During the 14th century, Europe was doing a lot of slave trafficking. At least 95,000 slaves from Africa were registered in two centuries. 10% were sent to America. The rest would stay in Spain.
In Seville, people would wait for the slaves boats and would make slaves auctions. The same way you would go to a book shop to check the new books, people would go to the port and check what new slaves there were. There are documents that say: “Mrs. XXX SLAVE of Mr. xxx…”
At the end of the 14th century, there was so much black population (more than 15% that a bishop opened a religious association, but it was closed because it was thought that meetings of black people might become dangerous.
There were owners that treated their slaves very badly. As in, they would take hot iron and write an S and a nail in their cheeks.
There was a slave from Portugal, Cándida, who arrived to Huelva and then Cadiz. At the beginning no one wanted her but a few gypsies took her in. At the end, everyone loved her and she adapted to society, but she’s not that well known.
The presence of women in slavery is rarely talked about, but it is believed that there were more and were more expensive. The reason is that they could do hosekeeping and the owner would be able to fulfil his sexual wishes. In some documents you can find how they highlight the beauty of the slaves to take into account for their price.
The owners did not accept them to have a partner or a family, because they would not be as attentive towards the housekeeping. A lot of slaves die being slaves, so many do not get to settle or create families of any kind.
In 1700, Cadiz has more slaves than Seville. If there were 40,000 people living in Cadiz, at least 4,000 were slaves. In the 18th century, Cadiz becomes the industrial centre for Spain. At that time, there were boats coming from Africa (Angola, Guinea, Senegal) to sell slaves directly. It was not like they went to America and then back to Spain.
In Spain, we have the unconscious idea that black people are unmoral, treacherous, even if you prepare them, they won’t completely integrate… But slaves were not part of a guetto or away from society, they were part of the daily life.
There was never a debate about abloishing slavery. It’s always been about the interests of the owners of territory in the colonies and about the freedom of the colonies. In 1821, Spain signs a treaty with England and they compromise on stopping the slave traffick. Up until 1867, from 600,000 to 700,000 African slaves were illegally transported from Africa to Cuba and Puerto Rico. 18% did not survive, but even with that loss, the owners would make 3 and 4 times the investment made.
One of the people that participates in this is Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies. Since Spain is getting started with capitalism, they decide to invest in the textile and construction industries. The expansion of Barcelona and the construction of one of the poshest areas of Madrid is done with the money of slave trafficking. This was done to give a more respetable look to that money…
What in English is known as Money Laundry, and in Spain “Money Whitening”.
As a privileged Spanish who has been able to travel, I feel sad and enraged to see how black people have been completely erased from our History. I understand why and I understand that it may hurt and make us feel guilty, but I feel it’s more important to bring it to light.