Commentary No. 017
Date: 1519, City of Santo Domingo
Theme: Amputation of the tips of some toes to three enslaved blacks in Santo Domingo City, as punishment for a homicide they had been convicted of
Source: Archivo General de Indias, Justicia 43. Número 1, fos. 71r. (lxxi), 71v., 74v. (lxxiiiio), 75r. (lxxv), 110r., 111r. (cxi), 124v., 125v., 386r. (ccclxxxo vi), 392r. (cccxcii), and 393r. (cccxciii).
As part of the juicio de residencia conducted in the city Santo Domingo at the end of the tenure of several colonial officials in 1519, local witnesses were called to testify as to how these officials had handled events that had happened during their term in office and under their respective jurisdictions. One of the witnesses called was local surgeon Anton Angulo, who testified as to how some Black slaves convicted of crimes had been punished by having part of their toes severed.
Angulo was the official in charge of executing the punishment and in his deposition, he described how, before starting the procedure, he had been approached by the slaves’ owner, who was concerned as to how the slaves would be cured after the toes were severed. Angulo also declared that, before applying the punishment, he decided to consult with Audiencia Judge Alonso Zuazo on how much of the slaves’ toes he was supposed to cut.
This document shows that the practice of dismemberments as part of a gamut of punishments contemplated in other documents like ordinances and codes "for blacks" (see Manuscript No. 032) were a reality at least during the first quarter of the 16th century in La Española, and that there was a system to implement it.