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Nharas and Morenas Horras: A Luso-African Model for the Social History of the Spanish Caribbean, c. 1570-1640

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Drawing on little-used archival materials held in Seville’s Archive of the Indies and ecclesiastical records from the Cathedral of Havana, this article argues that free African and African-descended women participated in Spain’s colonization of the Caribbean to a degree that has not been fully recognized. Regularly described as vecinas (heads of household) and as spouses to Iberian men in key port cities, free women of color played active roles in the formation and maintenance of Spanish Caribbean society during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, not as peripheral or marginalized figures, but as non-elite insiders who pursued their own best interests and those of their families and associates.

Affiliations: 1: Michigan State University

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