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Introduction: visualizing Blackness in colonial Latin America

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Este libro examina las representaciones y autorrepresentaciones de descendientes de africanos en la Buenos Aires del siglo XIX. Si bien se analizan distintos registros representacionales el centro de atención lo ocupan las imágenes. Nos interesa poner de relieve el papel que ellas desempeñaron en el entramado histórico social marcado por la necesidad de construir una nación homogénea tanto cultural como racialmente. En este sentido argumentamos que la construcción de estereotipos y su reiteración en el tiempo dieron lugar a una estrategia eficaz dentro del proceso de invisibilización al que fue sometida la población afrodescendiente en la Argentina. Para su estudio, las imágenes fueron agrupadas en núcleos iconográficos, muchos de los cuales tienen una larga tradición en la historia cultural occidental. Asimismo indagaremos en las distintas estrategias que adoptaron algunos de los miembros más reconocidos de la comunidad y analizaremos si estas buscaron refutar los estereotipos vigentes. A su vez se ha buscado reconstruir las trayectorias de pintores afrodescendientes en la Buenos Aires del período en estudio. Abstract: This book examines the representations and self-representations of African descendants in 19th century Buenos Aires. Although different representational registers are analyzed, the focus is on the images. We are interested in highlighting the role they played in the social historical framework marked by the need to build a culturally and racially homogeneous nation. In this sense, we argue that the construction of stereotypes and their repetition over time gave rise to an effective strategy within the process of invisibility to which the Afrodescendant population in Argentina was subjected. For their study, the images were grouped into iconographic nuclei, many of which have a long tradition in Western cultural history. We will also investigate the different strategies adopted by some of the most recognized members of the community and analyze whether they sought to refute existing stereotypes. At the same time, we have sought to reconstruct the trajectories of painters of African descent in Buenos Aires during the period under study.
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Five interrelated case studies from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries develop the dynamic contrast between portraiture and pictorial genres newly invented in and about Latin America that do not represent their subjects as individuals despite the descriptive focus on the particular. From Jean de Léry’s genre-defining proto-ethnographic text (1578) about the Tupinamba of Brazil to the treatment of the Creole upper class in New Spain as persons whose individuality deserves to be memorialized in contrast to the Mestizaje, African, and Indian underclass objectified as types deserving of scientific study, hierarchical distinctions between portraiture and ethnographic images can be framed in historical terms around the Aristotelian categories of the universal, the individual, and the particular. There are also some intriguing examples that destabilize these inherited distinctions, such as Puerto Rican artist José Campeche’s disturbing and poignant image of a deformed child, Juan Pantaléon Aviles, 1808; and an imaginary portrait of Moctezuma II, c. 1697, based on an ethnographic image, attributed to the leading Mexican painter Antonio Rodriguez. These anomalies serve to focus the study on the hegemonic position accorded to the viewing subject as actually precarious and unstable, always ripe for reinterpretation at the receiving end of European culture.
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In Exquisite Slaves, Tamara J. Walker examines how slaves used elegant clothing as a language for expressing attitudes about gender and status in the wealthy urban center of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Lima, Peru. Drawing on traditional historical research methods, visual studies, feminist theory, and material culture scholarship, Walker argues that clothing was an emblem of not only the reach but also the limits of slaveholders' power and racial domination. Even as it acknowledges the significant limits imposed on slaves' access to elegant clothing, Exquisite Slaves also showcases the insistence and ingenuity with which slaves dressed to convey their own sense of humanity and dignity. Building on other scholars' work on slaves' agency and subjectivity in examining how they made use of myriad legal discourses and forums, Exquisite Slaves argues for the importance of understanding the body itself as a site of claims-making. Pays careful attention to slaves' subjective experiences of slavery, gender, and identity Provides a rich analysis of visual representations of people of African descent, who featured prominently in portraits and paintings o the era Argues for the importance of understanding the body itself as a site of claims-making.
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Between 1730 and 1750, powerful healer and vodun priest Domingos Alvares traversed the colonial Atlantic world like few Africans of his time--from Africa to South America to Europe--addressing the profound alienation of warfare, capitalism, and the African slave trade through the language of health and healing. In Domingos Alvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World, James H. Sweet finds dramatic means for unfolding a history of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world in which healing, religion, kinship, and political subversion were intimately connected. © 2011 The University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.
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In a 2011 article in Hola! magazine, several members of a wealthy Colombian family posed on the terrace of their expansive estate overlooking the Valley of Cauca. It was a striking image, in part because it featured an all-female lineup of mothers and daughters who were all power-players in the local business community. But it was the figures in the background of the image that stood out most of all: posed in profile were two Afro-Colombian women dressed in all-white uniforms and holding serving trays. The image adhered to and called forth a visual tradition that dated back to the region’s slaveholding past, when masters and slaves appeared together in various genres of portraiture. These images persisted even as slavery gave way to freedom, with members of elite families in the Andes posing for cameramen in the company of their black domestic servants. In tracing the contextual and conceptual origins of the photograph that appeared in Hola! magazine, this article it not only signals just what central figures African-descent servants have always been to the visual culture of the Andes, but also highlights the utility of visual culture to understanding discourses of race in the region.
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Rethinking the African Diaspora in the Americas urges scholars to look beyond where Africans came from and where they first disembarked in order to integrate the transimperial dimension. Social networks connecting black communities throughout the Americas constituted an additional feature of the black experience that shaped the political, social, economic, and cultural features of African diasporic communities and the larger societies in which these groups found themselves. Evidence regarding the slaves and freedmen that traveled across the Portuguese and Spanish colonies in South America best illustrates the significance of transimperial networks for local black communities. This article reveals that these transimperial social ties proved essential for black communities in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. This contributes to discussions of ?entangled empires? by showing how free and enslaved Africans and their descendants were immersed in transimperial social networks, which to a certain extent they shaped with their actions. This article emphasizes how military actions surrounding the fall of Portuguese Colonia in 1777 shaped the continuous and substantial black social networks across these borderlands and influenced black communities in Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
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It may be said without exaggeration, that the finest stuffs made in countries, where industry is always inventing something new, are more generally seen in Lima than in any other place; vanity and ostentation not being restrained by custom or law.1 With this grand overstatement the Spanish travellers Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa summed up their account of fashion in 1740s Lima. Dress in the capital of colonial Peru, according to these men, differed from that of Europe only in its extravagance. European goods and clothing, they insisted, were widely available, which allowed the ladies of Lima to indulge their immoderate taste for Flemish lace and pearls, to the ruination of their husbands. Such was these women’s passion for finery that they often succumbed to uterine cancer, brought on, the travellers were certain, by ‘their excessive use of perfumes’.2 Moreover, mid-eighteenth-century Lima was, in the eyes of Juan and Ulloa, a city of sartorial democracy: Nor is the distinction between the several classes very great, for the use of all sorts of cloth being allowed, everyone wears what he can purchase. So that it is not uncommon to see a mulatto, or any other mechanic, dressed in a tissue equal to anything that can be worn by a more opulent person, they all greatly affect fine clothes.3
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In the early modern period, devotion to black saints began to spread throughout the Catholic World. First envisioned as a tool for the conversion of newly baptized black slaves, the cults of black saints spread rapidly throughout Iberia and the Americas. This article examines hagiographies written by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century clergy about three important holy people of color: Benedict of Palermo, Martín de Porres, and Teresa Juliana de Santo Domingo; it focuses on this genre to explore the circulation of ideas that hagiographies could both reflect and create. Moving beyond the study of local devotional practices to the larger history of black saints opens up new ways to think about Catholic missionary endeavors, early modern ideas about race and color difference, and the role that a rapidly changing religious culture played in the spiritual beliefs of early modern people. The genesis of a typology of black sanctity led not only to the rise of holy people of color, but to the development of complicated and unexpected discourses about color difference and salvation that resisted the increasingly racialized discourses of the late early modern period.
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Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World is the first book to focus on the individualized portrayal of enslaved people from the time of Europe's full engagement with plantation slavery in the late sixteenth century to its final official abolition in Brazil in 1888. While this period saw the emergence of portraiture as a major field of representation in Western art, “slave” and “portraiture” as categories appear to be mutually exclusive. On the one hand, the logic of chattel slavery sought to render the slave's body as an instrument for production, as the site of a non-subject. Portraiture, on the contrary, privileged the face as the primary visual matrix for the representation of a distinct individuality. The essays in this volume address this apparent paradox of “slave portraits” from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives. They probe the historical conditions that made the creation of such rare and enigmatic objects possible and explore their implications for a more complex understanding of power relations under slavery.
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In May 1962, as the struggle for civil rights heated up in the United States and leaders of the Catholic Church prepared to meet for Vatican Council II, Pope John XXIII named the first black saint of the Americas, the Peruvian Martín de Porres (1579–1639), and designated him the patron of racial justice. The son of a Spanish father and a former slavewoman from Panamá, Martín served a lifetime as the barber and nurse at the great Dominican monastery in Lima. This book draws on visual representations of Martín and the testimony of his contemporaries to produce the first biography of this pious and industrious black man from the cosmopolitan capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru. The book vividly chronicles the evolving interpretations of his legend and his miracles, and traces the centuries-long campaign to formally proclaim Martín de Porres a hero of universal Catholicism.
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Between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries, the west central African Kingdom of Kongo practiced Christianity and actively participated in the Atlantic world as an independent, cosmopolitan realm. Drawing on an expansive and largely unpublished set of objects, images, and documents, Fromont examines the advent of Kongo Christian visual culture and traces its development across four centuries marked by war, the Atlantic slave trade, and, finally, the rise of nineteenth-century European colonialism. By offering an extensive analysis of the religious, political, and artistic innovations through which the Kongo embraced Christianity, Fromont approaches the country’s conversion as a dynamic process that unfolded across centuries. © 2014 The University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.
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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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The Dutch painter Albert Eckhout lived and worked in Brazil from 1637 to 1644, during a period when the northeastern settlements of the Portuguese came under the control of the Dutch West India Company (WIC). The economy of colonial Dutch Brazil, centered at the coastal city of Recife, was based on the cultivation and export of sugar, which relied on a constant influx of enslaved West Africans. As a result, the population of the Dutch colony displayed the same heterogeneous mixture of Europeans, Africans, and Indigenous Americans that one could encounter in many locations throughout the Atlantic world during this period. Portuguese planters, Dutch and German soldiers, merchants, and employees of the WIC walked the streets of Recife with colonized Tupinamba from the mission settlements, people of mixed racial background, and enslaved men and women of African ancestry. During his seven years as court artist to the Dutch colony’s governor general, Count Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, Eckhout created hundreds of natural history drawings, twelve monumental still lifes, and an extraordinary group of eight life-size paintings that feature the various ethnic groups present in the colony. As one of the first trained European painters in the Americas, Eckhout’s work, like that of his fellow Dutch artist in Brazil, the landscape painter Frans Post, has long been of interest to scholars of the European expansion, but art historians concerned with colonialism, slavery, early-modern science, and the construction of race have only recently begun to exploit the rich visual materials that these artists left behind.
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In 1858 François-Auguste Biard, a well-known sixty-year-old French artist, arrived in Brazil to explore and depict its jungles and the people who lived there. What did he see and how did he see it? In this book historian Ana Lucia Araujo examines Biard’s Brazil with special attention to what she calls his “tropical romanticism”: A vision of the country with an emphasis on the exotic. Biard was not only one of the first European artists to encounter and depict native Brazilians, but also one of the first travelers to photograph the rain forest and its inhabitants. His 1862 travelogue Deux années en Brésil includes 180 woodcuts that reveal Brazil’s reliance on slave labor as well as describe the landscape, flora, and fauna, with lively narratives of his adventures and misadventures in the rain forest. Thoroughly researched, Araujo places Biard’s work in the context of the European travel writing of the time and examines how representations of Brazil through French travelogues contributed and reinforced cultural stereotypes and ideas about race and race relations in Brazil. She further summarizes that similar representations continue and influence perspectives today © 2015 by the University of New Mexico Press. All rights reserved.
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In 1817, Austria organized a scientific expedition to Brazil (osterreichische Brasilien-Expedition) on the occasion of the Habsburg Princess Leopoldina's wedding to the Portuguese prince Dorn Pedro I. Metternich nominated a young artist, Thomas Ender, to be the official painter to the expedition. During his short stay in the old town of Rio de Janeiro, he produced more than seven hundred watercolours and drawings of the tropical land and its people. His paintings from Brazil became the first officially authorized view of the tropical land for an Austrian audience during the nineteenth century. The Europeans' fascination for the 'Garden of Eden' and their imperial discourse usually pushed to the margins the chronicles of the subaltern, in this case, the Afro-Brazilian slaves. In his portraits of Rio de Janeiro, Thomas Ender represented 'Blacks' as natural elements of the colonial landscape and as a manual work force subservient to a white master. Hence, the focus of this study is on the painter's recurrent representation of the Afro-Brazilians in their everyday chores in the streets of Old Rio. I argue that his paintings of black slaves in public space without supervision would suggest some level of freedom that could lead to a misrepresentation and propagation of slavery as a non-restrictive and non-repressive system. By supporting a post-colonial reading of the representation of the subaltern in Thomas Ender's collection of the Neger-Sklaven in the landscape of Old Rio, this study offers a reflection on the position of the Austrian painter as a visual ethnographer in the first decades of the nineteenth-century.
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In this groundbreaking study on the intersection of race, science, and politics in colonial Latin American, José Jouve Martín explores the reasons why the city of Lima, in the decades that preceded the wars of independence in Peru, became dependent on a large number of bloodletters, surgeons, and doctors of African descent. The Black Doctors of Colonial Lima focuses on the lives and fortunes of three of the most distinguished among this group of black physicians: José Pastor de Larrinaga, a surgeon of controversial medical ideas who passionately defended the right of scientific learning for Afro-Peruvians; José Manuel Dávalos, a doctor who studied medicine at the University of Montpellier and played a key role in the smallpox vaccination campaigns in Peru; and José Manuel Valdés, a multifaceted writer who became the first and only person of black ancestry to become a chief medical officer in Spanish America. By carefully documenting their actions and writings, The Black Doctors of Colonial Lima illustrates how medicine and its related fields became areas in which the descendants of slaves found opportunities for social and political advancement, and a platform from which to engage in provocative dialogue with Enlightenment thought and social revolution.
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This article analyses two illustrations produced by the Italian soldier and artist, Carlos Julião, who served in the Portuguese colonial army as an engineer during the second half of the eighteenth century. The images came to the public eye in 1960, on the eve of the disintegration of the empire, serving as a visual support to the Portuguese colonial ideology. They combine views of ports and plans of fortresses with human figures representing, symbolically, the places illustrated. This article analyses the illustrations in the historical context of the Enlightenment and the Absolutist state, which conditioned the artist's gaze.
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Much of the visual and material culture of colonial Brazil has been omitted from scholarly accounts because it falls outside the familiar repertoire of art historical forms and materials, and also defies categorization by cultural origin and period style. Turning especially to Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann’s notion of histoire croisée (intercrossed history), this article examines the methodological implications of incorporating such uncomfortable art objects into scholarly accounts by attending to three disparate kinds of artifacts especially characteristic of colonial Brazil: Tupinambá featherwork, Portuguese Atlantic mandinga bags, and architectural tilework. Each of these exemplifies the complex, transcultural processes that take place within colonial contexts, transgressing cultural, religious, and linguistic boundaries, and moving across continents, oceans, and centuries.