Skip to main content

Libertine Behavior: "The Slaves Act As If They Are Free"

In July, 1819, Gerónimo Torres decided to travel to his mine given that during the previous months the royalist government had devised a campaign against the insubordinant slave gangs of San Juan and neighboring Saija. Although the government's offensive led to apparent victory, after 11 months at the mine, Torres had to draft a letter pleading for help because of the difficult situation he had encountered. Torres' 1820 letter to the governor of Popayán noted that the "scandalous insubordination [of the slaves in the mine] demands that public authority aid the masters to subject and correct them."

Torres had arrived thinking he would find "the slaves weakened, submissive, and willing to repair all of the damage they had caused their masters." Instead he was shocked when all he found in the slaves was "pride, arrogance, insubordination, and neglect." The description that Torres provides in the letter is interesting and certainly serves as an exceptional source of information. He notes that in the months he spent among what he considered to be his slaves, they rejected his orders, forcing him to tolerate their disorder and disrespect. Particularly noteworthy is that Torres said that whenever he attempted to scold a slave, the parents and family of the slave being punished would soon arrive at Torres' house to challenge him. Additionally, he recounted that he constantly received threats from the slaves, who used the hunting spears they possessed to warn him, "if I punished them they would kill me with their spears." Finally, Torres noted that he was particularly bothered because "they have organized dances in my house without my permission, insulting me even in their songs," and "the slaves at as if they were free."

Torres decided to leave the mine given that it was impossible for him to keep his slaves under control, since he had no authority over them, and in view of the "innate, and impossible to overcome, hatred that the slave has for his master, which he immediately applies at the moment when he does not feel the master's authority over him." From this statement it seems that Torres acknowledged his slaves had expressed their will not to be dominated by him nor to obey him. This was possible for the slaves - now closer to ex-slaves - largely because during the past nine years they had made the mine their own and, at the time of his return, were armed (with spears and knives); thus, they did not feel threatened by a single white mine owner attempting to retun them to slavery. They were not receptive to his multiple attempts to negociate with them, through such measures as giving them new work tools, allowing them to continue working their plots, decreasing their working day (jornal) by one-half, treating them for their illnesses, and distributing clothes and goods to them free of charge.

(pages 183-184)

Amazon.com: Indian and Slave Royalists in the Age of Revolution: Reform, Revolution, and Royalism in the Northern Andes, 1780–1825 (Cambridge Latin American Studies, Series Number 102): 9781107446007: Echeverri, Marcela: Books

Last edited by ricardomath
Original Post

Add Reply

Post
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×