Black African heritage in Spain: the forgotten migration
Aurelia Martín Casares
(University of Granada)
Margarita García Barranco (University of Granada)
Francesco Bruno Bondanini (Universität zu Köln)
Paper short abstract:
Did Black Africans that reached Spain from Renaissance to the 19th century suffered the destruction of their own original cultures and adopted their captors’? In this Paper we will enlighten the memory of freed and enslaved Black Africans and their role in the social history of Spain as well as their attempts to maintain and defend their identities.
Paper long abstract:
People of black African descent, freed or enslaved, men or women, born in Spain or brought from Guinea, were thoroughly represented in historical and literary sources from the Renaissance to the 19th century, when the abolition of slavery was discussed at the Parliament. Black Africans have been part of the Iberian population for centuries and the number of plays, poems and narratives in which sub-Saharans come into view as secondary characters, but also as protagonists, is quite surprising. Equally astonishing is the paucity of studies that have been dedicated to them by Spanish scholars and the lack of awareness of present-day Spaniards about the presence of black Africans in Spanish culture and history, particularly as Spain probably had the largest black population in Europe. For instance, most contemporary Spaniards do not realise that the stepfather of Lázaro, the orphan rogue child who narrates his autobiography in the classic picaresque novel (Life of the Lazarillo de Tormes, his misfortunes and adversities, 1554) was a black man, even though the text is a compulsory reading in secondary schools. Moreover, in spite of being christened and having adopted Spanish traditions and costumes, they held a particular celebratory character in civil and religious ceremonies. This was due to the fact that they were not perceived as a threat, and therefore, were allowed to keep on practicing African dances and songs (cadena de congo, minuetes de guineo, etc) that became particularly popular, especially on public holidays but also on religious ones such as the Corpus.
Migrations: of borders, crossings and ambivalent identities