Enslaved rebels, fugitives, and litigants: The resistance continuum in colonial Quito

Sherwin K. Bryant*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


This article will show that throughout the Audiencia of Quito enslaved rebels and fugitives consistently contributed to white fears and to white law making from the very earliest moments of the colonial enterprise. It highlights, moreover, slaves'long history of playing directly and indirectly upon those fears in their interactions with slaveholders; and, in the legal cases they brought before colonial courts, showing the continuities in slave resistance strategies over time. Not only did slaves use the courts in deeply political and radical ways from very early on, but existing documentary evidence from Quito's courts reveals a continuum, not a break, between earlier cases and those emanating from the late colonial era and early independence period. Although this continuum is sometimes difficult to document-principally because slaves' most successful tactic in the pre-Revolutionary era was in fact to claim to be divorced from politics and rebellion and to be seeking individual mercy-we can identify early legal precedents that are reflected in civil court cases heard by the audiencia (high court) of Quito over the entire course of the colonial era. In so doing, we gain a more in-depth understanding of the realities of bondage in colonial Quito, and the continuities and points of departure within slaves' resistance tactics, as well as the gendered challenges facing enslaved men and women in their courtroom performances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-46
Number of pages40
JournalColonial Latin American Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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