Latin America Week 4: Black Conquistadores, Pirates, and Soldiers

Language matters, words are not neutral but have connotations, implications.  All of our thinking is limited by the horizons of our language, culture, ideology, political agendas, experience, and worldview because it is constituted of these things, we cannot think outside of them….

Discovery (ignores Native Americans, implies scientific achievement)
Encounter (more neutral, recognizes dynamic between Europeans and Americans)
Conquest (implies subjugation, domination, perhaps even violence)

“The Americas were already old when the Tainos discovered Columbus on the beaches of Guanahani in 1492.” Jan Carew


Slaves v enslaved persons, African captives, cultivators (a la Toussant L’Ouverture)

Blacks v Afro-Spaniards

Runaways v fugitives v self-liberators



Before 1800 three times as many Africans as Europeans came to the Americas, this will include 10 million enslaved persons (captives, cultivators).  Many of the first Africans in the Americas (at this point all of the Americas are “Latin America”) are enslaved but many are also
-Soldiers (armed auxiliaries, conquistadores, as least as early as 1503)
-Encomenderos (and overseers)
-Maroons (at least as early as 1503, Cimmarones)
-Priests (at least as early as 1540)


Jan Carew on Afro-Latin American Identity

1540 a Negro had taken holy ecclesiastic orders, 1542 three Brotherhoods of the True Cross were established in the New World—one for Spaniards, one for Indians, and the third for the Negroes. Sifting through these early histories, we learn not only of anonymous slaves but of the first Black Roman Catholic priests in the Americas. In age of exploration, conquest, and colonization, the power of the church, in both spiritual and temporal affairs, was pervasive.

Bartholomew de las Casas, an influential Dominican priest and historian, had convinced the Spanish sovereigns that, as Africans were hardier than Indians, using them as a labor force in the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas would save the Indians from extinction. Toward the end of his long life—he died at the age of 91—this "Apostle of the Indians" recanted and, abandoning that earlier benighted and contradictory point of view, ultimately denounced all forms of slavery as being contrary to the teachings of Christ. But this was after the transatlantic slave trade had already taken root in the Caribbean and become institutionalized.

First slaves to Americas 1502, first slave uprising 1505, maroon communities throughout Caribbean and Latin America (Hispaniola, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, everywhere you have slavery).

Sugar creates the New World of the Caribbean, deported crooks and criminals, defeated soldiers and Royalist gentlemen fleeing from Europe, slaves from Africa, East Indians, Chinese, Corsicans and Portuguese.

The African identity in the Caribbean is based on a concept of the term African, which assumed a more authentic meaning in the New World than it did on the African continent itself. The peoples living on the littoral of the Mediterranean Sea who had first given Africa its name, had done so with only a vague idea of its vastness and complexity. The estimated 10 million slaves who survived the transatlantic crossing and landed in the Americas during the three centuries of the transatlantic slave trade, therefore, gave the term Africa a meaning that it had never had before. It redefined a continent with a bewildering variety of peoples and cultures, one that had cradled the human race and occupied one-eighth of the world's land surface.


Cindy Vallar on Black Pirates

Some estimate nearly 5,000 pirates hunted prey 1715-1726. (SUGAR REV) Of that number, 25-30% came from the cimarrons. Other blacks joined after pirates attacked slave ships. When Sam Bellamy and his fellow pirates seized a “Guinea Ship,” 25 blacks went on the account. Stede Bonnet’s crew also included former slaves & freemen, & of the eighty sea rovers who followed John Lewis were numbered at least 40 blacks from English colonies. Francis Sprigg’s cook was black & entrusted with dividing the spoils equally for the crew. (HISTORY HAPPENED ON THE SEA AS WELL AS ON LAND, sea life tended to be more DEMOCRATIC)


                                                    * Samuel Bellamy (1717) – more than 27 out of 180 men
                                                    * Edward England (1718) – less than 50 out of 180 men
                                                    * Edward Lowther (1724) – 9 out of 23 men
                                                    * Blackbeard (1717) – 60 out of 100; (1718) – 5 out 14
                                                    * Oliver La Bouche (1719) – 32 out of 64 men


(Black) Caesar and his friend decided to attack passing ships (after this former chief has a incredible escape from a slave ship after a wreck). Whenever one was spotted, they rowed the long boat near the vessel and pretended to be shipwrecked sailors. Once aboard their victim, they seized control and took their treasure ashore. Eventually, they buried a large cache of booty somewhere on Elliott Key, or so legend says.

Sometime in early 1700s, Caesar joined forces with Blackbeard. In Nov 1718, Lt Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy & his men attacked Blackbeard near Ocracoke Island. Under his captain’s orders, Caesar stood in the powder room with a lit match. If the navy succeeded in subduing the pirates, he was to blow up the ship. He was about to do just that when two prisoners, whom Blackbeard had stowed below during the fight, stopped Caesar. He was taken to Virginia and danced the hempen jig in Williamsburg. Caesar was the only one of the five black pirates – James Black, Thomas Gates, Richard Stiles, and James White being the others – arrested who refused to give evidence against his comrades.

About half of the “black pirates” listed have Spanish names.


True or False

1) Slavery began with arrival of the Portuguese in West Africa in the 1500s.

2) When the Europeans arrived in West Africa in the 16th century, they overwhelmed the local people with force.

3) Before 1640 there were more African slaves in the English colonies than there were English slaves in Africa.  THANKS TO ALGERIAN (NORTH AFRICAN) PIRATES

4) Before the late 1800s, more Europeans than Africans crossed the Atlantic to the New World.


Juan Garrido, Juan Valienta, Margartia Almagro, Juan Beltran, Juan Garcia helped to establish the colonies and found the New World.

Africans were the first to see New Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, the Inca capital at Cuzco.