Final Passages, Part 1: New Perspectives on the Intra-American Slave Trading Routes

AHA Session 23
Conference on Latin American History 3
Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Roosevelt Room 2 (Marriott Wardman Park, Exhibition Level)
Elena Schneider, University of California, Berkeley
Linda M. Rupert, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Session Abstract

This is the first of two sessions that examine slave trade routes within the Americas. The focus of this session is the inter-colonial trans-imperial slave trade routes that led to the arrival of captive Africans to Spanish colonies from the early seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. Slave traders located in non-Spanish colonies (Portuguese Brazil, Dutch Curacao, and British Jamaica, among others) transshipped captive Africans to Spanish colonies during the two centuries following 1600. These papers cover the very large chronological and geographical range of these intra-American and trans-imperial slave trade routes as well as encourage the discussion of how different events happening in Europe, Africa, and the Americas shaped slave routes across imperial boundaries in the New World.

Kara Schultz examines early-seventeenth century Buenos Aires, where colonial society depended on the Luso-Brazilian slave trade. She shows how difficult is to differentiate between transatlantic and intra-American slave voyages in this early period by analyzing ship captains’ strategies. In addition, she shows that the early slave trade to Brazil was intricately integrated with that to the Spanish colonies.

Pablo Sierra explores slaving interactions between late-seventeenth century Mexico and Dutch Curacao, as Dutch merchants became the main suppliers of captives for the Spanish colonies (a role held by the Portuguese earlier as seen by Schultz). Sierra focuses on the Dutch in Veracruz at the time that commerce flourished between Mexico and Curacao. Based on new Spanish sources, he reassesses the trans-imperial slave trade to Veracruz and exposes the merchant networks that facilitated this traffic as well as the contraband of merchandise into Mexico.

Jelmer Vos analyzes these Dutch-Spanish slaving networks from the perspective of Dutch sources later in the early eighteenth century. He examines the large gap between the number of African captives who arrived in Curacao on transatlantic vessels and recorded departures of slaves from Curacao to other ports. This difference raises the question on how the slave trade in Curacao was organized and how legal and illegal economies overlapped. Beyond the Dutch-Spanish trading networks, he also examines the Dutch slave trade to French Saint Domingue in the early 1700s.

The last paper moves to the late eighteenth-century, a transitional era for the slave trade in Cuba. Jorge Felipe differentiates for first time intra-American from transatlantic slave voyages in this pivotal time. He explores shifting patterns on the volume of arrivals and disembarkations, among others features of the intra-American slave trade to Cuba. This opens a new window to analyze other social patterns such as the ethnicities of the captives and the commercial networks that facilitated the emergence of the nineteenth-century Cuban-based slave trade.

Chaired by Elena Schneider, who specialized in Havana and black social networks across the eighteenth-century Caribbean, this session will be commented by Linda Rupert. As a historian of the Caribbean who examines the trans-imperial networks of runaway slaves across the Dutch, British, French, Danish, and Spanish Caribbean, Rupert will put these papers in conversation with other aspects of slave life and movement around the Americas.

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