Commentary No. 063
Theme: In 1555, a slave ship arrived in Santo Domingo loaded with branded Black Africans and sugar crates
Source: España. Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte. Archivo General de Indias, ES.41091.AGI/24.3.64//JUSTICIA,103A
Black Africans forced into the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade were transported on ships that also carried European-manufactured commodities for the colonists. One of the main products from the colonial settlements in the Americas such as La Española was cane-sugar, produced by the enslaved Blacks who worked the plantations. They grew and harvested the canes and also endured grueling fast-paced toil in the furnace-rooms where the cane-juice was boiled into syrup.
Many of the enslaved Africans were branded on various parts of their bodies to be identified as property. Similarly, the big wooden crates of sugar, the product of the slaves’ labor which was sent from places like La Española to the consuming markets of Europe, were also branded.
This manuscript corresponds to a folio of the cargo manifest of a Portuguese ship that arrived in La Española, reportedly on its way from Africa to Portugal, carrying crates of sugar and slaves. Each crate was identified by a symbol equivalent to an engraved commercial mark on its exterior surface.