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Kongo Slaves: Spanish Americas

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KONGO SLAVES

4:  Spanish Americas

In the decades between 1580 and 1650, an estimated total of 289,531 slaves departed West Central Africa on board 820 ships. The great majority of these captives, 207,843, were intended for the Spanish Americas. A minor portion, 81,688, were bound for other destinations such as Portuguese Brazil. But an astonishing one fifth of them, 57,763, did not arrive anywhere at all, having died during the passage and their bodies flung overboard.(1)

In the late 1580s the Portuguese and Spanish Crowns were combined, a political union that lasted until they split again in 1640. Having a ruler in common opened up opportunities for commercial cooperation between the two nations and their overseas interests. Spain claimed enormous territories in America but lacked a 'disciplined' labour force to exploit them. Portugal on the other hand had established trading posts along the African coast with access to an apparently limitless supply of 'enslavable' peop…