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7 - Caribbean Defenses, the Free-Black Militia, and Regional Consciousness

from Part II - The Caribbean in Veracruz

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2023

Joseph M. H. Clark
Affiliation:
University of Kentucky
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Summary

Chapter 7 investigates Veracruz’s function as a military bulwark of the Spanish Caribbean, focusing on the role of the free-black militia in the defense of the port. In the second half of the seventeenth century, territorial losses in Jamaica and Hispaniola and frequent attacks on its ships and ports forced Spain to reconsider its strategic priorities. Setting aside earlier fears of arming men of African descent, Spanish ports turned to free-black militias to fulfill the duties of defense. In Veracruz, free-black militia service was formalized in 1669, when militiamen received relief from an unpopular tribute tax. Remarkably, in their petition for tribute relief, Veracruz’s free-black militia cited precedents in Havana, Cartagena, Santo Domingo, and Campeche, manifesting an explicit articulation of a Mexican-Caribbean regional identity. Over the next thirty years, tribute relief for militia service was extended to free-black men in other Gulf Coast cities, but did not reach militias in the interior until the middle of the eighteenth century. The uneven use of tribute relief thus reinforced regional variations in colonial status systems.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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