Mexico and Central America

K. Russell Lohse

in The Oxford Handbook of Slavery in the Americas

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199227990
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Mexico and Central America

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  • Slavery and Abolition of Slavery


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This article reviews scholarship on the history and historiography of slavery in Mexico and Central America. Slaves (and people of African descent generally) played a far greater role in both Mexico and Central America than previously assumed or acknowledged. Although a minority of the population in most areas, black and mulatto slaves provided the bulk of the workforce in several key colonial industries. Even as a small minority of labourers, slaves often occupied critical roles in production as skilled workers and supervisors. By the late seventeenth century, creoles outnumbered Africans in Mesoamerica, and by the mid-eighteenth century, most slaves in the region were mulattos. By then, the recovery of the Indian population and the phenomenal growth of the mestizo and free mulatto populations throughout Mexico and Central America gradually eliminated the need for slave workers in most regions. Abolition in the 1820s resulted not just from the growth of the free population, nor from the commitment of creole patriots to Enlightenment ideals, but in part from the slaves' own efforts at liberating themselves.

Keywords: slaves; slavery; blacks; mulattos; slave labour; creoles; Africans

Article.  9997 words. 

Subjects: History ; History of the Americas ; Slavery and Abolition of Slavery

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