5451 - Black Peasants and the Extraction of Natural Resources in the Jungles of Colombia¿s Pacific Coast, 1850-1930

This presentation explains the workings of a post-slavery peasant society in a jungle area that came to be identified as the black region of Colombia. In the eighteenth century, slaves in the jungles of the Pacific coast produced the bulk of New Granada’s gold exports. The transition from colony to republic here was associated with emancipation and economic decline. The late-nineteenth-century export-led growth diversified an impoverished economy by adding new natural resources – rubber (1850-1875), tagua (1870-1930) and platinum (1915-1930) – to the gold extracted to meet world market demand. This process was accompanied by the emergence of a black peasantry with free access to forest products and that mined precious metals through independent labor arrangements (in abandoned, rented, or their own mines). Black peasants sold these products to a tiny white local elite who exported them. This predominantly black society developed at the same time that a racial ideology marked the way national and regional elites made sense of their world. In this context, the Pacific coastal area became the black region in the racialized geography of Colombia.

Keywords: Extraction, rainforests, black peasants

Author: Leal, Claudia (Rachel Carson Center, Munich, and Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia / Kolumbien)


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