Family Barerra, Miscellaneous Letter Book Entries, c. 1655, 1700

As shipbuilders my family is often at risk of being kidnapped by Muslims and enslaved. This is exactly what happened to one of our business acquaintances and dearest friends, Alamar. He is a merchant who was out to sea one day in a boat we built for him and was tricked by the wicked pirates of Algiers. They flew the colors of our countrymen which fooled Alamar and he allowed them to board his ship. The corsairs then seized the goods on board, enslaved the men, and sank the ship. He was taken to the market where he was sold to a very cruel man that beat him every day.  His family tried to pay his ransom so that he could return home. However, his master was fond of him because of his talents in trading and demanded a high ransom that his family could not pay. He was eventually able to escape his enslavement by stealing a boat. We are very glad to have him back home. We did not think we would ever see him again since most men who are enslaved by those barbaric people are seldom ransomed and often cannot escape. It is clear that the Muslims’ overwhelming goal in their pirating activities is to enslave Christians. This is a horrible thing because some Christians that are taken captive convert to Islam. I am convinced that this is what they want. Their desire is to destroy Christianity. Christians, on the other hand, enslave Africans who are not Christians and are sold by their own people. In my opinion the Christians enslavement of Africans is more justified than the Muslims raiding and taking captive good Christians.[1]

̴ Francesca Barrera, 1655


My family business has recently taken some losses. We had been getting orders to build slave boats. These boats went to Africa and purchased slaves from traders and then took them to the new world to supply our colonies with workers. Spain has not been as actively involved in the slave trade in recent decades as other nations such as the British and Portuguese. Up until about 1650 our country relied soley on the asiento to supply our colonies with African slaves. The asiento gave other nations such as Portuguese permission to sell slaves to our colonies. By doing this we were not as directly involved in the Atlantic slave trade. However, around 1650 Spain decided to try and become more directly involved in the slave trade and obtain our own slaves. This gave my family more ships to build. However, obtaining our own slaves was not successful and now Spain has gone back to a fuller reliance on the asiento. This move back to the old ways has meant that my family’s shipbuilding business has lost some income. This is unfortunate, but I have faith that business will increase again soon.

̴ Ariadna Barrera, 1700




[1] Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800, ed. Rab Houston and Edward Muir (New York: Palgrave  Macmillian, 2003), 27-65.


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