The Latin American & Iberian Institute and Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant recipient will present research conducted in Lima and Piura, Peru.
"Abolition and its Malcontents:
The Sale of a Freed Slave in Piura, Peru.”
Daniel Cozart is a graduate student studying Latin America in the History department at UNM. His research focuses on the social and political history of Afro-descendants in northern Peru and Lima from the abolition of slavery in 1854 through the mid-twentieth century. Inspired by recent activism promoting Afro-Peruvian rights and a renewed emphasis to distinguish their role in the nation's history, Daniel traveled to the northern city of Piura to research the experiences of the region's aristocracy and their African slaves during the process of abolition.
Drawing from the notarial records of the Regional Archive of Piura, this presentation will highlight one civil-turned-criminal court case, where in 1855 a Piuran aristocrat was taken to court for “knowingly” selling a former slave under the pretext that she was the legal owner. The former owner denied any knowledge of her slave’s freedom and was pressed for documentation of ownership. Neither the prosecuting attorney nor the defense mentioned President Ramón Castilla’s decree, which effectively abolished the institution of slavery in Peru. These absences as well as the content of the legal battle reveal a great deal about a local reality and practice in contrast to nationally sanctioned legal and economic policy.
The court case that ensued offers a window into understanding the social conditions in northern Peru’s transition from slavery to a wage-labor economy. It additionally suggests that the social attitudes toward Afro-descended Peruvians and even a slave's status itself did not coincidentally change with Castilla’s decree. The fact that Mariana Raygada was unaware of her freedom only begins to explain the continued constitutional legality of slavery and the Peruvian government’s ability to enforce the change. Additionally, it will examine the extent to which the case can be considered representative of the social realities of post-abolition Peru. By analyzing the language of the court documents, the presentation considers the multiple possibilities of the actors’ motivations in the broader context, and concludes with a discussion of the theoretical challenges of historical silence.
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