Ending The Atlantic African Slave Trade: Latin America--Indios and Campesinos


Figure 1.--Slavery except in the Caribbean was not important in the Spanish Empire. This is because Native Americanswere essentially made serfs with little or no political or econoic rights and opportunitie. This situation continued into the 20th century throufghout the region. This photograph was taken in Loza, Mexico during the early-20th century. The inequitable social conditions led to the Mexican Rvolution.

With the revolutions that created independent repunlics in Latin America or an independent monarchy in in Brazil, the economies and social struture changed very little from the colonial era. Slavery was of marginal imprtance in the new republics that were firmned from the Spaish Empire. As a result, the abolition of slavery was an easy step with few social consequences. Spain held on to Cuba and Pueto Rico where slavery was important. And Brazil where slavey was also important continued slavery as an institution that was central to the economy. What did not change in the former Spanish colonies was the hacienda system. Land ownrship continued to be concentrated in a few families and the Native Americans continued to be ties to the land by law or social custom as was established by the encomienda system furing th colonial period. While the new Republics waxed eloquently about freedom and ending slavery, they actually did next to nothing to rectify the inequities under which a large part of the population labored. At the time there were two two groups of laborers in rural Latin America. First were the indios tied to the land. Second were the campesions, although the word is of relatively recent origins. (appearing in Cuba during the Spanish American War--1898). Campesino means a person living in the countryside (campo). The connotation is, however, a small-scale farmer or farm laborer. Spanish land grants were not all huge land grants. There were also small grants to Spanish foot soldiers and settlers. In many cases some of the original grant was sold to meet debts. Some Spanish families lost all their land, becoming rural workers. Thus in addition to the indios, there were small individuals of Spanish origins in the country side. And between these two groups were mestizos, people of mixed marriages. It should not be thought that these were racial groups in the European sense. Commonly indios and mestizos who dressed like the Spanish and poke Spanish were no longer considered indios. They wetre also very poor, but not tied to the land. Over time these two groups began to merge. And common usage in much of Latin America is to use 'campesino' for the rural poor, including individuals of Native American or mixed origins. And into the modern area, families living in the country side tend to have small plots or no land at all and lived in great poverty. Unlike the cities there were few alternative job opportunities. [Feder] Thus Latin American development plans commonly include land reform. And in recent years a Campesino Movement has devloped to advocate for rural people. Some Native American use the term campesino.

Sources

Feder, Ernest. "The campesinos' perspective in Latin America."







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Created: 8:35 PM 8/5/2014
Last updated: 8:35 PM 8/5/2014