Week 3: The Colonial Experience

In the video, it is said that labeling anyone with African descent as “black” is a very North American way of categorizing race. My question would be, what led to the differences between racial categorization in North and South America? As we saw from the Casta paintings, there was a different system of categorization, with more of a focus on differentiation and many more categories for an individual to be placed in. Assuming that there were strong stigmas attached to each category, it would be interesting to know how people felt about being labeled “mestizo,” “mulatto,” or “zambo” and if people other than the Spanish elite agreed with those definitions. The issue with the Casta paintings is that they only tell one side of the story, so we don’t know how the rest of the population really felt about these racial categories and if they believed in them.

The story about Catalina de Erauso went well with the Casta paintings because they both raise the question of how we differentiate people, one of those barriers being gender. I found it frustrating that her motivations for leaving and cross-dressing weren’t revealed in the story. It mustn’t have been easy for her to leave everyone she knew behind, and she showed signs of missing her past by returning to her hometown and attending church where she saw her mother. So why did she leave in the first place? Was she just trying to escape being a nun and her future as a woman or were there other reasons? I was surprised at how ruthless and brutal she was: killing a lieutenant and a judge in a petty gambling argument and hanging an indigenous captain even though the governor wanted him alive. I’m not sure how we should view her- I don’t necessarily view her as a hero, although her bravery in keeping her secret for all those years is somewhat admirable. Its hard to say what her story means in terms of gender identity unless we can understand her motivations.

I was also really surprised at the numbers of slaves that were brought to Cuba, Hispaniola and Brazil and how their numbers were far greater than the slaves brought to the United States. I’d like to better understand why this doesn’t seem to be as well known as the slave trade involving the U.S.