Royal Tribute as a Bureaucratic Black Space in Late-Colonial Mexico

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:50 AM
Congressional Room B (Omni Shoreham)
Norah Andrews, Johns Hopkins University
The creation of royal tribute registers specifically targeting Afromexicans resulted in the establishment of a kind of bureaucratic black space. At the turn of the nineteenth century, these registers drew increasing numbers of free-colored subjects closer to structures of taxation and categorization. Bureaucrats in Mexico City imagined tribute as a space which encompassed free people of color and their families. As a result, thousands of people who were not of African ancestry—Spaniards, mestizos, Indians, and others— made their way onto free-colored tributary registers in the late-eighteenth century. The process of incorporating these groups occurred through marriage, reproduction, adoption, or caste confusion. The presence of non-mulatos on free-colored tribute registers, in the minds of ordinary people and officials, created more free-colored reputations. People who were registered as free-colored tributaries became free-colored; the preservation of non-African caste terminology on the register had little impact on the idea of free-colored tribute as a black space. Rather, many fought tooth and nail to avoid registration, to expunge their names and those of their families from the rolls. Coastal regions in particular experienced few disruptions to the “blackness” of local tribute registers. Multiple factors, including local demography and free-colored militia privileges, affected the nature of coastal tribute. This paper explores the meanings of the tribute register as a black bureaucratic space on the East and West coasts of New Spain, in comparison with interior cities, mines, and agricultural zones.