Peter M. Beattie is Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University. He is the author of
Getting to Know “Fernando”
This chapter introduces the reader to the contradictions and contours of everyday penal colony life by way of an 1853 dispute between a number of slave and free convicts and Izabel, the colony commander’s slave. The convicts provided Izabel with produce they had grown on their provision grounds, which she sold in her store. The convicts petitioned the commander because they claimed she never paid them for their produce. These convicts had literally cultivated ties to the commander’s household through their commerce with his slave. The second part of the chapter takes the reader on a tour of the penal colony’s natural and built characteristics by reconstructing what convicts who arrived on the island in the 1870s, when some 1,500 convicts inhabited the archipelago, would see, hear, taste, and smell as they came to know their new penal community.