The 'Tecora' was a Portuguese
slave shipof the early 1800s. The brig was built especially for the slave tradeafter the transport across the Atlantic of human beings as slaves had already been outlawed in the first decade of the 19th century. She was fast and maneuverable in order to evade British patrols which attempted to stop such illegal slave ships.
In 1839, a group of
Africanswere kidnapped from Mendiland, (in modern day Sierra Leone) and transported to the African slave port of Lomboko. There a Portuguese slave trader purchased about 500 of the Africans and transported them aboard the "Tecora" to Havana, Cuba.
The captives were stripped, chained in groups of five, and packed tightly into the slave hold (a deck below the main deck and above the cargo hold) so that one person's head, when lying in rows, was forced upon another person's thigh. In the ship's dark cargo hold, each slave had 3 feet 3 inches (1 m) of headroom during the ten-week voyage. The captives were sometimes brought up on deck and fed rice. Those who tried to starve themselves, as often happened, were whipped and forced to eat. While they were at sea, water supplies ran low, and disease spread through the closely packed, unventilated slave deck. At times when supplies ran low, the crew would chain 30 to 40 slaves together, attach a heavy weight to the end, and throw the weight overboard, which would drag the chains and the slaves underwater, drowning them. Nearly a third of the slaves died during the long voyage from disease,
malnutrition, and beatings.
The affair of La Amistad
Since importing slaves into Spanish-controlled
Cubawas illegal, the slave traders smuggled the captive Africans ashore at night in small boats. They landed them in a small inlet a few miles from Havana. Once on land, the slaves were placed in a barracoon, or a "slave pen."
Under Spanish law, once they arrived in Cuba in late June, the Africans were legally free. However, they were
fraudulently classified as Cuban-born slaves so they could be separated and sold. Two Spanish plantation owners, Jose Ruiz and Pedro Montes, bought 53 of the surviving Africans: 49 men, a boy, and three girls. Ruiz and Montes packed their cargo and the slaves on board the schooner La Amistadand set sail for their plantation at Port Principe, Cuba.
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