Although the characteristics of slaveholding in colonial Peru have been thoroughly examined in the recent work of Frederick P. Bowser,1 demographic research on selected slave communities is nonexistent. Data for such research are difficult to come by. Sources hitherto unexamined are the records of haciendas owned by religious institutions. These institutions maintained permanent chaplains and churches for their slave communities and so kept baptismal and burial records exclusively for slaves.

The following presentation uses these records in order to establish a relationship between demographic changes and the socioeconomic aspects of slave life in eighteenth-century Peru. The continuities and changes occurring between the time span examined by Bowser (1524-1650) and that of the present study (1714-1767) will be pointed out. Bowser is concerned principally with slaves on estates and haciendas owned by laymen whereas the following article treats slaves on Jesuit-owned haciendas of coastal Peru. Points made about slaves on Jesuit properties cannot be automatically applied to slaves on lay estates since peculiar circumstances in Jesuit slaveholding dictated a mode of action unlikely to be exactly duplicated elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is important to see how far the data for eighteenth-century Jesuit slaves contrasts with or confirms Bowser’s data for a century previous.

The central points of this article, continuity and change in Peruvian slaveholding practices and socioeconomic influences on demography, are closely related. Population change in itself is seldom informative. It becomes meaningful only when related to the social and economic aspects of a community.2 However, to draw this relationship is difficult. Specific relationships between socioeconomic conditions and individual births and deaths can rarely be found, and hardly with enough regularity to be statistically meaningful. For colonial Peru the demographic data can only be related in a general way to socioeconomic conditions. But even this is helpful and informative, although perhaps not to the degree that one would wish.

On the largest haciendas owned by Jesuit colleges in colonial Peru the stable labor force was composed of black slaves.3 Each college supported itself by a variety of economic activities involving rural and urban real estate, wholesale and retail transactions in farm and cattle-related products, and international investment; but by far the most substantial portion of their incomes was derived from sugar plantations, vineyards, and cattle ranches. As the colleges grew through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries both numerically and physically, a proportionate rise in income was needed, and greater hacienda production demanded a greater labor force. By the time of the expulsion of the Society of Jesus from Spanish America in 1767 the colleges were ranked among the largest slaveholders in America.4

By the end of the seventeenth century the Peruvian coastal valleys were dotted with haciendas owned by eleven colleges of the Society of Jesus.5 The Jesuit cattle ranches and wheat farms were clustered for the most part in the sierra around Cuzco. The decline of the coastal Indian population and forced Indian labor for the mines of Potosí and Huancavelica left the coastal enterprises to rely on the black slave.6 Jesuit coastal haciendas drew their slaves from four principal sources: local slave markets offering blacks brought from Buenos Aires and Córdoba; the official asentista who unloaded his cargo in Callao; the adjacent haciendas and homes, which put up for sale slaves unwanted for one reason or another; and finally, the most imaginative source, a Jesuit agent in Panama who bought them relatively cheaply and exclusively for Jesuit haciendas. The purchasing hacienda or province usually dispatched someone to Panama or Cartagena to accompany these slaves to Peru.7 Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the number of slaves on Jesuit coastal haciendas grew considerably, as Table I shows.

The increase of slaves on Jesuit haciendas, especially between 1660 and 1710, was neither coincidental nor due to the investment of hacienda profits. It occurred precisely because the haciendas had not been producing the desired profit, that is, a few shades above the amount necessary to provide the running expenses of the owner institution. Between roughly 1630 and 1650 the Jesuit colleges of Peru had incurred various debts, which in 1638 reached the staggering sum of 1,213,911 pesos.8 A crisis point was reached with the acquisition of the hacienda of Villa in 1632. This purchase, made by the province of Peru’s business manager (procurador general), was supposed to solve the economic problems of the colleges, but the result was exactly the opposite. The purchase price was 70,000 pesos (60,000 pesos down, 10,000 pesos on mortgage),9 but by the time the administrator put the hacienda in operating condition, with 97 slaves, oxen, kitchen, slave quarters, houses, sugar mill, and even a small library, he had spent 294,943 pesos.10 This caused a flurry of letters to the Jesuit superiors in Rome accusing the province’s business manager of deliberately ruining the province.11 The Superior General in Rome, Mucio Vitelleschi, put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Jesuits in Peru, criticizing them for opening too many colleges and acquiring too many useless haciendas.12 The solution he suggested was for the colleges to get rid of time-consuming and poorly productive haciendas and concentrate on developing a few, well-administered estates that would assure a regular income, while at the same time drastically reducing unnecessary building construction.13

It was due to this reorganization of haciendas that the number of slaves increased. At the outset the money for purchasing slaves was often borrowed at high rates of interest, but as the end of the century approached, haciendas were able to set aside a specific sum each year for the purchase of slaves. Not all haciendas could do this, but most did, preferring a short-term reduction in income in order to produce what was expected to be a future gain. It worked. By 1713 the total debt of the colleges was still a high 1,247,289 pesos, on which 5 percent interest annually was paid, but the total yearly income amounted to 346,474 pesos after expenditures, and in addition the colleges held 671,443 pesos in censos for which they were receiving 5 percent interest.14 The financial situation was so improved that the Peruvian Jesuit who wrote the triennial economic report noted that the colleges could soon pay off their debts, and the province could support up to 600 Jesuits.15 This favorable financial picture was principally the result of increased slaveholding.

The increase in the number of slaves purchased was accompanied by a corresponding increase in the cost of maintaining them.16 Food, clothing, housing, and health were monthly items entered into hacienda account books. The type of food given to black slaves varied little between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Corn remained the staple of the black man’s diet, along with bread, fish, potatoes, and small servings of meat.17 Jesuit haciendas tried to acquire nearby farms on which to raise com and beans. One of the largest of these farms was the Chacarita of Santa Rosa, which belonged to the Bocanegra hacienda. It was eight-and-a-half fanegadas in size and was devoted exclusively to raising frijoles and com for the hacienda slaves.18 Belén in the Iea Valley also had a corn farm. These farms were worked in common by slaves, or rented to individuals who delivered a fixed amount of produce to the hacienda. They were not parcelled out to individual slave “owners,” as frequently occurred on similar farms in Argentina.19 However, the farms usually did not produce enough to feed the slave population, so weekly purchases of potatoes, beans, corn, butter, and monthly purchases of cattle on the hoof had to be made.20 Between 1762 and 1766 the four haciendas of Huaura, Huaca, San Juan, and San Javier averaged 1778 pesos yearly for food purchased for slaves.21 The slave populations of these haciendas varied during this four-year period, from 170 for San Juan to about 300 for Huaura. The average population was approximately 240 slaves, which meant a paltry 7.4 pesos was expended yearly for each. It is evident that by this time the haciendas had largely become self-sufficient, at least as regards food for slaves.

A number of haciendas also had satellite estates, where cattle were raised for the slave population of a hacienda. The estancia of Ambar owned by the Huaura sugar hacienda, also called San Juan de la Pampa and the Ingenio de la Huaura, contributed monthly supplies of cattle to the hacienda. More often than not, however, cattle were simply purchased for hacienda consumption. For example, Villa paid 104 pesos for eleven steers in June 1757; in 1761 Caucato paid 235 pesos for 220 sheep and 67 pesos for 38 calves, while, between 1742 and 1752, Bocanegra paid an average of 80 pesos monthly for cattle.22 What do these figures mean in terms of human consumption? If we take Bocanegra as an example, with seven steers a month for 235 slaves, each animal providing about 300 portions, it follows that each slave had meat about seven times a month. This ration was not too far removed from the instructions obliging administrators to provide a portion of meat once a week for workers.23 Lamb or jerked beef was to be given only if cows or steers were not available.

Material for clothing was another regular expense item. The Hacienda of Caucato paid 740 pesos for clothing in 1761 and 646 pesos the following year. The ordinary material distributed was a kind of flannel called bayeta, which served for dresses, shirts, and trousers. A new set of clothes, or the equivalent, was to be given to each slave every year, but there is no way of knowing whether this precept was fulfilled on all haciendas. Between 1762 and 1766 the four haciendas of Huaura, Huaca, San Juan, and San Javier averaged 1243 pesos yearly for the purchase of clothing for slaves.24

It seems clear that there was a marked difference between Jesuit and lay slaves in the matter of clothing. Bowser shows that slaveowners in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries tried to economize on clothing, “often barely meeting the requirements imposed by modesty and the climate.”25 Jesuit provincials who inspected the haciendas frequently reminded administrators to give each slave a new set of clothes at Christmas time. In Argentina clothing material was so expensive that the Jesuit college of Córdoba operated an obraje exclusively for the slaves (961 in the year 1760) working on its estates. The Cajamarca obraje in Peru, rented by the Jesuits, likewise produced cheap clothing material, although not exclusively for slaves.26

The data on slave housing for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are skimpy.27 Since most slave populations were small, each slave or slave family lived in a small, rude hut. It is likely that as slave populations increased, a dormitory-type structure replaced individual huts. On Jesuit haciendas in the eighteenth century the married couples (and common-law couples called amancebados) occupied quarters separate from the unmarrieds, and the latter were divided according to sex. Each large room of the slaves’ quarters contained space for five or six platform beds. Slaves were locked up at night under the custody of an elder slave to prevent flight and, as the provincials’ instructions indicate, to hinder preor extramarital sexual activity.28 But apparently the lock and key was not totally effective, as the number of illegitimate births and self-inflicted abortions testify. As late as 1752 the administrator of the hacienda of Belén reported that a large number of unmarried slaves were cohabiting, and many who were not married contracted occasional and temporary sexual relationships.28 The solution suggested was the appointment of a resident chaplain. I have not come across any data suggesting the existence of an exploitative master-servant situation, but of course that is no proof that such situations never existed. Such data does exist for Jesuit estates in sixteenth-century Mexico and seventeenth-century Argentina and Paraguay. Precisely because of this it became a regular practice on Jesuit haciendas to rotate administrators and their assistants every two or three years, or even oftener if men were available.

If housing were a relatively minor problem, health was the major one. There was absolutely no defense against the all too frequent epidemics that swept through the countryside, and even less defense against natural disasters. One thinks immediately of the epidemics of 1581, 1590, 1719, and 1764, or the earthquakes of 1687 and 1746. These were countrywide. Just as devastating were the regional epidemics which claimed the lives of numerous slaves. In 1720 the hacienda of Pachachaca in the province of Abancay stopped sugar production because so many slaves were dying. The same occurred on all the haciendas of Huancavelica College in 1759, and in 1766 the death of 50 slaves seriously retarded sugar production on Vilcahuaura. In the earthquake of 1746 slave deaths on Bocanegra totalled 25.

It seems that throughout the colonial period health care on haciendas and estates was provided on an ad hoc basis.30 Lay haciendas could not afford the expense of permanent clinics or resident doctors. On the other hand, each of the Jesuit haciendas had an infirmary. The equipment and medicine was inadequate, but perhaps not by eighteenth-century American standards. The infirmary possessed a small collection of Spanish and local drugs, but improved food and a slightly higher degree of comfort were chiefly relied upon to effect cures. At least three haciendas had resident doctors who were usually only bloodletters. Francisco de Betancourt was the doctor on Vilcahuaura between 1726 and 1740, drawing a salary of 290 pesos a year, plus food and clothing. Vilcahuaura also had a nurse, whose main function was to assist the sick in the infirmary and act as midwife at births. But most haciendas did not have resident doctors or nurses and simply summoned them when needed. The few infirmary records and medical examinations I have seen reveal that slaves suffered from a wide variety of illnesses.31 One doctor visited the hacienda of Condor in Ica to examine a five-year-old male slave, whose right arm was without sensation. The doctor was unable to diagnose the defect, so the Jesuit chaplain, Dionisio de Rodas, taught the child how to play the harp and sing, which he eventually did alone at church services. Rodas regularly requested harp strings from the Jesuit purchasing office in Lima for the boy who was dubbed “el angelito de una ala.”32 Perhaps Rodas should also have taught the doctor how to play the harp, for it is hard to say whether these doctors were trained professionals or local quacks. The fact that Jesuit haciendas sent seriously ill slaves to the infirmary of San Pablo College in Lima, which possessed the finest collection of medicines in Peru, would seem to indicate the latter.

Slaves on haciendas needed all the energy their meager diets supplied, and they could use all the medical attention available, for their work was exhausting and the quality of their material lives was low. On Jesuit sugar haciendas the slaves arose on workdays in winter time (May-November) at 4:30 a.m. and in the summer (December-April) at 5:15 a.m.33 Preparation for the yearly planting of about fourteen fanegadas of cane usually began in June. The canals bringing water to the fields were cleaned and opened. The soil was plowed and harrowed three times, as well as minutely cleaned of herbs and growths. A final harrowing was done just before the December planting, which usually lasted about a month. At the end of the planting, the harvest of mature three-year-old cane began. All through the year the mill was active grinding harvested cane, producing molasses and loaves of sugar (panes de azúcar), which were continually being shipped to Lima by mule.34 The work-lives of the slaves, therefore, centered around planting-harvesting-refining. Work on the fields and in the mill ordinarily stopped at sundown, but work in the mill that had to be finished lest the molasses spoil was often continued in shifts well past midnight. The only work permitted on Sundays and holidays was grass cutting and housecleaning, as long as it did not exceed one hour. Besides work directly involving sugar production, other slaves were engaged in carpentry, shodding mules and caring for them, construction, and repair work. The work was highly systematized, both on plantations and vineyards, with young and old participating as far as their physical capacity permitted.

Although Bowser shows that poor diet, miserable living conditions, and harsh work meant an early grave for many slaves, one also gets the impression that slave life was neither rigidly spartan nor highly regimented.35 By contrast, one gets the impression that Jesuit slaves had a slightly higher degree of material comfort but were more highly regimented. If this were true, it must have produced a high degree of tension, discord, and friction, both within slave families and between them. The death records studied below list only two murders, but since the cause of death is rarely given, these records are inadequate as a measure of the rate of violence. Nor do they tell us anything about the crime that was committed. Slaves were referred to local magistrates for crimes committed on haciendas and whipping for minor offenses was done by mayordomos (stewards) or their assistants.

Corporal punishment was at the foundation of the master-slave relationship as long as slavery existed in Peru, and it was administered with frequency.36 I have not seen any detailed account of punishment of slaves in Peru, only a few limitations to and strict censures against a number of ghoulish practices, forbidden by provincials to be practiced on Jesuit haciendas. The provincial superiors ordered that minor infractions were to be punished with 25 lashes, and for theft or flight 50 were to be administered.37 Solitary confinement was not to exceed eight days, and it was forbidden to burn parts of a slave’s body with a candle. Jesuits were not to administer or attend punishment sessions. One cannot immediately presume that because certain practices were forbidden, they were never applied nor, by the same token, that they had been previously applied. I have the impression that they were applied on occasion, given the often crude background of some Jesuit administrators (many of whom had served in the Spanish army), similar practices on other haciendas in America, and the almost absolute authority enjoyed by white administrators and overseers, far from watchful humane eyes.38 Checking account books was not the only reason for the frequent visitation to Jesuit haciendas by provincials, as the memorials left after their visits eloquently testify.

It is difficult but not totally impossible to assess the reaction of slaves to their social position and role in Hispanic society. The inarticulate blacks of Peru did leave records, not written but in the form of crime, family behavior, and religious practices. A close examination of these could reveal a mentality thus far unknown.39

The crimes most frequently committed by slaves between 1560 and 1650 were running away, theft, assault, and murder.40 This hierarchy, in order of frequency, seems to have been the same in the eighteenth century. Flight was an obvious form of protest, and was resorted to with relative frequency on Jesuit haciendas in the eighteenth century. There are entries in account books for expenditures of 35 to 120 pesos for the recovery of slaves who had fled.41 I do not know whether the money went to professional slavecatchers or to the local police. Stealing from haciendas, another measurable form of protest, was widespread in Iea and Nasca. One group of slaves on the Jesuit hacienda in Iea owned by Huamanga College had organized a band of local Indians to distribute the wine and aguardiente they pilfered from the hacienda bodegas. They regularly entered the bodega at night through a hole in the roof and by a system of pulleys got their loot out the same way. The band was finally apprehended and some of the wine and aguardiente recovered in the houses of the local fences. As punishment the offending slaves were given 100 lashes each on the spot of the crime. The Indian fences were also given 100 lashes and, in addition, made to recompense the vineyard for all the missing wine and aguardiente.42 More examples could be cited.43

As Bowser points out, no slave revolt occurred in Peru between 1560 and 1650 and he attributes this to the fact that the blacks themselves were divided and the Spanish administration was vigilant and, for the most part, just.44 Likewise no violent protest ever took place on Jesuit haciendas in the eighteenth century. This was true for the same reasons mentioned above and, in addition, several factors inherent in Jesuit slaveholding decreased the potential for revolt. First, the unruly, disobedient, or potentially dangerous slave was quickly sold. Second, slaves never formed a coherent social class but were rather a divided, complex group. The only thing they had in common was their work, their habitat, and their dependence. The hierarchical social structure on Jesuit haciendas placed a handful of selected black elders and officials at the apex of the pyramid. They received for their work of administration and vigilance a number of petty privileges, such as better food and clothing, permission to ride horses, small amounts of money, and above all, the social distinction of a commanding voice in community affairs. Lower down the scale, the family structure was preserved and encouraged. Families were rarely divided. The families and the whole pyramid were cemented together by inculcating obedience to parents, elders, and officials as a virtue. The Spanish version of Roman Catholicism, particularly among the Jesuits, was especially sensitive to hierarchical obedience. The slaves were taught that their state was ordained by God himself, that their only duty was to obey their masters, and that their reward for this would come in heaven. By a twist of logic, therefore, any act of revolt was an offense against a God who was quick to chastise in the form of plagues and earthquakes.

Thus cowed, subservient, eminently docile, robbed of all initiative, and thrust into a world of strange social and economic values, the slave was little equipped to imagine revolt as a viable alternative. Future research may show how much individual relationships and the hacienda as a unit of organization contributed to the psychological stability of the slave. To what degree did close personal ties within the family and hacienda affect the acceptance of his condition?

All of the abovementioned elements—diet, clothing, working conditions, housing, disease, psychological state, and health care—were major factors influencing the life-span of the black slave. The following demographic data is taken from the baptismal and burial records for black slaves of four major Jesuit haciendas on coastal Peru. The time span is limited, 1714-1778, and the number of slaves relatively small, around 1200 individuals. Nevertheless, the rarity of such records demands that they be closely examined, although the conclusions that emerge are extremely tentative. Until more coastal slave communities are examined, these conclusions should be treated as a sample of trends.

There is little hard data available for determining the life-span of black slaves of rural Peru for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, one gets the impression from reports admittedly couched in the direst of terms that the death rates for urban and rural blacks were severe.45 On the four haciendas whose eighteenth-century baptismal and burial records I have examined, 45.3 percent of all recorded deaths were of children 15 years of age and under. The records reveal that 47.4 percent did not reach the age of 22. Totals are presented in Table II.

I have converted the number of baptisms and burials into number of births and deaths. There is little uncertainty about this facile conversion because contemporary Catholic practice demanded that all newborn children be baptized. On Jesuit haciendas this was done either immediately following birth, if the child were in danger of death, or within three weeks following the birth if the child were healthy.46 Slaves were almost always buried in the hacienda cemetery and those few who died outside the hacienda were listed in the hacienda burial records.

Setting aside additions by purchase, the slave populations changed in size through two simple processes: more slaves were added by birth, and existing slaves were removed through death.47 Epidemics were responsible for a large number of deaths on all of the haciendas. The data does not seem to suggest that increased fertility affected a rise in the death rate, thus contradicting the theory that increased fertility produces more children and that since more young children die than any other age group the result is an increased death rate. There is no discernable correlation here between increased births and a rise in deaths. It does occur in certain years but not often enough to have been a major factor.

One of the striking features of the totals is the relatively low fertility. The ratio between total births and deaths indicates an almost zero population growth. This ratio stands in sharp contrast to that of Cercado Parish in Lima. The parish, composed of blacks, mestizos, and Indians, registered 2332 births and 1187 deaths between 1711 and 1770, with an estimated total parish population of around 4500. Between 1582 and 1800 almost the same proportion was registered, 6291 births and 2938 deaths.48

The hacienda with the fewest slaves, San Juan, has proportionately the highest number of births. Unfortunately we do not know the number of married women on each hacienda and the number of children born to them, a figure that would help clarify the question of marital fertility. The contrast between the birth rates of San Juan and the other three haciendas is striking. They coincide only in the fact that each experienced overall declines between 1753 and 1769 and particular declines after the epidemic year of 1763. However, San Juan’s overall birth rate is much greater than the other three. The hacienda did not have better economic conditions, but the proportion of women in the optimum childbearing period may have been much greater. By the 1770s there were at least three major haciendas, Huaca, Vilcahaura, and Villa, whose female slave population outnumbered the male.49 If this were true also of San Juan in the 1760s the high birth rate is understandable. Nevertheless, the San Juan birth rates seem too high and may be due to faulty data.

What may have been a major factor in the low birth rate for Bocanegra, Huaura, and Huaca was the scarcity of women of childbearing age. The data does not provide age-group breakdowns for the four haciendas under discussion. However, the one age pyramid I do possess for Hacienda Belén (see Figure I) reveals that only 11.4 percent of the female slaves were 15-21 years of age, and 28.4 percent fell between 15–30 years of age. This can be an alarmingly low ratio of women in the optimum childbearing period.

If this proportion were also true for the other haciendas, one can understand the low birth rate, for fewer women of childbearing age means fewer additions to the population. There are indications that such an assumption is valid. The number of male slaves purchased annually far outnumbers females purchased. In fact, one gets the impression that the Jesuit haciendas did not count on natural reproduction as a means of increasing the slave population. Females were purchased to provide wives and companions, and to do work ordinarily reserved for women, such as cooking, light farmwork, and housework. Increase of the slave population came mainly from purchase, and for the most part adult slaves were acquired. Another reason for assuming that the Belén pyramid was typical is the fact that it coincides roughly with the age structure of three incomplete pyramids from the haciendas of San Javier, Bocanegra, and Huaura.

This pattern might not seem extraordinary, since the black population in general, even in the seventeenth century, was unable to sustain itself without the infusion of new slaves from Africa.51 But the low level of natural increase resulted in great part from the discouragement by slaveholders of slave marriages, thereby limiting births.52 Most slaveowners were unwilling to maintain economically unproductive slave children, a policy in direct opposition to that of the Jesuits. They encouraged marriages between slaves, imported females to provide wives for male slaves, and constructed special quarters for the hacienda’s married slaves. Nevertheless, despite the encouragement to marriage and childbearing, the birth rate was minimal on Jesuit-owned haciendas.

Besides the absence of women of childbearing age, other factors could have produced a low birth rate, namely, disease, diet (affecting the menstruation period), and social custom (affecting the frequency of intercourse). Prolonged breast feeding also reduces the chances of conception, thus lengthening the interval between successive births and reducing the total number of children. Finally, fertility could have been reduced through birth control.53 Any of these factors could have played a role in influencing the low number of births on the haciendas, but there is no hard data to substantiate their influence.

Data on the number of married female slaves and marrige fertility are equally difficult to come by. Marriages, unlike baptisms and burials, were performed not on Jesuit haciendas but in the local parish church, and they were not always recorded in the hacienda marriage records.54 A total of 309 marriages were recorded for the four haciendas (see Table V). Those female slaves who had been born on the hacienda and who married there did so very early, sometimes between 12 and 15 years of age, and they remained married for the greater part of their childbearing lives. They married early because there was no need to wait for economic or residential independence. This would normally lead to increased birth, followed by increased pressure on the food supply and to possibly increased mortality rates. On Jesuit haciendas, however, this need not have been the case: an increased slave population simply resulted in widening the food supply base by putting more land under cultivation for slave requirements. The low birth rate becomes all the more surprising, given the relatively young age at which female slaves married and the absence of pressure on the food supply.

The generally low birth rate and the high rate of female births affected the rate at which slaves were purchased as well as the proportion between male and female. On the four haciendas under discussion, not only do total births exceed deaths by only 44 during the entire period, but of those born, females outnumber males 647 to 642. This meant that a constant replenishment of male slaves of working age was necessary in order just to maintain productivity, not to mention increase it. A fairly accurate measurement of the degree of replenishment is obtainable from two sources, the baptismal records of adult slaves, almost all of whom were baptized soon after being acquired by purchase, and the record of purchases noted in hacienda account books.

A case in point is the hacienda of Bocanegra. Between 1752 and 1761 a total of 116 slaves were born and 103 died. Of these latter, 59 percent (30 males and 31 females) were under 16 years of age. The remaining 40.8 percent represented 32 male and 10 female adults. During this same time the hacienda purchased 71 slaves of working age, of which at least 41 were male and 25 female. The purchases during this period were not merely to maintain a steady slave population but to increase it. This is evident from the overall increase of the Bocanegra slave population, which rose from 223 in 1752 to 299 in 1761. The rise was not due to natural increase but to annual purchases of adult slaves. Therefore, the purchase of slaves was influenced not only by high mortality rates and scarce reproduction but also by what were considered to be the increasing labor requirements of the hacienda.

Generally low birth rates were accompanied by high mortality rates, especially for children and adolescents. On Bocanegra 58.6 percent and on San Juan 66 percent of all recorded deaths occurred before 22 years of age, whereas on Huaura and Huaca the same age group represented 36.2 percent and 47.3 percent of all deaths.55Table VI presents estimated age-specific death rates per person based on the assumptions that the proportion between male and female was 6:4, and that the age distribution was the same as that on Hacienda Belén (Figure I).

The high infant and child mortality rate was probably due not only to disease and killer epidemics, but to malnutrition. The above figures seem to indicate that about 35 percent of all births did not survive one year. This is plausible, for it is estimated that at present in the developing world one-fourth or more of all live births fail to survive the first year of life.56 On the haciendas of Peru in the eighteenth century slaves might well have suffered from malnutrition, which does not prevent conception but prejudices the chances of the foetus and affects both the child’s growth and health. It weakens the body and makes it an easy prey to disease.57 Unfortunately, the question of nourishment, food shortages, and the relationship between undernourishment and epidemics, as regards black slaves, is relatively unknown. Competent research on dietary and alimentary practices that utilize hacienda account books and infirmary records could be of assistance to historical demographers investigating the factors contributing to variations in birth and death rates.

Reported causes of death varied. Only one hacienda chaplain (at Huara) consistently mentions reason for death, and only over a period of four years, 1768-1772. During this period natural death, a death from self-induced abortion and a death resulting from an accident while working, are mentioned only once, while peste, tabardillo, mal del valle, hidropesía, and diarrhea are more frequent.58 The serampión is mentioned four times in 1768, for three children and one adult. The two most frequently mentioned causes of death over this period were viruelas and dolor del costado. However, these are more descriptions than actual causes, for the symptoms of smallpox and a pain in the side accompany a wide range of illnesses.59 As could be expected, a sharp rise in deaths occurred in epidemic years. During the viceroyaltywide epidemic that occurred from 1718 to 1722, the Hacienda of Huaura had an average of 9 deaths a year, contrasted with 4.3 for the previous four-year period. On Huaura 1742-1744 was another epidemic period when 48 slaves died as against 17 during the previous three-year period. It is evident that not all haciendas were equally affected by epidemics. The deaths during the epidemic periods listed in Table VII seem to indicate that some epidemics were local, for some haciendas show no significant change in the number of deaths over previous three-year periods. Certain epidemics claimed mostly adults. The epidemic on Huaura in 1750 took 19 adults and 9 children. The same tendency is apparent for the epidemic of 1763-1764 and for the other three haciendas.

A final word concerning illegitimate births and premarital sexual relations. The baptismal records of the four haciendas under discussion can be at times confusing, when one attempts to examine sexual mores. Frequently the baptizing priest noted when a child was illegitimate by stating that the father was unknown, “padre no conocido.” But it can also be true that the child was indeed legitimate and that for some reason at the time of baptism the priest did not know who the father was. Hacienda chaplains had different ways of indicating illegitimacy. Some merely omitted any reference to the father of the child. Others included the name of the father but omitted the word legitimate; i.e., instead of the usual “I baptized Juan, legitimate son of José de la Cruz and María López,” he wrote, “I baptized Juan, son of José de la Cruz and María López.” In accordance with the custom of the Archdiocese of Lima, baptisms of illegitimate slave children were performed in private, without fanfare or the presence of guests; the only persons in attendance were the baptizing minister, the parents, and the godparents. Using different criteria for each chaplain, I have calculated the incidence of illegitimacy as in Table VIII. The apparently higher incidence of illegitimacy on Bocanegra, in comparison with the other three haciendas, is inexplicable; but it is entirely possible that the criteria used were faulty.

Another indication of premarital sex among slaves is the number of children born within eight months of the parents’ marriage. Surprisingly, all the children whose parents’ marriage I was able to trace were born after nine months. But this represents only a small percentage of total births.

Although the baptismal records for the four haciendas note only one case of abortion (both mother and child died), it may well have occurred more frequently. Nor is there any way of assessing the frequency of infanticide, disposal, or abandonment. Although the haciendas were closed societies carefully supervised by administrators, the slaves themselves formed closely knit groups that learned to protect themselves and one another. Occurrences could easily be hidden from supervisors.

In conclusion, it must be emphasized once again that slave life on Jesuit haciendas need not have exemplified the way most slaves lived in colonial Peru. Jesuit haciendas were semiautonomous establishments whose organization and operation owed more to Jesuit landholding practices in Europe than to systems in vogue in colonial Latin America. Each college had to provide its own operating expenses, and in a society in which mining and agriculture were predominant, haciendas and estates were a major source of income with concomitant labor needs. African slaves provided the bulk of the stable labor force on the Peruvian coastal haciendas. If better treatment of slaves were a characteristic of Jesuit-owned haciendas, there is no indication of it in high birth rates or low child mortality rates on the four haciendas examined. Investigation of and comparison with other slave communities may clarify this question. It is important because if demographic data on slaves held by laymen is lacking, one may be tempted to generalize from the data on Jesuit slaves. The death records of the four haciendas show a high mortality rate for slave children. Whether this was greater than the regional or viceregal average will not be known until the massive amount of records preserved in local and archepiscopal archives is examined by demographers. The high infant mortality and low birth rates, perhaps due to the scarcity of women of optimum childbearing age, led to regular purchases of adult slaves, both male and female. The incidence of illegitimacy can be indicative of the lack of esteem for a stable marriage bond, even though an incomplete survey revealed the nonexistence of shotguntype marriages.

There are distinct advantages in limiting studies of historical demography to selected slave communities. The wide margins of error inherent in certain broad generalizations are considerably reduced. Restricted research is more precise, and as more haciendas and slave communities are examined, the circle of knowledge becomes progressively wider. The study of slave communities on Jesuit haciendas possesses the unique advantage of offering the quantity and quality of evidence necessary to integrate at least in a general way the demographic, economic, and social aspects of slave life in colonial Peru.


Frederick P. Bowser, The African Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524-1650 (Stanford, 1974).


R. S. Schofield, “Historical Demography: Some Possibilities and Some Limitations,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. Fifth Series, Volume 21 (London, 1971), 119. I am indebted to this work of Schofield for helping to provide the analytical framework for this study. Two other fine introductions to the study of historical demography are D.E.C. Eversley, “Population, Economy and Society,” in Population in History. Essays in Historical Demography, ed. D. V. Glass and D. E. C. Eversley (Chicago, 1965), pp. 23-69; and E. A. Wrigley, Population and History (London, 1969).


Although the Council of the Indies recommended that requisitioned Indian labor should be used not on haciendas or obrajes but only in mines, the practice continued well into the eighteenth century. Jesuit haciendas, in particular, benefitted from this. Indian hacienda labor was salaried, and because of this the Jesuits preferred slave labor as more economical and more productive. The Jesuit business manager of the College of Cuzco estimated that the largest of the college’s estates would have to pay out 9,000 to 10,000 pesos yearly to Indians, were they employed on the estate, a sum considered “la flor de lo que da la hacienda.” Procurador to Francisco Estrada, Cuzco, April 4, 1760, Biblioteca Nacional de Chile, Santiago, Chile, National Archives Section (hereinafter cited as BNC), Jesuítas 398, ff. 69-70; also Council of the Indies to Philip II, Report on Personal Service in Peru, July 29, 1598, BNC, Jesuítas 415.

A major agricultural establishment, although almost always having some cattle, was called a hacienda, while a cattle ranch was called an estancia, or estate.


At the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits, 5,224 slaves were distributed among the Society’s estates, haciendas, obrajes, and colleges in Peru. Of this number 62.8 percent worked on coastal sugar haciendas and 29.8 percent on vineyards. Pablo Macera, Instrucciones para el manejo de las haciendas jesuítas del Perú (Lima, 1966), p. 38.


Two of the largest haciendas, Villa, a sugar plantation just outside of Lima, and Condor, a vineyard in Iea, were operated for the general expenses of the Jesuit province. These expenditures included the travel expenses of new Jesuits coming from Europe and of representatives going to Madrid and Rome from Peru, as well as yearly donations made to colleges for extraordinary repairs or building construction. However, these donations were extraordinary since each college was financially independent, although generally supervised. Very few loans were made between colleges. Each had to find its own endowment funds and its own sources of income.

Jesuit estates and haciendas, far outnumbered by haciendas owned by laymen, were clustered for the most part in four regions, Chancay-Huaura, Ica-Nasca, Arequipa, and the sierra around Cuzco. The good arable coastal lands, found in the river valleys, were gobbled up early by Spanish conquistadores and settlers, but in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ownership of much of this passed to Jesuit colleges.


Bowser, The African Slave, pp. 22-25; Macera, Instrucciones, p. 38.


Carlos Sempat Assadourián, El tráfico de esclavos en Córdoba, 1588–1610 (Córdoba, 1965); sources of Jesuit slaves are also given in the numerous bills of sale available in Archivo General de la Nación, Lima, Compañía de Jesús (hereinafter cited as AGNL, Cía.), 72, 73, 97.


“Resumen y ajustamiento del estado de esta provincia del Perú ... 1 enero 1638,” ARSI, Peru 4 (II), Catal. Trienn. Peruan., 1625-1654, fol. 413.


I use mortgage for the Spanish “censo.” Most of the haciendas that the Jesuits obtained, either through donation or purchase, had censos (or mortgages) on them, payments on which were assumed by the recipient. Most payments were 5 percent yearly on the principal. The total college debt mentioned above was mainly the principal from censos, but it included 513,093 pesos owed in deudos sueltos, ordinary debts.


“Resumen de las cuentas de la hacienda de Villa a fin del año 1634,” ARSI, FG 1488/2/18. One of the first moves made on acquiring the hacienda was to purchase 35 slaves, in order to work the whole hacienda. The best agronomists available were brought in as consultants, and land was set apart for raising wheat, com, and beans for the workers. In 1637 the first cane was planted, to be cut in 1639. Alonso Fuertes to Mucio Vitelleschi, Lima, May 28, 1637, ARSI, FG 1488/4/8. Around 1660 the hacienda of Villa was still paying 5 percent on 235,000 pesos, the principal of censos. “Estado de la hacienda de Villa que toca a la provincia [c 1660],” ARSI, FG 1488/2/58.


Mastrilli Duran to Mucio Vitelleschi, Lima, June 15, 1642, ARSI, FG 1488/4/40; 1452/28/45; also “Descargo del P. Alonso Fuertes de Herrera, 1 junio 1641,” ARSI, FG 1488/2/35.


The letter was read in all Jesuit houses of Peru, titled “Carta común en razón de lo temporal y deudas de esta provincia del Perú [1636],” ARSI, FG 1488/2/23. Vitelleschi also recommended that poor hacienda administrators, as well as rectors who showed little interest in estates, should be replaced immediately.


The accumulation of huge debts did not deter the construction of elaborate churches in Peru. The value of the Jesuit church in Lima, for example, was estimated in 1639, by Fr. Diego de Torres Vásquez, to have been between 800,000 and 1,000,000 pesos. Many of the silver decorations were donated, the retablos were done by Italian Jesuit artists, and the bricks were made in Jesuit-owned kilns. Nevertheless, construction and adornment costs were high. Rubén Várgas Ugarte, La iglesia de San Pedro de Lima (Lima, 1956), p. 21. Vitelleschi’s remarks were repeated even more vigorously by the Jesuit Superior General, Miguel Angel Tamborini, in 1713. He accused the Paraguay Jesuits of constructing “palaces in the desert,” (palacios en los desiertos), forbidding any new constructions without approval by the provincial. Tamborini to Provincial of Paraguay, Rome, April 14, 1713, Archivum Provinciae Argentinae, San Miguel, in bundles of correspondence between Rome and Buenos Aires, no pressmark.


“Catálogo del estado temporal de esta provincia del Perú, 1713,” ARSI, Peru 6, Cat. Trienn., 1687-1713, fols. 482-486.


At this time there were 542 Jesuits in Peru, distributed among 14 colleges, two novitiates, three residences, five seminaries, and a large mission to the Mojos Indians.


The purchase price of a healthy adult male slave in Peru was high, ranging anywhere from 500 to 900 pesos. Skills and health influenced the price. A healthy male infant cost 300 pesos, and a female cost 100 pesos. These prices varied little from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.


Bowser, The African Slave, pp. 224-225.


Through the eighteenth century the standard land measure was the fanegada, roughly 3.5 acres.


There seems to be some confusion over whether slaves had usufruct rights over parcels of hacienda land. See Macera, Instrucciones, p. 58.


At least one exception was the Hacienda of Huaura, which kept a supply of 480 fanegas of corn on hand in its storehouse.


“Relación sumaria de los ingresos y egresos de las haciendas y fincas del colegio de San Pablo … 1762-1766,” AGNL, Temporalidades (Inventarios) 1.


From the account books of Villa, Caucato, and Bocanegra, AGNL, Cía. 96, 85, and 27.


Macera, Instrucciones, p. 68.


“Relación sumaria de los ingresos y egresos de las haciendas y fincas del colegio de San Pablo … 1762-1766,” AGNL, Temporalidades (Inventarios) 1. Tobacco was another regular expenditure for haciendas, but the quantities purchased were so small that it was probably only given to a few officials and foremen.


Bowser, The African Slave, pp. 226-227.


In 1685 the Jesuit novitiate rented the obrafe of San Juan de Cajamarca in the Province of Vilcas for 100 years from the Carmelite nuns of Huamanga. A detailed inventory of the obraje when it was first rented, along with the rental contract, is in AGNL, Cía. 72. Detailed data on the operation of the obraje, salaries, diet of workers, income, and expenditures are in AGNL, Cía. 83, 84.


Bowser, The African Slave, pp. 226-227.


Macera, Instrucciones, p. 58.


“Autos sobre el nombramiento de un ministro,” BNL, Ms. C 138.


Bowser, The African Slave, pp. 27-29.


The infirmary records and examinations are all post-1767. In 1775 Dr. Policarpio Luján, Professor of Medicine at the University of San Marcos, Lima, examined 68 slaves of the former Jesuit hacienda of San Javier. His report on individual slaves indicates that many suffered from arm, leg, and back illnesses. The infirmities most often mentioned were tumors, hernias, ulcers, and simply pains. There were two recognized cases of gonorrhea. His report is in “Autos,” AGNL, Temporalidades 51, fols. 54-55.


Rodas to Garrido, Condor, November 18, 1742, BNC, Jesuítas 392, ff. 254-255.


This brief description of work on sugar haciendas is taken from numerous reports written by administrators, and from Macera, Instrucciones, p. 45.


According to contemporary observers Lima consumed large quantities of sugar, especially for the production of confections. Emilio Romero, Historia económica del Perú (Buenos Aires, 1949), pp. 122-123.


Bowser, The African Slave, p. 227.


Ibid., pp. 230-231.


These prohibitions are in “Preceptos de santa obediencia … Villa, 1721,” BNL, Ms. C 1520.


In 1687 the provincial of the Jesuit province of Paraguay sent a list of similar prohibitions to the Jesuit estates of Argentina. “Copia de ordenes del P. Provincial Joseph de Barreda,” Archivo General de la Nación (Buenos Aires), Compañía de Jesús, IX, 7-1-1.


For a discussion of forms of social protest as sources for social history see Peter N. Stearns, The Other Side of Western Civilization (New York, 1973), p. 2.


Bowser, The African Slave, p. 172.


The coastal area a little south of Huaura was a traditional haven for runaway slaves. Eight from the Hacienda Belén were listed as having fled or as cimarrones. “Razón individual de los esclavos de ambos sexos pertenecientes a la hacienda de Belém … 1767-1768,” AGNL, Temporalidades 13. See Bowser, The African Slave, pp. 186-221, for the problem of the runaway up to 1650.


The trial records dated November 18, 1698, are in AGNL, Cía. 19.


The list cited in note 41 classifies four slaves who fled as either thieves, robbers, or assailants. An excessive beating of an accused thief meted out by a friar administrator in 1772 was reported to government officials. The slave had fled the hacienda of Pastor next to Bocanegra. The documents about the incident are in AGNL, Temporalidades 109.


Bowser, The African Slave, p. 186.


Ibid., pp. 74-76.


In 1773 Bishop Francisco de Santateresa suggested that newborn slaves be baptized in their homes and not be brought to church. He thought that the high infant mortality might be reduced if the journey to the hacienda chapel were eliminated. His signed Auto, dated June 18, 1773, written on one of his official visits to Bocanegra hacienda, is found in the Bocanegra baptismal book cited above, AGNL, Cía. 83, ff. 166-168.


R. S. Schofield, “Historical Demography,” 119.


These data on Cercado are found in the demographic tables of Mario Ayaipoma, “La reducción indígena del Cercado,” Tesis “La Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Carlos, Lima, Peru, 1972, pp. 154, 157-158. There are no age-group breakdowns for Cercado, so one cannot compare the parish with the haciendas in other respects.


See the Tables in Macera, Instrucciones, p. 40. In 1775 the female slave population of Huaca outnumbered the male population by 142 to 124, while the low birth rate given in Table IV is for the years 1768 to 1772. I have not been able to find the number of slaves on Huaca at the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. At that time the proportion of males to females might have been greater. Between 1767 and 1775 the government committee in charge of confiscated Jesuit property, the Junta de Temporalidades, might have sold a number of male slaves. This would account for the higher proportion of females to males in 1775, but it does not adequately explain the low birth rate. An age-group breakdown of female slaves on Huaca in 1767 might provide a clue to the discrepancy.


“Razón individual,” AGNL, Temporalidades 13.


Bowser, The African Slave, pp. 76, 95.


Ibid., pp. 254-257.


For contraceptive practices among Africans see Norman Himes, The Medical History of Contraception (Baltimore, 1936), pp. 5-12.


The parish church of Huaura was severely damaged in the earthquake of 1970, and all of the baptismal and marriage records were moved to the present residence of the parish priest. At present there are on deposit with him records of marriages (1690-1800) of slaves from several nearby haciendas. These are recorded along with marriages of mestizos and Spaniards. In December of 1973 I paged through these records only long enough to confirm that slave marriage data was available from 1690 to at least 1800. Since I had no episcopal authorization, I was not permitted to film or examine the parish records. This authorization is obtained through the chancellery of the Archbishop of Lima.


A good number of slaves did reach a ripe old age. Margarita Picona of Huaca was 101 years old when she died on February 9, 1771. Also in the same year out of 14 deaths, two slaves reached the age of 50, and others were 60, 69, 70, 80, and 90 years old. However, it is very unlikely that the priest recording the burial knew the slave’s exact age unless the slave had been born on the hacienda and the baptismal record was consulted. Several burial records state that the deceased “appeared to be” so many years old (“a parecer de — años”).


Iwao M. Moriyama, “Mortality,” in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York, 1968), X, p. 501.


D. E. C. Eversley, “Population, Economy and Society,” p. 55.


No one knows exactly what type of disease the tabardillo was. I have seen the mal del valle referred to as a cause of death in another part of Peru, so apparently it was not peculiar to the Valley of Huaura. Dropsy and diarrhea were symptoms rather than causes.


Around 1773 Fray Domingo de Soria of San Juan de Dios hospital of Lima asked permission from the Junta de Temporalidades to inoculate the slaves of the Hacienda of Villa against smallpox. A committee was formed but remained divided on the advisability of inoculation. The documents on the request and the report of the committee are in AGNL, Temporalidades 109.

Author notes


The author is associated with the Department of History, State University of New York at Buffalo. Research for this paper was made possible by a Faculty Fellowship from Canisius College, Buffalo, and a grant-in-aid from the New York Province of the Society of Jesus. The author wishes to express his appreciation to Professors Ralph Vigil of the University of Nebraska, John Lombardi of Indiana University, John TePaske of Duke University, John T. Krause of SUNY Buffalo, and Alan Duchan of Canisius College for their helpful suggestions and advice.