In Latin America, there were different forms of labors that the slaves were assigned to during the slavery era. Juan Francisco Manzano was one of the slaves who wrote about the slavery and their daily lives through an autobiography. In Latin America, the works of Manzano is considered to be the few narratives that was done by a slave about slavery. Manzano is claimed to have taught himself how to read and write. In looking at Manzano’s tell of slavery, it proves to be almost similar to other works done about slavery in the Latin America especially in the book written by John Charles Chasteen called Born in Blood and Fire: Latin American Voices. This book shows slavery from different countries in Latin America and their lives.
Juan Francisco Manzano’s autobiography
When Manzano wrote the autobiography it showed how much he desired to be free from slavery legally (Manzano, 1996). The reason that caused him to write this autobiography was that Domingo Del Monte asked him to write it in order for him to be freed. In the autobiography, it showed how the Cuban slavery was during the 19th century in the eyes of Manzano. The autobiography shows that Manzano was working in the plantation slavery (Manzano, 1996). At that time, Cuba’s wealth came from the sugar plantation. This is the reason why they required slaves to be used in the plantation. Their owners treated them violently when they were in the fields. It states that all the Africans and their descendents would always be subjected to the plantation slavery. The fact that they were slaves they had no legal protection under the name of Bona Fide.
According to Manzano, the slaves from where he was were not allowed to read or write (Manzano, 1996). The only reason that he could read and write was that he taught himself. Manzano did not find himself to be an African completely; therefore, the laws that existed did not include him. He felt like he was subjected to slavery simply because of his African ancestry. When reading about his childhood it shows how Manzano lived a life where he was carefree and was easy (Manzano, 1996). The story changes and shows how when he was in his youth how slavery and other trials came and he saw the harsh side of life. This fact was the same for all African children born and raised during the time of slavery. The Spanish colonial rulers were known to marginalize the people. The Africans and the Chinese were isolated from the Spanish or white people.
Book: Born in Blood and Fire: Latin American Voices
In other narrative works such as the book written by John Chasteen, it shows how the people were ranked in accordance to their race (Charles, 2011). The people were Africans, Europeans, indigenous, European African and indigenous African. In the 19th century, apart from slaver in the Latin America, the people were fighting against colonialism. The slaves were following what they had about Haiti that they fought slavery and defeated. This caused many slaves to start rebelling against the Spanish rule in order for them to get their independence. This can be clearly seen by the autobiography of Manzano and the book written by John Chasteen. The slaves who were being brought from the different parts of the world were automatically changed to Christians most especially Catholics. This shows how powerful the Catholic Church was during the 19th century.
Latin America depended a lot on the plantation but another source of wealth came from mining. This is the reason why many slaves were brought in the Latin world. One of the countries where mining was high was in Brazil this is the reason why the population of slavery was high. The other countries where mining were also done was in Peru, Chile, Mexico and Bolivia (Charles, 2011). A new culture emerged due to the interaction between the Europeans, ingenious people and the Africans. This is the reason why there was a change in the slavery department where the mixed races were considered to be superior to the Africans. They were given the jobs to be in charge of the other slaves in the plantations and the mining areas. When the fight or struggle for independence began in most parts of the Latin America. The lives of the slaves in the countries began to change in that they had more freedom than before. This is because the number of slaves being brought in the nations reduced. This made the slaves to be valuable for the rich people. This reason is why some of the slaves from different nations were able to be educated thus, they were able to read and write.
In the book by John Chasteen, Venezuela was dependent on cacao while Cuba depends on coffee apart from sugar (Charles, 2011). There this was the main work of the slaves to work in the plantations. The plantations from the Caribbean is claimed to have many slaves. The life of the mixed race people changed for the better due to education. One of the most notable people of color coming from slavery is the novelist Joaquin Maria Machado de Assis. The famous person from mixed race was Ruben Dario. In Cuba where Manzano was located, only the white people were allowed to be educated. The racial segregation in the country was high and thus they all suffered the same fate.
In conclusion, the racial segregation written in the book by John Chasteen and the autobiography written by Manzano show different situations for the slaves in Latin America. In looking at Manzano’s autobiography, the main work, that the slaves were given was in the plantation (Manzano, 1996). This is because the sugar plantation was among the main source of wealth in the country. According to the book, slavery was common the areas where there was plantation such as cacao, sugar and coffee. The other jobs that they received were for mining gold especially in Brazil. Life according to Manzano was very difficult and harsh to them in that they were not allowed to even get an education. However, this was not the same for other people in other parts of the Latin America. This is because the people especially from mixed race were able to get education and also acquire good jobs. The fact that Manzano was from a mixed race made him feel that it was unfair for him who is different to be treated as the African slaves. The book shows that the number of slaves entering the Latin America reduced; therefore, this caused them to be treated better because they were valuable.
Charles, Chasteen John. Born in Blood and Fire: Latin American Voices. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011.
Manzano, Juan Francisco. Autobiografía de Un Esclavo. Wayne State University Press, 1996.