‘From Mozambique in Indies of Portugal’

Locating East Africans in New Spain

In: Journal of Global Slavery
Norah L.A. Gharala University of Houston USA Houston, TX

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Between the mid-sixteenth and late-seventeenth centuries, a minority of enslaved people in Spanish America came from the western Indian Ocean world. Europeans trafficked “Mozambiques” into central Mexico as early as the 1540s, but the terms connecting people to Eastern Africa remained nebulous to imperial authorities. Changeable and malleable, terms like “mozambique” or “cafre de pasa” circulated widely and developed layers of meaning as enslaved people moved among the port cities of the Iberian empires. These vocabularies of difference associated Blackness with the Indo-Pacific in Mexican historical documents. Tracing the experiences of enslaved people of East African origins in Mexico complicates the conflation of Blackness, slavery, and Atlantic Africa. Before the eighteenth century, historical sources point to an overlapping of categories denoting Africanness and Asianness in Mexico.

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