Crossing Imperial Boundaries in the Early Modern World, Part 2: Routes, Roots, and Frontier Peoples

AHA Session 199
Conference on Latin American History 43
Sunday, January 5, 2020: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Central Park West (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)
Lisa A. Lindsay, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Audience

Session Abstract

Recent scholarship on frontiers and borderlands has eschewed the notion of frontier as a firm division or boundary to replace it with conceptual frameworks for borderlands as regions or zones of commingling, cultural encounters, exchanges, and – not uncommonly – conflict over resources and territorial jurisdictions. Terrestrial and maritime borderlands constitute spaces in which new ethnic and social formations emerge, where enslaved or captive persons seek freedom, and new communities form in the struggles for autonomy and in the creation of cultural meanings attached to both natural and humanly crafted environments. Subtitled “Routes, Roots, and Frontier Peoples,” this second panel evokes movement and migratory routes through borderlands, but also signals the endurance of peoples who settled in frontier regions since antiquity or in the course of inter-imperial conflicts. It opens a discussion of the relevance of early modern borderlands for contemporary migratory patterns linked to global labor circuits, the struggle to obtain a livelihood, and the displacement and re-creation of communities. The four presenters in this panel explore these themes for wide-ranging borderlands from Spanish Florida to the northern and southern Caribbean and northern New Spain. Amy Turner Bushnell underscores the proudly defended autonomy of indigenous towns in seventeenth-century Florida, challenged by the “shatter zone of militarized slave-raiding,” and petitions for asylum that turned missions into refugee pueblos in the following century. Dana Velasco Murillo complicates the historical vision of the great Chichimeca borderlands of northern New Spain by constructing the biographies of two Spanish and two Chichimeca women, who joined the swelling population of this early mining frontier, long considered a province of men. Turning to the Caribbean, Linda Rupert presents the complex trans-colonial borderland shaped by movements of people and goods that linked Dutch Curaçao and Spanish Venezuela in early modern commercial circuits. Daniel Velásquez brings to light merchants’ “illicit crossings” among British, French, and Spanish eighteenth-century imperial claims in the northern Caribbean amidst an entanglement of often conflicting regulations and competing allegiances that made this maritime region and fluid and dynamic borderland. Taken together, these original papers illustrate innovative research on the networks of commercial exchange, war, trafficking, and re-settlement that created borderlands in the early modern Americas. The Session Chair, Lisa Lindsay, brings a comparative perspective from African history.