Slavery took hold in Florida under the Spanish in the ‘forgotten century’ of 1492-1619.

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2022-02-09 03:42Z by Steven

Slavery took hold in Florida under the Spanish in the ‘forgotten century’ of 1492-1619.

Tampa Bay Times

J. Michael Francis, Hough Family Endowed Chair
University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

Gary Mormino, Professor emeritus of History
University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

Rachel Sanderson, Associate Director, La Florida: The Interactive Digital Archive of the Americas
University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

Artistic rendering of Luisa de Abrego and others [ KATE GODFREY | University of South Florida, St. Petersburg ]

Every 16th century Spanish expedition to Florida included Africans, both free and enslaved.

On Jan. 5, 1595, an infant boy named Esteban was baptized in the small Spanish garrison town of St. Augustine. In the priest’s three-line baptism entry, Esteban’s mother is identified only by her first name, Gratia. Described as a slave owned by a Spanish woman named Catalina, Gratia was one of perhaps 50 slaves who lived in St. Augustine at the end of the 16th century. And like Gratia, most of the town’s other slaves appear only briefly in the historical record, with few personal details besides a Christian name: Simón, María, Agustín, Francisca, Ana, Baltasar, Felipe or Ambrosio.

Collectively, their long-forgotten stories document and complement a remarkable history that dates back more than a century before the first slaves reached Virginia in 1619. They portray a society that was fluid and eclectic. By 1619, La Florida’s population included Spaniards, Portuguese, Greeks, Italians, French, Flemish, Germans, two Irishmen, West Africans, Sub-Saharan Africans and a diverse group of Native Americans. In other words, early Florida reflected a population that resembled modern America.

Floridanos of African descent were present from the earliest Spanish expeditions to the peninsula. Most readers are familiar with the founding myth of Florida and Juan Ponce de León’s alleged search for the Fountain of Youth. However, his 1513 voyage takes on a different complexion when we understand the crew’s composition, which included several free blacks. One of them, Juan Garrido, a native of West Africa, later participated in Hernando Cortés’s 1519 conquest of Mexico, where he lived over the next two decades, participating in numerous conquest expeditions. In a lengthy petition submitted to the Spanish Crown in 1538, Garrido highlighted his three-decade career as a “conquistador,” adding that he commissioned the construction of Mexico City’s first Christian chapel and that he was the one who introduced wheat into Mexico

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