Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru
O’Toole, Rachel Sarah
Bound Lives chronicles the lived experience of race relations in northern coastal Peru during the colonial era. Rachel Sarah O’Toole examines how Andeans and Africans negotiated and employed casta, and in doing so, constructed these racial categories. This study highlights the tenuous interactions of colonial authorities, indigenous communities, and enslaved populations and shows how the interplay between colonial law and daily practice shaped the nature of colonialism and slavery.
Winner of the 2013 Perú Flora Tristán Prize from the Latin American Studies Association
Rachel Sarah O’Toole is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Irvine.
Bound Lives chronicles the lived experience of race relations in northern coastal Peru during the colonial era. Rachel Sarah O’Toole examines how Andeans and Africans negotiated and employed casta, and in doing so, constructed these racial categories.
Royal and viceregal authorities separated “Indians” from “blacks” by defining each to specific labor demands. Casta categories did the work of race, yet, not all casta categories did the same type of work since Andeans, Africans, and their descendants were bound by their locations within colonialism and slavery.
The secular colonial legal system clearly favored indigenous populations. Andeans were afforded greater protections as “threatened” native vassals. Despite this, in the 1640s during the rise of sugar production, Andeans were driven from their assigned colonial towns and communal property by a land privatization program. Andeans did not disappear, however; they worked as artisans, muleteers, and laborers for hire. By the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Andeans employed their legal status as Indians to defend their prerogatives to political representation that included the policing of Africans.
As rural slaves, Africans often found themselves outside the bounds of secular law and subject to the judgments of local slaveholding authorities. Africans therefore developed a rhetoric of valuation within the market and claimed new kinships to protect themselves in disputes with their captors and in slave-trading negotiations. Africans countered slaveholders’ claims on their time, overt supervision of their labor, and control of their rest moments by invoking customary practices.
Bound Lives offers an entirely new perspective on racial identities in colonial Peru. It highlights the tenuous interactions of colonial authorities, indigenous communities, and enslaved populations and shows how the interplay between colonial law and daily practice shaped the nature of colonialism and slavery.
“Rachel Sarah O'Toole’s study is the first comprehensive analysis of how Africans and Indians interacted and perceived each other and how such perceptions and interactions shaped the notion of ‘race’ in colonial Peru. It is a fine contribution to our still scarce knowledge on Indian-black relationships in rural and urban areas. O’Toole shows us that such relationships could be conflict-ridden, but that this was not necessarily the case, as both social segments walked through the colonial legal system.”—Christine Hünefeldt-Frode, University of California, San Diego
“An important, unique feature of Bound Lives is the documentation of the heterogeneity of origins among slaves—O’Toole has tapped into the usual archives, using an agile historical eye, to transform them into sources of novel information. The relationship between slaves and caciques, and indigenous population in general, sheds a different light on coastal cities that historiography and nation building had emptied of ‘Indians.’ Hence this book also contributes to knowledge about the coastal landscapes of the viceroyalty and its relationship with the world around them.”—Marisol de la Cadena, University of California, Davis