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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews scholarship on the history and historiography of slavery in Mexico and Central America. Slaves (and people of African descent generally) played a far greater role in both Mexico and Central America than previously assumed or acknowledged. Although a minority of the population in most areas, black and mulatto slaves provided the bulk of the workforce in several key colonial industries. Even as a small minority of labourers, slaves often occupied critical roles in production as skilled workers and supervisors. By the late seventeenth century, creoles outnumbered Africans in Mesoamerica, and by the mid-eighteenth century, most slaves in the region were mulattos. By then, the recovery of the Indian population and the phenomenal growth of the mestizo and free mulatto populations throughout Mexico and Central America gradually eliminated the need for slave workers in most regions. Abolition in the 1820s resulted not just from the growth of the free population, nor from the commitment of creole patriots to Enlightenment ideals, but in part from the slaves' own efforts at liberating themselves.

Keywords: slaves, slavery, blacks, mulattos, slave labour, creoles, Africans

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