Kali Nicole Gross is Martin Luther King Jr. professor of history at Rutgers University.
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Archives Hardly Recognize Their Presence
IN EARLY JANUARY 1600, Isabel de Olvera, a woman of African descent, petitioned the mayor of Querétaro, Mexico, for protection of her rights before joining Juan de Oñate’s expedition to New Spain, which consisted of several regions in North and South America, including present-day New Mexico, Arizona, and Florida. As she was about to embark on the journey with Spanish explorers, Olvera believed she would be vulnerable to violence or captivity. “I am going on the expedition,” she stated in her deposition, “and have reason to fear that I may be annoyed by some individual since I am a mulatto.”