Asking readers to imagine a history of Mexico narrated through the experiences of Africans and their descendants, this book offers a radical reconfiguration of Latin American history. Using ecclesiastical and inquisitorial records, Herman L. Bennett frames the history of Mexico around the private lives and liberty that Catholicism engendered among enslaved Africans and free blacks, who became majority populations soon after the Spanish conquest. The resulting history of 17th-century Mexico brings forth tantalizing personal and family dramas, body politics, and stories of lost virtue and sullen honor. By focusing on these phenomena among peoples of African descent, rather than the conventional history of Mexico with the narrative of slavery to freedom figured in, Colonial Blackness presents the colonial drama in all its untidy detail.
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Herman L. Bennett is Professor of History at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570--1640 (IUP, 2003).Review:
A powerful piece of revisionist history. (Ben Vinson Johns Hopkins University)
Bennett challenges his readers to rethink the black experience in colonial Mexico. . . . He persuasively argues that exploitative labor systems, violence, and social hierarchy cannot, by themselves, define Afro-Mexican history; past studies . . . have flattened out and simplified our view of people of color, ignoring their private lives and their efforts at community formation. To put it another way, the slavery paradigm has overwhelmed alternate narratives of 'freedom' and 'blackness.' Bennett seeks to bring these hidden narratives to light. (Robert Douglas Cope Brown University)
Colonial Blackness makes a crucial contribution to the burgeoning literature on persons of African descent in Spanish America. Focusing on the “middle period” of colonial rule, Herman Bennett challenges us to rethink the cultural history of Afro-Mexicans in ways that go beyond deterministic frameworks of enslavement and oppression. This is an innovative work that will prove fascinating reading for anyone studying colonial Latin America or the African Diaspora. (Barbara Weinstein New York University)
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