Freedom in the Colombian Rainforests

Claudia Leal

Title Conditional: Freedom in the Colombian Rainforests
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Time: 4:00 pm | Venue changed: 223 Moses Hall

Claudia Leal speaks about the communities descended from formerly enslaved gold miners in western Colombia. (Photo by Corina Ahlswede.)
Claudia Leal speaks about the communities descended from formerly enslaved gold miners in western Colombia. (Photo by Corina Ahlswede.)

The transition from slavery to freedom in the largest region in Spanish America inhabited mostly by black people has been aided by the geography of Colombia’s western rainforests. Access to a diverse environment – the jungle, soils and subsoils, rivers and the ocean – contributed to free people’s subsistence and allowed them to make commodities from nature. In this manner, they enjoyed unusually high levels of autonomy. Looking at the environment is key to better understanding the experience of freedom in other agrarian societies.

Claudia Leal is Edward Laroque Tinker Visiting Professor at Stanford University and Associate Professor at the Department of History at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. She is author of Landscapes of Freedom, Building a Postemancipation Society in the Rainforests of Western Colombia (2018).

Leal argued that the geography of western Colombia, which provided marginal terrain for farming, helped in the initial development of free communities. (Photo by CLAS Staff.)
Leal argued that the geography of western Colombia, which provided marginal terrain for farming, helped in the initial development of free communities. (Photo by CLAS Staff.)

Leal speaks with audience members after her talk. (Photo by CLAS Staff.)
Leal speaks with audience members after her talk. (Photo by CLAS Staff.)

Fishermen cast their nets in Chocó, western Colombia. (Photo by Quimbaya.)
Fishermen cast their nets in Chocó, western Colombia. (Photo by Quimbaya.)