The copious amount of racial mixing in Colonial Mexico first became corporeal to Colonial Powers with the emergence of casta paintings during the 18th century. These paintings, which represented scenes from everyday life, documented the different racial mixtures found in Colonial Mexico at this time, and began a system of race classification and designation based on arbitrary characteristics commonly associated with certain lineages. Although most of the terminology used to represent the different racial mixtures was not used on a daily basis, it still promoted the conjecture that Spanish or White blood was redeemable while Black blood was an abomination. As these lineages evolved throughout the 18th century, the laws governing society became more complex and limiting (socially as well as economically) for the lower castes of Colonial Mexico in an attempt to control. These laws include, but were not limited to, marriage, tax payments, and occupation.
The production of casta paintings can be broken up into two periods, early 18th & late 18th century. In examining the iconography and symbolism from two sets of casta paintings, one from the early period and one from the later period, this presentation will examine the ways in which these “racial classifications” were artificially constructed by the elite ruling powers. In addition, it will explore the premise that these paintings showcased the splendors and prosperity of a blooming nation through their display of food products, flora, and fauna from Colonial Mexico; in a very similar way to the objects found in Dutch still life paintings.
A’Mire Gates, ’09 Chicago, IL
Sponsors: Sarah Clunis and Christina McOmber