Conference on Latin American History 15
Norah L. A. Gharala, Georgian Court University
Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva, University of Rochester
Danielle Terrazas Williams, Oberlin College
This roundtable discussion highlights new directions on research on Afromexican history in the colonial period, focusing in particular on the biographical turn and its implications for local, national, and global narratives of Mexican and African diaspora history. It responds to recent appeals to transcend the study of “black presence” in favor of more intimate portraits of black lives, families, and experiences. In so doing, our work builds on a previous generation of scholarship to understand not only how Afromexicans interacted with the colonial church and state, but also how they engaged in discourses of loyalty to achieve individual, familial, and communal goals. Some panelists look within Mexico to scrutinize how highly particular local conditions in plazas, parishes, and neighborhoods influenced Afromexican identities, while others look beyond Mexico to understand how black individuals defined identities that built on the transnational networks of the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Pacific worlds. Whether emphasizing local or global narratives, our research traces the ways in which Afromexican individuals shaped social and cultural meanings in specific spaces within the colonial landscape. At its heart, Afromexican biography elucidates a diversity of ways of being Afromexican: of defining race, status, and religious belonging; of constructing gender and family relationships; and of asserting regional and transnational loyalties. In turn, our discussion considers how biographical methodology complicates, critiques, and refines established understandings of colonial Mexican history.