The Meaning and Practice of Coartación
In the nineteenth century, coartación had taken a legal leap from being an option requiring the master’s consent to being a demand slaves could make on their masters. Paradoxically, this qualitative leap made the slaves’ subjection to their owners all the more acute. As the century progressed, enforced emancipation of the slaves driven by masters became more widespread in the society. Equally, however, coartación processes were blocked, at the master’s whim. Slaves’ self-purchase became a problem on large plantations, and the movement of slaves from city to country and from country to city was increasingly common. This indicator underscores the fact that slave hiring in rural areas became more widespread. Within the sugar estates, coartados could not earn money as easily because they were not allowed to leave without a consent letter from the masters, and, because on rural areas, commerce and the exercise of the trades that allowed them to earn wages were limited.
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