Slavery and its Impact in Latin America Vs the United States

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 24 October 2016

Slavery and its Impact in Latin America Vs the United States

Slavery originally started in Latin America and the West Indies by the French, Spanish, and Portuguese after the conquest, to replace the depopulated labor of the Indigenous people. Shortly after, slavery became a profitable enterprise for the capitalistic driven United States. Some of the principal laws and systems of slavery were the same in both regions, but others were later changed. It brought about many changes, with respect to African-Americans and black culture. Those changes had long lasting effects, not only on how blacks view and are viewed in society, but also on how the destruction of our culture influenced our current life-style today in United States and Latin America. Skin color is still an important factor in today’s society, due to the sociological affects from slavery, which started over 500 years ago.

After the conquest, Latin America was referred to as the New World, attained through mayhem. The Spanish and Portuguese army was no match for the Indigenous people. The Inca Curacas and the Aztec Tlatoani administered forced labor, classified as Accion Civica Repubicla (civic service to the republic), and brutal treatment of the crown’s appointed Corregidores on the Indians. Before the Africans came, the Indigenous’ society was destroyed and depopulated through violence, along with disease. Due to the depopulation, the slaves were brought from areas of Africa. They were considered more durable and prone to European disease. Slavery was common in most highly civilized societies that already existed. The Spaniard’s Asiento system delivered vast amounts of slaves to the Americas, which became the leading export from Africa.

It became a highly profitable business. They shipped the first African slaves to Santo Domingo around 1501, then later to Brazil, to work in the sugar plantations. As time progressed, slaves also worked in the Gold mines, cattle ranches, and large haciendas. The Gold mines became the cash cow for Latin America. Then the United States began to import slaves around 1581. They would harvest tobacco. Then in 1793, they picked cotton, after Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin. Cotton became the U.S.’s cash crop. From that invention new laws were enacted, which required slaves to serve for the rest of their lives.

Aside from the atrocious voyage on the Tumeiros, slaves were treated inhumane. Morally the views regarding the treatment of slaves were fundamentally different. The slaves in Latin American were treated with some respect, based on the Roman Heritage of the conquest. The Catholic Church had a tremendous amount of power over society. Slaves that were shipped to Latin America were baptized and converted to Christianity, which granted freedom in the early colonial period. That did not last long in the United States. Unlike in the United States, the Catholic Church felt that slaves were humans, entitled church sacraments, and received better treatment in Latin America. Those sacraments forced the slaves owners to give Sundays and holidays off; their masters recognized how better treatment prevented acts of rebellion. They were given more rights, but heir treatment depended on whether they were under the Spanish, Portuguese, or French legal code of Roman Civil Law. Each code had certain rights that slaves where entitled to.

Under the Spanish and Portuguese codes, slaves could not be killed by their owners. Legally they had the right to life. Black women and children were protected by the Roman civil Law as well. Slaves could own personal property and enter into contracts. Their owners could grant them freedom through manumission, without restriction, and slaves could purchase their freedom as well. Under the French code (Noir), Slaves were not allowed any of those rights, along with the right to marry as they pleased. The French code was similar to the United States. Certain states made it illegal for slaves to sell goods and they could not walk at night without passes. Slave owners were allowed to beat, neglect, and kill their slaves, without recourse. Prosecuting them was hard to do, due to the fact that laws were enacted to prevent slaves from testifying against their master. This treatment continued into the 1900s with the lynching and tree hangings of many blacks.

However, masters who treated their slaves cruelly were legally punished In Latin America; slaves were able to testify against their owners. In contrast, a slave having a Sunday of was considered as an incentive from the owner, to encourage efficiency under the U.S. English Common Law, and those laws treated slaves drastically different. They viewed slavery as a business only. They did not care about their livelihood, nor did they consider slaves as people. They based the price of each slave on gender and age; considered them as property, and sold them like real estate. The states enacted laws for contracts, which protected both the buyers and owners in the initial purchase.

The same effects of what contributed to Latin America’s uneven society can also be the blame for the physiological issues of segregation amongst the black race itself in both regions now, as well as during slavery. The social stratification which brought division between the creoles and the peninsulars, had the same affect within the African-American culture. People in society were categorized by race. During the reign of the Moors, darker skinned people were superior society. Race mixing was encouraged, to unite with someone of a darker complexion. The conquest led to a reverse effect. White supremacy imposed the ideological view that those of darker skin, whether indigenous or African descent, were less acceptable in society. Along with Social Darwinism, the concept of White Supremacy and improving the human race, meant to limit the number of blacks admitted into society. A person of white or light skin was considered free, while a person with dark skin meant slavery. That view point lead to the reverse effect of race mixing called Castas.

Many united with lighter skinned individuals to feel more accepted in society to survive in a white dominated world, which led to whitening of the population. Those of mixed race were called Pardos, rather than pure Negroes. The offspring of white and black unions were called Mulattos. Those of black and brown parentage were considered Zambos. Depopulation of blacks began to occur at that point in Latin America. Low birth rates amongst blacks accompanied low rates of marriage. Due to the treatment of slavery and mortality rates, many blacks were less likely to marry or bare children. Along with the deaths of countless African American adults and children, another factor which led to depopulation was the large number of deaths of black men, while serving in the military. Social stratification based on race defined the socioeconomic class of the individual. In Latin America, race was not the major component of how society accepted the individual. There were other social factors as well, which determined the actual race of the person.

The way people dressed, their nutritional diet and religion, helped determine their race. Those factors made it easier for an individual to alter their lifestyle or physical appearance, to be more accepted in society as well. Those alterations would change their race. Race based on physical appearance was rejected by Latin America, but remained the prime factor of racism in the United States. It was encouraged to serve in the military in the US; in fact, all blacks and Indian were required to receive military training in the 1600s, which later changed when slaves were not allowed to bare arms. In comparison to Latin America, it was encouraged for slaves to reproduce offspring to bare stronger slaves to work.

They lived longer lives in the United States. The life expectancy rate is still higher in the U.S., due to malnutrition and the horrid conditions that are still prevalent in South American areas today. Race mixing was illegal in the US. The offspring of a white woman and a slave was bound to servitude for 31 years. As time progressed, by the 17th century, the status of the slave was based on the status of their mother. Those with more than one quarter or more of African descent were considered black under the visual inspection test. Those who appeared to be black were considered slaves. It was an easy, low cost, way of distinguishing their status. To control the black population under Social Darwinism in the US, the states encouraged the slave owners to send the slaves back to Liberia.

As stated before, in Latin America, the slaves were able to own property, enter into personal contracts, tend small plots of land, and purchase there freedom. Both regions followed the same rights under Manumission. Slaves self purchased their freedom with the Spanish and Portuguese; their owners were able to grant them permanent freedom as well. Slaves also outnumbered whites in Latin America, along with the British and French West Indies. Brazil had the largest population of free blacks; free blacks out numbered the slaves and whites in areas such as Mexico, and Panama. Although there were free blacks in the states, it was rare that slaves were freed. They outnumbered the white population as well, especially in the south, where a majority of the slaves resided. They were allowed to raise and sell brown cotton, and corn only. They were able to tend small plots of land under share cropping. In the United States free blacks were not allowed to become preachers, got to bars, stay out past certain times of the night, or have pets.

They also were not allowed to read or learn math, and own musical instruments. They were given a taste of freedom, but it was nothing like the freedom granted in Latin America. The U.S.’s, main objective was the profitability of slavery. A freed slave did not return a profit and would put an end to the enterprise. There were criminal penalties for anyone who stole a slave from his/her master, to help them escape to freedom. In many southern states, stealing another owner’s slave was considered to be worse than killing a fellow citizen, but selling a free black into slavery carried no penalty. Rewards were even offered for those who could capture and return the slave back to the master.

Visiting another state did not free slaves nor ensure freedom. They were also not allowed the luxuries of a free black, such as making choices on the work they preformed and the number of hours they worked. Due to the fact that they were merely property, slaves were required to perform all the obligations assigned by their master. Free blacks were able to negotiate there wages, hours, working conditions with their bosses, and had direct contact with the master, a luxury that a slave did not have.

The slaves in both regions had three ways of resisting or rebelling against their owners. Latin American slaves would sabotage crops or property, and pretend to be ill or lazy. A slave in the States could not fake illness or laziness. They would be brutally beaten, or if recently purchased, the buyer would rescind the contract for the purchase of the worthless slave. In the U.S. slaves would violate curfew, attend religious meetings without the consent of the master, and commit theft in numerous ways. Violence, the second form of resistance was less likely in Latin America. There were rebellions from time to time but they did not have much of an impact. The masters treated their slaves with more respect to prevent prosecution or harm. The first Slave rebellion took place in Haiti in 1522.

In comparison, treatment of the slaves in South America was much better than the states. In the States there were many rebellions. They committed numerous crimes, which included homicides as the end result. The first slave rebellion took place in Virginia in 1663, which led Virginia to enact laws against the slaves for their behavior. The laws forbid slaves the right to bare arms, congregating in large numbers, and harsh punishments to those who assaulted whites as well as an attempt to escape. In 1822, before the Civil War in 1861, there was a revolt in South Carolina and 35 slaves were hanged as a result. The third way of resistance was to run away.

Revolts were the slave’s intention to free themselves, so to avoid any violence, many slaves just attempted to run away without notice. They had to run away, although the law stated that visiting a free state did not ensure freedom. Southern states implemented prison terms for banishment. They were also allowed to whip, castrate and execute escaped slaves in 1705. By 1850, as many as 1500 slaves escaped to freedom. In Latin America many attempted to undertake marronage. Although a lot were caught, a large number did flee during times of political turmoil.

Changes regarding slavery took place in Latin America 30 to 35 years before the States. The Catholic Church set the precedent for how slaves were to be treated. Beside the Catholic Church, two other movements contributed to the collapse of slavery in South America as well. In the 18th century the French Enlightenment and the British Millenarian Protestantism argued that slavery was immoral and irrational, nor was it a viable economic institution, in light of crops generated in Latin America. Around the 1830s, all forms of slavery were abolished in the French and British Empires, due abolitionist legislation.

Brazil was one of the regions that took the longest to abolish slavery; but it was later abolished in 1888. By 1825, 36 percent of the slaves in the western hemisphere lived in the US. The northern and southern states had different laws and views on slavery; those conflicts brought about the Civil War, which led to the abolishment of slavery in the in the states as well. It also claimed the lives of 623,000. In 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted and proclaimed that all slaves were free. As a result, the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery in 1865. The Reconstruction Period brought about the 13th through the 17th amendments, which gave all slaves their rights.

Slavery had long-term affects on the black community throughout history and in today’s society. The same results of social stratification, which hindered the Latin American region from growth, manifested the same results, with respect to growth amongst the black community itself. The restrictions of lively hood destroyed our culture. Blacks were disenfranchised from a normal way of life, which reflect in today’s society. It can be believed that the affects from slavery exist now. One in four African-Americans live below the federal poverty line, compared to about one in eight Americans overall (African-American Poverty- 2011). At this point in history, as well as in times of slavery, the black population still accounts for the highest percentage of the population living in poverty, or on assistance. Blacks still fill the brunt of suppression, accounting for the highest percentage of the population on unemployment, the highest population with HIV/AIDS, and the highest population incarcerated within the U.S.

The prison system of today is considered to be worse than Jim Crow. In the “Ethic Myth”, Stephen Steinburg writes, Ghettos are nothing less than the shameful residue of slavery (The Effects of Slavery Today, 2009). Slavery put blacks at a disadvantage in both Latin America and the US. Blacks were not allowed to learn anything. Poor education, which shapes human behavior, correlates to the difference in communication that exists, along with the high percentages of poverty and unemployment. The rich in society received an adequate education, which is still the case in both regions. Only 4.3 percent of African Americans hold advanced degrees (Grab Statistics, 2009). And it is still proven today, via the Gallup Poll, that many blacks feel their children do not receive the same adequate education as their white counterparts.

Slavery has caused our culture as a whole to lag behind other races. Many areas of Latin America still do not receive adequate education, food, or health care; those areas are located in the black community. Negative stereotypes have hindered and also affected the way of thinking, for all of society, and imposed the status quo as an acceptable life-style. Certain mindsets are often unwittingly accepted at a time when they seem irrelevant to our current concerns (Langer, 1997, p. 2). It is suggested that there are three basic stereotypes that continue to exist in American culture and are perpetuated in the media. “First there is the “Mammy” figure. This is a passive, churchgoing, overweight woman who is asexual. Then there is “the beast of burden”. This woman is strong and resilient and can withstand all forms of abuse. Her image is of a tough, masculine woman, with an attitude to match, who does not need support from others (Gay, 1999, p.8).

The third caricature, and perhaps most damaging, is the African American woman who is portrayed as the immoral, sexually impulsive and compulsive whore. “This image was one used to justify slavery of the African woman, and it continues today ( Smith, 2007). Aside from those stereotypes, is the brutal reality of the mortality rate in the black community and how black men lag behind all races regarding education, including black women. In the U.S., to escape the reality of such horrible treatment, African-Americans masked themselves in to religion. Furthermore, blacks are less likely to marry. We were less likely to marry during slavery in Latin America and the U.S as well. Many factors such as the mortality rates, horrendous treatment, and the inability to marry without the masters permission, shows the long-term connotations of our behavior.

Only 42 percent of black women are married and an alarming statistic shows that only 32.5% of Africa American families are married couples (Grab Statistics, 2009). Those statistics explain why Brazil, a highly black populated area, has a high percentage of single parent homes, similar to the US. Many black fathers are not in the homes. Slavery never embraced the concept of a family unit. Laws were implemented, which did not allow blacks to congregate in large numbers, which affected the way blacks have interacted with one another, as well as in society. The infliction of the required segregation represents the issues of separation amongst our own race. It accompanied the complexes of not embracing darker skin. It was implanted in the minds of all people that those of darker skin meant slavery, which in turn, led black culture into viewing lighter skinned individuals as more beautiful than those of a darker complexion.

In conclusion, slavery migrated to North America from South America. The difference in the treatment of the slaves between Latin America and the U.S. proves how blacks are treated in today’s society. In Latin America race relations are much better. It was researched that there are over 40 different racial types, along with 19 different racial categories in that region, so racism at this point in history is impossible to be based on just skin color alone. Racial prejudice has been reduced over the past several decades, via social and political restructuring. Their issues are not based on skin color, but more on socio-economic factors.

The black community in the Americas have not had adequate history on the culture from where thee came from, which was limited to teachings of what the whites allowed them to learn, however, Negritude is romanticized by the European Mullatos. They had/have no intention of embracing the forms and affects from the process of whitening, or social Darwinism. Instead they embrace black culture via reggae music, Rastafarianism, and radical black power movements. Those same radical black movements were discouraged in the states and led to brutal murders for those trying to uplift black society.

Latin America has evolved; they have accepted and responded to the demographic changes, embraced their culture and integrated the history of African heritage into its society; the black population accounts for 85 percent or more of the population in South America. Skin color is still a driving force in today’s society, with respect to the U.S. It is evident with racial profiling, low job acquisition, and other factors. Now the topic is swept under the rug and many try to discount it as an event of the past. Helping the black community is lightly encouraged in the U.S. and suppression is still prevalent.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 24 October 2016

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