Espana, Peru, Columbia, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, and Uruguay as domestics

Africans in the Indies, Nueva Espana, Peru, Columbia, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina,
and Uruguay as domestics; growers of sugar, wheat, grapes, olives, cacao; miners of
gold and silver; craft workers (blacksmiths, cobblers, brick masons, carpenters, tailors); teamsters; cowboys; pearl divers; and prostit~tes.~~
Their consequences, though, were not simply economic. Slave labor required the
elaboration of systems of control and discipline. Moreover, the intercourse of the
several races extant in Spain’s new possessions precipitated the formation of rather
complex racial codes and codifications. The results were practical while being barbaric and absurd:
In Spanish America the lash, the stock, detention, and deprivation were standard
means by which unruly and defiant slaves were kept in line. Some masters were
known to have whipped their bondmen to death, while others continued to mutilate their dusky properties with hot branding irons even after the crown had
prohibited this act. Worst of all were the vengeful sadists who made their slaves eat
excrement and drink urine.s4
Castration and the severing of other limbs were common and legal. Aguirre Beltran
reports that some slave mulattos who were no longer phenotypically distinct from the
ruling class had to be branded
with hot irons in places where the insignia of servitude could not for a moment be
hidden. The faces of many of them were completely covered with branded legends
saying: “I am the slave of Senor Marque del Valle,” “I am the slave of Dona
Francisca Carrillo de Peralta.”ss
Such treatment and the almost inevitably foul conditions in which most of them
labored reduced the active working lives of slaves to between ten and twenty years.s6
Black Resistance: The Sixteenth Century
At first, as a rule, resistance among the enslaved Africans took the form of flight to
native or “Indian” settlements. The notarial archive of the Mexican city of Puebla de
10s Angeles, for example, which is “virtually complete from 1540 on” is filled with the
official reaction to mid-sixteenth-century “r~naways.”~~ Fugitives drew the attention
of Hernan Cortes as early as 1523 and the first general uprising in Nueva Espana is
thought to have occurred in 1537.~~ Some of these Africans, however, did not completely sever their contacts with the Spanish. Once freed by their own wits, they
returned to plague the Spanish colonists, appropriating food, clothes, arms, tools,
and even religious artifacts from the colonists’ towns, their villages, and ranch homes,
and from travelers along the roads connecting the ports and settlements. Once they
armed themselves, the Spanish would refer to these “fugitives” as cirnarrone~.~~ (The
English would incorporate the term into their own language as “maroons.”) In 1503,
we recall, Ovando had observed subversive activities among Hispaniola’s ladinos. In
the last month of 1522, Ovando’s prevision was realized. Fittingly enough, slaves on
Cedric Robinson on Maroon Societies
the plantation of Diego Columbus (a son of the Admiral) revolted, killing some 15
colonists before they were themselves captured and executed.60 This had been the
occasion for the prohibition of future employ of ladinos as slave labor in the colonies.
Similar revolts had occurred in Puerto Rico (1527), Santa Marta, Colombia (i529),
and Panama (1531). Back in Hispaniola, Blacks had joined the native uprising of 1533.
Resistance had continued for ten years.61 Decades later, Spanish authorities continued
to be concerned about such events. Viceroy Martin Enriquez had written Philip 11:
[I]t appears, Our Majesty, that the time is coming when these people will have
become masters of the Indians, inasmuch as they were born among them and their
maidens, and are men who dare to die as well as any Spaniard in the world. But if
the Indians become corrupt and join with them, I do not know who will be in the
position to resist them. It is evident that this mischief will take place in several
Soon, however, the fugitive slaves grew numerous enough to begin the formation of
their own settlements, communities that came to be known in Mexico as palenques.
Edgar Love recalls Aquirre Beltran’s estimate that by 1579 some 2,000 Blacks had
escaped from their masters. Love goes on to indicate that “[flor more than a century,
the escaped slave was a serious problem in many parts of Mexico.”63 David Davidson,
writing of the third quarter of the century, declares:
By the 1560s fugitive slaves from the mines of the north were terrorizing the regions
from Guadalajara to Zacatecas, allying with the Indians and raiding ranches. In one
case maroons from the mines of Guanajuato joined with unpacified Chichimec
Indians in a brutal war with the settlers. The viceroy was informed that they were
attacking travelers, burning ranches, and committing similar “misdeeds.” To the
east, slaves from the Pachuca mines took refuge in an inaccessible cave from which
they sallied forth periodically to harass the countryside. Negroes from the Atotonilco and Tonavista mines joined them with arms, and created an impregnable
The response ofthe representatives ofthe Spanish state was unequivocal. Between 1571
and 1574, royal decrees detailed new systems of control and surveillance, stipulating
progressively harsher treatment of fugitives: 50 lashes for four days absence; loo lashes
and iron fetters for more than eight days absence; death for those missing for six
months, commuted in some cases to castration.
Yet neither the code of 1571-1574 nor the issuance of restrictive legislation in the
1570s and 1580s was of any avail. A viceregal order of 1579 revealed that the contagion of revolt nearly covered the entire settled area of the colony outside of
Mexico City, in particular the provinces of Veracruz and Panuco, the area between
Oaxaca and Gualtuco on the Pacific coast, and almost the whole of the Gran
Chichimeca. Only emergency repressive measures and the continued importation
of Africans maintained Mexico’s slave labour supply.65
Nevertheless, African resistance in Mexico continued to mature in form and character. The struggle against slavery was being transferred into the battle to preserve the
collective identity of African peoples. By the early seventeenth century, according to
official colonial documents, at least one Black community, San Lorenzo de 10s Negros,
had acquired its right to existence by war and treaty.
The terms of the truce, as preserved in the archives, included eleven conditions
stipulated by Yanga upon which he and his people would cease their raiding. The
African demanded that all of his people who had fled before September of the past
year (1608) be freed and promised that those who had escaped slavery after that
date would be returned to their masters. He further stipulated that the palenque be
given the status of a free town and that it have its own cabildo and a justicia mayor
who was to be a Spanish layman. No other Spaniards were to live in the town,
although they could visit on market days. . . . In return Yanga promised that for a
fee the town would aid the viceroy in capturing fugitive slaves. The Negroes, he
said, would aid the crown in case of an external attack on Mexico.66
In the mountains near Mt. Orizaba, led by this man called Yanga, “reputedly a
Congolese chief from an African lungdom bordered by the Nyonga River,”67 the
“Yanguicos” had won the formal status as a free Black settlement. The mountains,
however, seemed to promise much more security to some Yanguicos and other cimarrones than the words and treaties of their Spanish oppressors. Throughout New Spain
palenques continued to multiply and, with a still undetermined frequency, to give
occasion for the establishment of officially recognized free cornmunitie~.~~ In a period
between 1630 and 1635, for example, an agreement was reached with cimarrones whose
redoubts had been established in the mountains of Totula, Palmilla, Tumbacarretas,
and Totolinga near Veracruz. The town of San Lorenzo Cerralvo became their free
settlement. In 1769, a similar history preceded the establishment of Nuestra Senora de
Guadalupe de 10s Morenos de Amapa, near the southern tip of the modern state of
Veracr~z.~~ We have learned of their existence through quite recent research into the
early colonial history of New Spain. In Colombia, their revolts are detailed in 1530,
1548, and again in the 1550s.~~ In 1552, Venezuela had its first major slave revolt. This
rebellion of slaves who had worked in the mines of Buria was defeated in 1555.
Nevertheless, by the beginning of the seventeenth century, independent Black communities with legal standing in the eyes of state agents had begun to appear.71
Palmares and Seventeenth-Century Marronage
In Brazil, which we have seen dominated the Portuguese slave trade, the maroon settlements (quilombos) that began in the sixteenth century would extend into the next.
Ernesto Ennes, a scholar who was far from being in sympathy with the f~gitives,~~
nevertheless recorded in 1948 from his review of the documents in the Arquivo
Historic0 Colonial in Lisbon that he found “traces in every corner of Brazil” of
q~ilornbos.~~ Arthur Ramos, summarizing his own studies of Blacks in Brazil, declared:
From the beginnings of slavery, escapes were frequent. The escaped slaves, called
locally, quilombolas, often gathered together in organized groups, known in Brazil
as quilornbos. . . . From the beginning, the owners complained of the frequent
escapes of the slaves, demanding protection and security from the public authorities. Later the situation was met by the employment of the bush captain and by
notices in the press, publicizing the loss of the slaves and urging collective action
for their recapture.74
That the slaves had good reason to be concerned for their liberty, despite bland
suggestions from scholars like A. J. R. Russell-Wood that the only thing at issue was
their “adapting to a new diet, new environment, and new working condition^,”^^ is
suggested by Stuart Schwartz’s consideration of the sugar industry in colonial Bahia:
Added to the rigors inherent in the system of sugar production and to occasional
acts of individual cruelty, slaves also suffered from a planned policy of punishment
and terror as a means of control. Plantation owners believed that only by severity
could work be accomplished and discipline maintained, especially when the ratio
in the fields was often forty slaves to one white sharecropper or overseer. This sort
of institutionalized brutality, when coupled with arduous labor, poor working
conditions, and simple cruelty, contributed to the motivations for escape.76
The work of Ramos, R. K. Kent, Irene Diggs, Donald Pierson, Edison Carneiro,
Schwartz, and Raymundo Nina Rodriques indicates that for Brazil as a whole, from
the sixteenth century into the late nineteenth century, slave resistance, rebellions, and
conspiracies were constants in that land.77 In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though, it was the maroon settlements that dominated the reaction to slavery.
In the Pernambuco region, the greatest settlement of all, the extraordinary state of
Palmares would endure from 1605 to 1695. Palmares was a plural, designating the
several settlements (palmars) that made up a community, which, though necessarily
agrarian, was even more preoccupied with its defense. Diggs gives us this description:
The site of the quilombo of 0s Palmares was a mountainous region, steep and
precipitous-a natural defense of the inhabitants-but at the same time a virgin
land whose exuberance was considered the best in the state of Pernambuco. The
many fruit trees gave easy sustenance to those who knew where they were. Timberyielding trees served various industrial uses. Most important of all trees was the
palmera pindoba, the cocoanut palm, which . . . provided excellent food. . . and a
delicious drink.78
In 1645, Bartholomeus Lintz, acting as a scout for the expeditions that the Dutch were
to mount against Palmares, was the first hostile European to discover that the state
consisted of several settlements (two major palmers of 5,000 inhabitants, and several
small units totalling 6,000). By 1677, there were ten major palmars, one of which was
the capital (Macoco) where the “king” (Ganga-Zumba from the Zanda signifying
consensus ruler) resided, the whole state spanning over sixty leagues.79 It was then
estimated that the population numbered between 15,000 and 20,000, a mixture of
Creoles and Africans largely drawn from the Angola-Congo regions. For almost a
century, neither the Portuguese nor the interloper Dutch, nor the Creole moradores
could destroy it, though they tried for more than seventy years. Even in the end,
“[bletween 1672-94,” R. K. Kent tells us, “[ilt withstood on the average one Portuguese expedition every fifteen months.”80 There was, however, one important political
development during this period. In 1678, “[a] s he had done earlier, whenever a new
governor came to Pernambuco, Ganga-Zumba sued for peace.” The treaty that was
eventually signed, Kent quotes Nina Rodriques, “gave a real importance to the Negro
State which now the Colony treated as one nation would another.” The treaty, however, had little import for the moradores, who proceeded to claim and distribute
among themselves a substantial portion of the “Negro State.”81 Ganga-Zumba’s authority was breached:
By 1679, a palmarista “captain named Zambi (whose uncle is Gana-Zona) was in
revolt (with) Ioao mulato, Canhonga, Gaspar (and) Amaro, having done the person of Ganga-Zumba to death.” By March 1680, Zambi was being called upon to
surrender, without success. The war was on once more.82
Zambi (Zumbi), according to Ramos, “was already a well-known chief, whose deeds
amazed even the white ~oldiery?~ He would apparently reign as king in New Palmares until its end almost two decades later. But in his accession to authority, it is
possible to recognize what Ramos and others have described as “the Bantu origins” of
palm are^.^^ The perception of authentic authority as identical with secured social
integrity was characteristically Central Afri~an.~~
Palmares did fall, eventually, in 1694, the result of campaigns launched by successive Portuguese governors of Pernambuco (Joao da Cunha Sotto-Mayor, Marques de
Montebello, and Melo de Castro). The last expedition sent against it consisted of
nearly 3,000 men and was in the field for several months. The final siege was established on lo November 1693 and lasted until early February of the following year. The
total cost of the adventure was estimated by Melo de Castro at somewhere near
1,400,ooo cruzados.86
On the night of 5 February 1694, “Zumby,” organizer of the defense of Palmares,
having discovered that his position on Barriga mountain had been nearly encircled,
sought a last desperate chance to escape. The result was described by Colonel Domingos Jorge Velho, the leader of the Portuguese forces:
During the second watch of that night, between the fifth and sixth of February,
suddenly and tumultuously [Zumby] with all his people and the equipment which
could follow him through that space, made an exit. The sentinels of that post did
not perceive them almost until the end. In the rear-guard Zumby himself was
leaving, and at that point he was shot twice. As it was dark, and all this was taking
place at the edge of the cliff, many-a matter of about two hundred-fell down the
cliff. As many others were killed. Of both sexes and all ages, five hundred and
nineteen were taken prisoner.87
In Pernambuco, again according to Governor Melo de Castro, “This happy victory
was regarded as no less important than the expulsion of the Dutch. It was, accordingly, celebrated by the whole population with displays of lights for six days and many
other demonstrations of joy, without any command being given to them.” Keeping in
character, Ennes attributed this excitement to the “moral influence which it conferred
on the a~thorities.”~~ “Palmares:’ Ramos reminds us, “was not, however, the only outstanding case. In 1650 the slaves in Rio de Janeiro organized a number of quilombos
which caused the police authorities of that region untold difficulties until suppressed
by Captain Manoel Jordao da Sil~a.”~~
In this same century, the seventeenth century, the slaves of Jamaica joined the tradition of those in Brazil and Mexico. Barbara Kopytoff has summarized the conditions:
During the era of slavery, communities of maroons, or escaped slaves, sprang up
throughout the New World. Wherever there were slave plantations, there was
resistance in the form of runaways and slave revolts; and wherever mountains,
swamps, or forests permitted the escaped slaves to gather, they formed communities. These ranged in size from Palmarres, in Brazil, with over ten thousand
people, to the handfulls of runaways who hid on the fringes of plantations in the
American South. While most. . . were destroyed. . . a few could not be reduced or
even ~ontained.~”
The mid-century exploded with revolts on that island in 1669,1672 (twice), 1678,1682,
1685, and 1690. In Jamaica, marronage had begun during the period of Spanish
colonization (1509-1655).~~ And in the very last years of Spanish resistance (1655-60)
to British occupation of the island, at least three maroon camps played decisive roles
in supporting the guerrilla campaign led by Christobal de Yassi against the Briti~h.~~
In the first month of 1660, however, the English made peace with one of the maroon
chiefs, Juan Lubolo (Juan de Bola), who promptly went to aid them in the destruction
of, first, the remaining major maroon camps, and, finally, Yassi’s guerrillas. A little
more than three years later, Juan de Bola met his appropriate fate. What reads like an
official entry observed: “On the first day of November the outlying Negroes met with
Juan de Bola and cut him to pieces; else all things were quiet in the country.”93 Three
hundred years later, with an equal amount of sympathy David Buisseret and S. A. G.
Taylor unhesitantly estimated: “His death seems to us an act of justice . . . he was ‘the
great traitor.’ “94
During the next eighty years, two major maroon societies were formed in the highlands of Jamaica. One, the Windward Maroons, settling in the eastern mountains,
had as its nucleus the Spanish maroons and those who subsequently joined them
from the English plantations and towns. The other, the Leeward Maroons of the westcentral interior, came into being in 1673 after the first of the slave rebellions during the
English period.95 In 1690, another major rebellion, beginning on the Sutton estate,
added more than 200 refugees to the Leeward settlements complex. Such was the
primary fashion in which the settlements grew and maintained themselves:
The maroon societies were formed, and their numbers increased, largely by slave
rebellions and by individual and group escapes from the plantations. In addition,
slaves were captured by maroons during raids, and slave or free Negroes, sent to
fight the maroons, occasionally defected.
Rebellions furnished the largest numbers, as many as several hundred at a time,
but rebellions were only one of a number of occasions for escape. . . . There was a
steady trickle of runaways, and the trickle became a stream whenever English
punitive expeditions failed of their purpose.96
Apparently, too, because of the low ratio ofwomen to men, the maroon communities
were not yet self-reproducing.
Though Akan-speakers seemed to have been dominant among these Jamaican
maroons, the political structure of the Leeward Maroons closely followed that found
among the more central African palmaristas in Brazil. Cudjoe, who became a dominant Leeward maroon chieftain in the 173os, employed a paramilitary organization
that combined central authority with decentralized settlement. On the other hand,
Kopytoff notes, “by the 173os, the maroons in the east had coalesced into a kind of
cooperative federation in contrast.”97 One clear distinction, though, between the
Jamaican and Brazilian Blacks was the presence of “obeah men and women, magical
practitioners” among the Windward and Leeward maroons.
To the masters Obeah was simply witchcraft, detested both for its secrecy and its
alleged skills in the poisoning of enemies. Even to blacks once assimilated, Obeah
assumed a sinister aura because of its association with the casting of spells to cause
harm as well as good. To the unassimilated, on the other hand, Obeah was both a
genuine religion and a potent source of medicine. Obeah (like the Haitian Voodoo,
or the Jamaican variant, Myalism, or Trinidadian Shango) sought ritualistic links
with the spirit world beyond the shadows and the sacred trees, providing a mystical
sense of continuity between the living, the dead, and those yet to be born.98
In Palmares, in keeping with the cosmologies of Congolese and Angolan societies,
magicians had been banned as inimical to the king’s authority.99 Among those peoples it was most often the case that legitimacy of authority and the very existence of
social order were concomitants to the eradication of sorcery and witchcraft.loO In the
British West Indies, the elimination of obeah had become an official preocc~pation.’~~
And for good reason. Obeah men and women were frequently the source of ideology
for the slave rebellions:
[Olbeah functioned largely in the numerous rebellions of the slaves. This was
particularly the case with the obeah-men from the Gold Coast. . . . In the plotting
of these rebellions the obeah-man was essential in administering oaths of secrecy,
and, in cases, distributing fetishes which were supposed to immunize the insurgents from the arms of the whites.Io2
As it happened, obeah proved to be more resilient than its opponents. Indeed, it was
never extinguished. It continued its mutational adaptation and development in Jamaica (and elsewhere) over the centuries, successively manifesting itself in the societies of Myalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Pocomania movement of the late nineteenth, and the Rastafarians of the present.Io3 As we shall see, as it
was with obeah, it was also the case with marronage.
Returning to the seventeenth century, the palenques, mocambos, quilombos, and
maroon settlements that found sometimes tenuous, sometimes permanent existences
in Mexico, Brazil, and Jamaica were replicated throughout the Spanish territories and
the newer colonial possessions marking the expansions of British, French, and Dutch
merchant, agrarian, and bureaucratic interests. In Colombia, near the city of Cartagena, a palenque known as San Basilio was founded at the beginning of the century.
Earlier, in 1529 and 1550, revolts had occurred on the coast of this largely gold-, sugar-,
and cacao-producing colony. But as the extractive industries moved further into the
interior and Colombia’s demand for labor had made it a major importer of Africans
(2oo,ooo), revolts and the establishment of refugee settlements became more frequent. Nevertheless, Aguiles Escalante tells us:
The most vigorous insurrectionist movement on the Caribbean coast of Colombia
occurred in Cartagena de Indias at the beginning of the seventeenth century during
the administration of Jeronimo de Sanzo Casarola. . . . The fiery and daring
Domingo Bioho was the first slave to revolt publicly. Claiming to have been king of
an African state, he plunged himself with thirty Negro men and women into the
forests and the marshy areas of Matuna (south of the town of Tolu). . . . Domingo,
now known as “King Benkos” . . . put an end to the period of colonial tranquility in
Cartagena, Tolu, Mompos, Tenerife, and so forth, by assaulting and robbing plantations, cattle ranches, cultivated farms . . . even canoes carrying fellow Negroes
who had been sent to fell large trees for lumber.104
Numerous expeditions against San Basilio failed and in 1612 and 1613, a treaty that
included amnesty was offered by the governor, Diego Fernandez de Valesco. Many of
the palenqueros accepted the terms, which included the abandonment of the settlement. But in 1619, when another major slave revolt occurred in Cartegena, Rout
maintains the occasion was seized by a subsequent governor to mete out what he took
to be a too-long deferred revenge on the ex-rebels.’05 Escalante, however, insists:
“Governor Garcia Giron . . . uncovered a new plot by Benkos and captured him, and
finally had him hanged.”Io6 Still, descendants of the San Basilio palenque were to be
encountered in the hinterlands as late as 1790.’~~ Not until the very last years of the
seventeenth century (1696) did the last of the period’s major slave rebellions in
Colombia take place.
In Venezuela, the settlement of Nirgua, which Baron de Humboldt apparently with
some cynicism referred to as the “Republic of Zambos and Mulattoes:’ was founded in
similar circumstances in 1601.1°8 AS such, it was in a direct line of descent from the
rebellions that began in the colony in 1532 and again in 1555 with the establishment of
the Buria palenque associated with “King Mig~el.”~~~ Venezuela, whose economy was
a close replica of that of Colombia, would historically absorb a little more than half
the number of slaves (121,000). However, for almost 300 years, Venezuela’s Spanish
settlements would have visited upon them the combined vengeance of Blacks, mulattos, Indians, and zambos. In its highlands and valleys, which became the sites for
rebellious cumbes, the social bases of liberation movements became increasingly
miscegenous after the seventeenth century. The same could be said of the towns that
developed in close approximation to its ports and inland markets. In the countryside,
the forming peasantry became anarchic. As far as is known, no vision of an African
state was ever associated with the flights or rebellions recorded in Venezuela. In the
towns, something more akin to class wars became the rule, pitting free Blacks, slaves,
poor whites, mulattos, zambos, and sometimes ladino Indians against the Spanish
ruling class. Perhaps another consequence of the deracination of Blacks and Indians
was that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Venezuela obtained a level of
violence in its rebellions and reactions that was barely matched elsewhere in the slave
Finally, in the British and French Guianas and Dutch Suriname, there occurred the
most extraordinary instances of marronage, the formation of what in the literature is
rightly referred to as the “Bush Negro tribes.” These people-the Saramaka, Matawai,
Kwinti, and the Djuka, Aluku, and Paramaka-constitute the most enduring and
oldest examples of continuous marronage.l10 They are a people who, in the instance
of Suriname, could be until quite recently in this century described as constituting “a
state within a state.” Their history, too, begins in the seventeenth century, somewhere
near its second quarter. Richard Price, one of the best informed students of these
communities, has observed:
For some 300 years, the Guianas have been the classic setting for maroon communities. Though local maroons in French and British Guiana were wiped out by
the end of the eighteenth century, the maroons of Suriname, known as “Bush
Negroes,” have long been the Hemisphere’s largest maroon population. Except
perhaps for Haiti, these have been the most highly developed independent societies
and cultures in the history of Afro-America.ll1
Though the ancestries of these peoples are to be traced to the Windward, Gold, and
Slave Coasts and to LoangoIAngola, they fought and achieved a new identity: Bush
Negro. That past demands attention.
The conditions that produced the maroon communities and ultimately the genesis
of new peoples in the Guianas and Suriname were a product of a slave system in
extremis. Its most important characteristic was that for African labor Suriname
became the most lethal colony in the New World. As Price remarks: “The most
striking feature of Suriname’s demographic history is the extraordinary cost of its
slave system in human lives.” And R. D. Simons exclaimed: “[Wle have seen some
plantations swallow as many as four slave complements in a period of twenty-five
years.”l12 The Dutch West Indies Companies and their successors were hard pressed to
supply and resupply the colony’s need for fresh African workers. Suriname’s laboring
population, then, was constantly being revitalized biologically and, as it turns out,
culturally. In a colony where the ratio of Blacks to whites became as high as 25:1 (in the
eighteenth century), and whose population maintained fewer than lo percent Creoles
for the first century, where labor was concentrated on large sugar, coffee, cacao, and
then cotton plantations, Price seems entirely justified in asserting that “inter-African
‘syncretism’ . . . was almost everywhere the central process.”l13
We can assert with some confidence, then, that within the earliest decades of the
African presence in Suriname, the core of a new language and a new religion had
been developed; and the subsequent century of massive new importations from
Africa apparently had the effect merely of leading to secondary elaborations.l14
It was not long before the rain forests that boldly defined the limits of cultivable land
became the bounds for a resistance of an entirely different sort.
Marronage, of course, was a concomitant of slavery. Brutality was as much a raison
d’Ctre of the former as it was a condition of the latter. The English colonization of
Suriname was of short duration (1651-67), but even before the Dutch invasion of the
colony and the Treaty of Breda (1667), which formally ceded it to them, maroons had
appeared. l5
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the maroon population was estimated
to have reached 5000 to 6000 . . . clearly an inflated figure, but indicative of the fear
in which the colonists held the rebels.l16
Extraordinary rewards were posted for the hunters of the liberationists, but even
more remarkable are the “rewards” that became customary for maroons. Price cites
an early (1718) contemporary report:
If a slave runs away into the forest in order to evade work for a few weeks, upon his
being captured his Achilles tendon is removed for the first offense, while for a
second offense, if he wishes to increase the punishment, his right leg is amputated
in order to stop him from running away; I myself was a witness to slaves being
punished thus.l17
Others were whipped to death with what was called the Spaanse bok (Spanish whip),
or quartered alive, burned alive, decapitated, impaled with a meathook, or broken on
scaffolds. Price argues that the multiplicity of travelers’ accounts and local reports
attesting to the “unusual brutality” of the Suriname planters of both Dutch and
Portuguese Jewish origins fully substantiate that such practices were neither isolated
nor unofficial: “the colony’s judiciary was often as brutal as the individual planter~.””~ The report of the English mercenary, Captain J. G. Stedrnan, Narrative, of a
Five-Years’ Expedition, Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana, on the Wild
Coast of South America; from the Year 1772, to 1777 (1796), is a classic and authentic
account of’a starkly brutal slave society. Price concludes:
All in all, the excesses of colonial Suriname-in terms of both the brutality and the
luxury amid which the planters lived-must be constantly kept in mind in building
toward some understanding of the slaves’ response.l19
Thus were the beginnings of the Bush Negroes of that land, the oldest being the
Saramaka people. And at the end of the eighteenth century, after more than five
decades of intensive warfare, they achieved a formal peace.120 But perhaps the last
word should be from one of their own. In 1885, Johannes King recalled from the oral
traditions of his people:
The story of how our forefathers honored God and their early ancestors when they
came to receive the presents [presented by the government to the Bush Negroes as
confirmation of peace treaties] and then returned to their villages:
When they got back safely to their villages, they fired many salutes for the people
who had waited at home. These people came to the bank of the river singing, to
escort them to shore. They played drums, danced, blew African trumpets, and
sang, danced and celebrated the whole afternoon until nighttime and the whole
night until morning. . . . And they played drums so! When they were finished, they
would bring a bush drink that they made from sugar cane juice, and which is called
bush rum. They would pour a libation on the ground. That was in order to give
thanks to God and the ancestors. After that they would play for the obeahs and for
the other gods who had helped them fight.121
The struggle that had begun in the seventeenth century had met its fruition among
these African peoples far from the land of their an~est0rs.l~~
Black Resistance in North America
And so the litany of rebellions and marronage continued into the eighteenth century;
in the Guianas of Berbice, Essequibo, and Demerara in the 1730s and 1760s; in Jamaica
in the 1780s; in Cuba in the 1780s; in Venezuela in the 1730s and 1780s.’~~ AS the
capitalist strata of western Europe achieved political, social, and ideological maturity,
their jockeying for hegemony over the world system reduced African labor in its
homelands and in the New World peripheries to pawns of power.124 State banditry, as
E. P. Thompson named it, became the modus operandi that weeded out the landed
nobilities and integrated their survivors with the rising bourgeoisies.125 Intensive
exploitation of labor became the basis for purchasing new sortings of intra-European
d0minati0n.l~~ In the overseas territories, in the slave societies of Cuba, Brazil, North
America, Jamaica, and Haiti, restive colonial elites amassed wealth but envisioned
how much greater and diverse that wealth could become without the parasitism and
restraints of state and trade imposed by the dominant orders in the mother countries.
For these “ruling” elites, too, enslaved African labor, that is its super-exploitation,

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