En Esta Quieta y Pacífica Posesión: Preserving Pardo Community and Autonomy in the Eastern Andes

Friday, January 5, 2018: 9:10 AM
Madison Room B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Nathan Weaver Olson, University of Minnesota
In 1664, Captain Diego Barrancos de color pardo, the leader of Guadalupe, a frontier town in the eastern Andes of Charcas, wrote to the Audiencia of Charcas hoping to reverse an order to evacuate the community’s residents to the nearby Ciudad de Jesús de Vallegrande. Guadalupe was a community of pardos of African descent, whose residents owned land and livestock in the region, and had served as a frontier militia for more than forty years. Guadalupe lay within the jurisdiction of the Ciudad de Jesús, a pueblo de españoles, and Barrancos recognized the call to evacuate the community as a pretext to separate the pardos of the community from their lands and extinguish their liberties. Remarkably, Barrancos’ bid for Audiencia support was successful, and Guadalupe and its pardos were allowed to retain their rights and continue their service.

It is well-established that no fully articulated república de negros evolved in Spanish America to equal the formal recognition and legal protections granted to the Indigenous and Spanish repúblicas. Yet Guadalupe is a reminder that individual communities of people of African descent did exist at various times and places, often complicating the two-republic system of governance in local jurisdictions. But where many such communities were composed of former slaves, Guadalupe was a community of free pardos with a long history in the region, little different from contemporary Spanish frontier communities. In this paper I will explore the story of Guadalupe through Indigenous tribute records, arms shipments, petitions, and legal battles as its residents struggled against both Indigenous and Spanish neighbors in an effort to maintain their collective identity as pardos. I argue that the pardos of Guadalupe used their collective heritage of service in an otherwise violent frontier zone to maintain rights and privileges that would have been unavailable to them as individuals.