Click to expand image Color photograph of the Colonial Legacies case with objects and photographs.
© Tony Powell. National Museum of the American Latino. June 13, 2022
The “Colonial Legacies” exhibit case.

The first section of ¡Presente! is “Colonial Legacies.”

This case is located on the left side of the gallery between two nooks. It examines how Indigenous and African peoples resisted and reacted to Spanish and other European colonization.
The first section of ¡Presente! is “Colonial Legacies.” The case explores three main themes: the brutality of European colonization and its dependence on slavery on the left side of the case, the resistance of different colonized peoples in the middle of the case, and the early colonization of today's western United States on the right side of the case.

Invasion and Slavery:
Label Text and Object Descriptions

Colonization had violent consequences for Indigenous and African peoples.  

Most Indigenous communities resisted European control. However, diseases introduced by colonists decimated Indigenous populations and weakened their societies. Some Indigenous peoples fled areas settled by Europeans, while others formed new political alliances to hold off colonization. Many had no choice but to live under colonial control.
Africans and their descendants were enslaved throughout the Americas. From the 1500s to the 1800s, roughly 12 million Africans were trafficked across the Atlantic Ocean to ports such as Cartagena, Colombia, and Charleston, South Carolina. They too resisted and, when possible, escaped slavery. Sometimes they escaped alongside Indigenous peoples.

Click to expand image Tortuguita. Jesús Barraza, 2017
Tortuguita. Jesús Barraza, 2017. Courtesy of Jesús Barraza  
Graphic reproduction of a print by Indigenous artist Jesús Barraza showing blue waves drawn behind a large turtle silhouette with the Americas drawn on turtle’s back; the print reads, “Tierra Indigena; Indigenous Lands.”

Resistance and Uprisings:
Label Text and Object Descriptions

African, Indigenous, and mixed-race peoples remade their societies, despite the inhumanities of colonization.

They adapted their traditions, mastered new environments and ways of life, and built communities. These survivors also protested the abuses of European colonizers. They fought injustice in different ways. Some burned and escaped plantations and missions. Others made their cases in court. Many also participated in their nations’ wars of independence from Spain.

 The objects and images here focus on diverse stories of resistance like Indigenous rebellions in Puerto Rico, New Mexico, and California; the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804); and the daily endurance of enslaved Puerto Ricans.


Click to expand image Color photo of black stone carving of Po’Pay’s head.
Po’Pay 2180; Leader of the Pueblo Revolt, Revolt 1680/2180 Series. Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo), 2018. Loan from Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico 
Po’Pay sculpture: A black, smooth stone, bust sculpture of Po’Pay (Indigenous leader of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt), by Indigenous artist Virgil Ortiz from 2018.
Click to expand image Registration document for enslaved person.
Puerto Rican registration form for enslaved persons, Maricelle Ana and Mauricio. Puerto Rico, 1867. Loan from Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Tattered, 1800s paper, handwritten registration document for enslaved person from Puerto Rico.

Mexico’s Northern Frontier:
Label Text and Object Descriptions

From about 1600 to 1800, Spain colonized present-day New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and California.   

Priests, soldiers, and families traveled from central Mexico to the northern frontier. They built their earliest settlements in present-day New Mexico. Official documents describe these colonists as Spanish, Black, Indigenous, Filipino, and mixed-race. By 1800, Spanish New Mexico’s population numbered about 30,000. The descendants of colonists, called nuevomexicanos, outnumbered local Indigenous peoples by this period.
 During the 1770s, Spanish colonists occupied California. They built settlements, such as San Diego and Monterey, near Indigenous villages. Unlike the New Mexicans, they were vastly outnumbered by an estimated 300,000 Indigenous Californians.


Click to expand image Retablo: Divine Shepardess
The Good Shepherdess. José Aragón?, New Mexico, 1840–1850. National Museum of American History 
Indigenous devotional painting of Catholic figures, or retablo; of Divine Shepherdess holding a lamb over her shoulders, representing the Virgin Mary.
Click to expand image Retablo: Holy Child of Atocha
Retablo of the Holy Child of Atocha. Rafael Aragón, New Mexico, 1840–1850. National Museum of American History 
Indigenous devotional painting of Catholic figures, or retablo; of Holy Child of Atocha, representing Jesus Christ.
Click to expand image San Miguelito Ranch Map: Monterey County, Calif. 1841. Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
1841 Land Grant Map. UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library [Land Case Map D-972] 
Graphic reproduction of a hand-drawn 1841 land grant map from Mexican California.
Click to expand image Metal sheep shears
New Mexico, 1600–1700. National Museum of American History 
Metal Shears

Comanche Warrior:
Signature Object

His-oo-sán-chees was a Comanche warrior with Spanish or Mexican ancestry. From the 1700s to the mid-1800s, the Comanche dominated the region around New Mexico and Texas through trading and raiding. This painting was made in 1834 during a U.S. Army expedition into northern Texas. Though part of Mexico at the time, this region was under Comanche control.  

Click to expand image Painting of His-oo-sánchees
His-oo-sán-chees, Little Spaniard, a Warrior. George Catlin, 1834. Loan from Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.