Author Anne Twinam discusses colonial Spanish-American racial structure


CW | Layton Dudley

Macy Dye

The University of Alabama’s new Latin American, Caribbean and Latino studies minor was kicked off by award-winning author and historian, Dr. Ann Twinam. Twinam talked about racial structure in the Spanish-American colonial period. 

“The first time I learned that those of mixed African American could purchase ‘whiteness’ I was an undergraduate student,” Twinam said. 

Among those who attended the lecture in 205 Gorgas was University of Alabama sophomore Casey Campos. 

“I’m interested in all of this new information, not only this new minor program but also about knowledge on this topic,” Campos said. 

Twinam went on to read excerpts from her book “Purchasing Whiteness: Pardos, Mulattoes, & the Quest for Social Mobility in the Spanish Indies.” She said the book took her around 15 years to write. 

The book, published Jan. 2015, takes an in-depth look at Spanish-American colonial hierarchal systems of race could apply and pay to receive the status of “whiteness.”

“Applying for whiteness was not about being seen as having white skin,” Twinam said. “It is about being able to get jobs and get into universities. Whitening made it so that you could do anything whites could do. It had nothing to do with color.”

Twinam said she wrote the book “Purchasing Whiteness: Pardos, Mulattoes, & the Quest for Social Mobility in the Spanish Indies” because it is important to explore why there were such differences.

“This new minor at UA is so important because the world, the United States, even Alabama are all changing,” she said. “Hispanics are coming and it’s important to educate people and train people to educate people. People need to know about this history.”

For more information on Twinam and the new minor, visit