Week Three

The Sistema Casta was a complex system in which Spanish colonizers attempted to make distinctions between as many different interracial combinations as possible. Casta paintings were a way of putting these distinctions in an easy to understand the different classifications. What I found interesting was how far they went to classify each group. As the lecture said, the united states made it easy and just classified people as black for one drop of black blood or by using arbitrary rules such as the brown paper lunch bag rule. I wonder why the Spanish took a completely different route to go so far as to determine that someone who is 60% español, 20% negro and 20% indio isa salta atrás (and that’s far from the most complex racial classification they had). Today, most Latin Americans see themselves as mestizo, though there is bound to be more racial combinations than just español and indio. Maybe the cast system just became so diluted at the point that it didn’t have enough social consequence to be upheld. I think that the history of this system is why race still plays such a determining role in one’s life outcome in Latin America, and why the idea of “mejorar la raza” is still evident.

What really struck me upon viewing the castas, is how they represent family life. I always thought that, unless both the parents were from the same race, it would be unlikely that the parents would live together, yet alone be in a consensual marriage. What you see from many movies and depictions of colonial times, there wasn’t a lot of love. For example, in 12 Years a Slave, we see Edwin Epps, a cruel slave master, have an obsession for Patsey, one of his young slaves. That relationship is far from consensual. I always imagined that most mestizo or mulatto babies were born from an unequal union in which the female was left with the child. I’m sure that there must have been some occasions of interracial unions in which there was love between the two partners. In the caste paintings, however, they always depict a mother, father and child as a happy little trio (though there are some exceptions though this was mostly based on racist views).

How do you think family life actually was? Did the different races live together in familial bliss or were there very few cohabiting interracial families? Or is the reality more nuanced

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