General Question

TossingSpades's avatar

Were there ever Spanish slaves in the Caribbean?

Asked by TossingSpades (129 points ) April 15th, 2014

I’m not sure where this came up, but I suppose I’m naturally curious. I know the Spanish did enslave others, but were they every slaves themselves? And if so, what time period would that be around?

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11 Answers

pleiades's avatar

You’re asking two separate questions.

1. Were there ever Spanish slaves in the Caribbean? Yes you bet your bottom dollar there were. Why do you think they speak Spanish? A long time ago, a Pope, I’m not sure which I forget these things, well he split the “New World” into two. The northern hemisphere for Spain and the Southern for Portugal (Yes Portugal was once a world power) So yes Spain conquered the Carribean sea as well.

2. You asked if Spaniards were ever slaves themselves. Well kinda? They had the Spanish Nobility, so I guess you can say the lower class were their slaves? As they were forced to serve Spain in anyway shape or form.

Oh and here’s the “Splitting Treaty” that I mentioned earlier by the Pope it’s called, Treaty of Tordesillas

Don’t take Wikipedia at facevalue, yea I linked it but there are hundres of thousands of books in regards to Spanish history. Every major empire has. :]

dabbler's avatar

The first landing of Columbus’s trio of ships was in the Bahamas, which is quasi-Caribbean. There they encountered the Taino people, whom they promptly attempted to enslave. The Taino made lousy slaves, they ran away or were just uncooperative. Because of that, except for the young women who were commandeered and awarded to Columbus’s officers as concubines, most of the Taino were slaughtered. Per this article “In 1519, Mexico’s first Afro-Mexican slave was brought by Hernán Cortés.” and “By 1552, black African slaves made up 10% of the population of Lisbon” So the Spanish had African slaves in both the Americas and back at home in Europe.

@pleiades The Spanish/Portugese split is along a north-south line that grants, per the article you cite “lands to the east would belong to Portugal and the lands to the west to Spain”. The Eastern side is Portugese, and is mostly Brazil today where they speak Portugese. The rest of the Western Hemisphere below the U.S. mostly speaks Spanish as a result of the papal grant.

JLeslie's avatar

Are you counting African slaves as Spanish slaves?

flip86's avatar

Yes, people from Spain have been slaves. Search for Arab slave trade.

JLeslie's avatar

@flip86 The question is about Spanish slaves in the Carribean.

flip86's avatar

@jleslie No it isn’t. He asked if the Spanish were slaves themselves and what time period.

JLeslie's avatar

@flip86 I interpret it differently. Hopefully, the OP will clarify.

There definitely were slaves in Spain. Jews, Moors, even Christians, and of course African slaves, but since the African slaves were probably brought in they probably were not considered citizens of Spain. I don’t know.

flip86's avatar

@JLeslie It’s all good. :)

rojo's avatar

I believe that during the time of the Barbary pirates (mid 1500’s to mid 1700’s, a little hazy) many Europeans, and even a few Americans, were enslaved and taken to Africa. I am certain that this included Spaniards.
There was probably Spanish slaves being traded during the Arab control of the Iberian peninsula from the 700’s to the 1400’s.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

After the armies of Their Most Catholic Majesties King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella took the Iberian penninsula back from the Moors, new laws were created to unite the various Iberian governments under the Spainish crown and rid Spain of all non-Catholics. These laws provided that all non-Catholics were to be either assimilated, or banished, or killed outright. Those non-Catholic Spaniards who were of use to the crown were often given a chance to assume christian surnames and convert to the one state-sanctioned Church. Other than those who were wealthy, or integral to industries important to the survival of the state, or working in the King’s court as advisors, this meant bonded slavery under a wealthy catholic Spaniard. Even though these families converted to Catholicism they were still suspect.

The Maranos, or Jewish converts, were a favorite target of Tomas de Torquemada, the Prosecutor of the Inquisition. One of his favorite tricks to root out insincere Maranos was to stand on a hillside overlooking a village on the Jewish Sabath and mark down those homes that had no smoke rising from their chimneys. He would then ride in with his soldiers and burn those homes to the ground along with their inhabitants.

Fervent cleansing of Spain and her colonies went on for centuries, with especially rabid periods occuring under Juanita the Mad, Carlos V, and Philip II . The Spanish Inquisition wasn’t officially brought to an end until the late 1800s.

I think if you google some of the names and terms used above you will find enough fodder to keep you busy researching Spaniard slaves for quite a while.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Excuse me. As to the other part of the question: The Caribbean.

Many of these victims of the new laws were shipped off to work the plantations as slaves or serve as fodder in the armies and navies in the colonies. Many others felt that the farther away from Spain they could get, the longer they would survive, so enlisting onto crews or even stowing away on ships headed for the New World became a popular escape, especially for those educated in mathematics, agriculture, and medicine. Many a ship’s surgeon was Marano, as many Moors were navigators, other refugees were accountants on plantations—most under bond. These same crew would often jump ship and join pirate crews as soon as they possibly could and many of the pirates of the Caribbean were actually these refugees of the Inquisition. Life as a pirate was much better than a bonded servant, aka slave. Bond often meant lifetime slavery as many an owner would allow a five-year bonded servant to work out most of his tiime, then just before the bond was up, he would sell him off to another master for another five years, and sol on until the servant died or became useless. Theren was very little recourse for these servants, so it went on with impunity.

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