Week 3: The Colonial Experience

Casta Paintings are something I’ve never heard of/seen before but I can say I’m very intrigued. In a social justice class in high school, we touched upon caste systems around the world. I noticed it was typically based on religion, social groups, jobs but rarely race. We went into detail about the racial system in Brazil. I am familiar with the terms used in the paintings but not the concept.

There were three individuals, a woman, man and child in each painting alongside numbers labelling them with a description of their race. A picture really depicts a larger idea. With the different outfits, objects and background scenery, a viewer can get an overall gist of what they’re really looking at. The various careers they seemed to have were a shoemaker, musician, seller and what looks like a don/general.

A common trend seems to be the higher up and more “European blood” relationships were showcased as richer based on their clothing and the objects around the paintings. They obviously were employed in more respectable jobs. When you went down the board looking at relationships with Native and African descents, their clothing was not as appealing and you can see they do more manual/labour work. If a European man was with a women of another background, he still seems well off but a Spanish women in a similar situation was lower on the canvas.

To me, I find this discriminatory and dividing between the races. As mentioned in the lecture, this was the root of an identity crisis. The whole idea of painting all possible bloodlines is excessive and unnecessary. My mind instantly gravitated towards racial whitening or “blanqueamineto” where following generations were trying to get “rid” of any black or indigenous heritage. The photo I attached below was shown in my class a lot. I believe the context behind it was a grandmother who had a mixed child feeling joyful that her daughter married a European man and had a child who basically looks white. I know that specific tradition was popular in areas after colonialism especially in the early 1900’s.

OP-ED: Miscegenation in Brazil as a state policy to whiten its population | AFROPUNK

History tends to repeat itself in multiple ways. Looking closer at the Casta Paintings, I can see that being of/closer to European descent was more beneficial and desired. Issues seen today with the beauty standard, colorism and even racism can stem from something like this. I know a lot of other countries who were colonized have a common ground. I’ve heard about it during ethnic cleansings as well.

Discussion Question:

How were Casta Paintings harmful for the following generations post colonialism? What are some long or short term effects?


Week Two: The Meeting of Two Worlds

For a large part of my life, Christopher Columbus was depicted as an “accidental hero” and the man who in some way “started it all.” I remember many teachers would describe how he set out on a voyage to the Silk Road in Asia, took the wrong route and ended up in the Americas. I don’t recall hearing that the island was in the Caribbean or even Latin America, it was implied as somewhere in North America. Some would tell students that’s why the Indigenous population was referred to as “Indians” connecting it to the actual country or that Columbus believed he reached the Indian Ocean. There was never a consistent story because people really weren’t aware. Referring back to the video, Professor. Beasley-Murray states that Colombus’ story is an allegory, whose true object is missing or displaced. I think this nicely explains why I was taught several versions of the same concept. History in a way is subjective based on whomever you speak to. I never formed much of an opinion about Columbus due to the fact I thought he was just another guy in a textbook.

However with some independent research and access to social media, you can view posts or articles explaining the mass murders and rapes, pillaging and cruelty during  colonial times. Even though his journal showcases his curiosity and loyalty to the Crown to find new land, you can read very vividly the treatment towards the native people. On October 14, the journal states.”One old man climbed into the boat, and the others, men and women, kept shouting, ‘Come and see the men who have come from Heaven; bring them food and drink.’  Many men and women came, each bringing something and giving thanks to God, throwing themselves on the ground and raising their hands in the air.” The conquistadors were met with kindness/hospitality but Columbus writes the same day, “These people have little knowledge of fighting, as Your Majesties will see from the seven I have had captured to take away with us so as to teach them our language and return them, unless Your Majesties’ orders are that they all be taken to Spain or held captive on the island itself, for with fifty men one could keep the whole population in subjection and make them do whatever one wanted.”  He later mentions valuable resources such as gold, this was also a reoccurring topic seen in the Guaman Poma reading.

In this particular reading, Candia once back in Spain, heavily discussed gold and silver especially the fact that the people wore clothes, shoes, hand and head pieces made of the sort. This pushed a large wave of Spaniards to the New World with hopes of returning with riches. When in Peru, certain individuals started off with a fairly decent greeting to be friends but led up to a conversation about how Inca Atagualpa should “adore the cross and believe in the Gospel of God and not worship anything.” which the leader responded by standing with his faith and throwing the Bible to the ground. This was enough of a reason for the Spanish to attack and murder the majority. The reasoning behind it was the following stated: ” Here, knights, these heathen Indians are against our faith!” and “Out, knights, against these infidels who are against our Christianity, and for our Emperor and King let us have at them!”. In Colombus’ journal, he mentioned religion multiple times. For example, “And Your Majesties, in my opinion, should not allow any foreigner to do business or gain a foothold here, but only Catholic Christians, for that is the beginning and end of the whole enterprise; it should be for the growth and glory of the Christian faith, and you should allow no one but good Christians to come here.”

This led to me thinking about how religion was used throughout history as a way to justify colonialism, genocide and more. It is a bit surprising that people can use words of someone they believe in to commit heinous crimes . Forced conversions and assimilation play a vast role in establishing dominance and rule as well. Multiple empires were able to reach as much “glory” as they did on account of religious manipulation. Looking at our modern day world, this could be an explanation for cultural extinction and languages dying.

Discussion Question:

  1. Can you recall how Columbus was portrayed during your early education?
  2. How can/was religion used to justify colonialism and are there any modern day examples of this?