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African Diaspora Newsletter No.9

   Graduate Students Reports

   Oscar Grandío Moráguez (Ph.D candidate) Field Work: Cuba and Panama.

During the summer of 2002 I conducted doctoral research on slavery in Cuba in the 18th and 19th centuries, in a number of Cuban archives: the most important of these were the Archivo Nacional de Cuba and the Archivo Provincial de Matanzas. The Nacional archive, located in the heart of Old Havana, is the biggest one in Cuba, and it contains the most important collections relating to slavery in Cuba. The Matanzas archive, located in Matanzas city, is one of the best organized and most pleasant to work in throughout Cuba, and it contains a vast quantity of primary materials on the topic, especially on slave insurrections and the slave trade in the Matanzas´s region during the nineteenth century. Also some research was conducted at the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, in Havana, which is another repository for primary documentary materials on the topic, where I consulted and photocopied secondary sources, including newspapers and journals.
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Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Fondo de Gobierno Superior civil, legajo 1691

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Archivo General de Indias, (deposited in the Archivo General, Panama) Audiencia de Panama, estante 69

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The National Archive does not have any collection relating directly to slavery so the documents are scattered in several collections. During my preliminary research I consulted the material relating to the colonial period at the Fondos Institucionales, that contains 3 main collections: Gobierno General (1633-1898), Gobierno Superior Civil (1746-1880) and Junta de Fomento (1779-1877) where I found valuable primary documents dealing with slavery. At the Fondo de Gobierno General I consulted the slave censuses for five of the six neighborhoods that officials in the city of Trinidad (Cuba) took in 1854, with which I created a database. Also, other materials were found concerning runaway slaves captured by the authorities. With this information I am currently working on another database, that will contains all the runaway slaves that were being held at the main Cuban Runaway Slave Deposits in 1858. The Database will include the slave names, their ethnic origins, age, physical characteristics, name of the owner, and place where the slave was captured. This information was found at the Fondo de Gobierno Superior Civil. More material on slave resistance was located at the Fondo de la Junta de Fomento. I also found a number of documents located in the Fondo de Gobierno Superior Civil, on the African cultural institutions known in Cuba as the Cabildos de Nación,. All of this material was digitized.

In Matanzas I worked mainly with three collections that focused on slavery. One is devoted to insurrections, the other to runaways, and the last one to slavery in general. Reviewing one of these collections, the Fondo del Gobierno Provincial Sublevaciones, I found reports and/or summaries of all the rebellions that occurred in the province from 1825 to 1879. The second collection, Fondo de Gobierno Provincial Cimarrones, contains all the statistics relating to runaway slaves in Matanzas. Because this collection was not available to the public I could not make copies of it. The third collection dealing with slavery, the Fondo de Esclavos (Bozales), has general information.

Also during December 2002 and January 2003, I conducted research at the Archivo Nacional de Panama. Firstly, I undertook a preliminary survey of the catalogue collection at the archive, looking for documents relating to slavery and its implications for Panama. I found material dealing with slave rebellions during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but little on the slave trade. This material comes from the collections on Panama from the Archivo General de Indias and is located in the Archivo National de Panama. Also I reviewed notarial materials deposited in the archive, where I found a great deal of documents on slave sales, mortgages and manumissions between 1787 and 1844. There is a lack of information on the slave trade to Panama, especially during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but there is some material on this topic for the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

While conducting research at the Biblioteca Simon Bolivar, at the Universidad Nacional de Panama, in their Special Collections, I consulted documents with information on the slave trade from Costa Rica to Panama. These documents are copies of material from the Costa Rican National Archive. Finally, I also consulted documents dealing with the maroon communities on the Panamanian Caribbean during the sixteenth century.

Department of History, York University,  Toronto, Canada
Email: nigerian@yorku.ca
Fax: (416) 650-8173