Nancy E. van Deusen is Professor of History at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. She is the author of
In the quest of Castilian slave owners to identify the imperial (i.e., Spanish vs. Portuguese) and geographical origins of indio litigants, witnesses and litigants navigated physiognomic identity markers and other criteria, including markings and language, which ultimately helped determine whether the indigenous litigants would become free vassals of the Spanish Crown. Identification was a subjective art that depended upon the cultural experiences of witnesses and on their motives, as well as the presence of other slaves, including Brazilians, West Africans, and South and East Asians living in Castilian towns and villages. The use of physiognomic markers and descriptors to identify indios was also central to how arguments about place of origin or enslaveability were being made.