Traces of Slavery: A Database of the African Ethnic Groups Mapped in Cuba

Co-directors María del Carmen Barcia (University of Havana) and Marial Iglesias Utset

The Cuban archives hold remarkable and underexplored information about the history of slavery. These archives constitute probably the largest and richest collection of its kind in all of Spanish America. The country’s archives provide invaluable information about the African populations living on the island, beginning in the early 16th century to the end of the 19th century. Documentation on the ethnicity of slaves, their occupations, ways of living, forms of resistance, and routes to emancipation are part of these collections. The Cuban archives are underutilized for several reasons: the materials are scattered over different locations, resulting in limited access; the digitization of materials and catalogs is underdeveloped; and documents are in deteriorated conditions. The Traces of Slavery Project seeks to create a searchable database to facilitate the description and quantification of the information about of Cuban slaves, including their identities and ethnic backgrounds. Hosted at the Fundación Fernando Ortiz in Havana, it is co-directed by María del Carmen Barcia, professor at the University of Havana and Marial Iglesias Utset, Visiting Research Scholar at the Afro- Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University. The Traces of Slavery Project is designed to become the largest and most complete compendium of individual slave information ever assembled in Cuba.