Cultural development:

Augustin de Vetancurt, a Mexican Franciscan (an order of Catholic priests, monks and nuns), laying the foundations of Creole nationalism argued, in 1696, that the New world was superior to the Old world in natural beauty and resources.

Imaginatively, he suggested, that Peru and New Spain (Mexico) were the twin breasts from which Europe was nourished by milk in the form of gold and silver.

By 1800 the population of Spanish America was estimated at 17 million people as compared to Britain's Colonies in North America with less than 3 million inhabitants.

Octavio Paz on Mexican identity and the Mexican/United States rivalry.

Juno Diaz on The Dominican Reublic and diaspora.

W. E. B. Dubois on The Negro and African culture in the West Indies,

Jamaica Kincaid on Antigua.

Important Dates

Question | Crosby | Mintz | Paz | Diaz | Keen and Haynes | Greene | Kincaid


What we eat, what we award and what we celebrate in one another are each distinct windows on the edifice of culture.

Culture is an arbiter of biological inheritance because it may be defined as all of the acquired traits that population's pass on to their offspring. Culture includes, but is not restricted to language, diet, faith, rituals, institutions, gender roles, legal codes, customs, means of earning a living, patterns of habitation, widespread habits, technical proficiency, techniques and arts.

Crosby | Mintz | Paz | Diaz


What is the relation between culture, your cultural heritage and your ethnic identity?



slavery played as important a role in the social organization of Brazil as race mixture did in its ethnic makeup."

p. 131, Keen and Haynes.



What is called ethnic heritage influences how people satisfy their tastes and their heed for nourishment. While food, fuel, fiber and forage may be biological products selecting those particular products becomes a mixture of cultural inheritance, ethnic determinations of taste, and social opportunities to


Regardless of the capacity for cultivation and the means used to augment crops, such as the Arab ability to harness irrigation in arid lands, taste plays a role in what we consume as food. What we eat determines the land use patterns, labor relations and commercial patterns of existence for enormous numbers of people, and slavery is no exception to this pattern.


What we award in terms of behavior and enterprise is an indication of the expected conditions that thrive that also partially determine the commercial and labor relations that emerge out of our natural systems of landscape, watershed and atmosphere.


What we celebrate is at once a personal trait and a potential for joining personal behavior to common patterns of feasting, ritual observances or social ceremonies.



Alfred Crosby argues that population is related to the agricultural, natural, or genetic and biological conditions of a place and that these shape the intended habits of cultures as well as the unintended consequences of human biological situations. Culture emerges as a set of acquired traits that are dependent upon, extended from or attached to underlying inherited conditions of humans, in concert with plants animals and the entire living creatures of particular places.


Germs, Seeds and Animals.

Sidney Mintz sees in the production, consumption and marketing of everyday commodities, like sugar largely reflect the prevailing tastes, attitudes and feelings people have which greatly influenced social customs, behavior and beliefs.



Sweetness and Power

Keen and Haynes

Masters and Slaves

"Race mixture played a decisive role in the formation of the Brazilian people."

"Slavery corrupted both master and slave, fostered harmful attitudes with respect to the dignity of labor, and distorted the economic development of Brazil"


The great majority of slaves worked on sugar and tobacco plantations"


"Even in the few large cities like Bahia and Rio, the dominant social group was composed of fazenderos and sugar mill owners. These men often left the supervision of their estates to majordomos and overseers, preferring the pleasures of the bustle of the cities to the dreary routines of the countryside."

p. 133.

From 1713 to 1832 the question of slavery grew in Britain from one of an exclusive monopoly in trade with the Spanish Antilles to an eventual enforcement of a cessation of the Atlantic Slave trade that was outlawed in the early 1800s.

1713, Treaty of Utrecht and the asiento: "The South Sea Company was granted the exclusive right to supply slaves to Spanish America." As well as an annual supply fleet to the annual fair at Portobello.

1739, reorganization of the viceroyalty of Peru and creation of the viceroyalty of New Grenada comprised of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, headquarters in Santa Fe (Bogotâ) in part to protect the Caribbean coast from Dutch and British privateers.

In 1765, commerce with the West Indies was thrown open to seven other ports besides Cadiz and Seville, this reform coming at the time when the Cuban sugar production was beginning to expand, gave a sharp stimulus to the Island's economy.

After 1770 coffee, grown in Venezuela and Cuba, joined cacao and sugar as a major export crop of the Caribbean area.

1785-87, famine in Central Mexico

1789 trade was thrown open in Venezuela and Mexico for all Spanish towns as part of an effort to promote unrestricted trade. Within ten years 1778-1788 trade increased by 700 percent.


1790, still by this year 85% of all trade from Spain with the Caribbean flowed through Cadiz.

The marked upsurge in export wealth of the Caribbean and Mexico, led by 1800 to rising unrest among the Mestizo and Creole populations of the Americas, at a time when the French Revolution and Haitian Revolt arguably set the stage for revolution in Mexico, if not in the Spanish sugar and spice islands.


Octavio Paz believes that nations and people pass through critically defining moments in their collective and individual lives that redefine their culture because these events cause us to question our deepest values and motives.

The 18th and 19th centuries were such a period for Spanish America,

Population Estimates, for 1810.

Percent numbers categories
Indians (Indigenes)
Whites (Creoles and Euros)
African-Americans (Cumbes)
Mestizos & Mulattos


By the end of the colonial period (1810-1820) "An individual's race, in short, now tended to be defined not by skin color, but by such traits as occupation, dress, speech and self perception."

p. 154.


Cultural landscape

Question | Crosby | Mintz | Paz | Keen and Haynes | Greene | Kincaid


Study Guide

veracity of statements

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