Race, Caste, and Status: Indians in Colonial Spanish America, Robert H. Jackson
How and with what effect were notions of race and status applied to indigenous peoples in colonial Spanish America? To answer that question, Jackson compares the legal and social distinctions created by Spanish officials to separate the colonisers from the colonised in north-western Mexico, an area on the periphery of Spain's empire, and in Bolivia, a so-called core region with a large sedentary native population. In both regions Spanish elites imposed on native peoples a hierarchical social order based on skin colour, language, dress, residence, and access to land. As fixed as these definitions may have seemed in parish registers, censuses, and tribute records, the actual circumstances of people's lives, whether Indian or mestizo, show that racial classifications were imprecise and subjective. While identity categories had definite importance, particularly for defining who made tribute payments, they were also mutable. Jackson shows that indigenous peoples routinely moved upward to take advantage of opportunities to improve their lives. This book offers students the first new synthesis in over thirty years of what race meant in colonial Spanish America, and it raises important issues.