By Herman L. Bennett
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Additional info for Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570-1640
Even before establishing control over the unfolding New World, the Spanish monarchy subjected slaves to its authority. In doing so, the Spanish Crown consistently intervened on the masters’ purported domain. A master’s rights over property, including chattel, constituted a hallmark of Western Europe’s evolving legal systems. In law, the master embodied absolute authority in all matters pertaining to his property. So complete was this dominion that the master constituted the ¤nal arbiter in deciding if his res (property) warranted death.
By the end of the seventeenth century, the ratio of male to female 26 Africans in Colonial Mexico slaves had nearly reached parity. 89 Among the free descendants of Africans, who by the end of the seventeenth century largely constituted female creoles, such patterns seemed even more pronounced. Demography as Culture The estate inventories from New Spain reveal two demographic trends among people of African descent beginning in the second half of the sixteenth century—the rapid increase of individuals born in Africa and the spectacular growth of the creole population.
As the creole population increased, the free black population also reached new heights, becoming the largest such community in the Americas. Though mulattos constituted an important component of this community, in the countryside, Afromestizos comprised the majority of freedmen and freedSoiled Gods and the Formation of a Slave Society 29 women. Afromestizo ascendancy suggests that the African presence ultimately shifted toward the countryside. Yet until the middle of the seventeenth century, and the sizeable rural estates notwithstanding, slavery and the African presence was decidedly urban.