Week 3 Response

Personally, I found this weeks readings and videos very interesting and intriguing. Not only did it focus on the big picture of the colonial experience in the Americas, but also on specific aspects of this time period. For example, the infamous Casta paintings and the legacy of Catalina de Erauso.

Firstly, I would like to touch on the sheer number of African slaves who were brought over to the Americas to work on plantations. I was completely unaware of the scale of the slave trade to places such as Brazil, Mexico, and even Peru. Never before had I associated these countries with slavery. Furthermore, I was shocked to hear that Brazil had way more African slaves than the United States ever did. I believe that my lack of knowledge on this subject is mainly due to media. There are many popular movies and documentaries that display the harshness of slavery in the United States. However, I have never seen a television show nor movie that include the presence of the slave trade in Brazil. I was left speechless after learning this brutal information.

There were also a few videos explaining the implementation of Casta paintings in Latin America. As I understand it, Casta paintings are paintings that illustrate the different racial combinations of African, indigenous, and Spanish blood. This dictates the social class that people fit under, having pure Spanish heritage at the very top. This was created by the Spanish to control the population and enforce European superiority. The Mestizo people, a mix between Spanish and indigenous parents, reminded me of the M├ętis people of Canada. This idea of “Spanish purity” isn’t an unfamiliar concept though, as I also learned about the expulsion of Jews and Muslims living in Spain by Christians.

I watched quite a few videos and did my own reading about Catalina de Erauso, which really fascinated me. Her life story reminds me of the plot of an action movie. From changing her name several times and secretly fighting in the Spanish army in Latin America, her life story is quite exciting. However, the most interesting thing I found was how she shattered the societal norms of gender expectations of her era. I wonder how even her own brother did not recognize her as she fought under his command. She somewhat reminded me of the Jeanne d’Arc, a female soldier in France.

All in all, I found the subject matter of this week very captivating. My question for the class this week is as follows: why do you think that we mostly associate slavery with the United States and not Brazil where it was more present?

2 thoughts on “Week 3 Response

  1. Frances

    Hi Isak,

    You took some of the words right out of my mouth. The story of Catalina de Erauso reminded me a bit of Mulan and the mestizo reminded me of Metis in Canada as well. I also was wondering the same thing as you regarding slavery mostly associated with the US rather than Brazil and I do have a theory on this. I was thinking that perhaps it is due to definitely to media portrayal but also due to the lasting effects that slavery has had in the two countries. I don’t know anything about Brazil’s history or their current racial relations but I do know that the US had a civil war over these issues and racial tensions are still high today. Along with this, there is still rampant evidence of systemic racism in the US that can be linked back to slavery. I don’t know if this is the case with modern Brazil but if it is not than I think this would explain to some degree why slavery is more so associated with the US.

  2. Lauren Hart

    Great post Isak! I was equally shocked at the numbers of slaves brought to Brazil, Cuba, and Hispaniola. I guess when you think of the large African-descendent populations in the Caribbean islands, it begins to make more sense. Maybe the slavery wasn’t as extreme, or emancipation came more quickly than it did in the United States. Either way, its a good topic of discussion for class. I also found the story of Catalina de Erauso fascinating but found it strange that her motivations for leaving her hometown were never really revealed, at least in the “Lieutenant Nun” reading. I found her to be quite ruthless and brutal.


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