Mulatos de Esmeraldas: About the painting...
Mulatos de Esmeraldas (Ecuador), Adrián
Sánchez Galque, 1599; Museo de América / 
© Museo del Prado

Adrián Sánchez Galque, identified as an "Indian" painter and member of the Quito School, painted this work Mulatos de Esmeraldas in 1599 in Quito, Ecuador. The painting may be Sánchez Galque's only surviving work. Like many pre-Columbian and colonial Latin American art treasures, it is held by a European museum - specifically, the Museo de América de Madrid, in Spain.

The three men depicted in the painting are identified in the painting itself as Don Francisco (de) Arobe and (according to one source) his two sons. They wear abundant gold jewelry, much of which is typical of the Indians of the region. Their clothing is obviously European, and they carry spears. Each man is given the honorific title Don, a sign of respect in the Latin-Hispanic world. The title of the painting further identifies the men as "mulatos," though they may in fact have been zambos, or Afro-Indian men. For background information on this painting and the history of these men, the Minority Rights Group offers the following, in its work No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today:

"Regional blackness as a force of self-liberation in Ecuador begins in Esmeraldas, and its origin occurs during a violent tropical storm and a movement of African rebellion. The documented history of Ecuador establishes the beginnings of Afro-Hispanic culture in what is now Esmeraldas, Ecuador, where a Spanish slaving ship ran aground in 1553. There a group of twenty-three Africans from the coast of Guinea, led by a black warrior named Antón, attacked the slavers and liberated themselves. Not long after, this group, together with other blacks entering the region, led by a ladino (Hispanicized black person) named Alonso de Illescas, came to dominate the region from northern Manabí north to what is now Barbacoas, Colombia. At this time (late sixteenth century) intermixture with indigenous peoples, to whom black people fled to establish their palenques (villages of self-liberated people - some fortified, some not), was such that their features were described as zambo (black-indigenous admixture), synonyms of which were negro (black) and mulato (mixed or hybrid black-white). ...

... By 1599 black people were clearly in charge of what was called "La República de Zambos" or "Zambo Republic". Zambo refers to people of colour who are descendants of Native Americans and African-Americans. In that year a group of Zambo chieftains, said to represent 100,000 or more Zambo people of Esmeraldas, trekked to Quito to declare loyalty to Spain. An oil painting of these chiefs from the emerald land of the Zambo Republic is portrayed by the "Indian artist" Adrián Sánchez Galgue [sic]; it is reportedly the earliest signed and dated painting from South America."

Source: No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today. Minority Rights Group, ed. Minority Rights Publications, 1995, pp. 291-292.

Another source, Leslie B. Rout, Jr. and the work The African Experience in Spanish America, adds the following:

"Almost from the time that Spaniards began importing Africans to work the Cauca River gold diggings in Colombia, blacks managaged to escape; a few sought refuge among the Manabí and Mantux Indian tribes of the tropical coast of northwestern Ecuador. The zambo descendants of these blacks and Indians became tribal leaders and created a major Pacific-coast headquarters known as El Portete.

"This particular settlement acted as a kind of beacon, attracting other bondmen who chose to flee rather than accept a living death panning the streams of southern Colombia for gold dust. It also attracted the attention of the Spaniards, not only because it was a haven for fugitive slaves but also because it was an ideal base for ships sailing between Panama and Peru. Occasional Spanish vessels in trouble attempted to land at El Portete but where driven away by the attacks of the zambo-led tribesmen. In 1556, therefore, Gil Ramírez Dávalos, governor of the audiencia of Quito, began sending troops to smash the troublesome Afro-Indians and seize the town. He succeeded in capturing the settlement, but the rebels reverted to guerrilla tactics. The troops holding El Portete fell victim to malaria and other tropical diseases at an alarming rate and eventually evacuated the area.

"Subsequent efforts to subdue the Afro-Indians failed, and Francisco Arias de Herrera broke the stalemate in 1598 by drawing up a compact with the zambo leaders in which the latter agreed to accept the nominal suzerainty of the king of Spain. For all practical purposes, however, they remained autonomous."

Source: The African Experience in Spanish America: 1502 to the Present Day. Leslie B. Rout, Jr. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976, pp. 116-117.
Of the indigenous painter, Adrián Sánchez Galque, less has been documented. Of the Quito School, the Grove Dictionary of Art offers the following information:

"Franciscan friars went to Quito with the Spanish conquistadors and, led by the Flemings Jodoco Ricke de Marsalaer (d c. 1574), Pedro Gosseal ("Pedro el Pintor") and the Castilian Pedro de Rodeñas, founded the monastery. In the 1530s Gosseal was already teaching the arts to the Indians at the Colegio de San Andrés (originally the Colegio de San Juan) within the monastery walls. The school received the royal warrant in 1555 and helped establish Quito as a centre of the arts. ... Throughout the colonial period the Quito school of painting and sculpture, with its roots in the Colegio de San Andrés, flourished ... "

Source: "Quito," Ricardo Descalzi. IN The Dictionary of Art, v. 25, pp. 828-829 ed. by Jane Turner. Macmillan Publishers, 1996. (Note: This source is commonly known as the "Grove Dictionary of Art.")

See also:

Las castas
For more information (in Spanish) on the term zambo and other terms used by the Spanish in colonial New Spain to describe the peoples of colonial Spain according to race, race mixture(s), and place of birth. In general, Spaniards born in Spain represented the "highest" rung on the social ladder, with Spaniards born in the Americas (called criollos) occupying a lower rung, with people of color (collectively called las castas) occupying still lower rungs.

Map of Ecuador
From LANIC website at UT-Austin. This will help give an idea of where the Zambo Republic was located.

Map of Colombia
From LANIC website at UT-Austin. This will help give an idea of the Colombian-Ecuadorean border region.

Museo del Oro: Las culturas del oro
Online exhibit of pre-Columbian goldwork from various Colombian Indian cultures, from the website of the renowned Colombian Gold Museum. In Spanish.

Iowa State University Library, Ames, IA 50011
Last updated: 06 January 2000.
Created: 06 January 2000.