This article focuses on the experiences of women of African descent who were made captives (and, in some cases, recaptives) after the 1683 buccaneer raid on Veracruz, the most important port in the Viceroyalty of New Spain (colonial Mexico). Although the raid is well known to historians of piracy, its implications for women's history and African diaspora studies have not been properly contextualized in a period of expanding Atlantic slavery. This article proposes a close reading of contraband cases, parochial registers, slave codes, and eyewitness accounts centered on Afro-Mexican women who were kidnapped to Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). A focus on displacement and resilience opens new narratives through which to understand women who transcended their captivity by becoming spouses to French colonists and free mothers to Saint-Domingue's gens de couleur (people of mixed race).
On May 30, 1683, 13 vessels led by Dutch, French, and English buccaneers set sail from the port of Veracruz. The incoming Spanish fleet, although well positioned to intercept the buccaneers, simply let them pass. The merchandise and passengers aboard the fleet were apparently too valuable to risk in a naval battle against Laurens de Graaf, alias Lorencillo, and his vessels. The buccaneers escaped with hundreds of thousands of silver pesos, jewelry, and clothes after inflicting incalculable damage on the port city.1 Of far greater historical significance, however, was the mass kidnapping undertaken by these buccaneers, which would inextricably link New Spain's principal port city to French Saint-Domingue. At a time when some 6,000 to 7,000 people called Veracruz home, the buccaneers methodically abducted close to 1,500 afrodescendientes (people of African descent). The latter's free or enslaved status did not affect this brutal extractive process, but their phenotype did. Virtually every able-bodied Afro-Veracruzan that day was carried off to an uncertain fate aboard the raiders' vessels. This article is the first attempt to analyze the particularities of their varied experiences.
The events of May and June 1683 have been largely recounted from the perspective of Spanish military men and crown officials, whose courts-martial produced thousands of folios of documentation. Juan Juárez Moreno and David Marley provide great detail of these politico-military developments in their respective studies of piracy.2 The reorganization of New Spain's defenses—especially the free-colored militias—and architectural efforts to fortify the city and the island fortress of San Juan de Ulúa after the raid have also received scholarly attention.3 Much of this literature turns to the correspondence of viceroy marqués de la Laguna and his efforts to guarantee that the Spanish fleet departed for Cádiz in August 1683.4 Other scholars have analyzed the motivations and movements of the buccaneers as they helped consolidate Saint-Domingue as a French colony.5 Ultimately, most of these narratives largely center on men, fighting other men, writing letters to other men in an ultramasculine Atlantic setting. To date, we know next to nothing of the actual people, most notably the women, taken from Veracruz.
In the months following the 1683 raid, the buccaneers transported the Afro-Veracruzan captives to Saint-Domingue, Carolina, and Jamaica.6 This article will focus on the kidnapped people taken to the French territory. Who were these captives? What communities and families did they leave behind? Were they able to forge new kinship networks in Saint-Domingue? These questions are complicated by the fact that Spanish scribes seem not to have produced a register of those kidnapped (only of the deceased); if they did, these lists have not been found. The lamentable loss of Veracruz's notarial, judicial, and parochial archives for the pre-1700 period further complicates our attempts to understand questions of belonging, freedom, and captivity in and outside the Mexican port.7 In a context of expanding slavery in the French and English Atlantic (but also of Afro-Mexican freedom), scholars have yet to question how local society and, in particular, people of African descent responded to the raid and its aftermath.8
Over the course of two weeks (May 17–30, 1683), the buccaneers eviscerated the social and familial networks that rooted Afro-Veracruzans to Mexico's main port. This prolonged occupation resulted in numerous eyewitness narratives of loss and desolation penned mostly by clergymen, military leaders, and political authorities. The devastation wrought on black Veracruz and its culture, confraternities, free-colored militias, and families, however, was not their concern.9 Instead, the emotional toll of the raid is located in mundane fragments of familial memories that have been preserved outside the port itself. A rare archival reference from highland Xalapa, some 68 miles inland, speaks to these emotions. Two years after the attack, María de la Candelaria, an Afro-Mexican widow, appeared before a local magistrate and stated her intention to remarry. She presented a witness who could vouch to her previous marriage and the five children born of it, Francisca, Juana, José, Mariana, and María. De la Candelaria also spoke of how her daughter María found herself in Veracruz in 1683, when she “was taken prisoner by the enemy” and never heard from again.10
From an Afro-Mexicanist perspective, the archival silences enveloping the 1683 raid are especially sordid. They produce hazy, indifferent silhouettes of blackness: narratives based on pirate biographies, metropolitan slaving contracts, ineffectual peace treaties, and so on. In these renderings, people of African descent of all complexions and lineages were taken from Veracruz under the assumption that their ancestry and prospective labor were sufficient to justify their sale in any emerging Atlantic settlement. Their story ends there, at the moment of their documented dispersal from the Mexican port, at which point they become ahistorical subjects, nonactors, ghosts. In other reconstructions, the abducted afrodescendientes are not mentioned at all.
In the following pages, I challenge these nonnarratives by borrowing from Michel-Rolph Trouillot. If “the moment of retrospective significance (the making of history in the final instance)” is the culmination of a process that follows the making of sources, archives, and narratives, then we must begin by seeking alternate sources that speak explicitly to the experiences of those afrodescendientes taken from Veracruz.11 The resulting archive would be the composite of the fragments of information embedded in disparate imperial silos, national archives, minuscule parishes, and digitized collections. The ensuing truncated narratives will not, as Lisa Ze Winters suggests, challenge “the dominant archive's obscene wealth of evidence” or “its promise of coherence” but will acknowledge the particularities of personhood and community within gendered and racialized histories of displacement.12
I argue that a methodology focused on la cautiva—the captive woman—opens new possibilities for understanding the history of the African diaspora to and from Mexico. Through eyewitness accounts of the raid and contraband cases, I analyze the circulation and improbable return of several cautivas. A digitized parochial register from early Saint-Domingue also speaks to these experiences in exile. The register reveals the names and familial lineages of some Afro-Veracruzanas but not of any abducted men. The latter rarely surface in French religious documents, which privileged the stolen women's marriages and their children's baptisms. A close reading of the Code Noir of 1685 explains why some Afro-Mexican women emerged as free wives, mothers, and godmothers in French domains. I then turn to an emblematic runaway narrative to evoke the experiences of those who remained enslaved and did not conform to roles as mothers and spouses. A critical reading of these assembled sources proves that Veracruz and Saint-Domingue were tightly bound during the 1680s and 1690s. Crucially, this intertwined history is only visible through the lens of captive women and their navigation of shifting slave codes and imperial boundaries. This focus highlights these women's claims to kin, community, and, in some cases, freedom. Finally, through the free children of the Afro-Veracruzanas, we are urged to reconsider the historical roots of Saint-Domingue's gens de couleur (people of mixed race).
Slavery and Anonymity in Veracruz
During the last quarter of the seventeenth century, the port city of Veracruz was home to a fluctuating population of sailors, merchants, innkeepers, fishermen, domestic workers, and militiamen.13 It swelled with the arrival of the Spanish fleets from Cádiz in late summer and contracted when maritime activity was low.14 This much is well known. Yet up until very recently, a lack of scholarship on Veracruz and its seventeenth-century black population prevented scholars from gauging the port's interactions with other Atlantic settlements. Fortunately, recent research by Antonio García de León, Joseph M. H. Clark, Chloe Ireton, and David Wheat, among others, has highlighted the linkages between free and enslaved Veracruzans and other diasporic communities in Iberia, Africa, and the Caribbean.15 As New Spain's principal port and one with profound ties to the world of Atlantic slaving, Veracruz was particularly dependent on the work of enslaved people of African descent. This dependence consolidated in the mid-sixteenth century, reached its apogee between 1580 and 1640, and continued in diminished form during the last quarter of the seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth. The slave trade to Veracruz resurged in the 1670s and 1680s as Dutch and English traders introduced a few thousand African captives by way of Barbados, Curaçao, and Jamaica.16 These incoming Arara, Mina, Popo, and Loango captives complemented an aging population of West Central African slaves that had entered the viceroyalty in the 1620s and 1630s.
Acknowledging the continued arrival of enslaved Africans to Veracruz, along with its large female population of African descent, goes a long way toward explaining why the 1683 raid took place. Demographic characteristics made the Mexican port a natural, if risky, target for French freebooters. With 6,000 to 7,000 residents in the early 1680s, Veracruz alone held as many people as all of Saint-Domingue.17 At the time, the French territory featured a severe gender imbalance and was poorly served by the slave trading of the Compagnie du Sénégal.18 Veracruz continued to receive enslaved Africans during this decade. There were even efforts by local residents to secure the Spanish American slave-trading monopoly (asiento de negros). In 1682, Juan de Villalobos, a slave trader and vecino of Veracruz, published a bid for the asiento along with a cultural explanation of everyday slavery in Spanish America, presumably based on his experiences in the port. Villalobos could not compete with English and Dutch slave traders, a fact he distorted by arguing that an excessive influx of slaves was detrimental to society. He advocated a moderate slave trade and advanced the following scenario to make his point:
In given families it happens that if a man has two or four daughters, at some point each daughter asks her Father to purchase her a mulequita [African girl]; and then the sons say that they are not less than their sisters, and then they too need a muleque [African boy] each, as pages, and to take them to school . . . this introduces practices that are not necessary. . . . And in addition to this, there's always the comadre [godmother to one's child], or the poor neighbor, who says that she has no one to fetch her a water jug or to prepare her a bite to eat, so that for the love of God, the comadre should buy her a black woman, and as soon as her needlework takes off she'll pay her debt.19
Villalobos framed this dependence on enslaved people—indeed, on women and children—as a pernicious practice that began in childhood and continued indefinitely into adult life. This was certainly not only the case in Veracruz. Research on slavery in Puebla de los Ángeles and Mexico City for the late seventeenth century confirms Villalobos's characterization.20 Slavery permeated nearly every aspect of life in urban New Spain: the quest for honor, child-rearing, the performance of status, food preparation, debt, and so on.
Villalobos's descriptions of slave owning as familial practice and the enslaved as appendages mirror the lengthy courts-martial that followed the 1683 Veracruz raid. These interrogations—almost exclusively based on male eyewitness accounts—are full of offhand references to the ownership of people of African descent. Don Francisco Fernández Marmolejo conducted the courts-martial during the summer of 1683 in order to establish the guilt or valor of the port's military officers. Although repetitive and formulaic, these documents, when read for the experiences of enslaved people, gradually reveal an omnipresent, if anonymous, population. The enslaved are rarely mentioned by any distinguishing characteristic other than their attachment to an elite household. Don Juan de Morfa, for instance, recalled that he “called his 14 domestic slaves, all of them black, whom he had in his house” and armed them as soon as he heard the buccaneers fire shots in the central plaza.21 The accountant of the treasury, don Joseph de Murueta Otalora, likewise mentioned that “his family of large and small slaves” was taken away by the raiders. Captain Pedro Benero noted that when the buccaneers arrived, he locked himself in his house “with his wife and family that included six male and female slaves.”22
When asked how many people were kidnapped by the buccaneers, Captain Juan Miguel Asque estimated 1,800 people. This inflated estimate was based on the premise “that there was not a single free person in this city who did not own slaves, because even the mulatas had two or three negras.”23 Asque certainly exaggerated the extent to which Afro-Veracruzanas owned other women, but women of African descent who had the means to purchase slaves often did so.24 However, since many of those afrodescendiente slaveholders were themselves abducted in 1683, we have an especially poor record of these mistress-slave relationships. If racial labels or caste categories did not prevent free Afro-Veracruzanas from owning other women, neither did their status as slaveholders keep the buccaneers from enslaving them (as we will see in the case of Isabel Pacheco). In sum, although largely nameless and invisible in the archival record, the enslaved were prominent actors in everyday Veracruz. In a society that awarded status to those possessing other human beings, middling and elite port residents owned slaves as a matter of fact.
I have found Sharla Fett's work on “recaptivity” especially useful in understanding the serial displacement that many African-descended people experienced in the years before and after 1683. While the focus here is on the diaspora violently born of the buccaneer raid, it is imperative to understand that for some of the Veracruz captives, the mass abduction “was just one phase of dislocation within an extended process of upheaval, terror, and physical deprivation.”25 Many of the women and men kidnapped from Veracruz had survived transatlantic slaving voyages months or years before. In fact, a Dutch slave ship, the San Joseph y Nuestra Señora de la Paz, disembarked hundreds of African captives in Veracruz on March 1, 1683.26 Three months later, these survivors of the Atlantic and Caribbean crossings had been abducted once again. Thus, those African-born people stolen from Veracruz had already “experienced the breaking and remaking of their social worlds many times over, in shifting familial, labor, and commercial contexts,” well before Lorencillo's raid.27
The everyday abuse born of this intra-Caribbean slave trade and Mexican slavery itself is also obvious, if unspoken. Thus, Juan Juárez Moreno's claim that those captured by the buccaneers were “destined for the darkest slavery” in the French and English Atlantic is problematic, to say the least.28 Although his book remains the Spanish-language study of reference for buccaneering in New Spain, Juárez Moreno adopted an imperial framework that prevented him from fully engaging the experiences of captive people of African or indigenous descent as they entered French domains. In his rendering of the 1680s, the readers side with the Spanish, who serve as “our soldiers,” governors, and naval leaders against the French, Dutch, and English “enemy.”29 Worse still, the assertion that rescuing the Veracruz captives would allow them to endure a less taxing slavery or “to once again breathe the fresh air of liberty” romanticizes the insidious reality of bondage in Mexico.30 Formulations of this type project exploitation and dishonor onto stolen people based not on their actual experiences but on their disappearance from Spain's imperial archive.
Making Race, Making Captives
Among the extant narratives on the 1683 raid, the testimony of Fray Juan de Ávila offers the best example of the need to reconsider the positionality of Veracruz's residents. The Franciscan offered an extremely detailed reconstruction of the attack, highlighting the racialized and gendered tensions that undergirded Mexican society at the time. His (prejudiced) attention to afrodescendiente women, in particular, speaks to a differing set of experiences and expectations. For instance, Ávila recounts that on May 22–23, 1683, the raiders forced every person of African descent and all Spanish men to carry their loot to the shoreline south of the city. Once there, the buccaneers forced their captives onto rowboats and pirogues toward Isla de Sacrificios, an islet just off the coast. Over 4,000 people were eventually cramped on the islet, where potable water and provisions were extremely scarce.31 No Spanish women endured these conditions on the islet since they were ordered to remain in the city.
Colonial chronicles indicate that in the first days of the raid some women (only identified as “las mujeres”) were individually selected by the buccaneers and raped within the church where they were being held captive.32 Other witnesses claimed that other women were ordered to leave the church in order to prepare meals for the raiders, an important logistical component for a two-week occupation.33 Yet in Ávila's narrative, black and mulatto women operated in open complicity with the raiders. The former received their mistresses' stolen clothing, silks, and jewelry, further subverting the socioracial hierarchy by riding on horseback with the invaders.34
In framing his narrative in this manner, Ávila set up a formidable punishment for all Afro-Mexican women. On the afternoon of May 26, the raiders formed two columns on the islet, unsheathed their cutlasses, and ordered every captive to disrobe. According to the friar, at this moment the mulatas and negras were stripped of their clothes and left “almost naked and crying because up until then they had spent their time playing and flirting with [the buccaneers].”35 The latter then “separated all the black and mulatto men, the black and mulatto women” from the Spanish men.36 Ávila did not mention that in a port of such complexity, numerous interracial families and couples were severed at that very instant. The friar merely recounted this fragmentation of the port's community through broad racial strokes. Such a perspective has also obscured the fate of indigenous people, mestizos, and especially light-skinned people in this separation process.37
In this racializing moment, the buccaneers effectively flattened any caste distinction and every difference in skin pigmentation into a black/white binary. No claims regarding free legal status, social standing, or confraternity membership would affect the taxonomization of enslaveable and nonenslaveable people. The African captive recently disembarked from a Dutch slave ship was afforded the same treatment as the free parda (women of partial African ancestry) innkeeper. The race thinking behind the buccaneers' actions transformed every individual of presumable African ancestry into a captive. Perhaps in no other moment of the colonial period was the concept of Afro-Mexican more rigidly defined. The afrodescendientes were then held in a separate area of the islet, where they allegedly received more food and water than the Spanish men.
From Ávila's perspective, the raiders' intentions were clear. They had fed, cared for, and prevented outbreaks of disease among the afrodescendientes because they had always intended to abduct that specific population. Indeed, one final selection process took place on May 29, when the buccaneers determined that only the healthy, young, and able-bodied Afro-Mexicans would board their vessels. The raiders left the approximately 500 “old and sick” afrodescendientes on Isla de Sacrificios to fend for themselves (along with the male Spanish population).38 The very next day, those left behind could only watch the Spanish fleet yield to the 13 buccaneer vessels and the 1,463 children, relatives, and friends aboard.39
Free Women on a Slave Ship
Four years later, in May 1687, a large ship, the San Antonio, made port in Veracruz. Margarita de Robles, Paula Matías, María de Pares, and several other women disembarked quietly. After years in captivity, they were finally home. A circuitous voyage had taken them to Coatzacoalcos, Cabo Catoche, Petit-Goâve, Baracoa, and Havana before finally returning to Veracruz (see figure 1). Most of the captives of the raid were not as fortunate. In late 1684, the president of Santo Domingo reported that “all the French settlements [in Saint-Domingue] are full of black people from the sack of Veracruz.”40 Somehow, these three had made it back. The conditions of their return reinforced the idea that their captivity had come to an end. They had traveled as free people in the captain's cabin on their voyage from Baracoa (in eastern Cuba) to Veracruz. While aboard the ship they were seasick and dependent on other passengers for their food, but as free women of African descent their freedom was not in question. This mattered a great deal. In their last seagoing voyage, they were transported as buccaneer captives, human prizes to be sold throughout the Atlantic. In May 1687 they returned as free passengers, Spanish vassals and Veracruzanas. Their return, however, was contingent upon the arrival of a different group of captive people.
Robles, Matías, and Pares arrived in Veracruz aboard a Dutch slave ship carrying 580 enslaved Africans.41 Following Lisa Ze Winters, here we must “tread carefully, for the terrain is perilous.” For if we are to trace the path of these three women on the San Antonio, we must also acknowledge the possibility of their “individual safety and liberty and the impossibility of the safety and liberty of the captive Africans transported.”42 Unlike the captives stowed below deck, Matías, Robles, and Pares would not be branded, quarantined, or measured upon arrival. They were not transacted as dehumanized piezas de Indias (slave units) in the slave depots of Curaçao for prospective sales in Veracruz. They may have experienced something similar on Isla de Sacrificios, but in 1687 the three women in question were free passengers on their way home.
Over a year after their return to Veracruz, Matías and Robles were interviewed by a Spanish judge, don Fernando López Ursino, who was collecting information on contraband networks. The judge had been tipped off about their arrival on the San Antonio and wanted to interrogate them on the ways that Dutch traders illicitly imported clothes to Veracruz on slave ships.43 López Ursino eventually located Paula Matías, and a scribe recorded her mediated testimony, which took the form of a declaration in the third person. In her account Matías identified as a free mulata and declared that she was 22 years old and had been taken captive by the buccaneers four years before. She continued by recalling the events of 1683: “When the pirate Lorenço sacked this city she was taken prisoner with other women and taken by said pirate to Pitiguao [Petit-Goâve], where she remained. From there this witness passed to Baracoa on a sloop belonging to the pirates and embarked on the
same ship San Antonio that had arrived at the port of Baracoa she boarded.”44 Matías did not divulge how much time she spent among specific buccaneers or tobacco planters in Saint-Domingue. She did not name a master, a spouse, or a companion, nor did she discuss how she managed to survive her time among the French. All we know is that she “remained” in a port infamous as a hub of Atlantic buccaneering for four years. Matías did not delve into any assessments of the economy or commerce of Petit-Goâve during her time there. Robles presented a similar, sparse narrative of events for the years from 1683 to 1687.
In contrast to the Veracruzanas, Juana Tomasa, a mestiza from Maracaibo (in Venezuela), would provide López Ursino with detailed information on the inner workings of Petit-Goâve.45 She had also arrived as a free passenger aboard the San Antonio slave ship but had spent considerably more time in Saint-Domingue. When she was barely 12 years old, Tomasa had been kidnapped and taken to Petit-Goâve. After toiling for a decade in the French settlement, she had only recently found her way to Veracruz. Tomasa did not return to family, friends, or a childhood home in the Mexican port. Unlike the other witnesses, she described herself as a “foreigner” (forastera) in Veracruz, which explains why she was labeled a “resident” of the port but not a vecina.46
Tomasa had already spent five years in Petit-Goâve by the time the Veracruzanas arrived. At the time, the French port was a minor settlement with a disproportionate impact on the Atlantic world. According to Benerson Little, “Boucaniers had been there at least since 1659,” leading to its formal establishment in 1663. The town grew slowly; a 1681 census counted 584 white settlers for both Petit-Goâve and Grand-Goâve, in addition to a few hundred slaves and engagés (indentured servants).47 Women, particularly white women, were rare in Petit-Goâve and Saint-Domingue as a whole. The colony featured an eight-to-one male-female ratio, with a total female population (black, colored, and white) of close to 1,100.48 The influx of captives from Veracruz and other raided ports alleviated this extreme imbalance. By 1687, the enslaved population of Saint-Domingue had grown 40 percent to 3,358 people, and the number of enslaved women rose to over 1,500. Women overall were still scarce, but the male-female ratio had been halved. Tomasa witnessed this transformation firsthand but did not elaborate on the influx of the Afro-Veracruzanas, their daily activities, or their relationships with their captors.
Instead, Tomasa distinguished herself by producing information on Petit-Goâve's commercial networks. Based on a decade of captivity, she was familiar with the local trade in “black slaves, linen merchandise, liquor, and wines in exchange for tobacco.”49 Tobacco and indigo production along with coastal raiding were indeed the mainstays of Saint-Domingue's economy; it would be another 15 years before sugarcane cultivation became dominant.50 Tomasa's assessment is confirmed in the writings of the sieur de La Courbe, a French slave trader for the Compagnie du Sénégal. In the days before sugarcane cultivation, most Saint-Domingue residents purchased enslaved Africans with tobacco. In 1687, La Courbe received 3,000 pounds of tobacco for each black slave sold.51 Although he also accepted payment in indigo, hides, cotton, and Spanish silver, most of his sales were transacted in tobacco. Still, “between 1681 and 1684, [the Compagnie du Sénégal's] trading and slaving enterprises were very modest”; “administrators estimated the needs of the [French Caribbean] islands at 2,000 slaves annually, whereas the company provided only a few hundred in good years.”52 This unfulfilled demand led those from Saint-Domingue to seek slaves from Dutch ships, such as the San Antonio.
A close reading of Tomasa's testimony suggests that she and her companions were able to navigate illicit commercial networks to their eventual freedom. She was evidently aware of the fact that Judge López Ursino was fishing for incriminating information on Dutch and Spanish merchants when she stated that the ships that entered Petit-Goâve “were all French.” In explaining her escape, she declared that an undisclosed number of women had paid six pesos to board a French sloop that took them from Petit-Goâve to Baracoa.53 Tomasa was careful to not disclose who the Frenchmen manning this sloop were or why they were willing to transport the women to a Spanish port. In this strategic omission, her testimony mirrored Paula Matías's account. In Tomasa's dubious retelling, the sloop docked in Baracoa “on account of bad weather” just as the San Antonio was loading drinking water. It is far more probable that the French had come to an agreement with the San Antonio's captain for an illicit exchange of slaves, textiles, tobacco, or other merchandise. Philip Boucher notes that during the late seventeenth century, “contraband slaves, primarily conveyed by the Dutch but also obtained through the auspices of the English, the Danes, and the Caribs, remained an important alternative to the deficient French slave trade.”54 If anything, this episode suggests that French buccaneers (and their associates) traded with Dutch slave ships in eastern Cuba's poorly policed ports.55 Alternatively, perhaps Tomasa intended to stress her own status as a free person by highlighting her ability to pay for her own passage from Petit-Goâve to Baracoa. Both scenarios are plausible.
Tomasa's testimony opens a fascinating window into the lives of captive women in Petit-Goâve. It also raises many questions. If the French treated these stolen women as slaves, how did they accumulate the necessary pesos to pay for their passage? Under what circumstances were they released? In Tomasa's account, once in Baracoa she pleaded with the “owner of the San Antonio” to deliver them to Havana, lest “the pirate enemy take them again.” Although we do not have his testimony, the ship owner did take Tomasa and her companions to Havana, “where some of the women remained and others continued on to this port [of Veracruz].”56 The record does not reveal the names, ages, ethnicity, or even number of the women who boarded the slave ship or how many remained in Cuba. These silences were more likely the result of López Ursino's line of questioning than Tomasa's ignorance of such details.
It is crucial to emphasize that Matías, Robles, and Pares did not present testimony as survivors of the 1683 raid. Although thousands of women experienced the Veracruz raid (including several hundred abductees), Judge López Ursino was not interested in their experiences. He was squarely focused on the three women as potential informants on the shadowy world of Dutch commerce. Unfortunately for him, they were unable or unwilling to provide information on the contraband trade. Matías alleged that she could contribute nothing to the case because while they were quartered in the captain's cabin of the San Antonio she and the other women had only seen “the hold of the black [slaves]” below deck.57 As for “the men who came aboard the said San Antonio ship,” they were no longer to be found in Veracruz, “not a single one.” The answer displeased López Ursino. He prompted Matías to reaffirm her testimony, which she did. Rather than continue questioning the other witnesses, the exasperated judge ended his interrogation of the female returnees by noting that “some of them [I] have not been able to find, and others are sick in bed, and . . . the women who have been located don't say anything of substance.”58
Women on a Buccaneer Island
To a certain degree, López Ursino's indifference to the returnees' experiences has been replicated by historians of Mexico, who have not bothered to make the fact of a mass abduction into a “moment of retrospective significance.”59 By contrast, scholars of Hispaniola, most notably the Jesuit Jean-Baptiste Le Pers, have touched on the impact of the Veracruz influx since the eighteenth century.60 Carlos Larrazábal Blanco, historian of Spanish Santo Domingo, has also noted the presence of Veracruz captives on the contested island.61 Most recently, Philippe Hrodej and Philip Boucher have highlighted the arrival of the Veracruz captives—especially the women—as a turning point in the demographic history of Saint-Domingue.62 My analysis of the extant parochial registers of Saint-Domingue confirms Hrodej's and Boucher's assessment that the sack of Veracruz truly represented a watershed moment.
For the purposes of this article, the parish records of L'Éster, Léogâne, Petit Riviére, and Croix-des-Bouquets are remarkable in that they contain dozens of references to the stolen Afro-Veracruzanas and other kidnapped women.63 Itinerant Dominican and Capuchin missionaries compiled these registers as they visited these emerging communities. Based on marginal notations found in the digitized documents available on the Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer, these extant registers are emended copies of the originals. The records of Petit-Goâve, where most of the Afro-Veracruzanas were held captive, are absent from these registers.64 Nevertheless, these sacramental books (baptismal, marital, and funerary) reveal the Afro-Veracruzanas not as enslaved people but as free mothers, spouses, and godmothers. Much like with Mexican records, discerning affection or intention is notoriously difficult in these registers.65 Still, these religious records frame the women of Veracruz as participants in a frontier Catholicism about which we know very little.
Arlette Gautier notes that marriages between white men and enslaved women were extremely rare in the French Atlantic at the time. In Les sœurs de solitude, she cites two marriages between “petits Blancs” and enslaved women for 1660 and eight for 1684 in Fort Royal, Martinique. These men of lower status, having recently arrived from France, had not yet absorbed the racial prejudices of colonial society, which thereby enabled them to seek formal unions with enslaved women. Gautier's only references for Saint-Domingue focus on Nippes (just west of Petit-Goâve) from 1720 to 1770, a period characterized by the progressive erasure of Catholic matrimony.66 How then do we explain the marriages between Afro-Veracruzanas and Frenchmen in the 1680s and 1690s?
The Veracruz captives arrived in Saint-Domingue in July and August 1683, but the first recorded unions involving these women only surface five years later. For instance, Thérése Quadrat (likely Teresa Cuadrado), who identified as a “mulatresse libre” and a “native de Veracrux,” married Guillaume Boursicot in late November 1688. The bride noted that she was the legitimate daughter of “Cyprian Benictes and Marie Coidreau,” and the French groom also claimed to be the child of a wedded couple. In June 1690, Jeanne Fort (Juana Fuerte) described herself as a “native de la ville de la Veracrux” and the legitimate daughter of “Joseph Fort and Hieronime Lacroix, her father and mother.”67 Jean Raymond Larmandie, a slave-owning Dominican friar, would marry her to Mathurin Boulet.68
Between 1688 and 1695, at least 16 Afro-Veracruzanas married in these early parishes of Saint-Domingue (see table 1). Remarkably, all these brides were considered free as a result of their marriages, and over half of them named their parents.69 By claiming lineages as the daughters of practicing Catholics, the Afro-Veracruzanas distinguished themselves from incoming African captives whose family histories were disregarded by itinerant friars. If these church-sanctioned unions were the result of a buccaneering expedition intent on racializing its captives for abduction, the French marital register did not preserve the association between blackness and enslavement for these women. This bears repeating: every Afro-Veracruzana in these marital entries was a free person and, at the very least, a nominal Catholic. How could this be?
Analysis of the Code Noir of March 1685 and its implementation in Saint-Domingue resolves some of the apparent contradictions between these women's former state as captives and their newfound status as free brides. Article 9, in particular, established that any free man whose enslaved concubine bore children would be deprived of the said woman and children. However, the same article established that an unmarried man who took it upon himself to marry his enslaved concubine would not pay this penalty. Moreover, “the said Slave [woman] would be enfranchised by this means, and her Children rendered free and legitimate.”70 In other words, such legislation, when applied to the piratical particularities of Saint-Domingue, did indeed benefit some Afro-Veracruzanas (especially those who had already given birth). John Garrigus contends that “this apparent endorsement of interracial marriage illustrates that in 1685, French Caribbean ideology was still solidifying.”71 A complementary reading might suggest that Article 9 awarded some leeway to the buccaneers and petits blancs who had proven so decisive in the consolidation of the French territory.72 The paradoxical freedom of the Veracruzanas, then, hinged on formalizing their unions with Frenchmen and recognizing their children through baptism.
In seventeenth-century Mexico, baptismal books generally served as the first record of a given individual's freedom or enslavement, thereby making the status of a child's mother a crucial piece of information. The parda, morena, mulata, or negra label for a mother was almost always followed by the free or slave qualifier.73 The heritability of slavery in Mexico was therefore policed through the baptismal register at the local parish.74 This was not the case in early Saint-Domingue, where the baptisms of enslaved children went unrecorded because recording such a sacrament was equated with manumission.75 The implementation of the Code Noir exacerbated the notion that only freeborn children could receive baptism. In only 1 out of a total of 751 baptisms analyzed for this study (during the 1680–1700 period) was a mother identified as another person's property.76 By the early 1730s, as sugarcane cultivation expanded and racial attitudes hardened, Article 9 of the Code Noir was amended to prohibit interracial marriages and abolish “the emancipation that could stem from such an alliance.”77
Studied in conjunction, then, the Code Noir and the baptismal and marital books of Saint-Domingue provide crucial information on the lives of the stolen Afro-Veracruzanas during the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Jessica Marie Johnson notes that the code was only registered in Saint-Domingue on May 6, 1687.78 By that point the women of Veracruz would have spent close to four years in the French territory. During this time, they also witnessed the influx of another group of Mexican captives, the 1685 victims of Lorencillo's raid on San Francisco de Campeche.79 The Veracruzanas would also encounter the captives produced by devastating raids on Jamaica and on Cartagena de Indias in 1694 and 1697, respectively. Thus, these mundane entries of participation in Catholic sacraments urge us to consider the otherwise-undocumented arrivals of many other captive women taken to Saint-Domingue.
Table 1 lists the marriages and baptisms of the abducted Afro-Veracruzanas. These were evidently women of African descent, even if they were not always identified as such in their marital entries. Their 29 children, however, were labeled as mulattoes (“mulatre,” “mulatressse”) or quadroons (“quarteron,” “quarteronne”) in the baptismal books. As subjective gradients of blackness, these terms indicated African ancestry.80 Acknowledging the presence of these women and their offspring, then, allows for a more precise understanding of the maternal provenance of many free, mixed-race people in Saint-Domingue's southern peninsula. Evidently, the Veracruzanas provided labor, sex, companionship, children, and, perhaps, even affection to the Frenchmen who struggled to populate the island. This is not to minimize the violence they experienced alongside Senegambian and Biafran women.81 What this research indicates is that Afro-Mexican women were profoundly entangled in the racial and sexualized processes that gave birth to Saint-Domingue's gens de couleur during the late seventeenth century.
For children born of freed Afro-Mexican mothers, the one common denominator was their documented entry to Catholicism and attendant freedom at a time when slavery was rapidly expanding in Saint-Domingue. Of course, not all freedwomen gave birth, nor did all their children survive to adulthood. We still have a very poor understanding of those Veracruzanas who had already married in New Spain or refused to enter formal (or informal) unions with Frenchmen after their abduction. Black women (negresses) are notably underrepresented in the marriages studied here, which suggests that the French sought lighter-skinned brides. These doubts and silences, however, should not lead us to discount the experiences and impact of those stolen women who did enter the documentary record. The Afro-Veracruzana Thérése Quadrat gave birth to the ten children of the Boursicot family (see table 1). Similarly, Marie Converque (María Coinque) had two children with her first husband, Guillaum St. Ouin, and five with her second, Julien Boisjoli. Likewise, the former captives Marie Thérése Gonzalle and Marie Joseph, both of L'Éster parish, respectively birthed the Doyer and Baroussia families of the 1690s.
This concentration of families of Afro-Mexican descent indicates that a node of Spanish-speaking, Catholic women created kinship in these early communities of Saint-Domingue. From a religious perspective, these were not deracinated people. Catholicism was the official religion of both New Spain and the French territory, and the Veracruzanas knew well how to deploy its potential for “social acceptance and advancement.”82 The baptismal register indicates that former captives fulfilled roles as madrinas (godmothers) in these emerging parishes on several occasions. In 1695 Marie Converque served as the madrina for Marie Boursicot, the daughter of Thérése Quadrat. Thus, 12 years removed from their abduction, Converque and Quadrat were ritually linked as comadres. As Jane Landers notes, “Godparents typically gave gifts at the baptism and were expected to provide for the spiritual and material care of their god-‘child’ in the event of the parents' death,” effectively binding individuals into extended kinship networks.83 These displaced women explicitly linked themselves and baby Marie through this rite, signaling their intention of having their social ties formally recognized through the church. Marie Molline, another Afro-Veracruzana, would also be chosen by the Yon and Terier families to safeguard their daughters' spiritual well-being. More than a nominal attachment to Catholic sacraments, the records indicate that these once captive women embedded themselves deeply in the social, cultural, and religious fabric of Léogâne, L'Éster, Petite Riviére, and Croix-des-Bouquets. Indeed, the Afro-Veracruzanas demonstrate how in the days before sugarcane slavery their lives in Saint-Domingue were conditioned not by social death but by the “possibility of freedom.”84
Political and Archival Implications of the Afro-Veracruzanas
The prominence of these former female captives claiming freedom is especially important for the history of the gens de couleur in Saint-Domingue. As people of partial African descent, the gens de couleur inhabited an ambiguous legal status in the French Atlantic, much more so than in Mexico, where mulattoes were baptized and enslaved without the least contradiction since the sixteenth century.85 By contrast, during the mid-seventeenth century the Capuchins of Saint-Christophe proposed that the “children of Christian slaves be freed of slavery after their baptism, since they had not been imprisoned in war,” while in Martinique mulattoes were considered free people.86 In Gautier's analysis, Martinican fathers were expected to raise these mixed children until they reached the age of 12, when they officially became free. As sugarcane cultivation gradually spread to French domains, these linkages between mulatto identity and freedom gradually faded, especially in Guadeloupe.87 However, as Clarence Munford observes, “it was still the custom in Saint-Domingue to regard mulattoes as free at the age of twenty-one” during the late 1680s.88 Because the partus sequitur ventrem principle did not yet define the heritability of slavery in the French territory, the mulatto category was particularly unstable. This porousness may have proven especially beneficial to Afro-Veracruzana mothers and their children as they navigated an emerging legal terrain in Saint-Domingue.
The entries in the marital and baptismal registers, of course, reveal next to nothing about interiority, familial memories, or the longing for childhood places and friends. We do not know if the brides listed in these marriages entered them willingly or if they were forced into such unions by the very men who kidnapped them. In a context of expanding slavery and racialized power, it is impossible to disentangle the threat of rape from captive women's reproductive lives. The archival silences surrounding the stolen women of Veracruz necessitate caution and imply violence. And yet, as Jennifer Morgan urges us, it is crucial not to reduce enslaved women's experiences “to the sensate, all rape and blood and birth trauma and breasts.” Rather, we must also consider “the possibility of critical, intelligent, strategic assessments of, and responses to, the violent structures of value and commerce in which they were embedded.”89 The Veracruzanas of the 1680s and 1690s simultaneously navigated the reality of bondage and the possibility of their children's freedom (and their own) in Saint-Domingue. The parochial registers indicate that some Afro-Mexican women indeed won their freedom during the late 1680s and early 1690s. Their freedom papers were not letters of manumission but entries in sacramental books that recognized them as mothers of free children and as wives of Frenchmen. Paradoxically, Article 9 of the Code Noir (an otherwise-dehumanizing document) made “freedom from the market” a reality for those children whose mothers were able to mobilize these aspirational claims.90
But what of those Afro-Mexican captives who did not enter the historical record? How to write about the lives of stolen women who did not conform to or were not forced into roles as mothers and spouses during their time in Saint-Domingue? Those located in permanent bondage remain archivally invisible to us, and this is especially true of unattached women and those who were part of stable but nonformalized unions.91 The heteronormativity of the colonial archive further blinds us to those in same-sex relationships. In other cases, we are forced to speculate on matters known to have conditioned life in Saint-Domingue at the height of buccaneering. During the 1670s and 1680s, the gender imbalance in Petit-Goâve would have produced extreme demands for sex labor in the port's many “stews” (brothels).92 As Marisa Fuentes reminds us, these poorly documented spaces amplify the “silences in the archive of women of color,” as the sexual acts performed by enslaved women within such brothels “reproduced not just an unequal relation of power, but [also] reinscribed the larger framework of owner and owned.”93 All these dynamics escape the purview of the archive, even as they informed the lived realities of the captive Veracruzanas. Without a doubt, an enslaved majority of Afro-Mexican women lived out their lives undocumented in Saint-Domingue's taverns, markets, tobacco farms, and tanneries.
The faintest traces of these enslaved afrodescendientes only entered the archival record upon successful ventures into Spanish domains. Such was the case of the mulata widow Isabel Pacheco, who was being held captive in Petit-Goâve with her two children, respectively 12 and 14 years old, in November 1684. Earlier that year, a young black woman named María, who had been Pacheco's slave in Veracruz, reported her owner's situation to the president of Santo Domingo. María presented this news after being rescued during a Spanish incursion, transported to the village of Azua and then to the capital city of Santo Domingo.94 Since 1680, any slave who escaped his or her French master was awarded sanctuary and freedom in Spanish Santo Domingo.95 Enslaved people on the French side of the island were aware of these policies, and the Veracruz captives acted on this promise of refuge. María's case was slightly more complicated given that under Spanish law, she was still owned by Pacheco. The latter's dominion over her slave was rendered meaningless in this new context, yet some sort of affective bond must have motivated María to acknowledge this relation of bondage to an uninformed third party. As a single woman describing a widowed woman still in captivity, María would not surface in religious registers that privileged reproduction and matrimony. Neither would the widow Pacheco. As archival fragments, runaway narratives such as these fail to reveal discernible patterns in the fates of most of the stolen Afro-Veracruzanas and their siblings, friends, partners, or parents.
The question, then, is what to do with these fleeting glimpses into the lives of women who did manage to secure their freedom and that of their children. I contend that just as we should read deeply into the silences produced by the archive of racial slavery, we should also delve into the most minuscule entry in a baptismal book, contraband file, or slave ship register. In the case of the Afro-Veracruzanas, locating their attendant shreds of evidence within specific time frames leads to surprising reassessments of Atlantic piracy, colonialism, and community formation. Because where we would perhaps expect to encounter stories of desolation, abuse, and “darkest slavery” (to recall Juárez Moreno's phrase), we find evidence of resilience, companionship, motherhood, godparentage, and, for lack of a better term, life.
The authorities of Saint-Domingue, in fact, wrote of the captive Veracruzanas as more than lively. In August 1687, Governor Pierre-Paul Tarin de Cussy defined the free Spanish “mulâtres, mulátressses, nègres et négresses” as the “enemies whom we keep among ourselves” in a scathing letter to Versailles. Penned shortly after a damaging Spanish raid on Petit-Goâve, Cussy excoriated the freedwomen as “vilaines” who had only secured their freedom through “libertinage and the children they'd had with the buccaneers.” The governor claimed that these women “infected” the local men and in the process consumed all their goods. He proposed selling the women “to the Islands,” where they would be of great use—a radical proposition that effectively required reenslaving freed people.96
Cussy's draconian proposal was not implemented. In fact, careful analysis of the marriage register indicates that the governor's initiative led to the formalization of numerous unions between once captive Afro-Mexican women and French men. These marriages increased considerably between 1688 and 1691 (see table 1). Deploying the sacrament of matrimony protected these former captives from reenslavement and, from their spouses' perspective, guaranteed their permanence in a colony starved for women. For the Afro-Veracruzanas who married in the late 1680s and early 1690s, the delayed implementation of the Code Noir allowed them to secure their freedom just prior to the rapid expansion of slavery in Saint-Domingue. Moreover, as many of Cussy's villains became mothers during these very years, they enfranchised a new generation of mixed-race people at birth. The gens de couleur of the late seventeenth century certainly take on another dimension in light of their maternal roots.
For women living along Mexico's Gulf Coast and the Spanish Caribbean coastline, the settlements of southern Saint-Domingue represented spaces of captivity in the 1680s and 1690s. But surmising what that captivity entailed is increasingly difficult after analyzing the parish records of Saint-Domingue. These records, alongside scattered political correspondence and runaway testimonies, reveal fleeting glimpses of the Afro-Veracruzanas' influence and resilience. Based on these new findings, sexual servitude and coerced labor, along with motherhood and companionship, emerge as plausible experiences for these stolen women. These experiences, then, are perhaps best defined through the lens of displacement, exploitation, survival, adaptation, and motherhood, but not empire. The black women of Veracruz did not encounter the darkest slavery in Saint-Domingue, just as they did not leave behind paradisiacal lives in Mexico. They simply encountered another gendered and racialized existence and, for some, a more porous, unstable captivity.
This research has been generously supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowship, a John Carter Brown Library short-term research fellowship, and a University of Rochester international research mobility grant. Many thanks to the University of California, Davis, Latin American History Workshop and the University of Rochester Grupo workshop for commenting on earlier versions of the article. A note of appreciation is also due to the Université Quisqueya and to Jacqui Lamarque and Cliford Jasmin for their logistical support while conducting fieldwork in Haiti.
In this article I use the terms buccaneer, flibustier, and raider interchangeably. I am conscious of the distinctions between the land-based boucaniers and French freebooters but have chosen buccaneer in accordance with its more common usage in English-language scholarship.
Juárez Moreno, Corsarios y piratas; Marley, Sack of Veracruz.
Vinson, Bearing Arms; Muñoz Espejo, La construcción; Montero, Ulúa.
For a political overview of New Spain in the 1680s, see Rubio Mañé, El virreinato.
Gasser, “Les mystérieuses disparitions”; Camus, “Un flibustier reconverti”; Little, Buccaneer's Realm; Laprise, “Privateers of Saint-Domingue.”
Wood, Black Majority, 26n36.
Petit-Goâve's notarial archive was set aflame in 1698, destroying yet another set of sources for this poorly documented period. See Boucher, France, 222.
This article forms part of a book-length project on Veracruz's afrodescendientes and their relationship with the French, Dutch, and English Atlantic.
Clark, “Veracruz,” 222–37. Seven separate Afro-Veracruzan dance troupes, organized by religious confraternities along ethnic and caste lines, participated in the Corpus Christi celebrations of the late 1660s.
The raid offers a stunning colonial precedent for the Latin American phenomenon of the desaparecidos. For María's case, see testimony of María de la Candelaria and José Ordóñez, Xalapa, 30 Mar. 1681, Archivos Notariales de la Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, año de protocolo 1681–1693, no. 12, fols. 240r–41r.
Trouillot, Silencing the Past, 26.
Winters, Mulatta Concubine, 180–81.
The port was relocated several times during the colonial period. In this article, Veracruz refers to Nueva Veracruz, the settlement established between 1599 and 1601. The original location of the port was known as La Antigua or Veracruz La Vieja by the late seventeenth century.
Clark, “Veracruz,” 126–27.
García de León, Tierra adentro; Clark, “Veracruz”; Wheat, Atlantic Africa; Ireton, “‘They Are Blacks.’”
Sierra Silva, “Portuguese Encomenderos de Negros”; Seijas and Sierra Silva, “Persistence of the Slave Market.”
Gerhard, “Un censo”; Boucher, France, 238.
Boucher, France, 273–75.
Villalobos, Manifiesto, 21r–v. Many thanks to Alex Borucki for pointing me to this source at the John Carter Brown Library (call number B682.V714).
Masferrer León, Muleke, negritas y mulatillos; Sierra Silva, Urban Slavery, 144–70.
“Testimonio a la letra del quaderno de la sumaria [ . . . ],” Veracruz, 21 June 1683, Archivo General de Indias, Seville (hereafter cited as AGI), Patronato 243, ramo 2, image nos. 259–60. For this and subsequent archival manuscripts lacking folio numbers, I provide image numbers for reference from the digitized copies on the Portal de Archivos Españoles (PARES) platform.
“Testimonio a la letra,” Veracruz, 26 June 1683, AGI, Patronato 243, ramo 2, image nos. 468–70.
“Testimonio a la letra,” Veracruz, 18 June 1683, AGI, Patronato 243, ramo 2, image no. 119.
Terrazas Williams, “Capitalizing Subjects,” 273–325.
Fett, Recaptured Africans, 8.
“Testimonios y zertificaciones,” Curaçao, 17 July 1686, AGI, Escribanía 297C, cuaderno 5, fol. 27v. The ship departed Curaçao on February 2, 1683, with 600 captives on board.
Fett, Recaptured Africans, 8.
Juárez Moreno, Corsarios y piratas, 252.
Juárez Moreno, 98. Numerous eyewitness accounts provide some basis for such an antibuccaneer, pro-Spanish narrative. I contend, however, that Juárez Moreno's framework is overly grounded in a justification of Spanish imperialism.
Juárez Moreno, 246.
Ávila, Relación verdadera, 57; Alegre, Historia, 53.
Townsend, Here in This Year, 125. In the words of an indigenous chronicler from Puebla, the buccaneers “amused themselves with the women; they dishonored them.” Townsend, 125.
Testimony of Atanasio Fernández de Buendía, Veracruz, 17 June 1683, AGI, Patronato 243, ramo 2, image nos. 76–106.
Ávila, Relación verdadera, 47, 58–59.
“Y como lo que tenían ellas era todo bueno, quedaron cassi en cueros y muy llorosas, que hasta enconces todo se yva en jugar y retoçar con ellos a nuestra vista.” Ávila, 47.
Bialuschewski, “Slaves of the Buccaneers.” Bialuschewski urges us to consider the enslavement of indigenous people from the Yucatan peninsula in French Tortuga. In all likelihood, indigenous people were also taken from Veracruz. Some mestizos were considered part of the afrodescendiente group and also abducted. See Thomas Lynch to Leoline Jenkins, Jamaica, 26 July 1683, in Fortescue, Calendar of State Papers, 456–59.
Ávila, Relación verdadera, 63.
“Interrogación al Cap. Julian de Salinas,” Veracruz, 25 June 1683, AGI, Patronato 243, ramo 2, image nos. 406–8.
“Expediente sobre fuga de negros,” Santo Domingo, 29 Nov. 1684, AGI, Santo Domingo 64, ramo 6, no. 156, image no. 2.
“Testimonios y zertificaçiones que se an sacado de los rexistros de embarcaçiones,” Veracruz, 20 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 4r–12v; García de León, Tierra adentro, 624n46. The San Antonio made port on May 24, 1687. This slaving vessel was also known as the Santisima Trinidad y San Antonio Abad.
Winters, Mulatta Concubine, 10. Emphasis in original.
“Pesquissa sumaria fha en virtud de comiss.on y r.l zedula de Su Mag.d contrra don Pedro Bambelle, olandes factor del assiento de negros en la isla de Curazau,” Veracruz, 9 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 1v–2v.
“Pesquissa sumaria,” Veracruz, 24 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 10r–11v. Strikethrough in original. The scribe recording her testimony suspected something was amiss with regard to Matías's return voyage; he made the marginal annotation “ojo.” Baracoa had profound social and economic ties to Saint-Domingue. In the early 1600s, Baracoa's priest was infamous for his correspondence with the “corsarios” of Gonaïves. See Macías Domínguez, Cuba, 327–28.
Bialuschewski, “Slaves of the Buccaneers,” 45; Juárez Moreno, Corsarios y piratas, 107. Maracaibo was the site of repeated raids in the 1670s and 1680s.
“Pesquissa sumaria,” Veracruz, 24 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 11r–12r.
Pritchard, In Search of Empire, 61; Little, Buccaneer's Realm, 61.
Gautier, Les sœurs, 33; Boucher, France, 238–39; Pritchard, In Search of Empire, 61, 66.
“Pesquissa sumaria,” Veracruz, 24 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 12r.
Debien, Une plantation de Saint-Domingue, 28–29.
Camus, “A Saint-Domingue,” 4–5. La Courbe did not detail differences in price for enslaved men, women, or children. Depending on their age, individual slaves in the French Caribbean sold for from 800 to 1,500 livres tournois during the early 1680s. Three livres tournois were the equivalent of a Spanish peso or a French piastre, but coin was scarce in Saint-Domingue. See Boucher, France, 211, 273; Camus, “Un flibustier reconverti,” 56n6. For comparative purposes, the Dutch sold enslaved Africans in Veracruz for an average of 300 pesos each during these years. See Pertinent en waarachtig verhaal, 24–25.
Boucher, France, 209.
“Pesquissa sumaria,” Veracruz, 24 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 12r.
Boucher, France, 209.
The Dutch-French contraband trade was entrenched in the channel separating the island of Tortuga from Saint-Domingue by 1670 (if not earlier). See Munford, Black Ordeal of Slavery, 2:380, 390.
“Pesquissa sumaria,” Veracruz, 24 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 11r–12r.
“Pesquissa sumaria,” Veracruz, 24 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 11v. Two other witnesses confirmed that the women were never allowed above deck because they suffered seasickness. See “Pesquissa sumaria,” Veracruz, 24 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 5r, 12r.
“Pesquissa sumaria,” Veracruz, 24 Dec. 1688, AGI, Escribanía 297C, 11r–12r.
Trouillot, Silencing the Past, 26.
Charlevoix, Histoire de l'Isle Espagnole.
Larrazábal Blanco, Los negros, 156–57.
Hrodej, “La flibuste domingoise,” 299–300; Boucher, France, 220.
The Saint-Domingue parochial registers are digitized on the État Civil section of the Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer website. The original registers combined entries on marriages, baptisms, and last rites from the Léogâne, Sainte-Croix, L'Éster, Petite Riviére, and Croix-des-Bouquets parishes into a single book. I have consulted all entries for the years 1680–95. The search can be accessed at “Saint-Domingue, 58 résultats trouvés,” Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer, accessed 21 June 2019, http://anom.archivesnationales.culture.gouv.fr/caomec2/resultats.php?tri=annee&territoire=SAINT-DOMINGUE&commune=&typeacte=&theme=&annee=&debut=1680&fin=1695&vue=&x=100&y=11&rpp=100.
Despite the efforts of Father Anis Yves and Father Boniface Senat, I was unable to locate the original registers at their respective parishes, Sainte-Rose de Lima in Léogâne and Notre-Dame de l'Assomption in Petit-Goâve.
Cope, Limits of Racial Domination, 6–7.
Gautier, Les sœurs, 82, 103, 169.
Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence (hereafter cited as ANOM), Saint-Domingue, État Civil, Mariages, 1688–90, fols. 42v–43r, 50r–51r.
Munford, Black Ordeal of Slavery, 3:720–21.
ANOM, Saint-Domingue, État Civil, Mariages, 1688–89, fols. 36v–48r.
“Code Noir ou Edit servant de réglement pour le gouvernment et l'administration de la justice et de la police des isles françoises de l'Amérique, et pour la discipline et le commerce des negres et esclaves dans ledit pays,” in Moreau de Saint-Méry, Loix et constitutions, 416.
Garrigus, Before Haiti, 41.
Garrigus notes that in 1684 “at least half of Saint-Domingue's freebooters used their profits to buy land, which their partners cultivated while they periodically went to sea.” Garrigus, 25.
Free, light-skinned people of African descent often preferred to self-identify as pardos or pardas instead of mulatos or mulatas. Likewise, darker-skinned individuals preferred moreno and morena over negro and negra.
Sierra Silva, Urban Slavery, 164–70.
Johnson, “Freedom, Kinship, and Property,” 123.
Perrine Vincent's baptismal entry reveals that he was born out of wedlock to Mathusin Vincent and “Amicque, négresse apartenant a Mons. Rousseau.” Rousseau agreed to have the child baptized as a free person, foregoing his ownership of the infant. ANOM, Baptismes Léogâne, 1683, fol. 13v.
Dayan, “Codes of Law,” 296.
Johnson, “Freedom, Kinship, and Property,” 121n76.
Juárez Moreno, Corsarios y piratas, 361–65. The buccaneers captured 243 Campechans in this raid. It was not only Afro-Veracruzanas, then, who claimed Spanish patronymics and freedom in these registers. Due to space constraints, I have excluded the cases of captives from San Francisco de Campeche, Cartagena de Indias, and Havana from this article but will explore their interactions with the Veracruzanas in a future project.
In three cases, the children of mulatto men and black women were identified as “griffes.” I am unable to demonstrate whether these were the offspring of Veracruz captives since no marriages were located for these unions. For a mathematical breakdown of racial mixture in Saint-Domingue, see Moreau de Saint-Méry, Description topographique, 83–101.
Geggus, “French Slave Trade,” 135, table 2. African captives shipped from Senegambia accounted for 46.9 percent of the 7,887 captives sent to the entire French Antilles between 1669 and 1700. Geggus, 135, table 2. See also Winters, Mulatta Concubine, 46, 190n33.
Landers, Atlantic Creoles, 40.
Landers, 269n89. See also Berlin, “From Creole to African,” 271–72.
Berlin, “From Creole to African,” 284.
Masferrer León, Muleke, negritas y mulatillos, 159–77.
Gautier, Les sœurs, 57.
Munford, Black Ordeal of Slavery, 3:720.
Morgan, “Partus sequitur ventrem,” 17.
Gautier, Les sœurs, 69–70. French slave owners often encouraged informal unions among enslaved men and women in order to facilitate individual slave transactions.
Little, Buccaneer's Realm, 61–62.
Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives, 63–64.
“Carta de don Andrés de Robles al rey,” Santo Domingo, 25 Nov. 1684, AGI, Santo Domingo 64, ramo 6, no. 157; Juárez Moreno, Corsarios y piratas, 268–69. As the captive of a captive, María was ordered to remain in Santo Domingo until her owner's situation was resolved.
Lucena Salmoral, Regulación de la esclavitud negra, 198.
Pierre-Paul Tarin de Cussy to Marquis de Seignelay, Port-de-Paix, 27 Aug. 1687, ANOM, Colonies F3 165, quoted in Hrodej, “La flibuste domingoise,” 299–300.