At the Heart of the Borderlands
Africans and Afro-Descendants on the Edges of Colonial Spanish America
At the Heart of the Borderlands is the first book-length study of Africans and Afro-descendants in the frontiers of Spanish America. While people of African descent have formed part of most borderlands histories, this study recognizes and explains their critical contribution to the formation of frontier spaces. Lack of imperial control coupled with Spain's desperation for settlers and soldiers in frontier areas facilitated the social mobility of Afro-descendants. This need allowed African descendants to become not just members of borderland societies but leaders of it as well. They were essential actors in helping to shape the limits of the Spanish empire. Africans and Afro-descendants built, opposed, and shaped Spanish hegemony in the borderlands, taking on roles that would have been impossible or difficult in colonial centers due to the socio-racial hierarchy of imperial policies and practices.
"A 'must-read' contribution to the field, this strikingly original and insightful volume radically alters our understanding of the Spanish American borderlands. From California to Patagonia (and spaces in-between), the authors breathe life into frontier societies, with legions of protagonists of African descent. These populations not only impacted everyday life, but they altered mindsets, culture, and even perceptions of race itself. An expertly curated book, its authors insist that social evolution is always more complicated than it seems, and that the borderlands were more central to history than we might imagine."--Ben Vinson III, author of Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico
"At the Heart of the Borderlands unites far-flung regions of Spanish America through its focus on the vital roles of Black soldiers, settlers, fugitives, entrepreneurs, and others. In so doing it gives us new ways to think about two important categories: borderlands and Black history in Spanish America."--Joan Cameron Bristol, author of Christians, Blasphemers, and Witches: Afro-Mexican Ritual Practice in the Seventeenth Century