.

96
of course, the wide variations in status based on such factors as occupational
differentiation.54
“Blacks,” too, fell into a variety of categories, including American-born {criollo),
“Hispanicized” immigrant {ladino), and newly arrived African {bozal). Among the latter,
distinctions were frequently drawn on the basis of place of origin on the African
continent. “Angola” appears most commonly on seventeenth-century slave lists, but
many other designations were used as well, some more clear than others in ascribing
specific geographic or “ethnic” origins to individual slaves.55
Finally, “Indians” came from a variety of linguistic groups, most, but not all, of
Maya origin and each with clear social hierarchies, the contours of which Spanish
colonialism altered substantially but did not entirely erase. From the standpoint of
Spanish colonial classification, though, indigenous peoples fell generally into two groups.
The vast majority were tied by specific tribute and labor obligations to individual
communities, while the subservient status of a smaller group—including descendants of
the Spanish conquerors’ Mexican allies and indios laboríos—was less well defined and
enforced.
54Sanchiz Ochoa, “Españoles e indígenas,” 41-44
550f 28 slaves living on the trapiche of don Juan de Ayala and doña Francisca de
Mesa in Escuintepeque in 1619, six were defined as angola, four as congo/a, and two as
mandinga. Others were labeled variously as mazanbique, biafara, vervesi, valanda,
moxinda, plus a few criollos. Meanwhile, angola was applied to 46 of some 185 slaves
inventoried in 1630 on the Anís ingenio. Other terms used in this inventory include
congo/a, anchico, minero, mozungue or mozangue, corramires biafara, and ninanga.
See AGCA A1.15. 4103. 32523 (1619); AGCA, A1.20. 536. ff.296v.-302 (1630).

97
However indeterminate each of the preceding categories may have been,
however, an individual assigned to one of the three groups mentioned was extremely
unlikely to be taken for a member of one of the others. Though mestizaje complicated
the issue enormously, its “products,” the castas, were nevertheless slotted quite logically
in theory into the early colonial social fabric in accordance with the hierarchy outlined
under the sistema de castas. The offspring of Spaniard and Indian (mestizos) were
placed above the children of Spaniard and African {mulatos), while both outranked the
most despised of “mixed” categories: people of African and Indian descent {zambos,
zambahigos). This logic is very important to keep in mind, not because it ensured the
accuracy of “racial” labels, but because it structured the direction which individual
efforts to shed one identity in favor of another would take.56
In colonial Guatemala, the near-absence of the term zambo from everyday
colonial usage simplified matters: slaves were labeled either mulatos esclavos or negros
esclavos, and free castas either mestizos or mulatos libres. During the seventeenth
century, the latter term was clearly understood to denote individuals of partial African
descent, whatever other origins were involved. Thus Fuentes y Guzmán, in a bit of
classificatory exposition not cited by Martínez Peláez, indicated that Chipilapa, the
village neighboring San Diego de la Gomera, was “populated by mulattos, the majority
56See Mómer, La corona, 100-101 and Race Mixture, 60; Lowell Gudmundson,
“Mecanismos de movilidad social para la población de procedencia africana en Costa
Rica: manumisión y mestizaje,” Revista de Historia 2, no. 3 (1976): 161, 165, 167.

98
of whom are those called zambos, whose descent is from the mixture of Indian women
with black men.”57
Unfortunately, the marriage petitions I mentioned above generally omit details of
the parentage of prospective couples. Nevertheless, among the diligencias which do
indicate ancestry it is not difficult to find examples which illustrate that parish priests
frequently shared the expansive understanding of mulato held by Fuentes y Guzmán.58
Gerónimo Reyes, who petitioned to wed in 1671, was described as the son of a black
slave of the ingenio of San Gerónimo and an india tributaria of Salamá, and labeled
mulato libre 59 The parents of Christóbal Ramírez of the Valle de las Vacas, another
midato libre involved in a marriage petition that same year, were identified as Simón
Ramírez, negro, and Ana María, india60 And a decade later, Juan Pascual, a mulato
libre of Opico, near San Salvador, was listed as the legitimate son of the black slave
57Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:79.
58Meanwhile, I found only two examples of the use of the term zambo (or sambo)
among nearly one thousand diligencias matrimoniales examined in total. One mentions
a Lorenfo de la Cruz indio sanbo laborío (!) of San Miguel, and the second refers to
Pedro Juan sambo or mulato sambo of San Salvador. See AHA, A4.16, T5 106:10
(1691), and A4.16, T6 105:2408[B] (1701).
59AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:268.
“AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:170.

99
Sebastián de la Cruz and the india Josepha Ramirez in his petition to marry a mulata
libre of Zacatecoluca.61
The next two chapters demonstrate that marriage between black slaves and
Indian women was in fact surprisingly common in some regions of colonial Guatemala,
to say nothing of extramarital unions between these two groups that are much harder to
document but whose frequency throughout Spanish America was a source of much
concern to the Spanish Crown from the early sixteenth century on.62 I argue below, in
fact, that in many places in the southern and eastern regions of the Province of
Guatemala, colonial mestizaje arose primarily out of relationships between men of
African origins and indigenous women. There is less evidence of mulattos being bom of
Spanish men and African women, although marriage records are hardly the place in
which examples of such would be found, given matrimonial status considerations and
colonial power relationships. Also significant is that there are few examples of
indigenous men marrying or producing children with women categorized by African, let
alone Spanish, descent.
61 AHA, A4.16, T4 105:293. A much earlier document, the 1619 will of one
Santos López, confirms that the term mulato had long been bestowed upon the children
of unions between Africans and Indians. It also provides a rare glimpse of a relationship
between an indigenous man and a black slave woman, one Ana Felipa, whose mulatto
son Bernabé was the child of this union. See AGCA, A1.43. 4877. 41805 (1625).
62Libro VII, título quinto, ley segunda, “Que los hijos de negros libres, o
esclavos, havidos en matrimonio con Indias, deven tributar” (1573), in Recopilación,
2:285v.; Mómer, La corona, 94-96, 100.

100
To return to the matter of classification, though, there are always exceptions to
every rule. Two particularly striking instances emerge in marriage petitions filed in
Olocuilta, just outside San Salvador, in 1671, and in Amapala, the port of San Miguel,
twenty years later. In the earlier petition, Juan Hernández, the son of Francisco
Hernández, español, and Ana Pérez, india, of San Miguel, was classified as a mulato
libre.63 In the second, Joseph de los Reyes was also described as a free mulatto, despite
the fact that his parents, Miguel Pérez and Francisca López, were listed as indios vecinos
of San Miguel.64 Mistakes or not, these examples underscore the dangers inherent in
accepting unquestioningly the content of the classifications made in colonial documents.
More pervasive than these clear but unusual departures from the classificatory
norm, however, was a certain “confusion” over the definition of individuals whose
parents were categorized by differing plural origins. In one of the cases mentioned
above, for example, Juan Hernández’ bride-to-be, María de Escalante, was listed as the
legitimate daughter of the mestizo Julio de la Cruz and the mulata libre Beatriz de
Escalante. María was assigned, like her mother, to the category mulata libre, but, as
the following discussion demonstrates, the logic of this classification is not immediately
clear.
It appears at first that the designation bestowed on Escalante was intended to
reflect the “taint” of her mother’s lower-status category. At least one other petition,
63AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:93.
64AHA, A4.16, T5 106:175 (1691).

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from Chalchuapa in 1673, adhered to the pattern described in Escalante’s case. The
prospective bride, Lorenza Morán, also had a father identified as a mestizo and a mother
as mulata libre, and was herself defined as mulata65 Furthermore, the classification of
mulata given to Escalante and Morán was also applied to three other petitioners of
similar “mixed” background—Juana Morales of San Salvador, Juana Gutiérrez of
Atiquizaya, and Maria de la Cruz of Chiquimula de la Sierra—despite the fact that it was
the fathers of the latter three who were listed as free mulattos, and the mothers as
mestizas66 But what, then, to make of the designations applied to Maria Ortiz of Mita,
Francisca del Espíritu Santo of Chiquimula, and Josepha de la Encamación of
Texistepeque? While the first two women had fathers listed as mestizos and mothers
defined as mulattas, and the classifications of the third’s parents were reversed, the
parental combinations involved mirrored those which emerged in the previous five
cases.67 These three women, nevertheless, were labeled mestizas. A schema of status
considerations based solely on the origins of the women mentioned cannot easily explain
all eight cases. Indeed, a possible answer to the puzzle emerges only when the
65AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:322.
66AHA, A4.16, T5 1.21:68 (1655); A4.16, T4 1.12:149 (1671); A4.16, T4
105:365 (1681). The origins of de la Cruz’ intended husband, Thomas de la Cruz of
Mita, were characterized by a formula which appears far more commonly, and without
deviations from the classificatory norm. He was called mulato libre, and identified as the
son of a mulatto father and an indigenous mother.
67AHA, A4.16, T4 105:316 (1681); A4.16, T5 106:59 (1691); A4.16,
T6 105:2331 (1701).

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classifications of the prospective grooms are considered: the five women categorized as
mulata were all marrying men defined as free mulattos, while the three designated as
mestizas were preparing to wed mestizos, in two cases, and an indio laborío from
Chiapas who was quite possibly of noble descent in the third.
Is Martínez Peláez’ argument about the social, and even literal equivalence of the
categories mestizo and mulato thus more or less correct? Or are the above cases
evidence rather of the importance of gender in the determination of classification under
the sistema de castas? Given the documentation presented up to this point of
distinctions persisting between mestizos and mulattos in military service and the payment
of tribute into the late seventeenth century-documentation almost entirely involving
males—the latter seems a more likely explanation.
This line of argument is also supported by evidence taken from requests for
dispensations from the Church’s ban on marriage to an individual who had engaged in
sexual relations with one’s close relatives. Cases from eastern Guatemala in the 1670s
reveal, in one instance, a man named Nicolás González seeking a dispensation to marry
an española in Chiquimula de la Sierra whose cousin he had allegedly slept with, and
being denied, in part, because he hid his mulatto background.68 In another, Ursula
Simona Bernal, a native of Jutiapa categorized sometimes as mestiza and other times as
mulata, was permitted to wed a peninsular from Bilbao precisely because she and
68AHA, A4.16, T5 1.22:27 (1673). The very fact that González could “hide”
such origins, of course, says a good deal about the local possibilities for “racial”
mobility.

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several other women with whom the prospective groom had engaged in sexual relations
were either mestizas or mulatas, and not much could be expected of women “de esta
qualidad ”69 Clerical officials, it appears, considered it more important to establish
González’ exact origins than Bernal’s, suggesting again that women’s “racial” status may
have been more malleable, at least in the context of marriage.70
It will also be seen in the following chapters that regional factors cannot be
discounted in assessing the manner in which origins were determined. All of the
petitions just mentioned emanated from the eastern districts of Chiquimula de la Sierra,
Sonsonate, and San Miguel. In part because of their demographic profiles, these were
precisely the areas in which the fewest distinctions appear to have been made between
mestizos and mulatos by the time the eighteenth century dawned.
The Many Faces of the Seventeenth-Century Ladino
Before embarking on a regional demographic survey of the Province of
Guatemala—intended to illuminate the process by which groups identified on the basis of
African origins were integrated into the larger non-indigenous population—an assessment
of the role of the term ladino in seventeenth-century classification is in order. Such an
69AHA, A4.16, T5 1.22:39 (1676-1678). Bernal’s parents, Lucas Bernal and
Juana de Godoy, were designated as “indio lavorio” and “mulata libre.”
70Bemal, in fact, was even called an española in the testimony of her proposed
peninsular husband, Pedro de Vertís Cortásar. See AHA, A4.16, T5 1.22:39. See also
Elizabeth Kuznesof s suggestion that gender “had a strong impact on the ‘stickiness’ of
race as a social category,” especially in early colonial Spanish America, in Kuznesof,
“Ethnic and Gender Influences,” 155-156, 164.

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assessment is important because, as previously noted, it is often assumed that the term
was applied in a consistent and logical manner to castas at this time, signifying the
absence of other meaningful, non-economic distinctions among that population. I argue
that such an understanding is erroneously applied to the seventeenth century, but also
produce evidence to suggest that ladino was indeed beginning to be understood as a
label for all non-Indians, especially castas. But its traditional, and more or less
contradictory, usage as a term denoting Indians who spoke Spanish was also alive and
well.
The sense of facility in a language that was not one’s own was one of several
meanings already carried by the term ladino when Spaniards first arrived in the
Americas. It was applied in the Iberian peninsula, for example, to African slaves who
had become “Hispanicized,” and thus were no longer bozales. When applied to slaves, it
often encompassed a broader meaning which integrated an alternate usage denoting
shrewdness or craftiness and extended to the ability to manipulate Spanish customs
adroitly. This expansive meaning seems frequently to have been embedded in the
application of ladino to Spanish-speaking members of indigenous groups in the
Americas.71
71 See “Ladino,” in Diccionario de la lengua española; “Ladino,” in J.
Coraminas, Diccionario crítico etimológico de la lengua castellana, (Beme: A. Francke
AG, 1954). See also Rolena Adorno, “The indigenous ethnographer. The ''indio ladino’
as historian and cultural mediation,” in Stuart B. Schwartz, ed., Implicit
Understandings: Observing, Reporting, and Reflecting on the Encounters Between
Europeans and Other Peoples in the Early Modern Era (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994), 378-381.

105
Identifications as “indio ladino en [la] lengua castellana” of the Spanish-speaking
Indians who appear in criminal and civil suits, marriage petitions, and sundry other forms
of seventeenth-century documentation are legion. This usage was by far the most
prevalent at the time. During the early part of the century, it was not uncommon as well
to find people of African origins identified as ladino on the basis of their ability to speak
Spanish, or to see the term applied to facility in any language that was not one’s first.
Thus the free mulatto Gaspar de la Cruz, the free black Lorenzo de Pinguia, the black
slave Matías Reymundo, and the black slave Maria Conga were all identified as
“ladino[a] en lengua castellana” in criminal cases dating from 1607 and 1609, while a
group of Indians involved in a dispute over a house in the capital a few years earlier were
noted to be “ladinos en lengua mexicana.”72 A 1638 civil suit over the sale of a
“defective” slave in Santiago de Guatemala, meanwhile, exhibited the use of ladino to
indicate a certain level of familiarity with Spanish cultural forms. The suit revolved
around the alleged physical incapacity of a slave named Domingo, described as “un
negro entre Ladino y bozal de nasion angola.”73
72AGCA, Al.15. 4090. 32446 (1600?); Al.15. 4092. 32462. f.3 (1607); Al.15.
4103. 32524 (1607); Al.15. 4093. 32474. f.7v. (1609).
73AGCA, Al. 15. 4111. 32578. Oddly enough, Domingo was also referred to at
one point as a “mulato de tierra angola”! For evidence of similar applications of ladino
to individuals of African origins in Nicaragua and New Spain, see Constantino Láscaris,
Historia de las ideas en Centroamérica, 2nd ed. (San José: EDUCA, 1982), 194; and
Stem, “Gente de Color Quebrado,” 203. Stem is somewhat inattentive to the subtleties
of colonial vocabulary, leaving the impression, for example, that “black” and casta are
indistinguishable terms.

106
Variants of the designation indio ladino en lengua castellana continue to appear
in documentation throughout the remainder of the seventeenth century and, indeed, well
into the eighteenth.74 While Adriaan Van Oss has argued that the term indio ladino was
virtually a synonym for indio laborío by this time—and hence less a designation of the
ability to speak Spanish than of a category approaching “non-Indian”—examples of
indigenous individuals defined explicitly as both tributary and ladino persist in marriage
petitions dating from around 1700.75 Ladino also continued to show up on occasion as a
means of denoting facility in the use of any language on the part of anyone, Indian or
not.76 It is not so much that Van Oss’ interpretation is wrong, however.77 It is rather the
case that multiple and contradictory meanings of the term ladino began to co-exist in
74A sample of marriage petitions from just one district-Guazacapán-which
exhibit this usage includes AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:205 (1671); A4.16, T4 105:359
(1681); A4.16, T5 106:101 (1691); and A4.16, T6 105:2390(1701). For examples from
criminal and other records, see AGCA, A1.15. 4126. 32960 (1679); A1.56. 2453. 18936
(1681); A2.2. 137. 2491 (1709); AGCA, A2.2. 137. 2497 (1719); A2.2. 137. 2501
(1729); A2.2. 137. 2509(1731).
75See examples from San Antonio Suchitepéquez, the Valle de las Vacas, and San
Cristóbal Amatitlán in AHA, A4.16, T5 106:168 (1691); A4.16, T6 105:2443 (1701);
and A4.16, T6 105:2390 (1701). Van Oss declared categorically that indio ladino
referred to “Hispanicized Indians who no longer paid tribute ... as opposed to indio
tributario.” See Van Oss, Catholic Colonialism, 69-71.
76Andrés Guevara, a witness in a 1683 criminal case in the highland district of
Huehuetenango who spoke the local language (undoubtedly Mam) as well as Spanish,
was identified as “mesttizo y ladino en ambas lenguas.” See AGCA, Al. 15. 2890. 26610.
f. 12.
77To be fair, the phrases “indio ladino laborío” or “indio ladino y laborío” appear
far more frequently than “indio ladino tributario.”

107
colonial Guatemala from the 1650s on, a period during which the emergence of a new
connotation for the term becomes increasingly noticeable.
As early as 1655, a Spanish resident of San Juan Amatitlán writing to the Crown
in support of local indigenous officials who were seeking funds to repair the parish
church noted that the church was spiritual home not only to the village’s large Indian
population, but for “mucha gente Ladina” as well.78 In the record of a visita of San
Salvador in 1670, meanwhile, Bishop Mañosea y Murillo of the Diocese of Guatemala
and Verapaz mentioned examining a marriage register of “españoles y gente ladina”
which dated from 1647. And the Bishop’s successor, Juan de Ortega Montañez, clearly
distinguished between five indigenous cofradías and two others belonging to “españoles
y ladinos” and “personas ladinas” during a similar inspection of the parish of
Mazatenango in 1679.79
The emergence of this new category—gente ladina—was extremely significant, for
it served to underscore the importance of the social division that existed between Indian
tributaries—on whose backs the colonial racial hierarchy in Guatemala was primarily
built— and Spaniards, mestizos, free mulattos, free blacks, and indios laboríos. In a
78See testimony of Joseph de Melgar, 9 March 1655, in the expediente entitled
“La Iglesia del Pueblo de San Juan de Amatitlán de Guatemala,” enclosed in La Corona a
don Martin Carlos de Meneos, 1663, AGI, Guatemala, 72.
79Visita of Doctor don Juan de Santo Matías Sáenz de Mañosea y Murillo to San
Salvador, 1670, AHA, Visitas Pastorales, Tomo 1, TI 63, ff.4-18v. esp. f. 8v.; visita of
Bishop Juan de Ortega Montañez to San Bartolomé Mazatenango, 1679, AHA, Visitas
Pastorales, Tomo 1, TI 63, ff.65-117, esp. f.68v., f.92v.

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sense, it represented a reworking of the traditional “two republics” dichotomy which
divided colonial society, in theory, into discrete Spanish and Indian sectors. But the
precise content of the new category was by no means fixed during the late seventeenth
century, nor was its use indicative of the disappearance of hierarchical distinctions
among the non-indigenous population.
The most noteworthy of these persistent distinctions, as is to be expected, was
the one placing españoles above everyone else. On the one hand, a 1689 census of
parishes under Franciscan control could make reference repeatedly to the numbers of
“personas ladinas entre españoles, mestizos y mulatos” living in various communities,
thus lumping together Spaniards and castas under a single category.80 On the other, four
vecinos of Mazatenango clearly distinguished among Spaniards and other non-Indians in
the community in a petition requesting permission to raise funds for non-indigenous
cofradías. They indicated that they were making the petition on behalf of a number of
other local residents, “asi españoles como ladinos.”81
80See descriptions of the residents of Almolonga, San Andrés Itzapa, Patzicia,
San Andrés Sematabaj, Samayac, and Jocoro in “Descripción de los conventos de la
Santa Provincia del Nombre de Jesús de Guatemala, hecha el año de 1689,” transcription
by J. Joaquín Pardo, in Vázquez, Crónica, 4:34, 39, 40, 43, 52, 62. In a few instances
the authors of the census equated ladinos with Spaniards and mestizos only, and once
with mestizos and mulattos, but their general understanding of the term was made
explicit when they stated that the total number of souls under their spiritual jurisdiction
was 53,766 Indians over the age of eight, and 680 “personas ladinas (esto es, españoles,
mestizos y mulatos.)” See “Descripción,” Vásquez, Crónica, 64.
81AHA, A4.14, T2 109:63 (1679).

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The distinction between Spaniards, on the one hand, and the rest of society, on
the other, was especially emphasized when Spanish privilege appeared to be at stake. In
March of 1677, the Mercedarian friar Felipe de Moráez complained that the “negros,
mulatos, mestizos e Indios” of the cofradía of Nuestra Señora de la Esclavitud in
Santiago de Guatemala were refusing to respect the precedence of the confraternity’s
Spanish members in processions. The latter, humble tailors all, expressed grave
indignation at the impudence of mulattos and others of such base “calidad.”82 The
tailors’ complaint echoed the longstanding preoccupation of colonial Spanish artisans—
who stood relatively close in terms of status to many non-Spaniards—with the
maintenance of “racial” as well as occupational hierarchy in the trades, a hierarchy
upheld in this instance in the Bishop’s response.83
The ambiguous nature of the term ladino in the late seventeenth century demands
that any analysis of its use attends closely to the particular nuances of each situation in
which it appears. For example, in 1664 the “indios naturales” of a cofradía of the
Rosary established in Almolonga, near the capital, complained that the “naborios,
españoles, negros y mulatos” with whom they shared the organization were misusing its
resources in the absence of a governing priest. In the same document, the plaintiffs
82AHA, A4.14, T2 109:31 (1677).
83Struggles over status amongst artisans in Guatemala began shortly after the
initial European arrival. Battles between various trades over precedence in religious
processions evidently occurred as early as 1530. See Remesal, Historia general, 1:40,
262-263.

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referred to the individuals who were the object of their concern as “dichos Ladinos,
Españoles, negros y mulatos,” evidently directly equating ladinos and indios laboríos in
the manner suggested by Van Oss. The Bishop in his response, meanwhile, barred “the
said naborías and other ladinos, Spaniards, blacks and mulattos” from holding offices in
the cofradía, also applying the term ladino to Indians, if less precisely than the
petitioners did.84
It does seem, though, that just a couple of decades later, the meaning with which
the Franciscan census imbued ladino had achieved a certain level of popular
understanding. Fuentes y Guzmán, on whom Martínez Peláez relied for his analysis of
Guatemala’s seventeenth century, clearly defined the “Spaniards, mestizos, and mulattos”
of Chiquimula de la Sierra as “vecinos ladinos” in his assessment of that district’s
population.85 In his description of San Cristóbal Acasaguastlán the chronicler stated
even more clearly that ladinos were “what we call those people in Indian villages who
are Spaniards, mestizos, mulattos and blacks.” But a sense of linguistic ability, as
opposed to “racial” or “ethnic” origin, pervaded even this definition. Fuentes y Guzmán
84AHA, A4.14, T2 108:21 (1664). A similar usage may be reflected in a 1685
petition from the cofradía of Santo Cristo in Esquipulas, concerning the division of
resources between the “parcialidad de los Indios” on the one hand, and “españoles y
demás castas y gente ladina” on the other. See AHA, A4.14, T2 110:45 (1685).
85Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:202.

Ill
went on immediately to imply that the difference between ladinos and Indians lay
exclusively in the fact that the latter “only [spoke] their mother tongue.”*6
Elsewhere, Fuentes y Guzmán implied quite clearly that español and ladino were
separate categories. Describing the barrio of San Marcos, just outside the indigenous
village of San Pedro Sacatepéquez in the corregimiento of Quezaltenango, he said it had
been a “settlement of Spaniards during the early period of the Conquest,” but had since
“deteriorated” because isolation and a lack of civilizing influences had driven its
inhabitants to “mixing through marriage with the Indian women of San Pedro and other
places.” As a result, the chronicler noted, San Marcos was now comprised of 38
“humble and simple” mestizo families, and called a “Barrio de ladinos.”87
If consistent usage of ladino during the later seventeenth century is not even
apparent in the writings of a contemporary observer who took pains on at least one
occasion to provide the term’s exact meaning, how much less should it be assumed that
the term had entirely replaced more traditional categories of social distinction. By the
same token, however, categories like mestizo and midato were not immutable, being
rather at the very center of an ongoing social tug-of-war over status and economic
mobility in seventeenth-century Guatemala. The free descendants of enslaved Africans,
and even many slaves themselves, were among the primary players in that struggle, the
demographic contours of which are established in the following two chapters.
86Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:242.
87Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 3:187.

CHAPTER 4
FROM BLACK TO MULATTO: MARRIAGE AND MESTIZAJE
Region, Demography, and the Politics of Marriage
During the latter half of the seventeenth century, opposing demographic trends in
the Province of Guatemala helped to accelerate a process by which the minority of the
population defined by African descent had begun to slip outside the boundaries of the
Spanish colonial racial hierarchy. On the one hand, the indigenous population slowly
reversed the disastrous decline in numbers which the Spanish invasion had set off,
beginning to recover from a century or so of demographic retreat .1 On the other, an
official ban on imports of African slaves during the middle decades of the century slowed
new arrivals to a bare trickle.2
These twin developments intensified a shift that had been taking place among
African-descended people since the late sixteenth century, whereby a population that had
been mostly enslaved, black, and bozal, was increasingly free, mulato, and criollo. The
primacy of indigenous labor in the regional economy, never in doubt in any case, was
strengthened by these demographic developments, as was the tribute-paying Indian’s
lowly status within the racial hierarchy. People defined by African descent, on the other
'MacLeod, “Ethnic Relations,” 203-205.
2See Chapter 2.
112

113
hand—especially the increasingly dominant mulatos libres--found themselves able more
often to elude the restrictions theoretically imposed upon them by their position within
that same hierarchy. This situation derived in large part from the fact that the indigenous
population fulfilled most of the labor associated with low status. The widening
disjuncture between the inferior position assigned to the African-descended population in
theory and the actual requirements of colonial Guatemalan society ensured that many
members of this group would encounter opportunities for upward social mobility.
Pinning down the exact nature of demographic developments among non-
indigenous groups outside the capital of the Province of Guatemala before the mid¬
seventeenth century is made difficult by a lack of evidence. The social impact in rural
areas of the black and mulatto population, for example, must be assessed from sources
which are useful for deriving aggregate demographic information in a mostly
impressionistic sense. The prospects for demographic analysis after the 1650s, however,
are quite a bit better, though hardly ideal. In the first place, a general population survey
of Central America, entitled Razón de la ciudades, villas y lugares, vecindarios y
tributarios de que se componen las Provincias del Distrito de esta Audiencia, was put
together during the 1680s.3 Although deeply flawed, this survey constitutes a useful
starting point for the task at hand, as much for the manner in which it employs categories
as for the wildly erratic numerical “snapshot” it contains. Secondly, works by
3“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815. This document will be referred to subsequently
in the text simply as the Razón. While dated 1682, most of its reports were filed in 1683.

114
contemporary cronistas offer points of comparison with the Razón, especially the
Recordación florida of Fuentes y Guzmán. Finally, relatively complete marriage data
are available for rural areas for the last three decades of the century. These data are
important not merely for what they can contribute to the determination of aggregate
numbers, but also for what they reveal about shifts in status within the racial hierarchy,
the relation between social practice and the divisions based on origin which existed in
theory, and the consistency with which terminology was used.
Ultimately, of course, one must look beyond demographic evidence in any effort
to understand the day-to-day operation of social hierarchies or the manner in which
identities are both constructed by and imposed upon groups or individuals. But the
general demographic contours of a given society must be established if the relationships
between people divided legally according to a criterion such as origin are to be
understood in their proper context. Such a demographic portrait follows, effected in two
stages. The present chapter discusses the theoretical and methodological frameworks
employed to conduct the study, and then conducts a comparative analysis of
demographic trends across regions in the Province of Guatemala. Chapter 5 performs a
micro-study of the Pacific hotland areas falling within today’s Republic of Guatemala,
comparing Escuintepeque-the coastal district directly south of Santiago de Guatemala
which was a key center of black and mulatto labor—with its neighbors: Zapotitlán to the
west, and Guazacapán to the east. This comparative micro-study emphasizes the
importance of taking into account factors which contributed to the substantial regional
diversity that existed within even a single, relatively small, geographic area.

115
The division of the Province of Guatemala into five regions for purpose of
comparative analysis in this chapter is based, somewhat arbitrarily, on a combination of
administrative, geographical, demographic, and economic factors. The region consisting
of the southern and southwestern Pacific hotland districts of Zapotitlán, Escuintepeque,
and Guazacapán has already been mentioned. It provides the main subject of the next
chapter. A second region lay just east of the colonial capital, taking in the communities
that existed in and around the Valle de las Vacas, where Guatemala City is now located.4
This was by far the smallest of the five areas I have isolated for analysis, but its dense
populations, proximity to the capital, and concentration of major agricultural enterprises
justify consideration as a separate unit. A third region sprawled east and northeast of the
Valle de las Vacas, and included the sparsely populated districts of Chiquimula de la
Sierra, Acasaguastlán and, on the isolated Caribbean coast, Amatique. A fourth took in
the territory of modem El Salvador, divided in colonial times among two alcaldías
mayores: Sonsonate, and San Salvador and San Miguel. A fifth region stretched to the
west and north of Santiago, comprised both then and now of densely populated highland
areas dominated overwhelmingly by various indigenous peoples of shared Maya origins.
4These were part of the Corregimiento del Valle, tied to Santiago administratively
but distant enough from the city authorities who governed the district for local power
brokers to pursue jurisdictional autonomy for the sizeable non-indigenous population.
Such pretensions on the part of “Spanish, mestizo, mulatto, and black vecinos"of places
like Amatitlán and Petapa were highly irritating to Fuentes y Guzmán. He characterized
the residents of this area chiefly as riffraff and a threat to the property of leading citizens
like himself, and suggested that they might best be employed staffing the remote
fortresses of the realm. See Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 1:197, 254.

116
A brief review of the classificatory terminology discussed in the previous chapter
is in order before proceeding to an analysis of the available documentation. The
proliferation of “racial” terms in colonial Spanish America has already been pointed out,
comprised of the supposedly ever finer distinctions that were drawn with each
succeeding generation among the various descendants of people already identified on the
basis of plural origins as mestizos, mulatos, and zambos. The terms used with any
regularity in seventeenth-century Guatemala, once again, were español/a, mestizo/a,
mulato/a libre, mulato/a esclavo/a, negro/a libre, negro/a esclavo/a, indio/a laborio/a
(or naborio/a), and indio/a tributario/a. Mulato, it will be remembered, was generally
employed to indicate descent from African and Indian as well as from African and
Spaniard, and no doubt frequently referred in practice to individuals of triple ancestry.
The previous chapter provided a few cautionary examples to illustrate the
dangers of assuming uncritically a direct relationship between the labels employed to
define people on the basis of origin and the actual ancestry of the individuals so
designated. It also bears repeating that these labels were in no sense representative of
“natural” categories; they emerged out of a system of racial hierarchy that, like all others,
was used to distinguish among humans in order to further the unequal distribution of
wealth and power in the societies where it held sway. Any investigation of demography,
thus, must be sensitive not only to the meaning of terms in the context in which they
were used, but also to the manner in which factors like marriage or migration may have,
for example, allowed enterprising individuals to move from less to more favored
categories. In this sense, I take issue with Sánchez-Albomoz’ assertion, mentioned in

117
the introduction to this dissertation, that the transformation of Indians into mestizos in
Chile was interesting sociologically, but not demographically.5 It is instead precisely the
role of demographic analysis to attempt to understand such matters as who exactly
constituted an indio laborío, or a mulato libre, how closely people related to the labels
by which they were identified; and with what frequency individuals tried, or were able, to
escape unflattering classifications. Rather than simply “counting heads,” then,
demography must delve into broad issues of identity in order to make sense of
documentary data.
Understanding the construction of identity is perhaps nowhere more important
than in studying groups defined as castas in colonial Spanish America. Of plural descent
by definition, castas may have been subject more often than either Spaniards or Indians
to plural labeling. I would argue further that tracing the uneasy incorporation of those
castas who were identified on the basis of African descent into societies divided officially
between Spaniard and Indian can be immensely useful in attempting to unravel the
complex and frequently contradictory relationship between abstract principles of social
hierarchy and colonial practice, especially across time and space. “Counting” mulattos,
as a result, may serve not only to shed light on the history of African-descended peoples
in colonial Guatemala, but also to enhance understanding of the relationship between
abstract social divisions and lived reality throughout colonial society.
5Sánchez-Albomoz, Population of Latin America, 94.

118
Finally, given the emphasis here on documents produced in the course of
decisions made by colonial actors about marriage, the relationship between the legal
conjoining of men and women, “racial” status, and gender requires attention. Verena
Martinez-Alier’s classic work, Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth-Century
Cuba, is particularly helpful in this regard. It emphasizes the economic dimension of
racial differentiation, underscoring the manner in which racial discrimination in late-
colonial Cuba served the purposes of economic exploitation, in the specific context of a
slave society built upon the unffee labor of African-descended workers.6 It also
demonstrates an intimate relationship between racial status and gender, and the impact of
this relationship on the nature of the legal and extra-legal unions that developed between
women and men.
An especially useful insight drawn from the work of Martinez-Alier, and largely
borne out by the evidence examined here, is that marriages between individuals of
unequal “racial” status generally involved men of higher and women of lower social
standing.7 Elizabeth Kuznesof has made a similar argument for the early Spanish
American colonial period, suggesting, in fact, that “race functioned primarily as a
discriminator for men, putting non-Spanish women in a privileged position for social
6Martinez-Alier, Marriage, Class, and Colour, 5-6,
7Martinez-Alier, Marriage, Class, and Colour, 22-26.

119
mobility.”8 Martinez-Alier’s study also has comparative value in another sense,
reinforcing the centrality of historical context to social analysis. While people of African
descent endured severe discrimination in colonial Guatemala, the fact that this
discrimination occurred in a society built on the backs of indigenous, not black, laborers
created a far different hierarchy of origin than that which existed later in slave-driven
Cuba. The correspondence among the cases revolves around the common use of
ancestry as a criterion by which to mark populations subject to specific legal disabilities,
as well as differential access on the basis of gender in both societies to social and “racial”
mobility through marriage.
Sources
The first task in the study of demography and identity outlined up to this point is
to assemble one of the core materials of population studies: numbers. As noted above,
this enterprise is anchored to a significant extent in the Razón of 1683, the only major
census document from the seventeenth century which discusses non-indigenous groups
in anything approaching a comprehensive manner. This approximately 180-page
population assessment of the audiencia of Guatemala was put together from reports
submitted by corregidores and alcaldes mayores from all over Central America. It
originated in a royal order of 1679 to Church officials in a number of areas of the
8Kuznesof, “Ethnic and Gender Influences,” 161. This statement appears to
discount, however, the possibility that women also practiced “racial” discrimination. As
a counterpoint, see the description of hierarchical divisions between españolas and
mestizas in the convent of Santa Clara, Cuzco, in Bums, Colonial Habits, 32-34.

120
Spanish empire to make a general count of their parishioners. In Central America, the
job was reassigned to the audiencia in Santiago in mid-1681, after an irritated Crown
charged that local ecclesiastical authorities had utterly failed to comprehend the original
decree. The order for a general population survey finally went out throughout Central
America early in 1683, with reports trickling in over the following year or so.9
These reports, unfortunately for the historian, are extremely uneven.10 Fully one-
fourth of the Razón focuses on the Nicaraguan port of Realejo and its environs, the
administrator of which was clearly possessed of an unusual attention to detail." In the
Province of Guatemala, meanwhile, compliance with the order ran the gamut from
something approaching actual head-counting, to reliance on dated tribute lists, to failure
to submit a report altogether.12 The Razón thus provides, at best, a very sketchy basis
for comparison across regions and social sectors.
9“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815.
10Indeed, it will quickly become obvious that the accuracy of the numbers
collected in general in this dissertation is in no sense absolute-the rural seventeenth
century is in many ways unknowable, not least because of a paucity of reliable statistics.
I only hope to have presented the figures that I employ both convincingly enough and
with sufficient caution to avoid the charge that they are “numbers from nowhere,” to cite
the title of a work by a famously skeptical critic of Latin American demographic work on
post-conquest indigenous populations. See David P. Henige, Numbers From Nowhere:
The American Indian Contact Population Debate (Norman: University of Oklahoma
Press, 1998).
"This portion of the Razón awaits careful examination by historians of
Nicaragua, providing extensive information on hundreds of individual households in
Realejo.
12The document also suffered extensive damage in a fire, rendering parts of it
unreadable.

121
Despite its shortcomings, the Razón quite clearly demonstrates immense regional
differences in population distribution within the Province of Guatemala during the late
seventeenth century. The most notable distinction to emerge from the document is
already well established: the division between an overwhelmingly indigenous highland
west and an increasingly mixed south and east. But regional variation can be drawn at a
much finer and more localized level on the basis of the Razón. As the next chapter
shows in some detail, districts bordering one another—like Zapotitlán and Escuintepeque
along the south coast—could have demographic profiles which differed strikingly in
important respects. Regional distinctions were especially evident in both the size and the
composition of Spanish and casta populations. While the Crown’s order that
administrators record “la vesindad de españoles Mesttisos negros mulattos e Yndios Con
ttoda Disttinción y claridad” was carried out with a regrettable lack of consistency
overall, the detailed information provided for some areas can be combined with evidence
drawn from other sources to establish a more stable basis for comparative analysis.13
13“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, f.97v. Miles Wortman has already made a
good deal of information from the Razón available in condensed form, drawing what I
regard as the appropriate conclusion that “there were more blacks and mulattoes than
mestizos” in the audiencia. Unfortunately, some of Wortman’s presentation of this
material is rather misleading. For example, he lumps together as “provinces”
jurisdictions ranging from the alcaldía mayor of San Salvador to the curato of Chipilapa,
a tiny parish in the corregimiento of Escuintepeque. More problematic are errors which
distort the demographic portrait intended. For instance, he lists the figure for the
population of San Diego de la Gomera—the villa cited as falling within the jurisdiction of
Chipilapa-under “Spanish presence,” rather than under “Castes’ Presence.” The Razón
states unequivocally that the townspeople were “ttodos mulattos.” See Wortman,
Government and Society, Table 4.1 on 78-81; 86.

122
The most important alternative documentation examined here derives from late-
seventeenth-century diligencias matrimoniales preserved in ecclesiastical archives in
Guatemala City.14 These requests for permission to marry were submitted for approval
to the Bishop in Santiago de Guatemala from all over the diocese of Guatemala and
Verapaz, which roughly paralleled the boundaries of the secular Province of Guatemala
during the late seventeenth century and thus took in the territory of modern-day El
Salvador. The particular interest of the Church in soliciting these diligencias was to
ensure not only that the contrayentes, or intended spouses, were willing participants, but
also that prospective couples deemed to be too closely related to marry under
ecclesiastical law would either be prevented from doing so or forced to obtain a proper
dispensation.15 Tributary Indians had been exempted from this requirement by papal
decree in the sixteenth century because of their alleged “childishness,”16 although indios
tributarios marrying persons who either did not share this status or came from other
14I translate diligencia here as “petition” although the sense is more one of
“process.” The petitions are filed in Section A4.16, “Informaciones matrimoniales,” in
the AHA.
15The relationships examined included ones both of blood and of marriage, drawn
rather broadly. Previous sexual relations with a relative of the intended spouse, for
example, required a dispensation. On the particulars of the information to be solicited
from prospective marital partners, see Remesal, Historia general, 2:346.
16Point 10 of Paul Ill’s 1537 bull “Altitudo divini consillii, quod humana ne sit,
& infra," states “Que los Yndios puedan contraer Matrimonio con Parientes dentro del
tercer grado de consanguinidad, ó afinidad.” See Balthasar de Tobar, Compendio
Bulario Indico, vol. 1, Manuel Gutiérrez de Arce, ed. (Sevilla: Escuela de Estudios
Hispano-Americanos de la Universidad de Sevilla 1954), 211. Fuentes y Guzmán lists a
number of succeeding bulls reiterating this dispensation in Recordación florida, 3:445.

123
communities do appear in the petitions. Fundamentally, though, diligencias
matrimoniales provide a record of the marriage plans of individuals who were not
tributary Indians, the small but steadily growing sector of the population made up of
españoles, mestizos, negros y mulatos—both slave and free—and indios laboríos17
These petitions have several uses. If they merely hint at aggregate numbers of
the various groups not defined as indigenous tributaries, they are better indicators of the
proportions of the total non-Indian population which each group made up. They also
illuminate both the nature and the process of mestizaje in various regions,18 as well as
revealing more about change over time in the usage of identifiers, for example, than a
one-time count like the Razón. Finally, they open certain windows onto family and
community life through the presentation of testimony by an average of three witnesses
17A broad-ranging analysis of marriage patterns among colonial Guatemala’s
tributary majority will require extensive research into seventeenth-century rural parish
records.
18Marriage was, of course, not the sole point of production for offspring. It has
been suggested, in fact, that rates of illegitimacy peaked in the seventeenth century.
They ran at 50 percent or more in Guadalajara, for example, and may have been similarly
high in Guatemala. But marriage between individuals of differing origins represented
officially sanctioned mestizaje, and thus provides a guide to the relationship between
social status and racial hierarchy, even if, as Asunción Lavrin notes, marriage does not
tell us much about such matters as private behaviors. See Sánchez-Albomoz,
Population of Latin America, 131; Thomas Calvo, “The Warmth of the Hearth:
Seventeenth-Century Guadalajara Families,” in Asunción Lavrin, ed., Sexuality and
Marriage in Colonial Latin America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989),
287-312; and Lavrin, “Introduction: The Scenario, the Actors, and the Issues,” in Lavrin,
ed., Sexuality and Marriage, 1-2.

124
per case.19 This last attribute is especially important later in the dissertation, following
the demographic profile presented here and in the next chapter.
The 407 diligencias matrimoniales which form the primary basis for analysis in
this chapter were submitted during the years 1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701. They
document late seventeenth-century marriage patterns outside the capital and its
immediate environs at ten-year intervals from approximately the point when records of
these petitions appear to be substantially complete.20 There are 97 petitions from the
southern and southwestern Pacific districts of Zapotitlán, Escuintepeque, and
Guazacapán; 52 from the area surrounding the Valle de las Vacas, 56 from Chiquimula
and Acasaguastlán; 191 from the Salvadoran districts of Sonsonate and San Salvador
and San Miguel; and just eleven from the western and northwestern highlands. In
addition, information from 124 other cases filed outside the capital and held either in the
legajo said to hold pre-1670 cases or misfiled in the legajos containing petitions from the
years being examined systematically is used as auxiliary evidence.21
19This testimony is often formulaic in nature, but not always.
20The largest number of petitions existing for any pre-1670 year appears to be 39,
from 1655. These are held in AHA, A4.16, T5 1.21, whose documents all date allegedly
from the period 1618-1669, although many of the petitions with early seventeenth-
century dates pencilled in for filing purposes were marked incorrectly, and in fact
produced a century later. The petitions from this legajo are employed occasionally here,
but not for statistical purposes, since they clearly represent nothing approaching
complete sets. They are unnumbered, so the expediente number assigned them indicates
their order in the pile.
21These range in date from 1626 to 1731. The legajos examined also contain
over four hundred petitions exclusively involving residents of Santiago, which are used

125
A potential obstacle to the use for statistical purposes of evidence from the four
years focused on here arises from the simple fact that it is very difficult to judge the
degree to which the number of cases available for a given region represents the total
number of petitions which might have been submitted.22 The fact that stray diligencias
from other years turned up frequently among these petitions, for example, suggests
strongly that additional cases dating from the years I isolated are misfiled elsewhere.
The best claims I can make are that comparison with decennial marriage totals for the
capital provided by Christopher Lutz suggests that the rural petitions available easily
constitute the majority of those which were drawn up,23 and that my own data are
remarkably consistent overall.
only in Chapter 3, where I discuss change over time in frequency of labeling by looking
at petitions from 1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701 in the aggregate.
22The 1691 petitions appear to represent the most complete set, substantially
outnumbering those from 1671, 1681, and 1701. As a result, I only looked at the first
two-thirds of the petitions from 1691, in the order in which they are filed. This method
produced a profile of the non-tributary population in line with those of the other years.
23There were 118 marriages per year on average for all groups excepting
tributary Indians in the capital during the 1670s, 164 during the 1680s, 150 during the
1690s, and 115 during the 1700s, or around 547 in total, on average, for any four years
taken at ten-year intervals. Lutz estimates the Spaniard and casta population of Santiago
at about 30,000 in the 1680s. Looking at the three Pacific districts of Zapotitlán,
Escuintepeque, and Guazacapán, for example, the total Spaniard and casta population
was unlikely to have much exceeded 4,000, or around 13 percent of the capital’s number
during the same period. The 97 petitions they produced, meanwhile, is nearly 18 percent
of 547. Overall, the populations least well represented are probably San Salvador’s
Spanish one, and the entire non-indigenous highland one. See below; Lutz, Santiago,
Tables 6 and 9 on 87 and 110, respectively, and comments on marriage rates per
thousand in Appendix 4.

126
The Valle de las Vacas
Just east of the colonial capital of Central America, Santiago de Guatemala, lay
the the Valle de las Vacas and its surrounding area, one of the most important and
heavily populated agricultural zones in the entire Province of Guatemala. Bounded
roughly by the villages of Chinautla to the north, Mixco to the west, San Juan and San
Cristóbal Amatitlán to the southwest, and Santa Catarina Pinula to the east, this
relatively small area probably held more people than either Guazacapán to the south, or
Chiquimula de la Sierra to the east, districts many times its size. Unfortunately, its
district administrator was one of those who never filed a report for the Razón of 1683.24
But, according to the contemporary chronicler Fuentes y Guzmán, the indigenous
population alone—mostly Pokomam Maya—exceeded fourteen thousand.25
The local indigenous population was concentrated to the west of the Valle de las
Vacas, in the village of Santo Domingo Mixco; to the southeast, in and around Santa
24An order of 26 June 1684 ordered laggards among the district administrators to
submit reports within two months, but these were never included if filed. See “Razón,”
AGI, Contaduría 815, if.96-97.
25Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 1:409-413. Fuentes y Guzmán cited a
padrón, or tribute list, prepared by the Corregidor del Valle, the official who oversaw
the capital region. At least 3,500 tributaries were said to live in the communities around
the Valle de las Vacas. This figure would have represented “tributarios enteros”—male
heads of household-and been multiplied by 4 to account for families. In addition to “full
tribute-payers,” padrones listed widows and widowers, reservados/as (adults excluded
from payment, usually because of age), and villagers married to non-tributaries or absent
spouses. Fuentes y Guzmán’s figures must be watched carefully. See below.

127
Catarina Pinula; and, especially, to the far southwest around Lake Amatitlán.26 The
community of San Juan Amatitlán appears to have been the largest in the area. It may
have held more than three thousand Indian inhabitants in the 1680s, as well as a “great
number of Spanish, mulatto, mestizo, and black vecinos''21 The presence nearby of
several of colonial Guatemala’s major sugar-producing establishments ensured that the
black and mulatto “vecinos” whom Fuentes y Guzmán mentioned carried a demographic
weight locally that was perhaps equaled in relative terms only by their counterparts in
Escuintepeque.28
Due in part to the regional importance of slave labor, non-Indian groups had been
making major inroads into local communities since the mid-sixteenth century.29 Since
these communities existed in Santiago’s immediate orbit, the area had a rather different
character from most other rural areas of the province. During the late seventeenth
century, slaves and free workers alike moved back and forth between the capital and the
sugar plantations and other rural enterprises of the Valle de las Vacas as continuously as
26In the valleys of Mixco, Canales, and Las Mesas, respectively.
27There were 799 “vecinos pokomanes” in San Juan Amatitlán, said Fuentes y
Guzmán. According to Magnus Mómer, though, a 1682 survey of San Juan Amatitlán
by an oidor of the audiencia turned up only 1,896 tributarios, evidently meaning total
household members. This source also stated that 413 ladinos lived in the village,
although it is not clear if the official, or Mómer, used this category. This discrepancy
underscores the difficulties inherent in assessing colonial populations accurately. See
Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 1:254, 409; Mómer, La corona, 218.
28See Chapter 5.
29See Lutz, Santiago, 270, note 27, and the observations of Thomas Gage on
slaves in and around the Valle de las Vacas, cited in Chapter 2, above.

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did the foodstuffs and other goods central to the local economy.30 No fewer than one-
half of 52 marriage petitions to emerge from this region in 1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701
involved at least one petitioner from outside the immediate area, most often the capital
but including places as far away as Comayagua, in Honduras, and Oaxaca, in New
Spain.31
Specific population figures for non-Indian groups, it will be seen, are always
more difficult to come by than for indigenous inhabitants, since colonial authorities were
primarily interested in counting Indian tribute-payers and laborers. The Valle de las
Vacas and its surroundings is especially ill served in this respect, because of the absence
of reporting on the area in the Razón. The closest Fuentes y Guzmán came to
enumerating any portion of the local non-tributary population was when he described the
“marvelous” Valle de las Vacas itself. It was uninhabited, he said, except for two small,
non-tributary settlements. One, the riverside community of El Carmen, was home to
some fifty non-indigenous vecinos, españoles, mestizos, and mulatos who lived “without
any law” according to the disapproving chronicler. The other, Asención del Señor, was
30Lutz, Santiago, 53; Jorge Luján Muñoz, Agricultura, mercado, y sociedad en
el corregimiento del valle de Guatemala, 1670-1680 (Guatemala: author’s publication,
1988), esp. 35-37, Chapters 5, 7.
31The 52 petitions are AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:94, 95, 102, 123, 146, 170, 190,
191, 193, 195, 204, and T4 1.11:216, 233, 239, and 293 (1671); T4 105:220, 244, 252,
263, 271, 295, 309, 361, and 369(1681); T5 106:16, 22, 23, 24, 32, 33, 56, 61, 80, 81,
82, 95, 97, 99, 100, 102, 104, 108, 115, and 147 (1691); T6 105:2368, 2392, 2409,
2413, 2417, 2419, 2421, and 2443 (1701).

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a village of indios laboríos who, in contrast to the residents of El Carmen, laudably
adhered to precepts of religion and good order.32
Marriage petitions, fortunately, help to fill in the demographic gap existing with
regard to the size and, especially, the classification of non-indigenous groups. What is
immediately apparent from the petitions which form the core of the sample taken from
the Valle de las Vacas region is the significance of local sugar plantations in determining
the composition of surrounding populations. Nineteen of 104 contrayentes in the
52 marriage petitions examined from the area, or 18 percent of the total, were slaves.
Altogether, including free blacks and mulattos, nearly 62 percent of petitioners—64
people in total—were defined by African descent, a larger number in absolute terms than
in Escuintepeque to the southwest, and just slightly less as a proportion of the total non-
indigenous population.33 Many of these people worked on sugar-producing enterprises,
the majority of which were owned by religious orders. By the 1670s, these orders
appear collectively to have held by far the largest number of slaves in Guatemala.
It was noted in Chapter 2 that the area between San Juan Amatitlán and San
Miguel Petapa held the greatest concentration of ingenios and trapiches in the province
of Guatemala in the early seventeenth century. At the end of the century, according to
32Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 1:280-281. On the early seventeenth-
century origins of these communities, see excerpt of AHA document entitled
“Testimonio de los Instrumentos Auténticos, sobre el origen de las dos Santas Imágenes:
del Carmen en el Cerro de la Ermita y del Viejo en el Pueblo de este nombre,” in Estrada
Monroy, Datos, 1:283-290, esp. 287.
33See Chapter 5.

130
Fuentes y Guzmán, there were “eight marvelous and opulent sugar mills” in the region.
Five belonged to religious orders, and three were in private hands. Together with the
Dominican operation at San Gerónimo in Verapaz, they kept the capital supplied with
sugar.34 The religious-owned enterprises included the Anís and Rosario ingenios, both
of which belonged to the Dominicans by the 1660s. 35 There was also a Jesuit ingenio in
the vicinity of San Cristóbal Amatitlán,36 southwest of San Juan, and an Augustinian
trapiche near Petapa. The identity of the fifth religious holding to which the chronicler
refers is unclear. The Mercedarians had owned an ingenio southwest of San Juan
Amatitlán, technically in Escuintepeque, in 1670, and may still have held it at the time
that Fuentes y Guzmán was writing in the 1680s.37 Another possibility is that the
Dominicans had already purchased the Palencia ingenio, discussed below, which they
owned as of 1699.38
34Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 1:224.
35According to Ximénez, Fray Francisco Morán purchased the Rosario property
as prior of the convent in Santiago, before 1663, while Fray José de Ocampo purchased
the Anís holding as prior of the convent at San Juan Amatitlán, sometime before 1665.
Elsewhere, Ximénez describes improvements made later at Rosario by Fray Francisco
Gallegos. See Ximénez, Historia, Libro 5:104, 210.
36Today’s Palin. The Jesuits purchased this property in 1659 from don Gabriel
Estevan de Sálazar. See Fray Manuel Herrera, “Relación Histórica del Colegio de la
Compañía de Jesus” (1740), in Boletín del Archivo General del Gobierno, 1, no. 2
(1936): 141-144, esp. 143.
37Pinto Soria, El valle central, 28.
38See extract of AGCA, Al .20. 682. f.216 (1633) in Falla, Extractos, 392-393;
Francisco Ximénez, Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapay Guatemala de
la Orden de Predicadores, Libro 6, Biblioteca “Goathemala” 24 (Guatemala: Sociedad

131
Collectively, these religious holdings employed some 450 slaves and between 150
and 200 free people of African descent in 1670.39 That the local non-indigenous
population was comprised to a large extent by the blacks and mulattos who worked on
these operations, both slave and free, emerges clearly in the area’s marriage petitions.
The 52 diligencias mentioned above refer by name to no fewer than 22 different workers
from the Jesuit ingenio, fourteen from the Rosario ingenio, nine from the Anís holding,
and five from the Augustinian trapiche. Some are contrayentes, others are witnesses,
and a few are parents of petitioners. Aside from three women described as indias
laborias—one from each of the religious holdings save the Augustinian trapiche—and one
man from the Rosario ingenio who is left undefined, all are identified by African origins.
Men dominate the list of names, since women almost never appeared as witnesses in
petitions. A total of seventeen women turn up, nevertheless. In addition to the three
indigenous women mentioned above, they include nine free mulattas, one free black,
three mulata slaves, and one black slave. Among the 33 men are seventeen free
mulattos, two free blacks, five mulatto slaves, eight black slaves, and the undefined
individual referred to above.
The only local sugar-producing enterprise to be mentioned with any frequency
that was not owned by a religious order was a large ingenio near Santa Inés Petapa
de Geografía e Historia, 1971), 6-7.
39These numbers include the Mercedarian property. The figures come from a
1670 visita located in the AGI and cited in Pinto Soria, El valle central, 27-29. Pinto
Soria’s study contains useful descriptions of the production process on these ingenios.

132
belonging in 1671 to don Juan de Arrivillaga Coronado, and in later years to his heirs.40
Fuentes y Guzmán claimed this property was the most impressive of all the region’s
sugar-producing facilities.41 In 1670, the Arrivillaga facility employed 121 slaves as well
as 43 mulatos libres42 Twelve of sixteen individuals mentioned in marriage petitions
from this property were black or mulatto slaves, while two others were defined as free
blacks, the third as an indio laborío, and the last as an indio tributario,43
It is interesting to note that a demographic shift in the population defined by
African descent toward the end of the seventeenth century is especially evident in the
marriage petitions involving the Arrivillaga slaves. All five of the slaves listed in
petitions from 1671 and 1681 were defined as black, including one Domingo de España,
identified clearly in 1671 as African-born, from Cape Verde. Five of seven slaves
mentioned in 1691 petitions involving members of the property’s workforce, meanwhile,
40Apparently the Zavaleta ingenio mentioned in Chapter 2, inherited by Juan and
Domingo Arrivillaga in 1635.
41Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 1:224.
42Pinto Soria, El valle central, 28.
43Four other Arrivillaga slaves are mentioned in documents from the 1670s which
reveal the difficulties presented in retaining a captive work force. In a criminal case from
1672, don Juan alleged that his black slave Gregorio de Salmerón had killed another
slave on the ingenio, an unnamed black woman, and then fled. The murder occurred
early in the year, and Salmerón was still at large in November. Three years later,
Arrivillaga’s widow, doña Maria Ochoa de la Torre, complained that slaves named
Baltasar, negro, and Thomas Jacinto, mulato claro, had been absent from the ingenio for
months. The two had supposedly been seen in Nicaragua and Honduras, respectively.
Thomas’ appearance would undoubtedly have helped him to avoid any suspicions
concerning his legal status. See AGCA, A1.56. 5920. 51263 (1672); A1.56. 5920.
51264(1675).

133
were defined as mulato or mulata. Although impressionistic, this evidence coincides
with expected demographic patterns in the wake of a drastic reduction in slave imports.
A second local sugar-producing property not owned by a religious order was a
trapiche belonging to Matías de Palencia Monterroso. A marriage petition appearing to
be from 1673 refers to four of Palencia’s workers: two mestizos, a free mulatto named
Juan Ramón, and a mulatto slave, Phelipe Soltero.44 In 1686, the trapiche ’s
administrator was a mulatto named Juan Penoli, and an attached estancia was overseen
by another mulatto, Joseph de la Torre. The estate continued to employ at least one
slave as well, a mulatto named Phelipe de la Cruz Catalán, who may or may not have
been the same individual mentioned in the marriage petition. The 1686 workforce turns
up in a document centered on another free mulatto in Palencia’s service, one Juan
Antonio Mexia, who allegedly made off with a sizeable portion of his advance after
working just five months, only to be caught hanging around the property and “harassing”
its women.45
One of the most distinctive aspects of marriage petitions from this area is that
slave women appear in numerous petitions as contrayentes. No fewer than eight of a
total of 52 petitions involved slave women, far more proportionally than anywhere else in
44AHA, T4 1.11:348 (1673?). This property employed three slaves and 14
mulatos libres in 1670. See Pinto Soria, El valle central, 31.
45AGCA, A1.56. 2453. 18938 (1686).

134
the province.46 Not surprisingly, all eight women were marrying other slaves, an
indication of their unattractiveness as legal mates because of the “law of the womb.” It
is perhaps significant that these eight cases were evenly divided between just two
properties, the Arrivillaga holding and the Jesuit ingenio, suggesting an unusual
commitment to promoting marriage between slaves on the part of these particular
owners. Indeed, as will be seen, the norm throughout the rest of the Province was for
slave men to marry free women, whose children would be freeborn. The high number of
marriages between slaves on the Arrivillaga and Jesuit properties, then, may have
resulted from the efforts of these particular slaveowners to arrest this trend among their
own unfree workers.47
Meanwhile, no slaves from either of the Dominican ingenios or the Augustinian
trapiche were listed as petitioners. The latter had only 28 slaves in 1670, and thus would
have been represented lightly, at best, in marriage petitions, but the former, together,
46In Escuintepeque, for example, no slave women appear in marriage petitions.
See Chapter 5.
47The Arrivillaga family, at least, was not entirely successful if it was indeed
pursuing such a strategy. Its estate produced two of the three petitions which involved
slave men marrying free women. Nevertheless, the percentage of enslaved men marrying
free women was much lower here than almost anywhere else in the province. Lutz notes
that in Santiago, 56 percent of black slaves and 80 percent of mulatto slaves married free
people between 1593 and 1769, although he does not break the figures down according
to gender. See Lutz, Santiago, 88-89. Evidence from the rest of the province discussed
below suggests that almost all slaves who married free people were men.

135
held at least 225 slaves that same year.48 It may be that the Dominicans made slave
marriages an internal matter, in keeping with their famous resistance to episcopal
authority in colonial Guatemala, although slaves from Dominican properties in other
parts of the province do turn up from time to time as petitioners elsewhere. Perhaps the
Rosario and Anís holdings simply did not produce any slave marriages in the years
examined.
If judged solely on the basis of marriage petitions, the degree to which people
defined by African descent dominated the late seventeenth-century workforces of
ingenios and trapiches in and around the Valle de las Vacas century would seem
remarkable. Of 66 individuals who turn up in marriage petitions involving the religious
holdings and the Arrivillaga property in 1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701, all but five were
defined as mulatto or black, with the split between slaves and free people being roughly
even. The remaining individuals were all identified as indigenous—four as laboríos and
one as a tributary. It would be a mistake, though, to assume that black and mulatto
workers outnumbered Indians more than ten to one on these operations, as the figures
cited above would suggest. Indeed, figures from the 1670 visita referred to above
suggest that more than 450 indigenous workers, mostly tributaries assigned in
48Several slaves from the Rosario property do appear as witnesses in petitions.
Most notable among these was a black slave named Diego Simón, whose service as a
witness on no fewer than five occasions in 1671 may have been testimony to high status
and reputation. See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:95; T4 1.12:102; T4 1.12:187; T4 1.11:233;
and T4 1.11:239.

136
repartimiento from nearby villages, were also employed on these five properties.49
Marriage petitions, thus, are relatively unsatisfactory indicators of the presence of
indigenous employees on sugar plantations, for the simple reason that tributary Indians
were likely to turn up as petitioners only if marrying blacks or mulattos.50
It could be argued that efforts to distinguish among the workers referred to
above on the basis of origin are a matter largely of abstract classification, since ties
between people identified as mulattos and members of the indigenous population were
often explicitly familial. I noted in Chapter 3 that, under the norms of the Spanish racial
hierarchy in colonial Guatemala, the children of African-Indian unions were almost
always defined as mulato/a In the late seventeenth century, the African-descended
workers on sugar plantations around Amatitlán were increasingly identified as mulattos.
The nature of that mestizaje is suggested by three marriage petitions, all from religious
holdings, involving a man designated as mulato libre seeking to wed a woman identified
as india ¡abona 51 Children resulting from these marriages were as likely as not to be
49Although many, it appears, worked in the wheat-growing operations that were
also a part of most large local agricultural enterprises, rather than in sugar production.
See Pinto Soria, El valle central, 27-29.
50The single indio tributario who shows up in the marriage petitions being
discussed, Domingo Mendes, was a tributary in the village of Petapa as well as a mozo,
or servant, on the Arrivillaga estate. He appears as a witness to a 1681 petition filed by
the black slaves Domingo Nieto and Maria Guadalupe. See AHA, A4.16, T4 105:309.
51 AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:102 (1671); T4 105:361 (1681); and T5 106:102 (1691).

137
largely indigenous in ancestry, although they would probably have been categorized as
mulattos.52
On the other hand, the issue is not merely illusory, since classifications based on
origin are always socially produced and have real social meaning in the context in which
they are made. Efforts to determine the degree of “Indian-ness” of the non-indigenous
population on ingenios by focusing solely on actual ancestry would have made little
sense to contemporaries. The most important defining feature of “Indians” from the
standpoint of the colonial Guatemalan racial hierarchy was their status as tribute-
payers.53 Thus indios laboríos, not subject to regular tribute and labor requirements and
tied to no particular community, were in many respects already “non-Indian.”
That people defined as mulattos were even more clearly non-Indian, however
much indigenous ancestry they might have had, is revealed in their overall marriage
patterns. While black slave men often married Indian women, as evidence from other
areas shows, free mulattos and mulattas tended to marry each other, especially in areas
where the population of African descent was substantial, like the Valle de las Vacas or
Escuintepeque.54 I noted earlier that about 62 percent of contrayentes in marriage
52This is not to mention the offspring of irregular unions between people of
African and indigenous origins about which these records say nothing.
53Subjection to payment of tribute and forced labor levies may not have been a
feature of conscious self-identity for the Pokomam Maya of central Guatemala, or any
other indigenous people, but it clearly represented an important distinction between
themselves and non-Indians, and contributed to the maintenance of “ethnic” divisions.
540n Escuintepeque, see Chapter 5.

138
petitions looked at from the region in and around the Valle de las Vacas were identified
as black or mulatto. Of the 64 individuals so identified, fully 54 were involved in plans
to marry another person defined by African descent. Only five-four free mulattos and
one free mulatta—sought to marry individuals identified as indigenous, and none of the
latter were defined as tributaries.55 Three other free mulattas, meanwhile, were engaged
to wed individuals who were left undefined, while the intended spouses of two other free
mulattos were mestizas.
The logic of the local racial hierarchy is borne out for the most part in these
marriage statistics, except in the case of the mestizos and mestizas who appear.56 The
two mestizas mentioned above were joined by another planning to marry a mulatto slave,
and a fourth seeking to wed a tributary Indian. Only a fifth mestiza could be seen as
clearly preserving her position on the racial hierarchy, by marrying a mestizo.
One option available occasionally to mestizas along the coast—marriage to
Spaniards—appears at first glance to have been absent in this region. The three petitions
in the core sample from the Valle de las Vacas which involve españoles all reflect
marriage kept within Spanish ranks. But local social practice did not adhere quite as
55They included the three already mentioned, listed explicitly as indias laboríos,
and two simply defined as indio/a. The four petitions from the area which involved
tributary Indians represented unions between people defined as indigenous, in three
cases, and, unusually, a marriage between and indio tributario and a mestiza in the
fourth.
56These were far fewer in number than mulattos and mulattas, as was the case
everywhere except for the western highlands.

139
rigidly to such exclusivity as this evidence would suggest. Three of the five petitions
involving Spaniards which showed up from years not examined systematically displayed
“mixed” unions: an español and a mulata libre, an español and a mestiza, and, most
unexpectedly, an española and a mestizo57 The danger of assuming too close a
correlation between abstract principles of hierarchy and lived experience is further
underscored by the fact that Maria Hernández, the free mulatta listed as the proposed
spouse of a Spaniard, had been married once before—to a black slave named Matheo de
Solis.
On the whole, nevertheless, marriage patterns in the region surrounding the Valle
de las Vacas adhered relatively closely to the norms of the colonial racial hierarchy.
Where they did not, it was probably a signal that a particular intended social division was
being rearranged, or overturned altogether. The local instability of the mestizo category,
it will be seen, was characteristic of the province as a whole, although the nature of that
instability varied from region to region. In some places, mestizos appeared to be clearly
superior in social rank to mulattos: near-Spaniards. In others, they seemed increasingly
to be merging with an always-larger mulatto population. The latter scenario was in fact
indicative of the overall direction in which casta society was moving, if at different rates
in different areas of the province, although the “absorption” of mestizas in particular into
57See AHA, A4.16, T5 1.21:81 (1655); T5 1.21:22(1660); T4 1 11:348 (1673?).

140
Spanish ranks continued to occur, especially where españoles were few.58 In and around
the Valle de las Vacas, where mulattos and blacks outnumbered mestizos more than ten
to one in late seventeenth-century marriage petitions, the mestizo category was
essentially insignificant. The local non-tributary population was rooted in a combination
of indigenous and African origins to a greater extent than almost anywhere else in the
entire Province of Guatemala.
Chiquimula de la Sierra to the Caribbean
The region stretching east from the Valle de las Vacas to the present-day frontier
with El Salvador, and northeast to the Caribbean, lay well above sea level, except for the
lowlying areas around the Golfo Dulce. Physically, the region differed not only from the
Pacific hotlands to the south and southwest, but also from the densely peopled western
highlands, located at substantially higher altitudes. Moving east and northeast from the
administrative and agricultural hubs of central Guatemala, the population thinned out
rapidly. Only a few pockets of territory in the districts of Chiquimula de la Sierra and
Acasaguastlán held relatively large numbers of inhabitants.
With few of the sort of intensive agricultural enterprises that gathered together
large populations of African descent, this region would seem to have been an unlikely
spot in which to encounter many blacks and mulattos in the seventeenth century. But
evidence taken from the Razón of 1683, the Recordación florida, and marriage petitions
58Although probably not at anywhere near the rate that this took place in early
post-Conquest society. See Kuznesof, “Ethnic and Gender Influences,” 157-158.

141
from 1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701 undermines any such assumption. In the first place,
newcomers in general had achieved far more demographic parity with the local
indigenous population—Chorti Maya in the main—than was the case in most other parts
of Guatemala. This is indicated in part by Fuentes y Guzmán’s claim that Chiquimula’s
population was just over ten thousand in the 1680s, with some 1,200 being “vecinos
ladinos, que entre españoles, mestizos y mulatos se agregan á este número.”59 If
seemingly insignificant, this number represents a substantially higher percentage of the
total population than was the case either in the western highlands or along the
southwestern Pacific coast. In this respect, the situation in Chiquimula matched almost
exactly the one in Guazacapán, the Pacific coast district directly to its south.60
The inroads being made by non-Indians are revealed more strikingly in the report
filed for the Razón of 1683 by the corregidor of Chiquimula, don Joseph de Santiago.
Several of the district’s larger communities held populations in which non-indigenous
residents made up a significantly higher proportion of the total than the twelve percent or
so which non-Indians constituted within the district as a whole. Spaniards and castas
represented as much as twenty percent of the total population in the district capital,
59Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:202. Note the clear association here
of the term ladino exclusively with non-Indians, as discussed in Chapter 3.
601,000-1,500 Spaniards and castas lived among an indigenous population of
about 10,000 in Guazacapán. See Chapter 5.

142
Chiquimula, nearly one-quarter of the inhabitants of Asunción Mita, and fully 36 percent
of Jalapa’s residents.61
The composition of Chiquimula’s burgeoning non-indigenous population is less
clear in the sources mentioned thus far, particularly with regard to the non-Spanish
presence. The corregidor’s report, for example, generally lists mestizos and mulattos
together in a single category.62 Marriage petitions from the district, though, suggest
strongly that mulatos libres formed a significant plurality of the non-Indian population.
Thirty of 84 contrayentes in the 42 petitions which form the core sample from this
district, or over 35 percent of the total, were so defined.63
The corregidor’s method for reporting casta populations is significant, however.
It appeared to derive from his use of militia lists to compile numbers for the non-
61“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, ff.70-72. The corregidor 's report listed 60
Spanish families and 43 families of “mulattos y mestisos” living among 454 indigenous
families and 80 single or widowed Indians in Chiquimula; nine Spanish and 52 casta
families among 182 indigenous families and 35 single or widowed Indians in Mita; and
two Spanish and 32 casta families among 54 indigenous families and 21 single or
widowed Indians in Jalapa. Fuentes y Guzmán’s figures are roughly comparable,
although he claims there were 80 families ofuespañoles y mulatos” in Mita and says,
improbably, that no non-tributaries lived in Jalapa. See Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación
florida, 2:197, 200.
62He sometimes mentioned only mulattos. See “Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815,
ff. 70-72.
63The 42 petitions from Chiquimula are AHA, A4.16, T5 1.21:126, and
T4 1.12:89, 114, 117, 120, 130, 145, 172, 200, and T4 1.11:247(1671); T4 105:245,
255, 282, 290, 310, 316, 321, 329, 336, 354, 364, 365, 373, 382, 386, and 387 (1681);
T5 106:2, 14, 43, 59, 60, 144, 212, 222, and 226 (1691); T6 105:2342, 2345, 2369,
! 2370, 2372, 2393, and 2407 (1701).

143
indigenous population, which suggests that mestizos and mulatos performed military
service together in Chiquimula, in units of non-Spaniards. If this was indeed the case,
the situation in Chiquimula differed from that in Guazacapán, where, as noted in Chapter
3, mestizos served with españoles. Comparative evidence from marriage petitions
provides one explanation for this apparent twist on the operation of the traditional
colonial racial hierarchy, a twist which in fact represented a decline in distinctions
between mestizos and mulattos that was eventually to become the norm.
A comparative explanation of Chiquimula’s apparent singularity requires the
introduction of some statistics from Guazacapán’s marriage petitions, which are not
treated more fully until the next chapter. The two districts, as indicated earlier, had total
populations of almost equal size, broken down in almost exactly the same proportions
between indigenous and non-indigenous sectors. Oddly enough, marriage petitions
suggest that there was also little difference in the relative numbers of mestizos and
mulattos. Individuals defined as mestizo/a represented nine and thirteen percent of
contrayentes in petitions from Guazacapán and Chiquimula, respectively, while those
identified as free mulattos constituted 38 and 35 percent of total petitioners.
Differences in the overall manner in which the racial hierarchy operated in inland
and upland Chiquimula, it seems, resulted largely from disparities between it and the
coastal lowland district of Guazacapán in the number of residents who inhabited the
category español. As noted above, the number of families in the district capital who

144
were defined as Spanish actually outnumbered casta ones in the 1683 census.64 More
importantly, españoles represented roughly 29 percent of petitioners in diligencias
matrimoniales emanating from the corregimiento as a whole. Spaniards in Chiquimula
thus may have constituted a proportion of the non-tributary population three times
higher than in neighboring Guazacapán, and almost twice as high as that which held even
in Zapotitlán, the southwest Pacific coast district with the greatest percentage of Spanish
petitioners.65 This relatively large Spanish population base apparently strengthened
resistance to the entrance of non-Spaniards into español ranks in Chiquimula,
demonstrated by the fact that none of the twelve marriage petitions from the district
which involved Spanish contrayentes exhibited a breaking of ranks.66
As a result of this barrier to upward mobility, female petitioners described as
mestizas, like their counterparts around the Valle de las Vacas, were quite likely to marry
below their ascribed status on the racial hierarchy. In seven cases involving mestizas,
three of the proposed husbands were classified as indigenous, two as mulatos libres, and
only two as mestizos. The impermeability of Spanish ranks in Chiquimula evidently
64In the other major centers of the corregimiento, meanwhile, mulatos and
mestizos held an overall 4 to 1 advantage in numbers over Spaniards.
65Españoles made up just ten percent of petitioners in diligencias from
Guazacapán, and some sixteen percent of those from Zapotitlán. See Chapter 5.
^The one misfiled petition which involved españoles revealed the same tendency.
See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:351 (1673). In each of the Pacific coast districts, meanwhile,
at least one petition out of smaller totals brought together a Spaniard and a non-
Spaniard.

145
helped to force members of the always-small mestiza group into marriages with partners
of lower calidad 61
The relatively large size of the population defined as mulatto, meanwhile,
appeared to ensure, again as in and around the Valle de las Vacas, that members of this
group would tend to marry each other. In thirteen of 42 marriage petitions from
Chiquimula, both contrayentes were described as mulatto, a figure representing more
than two-thirds of diligencias in which people identified by African descent were
involved.68 On the other hand, the near-absence of slaves in Chiquimula’s marriage
petitions—or individuals defined as negro—probably contributed locally to a more
pronounced blurring of distinctions among castas than existed in many other places
67As always, I am proceeding on the assumption, outlined in the introduction to
this chapter, that women were less likely to marry “down” than men. The four mestizos
listed as petitioners in Chiquimula were marrying two mestizas and two indigenous
women, one of whom, at least, was of tributary status.
68The non-Indian inhabitants of larger communities outside the district capital
were generally dominated by people defined as mulatto. For example, the Razón says
the village of Jutiapa had twelve families of “mulattos and mestizos” among its five
hundred or so residents, but mulattos predominated. Five of seven local marriage
petitions involved unions between free mulattos. In addition, the one pre-1671 marriage
petition from Jutiapa that I encountered was presented in 1626 by a negro, Felipe Larios,
and a mulata named Maria. The lone clearly misfiled case from the village, dating from
1711, also involved petitioners identified as mulatos libres. See “Razón,” AGI,
Contaduría 815, ff.70-71v.; AHA A4.16, T5 1.21:109 (1626); A4.16 T5 106:2 (1691);
T5 106:43 (1691); T5 106:60 (1691); T5 106:212 (1691); T5 106:226 (1691);
T6 105:2372 (1701); T6 105:2407 (1701); and T6 105:2389 (1711). See also the
discussion of Jutiapa’s mulatto cofradía in Chapter 6, below.

146
during the final decades of the seventeenth century.69 Just as a relatively large contingent
of Spaniards exerted downward pressure on mestizos, the lack of a significant slave
sector eased the restrictions on free mulattos. Increasingly, members of both groups
shared as a primary identity that of being “non-Indian,” and not quite Spanish.
North of Chiquimula, sprawling toward the Caribbean along the mighty Gualán,
or Motagua River, was perhaps the most non-Indian district in the entire province of
Guatemala: the low lying and lightly populated corregimiento of Acasaguastlán. Dotted
with cattle ranches and traversed by mule-trains transporting goods between central
Guatemala and the province’s Atlantic outlet, the region—like the Pacific lowlands—was
a longtime haunt of black, mulatto, and mestizo cowboys.70 These inhabitants—along
with the militiamen of Chiquimula—had formed the backbone of coastal defense forces
since at least the 1640s. Fuentes y Guzmán placed Acasaguastlán’s total population in
the late seventeenth century at about 4,000 people: seventy percent tributary Indian, and
69Unlike the Valle de las Vacas, Chiquimula had few rural enterprises employing
large numbers of slaves. Only two of 84 petitioners were slaves: Manuel de la Cruz and
Juan Antonio. They were also the only two petitioners who were defined as black. Both
were slated to marry free women, like most of their counterparts everywhere except in
and around the Valle de las Vacas. Just two other slaves turn up as witnesses: Juan
Antonio Panamá, negro, who worked alongside de la Cruz on an estate near the district
capital belonging to don Juan de Zavaleta; and Francisco de Azevedo, a mulatto slave on
the hacienda Chaparrón near Teometapa, owned by Comisario General Pedro de
Gastañaza. See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:200 (1671), T4 105:386 (1681), and
T6 105:2369(1701).
70Fuentes y Guzmán emphasized the contemporary poverty of local vaqueros in
the late seventeenth century, living amidst a depressed cattle economy whose glory days
were long past. On the other hand, he suggested a few sentences later that the local
economy was, in fact, booming. See Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:246.

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thirty percent Spanish, casta, and black.71 Non-Indians, whom the chronicler was
especially apt to call ladinos in this region, were concentrated most heavily in and
around the communities of Zacapa, La Magdalena, and the district capital, San Cristóbal
Acasaguastlán. In each of these villages, the non-indigenous population constituted
roughly forty percent of the total.72
While Fuentes y Guzmán quite explicitly applied the term ladino to all the non-
Indians of Acasaguastlán, it was used no more in seventeenth-century marriage petitions
from this district than in those emanating from other parts in the province.73 Petitioners
in Acasaguastlán, as elsewhere, continued to be categorized with the traditional
vocabulary of the racial hierarchy. While the local sample of cases is small, and perhaps
statistically unsound, the patterns which emerge from it are remarkably congruent with
those seen in Chiquimula. Seven españoles and seven mulatos libres each represented
7IFuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:247. Acasaguastlán was another of
the regions whose administrators failed to submit a report for the Razón of 1683.
72According to Fuentes y Guzmán, San Cristóbal had 420 Indians and 272
ladinos, Zacapa: 1,144 Indians and 768 ladinos; and La Magdalena: 220 Indians and
168 ladinos. I noted in Chapter 3 that it was in discussing Acasaguastlán that the
chronicler gave his most detailed, if somewhat ambiguous, definition of the term ladino
as being “what we call those residents of Indian villages who are Spaniards, mestizos,
mulattos, and blacks, differing from the Indians who only speak their mother tongue.”
See Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:242.
73The overall number of petitions from the area is quite low, in keeping with the
small population. I found only fourteen diligencias dating from 1671, 1681, 1691, and
1701, and ten others produced in years ranging from 1658 to 1680. The fourteen
petitions constituting the main sample are AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:113, 178, 182, and
T4 1.11:234, 268, and 274(1671); T4 105:256, 278, and 344(1681); T5 106:74, 146,
204, and 218 (1691); and T6 105:2395 (1701).

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twenty-five percent of the corregimiento ’s 28 petitioners. Taking into account two
contrayentes who were mulatto slaves, people defined by African origins made up
32 percent of all petitioners. Far fewer people, as usual, fell into the mestizo category:
just three petitioners, or a little over ten percent of the total.
The proportion of petitioners who were indios laboríos or otherwise identified as
indigenous in Acasaguastlán was significantly higher than in Chiquimula, however: 32
percent as against less than 17 percent of the respective totals. Moreover, five of a total
of fourteen cases represented unions between Indian and non-Indian partners. Mestizaje
in general seems to have been both more pronounced and more democratic in lightly
populated and rural Acasaguastlán than elsewhere, contributing no doubt to the high
percentage of the local population that was identified as non-indigenous. Only Spaniards
remained relatively aloof, with just one out of seven marrying a non-Spaniard.74
Strikingly, no petitioners in Acasaguastlán were defined as black, either in the
core sample or in ten other, more random cases. But neither slavery nor ties connecting
members of the free population to slave descent had disappeared by the late seventeenth
century, however intensive local processes of mestizaje may have been. More slaves
actually turn up in Acasaguastlán’s relatively few petitions than in Chiquimula’s far more
numerous ones, including the two petitioners mentioned above. One of those
petitioners, the mulatta Lorenza de Torres of San Cristóbal Acasaguastlán, was involved
74Both petitioners in the one extra case examined which involves Spanish
petitioners were also defined as española). See AHA, T5 1.21:37 (1664).

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in that rarest of circumstances, marriage between an enslaved woman and a free man.75
Torres, in an odd twist on the convention whereby free women marrying male slaves had
to affirm that they understood the potential consequences of marrying such a partner,
was asked not once, but three times, if it was truly her will to wed Matheo Ortiz, mulato
libre of nearby San Agustín de la Real Corona. One wonders what role her owner,
Lucía de Ribera, may have played in prompting this line of questioning.
Several other petitioners were the direct offspring of more standard marital
unions involving slaves—those which brought together enslaved men and free women.
Two of these cases, both from 1671, underscore the close links that must have existed
between many of Acasaguastlán’s inhabitants and the large Dominican ingenio at San
Gerónimo, a few leagues to the west in the district of Verapaz. The first case involved
Maria de las Nieves, a mulata libre of San Cristóbal Acasaguastlán who worked at San
Gerónimo and was preparing to wed an Indian from Chiapa de los Indios named Nicolás
Pérez. The witnesses included two other mulatto employees of the ingenio, one slave
and one free.76 In the second case, both petitioners were free mulattos with black slave
fathers and free mothers. Gerónimo Reyes was a 19-year-old resident of San Gerónimo,
son of one of the ingenio’s slaves and a mother who was an india tributaria from nearby
Salamá. Paula de Rivera, 22, of La Magdalena, was the daughter of a free mulatta and a
75AHA, A4.16, T4 105:256 (1681).
76AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:178 (1671). This petition demonstrates once again the
role of ingenios as sites of both mestizaje and migration.

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slave belonging to one Bias Trujillo. All three witnesses came from San Cristóbal
Acasaguastlán, including another free mulatto employed at San Gerónimo, Pedro de
Quintanilla.77
If mulattos and other non-Indians were already on the verge of outnumbering the
indigenous inhabitants of some of Acasaguastlán’s villages, a last remaining bit of the
region northeast of Santiago de Guatemala was home to perhaps the most exclusively
non-indigenous community in the entire province. In 1683, the garrison of San Felipe,
the remote fortress that overlooked the narrows leading into the Golfo Dulce from the
Caribbean, held “all manner of Spaniards, mulattos, mestizos and blacks,” according to
don Diego Victoria Zapata, alcalde mayor of Amatique. Victoria’s mélange of
humanity probably consisted of fewer than fifty people, among them eight families, four
single men, and five widows and solteras78 The residents of the castillo were not
77AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:268 (1671). One other petition filed in San Cristóbal in
1671 also involved the child of an enslaved man and a free woman. Maria de Aguilar, a
mulata libre living in Acasaguastlán and engaged to wed Juan Garcia, mestizo, was the
daughter of yet another Dominican slave, Francisco de la Cruz, negro, and the free
mulatta Micaela Aguilar. Francisco and Micaela, however, lived and worked on the Anís
ingenio, not at San Gerónimo. See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:182. The detailed information
in these petitions concerning the parents of contrayentes is, unfortunately, the exception
rather than the rule. They are evidence enough, however, to undermine claims that
mulato did not connote African descent in late seventeenth-century Guatemala.
78“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, f.27v.-28. The solteras mentioned by the
alcalde mayor may have been camp followers, as soltera was often applied to single
women assumed to be sexually active (which, in Spanish minds, included all non-
españolas), in opposition to those falling into the much prized category of doncella, or
virgin. See Lavrin, “Introduction,” 10-11. For examples of differing attitudes toward
española and non-española sexuality, see Few, “Mujeres,” 62-64.

151
entirely isolated from indigenous populations, however. They were supported by the
district’s two tributary villages, Jocolo and Amatique, which held in total perhaps 300
inhabitants.79
Just three years after Victoria filed his report, the fortress was burned to the
ground by foreign invaders. In 1690, privateers took local indigenous residents hostage,
and held them for ransom.80 The first of these events would contribute to an atmosphere
of heightened concern over the province’s defenses, producing an opening for the free
population of African descent to renegotiate the terms of its participation in militias. The
second, perhaps, was merely indicative of the sort of troubles that non-Indians—whom
might at this point begin legitimately to be described as /atf/wos-regularly brought upon
Guatemala’s indigenous peoples.
Sonsonate and San Salvador y San Miguel
In many respects, the division into regions of the eastern territories of the
colonial Province of Guatemala along the lines of the present-day international frontier
between Guatemala and El Salvador is artificial. The social and economic threads
connecting the communities of Chiquimula de la Sierra with their counterparts directly to
79Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:296. Relations between the
fortress’ residents and local villagers included sexual and marital ones. A marital
dispensation from 1696 involved a soldier “de color pardo” who was the widower of one
local Indian woman and wished to marry another. An officer accused him of having
engaged in sexual relationships with several relatives of his intended bride. See AHA,
A4.16, T5 1.22:94.
80The fortress was rebuilt in 1688. Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida,
2:195, 203, 294-297.

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the southeast, for example, were denser in the seventeenth century than those which
extended across the central Valle de Guatemala to the western highlands. Marriage
petitions reveal the importance of geographic proximity in determining the nature of
these ties. Numerous cases link Salvadoran towns and villages to places like
Chiquimula, Asunción Mita, and Jutiapa, as well as to the communities of Guazacapán.
Perhaps the best justification for considering the territory making up modem El Salvador
in isolation is that the colonial historiography of this region remains relatively weak, in
part because much of the ecclesiastical and other documentation employed below-
located in Guatemalan archives—has remained underutilized or even, until now,
undiscovered.81
One manner in which the region of present-day El Salvador decidedly did not
differ during the seventeenth century from neighboring areas to the immediate northwest
was in the percentage of the non-indigenous population comprised of people defined by
African origin. In the two colonial districts which occupied the area of the modem
Salvadoran republic, residents identified as descendants of African slaves formed a
proportion of the non-Indian population roughly equal to that existing in Chiquimula and
Guazacapán. Approximately 35 percent of contrayentes in 191 marriage petitions filed
81For example, a 1979 article by Thomas Fiehrer on the “forgotten black past” of
Central America focuses almost exclusively on El Salvador, but is based on late
eighteenth-century documentation and a 1942 demographic study by Rodolfo Barón
Castro. I discuss Barón Castro’s work at length below. See Thomas Fiehrer, “Slaves
and Freedmen in Colonial Central America: Rediscovering a Forgotten Black Past,”
Journal of Negro History 64, no. 1 (1979): 39-57.

153
throughout El Salvador in 1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701 were identified as mulattos and
blacks, both slave and free.82 The vast majority were categorized as mulatos libres, but
18 slave petitioners also appeared, constituting nearly five percent of the overall total.83
The demography of early colonial El Salvador has received little detailed
treatment from historians since the publication of Rodolfo Barón Castro’s La población
de El Salvador in the 1940s.84 Barón Castro’s work remains useful in many respects, but
its assessment of El Salvador’s seventeenth-century population is based entirely on the
report from Sonsonate contained in the Razón 85 Moreover, the study reveals the same
reluctance on the part of its author to explore in any depth the local colonial African
82For the Salvadoran petitions, see the Appendix. The Razón is not very helpful
for El Salvador, since only the alcalde mayor of Sonsonate filed a report. His report, in
turn, discussed only tributary Indians and Spanish vecinos. Citing padrones from 1676,
he counted over 2,000 Indian tributaries, but lumped together heads of household,
widows, and solteros/as in such as way as to impede efforts to extrapolate a figure for
total indigenous population. Meanwhile, he listed more than 100 “Spaniards” by name.
See “Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, ff.61v.-70.
83In fact, 17 petitions involving a slave contrayente (in only one were both
partners slaves) make up nine percent of all petitions. Twelve of these paired an
enslaved man with a free woman. In four, an enslaved woman was to wed a free man.
One slave petitioner, Sebastián Martínez, was evidently not of African origin. Listed as
“mulato esclavo de nación chino en las islas de manila filipinas,” he had allegedly been
sold locally after a ship wrecked off the Salvadoran coast in the 1650s. It is possible that
he was instead smuggled in. See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:210 (1671); MacLeod, Spanish
Central America, 268-270.
84Rodolfo Barón Castro, La población de El Salvador, 2nd ed. (San Salvador,
UCA/Editores, 1978). Barón Castro’s opus remains in many ways the major
demographic study of colonial El Salvador. See, for example, Aldo A. Lauria-Santiago,
“Land, Community, and Revolt in Late-Nineteenth-Century Indian Izalco, El Salvador,”
Hispanic American Historical Review 79, no. 3 (1999): 497 note 5.
85Barón Castro, La población de El Salvador, Chapter 6.

154
presence that has too often characterized the historiography of Guatemala. Barón
Castro does acknowledge the possibility that El Salvador’s national territory held
between 4,000 and 5,000 African-descended slaves in the early seventeenth century,86
and notes an enigmatic historical reference to a revolt by 2,000 slaves in San Salvador
during Holy Week in 1626.87 The significance of this African presence is all but
dismissed, however, by way of a rather curious argument which intimates first that
blacks and mulattos engaged in exogamous sexual relations only with members of El
Salvador’s indigenous population—never Spaniards—and then claims they “failed to
86This many slaves would easily have equaled the number of Spaniards living in
the towns of La Trinidad de Sonsonate, San Salvador, and San Miguel in 1620.
Between them these communities probably held fewer than 600 Spanish vecinos, or, at a
stretch, some 3,600 Spanish residents in total. The figure for Spaniards does not take
into account those who may have been living in the countryside, but, by the same token,
free people of African descent are not included in the calculations, either. On Spanish
populations, see MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 218, figure 15. On multiplying the
number of Spanish vecinos by 6 to obtain total Spanish population, see Chapter 2.
87See Barón Castro, La población de El Salvador, 163. The reference cited is in
the Colección de documentos inéditos, 17:215. The details of this incident remain hazy.
The Colección simply notes that “2,000 blacks were gathered to revolt,” and that the
threat dissipated after “some” were punished. These events may be referred to in claims
for recognition for service to the Crown made by don Pedro de Aguilar Laso de la Vega
in 1631 and 1633. Aguilar, alcalde mayor of San Salvador and San Miguel from 1620-
1626, said he had repressed at his own cost an “uprising” of “muchos esclabos” in the
district of San Salvador, “amotinados en la montaña para matar a los españoles de la
provincia.” See Alvarez-Lobos Villatoro and Toledo Palomo, Libro de los Pareceres,
221, 231-232; Manuel Rubio Sánchez, Alcaldes Mayores: historia de los alcaldes
mayores, justicias mayores, gobernadores intendentes, intendentes corregidores, y jefes
politicos, de la Provincia de San Salvador, San Miguel y San Vicente (San Salvador:
Ministerio de Educación, 1979), 136-137.

155
develop independently” from Indians, “losing their entire personality” as they were
“absorbed by the indigenous masses.”88
This argument, whatever its other problems, distorts both the nature of racial
hierarchy and the direction of population “absorption” in colonial El Salvador. As
elsewhere in the Province of Guatemala, it was in fact primarily “Indian-ness” that was
lost through mestizaje, as individuals of part-indigenous ancestry were incorporated into
a non-Indian sector that was dominated in many places—at least in the late seventeenth
century~by people identified clearly on the basis of African descent. Indeed, Barón
Castro came closer to the mark concerning the relationship of people of African origins
to the indigenous population in quoting the nineteenth-century Guatemalan historian José
Milla, who suggested that mulattos, like mestizos, were considered to be “of a better
class than pure Indians, if not according to authority and the law . . . then by public
opinion.”89
In the Salvadoran districts of the Province of Guatemala, the social elevation of
free people of African origins—and often slaves as well—over the indigenous population
was perhaps more well established than anywhere else. This situation arose in part from
El Salvador’s status as the major indigo-growing center of seventeenth-century
Guatemala, even if the indigo industry was in a period of stagnation after about 1630.90
88Barón Castro, La población de El Salvador, 162-165.
89Barón Castro, La población de El Salvador, 161-162.
90MacLeod, Spanish Central America, 181-183.

156
As noted in Chapter 2, indigo obrajes frequently employed blacks and castas in
supervisory capacities, while relying heavily—and illegally—on temporary indigenous
labor rather than African slaves during the relatively brief harvest season. By the mid¬
seventeenth century, people defined by African origins were not only managers of indigo
farms and other enterprises in rural El Salvador, but on occasion their owners as well.91
However, even though indigo holdings tended to employ few slaves, and forced
importation of Africans dropped almost to nil after the 1630s,92 enslaved blacks and
mulattos continued to be present in significant numbers in rural El Salvador during the
late seventeenth century. One example presented in Chapter 6 reveals that even some
relatively well-off individuals of African ancestry owned slaves. On the other hand, there
is evidence that many chattel servants were obtaining their freedom, perhaps in part
because of the expense involved in maintaining slave labor amid a depressed export
economy.
One occurrence of relatively large-scale manumission emerges in the 1669 will of
Bartolomé Fernández, a resident of San Salvador who owned haciendas named San
Antonio Metapate and San Gerónimo Metapate, and ten slaves.93 The estate came into
dispute after two slaves claimed that Fernández’ wife, Isabel de la Serna, had hidden a
91 Some examples are presented in Chapter 6.
92On a group of around 75 slaves that reached San Miguel in 1642, part of a
cargo smuggled into Trujillo, see Chapter 2, footnote 29.
93AGCA, A1.56. 1975. 13399(1669).

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will granting all ten slaves freedom on her husband’s demise in favor of an older one
which freed only three on his death, and the rest on hers.94 Serna complained that the
two plaintiffs, Nicolás Antonio and Miguel Gerónimo, were troublemakers, and
delivered them over to be sold. In the end, though, she obtained only a paltry sum from
one Antonio de Espinosa, since the enslavement of the two men was to end, at the latest,
when she died.
A marriage petition from 1671 involving another of Serna’s slaves, meanwhile,
exhibited a different strategy that was apparently employed by many of the province’s
enslaved men to secure freedom, if not for themselves, at least for their offspring.
Francisco Hernández, a 25-year-old mulatto slave, contracted in San Salvador to wed a
mulata libre of Mita named María de la Candelaria.95 Any children the two had would,
of course, have been free at birth. The free population of African descent was swelled
thus not only by manumission, but by the children bom to slaves like Hernández and
their free partners.96
94The three to be freed on Fernández’ death included a black slave woman, Inés
Pérez, a mulatto named Juan Ramirez, and a mulatillo, Joseph, grandson ofinés. It is
not inconceivable that Juan was the son of Pérez and Fernández, and the father of
Joseph, and that the three were to be freed because of their familial relationship with
their owner.
95AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:86(1671).
%It is well established that slave women in Latin America were manumitted more
frequently than their male counterparts. See, for example, Herbert S. Klein, African
Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean (New York: Oxford University Press,
1986), 156-157. It is less often emphasized that only enslaved men could produce
freeborn children, through sexual relationships with free partners. The origins of free

158
Marriage petitions in the aggregate provide further hints of a drop in the number
of slaves in the last decades of the seventeenth century, while also giving a sense of their
dispersion throughout the two districts being discussed. Of the 17 diligencias dating
from the years 1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701 in which at least one petitioner was a slave,
nine, or more than half the total, were filed in the earliest year cited, when they made up
nearly 18 percent of the 51 petitions examined. Petitions involving a slave constituted
only six percent of the total in 1681 (two of 34), and just over four percent in 1691
(three of 70), before rising slightly again to form about eight percent of the total in 1701
(three of 36), when slave imports had apparently begun to flow regularly into the
Province once again.97 The seventeen cases mentioned included four from San Miguel,
three from San Juan Evangelista Opico, two each from San Salvador, Zacatecoluca, and
San Vicente, and one apiece from Izalco, La Trinidad de Sonsonate, Chalchuapa, and
Apopa.98
populations of color, generally assumed to have lain almost exclusively in processes of
manumission, thus may also have been tied in substantial measure to marital and other
reproductive strategies employed by enslaved men to secure free birth for their children.
A recent suggestion that “[a]ll the free black and ‘colored’ (mixed-race) communities [in
the Americas] before general emancipation in the nineteenth century were descended
from one or more ancestors who had themselves been manumitted” may require
modification in light of evidence presented here. See Rosemary Brana-Shute,
“Manumission,” in Seymour Drescher and Stanley L. Engerman, eds., A Historical
Guide to World Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 262.
97Lutz, Santiago, 86.
98Four of 53 extra, mostly misfiled petitions from El Salvador not included in
these calculations also involved slave petitioners. These came from San Salvador,
Olocuilta, Zacatecoluca, and San Vicente.

159
Among these various communities, Opico and the area stretching between it and
San Silvestre Guaymoco" may have been the region of El Salvador where the non-
Indian population was most dominated by blacks and mulattos.100 In eight petitions from
Opico, including the three mentioned above, ten of sixteen petitioners were identified as
black or mulatto. Seven of eight contrayentes in Guaymoco’s four petitions, meanwhile,
were defined in this manner. Seventy-one percent of 24 local petitioners, therefore, were
identified either as black (five) or as mulatto (twelve).101
Across the two districts, the proportion of petitioners identified as negros or
mulatos was one-third or more in most of the major population centers. Mulattos and
blacks constituted 46 percent of petitioners in Zacatecoluca and neighboring Santiago
Nonualco (13 of 28); 42 percent in the town of San Salvador (31 of 74); 37 percent in
San Miguel, including the port of Amapala (20 of 54);102 and 35 percent in the town of
Sonsonate and its satellite communities of Izalco and Caluco (14 of 40). Finally, in an
arc of villages stretching along the present-day border with Guatemala, anchored in the
middle by Santa Ana and including Atiquizaya, Ahuachapán, Chalchuapa, Texistepeque,
"Armenia in the present day.
100This region is more or less equidistant from San Salvador and Sonsonate, just
north of a line running directly between the two.
101There is also one petition from each of the villages among the extra cases from
El Salvador. All four petitioners were identified as mulatos libres. See AHA, A4.16,
T4 1.11:292 (no date); T5 106:50(1692).
102Southwest of San Miguel, the village of Usulután produced one petition, not
included in this total. It involved two free mulattos.

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and Metapán, people defined by African origins formed roughly 32 percent of petitioners
(21 of 66).103 The 131 petitions originating in the communities mentioned represent two-
thirds of the 191 petitions which form the core sample from El Salvador. Ninety-nine
mulatto and black petitioners, in turn, constitute about 38 percent of the contrayentes
listed in these 131 petitions.104
The African presence seems to have been far less pronounced in the belt of
indigenous villages surrounding San Salvador—including such communities as Olocuilta,
Cuzcatlán, Tonacatepeque, Apopa, Nejapa, and San Martín Perulapán—and in the
remote eastern area north of San Miguel, around San Francisco Gotera. In these places,
black and mulatto petitioners constituted little more than fifteen percent of all
contrayentes (five of 32 and one of six, respectively).105 In and around the north-central
villages of Chalatenango and Suchitoto, meanwhile, petitioners identified as mulato or
negro made up 25 percent (8 of 32) of the total. Lastly, in the villa of San Vicente, five
,03These communities were all roughly equidistant from Jutiapa, just a few
leagues away in Chiquimula, and tied as closely to the villages of that corregimiento in
the seventeenth century as to towns like San Salvador and San Miguel.
104It is interesting, if perhaps not statistically sound, to note that 41 of
106 petitioners in the 53 Salvadoran cases looked at that did not fall into the core sample
(ranging in date from 1660 to 1728) were also identified as mulatto or black. This
represents just under 39 percent of total petitioners in these cases.
105It is notable in the three petitions from San Francisco Gotera that only four
people among both petitioners and witnesses are defined by origin, two mulatos libres
and two mestizas The petitioners in one diligencia are simply called pobres, while all
but one of nine witnesses are described either as vecinos (5) or left undefined (3). See
AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:91 (1671); T6 105:2350(1701); T6 105:2426(1701).

161
of 22 petitioners, or 23 percent of the total, were defined as black or mulatto, including
two mulatto slaves.
San Vicente was a special case, though. Unlike most other communities where
blacks and mulattos appear to have been relatively few, its population was not primarily
indigenous. On the contrary, it had been founded in the 1630s as an explicitly non-
Indian villa—akin to San Diego de la Gomera in Escuintepeque—in order to prevent
“blacks, mulattos, and mestizos from living in Indian villages.”106 In 1658, local officials
petitioned fruitlessly for city status, saying the town contained “more than fifty Spanish
vecinos with their houses and families, not to mention the common folk made up of free
mulattos, mestizos, and indios laboríos ”107 Its marriage petitions from the late
seventeenth century are notable for the high number of petitioners who are not defined at
all, nearly half of the total, as well as for a greater ambiguity in human labeling than was
evident in most other parts of the province.
Significantly, that ambiguity arose primarily in the application of the term
mestizo, which I have identified as a particularly unstable category. The rarely seen term
mestizo libre, for example, was applied to a petitioner in one case from 1701, and to a
witness in another. In a third petition from the same year, a prospective bride from San
Vicente was defined as india laboria even though her parents were both described as
mestizos. While these cases may simply have reflected the idiosyncratic labeling
‘“Audiencia a la Corona, 9 February, 1639, AGI, Guatemala, 16, R. 1, N.9.
107AGCA, A1.24. 1562. 10206. ff.98-100, 127-131v„ on LDS roll 0744961.

162
practices of a particular cura, it is also quite possible that the context in which this
labeling occurred—the town of San Vicente in 1701—was one in which distinctions based
on origin were especially difficult to maintain. In the first place, its largely casta
population was three generations old. In the second, extensive migration may have
compounded the difficulties of maintaining social hierarchy based on origin in a casta
community: roughly half of local diligencias matrimoniales involved a petitioner from
elsewhere. San Vicente, in both of these respects, probably represented the future in the
eastern portions of the Province of Guatemala.
The boundaries of racial hierarchy in El Salvador, as elsewhere, appeared most
intact at the uppermost reaches, at least in 1671. In that year, eleven of 51 marriage
petitions, or more than twenty percent of the total, involved Spanish contrayentes
exclusively. Conversely, there were no petitions demonstrating intent on the part of
españoles or españolas to marry outside of their ranks.108
108Seven of the petitions originated in San Miguel, suggesting perhaps that the
Spanish community there, as in other larger towns, was both large and cohesive, and
resisted the integration of non-Spaniards. It should not be forgotten, though, that there
was significant internal differentiation even among españoles. One marital dispensation
from 1671 contains a request from doña Inés de Castilla, high-born in San Miguel and a
widow at 18, to marry don Xuárez de la Fuente of Realejo, in order to have someone to
protect her extensive property holdings, which included slaves. Castilla said she had
tried to find a spouse locally, but it had “not been possible to find someone with the
calidades that [were] desired.” See AHA, A4.16, T5 1.22:17. It is interesting,
meanwhile, that none of the petitions I examined involved two Spanish contrayentes
from San Salvador. Petitions representing this type of union, if filed, must be located
elsewhere. If so, Spaniards are under-represented in the sample from that city.

163
The picture which emerges in following years is far less definitive, however. Just
nine of sixteen petitions from 1681, 1691, and 1701 in which Spaniards were involved
defined both contrayentes explicitly as español. Two others actually demonstrate the
unusual situation of españolas marrying non-Spaniards. But the circumstances under
which individuals defined as Spanish sought to marry non-Spaniards were frequently out
of the ordinary. In a case from Santa Ana, for example, a Spaniard seeking to marry a
mestiza was listed as illegitimate.109 In another, from Guaymoco, an española betrothed
to a mulato libre was an orphan, and the two lived in a community which, as already
seen, held a non-Indian population that was overwhelmingly mulatto.110 Four petitions in
which only one participant is identified as español or española provide no designation of
the other contrayente at all, meaning one or more may also have fallen into the Spanish
category. The most striking petition, though, brought together Pasqual Hernández, the
son of indios, and the española María de Ayala, in Ahuachapán.1" No additional
information suggests that this was anything other than a clear exception to the trends in
cross-status marital unions laid out above.
The unusual nature of the proposed marriage of Hernández and Ayala is
underscored when marriage petitions which involved tributary Indians, at the bottom of
the racial hierarchy, are examined. Indigenous men and women defined explicitly as
109AHA, A4.16, T4 105:259 (1681).
noAHA, A4.16, T4 105:355 (1681).
’“AHA, A4.16, T6 105:2411 (1701).

164
tributaries appeared in 15 of the 191 petitions in the core sample. Among the intended
spouses of nine tributary women were seven indios laboríos, one mulato libre, and one
black slave. The marital partners of the six tributary men who appear included four
indias labor ias, one mulata libre and one mestiza. Tributary Indians, as elsewhere in the
province, found few marriage partners outside the population that was defined as
indigenous.
But in 48 cases which classify at least one petitioner as indigenous but not
explicitly as tributary—indio/a laborio/a or, simply, indio/a—couples were significantly
more varied in ascribed origin. While twelve, or one-quarter, designated both partners
as indios laboríos, and twenty-seven defined both as indigenous, in fully twenty-one
cases, nearly half the total, one of the petitioners was not classified as Indian. The
prospective non-Indian spouses, both men and women, fell into various categories, with
the notable exception of español/a.112 Among the eleven proposed non-Indian wives
were three mestizas, six free mulattas, one negra esclava, and an undefined woman. The
ten intended non-Indian husbands were similarly diverse, including a couple of
individuals who fell into categories that rarely appear. Along with three mestizos, three
free mulattos, a black slave, and an undefined man were a zambo and the mulato esclavo
chino of whom mention was made earlier in the chapter. These data seem to point
towards the conclusion that, by the beginning of the eighteenth century, boundaries
u2The case of the hijo de indios marrying an española in Ahuachapán, mentioned
earlier, is not included here because the proposed groom was not himself explicitly
identified as an Indian.

165
which in theory fragmented the sector of the colonial population that stood between elite
Spaniards and lowly Indian tributaries into competing “racial” factions were in practice
increasingly inoperative not just in San Vicente, but in much of what is now El Salvador.
The Western Highlands
The last region examined in detail in this chapter swept in a westerly direction
along an arc beginning north of Santiago de Guatemala in the alcaldía mayor of
Verapaz, and taking in the highland corregimientos of Totonicapán and Huehuetenango,
Quezaltenango, Atitlán, and Tecpán Atitlán. Outside of Santiago and its immediate
surroundings, this region included the most densely populated areas in the entire
audiencia of Guatemala. It was home to various peoples of Mayan origin, prominent
among them the Quiché, Cakchiquel, Zutujil, Mam, and Kekchi. The presence of people
of African descent—or indeed of any non-Indians—was by contrast the lowest
proportionally of any region of the Province of Guatemala. Both slaves of African origin
and free blacks and mulattos lived throughout this region, however. But it is only
through consulting a number of different sources that the extent of their presence
become fully apparent.
The Razón of 1683, while discussing the highlands in some detail, gives no sense
whatsoever that there were slaves there, indeed barely referring to the existence of a free
population of color. One reference to the latter occurs in the report of don Sebastián de
Olivera y Angulo, corregidor of Quezaltenango, who indicated that 53 “personas
españoles mesttisos y mulattos Casados viudos y solteros” lived among more than four

166
thousand Quiché residents in the district capital.113 Another appears in the report
prepared by don Sebastián’s counterpart in the district of Tecpan Atitlán,114 who
indicated that the workforce on the Argueta hacienda near the village of Santa Catalina
was comprised of “Yndios y mulattos libres.”115 Both corregidores referred as well to
the presence of gente ladina in villages under their respective jurisdictions—in the
“barrio” of San Marcos near San Pedro Sacatepéquez, and in San Andrés Sematabaj—but
neither specified the composition of this category. Finally, the alcalde mayor of
Verapaz, don Pedro de Godoy Ponce de León, said a hacienda in the vicinity of Rabinal
was populated by “eighteen or twenty Spanish, mestizo, and mulatto vecinos.”116
Amazingly, Godoy did not even mention the nearby Dominican ingenio of San
113“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, ff. 72-73. The 1689 Franciscan census bumped
up to 150 the number of non-Indian residents, a figure which Fuentes y Guzmán then
appeared to have adopted as his estimate for the number of “Spanish” families. Fuentes
y Guzmán’s penchant for exaggeration is also indicated by his suggestion that as many as
ten thousand Indians lived in the community of Quezaltenango. See “Descripción,” in
Vázquez, Crónica, 4:49; Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 3:155.
114The colonial name of the present-day town of Sololá.
115“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, f.45v. There was also reported to be a
mulatto married to an india in San Andrés Sematabaj. See ff.41v.-42. In a 1701
marriage petition, Martin Diego, a free mulatto of Patzicia proposing to marry the india
Estefanía de Lares, was identified as a native of the estancia of Bernardino de Argueta,
presumably the same holding mentioned above. See AHA, A4.16, T6 105:2427.
I16“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, f 19v.

167
Gerónimo, home to perhaps the largest congregation of people of African origins in the
entire province of Guatemala.117
Fuentes y Guzmán’s observations concerning the western highlands are even less
helpful than those contained in the Razón. The Franciscan census, on the other hand,
does add a bit to the picture, indicating that 94 “personas ladinas” under the spiritual
jurisdiction of the convent at Patzicia included Spaniards, mestizos, and mulattos living
on various types of rural landholdings.118 In sum, though, the above-mentioned sources
suggest that populations of African descent were so negligible in general in the highlands
as to be hardly worth mentioning. Indeed, the most remote corregimiento, Totonicapán
and Huehuetenango, appears to have been entirely bereft of blacks and mulattos.
The district administrator of Totonicapán and Huehuetenango reported in 1683
that, living among some six thousand indigenous households in the corregimiento were
exactly seven families of españoles, three in the district capital—the town of
Huehuetenango—and four in nearby Chiantla.119 Fuentes y Guzmán again gave much
higher numbers for Spanish households in the two communities—thirty in Huehuetenango
117See Chapter 2. The importance of San Gerónimo as a site for the “production”
of mestizaje is revealed not only in marriage petitions from nearby Acasaguastlán,
discussed above, but in others from farther afield as well. For example, in 1671
Magdalena Ortiz, mulata libre daughter of Domingo de Sosa, a mulatto slave on the
ingenio, and María de la Cruz, of unstated origins, appeared in a petition from the
capital, planning to wed a free mulatto from the Dominicans’ Rosario ingenio. See
AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:239.
118Vázquez, Crónica, 4:40.
119“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, f.37.

168
and fifteen in Chiantla-but made no greater mention of castas or gente ladina, let alone
black or mulatto slaves.120 It is most interesting, then, to discover that the 1687 will of
just one Spanish resident of Chiantla, Baltasar de Herrera, contained references to no
fewer than nine slaves. When Herrera died that same year, he owned a mulatta woman
named Catalina, about 40 years old, and her four children: Lucas, 18 or 19; Lorenzo, 10
or 11; Tomasa, “between 4 and 7 [!],” and Pasqual, three months. Earlier, Herrera had
sold Bartolo, a “mulatillo” of 10 or 11 years, to his son-in-law, Domingo Moscoso. He
was also involved at the time of his death in the disposition of two other slaves: a negra
named Tomasa, and a mulatto boy named Joseph, 9 or 10. These two were the
“property,” respectively, of the estates of Pedro de Almengor and Juan de Alvarado.
Finally, one other slave had belonged previously to Herrera’s household. Magdalena, a
mulata who at age 12 had formed part of the dowry of Herrera’s wife, had preceded
Herrera to the grave.121
Free people of African descent also turn up in alternative documentation from
remote highland communities. In the same year that Baltasar de Herrera died, the
indigenous alcaldes and regidores of Chalchitán,122 just east of Huehuetenango,
complained that the family of a local mulatto carpenter named Joseph Barrientos was
120Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 3:65, 77. Fuentes y Guzmán also
nearly doubled the number of tributaries, saying there were 10,482.
121AGCA, A1.20. 1497. 9974 (1687).
122Now Aguacatán.

169
causing great harm to the local Indian population. The municipal officers singled out
Barrientos’ son, Manuel, for particular criticism, claiming the young man was a cattle-
thief, besides living openly with an indigenous woman who was not his wife. The entire
family was ordered to relocate at least twenty leagues away from Chalchitán, in
accordance with the longstanding but little observed laws barring non-indigenous
residence in Indian villages.123
Marriage petitions from the western highlands provide more glimpses into the
African presence there.124 In 1691, Bernardino Quiñónez, a mulatto slave of Capitán
Francisco Gutiérrez de Quevedo of Tecpán Atitlán, requested permission to wed a local
mestiza widow, Josepha Méndez.125 That same year, Ramón de la Cruz, another mulatto
slave who had been born in the nearby village of San Andrés Sematabaj, sought to marry
the india laboría María Nicolasa de Ocampo in Santiago de Guatemala.126 The capital
was not the only recipient of migrants from the highlands. A third petition from 1691
123AGCA, A1.15. 6087. 55067 (1687). These laws, discussed in Chapter 2,
continued to be reiterated from time to time, without much effect. See, for example,
AGCA, A1.23. 1520. 10075. ff. 98-98v. (1673).
124I found only eleven petitions emanating directly from the highlands for all of
1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701, a number which accords with the extremely low proportion
of the population that was not tributary Indian. Rather than examine these in a
particularly systematic fashion, I cite some as examples, along with a few other petitions
which involved contrayentes from this region but were filed elsewhere.
125AHA, A4.16, T5 106:6 (1691).
126AHA, A4.16, T5 106:138 (1691). The witnesses included Joseph de Santa
María, mulato libre of Tecpán Atitlán.

170
involved a free mulatta of Huehuetenango, María Agueda, preparing to wed a mulato
libre named Luis de Pedreros in Samayac, Zapotitlán.127
Perhaps not surprisingly, the western highlands were the one region of the
province of Guatemala where people classified as mestizos seem to have outnumbered
those identified as blacks or mulattos.128 But the region’s marriage petitions, despite the
small sample, do echo certain patterns seen in other areas. For example, the four
petitions involving Spanish contrayentes represented marriages between españoles and
españolas exclusively .129 Three of five petitions involving mestizos reflect a similar
corporate solidarity, but two others reveal the illusory nature of that solidarity, being
unions between a mestizo and a tributary Indian woman, and a mestiza and a mulatto
slave.130 Both Fuentes y Guzmán and the Franciscan census-makers intimated in the late
seventeenth century that the emerging category gente ladina encompassed all of the
individuals mentioned here, with the exception of the india tributaria.131 The question
127AHA, A4.16, T5 106:93 (1691).
128There was, in fact, one highland district for which no residents of African
descent turned up in any source examined: Atitlán, made up of the indigenous
communities dotting the shores of the lake for which the district was named. Its
administrator referred to the presence locally of only two españoles and five mestizas in
1683. See “Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, f.25.
129AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:98(1671); T4 1.12:189 (1671); T4 105:254(1681);
T6 105:2361 (1701).
130AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:118 (1671); T4 1.12:181 (1671); T4 105:248(1681);
T4 105:284 (1681); T5 106:6 (1691).
131See Chapter 3.

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remains, however, as to the usefulness of that category for understanding social relations
and racial hierarchy in seventeenth-century Guatemala. In the following chapter, I
examine in some detail the one region of the Province of Guatemala that has so far
received little attention-the southwestern Pacific coast—as a means of demonstrating
more fully both the importance of considering “non-Indians” as a single category for
certain analytical purposes and the substantial social diversity which indiscriminate use of
this category would obscure.

CHAPTER 5
MULATTOS AND MESTIZAJE ON THE PACIFIC COAST
On August 17th, 1671, an Angolan slave named Manuel de Morales petitioned to
wed Inés Hemandes, india laboria of Escuintla.1 Morales, said to be 49 years old,2 was
one of about 30 slaves on a sugar-producing operation in rural Escuintepeque which the
Dominican order had purchased a few years earlier from Capitán Femando Alvares de
Rebolorio.3 Hemandes was the widow of Bernabé Mundo, negro, and worked on a
nearby ingenio belonging to Mauricio de Sosa. Four witnesses testified to the soundness
of the petition, two on behalf of each of the petitioners. One of Morales’ witnesses was
a mulatto slave of Rebolorio’s named Silvestre Ramírez, Morales’ fellow worker for
twelve years on the ingenio and himself the widower of an indigenous woman, Maria de
la Cruz. The other, the negro esclavo Jacinto Pereira, had also toiled alongside Morales,
and was now owned by a resident of Santiago named Capitán Pedro Pereira. Hemandes’
witnesses, meanwhile, were the free mulatto Diego de Arriasa, who lived on a hacienda
'AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:271. For the sake of clarity, I refer to the capital of the
corregimiento of Escuintepeque as Escuintla, although the names were interchangeable.
2He may, then, have been brought to Guatemala as a youth more than three
decades earlier, before the slave trade all but ceased in the late 1630s.
3 AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:271; Pinto Soria, El valle central, 28.
172

173
near Escuintla, and Miguel de la Cruz, a black slave of doña Juana de Mesa who was
said to be 80 years old.
This case, in many respects, is a microcosm of seventeenth-century mestizaje in
Escuintepeque. The corregimiento was precisely the sort of region where one could
have expected to encounter significant concentrations of people identified by African
descent. Located directly south of Santiago de Guatemala, Escuintepeque was
comprised in the main of torrid and lightly inhabited Pacific lowlands dotted with vast,
sprawling rural enterprises on which cattle, sugar, and indigo were raised. These
lowlands were home to a non-indigenous population that was overwhelmingly dominated
by people of African descent, whose activities often centered on the only town in
colonial Guatemala founded explicitly by and for free blacks and mulattos, the villa of
San Diego de la Gomera.4 By a stroke of luck, the demography of this area in the late
seventeenth century is relatively clear, because its administrator submitted for inclusion
in the Razón of 1683 the most detailed report to emerge from anywhere in the Province
of Guatemala.5
4See Chapter 2.
5Don Antonio de Agüero, corregidor of Escuintepeque in 1683, was a member
of a prominent local landowning family. His intimate connections to the district may
explain why his report provides an unrivaled level of detail about rural workforces. See
“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, ff.4v.-9; Pinto Soria, El valle central, 25, 53 note 141.
Damage to the Razón, unfortunately, is especially serious on the pages where Agüero’s
report falls, meaning some information is lost.

174
The reports on the neighboring coastal districts of Zapotitlán and Guazacapán
contained in the Razón, while not quite as helpful as the one from Escuintepeque, are
nevertheless also among the most extensive available.6 Together with observations by
both Fuentes y Guzmán and members of the Franciscan order, in addition to marriage
petitions, the district census reports provide an opportunity for comparative analysis that
is unmatched for any other region of the province. In the aggregate, the three districts
may have held as many as 40,000 indigenous people. Most of the latter were
tributaries,7 the majority of Maya origin but including Nahuatl-speaking Pipiles, whose
home territory extended from Escuintepeque through much of El Salvador, and a small
Xincá population in Guazacapán. It is doubtful, meanwhile, that the number of
españoles, mestizos, mulatos and negros spread across these coastal territories reached
four thousand. The non-indigenous sectors, therefore, probably represented less than ten
percent of the total population, even were indios laboríos to be lumped together with
blacks, castas, and españoles.
6Escuintepeque and Guazacapán were to be folded into a single alcaldía mayor
in 1678, but the Razón reports of 1683 continued to treat them as separate
administrative entities, with a corregidor and alcalde mayor respectively. As the two do
not seem to have been described consistently as one unit prior to the eighteenth century,
I discuss them separately here. See Stephen Webre, “Poder e ideología: la consolidación
del sistema colonial (1542-1700),” in Pinto Soria, ed., Historia General de
Centroamérica, 2:158.
Excluding people who were legally bound to pay the laborío, blacks, mulattos,
and indios laboríos.

175
Evidence from marriage petitions suggests that people defined by African descent
dominated this non-tributary population, either as a clear majority or as a strong
plurality, depending upon whether and how one chooses to count the variously identified
Indians who appear. In 97 marriage petitions examined from the years 1671, 1681,
1691, and 1701,8 41 percent of all contrayentes from the region isolated here were
identified as mulatto or black—mulato libre in most cases—and 32 percent as indio
laborío, indio tributario, or, simply, indio.9 As this chapter demonstrates, however,
demographic variation within the region was quite significant. The aggregate numbers
produced above do not reveal, for example, the concentration of indigenous tributary
populations along the northwestern, upland edge of the region, the congregation of
españoles almost exclusively in its largest communities, or the dominant position of
blacks and mulattos—both slave and free—in the sweltering coastal hotlands of
Escuintepeque. These and other factors contributed to significant intra-regional diversity
both in the composition of non-Indian populations and in the character of mestizaje.
8On the methodology employed in analyzing marriage petitions, see Chapter 4.
9It is possible that subtracting from the total the eight percent or so of petitioners
who were identified explicitly as tributary Indians would produce a more accurate
assessment of the proportions of the non-tributary population represented by mulattos,
blacks, and others. But counting indios tributarios who married laboríos or non-Indians
as part of the non-tributary population perhaps better reflects the process oí mestizaje
taking place in colonial Guatemala, allowing for the likelihood that the children bom of
these unions, at the very least, escaped tribute status and swelled the casta population.

176
Escuintepeque
Although most of Escuintepeque lay near sea level, the largest municipalities
were located along its northern fringe, where the landscape began a rapid ascent towards
the central highlands around and to the west of Santiago de Guatemala. The residents of
these communities were mostly tributary Indians, with only a sprinkling of Spaniards and
castas. Indigenous villages were few and far between in the Pacific hotlands, however,
where black and casta workers often outnumbered Indian laborers from inland and
upland areas on ranches and indigo and sugar plantations. Much of Escuintepeque, thus,
was a crucible of mestizaje. Coastal residents of widely varying geographical and
ancestral origins found themselves thrown together in relatively small-scale and intimate
labor forces. The basis of this mestizaje, it is important to note, was the intermingling of
African and native populations. The Spanish presence appears generally to have been
very light.10
The district capital, the old Pipil town of Escuintla, lay at the crossroads of trade
routes running from San Salvador to southern New Spain, and from the Pacific coast to
Santiago de Guatemala. The commercial opportunities available locally attracted more
non-Indians to the town than were to be found in most communities of similar size in the
10This was especially the case on the many estancias and ingenios whose owners
resided as much as possible in the city. Fuentes y Guzmán wrote that the coastal curato
of Chipilapa was comprised of mulatos, “los más de ellos de los que llaman zambos;
cuya generación es de la mezcla de indias con negros.” Marriage petitions confirm his
claim. This use of the term zambo, incidentally, represents one of the rare occasions on
which it crops up in contemporary sources. See Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación
florida, 2:79.

177
western highlands, although far fewer than in eastern population centers like Chiquimula
de la Sierra. According to the Razón, perhaps 140 Spaniards and castas lived among
some 2,500 Indians in Escuintla. Mulattos formed the overall majority within the town’s
non-indigenous sector, outnumbering mestizos as much as six to one.11
The part of the report discussing the non-indigenous population in the most
important village west of the district capital, Santiago Cotzumalguapa, is too damaged to
read. But the 1689 Franciscan survey of communities under the order’s governance
indicates that forty “personas ladinas, entre españoles y mulatos,” lived among some
500 souls there.12 It seems reasonable to conclude, therefore, that people defined by
African descent dominated the casta population in Escuintepeque’s two most important
upland communities.13
"The corregidor’s figures for Escuintla: six “españoles casados,” ten “mulattos
casados,” fifteen “mulattos soltteros,” ten “viudas mulattas,” six “mesttisas soltteras,”
and “ottras viudas mesttisas viejas.” Multiplying the number of Spaniards by 6 (see
Chapter 2, footnote 32,) and other heads of household by 4 (the factor typically used for
indigenous tributaries) produces 36 españoles and 65 mulatos in total. Of course, the
figures used do not convey information concerning the origins of wives, an issue on
which marriage petitions examined below shed some light. See “Razón,”AGI,
Contaduría 815, f. 8.
"“Descripción,” Vázquez, Crónica, 4:55. The Razón put the total population of
the village at 641. Fuentes y Guzmán said that 40 Spanish and mulatto vecinos lived
among 640 people in Santiago Cotzumalguapa. His apparent use of the Franciscan
figure to suggest that at least 160 non-Indians resided in the village is suspect, given that
fewer Spaniards and castas lived in the far larger and more important community of
Escuintla. See “Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.4v. Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación
florida, 2:79.
13Few Spaniards or castas lived in Santiago Cotzumalguapa’s six outlying
villages. Collectively, five of the six held around 2,600 indigenous residents. Details on

178
Along the rapid descent from Escuintla into the Pacific hotlands, indigenous
villages were further apart, generally much reduced in size, and home to significantly
higher proportions of blacks and castas. San Juan Mixtán, located just south of the
district capital, counted 120 Indians “of all ages” and “six mulattos and blacks, married
to mulattas” in its population. Masagua, a short ways further into the coastal lowlands,
appeared to hold a roughly even balance among Indians and mulattos, 20-25 of each.14
By the time one reached San Pedro Chipilapa and the neighboring community of San
Diego de la Gomera, the resident population had achieved a decidedly African-
descended cast. It was a population of plural roots, though. La Gomera’s 125 or so
inhabitants, the corregidor said, were “all mulattos.”15
The only other reasonably important centers of indigenous population in
Escuintepeque’s Pacific lowlands, Santa Ana Mixtán and Texcuaco, sat well to the west
of La Gomera, near the border with Zapotitlán. The proximity of these two communities
to Escuintepeque’s western neighbor may have accounted in part for the fact that they
were reported to be solidly indigenous, if with a substantial number of indios laboríos
present among their populations.16 The description of Zapotitlán which follows reveals
the sixth are unreadable. See “Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.5-5v.
14“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.8.
15The town, some 70 years old, held 24 married couples, 16 single men,
15 widows, and no fewer than 44 children. The exact figures for Chipilapa are illegible,
but both Indians and mulattos lived there. See “Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.5v.-6.
16“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.6. Marriage petitions indicate that these
communities did have residents defined as mulattos. See AHA, A4.16, T5 1.21:88

179
that individuals defined as indios laboríos were, indeed, a far more important presence in
that more westerly district, and mulattos correspondingly less so.
Many of the inhabitants of Escuintepeque’s lowland areas worked on the
haciendas, ingenios, and obrajes de añil which sprawled about the surrounding
countryside. They also fished and exploited saltpans along the Pacific coast at Iztapa
and Sipacate. The product of these saltpans was excellent, said Fuentes y Guzmán,
although the environment in which it was produced was “very disagreeable, and only fit
for the mulatto fishermen native to the region.”17 Both the Razón and the record of a
1700 dispute indicate that control over the saltpans at Sipacate was granted to the
townspeople of La Gomera upon the villa's founding as incentive for them to settle
there, as well as to produce the funds necessary for them to pay the laborío tribute that
free blacks and mulattos owed. The dispute over access to these saltpans, as well as to
nearby fishing grounds, involved the town’s inhabitants and a prominent local landowner
who had the support of audiencia officials, don Juan de Gálvez. It eventually spilled
over into open rebellion by La Gomera’s residents in support of a controversial royal
visitador, an incident discussed in the final chapter.18
(undated); T4 105:294 (1681).
17Fuentes y Guzmán mentioned only the saltpans at the barra of Iztapa, the
venerable port and fishing community directly south of Escuintla and just east of
Sipacate. See Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:104.
18“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, f.6v.; “Testimonio de los Autos Proveydos .
en favor de los Mulatos de la Villa de San Diego de la Gomera,” AGI, Guatemala 285.

180
In 1683, the region around Chipilapa held fifteen haciendas de campo, including
two ingenios and a trapiche}9 One hacendado, Antonio Botello, was said to employ
some 2,000 Indians from Guatemala, Verapaz, Quezaltenango, and “other places,”
clearly as a migrant workforce. While this figure may have been wildly exaggerated,
Botello’s temporary labor force would have dwarfed the twenty or so “mulattos
mesttisos y españoles” who were indicated to have been permanent workers on the
operation.20 The relatively small number of resident employees on Botello’s land was
not unusual, though. It seems to have represented the upper limit of local workforce
size, at least for free labor.
None of the enterprises mentioned in the Razón were said to employ more than
two dozen free workers on a permanent basis. But most of these workers were castas,
primarily local mulattos. For example, don Juan de Gálvez’ employees on the hacienda
San Gerónimo, ironically enough, were all mulattos from La Gomera and Chipilapa, with
whom he would shortly fall out. So were the laborers on an estate owned by Pedro de
Loi Valdez. On the hacienda Ispanguasatle, meanwhile, Capitán Felipe de Mais’
workforce included “ten or twelve” mulattos from Masagua “and some women.”21 The
19The record of a 1679 visita of the curato of Chipilapa by Bishop Juan de
Ortega Montañez lists a total of 21 “haciendas de campo” in the region, including
various ingenios and obrajes. The Bishop indicated, though, that these were spread
among only nine landowners. See AHA, Visitas Pastorales, Tomo 1, T1 63, f.56v.
20“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, ff.6v.-7. This section is badly damaged.
21 This figure, when compared with the Razón ’s population breakdown for
Masagua, suggests that Mais employed all of the village’s adult mulattos. It is more

181
hundred or so other free men and women said to work either on the remaining properties
or as fishers are left undefined according to origin in the Razón, although the Spanish
view of them is provided in the description of some twenty free laborers on an ingenio
owned by doña Catalina de Gálvez, said to be “de todas castas y algunas mugeres de la
mesma especie[!].”22
At least five of the properties mentioned, including a trapiche owned by the
corregidor himself, employed slaves as well as free workers in their labor forces. The
Razón provides few specific numbers, though, saying only that there were “three or
four” slaves on the hacienda of Joseph de Estrada, and one each on two other
holdings.23 But, although the Razón does not say how many each had, it was clearly the
ingenios owned by doña Catalina de Gálvez and the Dominicans which held the most
slaves. The Dominican ingenio possessed thirty in 1670, some of whom, as seen earlier,
turn up in marriage petitions from 1671 24 No figure is available for the total number of
slaves on the Gálvez operation, but six appear in two marriage petitions dating from
1680 and 1681 25 Significantly, nearly all of the slaves mentioned in the petitions
likely that the Razón understated the number of mulattos living in Masagua, or that some
of Mais’ workers were indigenous.
22“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, 6v.-8.
23“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.7v.
24AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:122; AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:271.
25AHA, A4.16, T4 105:226 (1680); AHA, A4.16, T4 105:390(1681).

182
involving the Dominican and Gálvez holdings were defined as negro, in striking contrast
with the local free population of African descent .26
Marriage petitions assist in other ways to flesh out the demographic portrait
which appears in the Razón. Petitions from 1673 name five blacks and mulattos residing
on the hacienda of don García de Aguilar y de la Cueva, owned a decade later by Joseph
de Estrada.27 The obraje of don Juan González Batres, located between Chipilapa and
Santa Ana Mixtán, is referred to in two 1680 petitions which record the names of four
free mulatto employees.28 Finally, a nearby hacienda belonging to the cleric don
Francisco Alvarez is discussed in diligencias from 1691, along with four more residents
of the area who were defined by African descent .29 It should be emphasized that hardly
anyone not identified as mulato or negro appears in petitions from the area.
Further inland, in the rural areas nearer Escuintla, there were at least five more
haciendas functioning in 1683. The permanent free workforce on these landholdings
^References to free blacks are extremely rare here, as elsewhere.
27These included the black slaves Miguel Flores and Francisco Biafra, the mulatas
libres Gregoria de la Cruz and Francisca de Oliva, and the mulato libre Domingo de la
Cruz. See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:341; AHA, A4.16, T4 1:11:342. A community named
after don Garcia was eventually established on his estate in the early eighteenth century,
today’s La Democracia. See Francis Gall, comp. Diccionario Geográfico de
Guatemala, 4 vols. (Guatemala: Instituto Geográfico Nacional, 1978), 2:9.
28AHA, A4.16, T4 105:224; AHA, A4.16, T4 105:235. The section inthe Razón
on Batres’ properties--“ttiquisatte y ttacozatte”-is damaged, but mentions “up to twelve
men” who fished or worked for don Juan. See “Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, f.6v.
29Including one Pedro Bartholomé, one of the very few people to be identified as
negro libre at this time. See AHA, A4.16, T5 106:66; AHA, A4.16, T5 106:112.

183
was also small, no more than fifty adults in total. The most important of these
operations was probably a hacienda belonging to don Sebastián de Aguilar, on which
eight free mulattos, several slaves, and six undefined women were said to reside. In
addition, “ottros mesttisos e Yndios enttranttes Y Salienttes”—probably including
tributaries assigned in repartimiento-frequentiy swelled the ranks of these workers.30
The labor force on the estate of doña Magdalena de Aguilar, meanwhile, was comprised
of twelve mulattos and mestizos, plus another six individuals—Indians and mulattos—
whom the majordomo supervised in a fishing enterprise. Rural enterprises like these, it is
clear, operated as “contact zones,” key sites of interaction among workers of distinct
origins and status.3'
Escuintepeque’s total population is difficult to assess. The report in the Razón,
part of which is lost, indicates that the district held somewhere around 7,000 Indians, but
probably not much more. Fuentes y Guzmán, on the other hand, provides a figure for
the corregimiento of 3,864 tributaries-meaning heads of household-giving a total
indigenous population of well over fifteen thousand 32 The lower number is probably
30“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, f.8v. In 1670, and perhaps still in 1683, there
was also a trapiche on Aguilar’s property. In the earlier year, Aguilar’s workforce
consisted of eleven slaves, nine Indians, and three Spaniards, in addition to 36 indigenous
tributaries assigned to him in repartimiento. See Pinto Soria, El valle central, 25.
3'“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.8v.
32Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:81. Fuentes y Guzmán gives 15,856
as the figure for total indigenous population, although 15,456 would be correct, using his
method of multiplying the number of tributaries by four.

184
more accurate, given Fuentes y Guzmán’s apparent unreliability and the fact that Agüero
seems to have conducted his own count in 1683 rather than rely on old padrones. On
the other hand, tributaries naturally had an interest in having their numbers reduced in
order to lessen the burdens of tribute payments and forced labor. Whatever the case, the
tributary population dwarfed the non-Indian sector, which was made up, in Fuentes y
Guzmán’s words, of “pocos mestizos y mulatos.”33 While the chronicler had clearly
spent little time counting the “mulatto fishermen” who lived along the sweltering coast, it
is doubtful that all of the district’s slaves, castas, and españoles put together would have
amounted to as much as eight hundred people, or ten percent of the total population. On
the other hand, people defined by African descent clearly constituted the vast majority of
the non-indigenous workforce in the coastal hotlands. This black and mulatto population
played a crucial role in local processes of mestizaje.
The nature of that mestizaje, and of the local racial hierarchy, becomes clearer
when decisions made there about marriage are examined more closely. In the following
discussion, I analyze 26 cases dating from the years 1671, 1681, 1691, and 1701,34 also
employing information drawn from eight additional petitions submitted between 1673
33Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:81. This reference to “mestizos y
mulatos,” incidentally, is one of several which indicate that the chronicler did not, as
Arturo Taracena has claimed, use the latter term as a substitute for the former. See
Taracena, “El vocablo ‘Ladino’ en Guatemala,” 97-98.
34AHA, A4.16,T4 1.12:122, 140, and T5 1.21:143, 184, and T4 1.11:237, 256,
and 271 (1671); AHA, A4.16, T4 105:258, 275, 294, 320, 380, and 390 (1681);
T5 106:26, 39, 66, 112, 133, 140, 160, 165, and 215 (1691); T6 105:2382, 2384, 2388,
and one of 14 unnumbered cases included in T6 105 (1701).

185
and 1708.35 This sample, though small, provides a remarkably consistent portrait of
relations among groups of various origins, and also appears to mesh with notions about
local demography drawn from the Razón.
The first noteworthy characteristic of these petitions is that they involve at least
one contrayente from all of the categories I have suggested were operational in
seventeenth-century Guatemala, with the telling exception of negro/a libre. The most
important category by far, on the other hand, is mulato/a libre. In the 26 petitions which
form the core sample from Escuintepeque, 28 of 52 contrayentes, some 54 percent of the
total, are so designated. The proportion actually rises slightly when the random petitions
are included: 39 of 68 petitioners, or just over 57 percent.36 The number of contrayentes
defined as free mulattos hit a peak in 1691-when 13 of 18 petitioners, nearly three-
quarters of the total, were so identified—before falling off slightly to just over sixty
percent of the petitioners in 1701. These petitions clearly reinforce the conclusions that,
35These are AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:341 and 342 (1673); T4 105:224, 226, and
235 (1680); T4 105:388 (1685?); T6 105:2431 (1705); and T6 105:2376 (1708).
^Including five black and two mulatto slaves who also appear, a total of 46 of 68
contrayentes were identified by African descent, just over two-thirds of the total. In
addition ten were defined as indios-three without further definition, two as tributarios,
and five as laboríos—and eight as mestizos. The list is rounded out by one español, one
undefined individual, and two people whose identities were illegible. Considering just
the 26 cases which constitute the core sample, people not defined by African descent
form no more than 37 percent of all petitioners. Eight mestizos make up just over
15 percent of the total; seven Indians about 13.5 percent; and the others less than eight
percent. Underscoring the central role of blacks and mulattos in Escuintepeque’s variant
of colonial mestizaje is the fact that 21 of 26 petitions-over 80 percent—involved at least
one person identified by African origins.

186
by the late seventeenth century, free people of African descent not only dominated the
non-tributary population in Escuintepeque, but were overwhelmingly of plural origins.
The beginning of an explanation for the near-absence of a free population defined
as negro is provided by the petitions which involved slaves. Seven of the 34 examined in
total listed one enslaved petitioner.37 In all cases the slave was a man, five of whom
were designated as negro, and two as mulato. In six of seven cases, the woman was
clearly both free and not identified as black: three were mulatas libres, and three were
indigenous.38 This pattern, as demonstrated in Chapter 4, prevailed in most cases
involving slaves in the Province of Guatemala. Far fewer slave women than slave men
were recorded as marrying, except on the large ingenios around the Valle de las Vacas,
and hardly any found free spouses. There is certainly evidence to indicate that slaves
formed families among themselves, Church-sanctioned or not, but it is also clear that
enslaved men frequently sought legal unions with free women, in part at least to avoid
the “law of the womb.”
The near-total inability of enslaved women to find free marriage partners in the
Province of Guatemala seems relatively easy to explain, but I have yet to consider fully
the question of why their male counterparts were able to so do with much greater
37Theseare AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:122(1671), T5 1.21:184(1671),
T4 1.11:271 (1671), T4 1.11:342(1673), T4 105:226 (1680), T4 105:390 (1681), and
T6 105:2388(1701).
38In the seventh petition, unfortunately, neither the woman’s legal status nor
origin were legible.

187
frequency.39 The striking ability of slave men to marry free women immediately raises the
question of the relative status associated with the racial hierarchy’s different categories.
The theoretical underpinnings of my analysis of marriage petitions, outlined in Chapter 4,
suggest that, in general, men married at or below their own status, and women at or
above theirs. The conclusion to be drawn from the data on slaves’ marriage patterns not
only in Escuintepeque, but throughout the Province of Guatemala, confirms what has
been suggested throughout this dissertation: people of African descent, including slaves,
occupied a higher social status than most members of the indigenous majority, at least in
practice, where it counted.
Numerous examples of enslaved black men married to indigenous women, from
diverse regions of the Province, have already been cited. Among the Province-wide core
sample’s 41 marriage petitions which involved slaves, ten represented unions between
esclavos negros and free women. Four of the latter were listed as indigenous, just one of
whom was identified as tributaria. The six other women named in these cases included
three free blacks and three free mulattas. One might argue on the basis of these cases
that the various categories into which these women fell were relatively equal in status.
39Forty-one, or ten percent, of the 407 marriage petitions which form the core
sample from the entire Province of Guatemala, outside the capital, in the years 1671,
1681, 1691, and 1701 involved at least one slave petitioner. In 26 of these, or nearly
two-thirds of the cases, an enslaved man was to marry a free woman. Five involved an
enslaved woman and a free man; nine others represented marriages between slaves; and
in one the identity of a male slave’s proposed spouse is not clear.

188
But when the focus is shifted to the 16 cases which involved mulato slaves
seeking to marry free women, such a notion falls by the wayside. Just one of the would-
be wives in this larger number of cases was described as indigenous, a laboria. Twelve
others were described as mulatas libres, and the remaining three as mestizas. While it
might be said, then, that the free spouses of male slaves who were defined as black
generally shared lowly origins, enslaved mulatto men clearly possessed enough status to
marry into the middle of casta ranks. Mulato slaves were thus apparently able to forego
almost entirely the search for marital partners among women who were identified in any
way as indigenous.
Further evidence of a status differential between the indigenous population and
African-descended people, free or slave, emerges in the five petitions which involved
enslaved women planning to wed free husbands. Only one of these women, Gregoria de
los Angeles of San Miguel, was identified as negra. She was also the only one slated to
marry an indigenous man, an indio laborío of Nueva Segovia named Diego de Ribera.40
40AHA, A4.16, T5 106:13 (1691). Of course, the romantic possibility of love
conquering all should not be entirely lost sight of amidst this singular focus on status
considerations in marital decisions. Probably the most unusual marriage petition I
examined in my research—although it is not included in my main sample—involved a plea
by don Pedro de Castellanos, son of Capitán don Francisco Henriquez de Castellanos
and doña Margarita de Santiago, for permission to wed Nicolasa Morán, mulata slave of
the cleric Pedro de Almengor, in Santiago de Guatemala. The petition, first submitted in
November of 1680, was not approved until 18 months later, when Castellanos and
Morán took refuge together in the church of San Sebastián in order to press their case.
This petition, naturally, fits no pattern. See AHA, A4.16, T4 105:232 (1680).

189
In Escuintepeque, as noted already, there were no petitions involving slaves
which contradicted expected patterns. In fact, it seems to have been in this district that
the traditional distinctions of the Spanish colonial racial hierarchy—including those
elevating mestizos above people defined by African descent-retained most vigor in the
later seventeenth century. This was due, at least in part, to a unique combination of
demographic factors. The local non-tributary population was dominated by African-
descended individuals more than anywhere else except the area just to the northeast
around the Valle de las Vacas, and españoles were fewer proportionally than in any
other district.
In ten of the area’s core sample of 26 marriage petitions, both partners were free
mulattos.41 The rest of the petitions, at first glance, demonstrate an opposing tendency
toward a sort of marital anarchy, with no other type of union represented by more than
two cases. On closer examination, however, the position of petitioners on the racial
hierarchy appears to have been intimately related with the nature of the marital unions
they were able to form.
It is helpful here to return to the intriguing depiction of Escuintla’s casta
population contained in the Razón. According to the corregidor, the mulattos in the
district capital were a diverse lot, representing ten families, fifteen single men and ten
widows. The mestizo population, on the other hand, was entirely female and single,
41Five of the eight extra petitions from the area also involved two mulatos libres.
See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:341 (1673), T4 105:224(1680), T4 105:235 (1680),
T4 105:388 (1685?), and T6 105:2431 (1705).

190
made up of six mestizas solteras and “some other older mestiza widows.”42 Now, the
presence of so many single mestizas in a town where fifteen eligible mulattos also resided
suggests that the latter may not have been considered to be suitable marriage partners. If
the corregidor had identified by origin the wives in the six español and ten mulato
families said to live in Escuintla, this supposition might be easier to confirm or discard.
Clues from marriage petitions, however, do offer some support for the idea. For
one thing, the only español to appear in Escuintepeque’s petitions was a man from
Santiago de Guatemala seeking to marry one of Escuintla’s mestizas43 The other local
petitions involving members of the mestizo category also accord much more closely with
expected patterns derived from status considerations than do similar petitions emanating
from elsewhere in the Province. Two involved marriages between mestizos and
mestizas, and two others described unions between mestizos and free mulattas. A sixth
petition, between the free mulatto Nicolás de los Santos and the mestiza Maria de los
Angeles, both of San Juan Mixtán, was the only one to deviate from the pattern of
women marrying men of equal or superior “racial” status.44 It is probably significant that
María de los Angeles was the widow of an indigenous man. Even more important may
be the fact that all three proposed unions between an individual assigned to the mestizo
42See footnote 11, above.
43AHA, A4.16, T4 105:258 (1681). The Razón makes reference to an español
married to a mulata libre in the village of Santa Catarina Siquinalá. See “Razón,”AGI,
Contaduría 815.
44AHA, A4.16, T4 105:320 (1681).

191
category and another defined as mulatto arose from rural Escuintepeque, while the other
three petitions in which mestizos or mestizas turn up involved residents of Escuintla.
Mestizas in particular were perhaps most likely to maintain or even elevate their status
through marriage in a center that was just important enough to have a resident group of
Spanish men, but few españolas. Escuintla seems to have fit this bill perfectly, a place
where one or more of the “Spanish” families listed in the Razón may have served as
examples to local mestizas of the possibilities existing there for marital mobility .45
Although the statistically driven argument should probably not be driven overly
far—especially in the case of a place like Escuintepeque, which produced very few
marriage petitions—the lower-status unions from the district also reflect a racial hierarchy
functioning in accordance with expected norms. For example, neither of the petitions
which listed an indigenous man as contrayente involved marriage to a non-Indian
woman.46 By contrast, women defined as indias appeared as the intended spouses of
45In this regard, it is also instructive to consider an offhand comment made by
Fuentes y Guzmán about the indigenous women of Patulul, which hints at the attributes
of color and appearance that españoles associated with mestizas, and the favorable
attitude they held concerning those attributes. The chronicler said the women of Patulul
were “of very light color, after the fashion of those we call mestizas, of very perfect and
beautiful countenance ...” One cannot discount the potential relevance here of Harry
Hoetink’s theories about the importance of the “somatic norm” to the maintenance of
racial hierarchy among populations of multiple origins. On the other hand, perceived
beauty was unlikely to have been much of a factor in the marital decisions of most
Spanish men. The economic status of potential mestiza brides was surely more
important. See Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:66; Harry Hoetink, The Two
Variants in Caribbean Race Relations (London: Oxford University Press, 1967).
46The one extra petition made by an indigenous man in Escuintepeque also
involves a woman of similar origin. See AHA, A4.16, T6 105:2376 (1708). Migration

192
three non-Indian men: a black slave, a mulatto slave, and a free mulatto.47 Just as
mestizas and mulatas in Escuintepeque may have been able, through marriage, to
associate themselves with higher “racial” categories, so local Indian women were able to
move their children, if not themselves, “upward” into mulatto ranks.48
Finally, it must be remembered that mestizaje in a biological sense was
undoubtedly furthered as much or more through extra-marital liaisons or long-term
unions which had no Church sanction than within the marital context. Unfortunately,
information on these types of relationships is, for the most part, difficult to recover in
any kind of systematic manner for rural areas of Guatemala. Marriage petitions do list
the names of parents, and the status of petitioners’ births—legitimate or illegimate—but
parents’ “racial” status, as noted in Chapter 4, is recorded less frequently. Information
of this nature does emerge occasionally, however. Three petitions from Escuintepeque
record the origins of parents of mulatos. Five of the six were defined as mulato or
mulata as well. The exception comes in a 1691 case involving Gabriel Alexo, mulato
libre of Masagua, as petitioner. Alexo, the petition stated, was the illegitimate son of a
could alter status, though. A 1686 petition from Santiago de Guatemala not included in
the Escuintepeque sample demonstrates a union between Joseph de Villegas, a tributary
native of San Juan Mixtán who was living in the capital, and Ursula de la Rosa, mulata
libre of Santiago. See AHA, A4.16, T4 105:242.
47None of the women appear to have been tributaries. One of the extra cases
from Escuintepeque also involved an indigenous woman marrying a black slave. See
AHA, A4.16, T4 105:226 (1680).
48 At the same time, many of their African-descended husbands were securing free
birth for those children.

193
mulatto father, Pedro de Melgar, and an indigenous mother, María de Alvarado.49 In a
sense, this case neatly sums up both the evidence concerning and the argument made
about seventeenth-century mestizaje in Escuintepeque presented above.
Zapotitlán50
The alcaldía mayor of Zapotitlán, the coastal administrative district directly to
the west of Escuintepeque, shared many demographic similarities with its neighbor,
largely due to location, climate, and topography. But regional peculiarities distinguished
the two districts, originating especially in Zapotitlán’s proximity to densely populated
regions around Lake Atitlán and Quezaltenango in Guatemala’s western highlands. The
number of indigenous tributaries was much higher in Zapotitlán than in Escuintepeque,
while people identified by African origins did not dominate the sector of the population
comprised of Spaniards, castas, and indios laboríos to nearly the same extent.
Comparison of the two regions is eased by the fact that the report submitted to the
Razón of 1683 by the alcalde mayor of Zapotitlán, don Luis Fernández de Orozco,
contains the most specific overall count of Spaniards, castas, and indios laboríos of any
of the Province of Guatemala’s jurisdictions.51 Unfortunately, there are no descriptions
of rural enterprises or workforces similar to those included in the survey from
Escuintepeque.
49AHA, A4.16, T5 106:26(1691).
50Also known as Suchitepéquez.
51“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, ff. 83v-91.

194
The census of Zapotitlán’s indigenous tributary population in the Razón is
remarkably specific, if not necessarily entirely reliable. Citing tasaciones done in 1676,
Orozco indicated that his district’s 25 communities held 5,793 men, 5,775 women,
7,736 boys, and 6,519 girls: 25,823 people in total.52 Zapotitlán’s towns and villages
were both more numerous and far larger, on average, than those of its eastern
neighbor.53 At least four contained more than 1,000 inhabitants, including San Antonio
Suchitepéquez, the district seat, with over 3,000 residents, and Mazatenango, with some
2,200.
Judged solely on the basis of its tributary population, Zapotitlán resembled the
highland corregimientos to its north. But most of the district’s territory was made up of
coastal lowlands, and the same major trading route between San Salvador and New
Spain which traversed the northern reaches of Escuintepeque passed through it as well.
These factors ensured that Zapotitlán’s demographic profile would reflect a greater
presence of Spaniards and castas than was typical of the highland territories to its north.
The district’s non-tributary sector was in fact substantially larger than Escuintepeque’s,
although the overall proportion of Spaniards, castas, blacks, and indios laboríos in the
total population was probably no greater.
52“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.90.
53Escuintepeque had 21 municipalities.

195
The alcalde mayor indicated that a total of 318 “españoles mestisos mulatos
negros lavorios” lived under his jurisdiction.54 This figure evidently referred only to free
adult males, since there were sufficient Spaniards, mestizos, and free mulattos in
Zapotitlán to form four militia companies. These units generally held no fewer than
75 men each, which implies that the number of Spanish, mestizo, and free mulatto and
black men in the district was at least three hundred.55 Indios laboríos—who did not
generally serve in militias—and slaves would not have been included in this number. The
population not defined by indigenous tributary status, then, was undoubtedly well over
1,000, although extrapolating a total from the number of adult males without much
information about the latter group’s domestic status is very difficult.
One thing is quite clear from the information contained in the Razón, far more
españoles chose to reside in Zapotitlán than in Escuintepeque. Not surprisingly, they
were concentrated in the largest population centers of the district. The alcalde mayor
indicated that 77 españoles, or close to two-thirds of 125 Spanish men living in the
district, resided in the capital and largest community, San Antonio Suchitepéquez. All
but eight of the rest lived in Mazatenango, San Francisco Zapotitlán, and Retalhuleu, the
54“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.90v. Lack of clarity at various points in the
alcalde mayor’s survey of individual communities means that alternate methods of
adding up the various numbers of Spaniards, castas, and indios laboríos he provides
yield totals ranging from 302 to 324, but not exactly 318. He claimed to have derived
his numbers from his own investigations.
55Companies could be much larger. In 1683, Guazacapán’s three militia
companies totaled 450 men. See the description of that district, below.

196
second-, third-, and fifth-largest villages in the district. Blacks, castas and indios
laboríos, by contrast, were far more likely to be found in smaller centers. While just
seven ofZapotitlán’s 25 municipalities had Spanish residents, according to the Razón, at
least twelve contained one or more individuals defined as mestizo, mulato, negro, or
indio laborío 56 The greater dispersion of members of these latter categories among
more remote communities underscores, as in the case of Escuintepeque, the importance
of rural coastal areas as sites of contact between the various non-Spanish sectors of
Guatemala’s population.
Marriage petitions point to one agricultural enterprise in particular which was an
important employer of casta labor in Zapotitlán. Seven different employees of an estate
belonging to don Juan González Batres—owner also of an obraje near Chipilapa—appear
in petitions filed between 1671 and 1695. Among these workers were five free mulattos,
one free black, and one mestizo. The significance of migration among rural labor forces
is also underscored in these petitions: three of the mulatos libres listed came from
communities in what is now El Salvador.57
The precise contours of the black, casta, and indio laborío population in
Zapotitlán are more difficult to discern than was the case for Escuintepeque. While all of
the available evidence suggested that the latter’s non-tributary sector was heavily
56“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, ff. 84-90.
57 See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:254(1671), T4 105:311 (1681), T5 106:103
(1691), and T5 1.21:131 (1695).

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dominated by people of African descent, different portraits of Zapotitlán’s demography
emerge from different sources. The Razón suggests that free mulattos and free blacks
together made up about 60 percent of the district’s non-tributary sector, excluding
españoles58 Statistics drawn from marriage petitions tell another story, though.59 Those
petitions suggest that people defined as indio laborío in Zapotitlán equaled the
population of free blacks and mulattos in number, at the very least. They may, in fact,
have outnumbered blacks and castas in general, including mestizos.60 More evidence
58The numbers given were 112 mulattos, six blacks, 33 indios laboríos and
26 mestizos. It will be noted that the total, plus 125 Spaniards, equals only 302. This
discrepancy from the overall total given owes to the fact that the number of indios
laboríos is not legible for one village, and to my efforts to sort out possible double¬
counting in the enumerations by village. Note that mulatos outnumbered mestizos more
than four to one. This is one demographic ratio that is sustained by other
documentation. The low number of free individuals identified as black, meanwhile, was
a Province-wide phenomenon. See “Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, 84-90v.
59I examined 37 petitions from the years 1671 (6), 1681 (9), 1691 (15), and
1701 (7) for this study of Zapotitlán, as well as nine cases from other years. See AHA,
A4.16, T4 1.12:111, 169, 177, and T4 1.11:224, 254, and 266 (1671); T4 105:266, 277,
311, 314, 322, 346, 349 (the bishop’s auto for this case has been numbered separately,
as 357), 374, and 375 (1681); T5 106:2 (2nd petition), 17, 21, 38, 63, 65, 83, 103, 107,
117, 134, 168, 187, 209, and 228(1691); T6 105:2324, 2353,2391 (2399 is an
expanded version of 2391), 2398, 2404, 2405, and 2420 (1701). The extra cases are
AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:326, 331, 347, and 349 (1673); T4 105:371 (1678); T4 105:225
and 229 (1680); T4 105:341 (1689); and T5 1.21:131 (1695).
60At least 16, and as many as 26, of 74 contrayentes from the 37 central cases
looked at for Zapotitlán were indios laboríos (ten are identified simply as indios or
indias). Another seven were indios tributarios, meaning that 33, or fully 45 percent of
all petitioners, were identified as indigenous. Fifteen free mulattos, a sixteenth person
defined simply as mulato but also apparently free, and one free black, meanwhile,
constituted just 23 percent of the total, in stark contrast with the 63 percent of
Escuintepeque’s contrayentes identified by African descent. Together with seven
mestizos, Zapotitlán’s castas made up only 32 percent of petitioners.

198
concerning the nature of rural workforces in Zapotitlán would have helped to clarify this
discrepancy, but the nature of marriage decisions made in the district tends to support
the notion of a more even balance among the various non-tributary groups. Two factors
in particular would have contributed to this situation. First, Zapotitlán may have
attracted a significant number of Indians from nearby highland areas who were seeking
to escape from tributary status. Second, African slavery was far less important in
Zapotitlán than in Escuintepeque. Not one of the petitioners from Zapotitlán was a
slave.61
The demographic picture which emerges from Zapotitlán’s marriage petitions is
of a district where a relatively amorphous group of castas and indios laboríos mingled
on a basis of rough equality. Indeed, the petitions from Zapotitlán, unlike
Escuintepeque’s, are striking for the degree to which they exhibit the intentions of
individuals whose origins were defined differently to unite legally. For example, just one
of the 37 petitions which form the core sample from the district brought together a free
mulatto and a free mulatta, and that was filed in 1671.62 In Escuintepeque, fully ten out
61One case from 1691 not included here involves Manuela de Asperilla, a mulata
libre originally from San Antonio Suchitepéquez, preparing to wed Luis del Castillo, a
black slave, in Santiago de Guatemala. See AHA, A4.16, T5 106:87 and T5 106:105.
62In other words, 13 of the 15 petitioners who were defined as mulato a libre
intended to marry people not similarly classified. The nine extra petitions from
Zapotitlán turn up only one more case involving two free mulattos. See AHA, A4.16,
T5 1.21:131 (1695).

199
of 26 cases represented such marriages, and those ten made up over one-half of all cases
involving at least one petitioner defined as mulato/a libre63
The Razón, it turns out, does also provide some information to support the
notion of a high incidence of marriage in Zapotitlán between people who occupied
different positions in the colonial racial hierarchy. Its discussion of indigenous tribute
lists includes the rather unexpected revelation that three women defined as españolas
were married to Indian men, two in San Martin and one in Retalhuleu. Among the
district’s various communities, it adds, were four mulatas and three mestizas married to
indigenous men. Such marriages would seem to contradict conclusions based on
evidence from Escuintepeque concerning the low status of indigenous men, although the
Razón also indicates that, in line with theoretical expectations about “racial” status,
nearly twice as many tributary women as men in Zapotitlán had non-Indian spouses:
eighteen, whose husbands included thirteen mulattos, three blacks, and two mestizos64
A consideration from another angle of the question of status based on origin in
Zapotitlán reveals that the operation of the racial hierarchy there was not entirely distinct
from that which prevailed in the neighboring corregimiento to the east. The alcalde
mayor's 1683 report indicated that no Spanish men were married to indigenous tributary
“Eighteen of Escuintepeque’s 26 petitions listed one or both partners as
mulato/a libre.
““Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, ff. 84-90. It could be argued, too, that these
28 examples were statistically insignificant exceptions in a tributary population
approaching 26,000.

200
women, while it identified almost all of the non-tributary men who did have tributary
Indian spouses as mulattos or blacks. If indios laboríos listed as spouses of indias
tributarias are brought into the equation, the relationship between marital choice and
male status, at least, seems much more consistent with expected norms. Fifty percent of
the free blacks listed, 21 percent of the indios laboríos, 11.6 percent of the free
mulattos, 7.7 percent of the mestizos, and no Spaniards were married to Indian women.65
But the suggestion that distinctions based on origin were less rigid in Zapotitlán
than in Escuintepeque cannot be dismissed so easily. People defined by African descent
and those identified as indigenous, in particular, related to each other on a greater basis
of equality in Zapotitlán, at least judging from marriage petitions. In all three of the
district’s petitions in which men identified as mulatos sought to marry non-mulattas, the
intended spouse was indigenous: two tributarias and one laborío66 More importantly,
in ten petitions involving mulata and non-mulatto petitioners, four of the intended
husbands were defined as indigenous, although none as tributario. Five of the other six
men, meanwhile, clearly matched or outranked in status their mulata partners. Three
65The raw figures are three of six negros, 7 of 33 indios laboríos, 13 of
112 mulatos, 2 of 26 mestizos, and 0 of 125 españoles. Note the clear difference
between the negro and the mulato percentages, as well as the fact that men identified as
negros ranked well below indios laboríos according to this schema. It should also be
noted that no indigenous men were said to have black wives. On the other hand, the
population of free blacks in Zapotitlán was clearly very low.
^The only man identified as negro libre who turned up in the petitions was also
set to wed an indigenous woman, listed simply as india.

201
were españoles, and two were mestizos.61 This evidence suggests that non-tributary
Indians met the population defined by African descent on relatively equal terms in
Zapotitlán. Social barriers to marriage between members of the two groups appear to
have been weak by the late seventeenth century, a situation most likely to have resulted
from demographic dominance of the non-tributary population by indios laboríos, not
mulattos.68
Other evidence of a decline in the importance of distinctions set out under the
traditional racial hierarchy includes a 1691 marriage petition involving Nicolás de
Almonte, described as an “indio ladino lavorio” from San Antonio Suchitepéquez, and
fellow resident Luisa Lopes, a mulata libre69 Almonte, strikingly, was listed as the
legitimate son of a free mulatto father and an Indian mother. Children in similar
situations were generally assigned to the father’s category, suggesting that little
67The sixth was undefined in the petition, although referred to as a mestizo in his
intended wife’s declaration.
68The Razón, then, may underestimate the number of indios laboríos in
Zapotitlán. A piece of circumstantial evidence supporting this notion is the significant
occupational mobility that members of this group seem to have enjoyed in the district, in
contrast to Santiago, where mulattos were said to be pushing indigenous artisans out of
trades during the seventeenth century. An example of indio laborío mobility is provided
by Baltasar de los Reyes, a master shoemaker of San Antonio Suchitepéquez whose
appearance as a witness in three marriage petitions from 1671 may have attested to his
high reputation. See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:111; T4 1.12:177; T4 111 :254. Indios
laboríos also turn up alongside free mulattos as tratantes, involved in petty commerce.
See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11: 224 (1671); A4.16, T5 1.21:131 (1695). On displacement of
indigenous artisans, see García Peláez, Memorias, 2:31.
69AHA, A4.16, T5 106:65.

202
difference was seen between the two in this instance. In 1701, meanwhile, Nicolás de
Urena, undefined himself but identified as the illegitimate son of a mulata libre named
Petrona de Rivas, requested permission to marry Sebastiana Carrillo, designated only as
a doncella who was the legitimate daughter of the español Tomás de Almengor and the
mestiza Antonia Taxisco.70 Carrillo may have enjoyed the status of española, meaning
the gap between the two petitioners in terms of origin was substantial. This petition
actually suggests that the “decay” in distinctions founded on origin within Zapotitlán’s
non-tributary sector extended upward into the highest ranks.
As always, though, the racial hierarchy remained most intact at the extremes.
None of the four women explicitly categorized as Spanish in Zapotitlán’s marriage
petitions planned to marry non-Spaniards, for instance.71 At the other end of the
spectrum, no tributary Indian men were listed as the intended spouses of non-indigenous
women.72 Indeed, the three tributary men who show up as petitioners in the core sample
were all migrants from elsewhere, marrying laborias in two instances, and a tributaria
70AHA, A4.16, T6 105:2324.
7IThe lone española who appears as a petitioner in the nine extra cases was also
engaged to wed a fellow Spaniard. See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.11:326 (1673). Meanwhile,
the relative scarcity of españolas in the district is illustrated by the fact that Spanish men
appeared as petitioners in twice as many cases as Spanish women. The four non-Spanish
women slated to marry Spaniards included three mulatas libres and one mestiza.
72Three tributary women, meanwhile, were listed as intended spouses of mulattos.
Evidence from the Razón of 1683, as noted earlier, does suggest there were exceptions
to the exclusion of tributary men from marriage to non-tributaries.

203
who was also from outside the district in the third.73 Nevertheless, in the middle ranges
of society-between Spaniards and Indian tributaries-demographic pressures were
working to blur distinctions far more rapidly than in neighboring Escuintepeque.
African-descended populations indeed seemed to be “disappearing” in Zapotitlán. At the
end of the seventeenth century, it was one of the places in the Province of Guatemala
that most resembled Martínez Peláez’ sweeping portrait of colonial society, where capas
medias comprised of a mix of individuals whose origins were relatively unimportant
occupied the various social and economic spaces existing between the república de los
españoles and the república de los indios 74
Guazacapán
Don Pedro Herrán de Montalvo, alcalde mayor of Guazacapán in 1683, claimed
in his census report that year that he was unable to establish any figures for his district’s
non-Indian population “asi Españoles Como mesttisos mulattos y negros.”75 Montalvo
complained that, if it was true that many Spaniards and even some mulattos owned rural
73The three tributary men came from Joyabaj (in Verapaz), San Juan Amatitlán,
and San Antonio Palopó, on the shores of Lake Atitlán. The india tributaria mentioned
was a native of Santa María de Jesús, near Santiago. One 1689 petition does list an
indio tributario—Joseph Vasquez, another migrant from San Juan Amatitlán—seeking to
marry a free mulatta of Mazatenango, Francisca de Avalos. In 1701, after Francisca’s
death, Joseph petitioned to wed Francisca de Villegas, india laboria of Mazatenango.
See AHA, A4.16, T4 105:341; T6 105:2404. The Avalos family of Mazatenango is
discussed in Chapter 6.
74Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo, esp. Chapter 6.
75“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.32. The entire report takes up ff.30-33.

204
estates in Guazacapán, the former spent their most of their time in the capital, while “the
mulattos and other groups making up [the non-tributary population were] people who
very rarely maintained] a fixed residence because they [were] always wandering idly
about from one jurisdiction to another.”76 As a result, the report in the Razón on
Escuintepeque’s neighbor to the east is little more than a compendium of outdated lists
of indigenous tributaries from the district’s various communities.
Apparently despite his own lack of investigative vigor,77 the alcalde mayor did
manage to provide an important piece of information which can serve as the starting
point for a demographic survey of Guazacapán’s non-tributary sector. He indicated that,
a couple of years before he filed his report, three militia companies had been created in
Guazacapán. One, which Montalvo said was made up of “Españoles y mesttisos,”
numbered 150 men. The other two, comprised according to the alcalde mayor of
“mulattos y gentte parda,” held 250 more.78 The district therefore must have contained,
at a minimum, some 400 adult male Spanish, casta, and free black residents, well over
half of whom were evidently identified by African descent. The non-tributary population
76“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.32v.
77To be fair to don Pedro, mulattos, at least, undoubtedly did their best to avoid
being counted. For one thing, they continued to owe the laborío, at least in theory.
78“Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.32v. Guazacapán’s militia units, unlike
Chiquimula’s, thus provide a classic demonstration of the manner in which militia
members of African descent were segregated from mestizos, reinforcing intended
distinctions concretely.

205
of Guazacapán, thus, was substantially higher than Escuintepeque’s, and possibly larger
than Zapotitlán’s as well.
If pinning down the exact size of non-tributary populations is largely informed
guesswork, it is easier to assert confidently that Spaniards, castas, blacks, and indios
laboríos made up a substantially larger proportion of residents in Guazacapán than in
either of the two coastal districts to its west. Both the Razón and Fuentes y Guzmán
placed the number of indigenous tributaries in Guazacapán at perhaps 10,000, meaning
non-tributaries probably formed well over ten percent of the district’s total population.79
Unfortunately, neither the Razón nor the Recordación florida are especially helpful in
determining exactly where the district’s non-tributaries lived. The closest Montalvo’s
report comes to answering this question is found in the alcalde mayor’s reasoning for
explicitly omitting the villages of Atiquisaque and Jalpatagua from his survey. Neither
village had produced lists of indigenous tributaries for him to cite, the former because it
contained only “algunos Yndios que se llaman Lavorios Y mulattos,” and the latter,
more vaguely, simply because it held no tributaries.80
79“Razón,” AGI, Contaduría 815, fF.31-31 v.; Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación
florida, 2:139. Over 400 adult males (including indios laboríos) might have represented
a total non-tributary population approaching 2,000. Escuintepeque, I suggest above,
was unlikely to have counted enough non-tributaries to equal ten percent of a total
population including 7,000 or more tributaries, while in Zapotitlán, extrapolating from
the Razón’s figures, fewer than 1,500 non-tributaries lived among 25,823 tributaries.
80tt
Razón,”AGI, Contaduría 815, f.32.

206
Fuentes y Guzmán added little about the distribution of Spaniards, castas, blacks,
and indios laboríos among the alcaldía mayor’s various communities, other than to note
that the district capital, also called Guazacapán, held “many Spaniards, mulattos, and
mestizos” in addition to its 623 tributary heads of household.81 Marriage petitions,
therefore, are especially important for comparing the populations of late seventeenth-
century Guazacapán and the Pacific coast territories to its west.82 These reveal not only
a substantial presence of mulattos and other non-tributaries in the district’s most
important population centers—including Chiquimulilla and Taxisco in addition to the
capital—but important pockets of African-descended labor in rural areas.
The relatively small community of Los Esclavos and its surrounding valley was
the most commonly listed place of residence for the free mulattos who were listed either
as contrayentes or as witnesses in Guazacapán’s marriage petitions. The village lay in
the northern part of the district, not far from the region around the Valle de las Vacas.
81Or a minimum of 2,436 tributaiy Indians in total, following the formula of
multiplying by 4. Fuentes y Guzmán also indicated that Atiquisaque, instead of having
no tributaries, had sixty-three. See Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:152.
82I examined 34 petitions dating from 1671 (10), 1681 (4), 1691 (13), and
1701 (7). See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:92, 103, 156, 157, 171, 201, 205, and
T4 1.11:259, 261, and 288 (1671); T4 105:313, 317, 327, and 359(1681); T5 106:3, 7,
29, 46, 54, 77, 128, 135, 142, 161, 169, 184, and 223 (1691); T6 105:2364, 2367, 2383,
2408, 2418, 2429, and 2433 (1701). An unusually large number of random petitions
(22) also showed up. These are AHA, A4.16, T5 1.21:93 (1640); T5 1.21:54, 63, 68,
and 83 (1655); T5 1.21:17 (1660); T4 1.11:300 and 310 (1672); T4 1.12:173 and
T4 1.11:299,335,338, 356 (1673); T5 106:172 (1692); T4 1.11:307(1696);
T5 106:200 (1697); T5 1.21:129 (marked 1610 but clearly from 1710); T6 105:2344
(1728); T6 105:2341 (1731); and T4 1.11:352, T4 105:264, and T6 105:2359 (unsure of
dates).

207
No fewer than 22 free mulattos from the area turn up in the petitions, in addition to one
free black and two slaves. The agricultural enterprise which shows up most prominently
in the petitions, meanwhile, was the Quatepeque estate,83 located near Jalpatagua and
owned in 1701 by don Sancho Alvares de Asturias y Nava. Two of three slaves who
appear as petitioners in Guazacapán worked on this property, as did two other slaves and
at least one free mulatto who served as witnesses.84
The most significant conclusion about Guazacapán’s demography to emerge
from these petitions is that trends in the district represented a sort of midpoint between
those found in Escuintepeque and Zapotitlán, even if, geographically, Escuintepeque sat
in the middle. Slaves appeared in Guazacapán’s petitions less often than in
Escuintepeque’s, but more often than in Zapotitlán’s.85 Twenty-six mulatos libres,
meanwhile, represented 38 percent of the 68 contrayentes named in the core sample
from Guazacapán. Together with one black slave, two mulatto slaves, and a woman
defined simply as mulata, 44 percent of contrayentes in Guazacapán were identified by
830r Coatepeque.
84See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:103 (1671), T5 106:46(1691), T6 105:2367(1701)
and T6 105:2418 (1701). All four slaves mentioned were defined as mulatos, in sharp
contrast to slaves who turned up in Escuintepeque’s petitions. Overall, eight of twelve
slaves listed as contrayentes or witnesses in Guazacapán’s petitions were identified as
mulattos. Fully 14 of 17 slaves showing up in Escuintepeque’s petitions were black.
85The respective ratios of slaves to total contrayentes in petitions from 1671,
1681, 1691, and 1701: for Escuintepeque, five of 52 (9.6 percent); for Guazacapán,
three of 68 (4.5 percent); and for Zapotitlán, none of 74.

208
African descent. The corresponding figures from Zapotitlán and Escuintepeque were
23 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
The number of petitioners identified as indigenous in Guazacapán also fell about
halfway between the figures from the other two districts. Whereas 45 percent of
petitioners in Zapotitlán were defined as indigenous, and only 13.5 percent in
Escuintepeque, 32 percent of Guazacapán’s contrayentes were so designated.86 Even in
the number of españoles appearing among petitioners, Guazacapán occupied the middle
ground. Seven Spaniards comprised just over ten percent of all petitioners, whereas in
Zapotitlán, twelve constituted about 16 percent of contrayentes, and the lone español to
appear in Escuintepeque’s petitions represented less than two percent of petitioners in
that district.87
When attention is shifted to the types of marital unions which contrayentes of
varying origins sought to form in Guazacapán in the late seventeenth century, the
district’s position somewhere between Escuintepeque and Zapotitlán is reaffirmed. Free
mulattos sought to marry each other in nine of 34 cases making up the core sample,
slightly more than one-quarter of the total. In Escuintepeque, 38.5 percent of petitions
represented this type of union, while less than three percent did so in Zapotitlán.
86Twenty-two of 68.
87I noted in my discussion of Chiquimula in Chapter 4 that a relatively high
concentration there of españoles may have pushed mestizos “downward,” illustrated by
the fact that the latter apparently served in militia units of color in that district. The light
Spanish presence in Guazacapán, on the other hand, may have ensured that mestizos
marched in local companies of gente española.

209
Meanwhile, proposed marriages between contrayentes defined as indigenous made up
27 percent of petitions in Zapotitlán, 21 percent in Guazacapán, and less than 8 percent
in Escuintepeque. Guazacapán, with only four petitions bringing together mulatto and
indigenous partners, seemed to reflect Escuintepeque’s relative absence of marital ties
between these two groups. On the other hand, two of the petitions indicated involved a
mulato and an india, and two an indio and a mulata, more closely approximating the
relative equality between these groups which seemed to exist in Zapotitlán.88 The only
people not involved in marriages with petitioners of differing status, as always, were
españolas. Nine of these women appear in the 56 petitions representing both the core
sample and the extra cases from Guazacapán. None was the intended spouse of a non-
Spaniard.89
The surest comparative statement which can be made, without doubt, is that, as
in most places in the Province of Guatemala outside of the western highlands, individuals
88It should be noted that slaves also married indigenous women in Guazacapán,
as they did in Escuintepeque. In 1681, Pedro Pablo, a black slave on the hacienda of
Joseph Ortiz de Bocanegra in the valle of Jalpatagua, petitioned in Pasaco to marry
Maria Nicolasa, india laborío and resident of the same hacienda. See AHA,
T4 105:327. Together with the petitions involving the Quatepeque estate, mentioned
above, this case underscores the importance of Jalpatagua as a regional center of
mestizaje involving people of African descent, similar perhaps to the curato of Chipilapa
in Escuintepeque.
89AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:156, T4 1.12:171, and T4 1.11:288 (all from 1671);
T4 1.12:173, T4 1.11:338, and T4 1.11:356 (all from 1673); T5 106:172(1692); and
T4 1.11:352 and T6 105:2359 (unsure of dates). The only española from Guazacapán
who could be said to have been petitioning to marry outside her status was one whose
intended spouse was a peninsidar. She was, of course, marrying up on the racial
hierarchy. See AHA, A4.16, T4 1.12:173 (1673).

210
defined as mestizos were relatively rare everywhere. They made up about nine percent
of contrayentes in both Guazacapán and Zapotitlán, and just over fifteen percent in
Escuintepeque. The most important reason for this was the central role which people
identified by African descent played in the process of mestizaje in all three Pacific coast
districts discussed here.90 While varying in character from region to region, that process
revolved to a very significant degree around unions, legal or otherwise, between
members of the indigenous and African-descended populations. The evidence provided
above demonstrates how the institution of marriage served as a primary conduit for both
“Indians” and “blacks” to move their descendants out of the lowest ranks of colonial
society, by uniting legally with each other. Marriage was not the only site of mestizaje,
but the institution’s special role in the production of status allows insight into the
operation of the Spanish racial hierarchy, including its gendered nature, exhibited
perhaps most starkly in the divergence of marital opportunities for enslaved men and
women.91
Owing to the processes of mestizaje referred to above, the non-Indian population
of much of Guatemala’s Pacific coast was distinctly “mulatto” in character as the
eighteenth century dawned. The stability of that category, though, was dependent on the
^Even in Zapotitlán, free mulattos outnumbered mestizos more than two to one
in marriage petitions, and more than four to one according to the report in the Razón.
91 That particular divergence did not represent the norm, however, owing to the
law of the womb. Marriage opportunities also varied by gender in free society, as we
have seen, but it was women who moved “up” most frequently through marriage.

211
degree to which the classifications of the racial hierarchy were enforced. As long as
individuals defined as free mulattos remained subject to specific legal disabilities,
including status as payers of the alternative tribute known as the laborío and service in
segregated militia units, they would be clearly “marked” as descendants of African
slaves. But in a society built on Indian labor, where the supply of imported African
workers had nearly dried up for several decades, distinctions among members of the free
non-indigenous population were increasingly difficult to maintain. The most important
one, dividing Spaniard from non-Spaniard, was best policed, but determining whether an
individual was mestizo/a, mulato/a, or indio/a laborio/a may have seemed less and less
vital in practice, at least to Guatemala’s Spanish rulers.92 For Spaniards, the primary
characteristic of these groups may have been that, collectively, they constituted a non¬
tributary labor pool which could, and did, act as a barrier to tributary mobility. The
maintenance of that tributary immobility, however regrettably from the Spanish point of
view, led to expanded opportunities for the lower-status members of non-tributary
society.
The final chapters explore more fully the nature and range of opportunities which
African-descended individuals were able to exploit in late seventeenth-century
Guatemala. They wade into the broader social fray, where the meaning of classification
as negro esclavo or mulata libre was worked out in daily practice. In particular, they
92This is not to say that Spaniards did not desire to retain distinctions for
purposes of discrimination. Also, as demonstrated in Chapter 3, non-Spaniards as well
as españoles used categories with pejorative connotations as weapons in disputes.

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look at how people who were in a sense suspended between a Spanish elite, on the one
hand, and an indigenous majority, on the other, negotiated the terms of their existence as
best they could in relation to the two “defining” sectors of colonial Guatemalan society.
What emerges, finally, is that the demographic developments outlined up to this point
played a crucial role in allowing the free population of African descent not only a
significant expanse of social territory within which to operate, but also an unprecedented
opportunity to win release from specific obligations associated with their “condition”
when an already proven ally—foreign military threat—began to haunt Spanish Guatemala
once again.

CHAPTER 6
TESTING THE BOUNDS: SOCIAL RELATIONS AND RACIAL HIERARCHY
Cofradías and “Cannibals”
In the spring of 1671, six men identified as mulatos libres successfully petitioned
to the Bishop of Guatemala and Verapaz for permission to establish a cofradía dedicated
to San Antonio de Padua in the parish church at Jutiapa. Seven years later, apparently
thriving, the cofradía requested permission to raise funds for a retablo, or altarpiece, in
the parish church.1 The mulatto cofradía of Jutiapa undoubtedly had a solid local base
of support, for the non-indigenous population of the surrounding region was defined
overwhelmingly by African descent in the late seventeenth century.2 As the previous
'The six men who submitted the original petition to found the cofradía were
Nicolás de Sálazar, Sebastián de Godoy, Marcos Hernández, Antonio Morán, Christóbal
de Chávez, and Diego Ramírez. See petitions to the Bishop of Guatemala and Verapaz
of 22 April 1671, AHA, A4.14, T2 108:71, and 7 January, 1678, AHA, A4.14,
T2 109:47. Sebastián de Godoy was a local landowner. In 1690, Godoy’s son, Jacinto,
also described as a free mulatto, was involved in a dispute over two caballerías of land
in the valley of Achuapa (now El Progreso, Jutiapa). He traced his ownership of the
land back to a 1631 composición undertaken by his grandfather, Lorenzo. At the time of
the composición, Lorenzo had already occupied the land for twenty years. See AGCA,
Tierras. 5969. 52407. (1690). Cristóbal de Chávez was majordomo of a local estancia.
Godoy and Chávez turn up as witnesses in an extensive marital dispensation from the
area which illustrates dense ties among local mulatto families. See A4.16 T5 1.22:39
(1676-1678).
2See Chapter 4, footnote 68. Jutiapa was located in the far south of the
corregimiento of Chiquimula de la Sierra, near the village of Jalpatagua in Guazacapán,
which was also home to a significant African-descended population. See Chapter 5.
213

214
chapters have demonstrated, this was no isolated pocket of mulattos and blacks. Indeed,
marriage petitions reveal that migration for marital or occupational reasons tied Jutiapa’s
African-descended contingent to communities spread throughout the eastern portions of
the Province of Guatemala. These communities included Los Esclavos and San Juan
Amatitlán to the west, San Salvador to the southeast, and, well to the north, Chiquimula
de la Sierra, district capital of the corregimiento within whose boundaries Jutiapa lay.3
The mulattos of Jutiapa were not the only people defined by African descent in
the Province of Guatemala asking permission to found cofradías during the 1670s. In
1674, for example, several “mulattos and free persons” of San Juan Amatitlán had a local
Dominican cleric relay to the Bishop in Santiago their request to establish a confraternity
dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary.4 Slaves, too, sought approval for the
establishment of these widely popular lay fraternal religious organizations.5 In February
of 1671, slaves belonging to Jacinto de Pineda, a San Salvador cleric, secured episcopal
’Marriage petitions demonstrating ties between Jutiapa and each of these places
include AHA, A4.16, T4 105:359 (1681); T5 106:33 (1691); T5 106:43 (1691); and
T6 105:2370(1701).
4See petition from Padre Francisco de la Trinidad of 30 April, 1674, in AHA,
A4.14. T2 108:98. The Virgen del Rosario was also linked with African-descended
cofradías elsewhere in the Americas, notably Brazil. See Patricia A. Mulvey, “Black
Brothers and Sisters: Membership in the Black Lay Brotherhoods of Colonial Brazil,”
Luso-Brazilian Review 17:2 (1980): 266; A.J.R. Russell-Wood, The Black Man in
Slavery and Freedom in Colonial Brazil (London: MacMillan, 1982), 135-142.
5The audiencia complained already in 1633 that the number of local cofradías
was excessive. By 1740, there were estimated to be some 2,000 in the diocese. See Van
Oss, Catholic Colonialism, 89, 109-110.

215
leave to form a cofradía devoted to San Benito de Palermo on the hacienda San
Gerónimo, Pineda’s estate near Zacatecoluca.6 The membership of this slave-initiated
confraternity probably included free people of color as well, since its organizational
rules, approved in 1672, indicated that “other blacks and mulattos” from the locale took
part in its founding.7
Cofradías reserved for black and mulatto members were not new to the
Province. They came into existence as early as the mid-sixteenth century, when separate
Spanish, black, and Indian confraternities dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary were first
established in the capital, Santiago de Guatemala.8 During the 1630s, the renegade
English friar Thomas Gage reported that similarly segregated cofradías were operating
in the village of Mixco.9 By the 1670s, cofradías associated with African-descended
memberships could be found in a number of different settings. In addition to those
already mentioned, they included two other confraternities dedicated to San Benito de
Palermo—one established on Joseph de Estrada’s hacienda near San Diego de la Gomera
6Both San Benito de Palermo and San Antonio de Padua, like the Virgin of the
Rosary, turned up frequently as the patrons of black and mulatto cofradías.
7AHA, A4.14, T2 108:73 (1671).
8Remesal, Historia general, 2:431.
9Gage, Travels, 199, 258.

216
in Escuintepeque,10 and the other in San Salvador’s Franciscan convent1'--and a third
devoted to San Nicolás de Tolentino in La Gomera’s parish church.12
Some scholars of the African experience in the Americas have suggested that
cofradías provided a vehicle for the pursuit of clandestine, non-Christian religious
practices under the cover of a Church-sanctioned institution.13 Concrete evidence of
such practices is naturally difficult to come by, although colonial authorities certainly
feared they were occurring. As early as 1602, the Spanish Crown ordered the audiencia
in Guatemala to ensure that local clerics or other “reputable” persons supervise black
10The existence of this cofradía is mentioned in the report of Bishop Juan de
Ortega Montañez’ visita of the curato of Chipilapa in 1679. See AHA, Visitas
Pastorales, Tomo I, T1 63, ff.54-56, esp. f.55. Estrada’s workforce is discussed in
Chapter 5.
"This cofradía was founded in 1651 by the negros Manuel Hernández and Juan
Ventura. See 1670 visita of San Salvador by Bishop Juan de Santo Matías Sáenz
Mañozca y Murillo, AHA, Visitas Pastorales, Tomo I, Tl:63, f.l5v.
121679 visita of Bishop Juan de Ortega Montañez, AHA, Visitas Pastorales,
Tomo I, Tl:63 , f.55.
13See, for example, Mulvey, “Black Brothers and Sisters,” and “The Black Lay
Brotherhoods of Colonial Brazil” (PhD. dissertation, City University of New York,
1976), passim, Hiinefeldt, Paying the Price, 100. Herbert Klein argues, on the contrary,
that religious brotherhoods “took the slave and free colored populations and more
thoroughly integrated them into Iberian religious practices.” See Herbert S. Klein,
“Blacks,” in Louisa Schell Hoberman and Susan Migden Socolow, eds., The Countryside
in Colonial Latin America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996), 181.
It might be most accurate to say that people of non-Iberian origin in Spanish and
Portuguese America produced their own distinct variants of Iberian-influenced religious
practices.

217
and indigenous cofradías very closely, in order to ensure the “good behavior” of
members.14
Ironically, one of the examples most likely to represent the pursuit by
Guatemalan slaves of some form of autonomous cultural expression within the structure
of a cofradía involved the workforce of an estate owned by a religious order: the
Dominican ingenio in Escuintepeque. In 1679, don Alonso González de Anleo, parish
priest of Chipilapa, charged that an unauthorized cofradía dedicated to San Benito de
Palermo was operating on the property. According to Anleo, both he and the estate’s
Dominican administrator had made strenuous efforts to verify the organization’s
existence, without success. “[T]he servants and labor force of the said ingenio have
denied [its presence],” Anleo complained, “saying there is not now and never has been
such a cofradía. ”15
14La Corona al Presidente de la Audiencia, 15 May, 1602, AGCA, Al .23. 1514.
f.22.
151679 visita of Bishop Juan de Ortega Montañez, AHA, Visitas Pastorales,
Tomo I, TI 63, ff.56-56v. A couple of years earlier, Anleo had complained about the
recalcitrance in general of his coastal parishioners either to provide for his needs or
accept his pastoral guidance. Despite two previous orders in his favor, he said, they
continued to ignore his ministrations and refuse to pay him. According to the cura, in
the communities of San Pedro Chipilapa, San Diego de la Gomera, and “the houses they
call the Martinez’,” there were more than 40 people whose behavior required correction
not only for the good of their souls, but so he could actually feel safe enough to visit the
area! In reply the audiencia ordered that “all of the parishioners including Spaniards,
blacks, mulattos, mestizos, and others of whatever calidad’ were to pay attention to
their priest. The phrase “españoles y gentte ladina” also appears in the decree, a clear
example of the emerging usage of the latter term to mean “non-Indian.” See AGCA,
A1.24. 1565. 10209. ff,190-193v. (1677).

218
Whether or not slaves were maintaining a secretive religious organization on the
Dominican estate in Escuintepeque,16 the other examples presented above seem clear
enough evidence that some sort of corporate identity existed in late seventeenth-century
Guatemala amongst the population which was defined on the basis of African descent.
But the picture is more complex. In 1675, the group which had requested leave the
previous year to establish a cofradía dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary in San Juan
Amatitlán petitioned for renewal of its permission to raise funds. Although this second
petition was submitted, once again, by free mulattos, it indicated that the confraternity, in
fact, represented “todos los Españoles, pardos y Ladinos” of the community.17
Meanwhile, the black founders of the cofradía of San Benito de Palermo in San
Salvador’s Franciscan convent, Manuel Hernández and Juan Ventura, appeared in the
records of a 1670 episcopal visita alongside a majordomo and alcalde who were both
described as indios}*
It is quite possible, in fact, that most members of the free population of African
origins who belonged to cofradías in the late seventeenth century did not participate in
16Ortega Montañez complained more generally that Pacific coast estates were the
sites of illegal burials and celebrations of the Eucharist, but did not allude explicitly to
suspected participants, etc. See Visitas of Bishop Juan de Ortega Montañez to Santa
Lucia Cotzumalguapa and San Bartolomé Mazatenango, May, 1679, AHA, Visitas
Pastorales, Tomo 1, T1 63, ff. 59v., 114v.
17AHA, A4.14, T2 109:9 (1675).
181670 visita of Bishop Juan de Santo Matías Sáenz Mañozca y Murillo, AHA,
Visitas Pastorales, Tomo I, Tl:63, f,15v.

219
ones exclusively reserved for blacks and mulattos. Numerous examples testily to the
contrary. When the free mulatto Joseph Cavallos appealed in 1670 for the establishment
of a cofradía devoted to San Benito de Palermo in the village church of San Juan
Tecoaco, in Guazacapán, he did so on behalf of a largely indigenous group of
petitioners.19 More often, people identified by African descent, like those of San Juan
Amatitlán, joined with other non-tributaries. In the village of Mazatenango, in
Zapotitlán, the one local non-Indian cofradía was comprised in 1679 “only of Spaniards
and ladinos.'" The latter term undoubtedly took in mulattos since, according to the
Razón of 1683, they made up the majority of the community’s non-tributary
population.20 In 1685, meanwhile, members of the confraternity of Santo Cristo in the
parish church at Santiago Esquipulas, Chiquimula, sought to divide their resources
between the “parcialidad de los Indios,” on the one hand, and “españoles y demás castas
y gente ladina” on the other.21 An especially diverse cofradía, perhaps, was one in the
capital dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Esclavitud, whose membership was said to
include Spaniards, blacks, mulattos, mestizos, and Indians.22
19This is not surprising, since Tecoaco was almost exclusively Indian. See AHA,
A4.14, T2 108:4(1670).
201679 visita of don Juan de Ortega Montañez, AHA, Visitas Pastorales, Tomo I,
T1 63, f.68v. See also a petition from “both the Spaniards and the ladinos’’’ of this
cofradía in AHA, A4.14, T2 109:63 (1679).
21 AHA, A4.14, T2 110:45 (1685).
22 AHA, A4.14, T2 109:31 (1677). See my discussion of the dispute between
españoles and other members over precedence in processions in Chapter 3.

220
The record of a rift which occurred between indigenous cofrades and their
supervising chaplain over control of an estancia outside Quezaltepeque, near San
Salvador, during the mid-1670s best reveals the direction in which the corporate
affiliation of much of the African-descended population had shifted in the late
seventeenth century.23 According to local Indians, the cura, don Diego de Trexo
Paniagua, in league with the estancia’s majordomo, the free black Juan Pasqual, was
endeavoring to usurp control over land and livestock built up by the indigenous members
of the cofradía of Santo Cristo since the latter’s founding in 1626. Trexo, in turn,
accused the Indians of kicking Pasqual, “who was a good black,” off the property, and
then “destroying” it. He marshaled as witnesses several members of the local non-
indigenous population to back up his version of events, including three free mulattos—
among them another former administrator of the estancia-and two Spaniards.
Significantly enough, these witnesses may all have been members of the cofradía of
Santo Cristo, since the organization also had a contingent of “gente ladina,” with its own
officers. When the Bishop eventually decided the dispute in favor of the indigenous
cofrades, the majordomo and alcalde mayor of the non-Indian contingent, both of whom
were mulattos, were forced to appear to hear the priest who had been substituted in
place of Trexo read out the episcopal order.24
23“Autos fhos cerca de la administración de la estancia de la cofradía de los Indios
de el pueblo de quezaltepeque,” AHA, A4.14, T2 108:103 (1674).
24Divisions, as usual, were not absolute. The person the Indians chose to replace
Pasqual was a mulatto, Lucas Reymundo. See AHA, A4.14, T2 108:103, ff.6v., 7v.-8.

221
The lengthy foregoing discussion of cofradías is intended as one manner of
illustrating the nature of the social position which people of African descent inhabited in
the province of Guatemala by the late seventeenth century. “Caught in the middle,” as it
were, they often exploited the freedom they had vis-a-vis the tributary indigenous
population—with negative consequences for the latter—while at the same time constantly
encountering Spaniards’ exclusionary defense of privilege at the other end of the social
scale. Regarding the former relationship, I have argued in previous chapters that
numerous examples of marital and extra-marital unions between peoples of African and
indigenous descent ought not necessarily be taken as evidence of solidarity or social
equality among non-Spaniards. This chapter will demonstrate that a claim made by
Fuentes y Guzmán to the effect that Indians in the Province of Guatemala “rejected,
were suspicious of, and feared blacks more than [people of] any other color” may have
held a grain of truth.25 Indeed, the barbarous torture and murder in 1682 of a black
passerby named Jacinto by the villagers of San Pedro Necta, a remote highland
community northwest of Huehuetenango, was perhaps but an extreme manifestation of
the antipathy which often existed between members of the indigenous and African-
descended populations.26
25Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 3:398. This is not to suggest that the
chronicler’s statements constituted some sort of impartial social observation: he
accompanied the comment quoted above with the claim that indigenous people “fully
trusted” Spaniards, which does not speak well for either his perspicacity or his honesty.
26AGCA, Al. 15. 2890. 26610 (1683). According to the accounts of municipal
officers from the neighboring community of Santiago Chimaltenango, the metanos had

222
But if a good deal of evidence exists to support this notion, there is plenty of
reason to believe that Spanish dominance of the colonial regime’s ideological realm also
contributed, at the very least, to the reinforcement of anti-African feelings among
indigenous peoples. The villagers of San Pedro Necta, for example, apparently told their
guests from Santiago Chimaltenango that their victim was a “negro comegente,” or black
cannibal. They were unlikely to have acquired this image from other than Spanish
sources.27 Priests ministering to indigenous flocks may have been especially likely to
introduce an association between blackness and evil into the conceptual world of
parishioners. In this respect, it is significant that each of colonial Guatemala’s major
clerical chronicles—by Remesal, Vázquez, and Ximénez—refers to the devil, or demons,
as being both black and grotesque.28
Such images also underscore clearly the social distance that remained between
españoles and people who were defined on the basis of African origins, whatever the
extent of the latter’s mobility. Widespread propagation of these images could only have
worked to firm up the translation of the colonial racial hierarchy’s distinctions into daily
invited them to participate in a hunt for several maroons, said to be nearby, on December
13, the feast of Santa Lucia. When they arrived in San Pedro Necta, they found the
unfortunate Jacinto tied to a post in the central square and beaten nearly to death. He
was soon strangled, and his corpse dumped in a nearby ravine to obscure the crime.
27AGCA, Al. 15. 2890. 26610. The nectarios made this assertion, their neighbors
said, in spite of Jacinto’s wearing of a rosary and repeated cries of “cristiano.”
28Remesal, Historia general, 2:274; Vázquez, Crónica, 3:168 and 4:238;
Ximénez, Historia, Libro 5:158-159.

223
life. As Barbara J. Fields has noted in another context, however, “[a]n understanding of
how groups see other groups in relation to themselves must begin by analyzing their
social relations—not by enumerating ‘attitudes’ which, endowed with independent life,
are supposed to act upon the historical process from outside, passing through it like
neutrinos to emerge unchanged at the other end.”29 It is only, in the end, by attending to
the day-to-day operationalization of the racial hierarchy in colonial Guatemala that the
importance of divisions predicated on origin can be gauged. The remainder of this
chapter goes beyond cofradía records to build a broader portrait of black and mulatto
life in the Province of Guatemala during the late seventeenth century. I argue, in the
process, that members of the African-descended population, both slave and free,
experienced continuously the contradictions of identification both as “less” than Spanish
and as representatives of Spanish oppression.
“Slave”: A “Middling Role”?30
One angle from which to test notions about black and mulatto social mobility, as
well as restraints on that mobility, is by examining the lives of slaves. Slavery, not
surprisingly, was the only institution indissolubly linked with African origins in mid¬
colonial Guatemala. In previous chapters, I noted that male slaves in particular were
29Barbara J. Fields, “Ideology and Race in American History,” in J. Morgan
Kousser and James M. McPherson, eds., Region, Race, and Reconstruction (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1982), 149.
30This is a reference to James Lockhart’s description of the category “slave” in
Spanish America. See Chapter 3, footnote 17.

224
able frequently to marry free women, and have freeborn children, although such was
perhaps less the case on the sugar plantations of central Guatemala, home to the greatest
concentrations of slaves in the realm. The marital mobility of enslaved men at first
glance appears to imply that their social standing was superior to that of their female
counterparts, legally incapable of producing free offspring. But the relative advantages
and disadvantages of maleness or femaleness among slaves are not so easily ranked, as
will be demonstrated. In a broader sense, though, it can be said with little exaggeration
that black and mulatto slaves of both sexes tended to operate within a less restrictive
social universe than that inhabited by most Indian tributaries.
On the one hand, there is no question that slaves were frequently subject to the
arbitrary whims of their masters, despite the much vaunted protection of Spanish law.
One of the most painful circumstances in which slaves became entangled, no doubt,
involved enforced family separation. In 1675, for example, a nine-year-old slave,
Cristóbal de la Cruz, lived in Santiago de Guatemala while his mother, María Inés,
resided well to the east in Mita.31 The boy’s owner, doña Clara Hurtado de Mendoza y
Delgado, had kept him on in her household at the time when she sold his mother to a
new owner.32
31In the corregimiento of Chiquimula de la Sierra.
32AGCA, A1.15. 2298. 16864 (1675). There were instances, on the other hand,
of slaves successfully exploiting the protections afforded them under Spanish legislation.
When a slave family belonging to the estate of don Alonso Alvarez de Villamil was
ordered sold together at auction in Santiago in 1625, it was explicitly stated that the
parents, Pedro Angola and Lucía negra, had married legally following assessment of the

225
Other cases reveal the difficulties that even free relatives of slaves had in
attempting to mitigate the circumstances of family separation. In 1705, a free mulatta in
the capital named Isabel Diaz saw her young son being willed to a rural-based cofradía
located in the parish church at Masagua,33 in accordance with the wishes of doña Clara
Diaz, her son’s deceased owner. Isabel, herself probably a former slave of doña Clara’s
who had intended eventually to liberate her child, spent many months pleading with the
authorities to force the cofradía 's members to assess her son’s value so she could buy
his liberty .34 A starker example of powerlessness to preserve family units that included
slaves occurs in a slightly earlier case involving a free woman who had placed in escrow
a down payment on the liberty of her husband. The woman, Melchora de los Reyes
Obregón, was left with little alternative but to sue for the return of her deposit after her
enslaved husband, Benito de la Trinidad, was packed off to a buyer in remote Peru.35
estate’s goods in order to avoid separation. The parents and five children, including a
mulata of unclear origins, were finally sold in one lot to Francisco de Baltodano for the
strikingly low price of 1,100 tostones, after several efforts to secure more money failed.
See AGCA, A1.43. 4877. 41807 (1625). The previous expediente, 41806, is related.
33In Escuintepeque.
34AGCA, A1.56. 5357. 45267 (1705).
35AGCA, A1.56. 5357. 45264 (1700). La Trinidad’s 1698 sale took place in
explicit contravention of an audiencia order, and was probably effected at least in part
out of spite. A recalcitrant slave, La Trinidad had on one occasion hidden himself rather
than obey an order to go to work on an indigo obraje, being coerced into returning to
his owner only after his free wife was arrested as a hostage. The latter’s troubles,
incidentally, were compounded because the official holding her money had died intestate.

226
Slaves also suffered for their owners’ impecuniousness, finding themselves
imprisoned as collateral for outstanding debts.36 In 1671, Blas Agustín, a mulatto slave
who worked on the property of don Juan de Gálvez in Escuintepeque, was jailed in
Santiago for the debts of a former master. Agustín was denied the option of being
placed in the power of the depositario general, who could have farmed him out to a
temporary “owner” who would provide sustenance, because, being from the coast, he
was considered likely to flee.37 In 1708, meanwhile, Juan Pascual, a black slave of the
estate of don Agustín Parejo y Godoy, was in his fifth year of imprisonment in Santiago
because of his deceased owner’s outstanding financial obligations. When a parish priest
from Santa Ana, don Juan Jacinto Lobaito, finally offered 200 pesos to purchase him,
Pascual, not unexpectedly, expressed the desire to have the sale rapidly approved.38
But owners’ indebtedness also occasionally afforded slaves the opportunity to
exploit interpersonal divisions among Spaniards as a means of achieving a degree of
mobility, if often only temporarily. The Franciscan chronicler Francisco Vázquez related
the story of a wealthy old Spaniard who obtained a slave belonging to the son of an
indebted widow and placed the slave in his own daughter’s household, despite the fact
36Bondservants were being jailed for their owners’ debts as early as 1578, when a
black slave named Melicia was imprisoned in Santiago on the request of the priest Mateo
Maldonado, against the estate of her deceased owner, Beatriz de Escobar. See AGCA
A1.15. 5905. 50019; A1.15. 5920. 51428.
37AGCA, A 1.56. 5920. 51262 (1671).
38AGCA, A1.56. 5357. 45269 (1708).

227
that the son was not legally responsible for his mother’s debt. The slave, it seems, acted
in this case to determine his own fate. Vázquez indicated that the illegal transfer of
“property” took place “against the will of the owner although the slave was not
bothered, having fled his owner with little cause and run to the house of the rich old man,
who took him in with pleasure and without notifying his master.”39
Battles over estates could also open up spaces for slave mobility, especially, it
seems, if minors were included among the heirs. In 1658, doña Tomasina de Betancur’s
guardian complained that two slaves attached to the dowry of her deceased
grandmother, doña Tomasina de Saravia, had fled a hacienda in Guazacapán which had
belonged formerly to Saravia and her husband, Capitán Antonio Lorenzo de Betancur,
also deceased. The slaves, Antonio Guayacán, mulato, and Nicolás Bamba, negro, had
been willed to young doña Tomasina, whose guardian naturally wanted them found. But
the guardian, Capitán y Sargento Mayor don Alonso Alvarez de Vega, a municipal
official in the capital, did not imagine that Guayacán and Bamba had disappeared without
a trace. Instead, he asserted that the two were being harbored on the neighboring
landholding of don Diego de la Paz and doña Inés de la Paz. Worst of all, they were
returning to the Betancur estate from time to time to slaughter cattle, with the full
support of their hosts.40
39Vázquez, Crónica, 1:206-209, esp. 207.
^AGCA, A1.24. 1562. 10206. ff.57, 380-383, 462 (1658), on LDS roll 0744961.

228
Don Diego and doña Inés, it seems, were also tied by family relationship to the
Betancur estate. Antonio de Betancur’s second wife had been doña Inés de la Paz y
Valdivia, who had borne a son named Joseph de Betancur, also an heir to the Betancur
estate.41 The Paz clan apparently carried a good deal of weight locally, for doña
Tomasina’s guardian complained that an agent he had sent from the capital to watch
over the Betancur property had been jailed twice by the corregidor, on diverse
pretexts.42 As in the case mentioned by Vázquez, doña Tomasina’s slaves acquired some
freedom of action as a result of divisions among their Spanish overlords. At the same
time, in both cases that freedom was predicated, at least in part, on the protection of
powerful patrons.
In a third instance apparently illustrating the potential for slaves to exploit
Spaniards’ disputes, the slaves at issue are harder to locate. In 1675, Nicolasa de Robles
and her young daughter Francisca, mulatta slaves of the Dominican monastery at San
Juan Amatitlán, were reported by the Dominicans’ chief legal representative, Fray Diego
41It is possible, though unlikely, that the two doña Inés’ were one and the same.
42AGCA. A1.24. 1562. 10206. ff.57, 380-383, 462 (1658), on LDS, roll
0744961. The feud appears to have assumed wider proportions. That same year, doña
Juana Vásquez de Ardón complained that don Rodrigo de Betancur had ordered an
attack on the property and staff of her estancia in Escuintepeque while searching for don
Nicolás de la Paz. Ardón alleged that Betancur’s mulatto son-in-law Joseph Gálvez and
several other men had destroyed her corrals and house, and tied up and whipped several
of her employees. Gálvez’ band was said to have included the mulatto Lázaro Larios, an
indio named Hernando, and two of Betancur’s slaves, Perucho and Antón. See AGCA,
A1.24. 1562. 10206. ff,193-196v. (1658) on LDS roll 0744961.

229
Llórente, to have been absent from the monastery for more than two years.43 Fray Diego
had his suspicions, centering on don Joseph de Avila Monrroy and doña Gregoria
Bernardo de Quiros, who had drawn up a contract to purchase the mother and daughter
back in 1669 but failed to pay the money they owed. The Dominicans’ legal advocate
evidently believed that Robles and her child were actually living close by in relative
freedom. All that was lacking was the power to force their return to their rightful owner.
Of course, causing offense to the mighty without the backing of other, equally
powerful supporters had the opposite effect on the ability of slaves to act with any
degree of autonomy. In 1698, a San Salvador legal advocate, Doctor don Antonio
Dávila y Quiñones, lamented the ill fortune of two slaves who had come to him in search
of assistance. The two, Juan de Alfaro and Maria de Lasso, were desperately seeking to
obtain the freedom granted to them in the will of a prominent citizen whose son and heir,
Bartolomé Marin, was regidor and alguacil mayor of the town. Dávila y Quiñones
remarked on the injustice of a situation in which such “miserable persons” were forced to
litigate against the most powerful man in San Salvador.44
It might be argued that the mere fact of Alfaro and Lasso having access to legal
representation provides evidence of a remarkable liberty enjoyed by slaves under the
43AGCA, A1.15. 4119. 32625 (1675).
44AGCA, A1.24. 1576. 10214. ff.206-208 (1698). For an example of a slave¬
owner endeavoring to force a former slave to submit to his will even from the grave, by
directing his executors to appeal the slave’s purchase of freedom, see AGCA, A1.43.
4980. 42373 (1699).

230
Spanish colonial regime. Yet that “freedom” was determined far more by individual
circumstance than by abstract legal protections,45 as the examples cited above
demonstrate. Further evidence of this emerges in the case of Juana Obando, a black
slave woman in the household of Fray Andrés de las Navas y Quevedo, Bishop of
Guatemala and Verapaz from 1682 to 1701, who discovered to her sorrow just how
precarious such “liberty” could be.
In 1696, Bishop Navas y Quevedo unconditionally freed Obando, whom he had
purchased twelve years earlier, because of her “great faithfulness, love and loyalty.”46
Obando’s attainment of liberty, by the Bishop’s account, took place amidst a thoroughly
remarkable display of mutual love and admiration. By 1698, the “beloved” Obando had
also won title to a house in the capital from her former master, which she was to share
with her sister, Francisca, until they died, their only obligation being to maintain it in
good order. Just two years later, though, Navas y Quevedo had annulled his “donations”
because of his former slave’s “ingratitude.” Obando, it seems, had not maintained a
proper attitude of respect toward her former master. In tones that illuminate even today
the deep offense he took from her “betrayal,” the Bishop charged that she had been
45For a concise description of these protections, see Beatriz Palomo de Lewin,
“La esclavitud negra en Guatemala durante los siglos XVI y XVII,” in Ernesto Chinchilla
Aguilar, ed., Historia general de Guatemala, 2 (Guatemala: Asociación de Amigos del
País, 1994), 281-282.
^AGCA, Al .56. 5357. 45268 (1706).

231
“ungrateful and incognizant regarding the good he had done her and hadfailed to give
[him] the respect, veneration, and reverence due [his] dignified personage”47
Immediately upon the esteemed cleric’s death in November, 1701, Obando was
sold for 300 pesos to another resident of the capital, doña Juana de Azpeitia. By 1707,
she had exhausted a long and ultimately unsuccessful round of legal appeals against the
Bishop’s estate, aimed both at recovering her liberty--or at least the funds with which to
purchase it-as well as the house she had received. In the end, her claim that her former
master’s actions had no legal foundation went unrecognized by the court.48 The justices
accepted the argument made by representatives of the Bishop’s estate that Obando’s sins
against her benefactor’s dignity—allegedly consisting of verbal abuse and an illicit
relationship with a member of her owner’s family—were sufficient cause for the
retraction of freedom.49
The sometimes extraordinary room for maneuver which slaves in colonial
Guatemala appeared to possess, then, was often at bottom dependent on an individual
47AGCA, A1.56. 5357. 45268. f,14v. Emphasis added.
48Testimony from several clerics on Obando’s behalf also had little effect.
49Obando’s lawyer argued that her liberty had been paid for with the
“faithfulness, love, and loyalty” cited in her letter of freedom—not to mention the fact
that it had been granted unconditionally. Her status, thus, could not be revoked for
“ingratitude.” According to Lowell Gudmundson, similar revocations of grants of
manumission were not uncommon in Costa Rica, underscoring the superiority of
freedom purchased with cash. See AGCA, A1.56. 5357. 45268; Gudmundson,
“Mecanismos de movilidad social,” 147.

232
slave’s relationship to his or her owner.50 Even the rather striking legal right of slaves to
find new owners under certain circumstances, including proven patterns of abuse,
required the acquiescence, in a sense, of the master found wanting. The owner of Benito
de la Trinidad, for example, sent him to Peru despite the existence of an order allowing
the slave and his wife time to put together his purchase price.51 Be that as it may, in a
society in which slaveowners frequently used slaves in capacities other than field laborer-
-a job often reserved for “free” tributary Indians—the opportunities a reasonably loyal
slave might encounter were unquestionably broader than those enjoyed by unlucky
counterparts toiling in the contemporary and brutal sugar-driven and slave-based
economies of Brazil and the English Caribbean.52 A particularly striking example occurs
in the case of Francisco Arias, the black slave of a merchant in Santiago who not only
traded far and wide on behalf of his owner, but also received backing from the audiencia
in 1703 for efforts to extract payments of debt from a number of prominent residents of
50For a consideration of the relationship of slave to owner as one of client to
patron, in the context of Mexico City, see Cope, Limits, Ch. 5, esp. 95-98.
51 See footnote 35, above. An apparently successful effort to secure a new owner,
involving a mulatta slave named Simona de Ardón, is recorded in AGCA, A1.56. 5357.
45260 (1675). For similar examples from the late eighteenth century, see Catherine
Komisaruk, “The Work it Cost Me: The Struggles of Slaves and Free Africans in
Guatemala, 1770-1825,” Urban History Workshop Review 5 (1999): 8.
52Good places to begin an exploration of seventeenth-century slavery in these
regions include Stuart B. Schwartz, Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian
Society: Bahia 1550-1835 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Richard S.
Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies,
1624-1713 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1973), esp. Ch. 7.

233
San Salvador and San Miguel. The latter apparently believed that failure to fulfill their
obligations to a businessman of such low status would bring few consequences.53
It may be, though, that the less legitimate pursuits which slaves were able to
conduct are even better indicators of the relative lack of restraints under which many of
them operated than are the exploits of individuals like Arias. In Chapter 2,1 noted rising
Spanish concern in the early seventeenth century over various excesses committed by
slaves—recall, for example, the alarm caused by the activities of the feuding household
staffs of Francisco de Mesa and Andrés de Molina in the capital in 1609. Such concerns
by no means dissipated as the century wore on. In 1654, the Spanish Crown informed
the audiencia in Santiago that disturbing news had reached Madrid regarding “many
offenses and murders committed principally against Indians by blacks and mulattos who
are the slaves of powerful individuals in that city.” What was worse, wayward slaves
were engaging in criminal activities “with the support of their owners,” while the crimes
themselves, rather than being investigated and punished, were ignored or covered up.
The problem, the Crown believed, lay in the failure of officers charged with keeping
public order to carry out regularly their prescribed nightly rounds. These officers, the
53AGCA, A 1.24. 1573. 10217. ff.l36-137v. (1703). Being free would not
necessarily have improved Arias’ ability to collect on outstanding bills. See a case
involving attempts by Matías de Vallecillos, a free mulatto tratante from Santiago, to
collect money from debtors in San Miguel and Tegucigalpa, “asi españoles mestizos
negros mulatos yndios,” in AGCA, A1.24. 1565. 10209. ff.65-67v. (1677). For an
example from New Spain of a slave acting as a business partner to his owner, see Patrick
J. Carroll, “Mexican Society in Transition: The Blacks in Veracruz, 1750-1830” (Ph D.
dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1975), 212-213.

234
decree suggested, needed to keep a closer eye on the “many vagrants and especially the
blacks and mulattos” who lived in the city.54
Although the 1654 decree did not also mention the situation in the countryside, a
number of criminal cases dating from the latter half of the seventeenth century suggest
that rural areas of the Province were no less the site of illicit activities on the part of
slaves than the capital. Sometimes, in fact, these activities demonstrated the ease with
which certain slaves moved back and forth from city to countryside. In 1671, for
instance, a husband-and-wife team named Nicolás and Antonia played a key role in
abducting Isabel de la Cruz, the daughter of a prominent official in Santiago, and
transporting her to the Pacific coast. They carried out this action in furtherance of the
amorous pursuits of don Juan de Gálvez, a notable landowner in Escuintepeque and
member of the family to which Nicolás, at least, was bound.55 Nicolás and Antonia,
however, do not seem to have been merely disinterested pawns in Gálvez’ game. Rather,
the circumstances of the abduction present a classic example of coincidence of interest
between slave and owner, for the father of the targeted young woman was an officer of
54AGCA, A1.23. 4580. 39533. ff.l48v.-149v. (1654).
55Gálvez also appears in Chapter 5. Evidence from this case suggests that his
workforce was well integrated into the surrounding cultural milieu, not surprising given
that its free members came from San Diego de la Gomera and Chipilapa. One witness
here claimed to have seen the kidnapped doncella in Chipilapa at “una sarabanda y baile
que usan,” accompanied by an unidentified negra. See AGCA, A2.2. 137. 2476 (1672).

235
the Santa Cruzada who had evidently dealt unpleasantly in the past with the couple’s
son.56
This kidnapping, nevertheless, represented a specifically targeted and one-time
“criminal” action effected by slaves under the direction of an important member of the
colonial elite. The illegal activities of slaves appear sometimes to have been far more
broadly anti-social in character, however, and associated not so much with owners’
explicit directives as with lack of restraint. Early in 1683, Pasqual Tumba, a slave of the
Mercedarian order, stood accused of robbing a house on a small farm outside Pastores, a
short ways north of the capital, just prior to the new year. Witnesses, including a black
slave named Simón Ballecillos, claimed Tumba was no neophyte in the realm of criminal
activity. He had engaged repeatedly, they said, in cattle-rustling from a nearby
Dominican property, and brazen highway robbery against Indians. Indeed, one accuser
claimed that, “being a famous thief,” Tumba had been recognized by many people as he
arrived on horseback to commit his most recent crime. If so, the impunity with which he
operated was remarkable.57
A few years earlier, a mulatto slave named Ramón de la Barrera had been
accused of stealing two mules under cover of darkness in San Pedro Sacatepéquez, a few
56AGCA, A2.2. 137. 2476. The grave affront which the actions of Nicolás and
Antonia presented to the honor of the young woman’s father, Francisco de Montesdoca,
was revealed in his demand that they be punished “ to the full satisfaction of the honor
and virginity of the said daughter of mine ... as I am a powerful man, and very well-
connected in the republic.”
57AGCA, A1.15. 4122. 32655 (1683).

236
hours’ journey northwest of the capital, and then threatening municipal officers in San
Juan Gascón58 with a sword when they later tried to apprehend him. Barrera, too, had
been singled out as a notorious thief, most prominently by the alcalde of a third
indigenous village, San Lucas Sacatepéquez, who had claimed to have recognized the
slave without trouble as the latter passed by with his booty on the road to San Juan. The
most significant aspect of this case, though, is contained not in the description of
Barrera’s alleged criminal activities, but in a statement attributed to the alcalde of San
Juan. The alcalde had decided to arrest Barrera, he said, because “having seen that he
was a mulatto, and was leading beasts roped together, [the alcalde] presumed he was a
thief.”59 Like the brutal highland murder of the negro Jacinto, this statement perhaps
spoke volumes about the general state of relations between Indian communities and the
African-descended population in seventeenth-century Guatemala.
58A village closer to the capital, the latter apparently having been Barrera’s
ultimate destination.
39AGCA, A2.2. 137. 2477 (1674). Barrera was by no means the most well-
traveled horsethief around. Joseph Sánchez, a free mulatto muleteer who escaped in
1691 from an obraje to which he had been sentenced for habitual thievery, claimed upon
being re-arrested in Patzicia one morning a few months later that he had stolen horses
the previous night in Petapa and Ciudad Vieja, both well to the southeast. Witnesses
added that Sánchez had earlier sold a “great quantity” of stolen mules in Mazatenango, a
good distance to the southwest in Zapotitlán, where he was also notorious for gambling.
Although allegedly in his seventies, Sánchez was sentenced to hang in May 1692. He
was still alive more than a year later. See AGCA, A1.15. 4126. 32696 (1692).

237
Contesting Social Mobility: Free Mulattos and Spaniards
The colonial social relations in which blacks and mulattos were implicated were
far broader, of course, than can be encompassed solely by illuminating the lives of slaves.
The free population of color probably outnumbered slaves by a substantial margin
everywhere in the Province of Guatemala during the later seventeenth century except,
perhaps, in the Verapaz60 and in the sugar-growing region just south of the Valle de las
Vacas. While it may be true that enslaved blacks and mulattos often operated in ways
akin to those of their free counterparts, the latter clearly enjoyed a wider range of
opportunities for social mobility. On the other hand, free people of color experienced
similar tensions to the ones slaves dealt with: between mobility and independence on the
one hand, and the limits imposed under the racial hierarchy on the other. But free
mulattos—the overwhelming majority of the African-descended population by this time—
ran into difficulty far more often than slaves toward the upper end of the social scale,
where they encountered resistance from españoles fearful of loss of status. Their social
superiority over tributary Indians was more or less a given.61
^ome of the large Dominican ingenio of San Gerónimo and otherwise mostly
indigenous.
61The records of criminal proceedings and civil disputes, founded in social
conflict, are particularly useful for examining the day-to-day operation of these
hierarchical relationships. The nature of the latter may be nowhere more succinctly
illustrated, though, than in Thomas Gage’s recollection of Spaniards and “Blackamoors”
engaging in bull-baiting on horseback in Petapa on the feast of Michaelmas, while local
Pokomam Indians went on foot. See Gage, Travels, 202.

238
There may be no better example of both the degree of social presumption which
free individuals of color felt at liberty to make, and the restrictions that operated to
repress that presumption, than the record of a domestic arrangement turned sour in San
Juan Amatitlán. In January of 1675, a Spanish vecino, Lázaro del Castillo, accused a
free black man, Joseph Maria, of having abused Castillo’s hospitality and insulted his
wife and family. The Spaniard lamented that, having encountered Joseph in desperate
straits, he had charitably offered the poor man a place to stay, only to have his kindness
repaid after a month first by thievery and then, the day after Joseph’s ejection from the
house, an outburst of verbal abuse against the entire family from the street outside. The
worst aspect of the entire incident for Castillo was that, on confronting Joseph in the
street during the latter’s verbal tirade, the erstwhile houseguest had proceeded to assault
him “in word and deed.” It “could not be right,” Castillo complained, “that a black man
should exhibit such insolence towards Spaniards.” For good measure, the plaintiff then
heaped further charges onto the ungrateful defendant, claiming Joseph was also guilty of
harassing local women in their homes. Joseph narrowly avoided a sentence of two years’
labor on the fortress at Granada, due to illness, and was instead ordered to leave for
good the village in which his alleged misdeeds had taken place.62
Castillo’s concerns over the challenges posed to the dignity of españoles by
social “inferiors” were echoed in a 1689 incident involving a stolen mule. Capitán don
Pedro Angel del Solar, of Santiago, claimed to have sent a mulatto named Felipe de Solis
62AGCA, A1.15. 5905. 50087(1675).

239
to Oaxaca to collect a mule which don Pedro had purchased there, only to see Solis sell
the animal and pocket the proceeds. The mulatto was jailed on the Spaniard’s word, but
eventually won release after managing to persuade the authorities that he could not have
committed the offense with which he was charged. This turn of events outraged don
Pedro. He thundered that the justices should have ignored Solis’ entreaties, given that
his own character and social standing were clearly “distinct from those of the said
mulatto.” Fortunately for Solis, don Pedro soon accepted the truth of an allegation that
it was another mulatto, Nicolás García, who actually bore responsibility for having
usurped his property. The Spaniard hastily shifted the focus of his energies to wringing
the money he believed he was owed out of Garcia’s mother.63
Status differentials based on origin were not always so clear-cut, however, as a
dispute which took place in the village of Mixco in 1692 illustrates. Alférez Juan
Montero de Espinosa, a resident of the capital and administrator of a cattle ranch in the
valley of Mixco, complained bitterly about the impertinence and threats with which Juan
de Dios, a local free mulatto, had greeted Espinosa’s efforts to recover a cow and six
pesos owed to him by Dios’ brother-in-law, a mulatto named Tomás. According to
Espinosa, Dios had accosted him in the village square, loudly slandered him as a
“Moorish dog of well known origins,” and threatened him with a knife. Espinosa said he
had managed to escape serious harm only through the timely intervention of bystanders,
63AGCA, A1.15. 4123. 32662 (1689).

240
and demanded severe punishment for his alleged assailant, a “vile and base person” and a
“criminal” like his brother-in-law.64
Significantly, the witnesses to this incident, including both Spanish and mulatto
residents of Mixco, threw Espinosa’s version of events into question. In the end, both
men received a warning to leave off further entanglements with each other. Perhaps
Espinosa, being from the capital, was seen as an outsider by locals. It is also possible
that Dios’ epithet emerged out of real public suspicion concerning Espinosa’s
background, which might have outweighed any advantage he held in terms of social
rank.
The three examples just cited all emerged out of the central area of the Province
of Guatemala, in or near the capital. To the southeast, in the territory of today’s El
Salvador, the social space in which free people of African descent operated often appears
to have been of somewhat wider latitude. The limits on the mobility of people of color
also seem often to have been less directly related to their ascribed origins. This situation
was no doubt related closely to the evidently significant “confusion” over, or plain lack
of attention to, human classification found in Salvadoran marriage petitions.65 More than
elsewhere, there were free mulattos who had achieved a considerable degree of power
and economic standing, at least at the local level. The threat these individuals posed to
^AGCA, A1.56. 2453. 18941 (1692). Some of the witnesses said they had heard
Dios claim that he would prove his charges regarding Espinosa’s origins.
65See the discussion of ambiguity in the identifications of female petitioners in
Chapter 3, as well as the general analysis of Salvadoran marriage petitions in Chapter 4.

241
Spaniards was not confined to incidents of perceived insolence from clear social
inferiors, but rather constituted both potential and actual encroachment into the realm of
important Spanish social and economic interests. When their origins were made an
explicit issue as a result of social conflict, it was at a level where a substantial degree of
power was at stake.
The clearest illustration of this dynamic comes in an example involving the
Tovillas, a notorious mulatto family which lived in the vicinity of the relatively remote
northern community of Chalatenango. During the 1650s, the family ran about fifty head
of cattle on an estancia near the Lempa River, and also grew indigo, allegedly at least,
with indigenous labor recruited through control over the selection of municipal officials
in six neighboring Indian villages. The parish priest of Chalatenango, don Juan de Zárate
y Herrera, claimed that local villagers were so terrified of the family patriarch, Jacinto de
la Tovilla, and his five sons and two daughters that they provided land as well as labor to
the family at no cost, and also accepted the inordinately low prices which the Tovillas
offered them for their own harvests and livestock. Zárate y Herrera further charged that
members of the Tovilla family, in league with their friends, covertly slaughtered the cattle
of other area residents and sold the resulting tallow. Worst of all, the cura said, was that
a host of other blacks, mulattos, and Indians came and went from the Tovilla property,
living “scandalously” and participating in the family’s depredations throughout the
surrounding countryside.66
“AGCA, A1.24. 1561. 10205. ff.26-30v. (1655).

242
Zárate y Herrera phrased his complaint in language calculated to draw the
audiencia’s attention to the family’s origins. He described Jacinto de la Tovilla as a
mulatto widower “who says he is free,” noted the close proximity of the Tovilla estancia
to local indigenous villages, and evoked the family’s “recklessness and evil nature,”
which even the cura claimed to find threatening. He then appealed to the Crown’s
economic interests, intimating that the Tovillas’ exactions from local Indians were so
onerous as to compromise the ability of the latter to pay tribute. Capping off the priest’s
complaint was an allegation that the family carefully timed its planting of indigo to
escape the attention of royal investigators, avoiding censure for its illegal use of
indigenous labor as well as payment of taxes. The family paid neither the alcabala-sales
tax~or the “laborío tribute that [Tovilla] and his said children, being mulattos, owe to
the Royal Treasury.”67
Zárate y Herrera pleaded with the audiencia to enforce decrees banning the
residence of such unwholesome people in or near Indian communities. The council duly
complied by reiterating orders dating back to 1578 intended to outlaw contact between
tributary Indians and “mal gente” like the Tovillas.68 The general ineffectiveness of these
orders, revealed in their constant repetition, make it unlikely that the cura achieved his
aim of forcing the family out of the Chalatenango area.
67AGCA, A1.24. 1561. 10205. ff.26-30v.
68These are discussed in some detail in Chapter 2, above.

243
It is not impossible that the cura's petition was motivated, at least in part, by a
desire to reduce the competition that a non-Spanish family like the Tovillas would have
presented to Spanish control, both clerical and secular, over the local population.
Perhaps Zárate y Herrera would have complained with equal vigor had the Tovillas been
españoles, but such a complaint would have lacked an element which the priest clearly
considered to be crucial: his emphasis on the Tovillas’ “inferior” origins. In any case, it
was probably in peripheral areas like Chalatenango that free people of color were most
likely to occupy social positions most at odds with the ones to which Spaniards wished
to confine them.69 From the perspective of indigenous inhabitants in places like
Chalatenango, of course, there would have been little to choose between abuse from
españoles or mulatos, especially if people like the Tovillas were half as predatory as they
were made out to be.70
In a couple of cases from San Miguel, a larger and more important community
with a significant local population of españoles, free mulattos appear as relatively
prosperous landowners who are nevertheless small-scale operators, and clearly
69Chalatenango’s marriage petitions suggest that there were few local
demographic barriers to upward mobility for people identified by African descent. There
are ten marriage petitions from the village in the core sample from El Salvador. Four
involve free mulattos, including three men marrying mestizas, and a fourth who was
preparing to wed a mulata libre described as the legitimate daughter of a Spanish father
and a free mulatta mother. See AHA, A4.16, T5 106:18, 20, 31, 48 (all 1691).
70I have a hunch, unproven and probably unprovable, that it was as much
indigenous people as anyone else who reworked the meaning of “ladino,” making it a
catch-all for the various non-Indians whom they saw as oppressors.

244
outmatched by powerful local Spaniards in disputes. The earlier one involves a 1650
lawsuit brought by Sabina García, mulata libre and widow of the free mulatto Capitán
Diego Cabello, who was attempting to recover property that had been placed in escrow
after her husband died intestate in 1644.71 Garcia, who evidently came from a family that
had already done well, indicated that she had brought a substantial dowry to her
marriage with Cabello, recently arrived from New Spain at the time, and poor. The
dowry had included thirty mares, thirty colts, and three hundred pounds of indigo.
Subsequently, the couple had lived in a relatively modest dwelling at Moncagua, near
San Miguel, but managed before Cabello’s death to build up holdings which included 79
horses and a mule, as well as a 20-year-old Angolan slave named Pedro.
Cabello had not died of natural causes, however. He was instead murdered
during a quarrel with a certain don Alonso de la Cruz. The circumstances of that
quarrel, unfortunately, are unclear. But both Cabello’s fate, and the fact that Garcia was
still trying six years after her husband’s death to recover her property, suggest the
difficulties which non-Spaniards may have faced in maintaining hard-won economic and
social status.
The fact that Cabello and Garcia owned an African slave, incidentally, serves to
illustrate an important point: slave-owning by people of color in colonial Spanish
America was not particularly anomalous. It revolved, if anything, more around issues of
affordability than solidarity among people of African descent. Adriana Naveda Chávez-
71AGCA, A1.43. 4913. 41971 (1650).

245
Hita, for example, notes that “practically all social sectors in Córdoba [New Spain], with
the exception of indigenous people, participated actively in African slavery,” including
free blacks and pardos72 Given the room for maneuver which free people of color
possessed under the Spanish racial hierarchy as it operated in a place like San Miguel, it
is not especially surprising that the case discussed above supports Herman Bennett’s
suggestion that “[d]espite shared and similar circumstances, persons of African descent
distinguished themselves on the basis of real and symbolic differences” in colonial
Spanish America.73
A second lawsuit from San Miguel, filed at the end of the seventeenth century,
also underscores both the ability of free mulattos to accumulate significant economic
resources and the challenges to their retention of those resources which arose out of the
preponderance of power that lay in Spanish hands. In 1694, a local free mulatto couple,
Andrés de la Cruz and Juana Vásquez, left a total of ten caballerías of land to their two
72Adriana Naveda Chávez-Hita, Esclavos negros en las haciendas azucareras de
Córdoba, Veracruz, 1690-1830 (Veracruz: Universidad Veracruzana, 1987), 34.
73See Herman L. Bennett, “A Research Note: Race, Slavery, and the Ambiguity
of Corporate Consciousness,” Colonial Latin American Historical Review 3, no. 2
(1994): 210. Katia M. de Queirós Mattoso has claimed that the many black and mulatto
slave-holders of nineteenth-century Brazil were “staunch allies of the slave community,”
and that African-born slave-owners in particular were “closer to [their] slaves” than
other masters. Her argument contains internal inconsistencies which I will ignore here,
but seems an odd one to make regarding a society in which slave-holding, as she herself
demonstrates, was probably dispersed more widely among a large free population than
anywhere else in the Americas. See Katia M. de Queirós Mattoso, To Be a Slave in
Brazil, 1550-1888, Arthur Goldhammer, trans. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers
University Press, 1986), 208-209.

246
sons, Dionisio and Antonio de la Cruz. The property consisted in the main of the
parents’ hacienda, Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, along with sundry livestock and
equipment.74 Dionisio was unfortunate enough to have been absent in Panama at the
time he came into his inheritance, with the result that his share of the patrimony was
placed under the care of his son, Damián. The youth promptly sold his father’s share of
the land, six caballerías, for five hundred pesos to the alcalde of San Miguel, don
Clemente Calvo de Lara. Don Clemente took profits from the land for three years, and
then sold it in turn to one Pascual de Molina.
Dionisio complained in his lawsuit that the alcalde had taken advantage of his
son, a minor, by paying less than half the land’s true value. He managed to obtain a
decree from the audiencia which supported, if somewhat vaguely, his claim to damages
equaling the full value of the land plus the profits from indigo that don Clemente had
earned. But whether or not this support translated into action at the local level—where
Dionisio needed it—is not recorded. The local justices, as likely as not, were in league
with don Clemente, and unlikely to be sympathetic to the concerns of an upstart casta
It is notable that, unlike the cura of Chalatenango, the plaintiffs in the other two
Salvadoran cases cited did not make anyone’s origins an explicit issue, appealing instead
to abstract notions of “justice.” The reasons for this divergence seem quite clear. It is
doubtful that either Sabina Garcia or Dionisio de la Cruz thought drawing attention to
their own “inferior” status as mulattos would assist them in lawsuits pitting them against
74AGCA, A1.24. 1573. 10217. ff.233-235 (1703).

247
españoles. Neither could have hoped to evoke the pity of the audiencia as did, say, a
recently liberated slave named Andrea de la Rosa, who, emphasizing that she was a
“poor, miserable black woman,” pleaded successfully in 1708 for assistance in upholding
her status as a free person.75 They were not particularly “humble” folk, and thus
probably only hoped their African background did not emerge as a subject for
consideration in the weighing of their lawsuits’ merits.
It should not be lost sight of amidst this discussion of the divisions founded in
origin which characterized colonial Guatemalan society that many of the social
relationships which crossed these divisions on a daily basis did not necessarily replicate
the abstract hierarchical structures of Spanish rule. In previous chapters I have centered
on marriage as a particularly crucial site for reproducing hierarchical structures, yet
marriage does not tell the whole story of how that hierarchy came into play in relations
between men and women. Bits of evidence that I have gathered concerning extra-marital
relationships reveal that, in day-to-day practice, some women and men formed unions
which, if frequently founded in inequality, diverged clearly from imposed norms. The
75Andrea de la Rosa, bom a slave in a Spanish household in San Juan Amatitlán
around 1667, was freed in 1691, then spent the period from 1703—when her former
owner fell sick-until 1708 endeavoring to fend off harassment from the heirs of her ex¬
mistress’ estate. That harassment was directed against both herself and her five children,
despite the fact that she had paid, at least in part, for her freedom. The hollowness of the
audiencia ’s original grant of support to her, in 1703, was demonstrated by the fact that
she had to obtain a new one in 1708. See AGCA, A1.56. 5357. 45272. ff. 65-72 (1708).
Similar cases involving recently freed individuals who refer to their “miserable” status
vis-a-vis the españoles or españolas who are attempting to deny them their liberty are
relatively common. See for example, AGCA, A1.56. 5920. 51255 (1639); A1.24. 1559.
10203. ff.471-471v. (1642); A1.24. 1577. 10221. ff 5-7 (1708).

248
nature of many of these relationships underscores the contradictions which continually
disturbed the smooth functioning of a social system intended to be rigidly hierarchical.
Ecclesiastical records, again, prove an important source of information on
relationships between the sexes, given the Church’s role in surveillance over sexual
conduct. Significantly, but not unexpectedly, the illicit sexual relationships which
attracted most attention from authorities appear to have been those which disturbed the
sanctity of the “Spanish” family. During a pastoral visita to the village of Santa Catarina
Pinula in 1683, for example, Bishop Navas y Quevedo heard a complaint from a local
española named Isabel de Osorio, who indicated that her husband of forty years had long
since abandoned her for life in the capital with “a mulatta they call ‘the colored
Mariana.’” The relationship about which Osorio complained was clearly no fleeting
extra-marital fling, for it had resulted in five children.76
An extra-marital relationship representing an even greater disjuncture with social
expectations regarding “fit” partners for Spaniards involved a master blacksmith from
Santiago, the español Nicolás Mendes, said to be living in San Antonio Suchitepéquez
with Isabel González, the mulatta slave of a local priest. Again, the case came to light as
a result of complaints by an aggrieved spouse. Mendes’ legal wife, Isabel de Lemus de
Alvarado, claimed her husband’s refusal to carry on conjugal life with her constituted
grounds for divorce. The key point in the proceedings centered on whether or not
76“Visitas de don Fray Bishop Andrés de las Navas y Quevedo, 1683-1690,”
AHA, Visitas Pastorales, Tomo 1, T1 63, f.222. (1683).

249
Mendes and González were actually cohabiting. Ironically, the case for divorce was
weakened by the fact that witnesses from San Antonio Suchitepéquez suggested Mendes
moved about from community to community in the area rather than maintaining a fixed
residence.77
The relationships mentioned in the above cases involved partnerships which
challenged the boundaries of racial hierarchy, although, in another sense, they merely
confirm the confluence between race and gender considerations by illustrating the wide
gap between Spanish men’s broad sexual freedom and the correspondingly narrow
bounds within which Spanish women operated.78 Even this dichotomy did not always
hold, however. The greater freedom from hierarchical restrictions which individuals of
any origin may have found outside the bonds of marriage, at least temporarily, are
possibly reflected in the record of Bishop Navas y Quevedo’s 1684 war on adulterers in
Petapa. The guilty parties included not only Lucía de la Cruz, a free black widow who
had set up house locally with a Spanish bachelor named Nicolás de Alvarado, but also
the española Juana Muñoz, living illicitly with Juan de Miranda, a free mulatto who had
77AGCA, Al.? 5337. 44967 (1702), LDS roll 0745075.
78For an example detailing the sexual involvement of a Spanish peninsular with a
number of non-españolas in Jutiapa—Ursula Bernal’s marriage dispensation, discussed in
Chapter 3—see AHA, A4.16, T5 1.22:39 (1676-1678). For a discussion of “honor” as it
related to male versus female sexuality among the Spanish colonial elite, see Ann
Twinam, “Honor, Sexuality, and Illegitimacy in Colonial Spanish America,” in Lavrin,
Sexuality and Marriage, 118-155, esp. 123-124.

250
a wife in the capital.79 The temporary nature of the liberty such arrangements perhaps
brought is shown in the fact that the Bishop sentenced a total of eighteen people to exile
from the village, making an exception only for any woman who would agree either to
marry or take a nun’s habit. Those who took up this offer were to be placed in depdsito-
-restrictive seclusion-while they awaited their eventual fate.
From Mulato Libre to Ladino?
The sum total of evidence presented in this chapter and the previous two may
appear to confirm Christopher Lutz’ intimation that by the latter part of the seventeenth
century, the African origins of a portion of the free population were unimportant enough
in a classificatory sense to have a significant impact on social relationships in colonial
Guatemala. In other words, despite the continued usage of traditional Spanish colonial
“racial” classifications, mulatos libres—the vast majority of the free population of African
descent-would better be lumped together in a social category with mestizos than with
black slaves.80 Certainly, as this chapter demonstrates, the variety of social positions
79“Visitas de don Fray Bishop Andrés de las Navas y Quevedo, 1683-1690,”
AHA, Visitas Pastorales, Tomo 1, TI 63, f.228-228v. (1684). The freedom which
adulterous relationships may have brought came often at the cost of a move outside
one’s home community. In one 1670 case which involved a married Spaniard living with
a mestiza in San Juan Amatitlán after the two were forced out of Santiago, a witness
indicated that there were many such couples in town. See AGCA, A2.2. 137. 2472
(1670). Twinam, incidentally, demonstrates that even españolas had somewhat more
room for maneuver under the Spanish code of honor than is often thought. See Twinam,
“Honor, Sexuality, and Illegitimacy,” 124.
80See the discussion of Lutz’ suggestion that mestizos and mulattos were
essentially indistinguishable in the capital by the 1670s in Chapter 3, above.

251
which people defined by African origins inhabited was extensive, a situation not likely to
strengthen any sense of what Herman Bennett calls “corporate consciousness.”81
Outside the capital—Lutz’ focus-free mulattos were likely to encounter even more
opportunities for upward mobility, acting in a sense as surrogate españoles in many
places which lacked a substantial Spanish presence.
In the village of Mazatenango, in Zapotitlán, for example, one local free mulatto
family, the Avalos, appeared at the center of social life in the late seventeenth century.
Brothers Joseph, Francisco, and Antonio all showed up as witnesses in marriage
petitions involving Spaniards and mestizos,82 while the free mulatta Gertrudes Avalos,
probably a relative as well, not only had a daughter marrying an español but was herself
the widow of the Spaniard Lucas de Mata.83 Indeed, the Avalos’ may well have had
more important divisions to occupy their minds, including familial ones, than those based
on origin. In 1679, just prior to the filing of the marriage petitions mentioned above,
Antonio de Avalos became the target of Bishop Juan de Ortega Montañez’ wrath during
the Bishop’s pastoral visita of Mazatenango. Antonio was brought to the cleric’s
attention because of his reputation as a particularly incorrigible local gambler who was
81See footnote 73, above.
82 All were described as free mulattos and sons of Diego de Avalos and Lorenza
de León, mulatos libres. See AHA, A4.16, T4 105:229 (1680); T4 105:322 (1681).
83Avalos’ daughter, the free mulatta Maria de Hordas, 18, was marrying Agustín
Ramírez, español of Tepeaca, New Spain. Hordas’ father was Diego Hordas, mulato
libre, Avalos’ second husband. The witnesses to the petition included Lucas de Mata’s
Spanish father. See AHA, A4.16, T4 105:374 (1681).

252
also notorious for cursing.84 The local cura had refused penance to Antonio until the
latter rid himself of a gaming table, whereupon the desperate sinner went to confess to a
Franciscan friar at a monastery in nearby Samayac.85 Believing himself absolved,
Antonio rushed to commune in Mazatenango’s parish church, only to be turned away for
having neglected to procure written proof of that absolution by his own brother, Joseph,
the church’s sexton.
But free mulattos, however mobile socially, remained subject to specific legal
disabilities in the late seventeenth century. These disabilities continued, at least in
theory, to set them off from both mestizos and indios laboríos, let alone españoles. Two
of these, discussed at length in Chapter 3, were the laborío tribute and segregated militia
service, both of which remained in force at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
While it is clear that the laborío was not always collected regularly, and that distinctions
based on origin were blurred in some regional militia units, free mulattos’ status as
payers of an alternative tribute, combined with their service in militia units exclusively
made up of gente de color, continued to mark them as descendants of African slaves.
Mulatto soldiers, though, were beginning to challenge these boundaries explicitly. As
the final chapter shows, they eventually got the audiencia’s attention.
84Visita of Bishop Juan de Ortega Montañez to San Bartolomé Mazatenango,
May, 1679, AHA, Visitas Pastorales, Tomo 1, T1 63, ff 65-117. See f. 103-104.
85Antonio was aware of the Bishop’s interest in his situation.

CHAPTER 71
MILITIAMEN OF COLOR AND THE REORDERING OF RACIAL HIERARCHY
In July 1717, the members of the audiencia in Santiago de Guatemala heard a
petition submitted by a cavalry militia company made up of gente parda from
Chiquimula de la Sierra. The unit’s officers requested that they and their soldiers be
exempted from the requirement of people of their calidad to pay the laborío.
Chiquimula’s pardo cavalry company, the petitioners stated, had offered sterling service
to the realm in the face of threats from the notorious zambos-mosquitos and other
enemies along the Caribbean coast. Its members, “out of the greatest desire to serve the
Crown,” had left home and family for duty in Zacapa, north of the district’s capital and
closer to the endangered castillo of San Felipe on the Golfo Dulce. They had also
provided reinforcements when needed for the fortress itself. Above all, the company’s
actions had incurred little cost to the royal purse, as each soldier provided his own
horse, weapons, and provisions. Surely, the petitioners argued, such loyal servants of
the King ought to be relieved of all tribute obligations.2
'Portions of this chapter appear in modified form in Paul Lokken, “Undoing
Racial Hierarchy: Mulatos and Militia Service in Colonial Guatemala,” SECOLAS
Annals 31 (1999): 25-36.
2AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6538 (1717).
253

254
Attached to the petition was a letter of support from Don Luis Antonio Muñoz,
Chiquimula’s militia commander. This pardo cavalry company, Muñoz averred,
outshone local infantry units of gente española in its preparedness for duty. He heartily
agreed that such men deserved to have removed from their shoulders a tribute which was
at the same time of “so little importance” to the King and “extremely burdensome” to
those who owed it. So onerous was the laborío, Muñoz charged, that those subjected
to it frequently had to sell their weapons and horses simply to meet the obligation. The
members of the audiencia could scarcely have failed to note the threat to their entire
system of defense-on-the-cheap implied in this plea for tax relief.3
The Crown’s representatives in Santiago, as it turned out, had heard it all before.
This petition from Chiquimula was, in fact, one of the last in a series submitted to them
by various militia units of color based east and south of the capital, a series initiated more
than two decades previously. Invariably, each militia company requesting remission from
the laborío had outdone all others in its zeal to defend the realm, and was in particular
more deserving of such favor than any fellow regiment which might have managed
already to obtain either temporary or permanent release from tribute payments. In times
of military emergency, soldiers in these companies willingly abandoned families and
crops at a moment’s notice, no matter the cost to their personal welfare, so great was
their loyalty to the King. In spite of these sacrifices, however, tyrannical royal officials
3AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6538.

255
ruthlessly extracted tribute payments, reducing these brave servants of the Crown to
penury and, occasionally, flight.
What is most interesting about these petitions is that the laborío was, by all
accounts, badly enumerated and poorly collected. During the bulk of the seventeenth
century, its supposed payers appear rarely to have complained about the burdens it
imposed on them.4 But the flurry of appeals for relief from it from militia units of color
during the 1690s and the opening years of the eighteenth century belie the notion that it
had little significance. The vocal nature of the appeals, in fact, suggests exactly the
opposite. What these petitions represent, I argue in this concluding chapter, was a bid
by free people of African descent to shed a particular marker of “inferior” origins that
was increasingly at odds with the middling socioeconomic status many of them had
attained. Tributary status, after all, was associated with indios, the people at the bottom
of colonial Guatemala’s racial hierarchy. The successful elimination by mulatto militias
of their members’ obligation to pay tribute and serve in separate companies did not end
the use of categories related to African descent, but these developments did reduce
formal distinctions based on origin within what was increasingly known as the ladino
population, while at the same time reinforcing distinctions between Indians and non-
Indians.
4See Chapter 3 for some notable exceptions.

256
Foreign Threats and the Challenge to the Tributo de Laboríos
During the latter part of the seventeenth century, the Province of Guatemala
experienced a number of attacks by foreigners against its coasts, some of which left a
good deal of damage. The most notorious of these attacks, described in Chapter 3, was
the 1686 burning of the Caribbean fortress at San Felipe. The Province’s Caribbean
flank was threatened again just two years later, however, requiring the immediate
dispatch of Chiquimula’s three “buenas, y útiles compañías de infantes” to the Golfo
Dulce.5 On the Pacific side of the Province, meanwhile, foreign incursions into coastal
waters led, for example, to the temporary abandonment and later resettlement slightly
inland of the port of Amapala, in eastern El Salvador.6 Militia companies were also sent
out from central Guatemala to guard the coast of Escuintepeque at least twice during the
early 1680s; pirates attacked Sonsonate’s port of Acajutla in January, 1688; and the
coast of Guazacapán was threatened near Monterrico in 1695.7
5Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 2:195, 202-203, 294-297. The
quotation is on 202. Foreigners occupied Puerto Caballos, in Honduras, on February 23,
1688. See Pardo, Efemérides, 106. For further discussion by Fuentes y Guzmán of
foreign attacks and the role of militia units from Chiquimula, Zacapa, and Acasaguastlán
in defending the Caribbean coast, see Recordación florida, 2:241, 245, 259, 319-320.
^‘Descripción,” in Vázquez, Crónica, 4:62. The Franciscan census-takers also
mention the destruction by foreign invaders of the nearby village of Nacaome, under the
jurisdiction of the obispado of Honduras. See 4:63-64. See Vázquez’ own description
of these events in 4:355.
7Fuentes y Guzmán, Recordación florida, 1:409; Vázquez, Crónica, 4:386-387;
Pardo, Efemérides, 106, 162.

257
Guatemalan militia units, then, apparently had good reason to feel that they
deserved a reward from the authorities by the end of the seventeenth century.
Companies of color, in particular, exhibited increasing resentment over their second-class
status. In 1697, the cavalry company from Chiquimula referred to above made the first
of several requests for relief from the laborío, stating that in spite of its many sacrifices
on behalf of the King, the corregidor pitilessly squeezed 20 reales annually from each
member of the unit.* The company’s counterpart in Sonsonate—drawn from the villages
of Izalcos, Caluco, Guaymoco and Atiquizaya—claimed in 1702 that neither its soldiers’
poverty nor the demands made on them in the defense of the port of Acajutla prevented
local officials from collecting the laborío from them “con rigor.”9
These pleas for sympathy fell on deaf ears, at least initially. The fiscal10 of the
audiencia opposed the 1697 request from the Chiquimula unit, saying remission of the
tribute would cause “extremely grave damage” to the treasury—a severe exaggeration, no
*AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6538. ff.14v.-15.
9A1.24. 1573. 10217. ff.58-60v. (1703). Mulatto militias in Guatemala were
clearly unaware of the fact that their counterparts in Lima had first requested exemption
from the laborío in 1627—after providing crucial service in turning away Dutch invaders
three years earlier—and had won the exemption by 1631. The latter date, of course, fell a
decade before people of African descent began their formal involvement in Guatemalan
militias. According to Frederick Bowser, following the writ of relief for militiamen of
color in Lima, the entire local population of free blacks and mulattos successfully resisted
paying further tribute. Ronald Escobedo suggests persons defined as zambos continued
to pay. See Bowser, African Slave, 306; Escobedo Mansilla, “El tributo,” 50-52.
10Literally the audiencia’s prosecutor, but meaning the oidor who watched the
royal purse.

258
doubt, but sufficient grounds for the justices in Santiago to deny the request.11 In his
response to the petition from Sonsonate in 1702, the guardian of the Crown’s finances
indicated that there was precedent for relieving the members of pardo militias guarding
ports only at times when news of enemy activity in the area had placed them on alert.12
The audiencia apparently did not think such a situation pertained in Sonsonate just then,
and rejected this appeal as well. The justices did, however, ask for more information
concerning the general duties in which the Sonsonate company was engaged.13
The petitioners from Chiquimula and Sonsonate had not limited themselves to
pleading poverty, sacrifice, and loyalty, however. Militiamen of color from the former
district, for example, had expressed grave discontent concerning rumors that their
counterparts elsewhere in the Province had already secured remission from the laborío.
They had expressed dismay at the news that the “negros y mulattos libres” of Granada, in
Nicaragua, had not only been freed from tribute payments for “less work” than they
themselves performed, but had also received horses, which members of Chiquimula’s
defense forces provided on their own. Worse, the audiencia had relieved the tribute
obligations of militia companies closer to home. Soldiers of color and their wives in both
"AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6538. ff.15v.-16.
12The militia unit of color from Sacualpa, in San Miguel, had obtained such relief
at a relatively early date. See below.
13AGCA, A1.24. 1573. 10217. ff.58-60v.

259
Santiago de Guatemala and Escuintepeque had received four years’ exemption in 1695
for service the Chiquimula company thought hardly worthy of comparison with its own.14
When the Chiquimula cavalry unit appealed the audiencia’s rejection of its
original petition early in 1698, its tone shifted from one of complaint to one of subtle
threat. After lamenting that the mulattos of San Diego de la Gomera had been exempted
from paying the laborío without facing anywhere near the danger associated with
defending the Golfo Dulce, the captain of the company casually noted that “the hope of
reward” was an important spur to the prompt and loyal service his men had thus far
provided to the Crown. This remark apparently trumped any fears the audiencia may
have harbored about the depletion of royal revenues. Less than two months after having
denied the original request, the justices hurriedly granted a four-year exemption from
tribute to Chiquimula’s soldiers and their wives.15
The cavalry unit of color from Sonsonate also obtained its goal of having the
laborío remitted, again soon after the initial petition was rejected. What seems to have
tipped the balance in favor of the request for exemption in this case was a report
prepared by the alcalde mayor of Sonsonate, in answer to the audiencia 's query about
the militia’s ordinary routine. The report first emphasized that the company was
expected to ride to Acajutla to investigate all arriving ships, perhaps reason enough for
relief. But what undoubtedly caught the justices’ attention even more was the district
14AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6538. ff.14v.-15.
15AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6538. fT.16v.-18.

260
administrator’s confirmation of a charge made in the original request for favor: many
mulattos had fled the area to avoid collectors of the laborío, necessitating recruitment of
others who lived as far as ten to twelve leagues inland. Assessing this state of affairs, the
audiencia also reversed this decision and afforded the company three years’ freedom
from tribute.16
Chiquimula’s cavalry of color obtained a second temporary exemption from the
laborío in 1705, for two years.17 Sonsonate’s company, along with others drawn from
the towns of Acasaguastlán and Zacapa, gained three years’ remission in 1708.18 The
fiscal, though, remained opposed to any relaxation in tribute collection. When Felipe
Santiago and Blas de Herrera, captains of the infantry units of color from Sonsonate,
pleaded for relief from the laborío in 1713, the fiscal, as usual, secured yet another
rejection on the part of the the audiencia. Though overruled, once again, on appeal, the
guardian of the King’s revenue persisted in an unwillingness to cede one real more than
necessary to anyone who was defined by tribute status.19
There was just one militia company excepted from the fiscal’s efforts to enforce
payment of the laborío. The “jente parda” of Sacualpa, defenders of the coast off San
Miguel, complained in 1712 that the new district administrator was trying to make them
16AGCA A1.24. 1573. 10217. ff.58-60v., 138-143 (1703).
17AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6538, ff.ll-12v.
18AGCA A1.24. 1525. 10080. ff.36-36v. (1709).
19AGCA, A1.24. 1580. 10224. ff.266-268 (1713).

261
pay the tribute even though they had enjoyed an exemption from “time immemorial.”
The fiscal sustained this plea without argument, and the audiencia’s final decree of
support for the petitioners indicated that they had never paid the laborío20 The anomaly
of this situation is particularly striking because officers of two militia units of color from
the nearby port of Amapala only began petitioning for relief in 1719, asking why their
men had to pay tribute when they were of the “misma naturaleza” as their counterparts in
Sacualpa. This line of appeal evidently evoked little sympathy among the justices, for the
petitions from Amapala were still being denied in 1722.21
Within a few years, though, the laborío had apparently fallen into nearly universal
disuse in the Province of Guatemala. The cumulative effect of temporary exemptions,
combined with the relative insignificance of amounts collected, probably worked slowly
in the direction of oblivion for the alternative tribute. The Crown in Spain, for example,
appeared increasingly unaware that it even existed. Informed of the 1708 exemptions
granted to the mulattos of Acasaguastlán, Zacapa, and Sonsonate, the King first
20 AGCA, A1.24. 1579. 10223. ff.49-51v. (1712). The Sacualpa unit’s members
also managed to have themselves exempted from paying the alcabala, or sales tax, in
1712. This information is included in the appeal from the companies of Amapala, below.
See AGCA, A2.5-1. 6537. f.5 (1722).
21See AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6537 (1722). The reasons for the absolute exemption
from tribute of the Sacualpa militia remain unclear.

262
approved the action, then requested information not only concerning the total amount
that the laborío produced, but how much each individual subject to it owed.22
To what factor, though, should the final decline of the laborío be most
attributed? The nineteenth-century Guatemalan historian García Peláez suggests that the
tribute disappeared because the Province’s “morenos” were “continuously victorious” in
social conflict over a thirty-year period stretching from the end of the seventeenth
century into the mid- 1720s.23 While this description may overstate the case a bit, and
García Peláez focuses more or less on scattered events in the capital, there is a grain of
truth to his claim. In order to investigate it further, I return briefly to the corregimiento
of Escuintepeque,24 colonial Guatemala’s mulatto district par excellence.
From Black To Ladino, But Slowly
The 1697 militia petition from Chiquimula discussed above made reference to a
four-year exemption from tribute won by the mulattos of San Diego de la Gomera in
1695. By the time that exemption ran out, the Province of Guatemala was on the verge
of civil war owing to a serious rift between the President of the audiencia, don Gabriel
Sánchez de Berrospe, and a royal visitador who was apparently bent on introducing
"AGCA, A1.24. 1525. 10080. ff.36-36v. The recently enthroned Bourbon
dynasty had a lot on its mind at the time, notably a European war over its very
legitimacy. See John Lynch, Bourbon Spain 1700-1708 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell,
1989), 22-37.
23García Peláez, Memorias, 2:36.
24Joined administratively with Guazacapán by the eighteenth century.

263
reform, don Francisco Gómez de Lamadriz. The inhabitants of La Gomera became
intimately involved in the struggle for power which developed during 1700 because of
their dispute with the powerful local landowner don Juan de Gálvez over control of the
saltpans at Sipacate.25 Lamadriz backed their claim to the saltpans,26 with the result that
La Gomera’s militiamen attempted to march west to join an incipient indigenous
rebellion in the visitador ’s favor that was brewing in Soconusco and the western
highlands. The mulatto fighters were turned back in Zapotitlán by troops loyal to the
audiencia, but not pacified. Having returned home, they drove off a contingent of
soldiers commanded by the oidor Pedro de Eguaraz, who had been dispatched from the
capital to subdue them. They did not abandon their resistance until a year later, after the
audiencia presidency changed hands and a new royal visitador arrived.27
While these events are never mentioned explicitly in the course of subsequently
successful efforts by militias elsewhere to obtain tribute relief, one wonders what effects
25 See “Testimonio de los Autos Proveydos ... en favor de los Mulatos de la Villa
de San Diego de la Gomera,” AGI, Guatemala 285, discussed in Chapter 5. This
petition noted the town’s record in facing foreign threats along the coast. For a pro-
Gálvez viewpoint, see Ximénez, Historia, Libro 6:129. Ximénez abhorred Lamadriz.
26Murdo MacLeod has indicated to me that records detailing the dispute between
the President and the visitador, located in the AGI, reveal the former’s involvement in
the machinations to usurp control over the saltpans from La Gomera’s residents.
27Maria del Carmen León Cázares, Un levantamiento en nombre del Rey Nuestro
Señor: testimonios indígenas relacionados con el visitador Francisco Gómez de
Lamadriz (México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México 1988), 16-34, 68-69.
Six hundred troops of color from Petapa and San Juan Amatitlán also offered assistance
to Lamadriz, in October 1700, but apparently saw no action. See León Cázares, 30-31.

264
they might have had on the audiencia’s deliberations in those cases. Did the uprising by
La Gomera’s militiamen underscore the need to appease the Province’s companies of
color? Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell what the status of the inhabitants of La
Gomera themselves was in relation to the laborío in the years following their revolt,
although issues explicitly surrounding both tribute collection and military service appear
to have underlain significant unrest in the community in 1722.28 What is clear, however,
is that the town and the coastal area in which it was located remained an important
redoubt for people of African descent in subsequent decades. In 1740, the district
administrator of Escuintla29 and Guazacapán said La Gomera held 250 mulattos, six
mestizos, and two españoles, and added that San Pedro Chipilapa, Don Garcia,
Texcuaco, Santa Ana Mixtán, and Masagua counted 490 mulattos, 45 blacks, and eleven
Indians in total among them.30 These residents retained significant military force: at least
88 men from La Gomera and Don Garcia served in the local cavalry company.31 It is not
surprising, then, that the region continued to serve as a refuge for people of African
descent from elsewhere. In 1744, for example, doña Catalina Gallegos of Santiago said
28Palomo de Lewin, “Esclavos Negros,” 80.
29The name “Escuintepeque” was rarely used by this time.
30Alonso Crespo, “Relación geográfica del partido de Escuintla, 1740," Boletín
del Archivo General del Gobierno, l,no. 1 (1935): 10-11. Comparing these figures
with ones given in Chapter 5, the importance in this region of mestizaje involving Indian
and African-descended sectors is underscored. Significantly, the lengua materna of
Santa Ana Mixtán’s 100 mulattos and 30 blacks was said to be “mexicano” (Náhuatl).
3IAGCA, Al.39. 4783. 41341. ff. 10 (1743).

265
she had recently been informed that Juana Pérez, a mulatta slave who had fled shortly
after Gallegos had purchased her more than three years earlier, was living in La
Gomera.32
“Corporate consciousness,” thus, appears to have remained strong amongst
people of African descent in the Pacific hotlands of Escuintla, due in no small measure to
the relative remoteness of their home territory, their local demographic domination, and
their history of vigorously negotiating the terms of outside rule, both peacefully and with
violence.33 In many other parts of the Province of Guatemala, though, the gradual decay
of “inferior” tribute status for free blacks and mulattos—a decay probably furthered by
the action’s of Escuintla’s residents-appeared to hasten the blurring of distinctions
among castas that was evident already during the late seventeenth century. This
phenomenon was perhaps nowhere more evident than in the eastern corregimiento of
Chiquimula de la Sierra, already pointed out as anomalous for its apparent integration of
mestizos and mulattos into the same militia units. Those units, as seen above, were
32AGCA, A1.56. 5920. 51629 (1744).
33Escuintepeque was not entirely unique in this regard. See a 1740 example from
Guazacapán, in which a squadron of 35-40 mulatto militiamen from Taxisco stormed the
district administrator’s headquarters in Guazacapán to free their commander from jail,
where he had been locked up for insubordination. The district administrator, Alonso
Crespo, complained of his helplessness to respond, saying “all the mulattos of this village
and of Chiquimul[illa] are disloyal, disobedient, and in league with those [of Taxisco].”
See AGCA, A2.2. 296. 6590 (1740).

266
among the most persistent in seeking the remission of their requirement to pay the
laborío during the early eighteenth century.34
By 1735, the connection between the laborío and African origins had apparently
been severed entirely in Chiquimula. Such is the conclusion to be drawn, at any rate,
from the results of an investigation undertaken by the corregidor in 1734-1735, less than
two decades after Chiquimula’s cavalry unit of color last petitioned for relief from the
tribute.35 The audiencia ordered the investigation, and the creation of new padrones
listing those who owed the laborío, in 1733, responding to a report which the auditor
general in Santiago had prepared on the tribute’s history in the Province. That report, in
turn, had its origins in an investigation of the circumstances of one Nicolás Merino, a
free mulatto of San Vicente who had launched a complaint against San Salvador’s
alcalde mayor for putting Merino on a list of those owing the laborío, despite the fact
that none of his family had ever paid it.
Strikingly, the auditor general seemed to be entering uncharted territory in his
report. He arrived only at the rather vague conclusion that the alternative tribute was to
be paid by “certain groups that have owed it since its imposition,” or, even more
34 A 1715 petition from Chiquimula’s cavalry company of color included a letter
from the corregidor describing its vigorous celebration of the birth of the Spanish prince,
Philip. The unit had created a magnificent triumphal float, and participated in a two-day
series of bullfights underwritten entirely by “gente parda.” The eagerness of this
company to demonstrate its members’ desire to be “good subjects” seems to have
contrasted quite sharply with the more independent attitudes expressed by the residents
of La Gomera. See AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6538. ff.9-10v.
35AGCA, A3.16. 2820. 40959 (1735).

267
indefinitely, by individuals “assumed to be” those who owed it. “[EJxtreme damage to
the Royal Treasury” had resulted from confusion over the nature of the tribute, he
warned. That damage stemmed primarily from the lack of an established rule for
collection, and the fact that district administrators had failed to maintain padrones listing
payers. To make matters worse, requests for funds to effect these lists had invariably
been turned down, because money for paper and other expenses was allegedly not
available.36
Fulfilling the terms of the audiencia 's 1733 order, the corregidor of Chiquimula,
don Joseph González Rivera y Rancano, and his lieutenants from Zacapa and Jutiapa,
surveyed the district’s towns and villages between September, 1734 and October, 1735.
Summing up their findings, González reported the existence of no more than 130 persons
in the entire region who belonged on the laborío rolls. Most surprising, though, was the
definition he and his aides settled on to determine who should be enrolled. The latter, as
was to be expected, did not include españoles or mestizos, but neither were “mulatos
descendientes de esclavos o negros de [G]uinea,” to be listed if they could prove their
ancestry!37 Persistent petitioning by the region’s militias had evidently secured total
36AGCA, A3.16. 2820. 40959.
37AGCA, A3.16. 2820. 40959. In Santa Maria Magdalena, the corregidor’s
lieutenant obtained proof by gathering the village’s blacks and mulattos together and
eliciting sworn testimony that their ancestors were indeed negros de Guinea. His work
done, he left the village, having found no laboríos.

268
remission of the laborío for blacks and mulattos at some point, although any discussion
of such a development is absent.
Oddly enough, González reported that Chiquimula’s laboríos were “sambos,” or
“hijos de mulato y de indio.”38 Apparently contradictory, this definition of laboríos
evidently reflected the belief that, among people defined by African descent, only those
who were free from indigenous ancestry could legitimately call themselves “descendants
of blacks from Guinea.”39 Significantly, the investigators seemed to associate sambo
status most particularly with descent from indios and mulatas40 They also claimed,
bizarrely, that certain mestizos needed to be enrolled—those with Indian fathers.41 This
last methodological quirk prompted an angry petition from one Manuel de Argueta of
Quezaltepeque, who complained to the audiencia that he had been placed on the padrón
because he was the son of a Spanish woman “married to an Indian cacique " He was
“not a mulato but a mestizo,” Argueta argued, and hence neither owed nor had ever paid
380ne of the rare appearances of this term in Guatemalan documentation.
39It is helpful to remember Ronald Escobedo’s contention that zambos in Lima
continued to pay the laborío after local negros and mulatos were exempted. See
footnote 9, above.
““For example, they enrolled Maria Petrona, 35, of Zacapa, “hija de mulata con
yndio y cassada con Negro.” Of course, Maria’s husband, under the new dispensation,
was not a payer of the laborío. A number of people enrolled as laborios/as, in fact, were
married to a “desendiente de esclavos” or “desendiente de negros de guinea.” See
AGCA, A3.16. 2820. 40959.
41Perhaps illustrating once again the greater “stickiness” of labels applied to males
argued for by Kuznesof. See Chapter 3.

269
the laborío *2 Argueta was clearly well steeped in the traditional logic of the racial
hierarchy, but this logic evidently no longer applied in Chiquimula.
Those classificatory aspects of González’ survey which appear inconsistent when
judged against former tribute-assessing practices accord perfectly, in fact, with the
realignment of the colonial racial hierarchy that had been gradually occurring in previous
decades. The individuals whom the corregidor and his lieutenants decided to enroll as
laboríos were those people of mixed descent who were, in the officials’ minds, most
closely associated with indigenous origins. González described them uniformly as among
the poorest and most miserable of the people under his jurisdiction, and noted that they
were frequent targets of efforts by indigenous communities to supplement village tribute
rolls.43 These “sambos,” then, represented the lowest echelons of the free, non-tributary
population of color in Chiquimula. Their opportunities for upward mobility had always
been most restricted owing to the dual stigma within colonial Guatemalan society of
descent from Indians and Africans. It is unlikely that sufficient “corporate
consciousness” existed to tie them closely to other people of color whose lesser
identification with indigenous ancestry had contributed to their ability to win freedom
from colonial society’s most important marker of inferiority: tribute status.44
42AGCA, A3.16. 2819. 40940 (1734).
43AGCA, A3.16. 2820. 40959.
44 While some of those enrolled as laborios/as in Chiquimula were married to
blacks and mulattos, as noted above, the spouses of many others were Indian tributaries.

270
Conclusion
By the early eighteenth century, much of the colonial Province of Guatemala’s
population of African origins was free, and defined as mulatto. Free mulattos, in turn,
constituted in many areas east and south of Santiago de Guatemala the most significant
portion of a non-indigenous sector that was increasingly labeled with the term gente
ladina. People of African descent, both slave and free, most dominated the non-Indian
sector of local populations in the major sugar-growing region just south of the Valle de
las Vacas, and on the Pacific coast amongst the ingenios and haciendas of
Escuintepeque. They also formed a major presence, however, in numerous communities
throughout what is today eastern and southern Guatemala, as well as in the whole of
modem El Salvador. Even Guatemala’s western highlands were home to more African-
descended people than is generally assumed. Here, though, the indigenous presence was
so overwhelming that Africans and their descendants constituted an exceedingly tiny
minority.
A century earlier, Guatemala’s black and mulatto population had been far more
African, enslaved, and socially marginal. In the early decades of the seventeenth century,
Spaniards in Guatemala had repeatedly expressed concern over the social threat which
the African-descended population was said to represent. The establishment of maroon
communities in remote coastal areas, the prominence of ranch hands of color in a wave
of illicit cattle slaughter, and the alleged economic exploitation of indigenous
communities by blacks and mulattos were three of the phenomena that been most
alarming to Spanish officials. But a drastic and long-term reduction in slave imports

271
after the 1630s, coupled with increasing boldness on the part of Spain’s European rivals,
helped alter the “outsider” status of much of the population of African origins. During
the remainder of the seventeenth century, a significant demographic shift intersected with
Spanish military and administrative needs—and the efforts of blacks and mulattos to
escape the position of inferiority assigned to them—to weaken the effectiveness of legal
and social distinctions intended explicitly to segregate individuals of African origin. Free
mulattos, especially, were increasingly indistinguishable in terms of social relations from
other castas. All began to be lumped together under a classification whose label—
ladino—was an old word acquiring a new meaning.
Undoubtedly the most indispensable factor shaping the transformation in colonial
identity which was occurring among the African-descended population of Guatemala
was the reliance of Spaniards there primarily on indigenous rather than African labor. In
Acasaguastlán—perhaps the Province of Guatemala’s least indigenous area45 by the end
of the seventeenth century—two-thirds of the population was still comprised of Indian
tributaries. The desired exclusion of groups classified by African descent under the
Spanish colonial racial hierarchy lost intensity over time, therefore, because that
hierarchy’s full weight fell elsewhere. By the time segregated militias of color began
petitioning successfully to have their members absolved of status as payers of an
alternative tribute—around the turn of the seventeenth century—social practice had
undermined to a significant extent any sense of “corporate consciousness” which may
45Excluding Santiago de Guatemala.

272
previously have tied together the free population of African origins. There were,
however, important exceptions, most notably in the coastal hotlands of Escuintepeque.
There, demographic patterns and relative isolation had combined with a history of
resistance to the imposition of outside authority to create a local society of distinctively
mulatto character.
Of what did this “mulatto character” consist? In Escuintepeque, mestizaje
centered especially on relationships, including marital ones, between indigenous and
African-descended people. Few españoles lived permanently in the area. Factors
relating to gender were also at the heart of Escuintepeque’s process of mestizaje.
Relationships between indigenous women and African-descended men, especially slaves,
may have been the major initial source of the area’s free mulatto population, representing
an avenue for the production of free populations of color that has been little explored.
The nature of mestizaje in Escuintepeque underscores the inaccuracy of historical
arguments to the effect that numerically “insignificant” African populations were
“absorbed” into indigenous ones in either Guatemala or El Salvador. Marriage petitions
and other seventeenth-century documentation reveal that the logic in practice of the
Spanish colonial racial hierarchy worked in the opposite direction, because people
defined by African origins, even slaves, tended to outrank tributary Indians in social
status. It was Indians, and especially indigenous women, who were “absorbed” into
mulatto populations. Some members of the latter groups, in turn, moved themselves-or
their children, at least-into mestizo and even Spanish ranks, again primarily through
relationships between higher-status men and lower-status women. People of African

273
descent, thus, were intimately involved in processes of mestizaje at all levels of colonial
Guatemalan society. The exact nature of this involvement, though, varied from region to
region in accordance with local geographical, demographic, and economic factors.
Given the racial hierarchy’s logic, did the demise in the eighteenth century of the
tribute status and segregated military service which had applied to people defined by
African descent end distinctions based on origin among the ladino population? No. In
1750, marriage petitions from throughout the Province of Guatemala continued to define
the vast majority of contrayentes by origin. Those identified with a term relating to
African descent, in turn, continued to constitute the largest sector among non-tributaries.
More than 41 percent of petitioners were explicitly defined either as mulato/a libre,
pardo/a libre, or as negro/a. One-quarter of the petitions reflected a union in which
both partners were identified with one of these terms.46
Phenotypical distinctions—little discussed in this dissertation because of my
emphasis on tribute status as the most important marker of “inferior” origins in colonial
Guatemala—also remained a part of social life. Consciousness of these distinctions is
revealed clearly in the record of a 1734 complaint by Juana Ignacia, a free mulatta of
46See AHA, A4,16, T6 126 (1750). This legajo contains 109 unnumbered
marriage petitions from 1750, excluding 14 involving solely tributary Indians. Forty-six
are from the capital, and the rest from communities in Guazacapán, Chiquimula, El
Salvador, and Quezaltenango. Of 218 petitioners, 74 are defined as mulato/a libre,
fourteen as pardo/a libre, and two as negro/a (including the only slave to appear, a
man). The term pardo/a libre was used only by the cura of the parish of San Sebastián,
in the capital, who indicated at least twice that it was interchangeable with mulato/a
libre.

274
Santa Inés Petapa, regarding the efforts of the indigenous alcaldes of her village to put
her on local tribute rolls. Juana had been left at birth on the doorstep of a local tributary
Indian, Felipe González, who raised her, but she had always, so witnesses said, been
taken for a mulatta because of her color. The alcalde ordinario of Santiago de
Guatemala, under whose jurisdiction the case fell, finally called Juana to appear before
him. He ended up backing her petition because, he said, her “color, hair, and actions”
were “those of mulattos.”47
Most importantly, the renewal on a small scale of regular slave imports during
the eighteenth century added new people directly from Africa to the Guatemalan social
mix.48 This last development perhaps slowed down, or even reversed for a time, a long¬
term pattern of steadily expanding social mobility for African-descended individuals.49
47AGCA, A3.16. 2819. 40939. (1734). On the other hand, the existence of slaves
called mulatos claros or mulatas blancas reveals that phenotype alone did not produce
social status. See AGCA, A1.56. 5920. 51264 (1675); A1.56. 5357. 45266 (1703); Al.
3024. 29180(1731).
48Lutz, Santiago, 86. Examining 1,750 slave sales and manumissions for the
period 1723-1773, Beatriz Palomo de Lewin found references to 2,238 slaves, although
this figure may include some duplication. Not all of these, of course, were African-born.
See Palomo de Lewin, “Esclavos Negros,” 84.
49It would also be interesting to explore what effect, if any, the Spanish Crown’s
1776 Royal Pragmatic on marriage had in Guatemala. Extended to the Americas in
1778, this legislation was intended to block marriages between “unequal” partners,
singling out African ancestry in particular as a mark of inferiority. In practice, though,
the Pragmatic seems to have been used to target inequalities in socioeconomic status
more than diverse origins, at least in new Spain. See Patricia Seed, To Love, Honor, and
Obey in Colonial Mexico: Conflicts over Marriage Choice, 1574-1821 (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1988), 205-208.

275
Newly imported slaves, nevertheless, came into a society where free people of African
descent no longer paid tribute, had long staffed militia companies, and were otherwise
distinguished in a myriad of ways from the indigenous tributaries who inhabited the
bottom of the social ladder. Only further research would reveal if a relatively small
upturn in the numbers of Guatemalan slaves altered significantly a broad social dynamic
in which, below the level of the Spanish ruling elite, emphasis was increasingly placed on
just one distinction: that between indios, on the one hand, and ladinos, on the other.
The last factor to consider in this discussion of the evolution of the African-
descended population’s place within colonial Guatemala’s larger social fabric concerns
the potential for militias of color to quell internal threats. This factor emerges clearly in
the petition for tribute relief made by Chiquimula’s pardo cavalry unit in 1715. Two
years earlier, the company had been dispatched to Jalapa, near the indigenous community
of Mataquescuintla, whose residents were said to be conspiring to revolt. The
militiamen had “investigated” the situation for twelve days, and allegedly averted an
uprising.50 Few better examples exist to illustrate both the nature and the direction of the
transformation that colonial Guatemala’s population of African origins had been
undergoing since the beginning of the seventeenth century.
50AGCA, A2.5-1. 295. 6538.

APPENDIX
MARRIAGE PETITIONS FROM SONSONATE AND
SAN SALVADOR AND SAN MIGUEL
These diligencias matrimoniales are filed under Section A4.16, “Informaciones
Matrimoniales,” in the AHA.
1671 (51): T4 1.12:86, 87, 90, 91, 93, 96, 100, 125, 127, 128, 136, 137, 144,
149, 151, 153, 154, 164, 167, 168, 197, 199, 208, 209, 210, 213; and T4 1.11:217, 221,
222, 223, 227, 229, 231, 232, 236, 238, 240, 244, 246, 248, 250, 252, 255, 258, 262,
275, 277, 286, 290, 291, and 294.
1681 (34): T4 105:249, 259, 260, 261, 272, 273, 276, 286, 287, 288, 291, 292,
293, 297, 298, 299, 300, 303, 304, 305, 308, 312, 319, 321, 324, 352, 353, 355, 358,
366, 367, 376, 383, and 385.
1691 (70): T5 106:10 (2 cases), 12, 13, 18, 20, 31, 37, 41, 42, 45, 47, 48, 49,
51, 52, 53, 55, 57, 58, 67, 78, 85, 86, 91, 111, 113, 114, 123, 131, 135, 139, 141, 143,
148, 149, 150, 155, 156, 157, 162, 163, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 179, 180, 181, 183,
185, 186, 188, 191, 192, 193, 195, 197, 198, 202, 203, 205, 207, 208, 220, 227, 230,
231, and 232.
1701 (36): T6 105:2323, 2324, 2331, 2333, 2336, 2337, 2348, 2349, 2350,
2351, 2357, 2360, 2366, 2371, 2373, 2374, 2379, 2380, 2381, 2385, 2397, 2408 (2nd of
two), 2410, 2411, 2412, 2414, 2415, 2426, 2428, 2436, 2440, 2442, 2444, 2445, and
two unnumbered cases.
Extras (53): T4 1.12:76 (1660); T4 1.12:78, 82, 83, 84, and 88 (1670);
T4 1.11:292 (undated); T4 1.11:301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 308, and 309 (1672);
T4 1.11:297, 313, 317, 318, 321, 322, 324 (2 cases), 325, 328, 329, 330, 332, 334, 339,
340, 350, 354, and 357; T4 1.11:228 (1674); T4 1.11:2987(1678); T4 105:237, 238,
239, 240, 246, and 299 (2nd case) (1680); T4 105:372 (1685); T4 1.12:85 (1690);
T4 105:227 (1690); T5 106:36 (1690); T5 106:50 and 221 (1692); T6 105:2441 (1700);
T6 105:2322 (2 cases) and one unnumbered petition (1702); T4 1.11:306 (1726); and
T6 105:2387(1728).
276

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Paul Lokken was bom in 1960 in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He obtained his
B.A. with honors in history from the University of Saskatchewan in 1984. In 1987, he
entered M.A. studies in history at the same institution, receiving the master’s degree in
1989. He began Ph.D. studies in Latin American history at the University of Florida in
1994, under the guidance of Dr. Murdo MacLeod. Lokken is married to Paula van der
Veen. They have two children, Annelise and Martine.
290

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosopy.
Murdo J. Md
Graduate Research Professor of History
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosopy.
David Geggus
Professor of History
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosopy.
Kathryn «urns
Assistant Professor of History
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosopy.
Timothy CleaVeland
Assistant Professor of History
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosopy.
Irma McClaurin
Associate Professor of Anthropology

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of
History in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School and was
accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
May 2000
Dean, Graduate School




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