In 1686 a man named Blas de Horta tried to convince a court in Quito that he was not an Indian. He did not summon his parents. Instead he produced a witness who swore that he always wore Spanish dress.
In colonial Spanish America racial identity did not reside solely, or sometimes even at all, in physical appearance. Racial identities were profoundly social—a performance—and for both elites and plebeians, clothing played an important role in this process.
I’ve written a number of articles about the connections between clothing, race, and identity in the colonial world. Some of these also look at legislation (sumptuary laws) that tried to regulate who could wear what.
Carmelo Fernández, ‘Tejedoras i mercaderas de sombrero nacuma en Bucaramanga’ [‘Weavers and Sellers of Nacuma Hats in Bucaramanga’],1850, National Library of Colombia
All Relevant Publications
|2021||Journalism and Interviews||Article||Why Spanish Colonial Officials Feared the Power of Clothing||Psyche||Link|
|2019||Scholarship||Book Chapter||Sumptuary Laws in the Early Modern Hispanic World in The Right to Dress: Sumptuary Legislation in Comparative and Global Perspective||Cambridge University Press||Link|
|2016||Scholarship||Journal Article||The Pleasures of Taxonomy: Casta Paintings, Classification and Colonialism||William & Mary Quarterly 73:3||Link|
|2010||Scholarship||Book Chapter||Clothing and Ethnicity in Colonial Spanish America’ in The Fashion History Reader: Global Perspectives||Routledge||Link|
|2007||Scholarship||Book Chapter||Nationalism and National Costume in Spanish America in The Politics of Dress in Asia and the Americas||Sussex Academic Press||Link|
|2003||Scholarship||Book Chapter||Luxury, Clothing and Race in Colonial Spanish America in Luxury in the Eighteenth Century: Debates, Desires and Delectable Good||Palgrave||Link|
|2001||Scholarship||Journal Article||'Two Pairs of Pink Satin Shoes!!’: Clothing, Race and Identity in the Americas, 17th-19th Centuries||History Workshop Journal 52||Link|
Relevant Blog Posts