The Afro-Portuguese Maritime World and the Foundations of Spanish Caribbean Society, 1570-1640
This dissertation explores African and Portuguese roles in the rise of the Spanish Caribbean's most important port cities, with particular emphasis on Cartagena de Indias and Havana. During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Portuguese and Luso-African mariners, merchants, and immigrants linked the Spanish Caribbean to a broader Portuguese maritime world. This network's most significant outcome was the forced migration of tens of thousands of African captives, funneled to the Caribbean in overlapping waves from Upper Guinea, Lower Guinea, and West Central Africa. Spain's heavy reliance on sub-Saharan Africans and their descendants to populate and sustain key Caribbean seaports resulted in social transformations which often mirrored or directly responded to contemporary events in precolonial Western Africa. Rather than portraying the post-conquest Caribbean as a "backwater" within a historical framework that privileges Mexico or Peru, this study argues that the early colonial Caribbean may be more accurately viewed as an extension of the early modern South Atlantic world.