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Slavery and Abolition

Vol. 30, No. 4, December 2009, pp. 491-520

O Routledge

Taylor&FrandsCro

A New Look at the African Slave Trade


in Puerto Rico Through the Use of
Parish Registers: 1660-1815
David M. Stark

Our knowledge of the volume of slave traffic as well as the geographic origin and ethnicity
of slaves introduced into peripheral areas of the Americas, such as the former Spanish
colony of Puerto Rico, is limited. Information contained in seventeenth- and eight
eenth-century parish baptismal, marriage, and death registers enables us to locate and
identify Africans in a number of island communities, including San Juan. Drawing
upon data culled from parish registers this study seeks to broaden our understanding of
the slave trade to Puerto Rico in the years 1672 to 1810. Few slaves were brought in
either from Africa or from elsewhere in the Americas to Puerto Rico, and the supply of
these was erratic and limited. Although they were small in number, there was considerable
diversity in the geographic origins and ethnicity of African arrivals, with individuals from
West and West Central Africa predominating. For the most part, these shared a relatively
homogenous culture and a greater similarity insofar as the language(s) they spoke. Such
commonalities facilitated integration and promoted social cohesion among the newly
arrived Africans as well as those already present in the host population. It also facilitated
their integration into what was emerging as a unified Afro-Puerto Rican slave community.
We cannot live without Black people [slaves] (No podemos vivir sin gente negra) were
the words used by Asencio de Villanueva, attorney for the city of San Juan, in petition
ing the Spanish Crown for additional slaves to be sent to the island in a letter addressed
to Charles V in 1534.1 Villanueva was not alone in his assessment, as others like him
appealed for the introduction of enslaved Africans. Countless numbers of Africans
were imported, yet our knowledge of the number of Africans brought to the Americas,
especially peripheral areas such as the former Spanish colony of Puerto Rico, as well as
the geographic origin and ethnicity of these forced immigrants, is limited. The few
historical studies that address such topics focus either on the sixteenth and early
seventeenth centuries or on the years following 1800.2 Consequently, we know very
David M. Stark, Department of History, Grand Valley State University, 1 Campus Dr., Allendale, Michigan,
49401-9403, USA. Email: starkd@gvsu.edu
ISSN 0144-039X print/1743-9523 online/09/040491-30
DOI: 10.1080/01440390903245083 2009 Taylor & Francis

492 David M. Stark

little about the number of slaves brought to the island or the links between these
and Africans in Africa during the intervening years, especially the period from
1660 to 1815.
Scholars must draw upon previously overlooked sources if we are to address these
lacunae in the historiography and rescue the history of enslaved populations from pro
longed neglect and relative obscurity. Among these sources, ecclesiastical records and
archives of the Catholic Church, more specifically parish baptismal, marriage and
death registers, figure prominently as a way to look at the past. However, their poten
tial use in studying African populations and their descendants in Puerto Rico has yet
to be fully realised. Information contained in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century
parish registers from Puerto Rican communities including Arecibo, Bayamn,
Caguas, Cangrejos, Coamo, Guayama, Mayagez, Ro Piedras, San Juan, Toa Alta
and Yauco enables us to broaden our understanding of the slave trade to the island
as well as the identity of Africans introduced in the years 1660 through to 1815. In
doing so, we can restore visibility to those who have otherwise remained invisible
and oftentimes ignored in the historical record.
Owing to the scarcity of demographic data and historical records from the late
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the study of enslaved populations in Puerto
Rico during this period has been largely overlooked. Many of the written sources typi
cally consulted including censuses, notary records, diaries or plantation records, bills
of sale, as well as criminal and court cases, no longer exist for this period. Parish reg
isters maintained by the Catholic Church afford us with one means of possibly over
coming this challenge to the study of slavery. With serial data often comprising several
generations if not centuries, these repositories of information on baptisms (births),
marriages and burials (deaths) can be used in innovative ways. For example, scholars
have made use of baptismal records to reconstruct the number of Africans brought to
specific areas of the Americas over time. Moreover, it is possible to obtain valuable
information on the geographic origins and ethnicity of slaves since sacramental
records often identify points of origin in Africa.3 This allows us to learn more about
variations in African slavery across time and space, and thus contributes to a
growing body of scholarship that has begun to focus on the variety of life experiences
and diversity among enslaved populations in the Caribbean.4
There are limitations in using baptismal records as a proxy for data derived from con
ventional sources, such as censuses or information on slave imports. Not all African slaves
were baptised. Some adults either delayed baptism or refused it outright, as might have
been the case with Muslim slaves or those who held steadfast to their own spiritual beliefs.
The survival and transmission of African religious beliefs and practices took place; to
what extent is not clear. Low levels of slave importation and widely dispersed slave hold
ings in Puerto Rico, however, were not as conducive to this phenomenon during the late
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as they were later.5 Owners also neglected to have
their chattel baptised. Far from the gaze of ecclesiastical authorities, some masters may
have wished to avoid payment of fees charged for baptism or simply felt that the time
away from work, especially if the slaves happened to reside in rural locations, was an
inconvenience and/or distraction. Nevertheless, owners had several reasons for ensuring

Slavery and Abolition 493


that newly purchased African slaves were baptised in the Catholic Church. First, they had
to comply with canon law. Second, conversion to Christianity was thought to militate
against resistance to slavery. Third, the baptismal record served as proof of ownership.
Whatever their motivation for doing so, nearly all masters in eighteenth-century
Puerto Rico ensured that their slaves were baptised.6 Some Africans might have readily
embraced Christianity and subsequently been baptised for their own reasons, which
often included a desire in the words of Joseph Miller, to find places of their own, to
belong, somehow, somewhere.7 In the absence of sources for Puerto Rico and other
regions in the Americas, baptismal records provide a useful alternative with which to
understand the timing and level of slave importations as well as slave origins in Africa.
The practice of slavery in Puerto Rico, as it was elsewhere in the Americas, was shaped
by labour-intensive agricultural production for the export sector, in particular that of
sugar. The paucity of sugar production during the years 1660 through to 1765 and the
relatively low levels in the years that followed through to 1815 probably led to a
decline in the trafficking of human cargo to the island. Scholars have long speculated
that fewer Africans were imported, but until now empirical information was lacking. Fur
thermore, we were left to wonder about both the short- and long-term effects of the slave
trade and the impact of African arrivals upon the shape and structure of slave society.
Data culled from parish registers in San Juan and nearby communities such as
Bayamn, Cangrejos and Ro Piedras, along with geographically diverse island commu
nities including Arecibo, Caguas and Toa Alta (located along the northern coast) as well
as Coamo, Guayama, Mayagez and Yauco (located along the southern coast) provides us
with evidence to corroborate previous assumptions about the slave trade.8 More impor
tantly, it offers new insights into questions regarding the volume of slave traffic as well as
the geographic origin and ethnicity of slaves introduced into the island.
Volume of Slave Traffic
African slavery was made legal in the Spanish Caribbean in 1501. Ten years later, the
first black slaves were brought to Puerto Rico in order to work at the foundry estab
lished in Caparra (the islands first European settlement). With the decline of the indi
genous population, it was necessary to supplement and eventually to replace Indian
slave labour then used in gold mining. On 18 August 1518 the Crown authorised
Lorenzo de Gouvenod, the Flemish governor of Bresa, to introduce 500 slaves into
Puerto Rico as part of a licence whereby he was granted to dispatch 4000 slaves to
the Antilles.9 Thereafter, African slaves were introduced in large numbers. By 1530,
Africans comprised 2284 or 69 per cent of the islands enslaved labourers, while Amer
indians accounted for the remaining 1043 or 31 per cent.10 When gold mining
declined throughout the 1530s, as placer deposits were gradually exhausted, the
Spanish Crown encouraged the development of sugar production in Puerto Rico
(and Hispaniola) through grants and loans for the construction of sugar mills, and
for the purchase of additional African slaves. In the mid sixteenth century the pro
duction of sugar intensified, as did the demand for labour. Hereafter, the institution
of slavery on the island became intimately linked with the vicissitudes of agricultural

494 David M. Stark

production for the export sector, specifically the rise, decline and subsequent rebirth of
sugar production.
Starting in the early sixteenth century, the Spanish government issued licenses to
individual traders who would deliver a predetermined number of slaves to the colo
nists in the Americas. Individual traders, however, were unable to satisfy planter
demand for additional enslaved labour. Thus, the Spanish Crown adopted the
asiento, or monopoly contract, system in 1595. In this system, a monopoly contract
was awarded to an individual or a trading company who was contracted to introduce
a specified number of slaves annually. That same year the Crown approved the Portu
guese entrepreneur Pedro Gomez Reynels bid to introduce 4250 slaves annually to the
Americas until a maximum of 38,250 was reached.11 For the next 40 years Portuguese
slave traders held a monopoly on the asiento. No other contract was drawn up for the
years between 1635 and 1662, when the Genoese traders Domingo Grillo and Ambro
sio Lomelino were awarded the asiento.12 In 1675, it again changed hands with the
Dutch West India Company successfully acquiring and subsequently retaining the
right to introduce slaves into Spanish America until 1696.13 From 1702 until 1713,
the French Royal Company of Guinea held the exclusive monopoly on supplying
human cargo to the Spanish Caribbean. Finally, in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht,
ending the Spanish War of Succession, awarded England the asiento for the next 30
years. Thereafter, the pervasiveness of contraband and corsairs throughout the Atlantic
world limited the asientos effectiveness and brought about its eventual demise.
We know more about the character and scale of slave importation to Puerto Rico
during the years in which sugar dominated the agricultural economy. For example, the
number of Africans purchased by island residents totalled 6641 in the years 1540
1600. The decades 1561 1570 and 1581-1590 respectively witnessed the largest
arrival of Africans, and also correspond to the decades of greatest sugar output on the
island in the sixteenth century.14 Of these 6641 African slaves, 56 per cent arrived
through legal channels, 41 per cent by means of arribadas forzosas, or the forced
(though often contrived) landing of an enemy vessel, and 3 per cent as contraband.15
The only estimate so far on the size of Puerto Ricos enslaved population in the midto late-sixteenth-century posits that it declined from a high of 15,000 slaves in 1565 to
a low of 5000-6000 slaves in 1594.16 Several factors precipitated this decrease, including
the resale abroad of slaves and the exodus of island inhabitants with their chatel in search
of greater economic opportunities elsewhere.17 The Spanish Crown also contributed to
the decline of Puerto Ricos enslaved population by ordering the inter-island transfers of
slaves, as occurred in 1590 when 200 slaves from San Juan were sent to Havana to work on
military fortifications.18 Chronic labour shortages subsequently ensued and character
ised the islands agricultural economy throughout the colonial period.
A direct correlation exists between the extent of agricultural activity in a region and
the size of the labour force needed. The trade in Africans to Puerto Rico flourished so
long as labour-intensive agricultural production for the export sector remained profit
able. When a series of economic crises threatened the sugar industry in the late six
teenth and early seventeenth centuries, many sugar planters turned to the
cultivation of ginger as an alternative cash crop. As a result of restrictive Spanish

Slavery and Abolition 495


colonial trade policy and the smaller labour force which ginger required, the levels of
slave traffic to the island progressively declined. Between 1607 and 1633, some 2240
slaves were legally imported through the port of San Juan.19 However, most, if not
all of these, probably arrived in the years prior to 1625 because in the fall of that
year, a ship arrived in San Juan with a cargo of slaves - the first in two years. The
cargo of coerced African labourers was put up for sale and 103 individuals purchased
a total of 267 slaves in eight days. Of the new owners, all but one was from San Juan.20
Clearly there was a demand for enslaved labourers, and island residents had the necess
ary capital for their purchase; yet, their acquisition became increasingly more difficult
in the coming years. The volume of the slave trade declined, as reflected in the absence
of adult slaves baptised in San Juan from 1626 to 1632.21 Not all enslaved Africans
entered the island through the port of San Juan, as many were probably introduced
illegally in other communities such as San Germn, Arecibo and Coamo. However,
because San Juan was the legal point of entry for human and commercial traffic as
well as the principal port, we can infer that few slaves were probably introduced in
these years.
Commercial relations between Puerto Rico and Spain probably reached their nadir
in the years that followed 1625. From 1625 to 1650, the level of maritime traffic
between Puerto Rico and Seville declined to less than one fifth of that of the previous
quarter- century.22 Despite the decline in legal commercial traffic, illegal trade did not
simply flourish, but was openly conducted along the islands coastlines. With few legal
outlets for their goods, island residents were increasingly drawn into the complex web
of intra-Caribbean trade. As they did so, the focus of Puerto Rico (and San Juans)
trade shifted away from Spain and the Hispanic Caribbean to nearby islands in the
non-Hispanic Caribbean, such as the Danish port of Saint Thomas, the British
Virgin Islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda, and the Dutch possessions of Saint Eustatius, and Curao. Although such trade was not significant until later in the seven
teenth century, it coincided with changes in the islands agricultural economy,
which experienced the decline of sugar and subsequent rise of the Hato economy.
Characterised by a mixed economy consisting of animal husbandry, along with the
cultivation of agricultural foodstuffs and the harvest of dyewoods and timber, the
Hato economy flourished from 1660 to 1765. With the demise of sugar, more land
was devoted to raising livestock and other less labour-intensive cash crops including
tobacco and coffee, which did not require a large labour force or one dominated by
adult males. Economic conditions and demographic circumstances on the island
therefore evolved in ways different than those in sugar-growing areas of the nonHispanic Caribbean.
Following the cancellation of the Portuguese asiento in 1640, the slave trade to the
Spanish Americas declined. According to Antonio de Almeida Mendes, it totalled
42,000 Africans in the years 1642-62.23 Sugars demise was only a matter of time
since few, if any, African slaves were legally introduced to the island. To illustrate
this point, there were no adult slaves baptised in San Juan from June 1638 to March
1657. Sugar planters faced chronic labour shortages and progressively declining
output, as the composition of the workforce decreased in size and aged. They also

496 David M. Stark

bore the additional expence associated with the maintenance of unproductive slaves.
Making matters worse, enslaved populations on sugar plantations were unable to
sustain themselves byway of natural increase due to the prevailing sex ratio imbalance,
which characterised slave holdings. For example, ingenio San Antonio in 1659, located
in Bayamn to the west of San Juan, had a labour force consisting of 16 individuals; of
these, 10 were male and six were female, while four of the enslaved workers were over
the age of 60.24 Efforts to revive the islands sugar industry were thus thwarted by a
labour crisis for which there was seemingly no end in sight. The years between 1663
and 1674 represent the lowest point of the slave trade to the Spanish Americas.
Direct traffic from Africa ended and a total of 15,210 slaves were introduced - an
annual average of 1382; while one can only speculate, few were probably destined
for Puerto Rico.25 The only recourse for planters wishing to purchase slaves was to
rely upon contraband trade, which is precisely what they did. Slaves began to arrive
from diverse Caribbean locations, with the English - operating out of Jamaica and
nearby Tortola - gradually assuming a more active role in the trafficking of Africans,
as contraband.26 Not until the Dutch, operating out of Curao, were awarded the
asiento in 1675 would the slave trade resume; even then illegal trade continued una
bated well into the eighteenth century.
Little is known about the levels of slave importation to the island from 1660 to 1765.
It is particularly difficult to gauge during the waning years of the seventeenth century
and the initial decades of the eighteenth century, as there is little in the way of official
records or estimates of the slave trade.27 We can, however, use information contained in
parish baptismal registers to locate and identify Africans who were brought to Puerto
Rico, and more specifically San Juan ( 1672-1727), much like what Mary Karasch did in
her study of Central Africans in Gois (Brazil) in the late colonial period, in addition to
the work done by Matthew Restall on Afro-Yucatecans in eighteenth-century Merida
(Yucatan).28 Levels of legal slave importation were low based upon the small number
of adult slaves - of African origin and acquired through the slave trade - baptised
in San Juan and other island communities. A total of 460 adult slaves were baptised
in San Juan from 1672 to 1727, an average of just over eight adults baptised each
year. These account for 30 per cent of the 1553 slaves baptised29 (See Appendix I.)
The slave trade to the island, or at least the number of African arrivals in San Juan,
was both irregular and infrequent during these years. In nine of the 55 years comprising
the observation period, no adult slaves were baptised in San Juan. For example, none
was baptised from 1677 to 1680; whereas in other years African slaves were more readily
available, as was the case from 1717 to 1719 when a total of 90 adults were baptised.
However, this short-term influx of enslaved individuals did not arise from increased
traffic to the island. Rather, the slaves were brought to San Juan following a successful
military campaign to dislodge the English from the nearby island of Vieques and auc
tioned as spoils of war. For most slave traders, the sale of their human cargoes in Puerto
Rico was at best an afterthought; one they probably considered only if other more
lucrative markets were unavailable.
There are additional signs pointing to the paucity in slave traffic at that time. For
instance, Miguel Enriquez, sole distributor of slaves in Puerto Rico for the French

Slavery and Abolition 497


Royal Company of Guinea, which held the exclusive monopoly for supplying enslaved
individuals to the Spanish Caribbean in the years 1696 through 1713, encountered
great difficulty in procuring slaves. Enriquez was authorised to introduce 40 slaves
per year (1710-4). Due to the war of Spanish Succession, few individuals were
brought directly from Africa to Puerto Rico, and the French Royal Company of
Guinea was granted permission to buy slaves from the Dutch in Curao and the
English in Jamaica. Enriquez was only able to acquire and introduce a total of 96
slaves (88 adults and eight boys aged 12 or younger) for sale in Puerto Rico in the
years 1710 through 1714 - considerably fewer than the 160 allowed for by his con
tract.30 The number of individuals brought by Enriquez (96) does not coincide with
the number of adult slaves baptised in San Juan during these years (64). Perhaps
some slaves died shortly after arrival and thus prior to baptism. Alternatively, not
all of the slaves imported by Enriquez may have been sold to owners living in the vicin
ity of San Juan, and neither did all owners ensure that their recently acquired chattel
were baptised. Slaves undoubtedly were also acquired through various other means,
although information on such avenues of procurement awaits further research.
In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht awarded England the asiento for the next 30 years, but
this did little to resolve the difficulties associated with the acquisition of African slaves.
That same year, the British South Sea Company was authorised to supply Spams colo
nies with 4800 slaves annually.31 These contractual obligations were never entirely ful
filled. According to the sole agent for the British South Sea Company assigned to Saint
Thomas in 1717, it was nearly impossible to purchase enslaved Africans in Puerto
Rico.32 Yet ironically that same year the second largest number of adult slaves were
baptised in San Juan during the observation period (1672-1727). Had it not been
for the successful military campaign to dislodge the English from Vieques, there
would have been fewer slaves available for purchase. The difficulty in acquiring
slaves was further aggravated by hostilities between England and Spain, which inter
rupted the South Sea Companys trade in enslaved individuals to the Caribbean
from 1719 to 1722 and again from 1727 to 1729.33 Despite his reputation as the
wealthiest individual on the island, Miguel Enriquez was unable to buy slaves in
San Juan during the 1720s and 1730s, and relied instead on slaves he captured as a
corsair.34 Even if they had the wherewithal to purchase enslaved labourers, other indi
viduals would have found it nearly impossible to do so in San Juan. Then again,
because agricultural and pastoral activities associated with the Hato economy were
not labour-intensive, there may have been little demand for additional enslaved
labour in Puerto Rico. Thus, the Spanish Crowns decision to authorise the importa
tion of a mere 10 slaves per year to the island from the English island of Barbados
beginning in the year 1724 probably reflects the low level of economic development.35
Puerto Rico was not the only European colony that experienced a dearth of slave
imports. Other areas throughout the circum-Caribbean likewise witnessed a compar
able decrease in the volume of human traffic. The slave trade to French-controlled
Louisiana all but ceased in 1731, with only 250 enslaved individuals legally imported
from 1731 to 1763.36 A similar situation also prevailed in Spanish Florida, where just
203 slaves were introduced from 1752 to 1763.37 While slave imports to these colonies

498 David

M. Stark

declined, they increased in other areas of the Caribbean. For example Puerto Ricos
closest neighbor, the Danish-controlled Saint Thomas, registered an increase in its
enslaved population from 555 in 1691 to 4187 in 1720, whereas similar growth was
evinced in Saint Croix from 1906 in 1742 to 16,956 in 1766.38 The volume of slave
imports dispatched to San Domingue (Haiti) and Jamaica was even greater. Given
the very small number of African slaves introduced into peripheral colonies such as
Louisiana or Florida, owners must have valued and perhaps even promoted better
living conditions for their property as well as encouraged its natural growth.
Evidence on the number of slaves imported by the South Sea Company to Puerto
Rico is incomplete. During the three-year period from 1731 to 1733 the number of
Africans totalled only 115, an average of 38 per year.39 Regrettably, baptismal registers
spanning these years for non-whites in San Juan have badly deteriorated; thus we are
unable to compare with official records of the slave trade the number of Africans
baptised. Such low levels of importation probably continued in subsequent years,
and may even have declined. For instance, only 25 Africans were baptised in San
Juan from 1735 to 1739, an average of five per year and down from eight per year
in the earlier period 1672 to 1727. (See Appendix II.) Contraband traders undoubtedly
introduced as many if not more enslaved individuals than did their legal counterparts.
However, because contraband is a form of commerce that is difficult to quantify, it is
virtually impossible to determine how many slaves the European traders and their
Caribbean counterparts illegally brought to the island. Recognising their inability to
curb the introduction of contraband slaves, colonial authorities would invite the
colonists who had purchased such slaves to identify themselves and regularise their
purchases. This involved payment of a fine, known as an indulto, on each person. A
total of 32 slaves were indulted in Puerto Rico from 1716 to 1719.40 Of course, it
was to the colonists advantage to have the purchase of illegally acquired enslaved indi
viduals regularised, since they ran the risk of having contraband slaves seized. In all
likelihood, the legal and illegal supply of slaves was probably adequate for activities
associated with the export of animal products combined with hides, dyewoods and
timber, or foodstuffs. On the other hand, it may have been inadequate for the cultiva
tion of commercial cash crops, including tobacco, coffee, and cotton, that were grown
in small quantities along the islands southern coast.
Low levels of slave importation prevailed elsewhere on the island; this was to be
expected given the link between levels of slave traffic and the profitability of agricul
tural production for the export sector. If we look more closely at the number of Afri
cans introduced into island communities, several distinct trends emerge. (See Table 1.)
Nearly 8 per cent of all slave baptisms in Arecibo (1708-1791) were of adults, and
averaged one per year. Two examples are Cecilia, a slave belonging to Juan Carrion,
baptised on 31 October 1739, who was brought to the island from Saint Thomas,
and Juana, a slave belonging to Bartolom Brito, who was baptised on 24 December
1769, and described as a 25-year-old black from Guinea.41 Planters and ranchers
usually could afford to purchase adult slaves, generally Africans, only during prosper
ous times and very seldom could they acquire more than one individual at a time. In
Arecibo there were seven instances from 1708 to 1791 in which owners baptised more

Slavery and Abolition 499

Table 1 Number of adult and infant slaves baptised in select Puerto Rican communities
Community
Arecibo
Bayamn1
Caguas
Cangrejos
Coamo
Guayama2
Mayagez
Ro Piedras3
San Juan4
Toa Alta5
Yauco6
Totals

Year

Male

Female

Unsure

Totals

No.

1708-64
1764-91
1752-67
1730-65
1773-1810
1701-22
1755-1800
1746-63
1761-79
1771-84
1672-27
1735-39
1752-60
1778-87
1751-76

26
17
13
11
39
2
60
16
7
87
327
18
1
2
3
629

22
19
4
6
11
4
47
9
6
30
133
7
3
0
4
305

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
19
0
0
0
0
0
19

48
36
17
17
50
6
107
25
13
136
460
25
4
2
7
953

0.8
0.7
2.6
2.0
4.1
0.8
2.2
1.2
0.7
14.2

566
504
57
95
37
165
1114
335
107
104
1093
137
16
39
198
4564

9.8
9.2
8.8
11.8
3.1
22.7
22.9
16.6
5.6
10.8

0.4

Baptisms
5751
5452
649
802
1200
727
4875
2024
1911
960

327
767
1563
27,008

12.7

Source: Archivo Parroquial San Felipe de Arecibo [hereafter APSFA], Libro primero de bautismos en Arecibo,
1708-1735, Libro segundo de bautismos en Arecibo, 1735-1749, Libro tercero de bautismos en Arecibo, 17491764, Libro cuarto de bautismos en Arecibo, 1764-1772, Libro quinto de bautismos en Arecibo, 1772-1786,
Libro sexto de bautismos en Arecibo, 1786-1791; Archivo Parroquial de la Santa Cruz de Bayamn [hereafter
APSCB], Libro primero de bautismos en Bayamon, 1751-1765 and Libro segundo de bautismos en Bayamn,
1765-1780; Archivo Parroquial Dulce Nombre de Jess de Caguas [hereafter APDNJC], Libro primero de
bautismos en Caguas, 1730-1765; Archivo Parroquial San Mateo de Cangrejos [hereafter APSMC], Libro
primero de bautismos en Cangrejos, 1773-1810; Archivo Parrroquial San Blas de Coamo [hereafter APSBC],
Libro primero de bautismos en Coamo, 1701-1773, Libro segundo de bautismos en Coamo, 1773-1790, Libro
tercero de bautismos en Coamo, 1790 1794, Libro cuarto de bautismos en Coamo, 1794 1802; Archivo
Parroquial San Antonio de Padua de Guayama [hereafter APSAPG], Indice del libro primero de bautismos,
1746 1763; Archivo Parroqual Nuestra Seora de la Candelaria de Mayagez [hereafter APNSCM], Libro
primero de bautismos en Mayagez, 1761 -1763 and Libro segundo de bautismos en Mayagez, 1763-1779;
Archivo Parroquial Nuestra Seora del Pilar [hereafter APNSPRP], Libro segundo de bautismos en Ro Piedras,
1771-1784; Archivo Histrico Diocesano [hereafter AHD], Libro primero de bautismos para pardos y esclavos en
San Juan, 1672-1706, Libro segundo de bautismos para pardos y esclavos en San Juan, 1707-1714, Libro tercero
de bautismos para pardos y esclavos en San Juan, 1715 1729, and Libro quinto de bautismos para pardos y
esclavos en San Juan, 1735-1739; Archivo Parroquial San Femando Rey de Toa Alta [hereafter APSFRTA], El libro
de bautismo de personas pardas, negros parbulos y adultos, 1752-1760 and Libro dos de bautismos de personas
pardas en Toa Alta, 1778-1787; Archivo Parroquial Nuestra Seora del Rosario de Yauco [hereafter APNSRY],
Libro primero de bautismos en Yauco, 1751-1769, Libro segundo de bautismos en Yauco, 1769-1777.
Notes: 1The baptismal register for the years 1765 to 1780 is missing pages and many others are out of order,
rendering its use impossible. 2Data from Guayama has been culled from the index of the oldest baptismal register,
which provides the name, sex, legal status and origin of most adult slaves baptised in the community. The oldest
extant baptismal register in this community dates from 1813. 3I am very grateful to Lorraine de Castro for
providing me with a transcribed copy of book two of baptisms from Rio Piedras. 4There is no baptismal register
for San Juan spanning the years 1665-1706. However, some entries from these years exist and are part of the
Libro de bautismos de la Catedral de San Juan, Archivo General de Puerto Rico, Coleccin Eclesistica, CP 36, caja
6, expediente 9. It is impossible to calculate what proportion adult and infant slaves comprised among the overall
total number of baptisms in this community. 5Toa Alta was one of the few communities on the island that
maintained separate registers for the white and non-white population. Baptismal registers for the white
population from these years no longer exist; therefore, it is impossible to calculate what proportion adult and
infant slaves comprised among the overall total number of baptisms in this community. 6Many baptismal entries
subsequent to 1776 are illegible and are thus excluded from analysis.

500 David M. Stark

than one adult slave at a time, while in Cangrejos there were five from 1773 to 1810,
and in Coamo there were only four from 1755 to 1800, whereas in Ro Piedras there
were 21 occasions from 1771 to 1784, and in San Juan there were 28 from 1672 to 1727.
Other communities had only one or no such instances. With the exception of Rio
Piedras, there were no occasions in any of the communities examined for this study
in which owners baptised more than two adult slaves at a time. Thus, owners
purchased slaves singly or at most in pairs. Such was also the pattern observed by
Matthew Restall among slave-owners in Campeche and Mrida (Yucatan) in the
early eighteenth century.42 Not only were money and credit tight, but also the
availability of enslaved African labourers was limited.
This was not the case in Ro Piedras. An average of 10 individuals were baptised per
year in this community, the highest number observed on the island. According to the
1765 census, Ro Piedras and Cangrejos (Santurce) had a combined enslaved popu
lation that totalled 121, thus it ranked fourteenth among the 22 island communities
in size. As labour-intensive agricultural production increased in communities located
within the periphery of San Juan such as Ro Piedras, so too did the size of its enslaved
population. By 1776, there were 325 slaves in Ro Piedras alone - Cangrejos having been
recognised as a separate community in 1773 - and it ranked eighth among the islands
26 communities in size. This increase was largely the result of purchases made by sugar
planters and by coffee growers. Both needed additional labourers since by then, Rio
Piedras had emerged as the island leader in sugar output and ranked fourth in terms
of coffee production.43 Because the number of adults baptised exceeded that of
infants - the only community in this study where this occurred - the growth in the
enslaved population resulted from Africans introduced as part of the slave trade.
A comparison of the number of adult slaves baptised in San Juan with Arecibo
reflects differences in the agricultural economy and also highlights variations in
labour requirements. In terms of the total number (460 compared to 84) and the
average number of adult slave baptisms per year (eight compared to one) the differ
ences between San Juan and Arecibo are striking. As the islands capital and seat of mili
tary and political power as well as religious authority, San Juans inhabitants had greater
access to capital necessary for the purchase of African slaves. We see this reflected in the
greater number of instances in which adults were purchased and subsequently baptised
in pairs. More importantly, it should be noted that sugar was still cultivated only in the
outlying areas of San Juan, albeit on a small scale. In contrast, planters and ranchers in
Arecibo purchased fewer adults and demonstrated greater parity in the acquisition of
male and female slaves in comparison to their counterparts in San Juan and its envir
ons. While such trends may reflect variations between urban and rural areas, they attest
to the lower labour demands of the Hato economy, as opposed to those of sugar pro
duction. This, along with the paucity of the slave trade to Puerto Rico, resulted in more
evenly balanced sex ratios and helped the enslaved population to achieve a positive rate
of growth sufficient to maintain its numerical strength throughout the late seventeenth
and well into the eighteenth centuries.
Our knowledge of the slave trade and levels of slave importation to Puerto Rico
from 1765 to 1815 is limited. Following the liberalisation of trade made possible by

Slavery and Abolition 501


the implementation of comercio libre, or free trade, in Spanish America in 1765, there
were efforts to increase the islands enslaved labour force. A sizeable influx of African
slaves arrived, as attempts to stimulate agricultural production for the export sector
intensified, particularly attempts to revive the islands sugar industry. However, the
volume of slave traffic is subject to debate. Philip Curtin estimated that 15,000
slaves were imported from 1765 to 1811; more specifically, he argues that the majority
of these arrivals were brought to the island from 1774 to 1802.44 Yet, if we compare
Curtins estimate with the 7000 or so African slaves imported by the Compaa de Bar
celona to the island in the years 1766 to 1770, nearly one half of the African slaves were
introduced prior to the period of greatest importation, according to Curtin.45
Approximately one half of the 7000 or so individuals were imported by the English
firm of Kendermason and Company, which sold just 36 slaves on the island in
1764, as compared with 1321 slaves in 1767; 1713 slaves in 1768; and 817 slaves in
1769.46 A cursory glance at the San Juan burial register for the years 1766 to 1769
reveals the fate of many slaves introduced by Kendermason and Company and the
Compaa de Barcelona during these years. Among the 445 total slave deaths recorded,
at least 299, or 67 per cent, were of newly arrived Africans.47 However, the true number
of deaths was probably much higher; many simply went unrecorded when an outbreak
of small pox lasting from March to July 1768 decimated the ranks of the new arrivals.48
Whether Curtins estimate includes slaves illegally brought as part of the contraband
trade, which probably accounts for most if not all enslaved individuals introduced
throughout island communities, is not clear. Such inconsistencies in the data therefore
complicate the study of slave imports to the island and highlight the need for further
research on the volume of the slave trade.
Even so, there was considerable growth in the enslaved population, especially in the
years leading up to the nineteenth century. For example, the islands overall enslaved
population more than doubled its numbers from 7137 in 1775 to 18,057 in 1795.49
This occurred despite the higher mortality and lower fertility rates typically associated
with newly introduced Africans. Therefore, we might surmise that either more slaves
were brought to the island as part of the slave trade, or that the increase in the slave
population was only partially dependent on the slave trade and also the result of
natural increase. Thereafter, the slave population fluctuated, experiencing a decline
to 13,333 in 1802 before again rebounding to 17,536 in 1812.50 This decrease is
puzzling in light of the positive rate of natural increase that probably characterised
the years 1775 through to 1795. Perhaps it may be linked to the vicissitudes of
trans-Atlantic trade - especially that of human cargo - during the Napoleonic
wars. Regardless of the reason(s) for the fluctuations in the size of the enslaved
population, the overall increase in the levels of slave traffic to the island helped lay
the foundation for the resurgence of sugar production in the nineteenth century.
An increase in the levels of slave traffic should have resulted in a concomitant
upsurge in the ratio of black to mulatto slaves; however, it did not. For example, in
San Juan (which had the islands largest slave population), the proportion of esclavos
negros, or black slaves, in 1776 amounted to 71 per cent (620 of 876 total slaves). Five
years later it amounted to 56 per cent (857 of 1541 total slaves), whereas in 1787 it

502 David M. Stark

increased to 74 per cent (642 of 873 total slaves), and in 1792 it declined to 66 per cent
(1167 of 1762 total slaves).51 Similar fluctuations in the proportion of black to mulatto
slaves also occurred throughout the island in communities like Arecibo and Coamo.
Yet, with so many African arrivals as part of the slave trade, why was the islands
enslaved population not darker? The answer probably lies in the high mortality
rates experienced by enslaved men and women introduced as part of the slave trade
(mentioned above). Even in communities such as Ro Piedras, at the forefront of
the transition in the islands agricultural economy from pastoral to agricultural pur
suits, the proportion of black to mulatto slaves remained fairly constant, increasing
in some years and decreasing in others. For instance, despite a substantial increase
in the size of the enslaved population from 390 to 838 slaves in the years 1792 to
1797, the proportion of black to mulatto slaves actually decreased from 81 to 74 per
cent.52 Thus, the darkening of Puerto Ricos enslaved population occurred in the nine
teenth century, once sugar again dominated the agricultural landscape.
The level of economic development in Puerto Rico is related to slave demography
on the island. As a labour-intensive pursuit, the cultivation of sugar in the mid- to
late-sixteenth century required a large influx of African slaves (mostly male and
adult). Therefore, the composition of the slave population at this time was predomi
nantly male and overwhelmingly African in origin. For example, in 1564 ingenio La
Trinidad had a workforce comprised of 57 males and 14 females, whereas in 1565
ingenio Espritu Santo had a workforce consisting of 49 males and 15 females.53
Although their origin was not noted, the slaves were most likely Africans. With so
many males and a scarcity of females among the slave population, the sex-ratio imbal
ance on many of the sugar plantations like those noted above made it difficult for
enslaved men and women to marry or participate in many forms of family life. More
over, higher mortality rates among African arrivals and lower fertility rates among this
segment of the slave population also prevailed. Any population increase consequently
came about from forced migration rather than from natural growth. Declines in the
islands sugar production during the early to mid seventeenth century, along with
the rise of the Flato economy, eventually led to a drop in the number of Africans pur
chased from slave traders. The failure of subsequent efforts to revive labour-intensive
agricultural production in the years that followed meant that there was little need for
additional enslaved labourers. Slave traders responded by bypassing the island in
favour of more lucrative markets.
The decline in the level of slave importations to Puerto Rico had a lasting impact on
slave demographic and family systems. Since fewer adult males were purchased from
slave traders this helped to lessen their imbalance with women. As the number of
women increased, so too did the proportion of children, therefore facilitating the
possibility of natural growth. The transition to a predominantly native-born slave
population also contributed to evening out the sex ratio. Locally born females typically
experienced longer reproductive periods and, thus, higher fertility rates than their
African-born counterparts. These transformations most probably occurred one or
two generations after the decline of the African slave trade; in the case of Puerto
Rico they probably coincided with the onset of the Flato economy during the mid

Slavery and Abolition 503


to late seventeenth century. We see evidence of this ongoing process in the increasing
number of slave infants born in the mid 1680s. Indeed, the largest number baptised in
San Juan from 1672 to 1727 occurred in 1691, when a total of 62 infants were baptised,
as opposed to only three adult slaves. By the 1690s the slave population, at least in San
Juan, appears to have become self-sustaining as a result of natural growth. Economic
conditions and demographic circumstances would continue this trend until the resur
gence of labour-intensive agricultural production. Perhaps more importantly, the
emergence of a Creole majority among slaves also promoted social cohesiveness, as
cultural and linguistic differences were less pronounced.54 Opportunities gradually
evolved from 1660 to 1765, when the Hato economy flourished, for a more settled
family life within a larger, nascent Afro-Puerto Rican community. Greater interaction
between free and unfree segments of society also may have provided impetus for the
creation of a national identity, or emerging sense of puertorriqueidad.
Geographic Origin and Ethnicity of Slaves
We know very little about the specific origins of the islands African-born slaves or the
links between these and Africans in Africa, since few historical studies discuss this
topic. However, by examining the geographic origins and ethnicity of slaves brought
to the island, we can embark on reconstructing these long-lost ties. But first some
words of caution are necessary about the study of African ethnicities in the Americas.
Documents pertaining to the slave trade typically identified Africans by the port from
which they left or coastal region from which they were exported. Therefore, a slaves
geographic origin may not necessarily correspond to their ethnicity. As Gwendolyn
Midlo Hall reminds us, slaves were often listed under broad regional categories
regardless of ethnicities: For example, Karabali for slaves from the Bight of Biafra;
Mandinga for slaves from Senegambia; ... Congo for slaves from West Central
Africa.55 Along these same lines, there was considerable ethnic and linguistic diversity
within a particular region of Africa such as Sierra Leone or the Congo.56 Furthermore,
a person listed in the records as a Mandinga from Sierra Leone or a Congo from the
hinterland of West Central Africa might not have identified himself or herself as such
in Africa.57 This leads us to an important consideration raised by Hall about ethnicity
itself; was African ethnicity a European construct imposed on the slave?58 Clearly the
slave himself or herself was the only person who could speak to the true nature of their
ethnicity; however, language barriers often prevented this, so it was often left to the
discretion of the slave trader, slave owner or some other individual to report the
slaves ethnicity. Invariably such information when recorded in official documents
or parish registers was sometimes imprecise.59
Take, for example, Antonio, a slave belonging to Francisco Serrano, who was bap
tised in Arecibo in 1741, and described in the record as a young black of the Mina
nation, of 11 or 12 years of age.60 When he married Antonia Coln, a slave belonging
to Cayetana Coln, in 1754, he was listed as a native of Guinea. As the years progressed
and Antonio was assimilated into the local slave community, he may have come to
identify with his more numerous enslaved counterparts from West Africa and

504 David M. Stark

adopted some of their cultural attributes. Another possibility is that because he was the
only slave of Mina ancestry observed in Arecibo from 1708 to 1791, Antonio might
have been included in the broad regional category of slaves from Guinea. (See
Table 3.) By the time of his death in 1758, Antonio was simply listed as a moreno
slave belonging to Cayetana Coln.61 Perhaps by then, most if not all, vestiges of his
African ancestry were lost or forgotten. It is not clear how many more individuals
like Antonio there were in Arecibo, or elsewhere on the island forgotten or simply
not recorded in the parish registers.
Let us begin by recapping what is known about the geographic origin and ethnicity of
slaves during the islands initial sugar boom. Slaves introduced during the first half of
the sixteenth century were probably from Greater Senegambia, more specifically the
region of Upper Guinea - between the Nalu estuary and Cape Mount in modem
day Sierra Leone. Individuals from this region were known collectively as the Zape
or Sapi. This name was given to all peoples from Sierra Leone, except for the Mende,
and probably corresponds to the Kpwesi (Kpelle) people.62 Although different
peoples existed in the region of Upper Guinea, these often spoke mutually intelligible
Mel languages, which may have facilitated their integration within host populations
on the island and promoted social cohesion among recent arrivals.63 Throughout
much of the first two centuries of colonisation Greater Senegambia was one of the prin
cipal suppliers of African slaves to the Americas. This was due to the regions geographic
proximity, in particular to the Caribbean, which decreased travel time and allowed for
the use of smaller ships and crews.64 Perhaps it led to higher survival rates because the
middle passage was shorter and slaves arrived in better condition. Another factor that
made Africans from Greater Senegambia particularly attractive for owners in Puerto
Rico was their reputation as well suited for pastoral pursuits; thus cattle ranchers
may have preferred them.65 Lesser numbers of slaves came from Gabon (Biafara or
Bafan), Guinea Bissau (the Banol, Casanga, and Nalu), the Bijagos islands, located
off the coast of Rio Grande (Biohos) and from Senegal (the Jelofes and Berbesies).66
These trends would continue into the second half of the sixteenth century.
Beginning in the 1570s, large numbers of slaves from West Central Africa were intro
duced. A majority of these were probably from the Loango coast; more specifically, the
region just north of the Zaire River. African arrivals from this region may have
included the Brama, or the Lari people from the area near the port of Vili.67 Bantu
language group speakers predominated in West Central Africa, with inhabitants
from the Loango coast probably comprising Kongo language group speakers.68
When Spain granted Portuguese traders the asiento in 1580, these began introducing
slaves from Angola - specifically the geographic area between the Dande and Kwango
rivers - into the island as part of a lucrative trade in human cargo from that region of
West Central Africa.69 The Portuguese continued as the major providers of slaves to
the Caribbean well into the seventeenth century and expanded their traffic to
include Africans shipped from the port established at Luanda. As the century pro
gressed, this port eventually became synonymous with the region of Angola. Moreover,
the term Angola acquired different meanings to the diverse European powers operat
ing in the area, which makes it difficult to know if individuals from this region were in

Slavery and Abolition 505


fact Angolans. Eventually, the Dutch, and later the English and the French also shipped
Africans from Angola, typically from areas north of the Kongo River.70 Meanwhile, the
Portuguese expanded into the Kongo and further north from the Gold Coast.71 Similar
to what transpired with the term Angola, the meaning of the term Kongo also varied
over time once other European traders made their presence known; although typically
it referred to areas south of the Zaire (Kongo) River.72 Later in the seventeenth century,
when the Dutch were granted the asiento, they too shipped slaves from the Loango
coast.73
Although persons from West Central Africa constituted diverse ethnic and cultural
groups, they most probably were able to understand and communicate with each
other, albeit with some initial difficulty, upon arrival in Puerto Rico. This is because
the major Bantu sublanguage groups spoken in West Central Africa (Kongo and
Kimbundu), according to Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, were linguistically similar like
Spanish and Portuguese.74 As was the case with slaves brought to the island from
Greater Senegambia, new arrivals from West Central Africa were probably able to
adapt more easily and to readily communicate with enslaved individuals present in
the resident population, which undoubtedly facilitated their integration.
As the seventeenth century came to an end, the French Royal Company of Guinea
gained control of the legal slave trade. During its brief period in command of the
asiento (1702-13), the French Royal Company oversaw the introduction of slaves
to Puerto Rico from Upper Guinea and the Kongo River region.75 Meanwhile,
English traders increased their participation in the Atlantic slave trade, in particular,
once they took over control of the asiento from the French. They still frequented
the Loango coast in search of slaves and, according to Joseph C. Miller, probably
acquired forest peoples from modern southern Gabon for sale in the Americas.76
Given the extent of English commercial activities throughout the Spanish Caribbean,
it is likely that Africans from this geographic region were among the slaves they intro
duced into Puerto Rico. The English also participated in the Guinea-Bissau slave trade,
although the nature of trade originating in this region had changed since initial Por
tuguese activity in the sixteenth century. At that time and continuing into the seven
teenth century, most slaves came from coastal communities and probably included the
Brame, Banyun, Cassanga, Floup, Balanta, Bujago, Biafada and Nalu peoples.
However, with increasing competition for slaves among European powers, first the
French and then the English began to acquire slaves from communities beyond the
coastline in interior regions. As they did so, Mandinkas began to figure more promi
nently in the slave trade and may have likewise been introduced into Puerto Rico.
However, they were probably not identified as Mandinkas and were probably
described as from Guinea, and were more numerous in island communities.77 In
addition the English expanded into the Gold Coast slave trade, specifically trafficking
in slaves of Koramantin origin.78 Most of the slaves that arrived in Puerto Rico there
fore came from West and West Central Africa.
Africans did not form a very large proportion of the late seventeenth and early- to
mid-eighteenth-century Puerto Rican slave population. The small number of adult
slaves - of African origin and acquired through the slave trade - baptised in island

506 David M. Stark

communities examined for this study suggests that a relatively low level of slave impor
tation characterised the structure of slavery from 1660 to 1765. The number of adult
slaves baptised in San Juan is a useful basis for comparison with other island commu
nities. Adults account for 30 per cent of all slaves baptised in San Juan from 1672 to
1727 (See Appendix I). However, the introduction of adult slaves into San Juan was
irregular, with few or no individuals imported in some years and comparably larger
numbers in others. With the exception of Ro Piedras (1771-84), where adults com
prised 57 per cent of all slaves baptised, fewer Africans were imported elsewhere on the
island. Indeed, only 8 per cent of the total number of slave baptisms in Arecibo ( 170864) was of adults, as compared to 15 per cent in Caguas ( 1730-65), and 4 per cent in
Coamo (1701-22). Perhaps a positive natural rate of growth among enslaved popu
lations satisfied labour demands in these communities since the Hato economy did
not require a large number of slaves. Then again, the paucity of African slaves baptised
in these communities also reflects the low levels of the slave trade at that time.
Except for communities located within the periphery of San Juan such as Bayamn,
Guaynabo, Loiza and Ro Piedras, the proportion of Africans among the islands slave
population did not appreciably increase from 1765 to 1815. As observed in the case of
Ro Piedras, such increases probably occurred as the eighteenth century came to a close
and with the dawn of the nineteenth century. Sugar production was concentrated here,
and individuals who purchased slaves from the Compaia de Barcelona likely resided
in these communities. Beyond the periphery of San Juan, there were few Africans
purchased. Only in Coamo do we find an average of two or more adult slaves baptised
per year from 1755 to 1800, as opposed to less than one per year in other commu
nities.79 Based upon these findings, it would appear that Africans comprised approxi
mately 20 per cent of the islands overall enslaved population. Therefore, the
overwhelming majority of the enslaved individuals in eighteenth-century Puerto
Rico was native-born as opposed to immigrant slaves, which concurs with what scho
lars have long suspected.80 This, of course, was subject to regional variations in the
agricultural economy - as observed in Table 1 - and access to slave markets, with
greater numbers of Africans probably present in San Juan and its environs, and
lesser quantities elsewhere.
The varied sources of slave trade in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries were
reflected in the geographic origins of enslaved men and women introduced in San
Juan and island communities. A total of 460 adults were baptised in San Juan from
1672 to 1727. Of these, 236 baptisms (51 per cent) list the persons geographic
origin or ethnicity. Comparable information is available for 273, or 43 per cent, of
the 642 adults baptised in the other 10 island communities examined (Arecibo,
Bayamn, Caguas, Cangrejos, Coamo, Guayama, Mayagez, Ro Piedras, Toa Alta
and Yauco) for this study. Observing the geographic origins of adult slaves baptised
shows the extent of ethnic divisions among Puerto Ricos enslaved population. As
in the rest of Latin America, owners often preferred slaves of different ethnic and cul
tural backgrounds to avoid the possibility of uprisings.81 For example, there was a pro
hibition on the introduction of Senegambians, in particular the Jelofes, who were
responsible for the 1527 slave uprising in Puerto Rico.82 Individuals from the Bight

Slavery and Abolition 507


of Biafra, that is, from Calabar, Cameroons, and Rio del Rey, were also undesirable in
Puerto Rico because of their disposition and tendency to commit suicide.83 Not all
owners looked to purchase slaves of different cultural or language groups; some
may have preferred new Africans with whom they were familiar and who spoke
languages understood and spoken by individuals they already owned. This may
have been the case with persons from the Loango coast and Angola, as planters and
ranchers on the island sought to purchase these because of their perceived docility,
capacity for easy acculturation, and better predisposition toward integration into
their new lives and surroundings.84 However, the effectiveness of such preferences is
difficult to evaluate. On the one hand, they may have been more effective in the six
teenth century when the volume of slaves introduced into the island was greater and
planters could thus be more selective in their purchase of human commodities. On the
other hand, the restricted range of African coastal areas involved in the early traffic
might have limited selection. Once the volume of slave imports into Puerto Rico
began to decline over the course of the seventeenth century and remained at low
levels well into the eighteenth century, planters and ranchers who wished to purchase
enslaved individuals could not afford to be so selective. This was after all a sellers
market.
More than one half of adult slaves baptised in San Juan for whom geographic origin
was identified were from West Central Africa. Among these, individuals from Loango
predominated (20 per cent), followed closely by Angola (18 per cent), and Kongo (14
per cent) (see Table 2).
Because slaves from Angola were often shipped through Luanda, located along the
Loango coast, we can surmise that this region collectively supplied over one third of
the Africans introduced in San Juan. This coincides with what little we know about
the geographic origin of African slaves brought to the island during the seventeenth
century, which suggests that the majority of individuals sold in Puerto Rico were
from the Loango coast and from Angola.85 Their preponderance was one vestige of
early- to mid-seventeenth-century Puerto Rican slave importation patterns, in
which Portuguese and Dutch traders brought most slaves to the island from Angola
and the Kongo respectively.86 This finding also concurs with those of scholars includ
ing Maria Elena Diaz, who has examined the origin of slaves in El Cobre (Santiago),
Cuba in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as well as Edgar Love and Gonzalo
Aguirre Beltrn, who have studied the origins of slaves that were introduced into
Mexico during the seventeenth century.87
Slaves from West Africa figured less prominently among African imports, with those
from Tari (a small state located between Whydah and Aliada in modern-day
Dahomey) in the majority.88 A handful of African captives also originated in the
Bight of Biafra, or Slave Coast, including individuals from Calabar (Karabali) and
Mina. The latter region became an important supplier of slaves in the years following
1650. Enslaved individuals from the Mina region typically spoke Gbe dialects (Ewe,
Aja, Fon-Dahomen and Mahi), which differ from the Bantu languages spoken by
West Central Africans.89 Thus, their assimilation within slave communities among
the host population might have been more difficult because of linguistic barriers.

508 David M. Stark

Table 2 Identity of adult slaves baptised in San Juan, 1672-1727


Number of adult slaves
Point of origin
Point of origin
English Islands
Anguilla
Barbados
Bermuda
Jamaica
Vieques (populated by the English)
Virgin Gorda
Danish Islands
Saint Croix
Saint Thomas
Spanish Possessions
Cuman
Ethnicity
West Africa
Guinea
Karabali
Mandinga
Mina
Tari
West Central Africa
Angola
Kongo
Loango
Unknown
Totals

No.

3
1
2
1
6
4

0.7
0.2
0.4
0.2
1.3
0.9

1
17

0.2
3.7

21

4.6

1
8
7
6
36

0.2
1.7
1.5
1.3
7.8

42
33
47
224
460

9.2
7.2
10.2
48.7
100.0

Source: AHD, Libro primero de bautismos para pardos y esclavos en San Juan, 1672-1706; Libro segundo de
bautismos para pardos y esclavos en San Juan, 1707-14; Libro tercero de bautismos para pardos y esclavos en San
Juan, 1715-29.

With regard to Calabar, at first it referred to lands on the east side of the Niger Delta,
around Bonny and New Calabar located near Degema. Later the term was applied to
the port on the Cross River, or what became known as Old Calabar. Both Old and New
Calabar eventually became major centres of the Atlantic slave trade.90 Many of the
Africans who were identified as Karabali at the time of their baptism in San Juan
may in fact have been Igbos; these made up the majority of slaves from this region,
and were probably also present in Puerto Rico.91
Enslaved individuals did not ordinarily reach Spanish Caribbean colonies in com
plete shiploads, especially in the years following 1663 when direct trade from Africa
ended.92 Rather, several ports throughout the non-Hispanic Caribbean such as
Curao, Saint Eustatius and Saint Thomas received such transports, with slaves sub
sequently re-exported from these ports to their Spanish counterparts. Based upon the
low levels that characterised slave imports to Puerto Rico, it would appear that the
trade in enslaved individuals to the island functioned in this manner. This indeed
appears to have been the case, as a sizeable proportion of Africans introduced into

Slavery and Abolition 509


San Juan (23 per cent) for whom geographic origin was identified did not arrive
directly from Africa, but rather, from other Caribbean islands, most notably Saint
Thomas. The relative proximity of this nearby Danish island meant that it was
ideally positioned to supply Puerto Rico with contraband slaves. Many of the slaves
purchased during the waning years of the seventeenth century by Francisco Caldern
and members of his immediate family - the largest slave holder(s) in San Juan at that
time - whose landholdings included Hato Buenavista located along the islands
eastern coast, probably came from this nearby Danish island with whom the Calderons
had extensive business dealings. Moreover, from what we know about Miguel Enri
quezs business contacts with some of the Eastern Caribbeans principal merchants
in Curao and Saint Thomas, it is likely that he too acquired individuals in these
ports either for himself or for resale in Puerto Rico. Among the suppliers of slaves
re-exported to Puerto Rico, Saint Thomas was the most important and would
remain so well into the nineteenth century.93
A noticeable shift occurred in the geographic origins and ethnicity of slaves intro
duced in island communities over the course of the eighteenth century. The aforemen
tioned trends observed for San Juan were subsequently transformed as fewer enslaved
individuals came from the Loango coast and Angola. A majority of adults baptised
during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries came from West Africa (42 per
cent of the overall total), as compared to 24 per cent of adults from this region baptised
in San Juan. Two distinct trends emerge: first, slaves from Guinea (37 per cent) predo
minated after accounting for less than 1 per cent of African arrivals in San Juan;
second, slaves from Tari were noticeably absent among adults baptised in island com
munities. Individuals from West Central Africa figured less prominently as well, with
Angola supplying 18 per cent of slaves introduced into these eight communities and
relatively lower proportions from Loango and the Kongo, which had been important
sources of slaves imported into San Juan. Finally with the exception of Cangrejos, the
number of enslaved individuals identified as from the non-Hispanic Caribbean, in
particular Saint Thomas also declined. The strength of their numbers introduced
into Cangrejos may have been due to the proximity of this community to San Juan,
thereby providing planters with greater access to slave markets in the islands
capital, where the traffic in contraband from Saint Thomas was more important in
the local economy (see Tables 3, 4 and 5).
Changes in the suppliers of human cargo to the Spanish Caribbean possibly account
for Guineas displacement of Angola as the primary source of Africans purchased from
slave traders. There is some confusion as to what specific area of the African continent
is meant by Guinea, though scholars generally concur that this vague term refers
broadly to the coast of West and Central Africa.94 More specifically, it likely corre
sponds to the coastline between contemporary Senegal and Gabon.95 Such a shift
in the geographic origin of slaves reflects the gradual ascent of the English, and
signals the decline of the Portuguese and the Dutch as the primary providers of
enslaved African labour.96 The geographic origin and ethnicity of adult slaves baptised
in San Juan and island communities corroborates our previous understanding of such
aspects of the slave trade to Puerto Rico at the time. According to Luis Daz Soler, a

510 David M. Stark

Table 3 Identity of adult slaves baptised and buried in select communities within the
periphery of San Juan: Bayamn, Cangrejos and Ro Piedras

Ethnicity or Point of Origin


Danish Islands
Saint Thomas
Saint Croix
Non-Hispanic
Caribbean
West Africa
Guinea
Karabali
Mina
Tari
West Central Africa
Angola
Kongo
Mandinga
Unknown
Totals

Ro Piedras
Bayamn Cangrejos (1771-1784)
(1773 1810)
(1764-1800)
(1752-1767)

2
2

0.7
0.7

36

12.1

0
1
0
0

2
0
0
0

7
3
2
2

0.7
0.7

0
0
3
132
136

4
6
233
298

1
1

0
0

31

4
2
1
0
0
2
2
6
50

!
1

1
7
17

Totals
-----------No.
%

0
1

1
0

0
1
2

Deaths

0
88
95

2.3
1.0

0.3
1.3
2.0
78.2
100.0

Source: APSCB, Libro primero de bautismos en Bayamn, 1751-65 and Libro segundo de bautismos en
Bayamn, 1765-80; APSMC, Libro primero de bautismos en Cangrejos, 1773-1810; APNSPRP, Libro segundo
de bautismos en Ro Piedras, 1771 84 and Libro primero de defunciones en Rio Piedras, 1764-1800.

majority of African slaves introduced to the island over the course of the eighteenth
century were from the Gold Coast, Nigeria, and Dahomey, known collectively as
Guinea.97 Furthermore, Mario Rodrguez Leons study of Bayamris baptismal regis
ters noted that the overwhelming majority (96 per cent) of African slaves baptised in
this community from 1752 to 1830 were from Guinea.98 Trends in the geographic
origins of African slaves who were imported into island communities differ from
those observed elsewhere in the North America. For example, the majority of Africans
shipped to French colonial Louisiana in the early eighteenth century were of Senegambian origin, specifically from Bambara.99 Most slaves that were introduced at this time
into the Chesapeake came from Senegambia and the Bight of Biafra, while the majority
of slaves brought to South Carolina in the first half of the eighteenth century were of
Angolan origin.100

The Emergence of an Afro-Puerto Rican Community


Demographic variables such as the levels of slave importation and the geographic
origins of slaves shaped the institution of slavery. Trade in human cargo flourished
so long as agricultural production for the export sector remained profitable for plan
ters. Levels of slave traffic to Puerto Rico declined beginning in the early seventeenth
century following the near collapse of sugar production. From 1660 to 1765, the
supply of enslaved individuals was erratic and limited. Yet, it may have been adequate

Slavery and Abolition 511


Table 4 Identity of adult slaves baptised and buried in select communities along Puerto
Ricos northern coast: Arecibo, Caguas, and Toa Alta
Number of adult slaves
Arecibo
(1708 -1791)
(1714 -1791)

Caguas
(1730 -1765)
(1729 -1770)

ToaAlta
(1752 -1760)
(1778--1787)

Deaths

Deaths

Deaths

No

Ethnicity or Point of Origin


Danish Islands
Saint Thomas
Saint Croix
Non-Hispanic
Caribbean
West Africa
Guinea
Karabali
Mina
West Central Africa
Angola
Kongo
Loango
Mandinga
Unknown
Totals

6
1
5
27
3
1
9
3
3
0
26
84

Totals

0
0

0
0

0
0

0
0

8
2

4.8
1.2

36

22.0

1
0

0
0
0

1
0
0

0
0
0

1
0
0

38
6
2

22.6
3.6
1.2

2
0
0
0
0
10

2
0
1
0
14
17

0
0
0
0
0
1

0
0
0
0
4
4

0
0
0
0
1
2

13

7.7
3.0
2.4
1.2
30.3
100.0

4
2
51
168

Source: APSFA, Libro primero de bautismos en Arecibo, 1708-35, Libro segundo de bautismos en Arecibo, 173549, Libro tercero de bautismos en Arecibo, 1749-64, Libro cuarto de bautismos en Arecibo, 1764-72, Libro
quinto de bautismos en Arecibo, 1772-86, Libro sexto de bautismos en Arecibo, 1786-91, Libro primero de
defunciones en Arecibo, 1714-67, and Libro segundo de defunciones en Arecibo, 1769-91; APDNJC, Libro
primero de bautismos en Caguas, 1730-65, and Libro primero de defunciones en Caguas, 1729-70; APSFRTA, El
libro de bautismo de personas pardas, negros parbulos y adultos, 1752-60 and Libro dos de bautismos de
personas pardas en Toa Alta, 1778-87.
Note: Because not all newly purchased slaves were baptised, we must also rely upon the death registers to locate
and identify slaves of African origin. The oldest death register in San Juan dates from 1747 and has badly
deteriorated.

for the labour requirements associated with the Hato economy, especially since the
islands enslaved population by then was capable of reproducing itself through
natural increase. Following the liberalisation of the slave trade in 1765, there was a
sizeable influx of Africans to Puerto Rico that helped establish the foundation for
the nineteenth-century resurgence of sugar production. Areas where this labourintensive cash crop was cultivated received the greatest number of African arrivals
(mostly young adult males), thereby giving rise to unfavourable demographic
conditions for the natural reproduction of slaves and a concomitant decline in
opportunities for marriage and family life.
As we have seen, few slaves were brought in either from Africa or from elsewhere in
the Americas to Puerto Rico. Only a small number were introduced each year into
Arecibo, Bayamn, Caguas, Cangrejos, Coamo, Guayama, Mayagez, Ro Piedras,
San Juan, Toa Alta and Yauco. Individuals from West and West Central Africa

512 David M. Stark

Table 5 Identity of adult slaves baptised and buried in select communities along Puerto
Ricos southern coast: Coamo, Guayama, Mayagez and Yauco
Number of slaves
Coamo
(1701-1721)
(1755-1800)
(1773-1808)

Guayama
(1746-1763)
(1746-1781)

Mayagez
(1761 1779)

Yauco
(1751-1790)

Deaths

Deaths

Deaths

Deaths

Ethnicity or point
of origin
Danish Islands
Saint Thomas
Non-Hispanic
Caribbean
West Africa
Guinea
Karabali
Mina
West Central Africa
Tingla
Kongo
Loango
Unknown
Totals

Totals
No.

%
5.1

09

04

3.4

0 30
00
00

3
0
0

2
1
2

0
0
0

4
0
0

0
0
0

0
0
0

39
1
2

22.2
0.6
1.1

04
00
00
6 60
6 107

0
0
0
3
6

18
0
0
0
25

10
0
0
1
11

0
0
0
9
13

0
0
2
5
7

0
0
0
1

32
0
2
85
176

18.2
0.0
1.1
48.3
100.0

Source: APSBC, Libro primero de bautismos en Coamo, 1701-1773, Libro segundo de bautismos en Coamo,
1773-1790, Libro tercero de bautismos en Coamo, 1790-1794, Libro cuarto de bautismos en Coamo, 17941802, and Libro primero de defunciones en Coamo, 1773 1808; APSAPG, Indice del libro primero de bautismos
en Guayama, 174o 1763, and Libro primero de defunciones en Guayama, 1746 1781; APNSCM, Libro primero
de bautismos en Mayagez, 1761 1763 and Libro segundo de bautismos en Mayagez, 1763-1779; APNSRY,
Libro primero de bautismos en Yauco, 1751-1769, Libro segundo de bautismos en Yauco, 1769-1777, Libro
tercero de bautismos en Yauco, 1777-1789, Libro cuarto de bautismos en Yauco, 1789-1804, Libro primero de
defunciones en Yauco, 1751-1770, Libro segundo de defunciones en Yauco, 1770-1785, and Libro tercero de
defunciones en Yauco, 1786-1802.

predominated, with those from Guinea and Tari in the majority among the former and
those from the Loango coast, Angola, and the Kongo prevailing among the latter. The
rise of Guinea and Senegambia as points of origin for African slaves may have contrib
uted to mutual intelligibility among forced immigrants to the island. Both regions
share a relatively homogenous culture and history, in addition to closely related
languages (Wolof, Sereer, Pular or Fulbe and Malinke).101 Likewise, individuals
from the Loango coast, Angola and the Kongo all spoke closely related Bantu languages
and, though they were mutually unintelligible, the linguistic similarity between Kongo
and Kimbundu was such that language barriers were weak and speakers of these
respective languages could learn to communicate with each other in a short period
of time.102 If not, they possibly spoke some kind of pidgin Spanish.
Although there was considerable diversity in the geographic origins and ethnicity of
Africans introduced into Puerto Rico, individuals from both West and West Central
Africa for the most part shared a relatively homogenous culture and a greater similarity
in so far as the language(s) they spoke. Such commonalities facilitated integration and

Slavery and Abolition 513


promoted social cohesion among the newly arrived Africans as well as those already
present in the host population. The fragmentation of language and culture communities
associated with the African slave trade and slavery consequently appears to have been
limited among slaves in late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Puerto Rico. More
over, the dispersed settlement pattern and relatively small size of slave holdings associ
ated with the hato economy may have isolated African slaves from one another. Finding
themselves in a minority within the islands overall enslaved population, many newly
arrived African slaves probably experienced a rapid and thorough dculturation.103
This probably enhanced opportunities for them to partake in formal and informal
unions as well as to establish some semblance of family life on the island. More impor
tantly, it facilitated their integration into what was emerging as a coherent, functional
and unified Afro-Puerto Rican slave community.
Acknowledgements
I am very grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and sugges
tions. Gratitude is also extended to Lorraine and Teresa de Castro for graciously pro
viding me with access to their personal archives and also allowing me to consult their
transcription of parish registers from Ro Piedras and San Juan.
Notes
[ 1 ] Instruccin que Asencio de Villanueva, procurador de la ciudad ha de entregar al Emperador
Carlos V, 23 de febrero de 1534, in Vicente Murga Sanz, Historia documental de Puerto Rico, el
consejo o cabildo de la Ciudad de San Juan de Puerto Rico: 1527-1550, vol. I (Seville: Escuela de
Estudios Hispanoamericanos, 1956): 149.
[2] Examples of this trend include Jalil Sued Badillo and Angel Lpez Cantoss, Puerto Rico Negro
(San Juan: Editorial Cultural, 1986), Luis M. Daz Solers Historia de la esclavitud negra en
Puerto Rico, 6th edn (San Juan: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 2000), and the
more recent work by Joseph C. Dorsey, Slave Traffic in the Age of Abolition: Puerto Rico,
West Africa, and the Non-Hispanic Caribbean, 1815-1859 (Gainesville: University Press of
Florida, 2003).
[3] For a good overview of how parish registers can be used in the study of enslaved populations
in the Americas, see Mariza Soares, Jane Landers, Paul E. Lovejoy, and Andrew McMichael,
Slavery in Ecclesiastical Archives: Preserving the Records, Hispanic American Historical
Review, 86, no. 2 (May 2006): 337-346.
[4] See Verene A. Shepherd, ed., Slavery Without Sugar: Diversity in Caribbean Economy and
Society Since the Seventeenth Century (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002).
[5] Angel Lpez Cantos downplays the African influence in the beliefs and religious practices of
island residents up through the eighteenth century. See Angel Lpez Cantos, La religiosidad
popular en Puerto Rico (Siglo XVIII) (San Juan: Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto
Rico y el Caribe, 1992): 10.
[6] Among the 556 slave adult deaths registered in Arecibo between 1714 and 1791, there were
only five instances in which a slave was baptised in articulo mortis, or in danger of death.
All but one of the individuals was a native of Africa, suggesting that they may have refused
baptism until death was imminent or perhaps were baptised against their will.
[7] Joseph C. Miller, Retention, Reinvention, and Remembering: Restoring Identities through
Enslavement in Africa and under Slavery in Brazil, in Jos C. Curto and Paul E. Lovejoy,

514 David M. Stark


eds, Enslaving Connections: Changing Cultures of Africa and Brazil during the Era of Slavery,
81-121 (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2004): 83.
[8] Although the selection of communities in this study may seem random, all the parishes with
extant baptismal registers from the eighteenth century were included, except for Aasco, Cabo
Rojo, Cayey, Fajardo and Guaynabo, which I was unable to consult.
[9] See Aida R. Caro Costas, 'Esclavos y esclavistas en Puerto Rico en el primer tercio del siglo XVI
(1531), Revista del Museo de Antropologa, Historia y Arte de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, I
(July-December 1979): 16-70, esp. 17.
[10] Julio Damiani Csimi, 'Estratificacin social, esclavos y naboras en el Puerto Rico minero del
siglo XVI, Cuadernos de Investigacin Histrica, 1 (1994): 1-154, esp. 9.
[11] See Colin A. Palmer, The Slave Trade, African Slavers and the Demography of the Caribbean
to 1750, in Franklin W. Knight, ed., General History of the Caribbean, Vol. Ill: The Slave
Societies of the Caribbean, 9-44 (London: UNESCO Publishing, 1997): 16.
[12] For information on the Portuguese asiento, see Enriqueta Vila-Vilar, Hispano-Amricayel comer
cio de esclavos: Los asientos portugueses (Seville: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, 1977).
[13] See Cornelis Ch. Goslinga, The Dutch in the Caribbean and in the Guianas, 1680-1791 (Assen/
Maastricht, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1985): 158-160. Following the Dutch period of
control, the Portuguese held the asiento for two years. French deliveries of slaves did not
begin until 1702.
[14] Elsa Gelp Baiz, Siglo en Blanco: Estudio dla economa azucarera en Puerto Rico, siglo XVI (San
Juan: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 2000): 19.
[15] Op cit.
[16] Sued Badillo and Lpez Cantos, 135. A slave population numbering 15,000 in 1565 when only
6641 Africans arrived during the years 1540 through to 1600 suggests that many more African
slaves were introduced. For example, the number of Africans imported in the decade 1551 to
1560 totalled approximately 1700, yet the total slave population was nearly 10 times that
number in 1565. This does not take into account demographic variables such as high mor
tality rates among African arrivals and low fertility rates within the host population due to
sex ratio imbalances associated with the nature of the slave trade.
[17] Gelp Baiz, 21; also Sued Badillo and Lpez Cantos, 128.
118] Kenneth R. Andrews, The Spanish Caribbean: Trade and Plunder, 1530-1630 (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1978): 155.
[19] Enriqueta Vila Vilar, Historia de Puerto Rico, 1600-1650 (Seville: Escuela de Estudios
Hispano-Americanos, 1977): 32.
[20] For an account of these events, see Sued Badillo and Lpez Cantos, 203-212.
[21] All parish registers in San Juan prior to 1625 were destroyed when the Dutch under the
command of General Boudewijn Hendriksz looted the city and laid waste to the islands
capital. Lorraine de Castro transcribed a total of 666 baptismal entries from San Juan
dating from the years 1625 through to 1665 in the summer of 1991 from photocopies of
the originals made in 1944 by Aurelio Ti. There are a total of 37 entries that correspond
to slaves: two adults and 35 infants. From June 1638 to March 1657, there are no slave bap
tisms recorded in San Juan. This does not, however, mean that no slaves were baptised in the
islands capital city. A separate register may have existed at this time for the entries of slaves
and/or free persons of colour. I am extremely grateful to Lorraine de Castro for bringing these
baptismal entries to my attention, and more importantly for very graciously allowing me
access to seventeenth-century demographic records in her possession.
[22] Fernando Pic, History of Puerto Rico: A Panorama of Its People (Princeton: Markus Wiener,
2006): 75. A similar situation prevailed in Havana during the first half of the seventeenth
century, with the infrequency of trade particularly acute during the 1640s. See Isabelo
Macias Dominguez, Cuba en la primera mitad del siglo XVIII (Seville: Escuela de Estudios
Hispano-Americanos, 1978): 143.

Slavery and Abolition 515


[23] See Antonio de Almeida Mendes, The Foundations of the System: A Reassessment of the Slave
Trade to the Spanish Americas in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, in David Eltis and
David Richardson, eds., Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade
Database, 63-93 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008): 82.
[24] Francisco Moscoso, Agricultura y sociedad en Puerto Rico, siglos 16 al 18 (San Juan: Instituto de
Cultura Puertorriquea and Colegio de Agrnomos de Puerto Rico, 1999): 95-96.
[25] See Almeida Mendes, 77.
[26] See Fernando Pic, Historia general de Puerto Rico (Ro Piedras: Ediciones Huracn, 1986):
105 and Arturo Morales Carrion, Puerto Rico y la lucha por la hegemona en el Caribe (Ro
Piedras: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1995): 66-67.
[27] According to Francisco A. Scarano, the problem is just as bad for the nineteenth century
since no official records or estimates of slave imports have ever been found, not even for
the period of legal trading before 1820. Francisco A. Scarano, Sugar and Slavery in Puerto
Rico: The Plantation Economy of Ponce, 1800-1850 (Madison: University of Wisconsin
Press, 1984): 121.
[28] See Mary C. Karasch, Central Africans in Central Brazil, 1780-1835, in Linda M. Heywood,
ed., Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora, 117-151 (Cam
bridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002): 123; Matthew Restall, 'Manuels Worlds: Black
Yucatan and the Colonial Caribbean, in Jane G. Landers and Barry M. Robinson, eds., Slaves,
Subjects, and Subversives: Blacks in Colonial Latin America, 147-174 (Albuquerque: University
of New Mexico Press, 2006). Also, see Nery Gmez Abreu and Manuel Martinez Casanova as
well as Jess Guanche Prez and their respective studies of Africans in nineteenth-century
Cuba. Nery Gmez Abreu and Manuel Martinez Casanova, Contribucin al estudio de las
diferentes etnias y culturas africanas en la regin central de Cuba: Zona de Placentas
(1817-1886), Revista Isla, 85 (1986): 114-120; and Jess Guanche Prez, Contribucin al
estudio del poblamiento africano en Cuba, AFRICA, Revista del Centro de Estudios Africanos,
18-19 (1995-1996): 119-138.
[29] It is impossible to determine what proportion adult slaves comprise of all individuals baptised
because separate registers were kept in San Juan for whites and non-whites. Moreover, the
oldest surviving baptismal register for the white population with a continuous series of
data dates from 1706. I was only able to transcribe baptisms through April 1727 due to the
deterioration of the baptismal register.
[30] See Angel Lpez Cantos, Miguel Enriquez: Corsario Boricua del siglo XVIII (San Juan: Edi
ciones Puerto, 1994): 113-114.
[31] Colin A. Palmer, The Company Trade and the Numerical Distribution of Slaves to Spanish
America, 1703-1739, in Paul E. Lovejoy, ed., Africans in Bondage: Studies in Slavery and
the Slave Trade, 27-42 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986): 27.
[32] Morales Carrion, 121.
[33] Palmer, 28.
[34] Between 1716 and 1733, Enriquez acquired 176 slaves through the capture of 20 ships. Lpez
Cantos, 108.
[35] Op. cit.
[36] Thomas N. Ingersoll, Mammon and Manon in Early New Orleans: The Free Slave Society in the
Deep South, 1718-1819 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1999): 185.
137] Jane Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999): 158.
[38] Isaac Dookhan, A History of the Virgin Islands of the United States (Essex, England: Caribbean
Universities Press 8t Bowker Publishing Co., 1974): 72 and 80.
[39] Lpez Cantos, 37.
[40] Palmer, 34-35.
[41] APSFA, Libro segundo de bautismos en Arecibo, 1735-1749, folio 51, and Libro cuarto de
bautismos en Arecibo, 1764-1786, folio 149v.

516 David

M. Stark

[42] Restall, 151. Such was also the pattern observed by Lorena Walsh among slave-owners in the
Chesapeake from the 1660s to 1710s, who seldom purchased more than two slaves at a time.
Lorena S. Walsh, From Calabar to Carters Grove: The History of a Virginia Slave Community
(Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997): 53.
[43] Fernando Pic, Esclavos, cimarrones, libertos y negros libres en Ro Piedras, 1774-1873,
Anuario de Estudios Americanos, XLIII (1986): 25-33, esp. 28-29.
[44] Curtin contends that the revival of labour-intensive agricultural production for the export
sector began in the mid-1770s and that slave imports would have been greater in the sub
sequent years. He also posits that slave traffic to the island declined in the wake of the Napo
leonic wars. See Philip Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1969): 32-34.
[45] The number of slaves imported in the years 1766 through 1770 were as follows: 220 in
1766, 2574 in 1767, 3734 in 1768, 2101 in 1769 and 821 in 1770. Cayetano Coll y Tost,
Documento para la historia de la esclavitud de los negros en Puerto Rico: Negros introduci
dos de 1760 a 1770, Boletn Histrico de Puerto Rico, 9 (1922): 122. According to Jorge
L. Chinea, British and French slave traders landed over 7000 Africans in San Juan from
March 1767 to May 1769. See Jorge L. Chinea, A Quest for Freedom: The Immigration of
Maritime Maroons into Puerto Rico, 1656-1900, Journal of Caribbean History, 31, nos 1-2
(1997): 51-87, esp. 69.
[46] Cited in Manuel Alvrez Nazario, El elemento afronegroide en el espaol de Puerto Rico (San
Juan: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquea, 1974): 42; and Daz Soler, 90.
[47] I am very grateful to Teresa de Castro for providing me with a transcribed copy of the San Juan
death register. A total of 1275 deaths were recorded; of these 445, or 35 per cent were of slaves.
[48] So many African arrivals succumbed to small pox that a new cemetery was opened in San Juan
on 10 March 1768, para enterrar a los negros de la factora del cargo [de los] factores Dn Alex
andra Noboa y Dn Joaquin Pober, por haber estos apestadose de Vi [nielas] ... (to bury the
blacks from the company of which Alexando Noboa and Joaquin Pober are the agents in
charge, as a result of their having been afflicted with smallpox). AHD, Libra sexto de defun
ciones en San Juan, 1766-1769, folio 135.
[49] Censuses from the years 1775, 1776, 1777, 1778, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, 1784, 1785, 1787,
1789, 1790, 1792, 1794, 1795, 1797, and 1798 form part of the microfilm collection at the
Centro de Investigaciones Histricas, Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad de Puerto
Rico, Ro Piedras, Puerto Rico.
[50] Daz Soler, 99 and 105.
[51] Centro de Investigaciones Histricas, Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad de Puerto Rico,
Ro Piedras, Puerto Rico.
[52] Op cit.
[53] Gelp Baiz, 56.
[54] Philip D. Morgan, Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake &
Lowcountry (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998): 463.
[55] Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links
(Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2006): 35.
[56] See Oscar Grando Morguez, The African Origin of Slaves Arriving in Cuba, 1789-1865, in
David Eltis and David Richardson, eds., Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlan
tic Slave Trade, 176-201 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008). 190 and 193.
[57] Morguez, The African Origin, 193.
[58] Hall, 52.
[59] Thomas N. Ingersoll in his study of slave society in eighteenth-century New Orleans states,
... determining origins was relatively easy; most [slaves] were readily identifiable in the
slave quarter by the variety of distinctive scarification practiced by most West African

Slavery and Abolition 517


nations. If a persons skin was not marked in this fashion, then distinctive acents, vocabularies,
or speech patterns betrayed ones origins (Ingersoll: 69).
[60] APSFA, Libro segundo de bautismos en Arecibo, 1735-1749, folio 85v.
[61] APSFA, Primer libro de matrimonios, 1708-1760, folio 151 and Primer libro de defunciones,
1714-1767, folio 172.
1621 For information on the Zape or Sapi, see Walter Rodney, Upper Guinea and the Significance
of the Origins of Africans Enslaved in the New World, Journal of Negro History, LIV, no. 4
(October 1969): 327-345, esp. 330-331. Also, see Ricardo E. Alegra, Notas sobre la proce
dencia cultural de los esclavos negros de Puerto Rico durante la segunda mitad del siglo XVI,
La Revista del Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe, 1, no. 2 (Julio-Diciembre 1985): 59-79, esp. 69-71.
[63] Rodney, 337.
[64] See Hall, 84.
[65] Hall, 90.
[66] See Alegra 71 and 73. Also, see Sued Badillo and Lpez Cantos, 168. The tiny Bijago islands
acted as important suppliers of African slaves who had been captured in war, all taken from
the coastal strip between the Cacheu and Carine (Rodney: 332).
[67] See Alegra 69; and Maureen Warner-Lewis, Central Africa in the Caribbean: Transcending
Time, Transforming Cultures (Kingston: University of West Indies Press, 2003): 6.
[68] Hall, 144 and 152.
[69] Alegra, 74. For additional information on the introduction of Angolan slaves into Puerto
Rico during the sixteenth century, see Alvrez Nazario, 71.
[70] Joseph C. Miller, Central Africa During the Era of the Slave Trade, c. 1490s-1850s, in
Heywood, 21-69, esp. 29-30.
[71] Alvrez Nazario, 71.
[72] Miller, 41.
[73] Op. cit.
[74] Hall, 153. Also, see John K. Thornton, Central Africa in the Era of the Slave Trade, in Jane
G. Landers and Barry M. Robinson, eds, Slaves, Subjects, and Subversives: Blacks in Colonial
Latin America, 83-110 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006): 95.
[75] O.E. Uya, African Diaspora and the Black Experience in New World Slavery (New Rochelle, NY:
Third Press Publishers, 1987): 86.
[76] Miller, 56.
[77] See Walter Hawthorne, Planting Rice and Harvesting Slaves: Transformations along the GuineaBissau Coast, 1400-1900 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003): 69 and 73.
[78] Johannes Postma, The Origin of African Slaves: The Dutch Activities on the Guinea Coast,
1675-1795, in Stanley Engerman and Eugene Genovese, eds., Race and Slavery in the
Western Hemisphere: Quantitative Studies, 33-49 (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1975): 36.
[79] The number of adult slaves baptised in Guayama between the years 1746 and 1763 may have
been higher because the index to the baptismal register does not distinguish whether some
slaves were infants or adults at the time of their baptism. In such cases, enslaved individuals
were not counted as adults. Regrettably, comparable data no longer exists for other island
communities such as San Germn and Ponce, where ownership of slaves may have figured
more prominently; and neither is extant information available for the second half of the eight
eenth century in San Juan, where baptismal registers for nonwhites are badly deteriorated, and
for the most part illegible.
[80] Dorsey, 17.
[81] Sued Badillo and Lpez Cantos, 168.
[82] Alegra, 72.
[83] Walsh, 79.

518 David
[84]
[85]
[86]
[87]

[88]

[89]
[90]
[91]
[92]
[93]

[94]
[95]
[96]

[97]
[98]
[99]

[100]

M. Stark

Sued Badillo and Lpez Cantos, 209.


Alvrez Nazario, 65 and 70.
Ibid, 168.
See Maria Elena Diaz, The Virgin, the King, and the Royal Slaves of El Cobre: Negotiating
Freedom in Colonial Cuba, 1670-1780 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000): 43;
Edgar F. Love, Marriage Patterns of Persons of African Descent in a Colonial Mexico City
Parish, Hispanic American Historical Review, 51:1 (February 1971): 79-91, esp. 90; and
Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrn, La poblacin negra de Mexico, 1519-1810, Estudio etnohistrico
(Mxico DF, 1946): 245.
For more information on Tari, see Robin Law, Problems of Plagiarism, Harmonization and
Misunderstanding in Contemporary European Sources: Early (pre-1680) Sources for the
Slave Coast of West Africa, in Adam Jones and Beatrix Heintze, eds., European Sources for
Sub-Saharan Africa before 1900: Use and Abuse (Stuttgart, 1987): 351-352.
For a discussion of the Mina region and what it meant, see Hall, 114.
P.E.H. Hair, Ethnolinguistic Continuity on the Guinea Coast, Journal of African History, VIII,
2 (1967): 247-268, esp. 262.
Hall, 116 and 132.
See Almeida Mendes, 99.
On the importance of the Danish slave trade, see Svend E. Green-Pederson, The History of
the Danish Slave Trade, 1733-1807: An Interim Survey Relating in Particular to its Volue,
Structure, Profitability and Abolition, Revue franaise dhistoire doutre-mer, 62, nos 226,
227 (1975): 196-220.
Guinea most likely came to mean lands comprising present-day Guinea-Bissau, where the
commercial entrepots of Bissau and Cacheu were located.
Postma, 34-35.
For additional information on trends in slave exports from West and West Central Africa in
the eighteenth century, see Postma, 38 and 40-41. Also, see David Richardson, Slave Exports
from West and West-Central Africa, 1700-1810: New Estimates of Volume and Distribution,
Journal of African History, 30 (1989): 1-22.
Daz Soler, 145.
Mario Rodrguez Len, Los registros parroquiales y la microhistoria demogrfica en Puerto Rico
(San Juan: Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe, 1990): 78.
Two thirds of African slaves brought to Louisiana by the French slave trade came from Senegambia. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of AfroCreole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
1992): 29.
Most slaves introduced to Virginia between 1683 and 1721 came from Senegambia. See Walsh,
55. By comparison, a majority of slaves entering Port York, Virginia in the years 1718 through
1739 were from the Bight of Biafra, Angola, and the Gold Coast. See Alan Kulikoff, Tobacco
and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986): 322. On the other hand, South Carolina plan
ters and ranchers preferred slaves from the Gold Coast and the Bight of Benin and did not
look favourably on slaves from the Angola-Congo region. Morgan, 66-67. Nevertheless,
between 1735 and 1740, 70 per cent of the Africans brought to South Carolina came from
Angola. Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670
through the Stono Rebellion (New York, 1974): 335. For additional information on the
slave trade to South Carolina, see Daniel C. Litdefield, Rice and Slaves: Ethnicity and the
Slave Trade in Colonial South Carolina (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
1981). Prior to 1750, the Windward Coast, Gold Coast, and Bight of Benin accounted
for two thirds of the British slave trade. See Barry W. Higman, Slave Populations of the

Slavery and Abolition 519


British Caribbean, 1807-1834 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984): 127 and
Richardson 13.
[101] Walsh, 56. Also, see Morgan, 561.
[102] Hall, Slavery and African Ethnicities 153.
[103] Walsh discusses a similar phenomenon in colonial Virginia. Walsh, 222.

Appendix I
Number of adult and infant slaves baptised in San Juan, 1672-1727
Adults

Infants

Year

Male

Female

Totals

1672
1673
1674
1675
1676
1677
1678
1679
1680
1681
1682
1683
1684
1685
1686
1687
1688
1689
1690
1691
1692
1693
1694
1695
1696
1697
1698
1699
1700
1701
1702
1703
1704
1705
1706
1707
1708
1709

1
1
2
2
3
0
0
0
0
0
2
0
2
0
0
3
0
3
3
0
6
8
6
2
1
3
1
1
10
8
20
28
9
2
0
2
3
4

1
0
1
1
2
0
0
0
0
2
0
0
2
0
0
0
0
1
4
3
2
4
3
0
0
0
1
1
5
0
11
4
3
1
0
2
3
4

2
1
3
3
5
0
0
0
0
2
2
0
4
0
0
3
0
4
7
3
8
12
9
2
1
3
2
2
15
8
31
32
12
3
0
4
6

Totals
10
8
17
19
21
11
7
9
5
8
7
6
10
21
21
38
22
24
10
62
25
19
48
34
42
29
43
24
16
29
23
43
25
3
7
19
20
31
( Continued)

520 David M. Stark


Appendix I Continued
Adults

Infants

Year

Male

Female

Totals

Totals

1710
1711
1712
1713
1714
1715
1716
1717
1718
1719
1720
1721
1722
1723
1724
1725
1726
1727
Totals

7
9
8
7
6
9
2
29
11
27
8
23
17
5
5
6
9
3
327

4
5
7
6
5
2
0
4
8
11
2
3
2
0
1
8
3
1
133

11
14
15
13
11
11
2
33
19
38
10
26
19
5
6
14
12
4
460

20
23
24
22
17
17
5
17
21
23
12
6
11
10
11
22
11
5
1093

Source: AHD, Libro primero de bautismos para pardos y esclavos en San Juan, 1672-1706; Libro
segundo para pardos y esclavos en San Juan, 1707-1714; Libro tercero de bautismos para pardos y
esclavos en San Juan, 1715-1729.

Appendix II
Number of adult and infant slaves baptised in San Juan, 1735-1739
Adults

Infanst

Year

Male

Female

Totals

Totals

1735
1736
1737
1738
1739
Totals

3
8
2
2
3
18

1
5
1
0
0
7

4
13
3
2
3
25

11
40
28
34
24
137

Source: AHD, Libro quinto de bautismos para pardos y esclavos en San Juan, 1735-1739.