Hist 130-01 Latin American History to 1825 -  Resources -  Ulloa Brothers' Description of Cartagena (1772)

(From: Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, Voyage to South America, London, 1772, 2 vols, I, pp. 29-32).

  The inhabitants may be divided into different castes or tribes, who derive their origin from a coalition of Whites, Negroes, and Indians. Of each of the we shall treat particularly. The Whites may be divided into two classes, the Europeans, and Creoles, or Whites born in the country. The former are commonly called Chapetones, but are not numerous; most of them either return into Spain after acquiring a competent fortune, or remove up into inland provinces in order to increase it. Those who are settled at Cartagena, carry on the whole trade of that place, and live in opulence; whilst the other inhabitants are indigent, and reduced to have recourse to mean and hard labor for subsistence. The families of the White Creoles compose the landed interests; some of them have large estates, and are highly respected, because their ancestors came into the country invested with honorable posts, bringing their families with them when they settled here. Some of these families, in order to keep up their original dignity, have either married their children to their equals in the country, or sent them as officers on board of galleons; but others have greatly declined. Besides these, there are other Whites, in mean circumstances, who either owe their origin to Indian families, or at least to an intermarriage with them, so that there is some mixture in their blood; but when this is not discoverable by their color, the conceit of being Whites alleviates the pressure of every other calamity.

    Among the other tribes which are derived from an intermarriage of the Whites and the Negroes, the first are the Mulattoes. Next to these the Tercerones, produced from a White and a Mulatto, with some approximation to the former, but not so near as to obliterate their origin. After these follow the Quarterones, proceeding from a White and a Terceron. The last are the Quinterones, who owe their origin to a White and a Quarteron. This is the last gradation, there being no visible difference between them and the Whites, either in color or features; nay the are often fairer than the Spaniards. The children of a White and Quinteron are also called Spaniards, and consider themselves as free from all taint of the Negro race. Every person is so jealous of the order of their tribe or cast, that if, through inadvertence, you call them by a degree lower than what they actually are, they are highly offended, never suffering themselves to be deprived of so valuable a gift of fortune.

    Before they attain the class of the Quinterones, there are several intervening circumstances which throw them back; for between the Mulatto and the Negro, there is an intermediate race, which they call Sambos, owing their origin to a mixture between one of these with an Indian, or among themselves. They are also distinguished according to the class their fathers were of. Betwixt the Tercerones and the Mulattoes, the Quarterones and the Tercerones, etc. are those called Tente en el Ayre, suspended in the air, because they neither advance nor recede. Children, whose parents are a Quarteron or Quinteron, and a Mulatto or Terceron, are Salto atrás, retrogrades; because, instead of advancing towards being Whites, they have gone backwards towards the Negro race. The children between a Negro and Quinteron are called Sambos de Negro, de Mulatto, de Terceron, etc.

    These are the most known and common tribes or Castas; there are indeed several others proceeding from their intermarriages; but, being so various, even they themselves cannot easily distinguish them...


    The class of Negroes is not the least numerous, and is divided into two parts; the free and the slaves. These [last] are again subdivided into Creoles and Bozales, part of which are employed in the cultivation of the haciendas or estancias. Those in the city are obliged to perform the most laborious services, and pay out of their wages a certain quota to their masters, subsisting themselves on the small remainder. The violence of the heat not permitting them to wear any clothes, their only covering is a small piece of cotton stuff about their waist; the female slaves go in the same manner. Some of these live at the estancias, being married to the slaves who work there; while those in the city sell in the markets all kind of eatables, and dry fruits, sweet-meats, cakes made of maize, and cassava, and several other things about the streets. (...)