Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640

Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640

Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640

Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640

Synopsis

This work resituates the Spanish Caribbean as an extension of the Luso-African Atlantic world from the late sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century, when the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns facilitated a surge in the transatlantic slave trade. After the catastrophic decline of Amerindian populations on the islands, two major African provenance zones, first Upper Guinea and then Angola, contributed forced migrant populations with distinct experiences to the Caribbean. They played a dynamic role in the social formation of early Spanish colonial society in the fortified port cities of Cartagena de Indias, Havana, Santo Domingo, and Panama City and their semirural hinterlands.



David Wheat is the first scholar to establish this early phase of the "Africanization" of the Spanish Caribbean two centuries before the rise of large-scale sugar plantations. With African migrants and their descendants comprising demographic majorities in core areas of Spanish settlement, Luso-Africans, Afro-Iberians, Latinized Africans, and free people of color acted more as colonists or settlers than as plantation slaves. These ethnically mixed and economically diversified societies constituted a region of overlapping Iberian and African worlds, while they made possible Spain's colonization of the Caribbean.

Excerpt

From his concealed position on the river’s opposite bank, Pedro Yalonga observed the Englishmen who had come to Panama in search of Spanish American silver. Setting sail in 1595 with twenty- seven ships and twentyfive hundred men, the infamous pirate and privateer Sir Francis Drake had already assaulted Puerto Rico, Riohacha, and Santa Marta before turning to Panama. When his fleet landed at Nombre de Dios in January 1596, the city was deserted; its inhabitants had received ample warning and retreated into the interior. Only a few volunteers remained nearby in Santiago del Príncipe, a village of resettled maroons. the previous day, several English soldiers had been prevented from drawing water at the mouth of the Factor River when an enslaved African man known as Pedro Yalonga (also Pedro Zape Yalonga) “shot and killed one.” the others, “believing there were many of our people lying in ambush[,] fled in terror[,] leaving their water jugs behind.” Now an entire “squadron of English musketeers and pikemen” had come “to secure the river[,] to be able to take water unharmed.” Accompanied by several other volunteers, including four members of “the free black infantry of Santiago del Príncipe,” Pedro Yalonga saw that they were led by “an Englishman dressed in green velvet with gold fringe,” who carried “a scepter in his hand.” Turning to his companions, Pedro Yalonga told them, “Señores[,] I want to fell the one in green[,] who seems an important man.” With these words, he moved within range, aimed his harquebus, and fired; the officer clad in velvet immediately “fell to the ground dead.” After crying out and firing a volley in some disorder, the English carried their sergeant major back to their encampment in Nombre de Dios, where he was buried with lowered flags and muted drums. Discreetly following them, Pedro Yalonga and his colleagues witnessed Drake himself receive the deceased officer, showing “much sadness and great sentiment.”

1. All translations are the author’s unless otherwise noted. “Pedro Yalonga esclavo sobre q se le de livertad por lo q ha servido,” May 24–June 12, 1596, AGI- Panamá 44, n.56 (2), fols. 1r–13r. This file was not microfilmed with the rest of the legajo (bundle of documents); I am grateful to agi staff for

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.