The Slave Trade to the Rio de la Plata in the Eighteenth Century

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 2:50 PM
Carnegie Room East (Sheraton New York)
Alex Borucki, University of California, Irvine
This paper focuses on the European empires in the era of Atlantic slaving and the people caught up in the slave trade by focusing on the colonial politics of European empires, the interconnected economies of slave trading and silver circulation, and the stories of Africans arriving in the Rio de la Plata region.

The Rio de la Plata, or River Plate estuary in what is today Argentina and Uruguay, exemplifies this interaction of slave trade, silver remittances, and various European imperial designs. In 1585, just five years after the foundation of Buenos Aires, its Town Hall requested permission of the Spanish Crown to introduce enslaved Africans into Peru. Nearly 30,000 slaves were disembarked in this port by Portuguese slavers from 1587 to 1640, a time of the union of the Portuguese and Spanish Crowns. Slaves represented two thirds of the value of all imports entering Buenos Aires before 1645. However, this paper will focus on the period from 1680 to 1812, when slaves were brought to the River Plate by the French Compagnie de Guinée (1703-1713), the English South Sea Company (1714-1737), a few Spanish merchants (1743-1760), and the Portuguese of Colonia –located across the River Plate. From 1791 to the abolition of this traffic in 1812, slave traders native to Río de la Plata with vibrant networks with the Luso-Brazilians of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador led the way for the most important flow of slave arrivals in the history of this region.