Latin America: An Institutional and Cultural Survey

An Exterminating Bolt of Lightning – George Reid Andrews

In the second chapter of his book Afro-Latin America, historian George Reid Andrews discusses how the Latin American wars for independence created a hemispheric debate on the abolition of slavery. (Pages 54-5)

Entry Question

Does freedom from European colonial rule in nineteen-century Latin America imply liberty and equality for all citizens? (Page 56)

Parallel Wars

The wars presented many opportunities for enslaved people to fight for their liberation through official (the end of the slave trade; bargaining; manumission; joining armies) or unofficial methods (escaping; creating isolated maroon towns; rebelling; making war against their enslavers).

“In the Cartagena and the Cauca regions […] plantations slaves fled to nearby runaway communities, looting and pillaging the plantations as they left.” (59)

Oral/Slide Presentations


Lee,Kristin Brianna


Freedom and Independence

“Fighting for their freedom, slaves played a crucially important role in winning independence for Spanish South America, and in so doing they triggered the programs of gradual emancipation enacted during those years.” (Page 64)

“Manumission, freedom through military service, high rates of mortality (both in the wars and in daily life), and the absence of any further slave births all combines to greatly reduce the numbers of slaves in the years after independence” (Page 65)

African Spiritual Practices

Andrews also discusses the proliferation of African-based cultural institutions and practices. He mentions for instance the cabildos: mutual aid societies that helped and benefitted members and serve as official negotiators with the government. “One of the recurrent points of contention between the authorities and the cabildos were African cultural observances: music, dance, and religion.” (Page 70)

The historian introduces then some major African-derived spiritual and cultural formations in the Caribbean and Brazil. “These religions had much in common. Each emphasized the powerful role in people’s lives of the spirits of their ancestors and of supernatural forces embodied in nature; each invoked closely guarded sacred mysteries and secret knowledge.” (Page 70)

Yoruba, Lukumi: Spiritual, Philosophy and Ethical Conceptions