Week Three: The Colonial Experience

In this week’s discussion topic, I found the subject of Casta Paintings particularly interesting. Before watching the video, I had never heard of Casta Paintings, the idea of trying to separate and label the different mixtures of people did not come to mind when I thought of Latin America’s “colonial experience”. The paintings show the obsession of classifying people into specific terms, or “anxiety about identity”.

From what I could see, the white men of the paintings were depicted as a person of the higher class. This is shown by the way they are dressed in more European clothing, and even the background setting of the painting. There were some cases of black men also dressed in European influenced clothing, but for the most part, it was white men. The women, more specifically the Mulattas and Mestizas, were depicted as part of a lower class . This is also due to the choice of clothes and background setting. That being said, the lines between white, black and indigenous were crossed. This further proves how much diversity and mixture was, and still is, present in Latin America.

It is clear that people were desperate to label Latin Americans by the captions of the Casta Paintings. I found it funny that even for the painting of a racially ambiguous family, the painting would be captioned by saying: “no te entiendo”/”I don’t understand who you are”.

I also found the excerpt of the Lieutenant Nun’s memoir very interesting! She was raised with her whole life already planned out — live to become a nun. But Catalina knew that that was not the life that she wanted to live, and made the brave decision to run away, disguise herself as a man, and lived her life as a traveling soldier instead. It’s not often that you read about historical figures like Catalina de Erauso. It must take a lot of dedication, bravery, and perseverance to leave your family, disguise yourself as the opposite gender, and become a soldier at the age of fifteen. This is especially striking when you think of the time this took place. In the 1600’s it was much more common for young girls to be raised with the idea that they must serve and dedicate their whole lives to God. With that being said, Catalina was not just a brave soldier, but a murderer, and that should not go unnoticed.

1 thought on “Week Three: The Colonial Experience

  1. Anna Shannon

    Really enjoyed reading your response this week,

    The section that I found most intriguing was your focus on the racial as well as social class separation within the Casa paintings. From my own viewing and understanding of these paintings, I found them visual maps for how liquid success in Latin America can be attained which was being racially superior (AKA Spanish). In this manner, the Casa paintings weren’t only classifying difference but simultaneously putting ‘others’ in their class and place in society.

    Thanks for thoughts 🙂


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