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Map of Hispaniola by Paolo di Forlani (1564). Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
African resistance strongly shaped Spanish Hispaniola of the 1500s— now the island home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic—but historians have often considered that resistance to be a byproduct of Spanish colonialism and its reliance on slavery, according to a University of Kansas historian who studies the development of race in Latin America.
Study - Robert - Schwaller - KU - Associate
However, in a new study, Robert Schwaller, KU associate professor history, argues that Spanish colonial records reveal that resistance by indigenous and African maroons, who were runaway slaves, not only tested Spanish economic and labor arrangements but also challenged European conquest itself.
"This resistance tells us that the Spanish conquest hadn't really been completed and the actors that prevented that completion were African maroons," Schwaller said. "The act of becoming maroons and living as maroons represented a form of conquest in and of itself. What we see then is that African resistance challenged the Spanish narrative that they conquered the island."
Evidence - Article - Conquests - Maroons - Incomplete
He presents his evidence in the article "Contested Conquests: African Maroons and the Incomplete Conquest of Hispaniola, 1519-1620," published in November in the journal The Americas.
Since the 1520s, runaway African slaves formed maroon communities in remote regions of the island, areas beyond Spanish settlement. From the 1520s to the 1620s maroons posed a constant threat to Spanish development, and repeated campaigns of suppression failed to eradicate their presence.
Research - Documents - Communications - Officials - Time
For the research, he reviewed documents and communications from Spanish officials at the time that detailed their struggles in Hispaniola. Although such sources do not preserve maroon voices, they do reveal that generations of maroons formed communities that placed swaths of the island under African control.
"What we see in this 100-year span is that the Spanish constantly tried to eradicate...
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