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Culture, Ethnicity, and Race: what is it? - 2019

In the early s, castas attempted to participate in activities reserved for Whites, including graduation from universities and ordination to the priesthood. Only a very small number of castas enjoyed these perquisites, but the Crown enacted decrees in the s putting a stop to such practices. Crises in the Spanish Empire and occupational scarcity opened paths for further mobility in the s.

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Castas petitioned for occupational exemptions: in Cuba, a pardo petitioning to practice as a surgeon had the defect of pardoness erased; and in Panama, a pardo petitioner applied to become a notary. Both were successful and, in the latter case, the Crown attorney recommended that dispensations could be purchased for pardoness, setting a precedent for the implementation of the whitening gracias al sacar petitions. However, there were no guidelines for whitening applications or for established policy on what whitening meant.

Initial whitening applications in the s and s were unsuccessful, but when elites in Caracas learned of an application in it prompted concerns that the erasure of pardoness would undermine the established class structure. Once the gracias al sacar was finally enacted in , Caracas elites defended their interests more aggressively than anywhere else in the Americas.

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In order to become white, petitioners had to demonstrate white appearance, social acceptability, and royal service. Disagreements emerged over who and what constituted the base population of the Americas; did the castas count? Vigorous debates ensued and the final decision excluded the castas from citizenship. This is an ambitious book.

Purchasing Whiteness: Pardos, Mulattos, and the Quest for Social Mobility in the Spanish Indies

Twinam is the first to have described why the gracias al sacar appeared and what it meant. In the early s, castas attempted to participate in activities reserved for Whites, including graduation from universities and ordination to the priesthood. Only a very small number of castas enjoyed these perquisites, but the Crown enacted decrees in the s putting a stop to such practices. Crises in the Spanish Empire and occupational scarcity opened paths for further mobility in the s.

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Castas petitioned for occupational exemptions: in Cuba, a pardo petitioning to practice as a surgeon had the defect of pardoness erased; and in Panama, a pardo petitioner applied to become a notary. Both were successful and, in the latter case, the Crown attorney recommended that dispensations could be purchased for pardoness, setting a precedent for the implementation of the whitening gracias al sacar petitions.

However, there were no guidelines for whitening applications or for established policy on what whitening meant. Initial whitening applications in the s and s were unsuccessful, but when elites in Caracas learned of an application in it prompted concerns that the erasure of pardoness would undermine the established class structure. Once the gracias al sacar was finally enacted in , Caracas elites defended their interests more aggressively than anywhere else in the Americas.

Pardos, Mulattos, and the Quest for Social Mobility in the Spanish Indies

In order to become white, petitioners had to demonstrate white appearance, social acceptability, and royal service. Disagreements emerged over who and what constituted the base population of the Americas; did the castas count?


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Vigorous debates ensued and the final decision excluded the castas from citizenship. This is an ambitious book. Twinam is the first to have described why the gracias al sacar appeared and what it meant.