Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 February 2022
Between 1808 and 1830, as new coffee plantations developed in Santiago, private actors and local state authorities realized that they did not have the means to coercively control the unprecedented number of enslaved people working in the jurisdiction. Instead, they prudently turned to cooptation. They encouraged the formation of dense familial networks between enslaved people working on coffee estates and between enslaved and free people of color, as well as the distribution of local militia responsibilities to the free Afro-descendant peasant class, who in El Cobre were even given government roles. Although Santiago’s enslaved and free people of African descent would draw inspiration from liberalism and seek to exploit the local elites’ fears of it, they were far more successful at eliciting prerogatives through long-established colonial frameworks: prudential policies that allowed for some redistribution of rights and resources against birth status hierarchies.