History
In this royal decree sent by Philip IV to Cuba's governor, the king responds to a petition made by black freemen in Cuba. On this island, not all blacks were slaves, and from the 16th century onward, free blacks (morenos) formed a significant percentage of the island's black population, particularly in cities like Havana. While free blacks spoke Spanish and shared a similar culture with poor white residents, their skin color defined their lives. For instance, morenos faced legal limits on their professions. This excerpt suggests that in the face of legalized discrimination, morenos shared a sense of solidarity, joining to petition the king with the aim of protecting the honor of some black freewomen.
Visual Culture
In cities across Spanish America, authorities expected most members of society to participate in public celebrations. The feast of Corpus Christi mentioned here, for example, was an opportunity to visually display one's affiliation to the church. In this excerpt, religious expectations collided with social ones: free black men, like their Spanish counterparts, did not want their wives be put into situations, like public dances, where they might be compromised. Not stated here, although certainly part of the issue, was the expectation among white Cubans that black women were sexually available; for black women who were married or in religious institutions, staying out of public view may have been the surest way to protect their honor.






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