‘El Registro de Esclavos’: An archive you need to know’ at the 44th Annual AAHGS Conference

presentation title card

Taiguei (Greetings)!

This has turned out to be a busy month! I finished my last article for the series on “Reconstructing Missing Volume of the Registro Central de Esclavos, pt 4” for the forthcoming volume 24 of Hereditas: Revista de la Sociedad Puertorriquena de Genealogia. I hope to submit “Looking for Lorenzo Ubiles, Alcalde de barrio Humacao 1873.” for the AAHGS Journal shortly.

I’m happy to announce that on Thursday October 19, 1:30 PM-2:30 EST, I’ll be presenting “El Registro de Esclavos: An archive you need to know”, at “Hidden in Plain Sight: Recovering the erased stories of our ancestors in the United States and the Caribbean”, the 44th Annual 2023 AAHGS Virtual Conference. Excited to be among so many great presentations & presenters that includes friends & family from Black ProGen Live! Sessions will be available until Dec 31.

EFS El Registro de Esclavos An archive you need to know, title card for presentation

Here’s the description: The process of emancipation in Puerto Rico formally began in 1868, with the registration of over 30,000 enslaved persons using cedulas, small registration forms 6 x 8” in size. The information on these forms were copied to create the volumes of the Registro de Esclavos, issued in 1872. FamilySearch microfilmed two series of these documents from the enormous collection of Gobiernos Españoles collection. These are now searchable on the FamilySearch site as “Puerto Rico Slave Registers, 1863-1879”. These entries shed light on the identities of people as they transitioned to freedom just fifteen years before the establishment of the Registro Civil (Civil Registration) in 1885 and the formal end of slavery in 1886. The information covers name, origin, parents, partner, children, enslaver, physical details and issues around the purchase of freedom, manumission, or even the death of the person listed. The ages range from days old to persons in their 80s. These documents are useful for identifying family members and confirming their identities and locations pre-1885, and who may not appear in the 1910 census. Recently digitized archives on the Archivo Digital Nacional de Puerto Rico (ADNPR.net) that overlap with the information in the Registro de Esclavos will be covered. This work is a contribution to the ancestors, to help bridge them with their descendants.

Antonio Rocha’s “Voyage through Death to Life upon these Shores”: The Malaga Speaks

Yesterday evening, the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) hosted Antonio Rocha’s performance of “Voyage through Death to Life upon these Shores”: The Malaga Speaks. Here’s the description of the program, which will soon be on YouTube:

The story of the Malaga, a 19th century ship built in Maine that transported captive Africans, was created and will be performed by Antonio Rocha. Told from the perspective of the ship, Rocha uses song, narration, and mime to weave his way through this historical tale that chronicles the history of the trans-Atlantic human trade and its legacy. Annually, on August 23rd, the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) hosts a program to acknowledge this day and the lives of those captive Africans who perished during the trans-Atlantic crossing known as the Middle Passage and the ten million who survived to build the Americas. Through the presentation of this creative work, The Malaga Speaks, MPCPMP offers a broader narrative of connection and the Diaspora – from ship building, to the ocean voyage, to arrival, into enslavement; from Maine, to Africa, across the Atlantic, to Brazil.

Rocha’s performance is a powerful one. He builds and weaves a narrative that reveal layers of history and experiences of the Middle Passage as a knowledge that is both painful and liberatory the deeper he enters into the story of the Malaga. There is a body memory, a visceral space where those who survive decide what they can carry, and what was left by the ancestors for us today.

For more information about Antonio Rocha visit www.storyinmotion.com

Check out the MPCPMP’s Resources page: https://www.middlepassageproject.org/resources/

Ubiles: AfroIndigenous Families of Northeast Puerto Rico

View from fortifications of San Juan in 1824
View from the fortifications of San Juan, 1824. Library of Congress. 

What are the origins of the Ubiles families of Barrio Mabu, Humacao?  This post is part of a larger project that explores the lives of ancestors who lived centuries before in Northeast Puerto Rico. As a genealogist, this was an opportunity to delve into the ancestry of Marie Ubiles, and share more about what documents hold about her ancestors, Juan Lorenzo Ubides Rodriguez and Petrona de la Cruz Amaro. First I needed to explore who were among those who held the surname during the late seventeenth-early eighteenth century in Northwest Puerto Rico. Here is the first chapter of the project.

The locations for the Ubiles family clusters extend across the Northeast by the early eighteenth century.

NE Portion of 1898 Map of PR showing locations for Ubiles families- San Juan, Bayamon, Trujillo Alto, Cangrejos, Loiza & Humacao

Origins

In Puerto Rico, the surname Ubiles begins with Capt. Miguel Joseph de Ubides y Espinosa, born in 1699 in Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz. Son of Juan de Ubides and Ysabel Calderon, it is unclear as to whether his parents came to the island at all. Miguel de Ubides was once a partner and then an enemy of Capitan Miguel Enriquez, the privateer who rapidly ascended San Juan’s social caste, only to be turned upon later. Both Enriquez and Ubides’ were enslavers and slave traders, and here lies the origin of the Ubides of color.  Over time, the spelling of those once enslaved changed.

Properties

Capt. Miguel de Ubides married Cecilia Sanchez Araujo on 8 July 1720 in the Cathedral de San Juan, and they had at least four children. One reached adulthood, Juan Manuel Ubides Araujo born in July 17341. Unlike many dwellers of the time in San Juan, Ubides lived in a two-story building. It was described by historian Angel Lopez Cantos, and based on a July 1725 inventory of de Ubides’ embargoed property:

Y la casa de fiel ejecutor del cabildo de San Juan, Miguel de Ubides, tambien era de dos plantas. En la anterior había una ‘sala’ que ocupaban mitad del espacio y la otra un ‘aposento’ y una ‘despensa’. Abajo solo había un habitación que servia de tienda y el postal. El hueco de la escalera lo habían tapiado y hacia las veces de ‘almacén2’.

And the home of the faithful executor of the cabildo of San Juan, Miguel de Ubides, was of two floors. In the rear was a large hall that took up half the space, another chamber and a pantry. Below there was a bedroom that served as a store and the post office. The space underneath the stairs was closed off and at times, served as a warehouse. 

   This lends an idea of the kinds of property and labor that de Ubides used in his business—there would be a need for domestics, cooks, storekeeper, clerk, and porters, all roles that could be done with enslaved workers. This knowledge also represented a route to freedom in early San Juan, if one were able to arrange buying it. To know these aspects of how to run a business oneself meant one could openly support their own families once out of bondage. 

Smuggling

The sixteenth – seventeenth centuries were a time of smuggling in the Caribbean, as Spain paid more attention to the development of silver mining in the Yucatan and its other colonies. As a result, Puerto Rico was a hotbed of smuggling activity that connected merchants to Curacao, Venezuela and other islands . The ships and cargoes taken as prizes by Spanish and Spanish American merchants were sold in the British West Indies. [See Cromwell 2018]

Miguel de Ubides was involved with Captain Miguel Enriquez, the privateer hired by the Spanish government. Eventually, Enriquez was turned against by the elite of San Juan, disturbed by his rapid social climb and business expansion. Another reason they resented him was that Enriquez was the grandchild of an enslaved woman from Angola, and in a world where the proximity to Europe was paramount, he did not fit in. de Ubides was among those who pitted themselves against Enriquez, and he also suffered the embargo of his property not long after. The larger question is how much of their business was involved with the slave trade. Lopez Cantos suggests that Enriquez’ holdings numbered over 200, including those enslaved who worked plantations. There is only a trace of people held by de Ubides and Enriquez in surviving parish records.

Enslaved Persons Held by Miguel de Ubides

The earliest mention of enslaved Ubides is in the pages of the extant books for Nuestra Senora de los Remedios in Viejo San Juan. 

Maria Antonia, hija de Antonia, morena esclava del Cap.n Miguel de Ubides, Jul 1748 Nuestra Señora de los Remedios

This July 1748 baptism for “Maria Antonia, hija de Antonia, morena esclava de Dn. Miguel de Ubides. Padrino, Joseph Manuel Carrillo3is among the few documents for the enslaved persons held by Ubides. Antonia’s age is not noted, and she may be anywhere between 12 to 45 years of age, probably born in Puerto Rico. 

Joseph, hijo de Maria, morena esclava de Miguel Ubides, 1738, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios4

   Maria, a Black woman enslaved by Miguel de Ubides in 1738 gave birth to Joseph, who was baptized on 26 October 1738, and Manuel de Jesus served as his godparent. This entry illustrates how ‘new property’ was registered through parish records. Additional documentation for Maria and Joseph may no longer be extant. 

Acta de Bautizo, Joseph Antonio Ubides, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, San Juan, 1773. FS.org

When Joseph Antonio, a formerly enslaved man from St Thomas was baptized on 17 January 1739, Dn. Miguel de Ubides served as his godfather5. Joseph Antonio, a freedman, was baptized together with Antonia, an enslaved woman held by Capitan Andres Antonio. Joseph Antonio’s conversion to Catholicism was an assurance to the Spanish crown of his loyalty [6]. What is unusual in this record is that two men brought two persons to be baptized, one who liberated himself from a British colony and the other, an enslaved woman.  Why the double baptism? Were they a couple? There is no additional information to go on. Apparently, Joseph Antonio took the surname of his padrino after 1739- and is the same Joseph Antonio Ubides who dies in May 1770, married to Ana Lerey. 

Summary

Several people of African descent carried the de Ubides surname in early-mid eighteenth century San Juan. As documentation is scarce, there is evidence of them in parish records. There are several clusters of this surname with a connection by name or association.

How many enslaved persons were held by Capt. Miguel de Ubides is unknown. Given that his property (like Enriquez) was impounded, an inventory was made of his holdings. It is possible that enslaved people appear on these pages, either as a numeric count, or perhaps, a named list. Protocolos from this time period for San Juan are unfortunately, not extant. 

If you’re from one of the Ubiles family communities, I hope you’ll share your story.

References

  1. Juan Manuel Ubides,  Acta Bautismo. “Puerto Rico, registros parroquiales, 1645-1969,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9398-KC9B-1?cc=1807092&wc=QZYD-N2K%3A149110901%2C149110902%2C149142201 : 14 December 2021), San Juan > Nuestra Señora de los Remedios > Bautismos 1723-1738 > image 147 of 216; paróquias Católicas (Catholic Church parishes), Puerto Rico.

2.     Angel Lopez Cantos, Miguel Enriquez.  Ediciones Puerto, 3rd Ed, 2017, (1994) 96.

For an idea of the extent of smuggling, see Jesse Cromwell, The Smuggler’s World: Illicit Trade and Atlantic Communities in Eighteenth Century Venezuela. UNC Press, 2018.

3.     Maria Antonia, hija de Antonia [Ubides]  Acta Bautismo, “Puerto Rico, registros parroquiales, 1645-1969,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9398-K839-63?cc=1807092&wc=QZYD-2V5%3A149110901%2C149110902%2C149154801 : 23 December 2021), San Juan > Nuestra Señora de los Remedios > Bautismos 1747-1754 > image 33 of 220; paróquias Católicas (Catholic Church parishes), Puerto Rico.

4.     Joseph hijo de Maria [Ubides] Acta Bautismo,  ‘Puerto Rico, registros parroquiales, 1645-1969,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9398-K833-2J?cc=1807092&wc=QZYD-2KM%3A149110901%2C149110902%2C149146801 : 15 December 2021), San Juan > Nuestra Señora de los Remedios > Bautismos 1735-1739 > image 114 of 143; paróquias Católicas (Catholic Church parishes), Puerto Rico.

5.     Joseph Antonio, Acta de Bautismo 1739″Puerto Rico, registros parroquiales, 1645-1969″, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6DBL-YF8Z : 15 December 2021), Joseph Antonio Miguel de Ubides in entry for MM9.1.1/6DBL-YF8C:, 1739.

6.     Did Joseph Antonio Ubides serve in the military, as many free Black men did in Cangrejos?  See: David M Stark, “Rescued from their Invisibility: The Afro-Puerto Ricans of Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century San Mateo de Cangrejos, Puerto Rico.” The Americas 63:4 (Apr 2007), 551-586.

Friendly Village: a second grade trip

PS 25 in South Bronx, 1905
PS 25 in 1905.  I attended some 55 years later. The school is still there, on 811 E 149th St. NYC.gov

That diasporic feeling 

There is no one place or time when diaspora occurs…it is a perpetual space of change and displacement. An awareness. It’s a process I share with many, whether by blood, place or experience, with locations linked by oceans and shaped by the relentless squeeze for money and power.

 How we understand this process has a lot to do with the narratives fed to us as children. Here’s a memorable text whose social cues seemed sketchy to me in grade school. 

Friendly Village

Dick’s vision didn’t include the South Bronx. Cover of Friendly Village, 1967.. Photo: Thriftbooks.com

As a child in the early 1960s, the most confusing book I’ve ever encountered was an assigned second grade reader by Mabel O’Donnell, entitled Friendly Village.  I was switched into second grade mid-year, since I read at a 6 grade level thanks to my mom.  

Nothing in the book seemed to jive with what I knew of the world in the south Bronx. For us, landscape vistas were restricted to a small outcropping of glacial rocks, some maple trees and wildlife— pigeons and the large rats in St Ann Park, all four city blocks of it.  

Where we lived then was composed of blocks of tenements built at least a half century before my birth, dark narrow buildings whose stoops and entrances varied slightly from structure to structure — brick fronts, embellished by fire escapes above the street, each four to five floors tall, with four apartments to a floor. These buildings loomed before my small frame. 

Buildings of memory

Most tenements were built in the first years of the 1900s, the metal ironwork that once flanked the stairs collected in the 1940s for the war effort. This left most buildings with a bare stoop in front. 

Air shafts, then a recent innovation in 1900, defined the view in our apartment. from one window, one saw sets of white framed glass portals to other living spaces, surrounded by brick and crossed by laundry lines. Down below was the small concrete footprint of the space. Then, from early spring to late fall, these were full of bed sheets and tablecloths, shirts and underwear put out to dry.  We never made any experiments to test gravity or my parents patience. 

Yes, mami gave me a perm and already I wanted to wear pants. On the roof, 548 Fox Street.

Tenements on Fox Street 

Tenements on Fox Street
Tenements on Fox Street, Photo: NYC.gov

To my small body, this tenement and neighborhood that surrounded it on Fox Street it all seemed like an enormous urban site, full of adults and rooms with a million different stories.  Manhattan was even bigger.

Once inside, to reach our apartment, everyone made their way over white stone steps, climbing while holding on to a painted rail, inset into the top of cast iron balusters. The rail was coated in layers of thick enamel paint applied over many years. This smooth yet pebbled texture melted on the surface of the rail that linked the building’s floors and landings. 

Each step was made of pale, white-gray marble or soapstone, worn down at the center, a saggy appearance that testified to the movement of thousands of footsteps over its surfaces,  a bit worn away with each step. 

Every floor held a set of relationships, that ranged from the legal to inappropriate. parents, newborns, lovers, strangers who left traces on the pages of the  1920-1950 census.  My paternal grandparents lived in another tenement nearby, finally being able to settle down after the multiple moves during the Great Depression, heralded by the birth of my father.

 

At my grandparent's at 1022 E 156th Street
At my grandparent’s at 1022 E 156th Street, just blocks away.

Tenements were never part of the landscape of Friendly Village, and  Alice and Jerry never went to such places, nor did they go to play in the trash strewn spaces behind them. The South Bronx was different then. The entrances of the buildings on each grey and grimy block had stoops once bordered with ironwork. This was removed, molten down for the WW2 effort, and never replaced, leaving large holes and orphaned bolts that told of phantom parts. The now plain steps lead to the doors, some of them arching over the entryway to a basement workshop or apartment and storage rooms that ran along the length of the building.  

The Newsstand 

On the corner, it seemed a sizeable amount of steel escaped the wartime scrap heap and was a featured element of the commercial space of the corner newsstand. The store sat atop a metal sidewalk, raised about 3-4 inches off the concrete, its surface pierced with small round glass disks trapped in the metal pentagonal grids, to provide light for a mysterious space underground. This dark, almost green black metal surface surrounded the store, and clanged as one stepped up and walked on it, its own alert system that let the owner know a customer approached. 

The newstand rack was itself an accomplished bit of welded heavy steel plate with supports for shelves that held several daily and weekly newspapers just outside of its tiny space. inside the actual store was cramped and crowded with racks of magazines on its walls, comic books, boxes of cigarettes and chewing gum. Just enough space for one clerk to sit behind the counter, next to a heater in winter and a small fan in summer.

Gum of gums

Bazooka bubble gum. By Parka Lewis at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2939687

On the small counter next to the cash register, sat an open box of Bazooka gum for sale. For our two cents, we bought a piece of gum named for a rocket launcher, the brand name Bazooka revealing the proximity of recent wars to the lives of children who bought them, from World War 2 to Korea, and afterwards Vietnam. These small packets were extremely firm (the staler, the harder) a segment of sugary pink chewing gum with an indented line down the middle for sharing or apportioning.  It made a dentist visit much more likely.

Its dusted sugar surface was bound by a folded Bazooka Joe comic in 3 colors, that to our young eyes featured seemingly adult men exchanging pointless, corny lines in several tiny frames on a small sheet of shiny waxed paper. This gift arrived under a larger red and white wax paper wrapper w diagonal lettering that announced ‘Bazooka’.  

It took work to chew.  it was a product that simultaneously allowed one to both blow bubbles and to dissolve one’s tooth enamel. If the gum was stale,  masticating took twice as long to coax it into a bubble and create annoying, cracking noises.  

Bazooka was a different than Crawford’s Breath Gum, lovely purple pieces in a flat silver cardboard box with scrolling black letters. My mother loved them and almost always had a box in her handbag. Later we went for sticks of gum, peppermint but never spearmint. We left Bazooka behind.

Creative impulses 

At school or near these institutions, we noticed that the uses of gum extended to cheerful decoration, witnessed on the undersides of chairs and desks or on the lengths of telephone poles that became colorful, textured repositories of various brands, processed by teeth of children and teenagers. Such sites were only to be augmented with one’s own bit of masticated gum, and not to be touched by fingers.

Return to the Friendly Village 

But back to the Friendly Village, a book that only sowed more confusion as I read its pages. It featured puzzling details– Fathers who wore glasses, a suit and tie and carried a briefcase. I knew no one like that. My dad worked first as a baggage handler on the railroad and next for the Metropolitan Transit Authority when he finally passed the test for the MTA in ventilation and drainage. When we were little we only knew he was somewhere in the bowels of NYC, traversing endless miles of tunnels and small rooms crammed with the equipment that made it possible to see and breathe on the subway.  He worked two jobs at one point, so he was hardly at home. 

My grandparents lived just a few blocks away, my grandfather drove taxis or school buses for work and could barely read a newspaper. This was probably because of dyslexia, which added another layer of difficulty to everything he navigated stateside. He had a tremendous memory though for numbers and memorized lists of Bolita digits, no paper to find. My mother worked in various factories in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the 1940s to 1950s before she had us, and she was 14 when she got her first job. 

Details details 

As jarring a read as the Friendly Village  was, there was no village, no cows and no farmers in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.  instead, a steadily growing number of Puerto Ricans were packing a landscape created at least a half century before, at the turn of the century just after the Spanish American War.

We lived in a walk up apartment and there were no thatched roof houses anywhere nearby. The population of the Friendly Village was white and British, with pedigree dogs unlike the mutts that roamed our neighborhood in ragged packs. 

Actually, we were the ones the locals feared, the Puerto Ricans born on the island and stateside,  who occupied more and more apartments as the neighborhood aged and its former Jewish and Slavic inhabitants escaped to the suburbs. The book left me wondering about places like England, and what seems a high probability of being run out of a village if my family actually showed up there. 

To School, PS 25

Each morning as my mother walked us to elementary school we were careful to step over the legs of the two young men of color, both junkies with their backs propped up against a building. As we walked, I stared at the thin stream of urine that led from between their legs down the sidewalk, over the edge of the milled stone curb and into the gutter. Occupied with their high, they failed to notice the proximity of the yellow water that stained their pants as it streamed out of them; neither did they acknowledge seeing us walk past. They didn’t go to school, nor did they appear in any school reader. 

Fox Street became rougher by the year.  When a man was shot in the head just doors away on the block, my father decided that was enough. He began searching for a house in another location, in Hollis, in the very distant and exotic borough of Queens. 

We left the Bronx and the pages of The Friendly Village proved little help for understanding why I was called a Spic by whites fearful of our kind, nor of the girls who dropped an open container of milk on me on the stairs on Assembly Day, or those who decided to fight me in a group in the schoolyard. I was a white presenting skinny kid, a product of diaspora, settler colonialism & slavery, searching for a definition of self in books that didn’t acknowledge our blended existence. I kept reading. 

Dick and Jane, the ideal white boy and girl featured in the reader’s pages taught me nothing about how the world worked, nor of the working class, or of the many peoples caught in the flows of diaspora that made up the city of New York in the early 1960s. 

Decolonized spaces

Today we make our own villages, those safe spaces where we can reveal our fullest selves to survive and share our journey as best we can.  It’s remarkable how one group’s joy can be rejected, but they can’t steal it.  Brook Park, a place I visited in my childhood, is now the site where my Iukayeke holds its solstice ceremonies, and I connect, via technology. 

We are still here. 

Long gone, the buildings and streets of Mott Haven come back vividly in memory, places where my ancestors once tread as they made their way through the cycle of life. 

QEPD May they rest in peace. 

Seneko kakona 

April 8, 1904: Jessie Walter Fewkes in Puerto Rico

Taino coa, stone collar

Jessie Walter Fewkes (1850-1930) was an American anthropologist, archaeologist and writer who worked in the Southwest US and the Caribbean. 

photo portrait of Jesse Walter Fewkes, American anthropologist, archaeologist and writer
Jesse Walter Fewkes, Wikipedia.com

I keep looking at Fewkes’ diary, parts of which read like a shopping list for Indigenous objects.  Little has been written on his time in Puerto Rico, which was a result of the ‘demand for more scientific literature on Porto Rico and the West Indies’, which led to field work in the islands and publication of the Report on the Aborigines of Porto Rico and Neighboring Islands.’ [1]

Here’s an excerpt from Fewkes’ handwritten diary, from April 1904:

“A man ploughing a few days ago found a fine collar in his field

I was too late to get it as it had been given to Mr. Fritsche who will present it to a Berlin Museum-

Mr Trujillo of Ponce has a fine tripointed idol and a spherical bowl which he found at Guayanilla. Evidently then are many other things in the barrio called Indios when there was formerly an Indian settlement. 

Nazario found many specimens in this region –“

Fotonachweis: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum /CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

I couldn’t find more on Mr. Trujillo or Mr. Fritsche, but I did find the ‘Porto Rico 6’ photograph of a coa (also called a stone collar) whose accession date at the Berlin Ethnologisches Museum means it very likely entered the collection close to when it photographed by Adolf Bastian, before 1905. Given the timing, it’s likely the same artifact.

Barrio Indios, Guayanilla

Map of Barrio Indios, Guayanilla
Location of Barrio Indios, Guayanilla. Wikipedia.com

So, what about this settlement? As  historian Rafael A. Torrech writes, Barrio Indios, Guayanilla, on the south of the island, is where the yukayeke of cacike Agueybana existed , where early wars of colonization took place. Eventually, sugar plantations covered the landscape and artifacts from ancestors emerged from the ground as it was prepared for planting. Collections were created by hacendados, and once the US had Puerto Rico as a colony, an international rush for artifacts intensified. Fewkes’ notebooks of his travels reveal a range of persons that he encountered while crossing the island from San Juan to Utuado, and then south to Ponce and the Indiera. Some people gift him objects like stone hatchets, buys others and inventories sites and the objects harvested from them.

As stone objects turned up across the island, anthropologists and archaeologists began to surmise their age and purpose. Taino people were framed as outside of time although they are acknowledged and described as present in Fewkes’ essay. Looking back, he is evidently troubled by the complexity of AfroIndigenous identity. The idea of the ‘pure Indian’ colors his commentary, and oral history is suspect; notice that Natives are the laborers hired to build the roads in Utuado and Comerio; the area is even called Indiera. Fewkes goes on and acknowledges the presence of Indian ancestry, then the diversity of the Indigenous slave trade defeats the idea of any contemporary Taino identity on Boriken. No surprise really, as this is the heyday of Eugenic thought, which communicated and structured the spectacles of the World’s Fair and Expositions.

Jesse Walter Fewkes, “The aborigines of Porto Rico and neighboring islands.” (1907)

Envisioning Porto Rico, 1899-1904

Here is an example of imperialist propaganda that circulated in the wake of the Spanish-American War that promoted the view of Indigenous people as incapable of self-governance and rule. Spain’s three colonies became US property. The Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba are here shown as 3 Black infants wrapped in a US flag on the back of a soldier who stands in for ‘Uncle Sam’. It’s a foto reenactment of the 1899 Victor Gilliam cartoon, “The White Man’s Burden” from Judge magazine. This anti-Native anti-Black perspective is part of the context for understanding the relationship of Native peoples to the US at the turn of the century, and at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. Often the more offensive displays that underwrote white supremacy were in the entertainment areas of the fair, readily absorbed by millions under the rubric of ‘fun’.

9964.-Phillipines, Porto Rico and Cuba–Uncle Sam’s Burden. (With apologies to Mr. Kipling.) 1899. Keystone View Company stereo card. Collection of the author.
Victor Gilliam, “The White Man’s Burden.”, Judge magazine, 1899. Victor Gillam, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Fewkes’ Reference to Father Nazario

In the 1870s, Father Jose Maria Nazario Cancel  was brought by dona Juana Morales, a descendant of Agueybana to a cluster of some 800 stone pieces that she had protected over time.  Today the archaeologist Reniel Rodriguez (UPR- Utuado) is researching the stones, and considers them as objects that date from precolumbian contact- 900BC-900AD. Yet the stones are not Taino and were not among those purchased by Fewkes in 1902-1903.

Not far from Guayanilla is the Centro Ceremonial Caguana, “the largest ceremonial site of its kind, not only in Puerto Rico, but the entire West Indies” built between 1200-1500 AD in the La Cordillera Central, the central mountain range. In terms of DNA testing, people from here, on the western side of the island tend towards higher percentages of Indigenous ancestry. 

In terms of Caguana, it’s a ‘lived landscape’ a place where space, identity and heritage intersect and embodies group memory. It’s not static, but changes over time, and is “a locus for negotiating the dissonance between colonial and indigenous identities.” Despite years of neglect by the ICP (Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena), it was a place vital for descendants to rediscover their cultural identity. Over five decades, Caguana has become a sacred site for Taino people, and in 2003-2005, the culture war between Taino activists and the ICP came to a head. (Diaz 232-233) Some still think Arawakan peoples, among them the Taino are extinct, and part of this thinking is the result of paper genocide.

The landscape in Puerto Rico is subject to constant disturbances from agriculture and development. The discovery of artifacts often means site destruction in order to avoid building delays as some have documented on video. There’s still much to learn from these archaeological sites, however for different audiences, namely Taino communities, the stakes are different. It’s about colonization and collections, and a difficult path to official recognition.  It’s about seeing that connection between the past and present, learning what we can from these moments in colonization. 

From ‘Elbow stone’ to Coa

As for the ‘elbow stone’ or ‘stone collar’ that Fewkes missed out on purchasing, this is called a coa, recognized as a sacred form by Taino peoples. It is based on the blending of two forms, the footrest of a hardwood digging stick for agriculture with that of the great serpent, whose head was carved into the foot rest. By bending the stick, using fire and water, the resulting form references the coiling of a snake and the form of human uterus, symbol of time and its passage as a  spiral. 

At some point, this wooden form was adapted into a stone carving with elements that reference the Taino worldview. You can read more about this on the Caney Circle webpage here

1904: St. Louis Exposition 

Louisiana Purchase Exposition Official Souvenir pamphlet. Smithsonian Institution

So what was some of the motivation for creating the collection? Fewkes brought together an assemblage of some 550 pieces of Indigenous / Arawakan stone artifacts exhibited at the 1904 St Louis Exposition. Our ancestors stone artifacts had a role at the fair, as a material assurance that primitive people were in the colonies. Here, representing ‘Porto Rico’ it suggests that Native people were extinct a part of something rapidly fading, a group no longer with us. How convenient. 

The roofless building of Puerto Rico’s two floor ‘pagoda’ within the Agricultural Building is surrounded by props, sawed off barrel tops and angled logs in front to suggest trade, and tradition through the structure’s French detailing. The first floor “was dedicated to agriculture, mines, forestry and a few of the manufactures exhibits.” The second floor held “liberal arts and manufactures exhibits”, and a needlework display by the Women’s Aid Society, San Juan and the Benevolent Society, Ponce. The focus was on exports of coffee, sugar, tobacco, cotton, liquor and pharmaceutical products. The Puerto Rican legislature appropriated $30,000 for “the purpose of representation at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.” Yet it had no separate catalog, and no association with Fewkes’ collection.

I’ve searched collections for additional information on the stone artifacts at the Exposition, but the only mention of them is in Fewkes’ article in the Smithsonian papers. This collection wasn’t displayed here.

the Puerto Rico pavilion at the 1904 St Louis Exposition
Puerto Rico Pavilion, designed by Armando Morales, Agriculture Building, 1904 St Louis Exposition. St Louis Public Library Digital Collections.

Consuming the Primitive 

Advertisment, Philippine Exposition at World’s Fair St. Louis 1904. Wikimedia Commons.

What grabbed attention at the 1904 fair was the display of Indigenous people brought from Africa and the Philippines. These were literally human zoos that several million people visited at St. Louis. They were subjected to perform as living examples of primitive people, yet the barbaric genocidal behaviors of the US go unmentioned. So, it seems stone objects of a supposedly extinct people were reassuring for the colonizer’s frame of reference.

Over 1200 persons were exported to the Exposition for display, including the Bedonkohe Apache leader and medicine man Goyathlay, known as Geronimo. While a prisoner of the US Government, he was exhibited at the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha Nebraska, the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, and at the 1905 inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt. He died imprisoned at Fort Sill in 1909. [3]

Goyathalay, known as Geronimo. (1829-1909) Wikimedia Commons.

Collection, collection….

Where were the stones shown? I still haven’t found a precise location at the 1904 Exposition.

And after 1904, the collection of Arawakan stone objects left St. Louis and were returned to the bowels of the Smithsonian, where they were eventually put into their storage facilities.   Back in 2004, I met Ricardo Alegria, QEPD, the Director of the ICP who told me he anticipated the day the objects at the Smithsonian would be repatriated to the island. At that time, I didn’t realize how different an idea of Nation would be for me today. One day, Taino people will have facilities ready for their welcome return.

Seneko kakona.

References

Biography and Bibliography of Jesse Walter Fewkes. (1850-1893). (Reprint of Walther Hough’s Biography, Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences, 1932. 232pp). https://ia800205.us.archive.org/27/items/biographybibliog00nichrich/biographybibliog00nichrich.pdf

Rafael A. Inocencio Torrech: “Según diversos historiadores, varios yucayeques taínos de importancia estaban ubicados en el área sur de Puerto Rico, incluyendo el del legendario Agueybaná. Reconocidos historiadores como Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo –contemporáneo a la temprana colonización– ubican la aldea de Agueybaná en la ribera del Río Coayuco (hoy Río Yauco), con una población estimada entre 1,000 y 5,000 habitantes. Fue en la boca del Río Coayuco, según el historiador Cayetano Coll y Toste, que las fuerzas de Ponce de León derrotaron por primera vez a los indígenas en la llamada rebelión de 1511. La ribera y la desembocadura de este río, hoy conocido como Río Yauco, es consistente con la localización actual del Barrio Indios. El Barrio Indios también nos legó la Biblioteca de Agueybaná: uno de los hallazgos arqueológicos más singulares y excepcionales del País…” Rafael A. Torrech Inocencio, Barrio Indios, Guayanilla. 80grados.net 21 Feb 2020. https://www.80grados.net/barrio-indios-guayanilla/

Renal Rodriguez Ramos, Los Piedras de Padre Nazario, CEAPRTV, Centro de Estudios Avanzados, 19 May 2016.

Jesse Walter Fewkes, “The aborigines of Porto Rico and neighboring islands.” Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution to the Secretary of the Smithsonian, 1903-1904. Washington DC: SI. (1907) 1-220. https://archive.org/details/annualreportofbo1906smitfo

“Porto Rico” The Final Report on the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. 331-332.

“Caguana Site.” National Historic Landmark Nomination. http://npshistory.com/publications/nr-forms/pr/caguana-site.pdf

Caguana, Puerto Rico: Sacred Land. 2007. Sacred Land Film Project. https://sacredland.org/caguana-puerto-rico/

Rosalina Diaz, “El Grito de Caguana: Identity Conflict in Puerto Rico.” in Diane F. George & Bernice Kurchin, Archaeology of Identity and Dissonance: contexts for a brave new world. U Press of Florida, 2019, 229-250.

“Geronimo.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geronimo. Accessed 18 Mar 2000.

Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage. Exhibition Pamphlet. ACHAC & Fondation Lilian Thuram: Paris, 2015: https://www.achac.com/zoos-humains/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/zh-en-brochure.pdf

“‘Living Exhibits’ at 1904 World’s Fair Revisited: Igorot Natives Recall Controversial Display of Their Ancestors”, 31 May 2004, NPR.org https://www.npr.org/2004/05/31/1909651/living-exhibits-at-1904-worlds-fair-revisited

Appendix: Writings of Jesse Walter Fewkes on the Caribbean

On Zemes from Santo Domingo. Am. Anthrop., vol. iv, no. 2, pp. 167-175, Washington, 1891. 

Prehistoric Porto Rico. Address by the Vice President and Chairman of Section H, for 1901, at the Pittsburgh meeting of the Amer. Asso. Adv. Sci. Proc. Amer. Asso. Adv. Sci., vol. li, pp. 487-512, Pittsburg, 1902. Reprinted in Science, n. s. vol. xvi, no. 394, pp. 94-109, New York, 1902. Translated in Globus, Band Ixxxii, Nrs. 18 and 19, Braunschweig, 1902. 

Prehistoric Porto Rican pictographs. Am. Anthrop., n. s. vol. v, no. 3, pp. 441-467, Lancaster, 1903. 

Precolumbian West Indian amulets. Am. Anthrop., n. s. vol. v, no. 4, pp. 679-691, Lancaster, 1903. 

Preliminary report on an archaeological trip to the West Indies. Smithson. Misc. Colls., Quarterly Issue, vol. 45, pp. 112-133, Washington, 1903. Reprinted in Sci. Amer. Suppl., vol. Ivii, pp. 23796-99, 23812-14, New York, June 18-25, 1904. 

Porto Rico stone collars and tripointed idols. Smithson. Misc. Colls. 

Porto Rican elbow-stones in the Heye Museum, with discussion of similar objects elsewhere. Am. Anthrop., n. s. vol. xv, no. 3. pp. 435-459, Lancaster, 1913. Reprinted as Cont. Heye Mus., vol. i. no. 4. 

[Report on] Ethnological investigations in the West Indies. Explorations and Field-work of the Smithson. Inst, in 1912, Smithson. Misc. Colls., vol. 60, no. 30, pp. 32-33, Washington, 1913. lls., Quarterly Issue, vol. 47, pt. 2, pp. 163-186,  Washington. 1904. 

Prehistoric culture of Cuba. Am. Anthrop., n. s. vol. vi, no. 5, pp. 585-598, Lancaster, 1904. 

The aborigines of Porto Rico and neighboring islands. Twenty-fifth Ann. Rept. Bur. Amer. Ethn., pp. 3-220, Washington, 1907. 

Further notes on the archaeology of Porto Rico. Am. Anthrop., n. s. vol. x, no. 4, pp. 624-633, Lancaster, 1908. 

An Antillean statuette, with notes on West Indian religious beliefs.  Am. Anthrop., n. s. vol. xi, no. 3, pp. 348-358, Lancaster, 1909. 

Relations of aboriginal culture and environment in the Lesser Antilles. Bull. Am. Geog. Soc, vol. xlvi, no. 9, pp. 662-678, New York, 1914. Reprinted as Cont. Heye. Mus., vol. i. No. 8. 

A prehistoric stone collar from Porto Rico. Am. Anthrop., n. s. vol. xvi, no. 2, pp. 319-330, Lancaster, 1914. 

[Report on] Antiquities of the West Indies. Explorations and Field-work of the Smithson. Inst, in 1913,  Smithson. Misc. Colls., vol. 63, no. 8, pp. 58-61, Washington, 1914 

Vanished races of the Caribbean. Abstract of paper read before the Anthrop. Soc. Washington,  Nov. 3, 1914. Journ. Washington Acad. Sci., vol. v, no. 4, pp. 142-144, Baltimore, 1915. 

Prehistoric cultural centers in the West Indies. Journ. Washington Acad. Sci., vol. v, no. 12, pp. 436-443, Baltimore, 1915. 

Engraved celts from the Antilles. Cont. Heye Mus., vol. ii, no. 3, New York, 1915. 

Archaeology of Barbados. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., vol. i, pp. 47-51, Baltimore, 1915. 

Prehistoric island culture areas of America. Thirty-fourth Ann. Rept. Bur. Amer. Ethn., Washington, . [In press.] 

The Vote of 1960: Context, Challenge, NGS & James Dent Walker

Before I start: The view from here, some context

In trying to assemble a history of an organization from fragments, I’m grappling with slippage, the way that things unsaid haunt every space, how the unsaid is supposed to be gracious, but hides a different cruelty. It’s working with systems that require violence for its completion, a continuation of the machine of settler logics that seek to justify supremacy, enslavement, murder, and rape. Such details are often folded away until a familial connection is revealed.

Often the locations where such decisions are made are often comfortable offices or elaborate desert base locations for remote murder and assaults.  It is an awareness that hovers over the question of what a Nation is. And societies aim to define and redefine the boundaries. Such colonizing systems also precede the formation of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) at the cusp of the twentieth century, with its familial connections to the Trail of Tears, multiple plantations and governance.

Location Matters

Knowing my Taino ancestry and the creole blends of various ancestors offers a grounding space when faced with the history of organizations. I’m of Native American descent, honor that and study the various diasporas that structure my family tree. I also descend from the enslaved (Juan Josef Carrillo b. Guinea, 1736-1811) and the enslaver (Capt. Martin Lorenzo de Acevedo y Hernandez 1749-1828) within a larger context of colonization, as my family is from Boriken (Puerto Rico). Gaining this knowledge took time, research and service. 

The awareness of one’s history contrasts with the history of organizations, particularly those involved with issues such as eugenics, segregation and pushing the Lost Cause (an interpretation of the Civil War from the Confederate perspective). This is part of the National Genealogical Society’s early history. On the other side is the history of Federal employment, and the impact of segregationist policies in Washington DC and how James Dent Walker navigated this at NARA (National Archives and Records Association). Ultimately his knowledge and skills helped to broaden the institutional spaces for BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) to do their own genealogical research.

I have talked to several Black genealogists about the other part of genealogical research– the emotional labor of dealing with findings, of telling the stories of ancestors who passed through to emancipation.  Of their encounters with people who made life difficult by blocking access to resources, often in a multiplicity of forms that reinforced segregation and at its essence denied a full humanity. This is the larger context of doing this work. This too is part of the genealogical journey. Change can feel glacial in its progress.

The Vote of 1960: Looking Back to Move Forward

Here I grapple with the silences and statements made by three white women who took it upon themselves in 1960 to mail over 700 members of the National Genealogical Society and encourage them to protest the changes to the language used to define membership. This happened sixty-two years ago, and it is worth a look back. 

During the 1960s the clamor for change, like now, was loudly expressed in civic gatherings across the nation. In some locations, anger ripped across cities in the form of buildings lit aflame, people marched.  The Civil Rights Movement began in 1954 to work against racial segregation and discrimination across the south and grew into multiple forms. In the south of 1960, many people in power were believers in the Lost Cause and used force to keep people down. And when the Freedom Riders groups arrived in different locations across the South, the use of violence against them by locals and police exploded. 

But back to this vote. 

This NGS committee, Virginia D. Crim, Bessie P Pryor and Katie-Prince Esker, made the old membership policy explicit: 

“the Referendum referred to was held on November [19] 1960. The membership voted on the following: 

SHOULD THE NATIONAL GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY SET ASIDE ITS GENERALLY RECOGNIZED PRACTICE, WHICH HAS BEEN IN FORCE SINCE ITS ORGANIZATION IN 1903, AND ADMIT MEMBERS OF THE NEGRO RACE.” [1]

Initially, the National Genealogical Society voted not to open their doors to Black genealogists, a policy held for over 50 years. The then new president, William H. Dumont realized this couldn’t last, and the language that defined who could be a member was changed after James Dent Walker, a NARA civil servant and genealogist applied for membership in 1960.  He wasn’t specifically named in newspaper coverage, although the Washington Post’s description leaves no doubt it was Walker. [2] Walker himself never discussed the challenge he set by applying for membership to NGS. He continued to forge an incredible path forward.

 Ultimately, Walker became part of NGS’ board, and a nationally recognized genealogist, researcher, lecturer and archivist in his own right, known for his work in African American genealogy. A little over a decade later, he founded the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (Today the African American Historical and Genealogical Society), AAHGS.org that has chapters across the country. [3] This institution proved a necessary space for Black genealogical practice over the decades.

The Press & The Committee

The Washington Post’s article, “Genealogical Group Gets Racial Issue” of 4 November 1960 asked “Is a Negro to join the searchers for the Nation’s family trees? The National Genealogical Society is in a tizzy…about 50 members who felt “controversy threatened to engulf the NGS” proposed a racial restriction clause in their constitution.”  Those opposed to admission said “Negroes…have nothing in common with us, genealogically speaking.” Those who favored change in policy “point out the Society is national, educational and scientific; that it is not to be confused with patriotic organizations; that in the pursuit of science there is no room for discrimination…” [4]

Looking beyond the fight over NGS membership, this was a time when nationally, thousands took part in multiple Civil Rights actions in former slave and free states pushing for change.  The stakes were high, and some died while others were seriously injured in these actions that insisted on equality.  Don’t forget that Black women finally got the right to vote five years later, in 1965. 

While these NGS committee members didn’t go out and physically attack BIPOC [Black, Indigenous People Of Color], what actions did they take to maintain white supremacy beyond this administrative act, beyond the organization? Almost always, the families of those who owned forced labor camps from the founding to the third quarter of the nineteenth century are automatically absolved by the focus on the inhabitants of the big house, their genealogy. This telling of local histories goes together with gatekeeping and acts of genealogical segregation of the last century.  How far did this committee take their views? 

Virginia Crim was also a member of the DAR, where she served as a vice regent for the Columbia Chapter in 1956.[5] She was also a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, established in 1894, and served as a chapter delegate at their convention, held 9 November 1960.[6]  

The UDC, a Neoconfederate organization, pursued fundraising for monuments, lobbied legislatures and Congress for the reburial of Confederate dead, denied the violence of slavery, and shaped the content of history textbooks. They insisted on a Lost Cause framework that buttressed Jim Crow laws. They were supportive of the KKK. [7] This contributed to the structural racism that constricted the opportunities and lives of many BIPOC. This too is a legacy of harm linked to NGS’ history in the twentieth century. 

Why this history matters

How much does this history matter? In Richmond, Virginia, at 1:30AM on May 30, 2020, in response to the murder of George Floyd and police violence, the anger of some protesters focused on the headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, set the UDC facade on fire, and covered confederate monuments in graffiti. The process of removing these monuments across the South accelerated after the protests that erupted in so many locations in the wake of Floyd’s murder.[8]

It shows that representation matters, that there was so much more than what those statues and laws attempted to assert. The implications of this event was global.[9] The times had indeed changed, the demand for systemic change is beginning to be heard. It’s also here, with us, with the DEI Committee, to bring such connections forward, to heal.  I have stepped down in order to finish my projects. In the meantime, i’ve joined AAHGS.

And this sea of data generated by institutional conditions washes upon us as we write our microhistories, family histories, genealogies and record the voices of those with ties to these events.  Masinato (Peace)

References

[1] Virginia Crim, Bessie P. Pryor, Katie-Prince Esker, Committee Circular, November 30, 1961 [30 November 1960], NGS Archives. Thanks to Janet Bailey, NGS Board Member for locating this document and additional resources for research.

[2] Rasa Gustaitis, “Genealogical Group Gets Racial Issue” Washington Post, November 4, 1960.

[3] Gustaitis, “Genealogical Group Gets Racial Issue.”

[4] For a biography of James Dent Walker (1928-1993) and his oral history, see Jesse Kratz, “James D. Walker: Lone Messenger to International Genealogist.” Pieces of History, Prologue, 10 February 2016. https://prologue.blogs.archives.gov/2016/02/10/james-d-walker-lone-messenger-to-international-genealogist/ Accessed 16 July 2022. Has embedded link to Dent’s edited oral history interview by Rodney A. Ross, James Walker, Oral History Interview, NARA, 27 March 1985.

[4]“Elected Officers.” The Evening Star, Thursday August 30, 1956. 

[5]“At Convention.” The Evening Star, November 9, 1961.

[6] “The organization [UDC] was “strikingly successful at raising money to build monuments, lobbying legislatures and Congress for the reburial of Confederate dead, and working to shape the content of history textbooks.” Karen L. Cox, “Setting the Lost Cause on Fire: Protesters Target the United Daughters of the Confederacy Headquarters ,  Aug 6, 2020 https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/summer-2020/setting-the-lost-cause-on-fire-protesters-target-the-united-daughters-of-the-confederacy-headquarters

[7] Ned Oliver & Sarah Vogelsong, “Confederate memorial hall burned as second night of outrage erupts in Richmond, Virginia.” Virginia Mercury, 31 May 2020. 

[8] Balthazar J Beckett, Salima K Hankins, “Until We Are First Recognized As Human: The Killing of George Floyd and the Case for Black Life at the United Nations.” International Journal of Human Rights Education, Vol 5:1. https://repository.usfca.edu/ijhre/vol5/iss1/4/

Finding Juan Jose Carrillo: An African Ancestor

1734 map of West Africa
A New Map of That Part of Africa Called the Coast of Guinea. William Snellgrave, 1734. British Library, https://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/carviews/a/022zzz000279e26u00mapi00.html

Juan Jose Carrillo & Antonia Maria Figueredo Santana: 6th GGPs

I’m still reeling. This was a momentous week in more ways than one. Recently I was compiling a list of African ancestors from the 1870 cedulas, and my cousin Miguel Valentin forwarded some links on FamilySearch for Carrillos in case they might connect.

Then I saw Liza Ceballos’s post on Facebook on Carrillo and in her search on my Carrillo cluster, she collected a couple of posts that happened to be on my line. I couldn’t believe it, my ancestor Simon Carrillo had siblings and now, the names of his parents were in those baptisms. Although I suspected that this line would be the most likely to have a connection to Africa, my DNA percentages were low, and I wondered if i’d ever have a location.

With the name Juan Josef/ Juan Joseph/ Juan Jose Carrillo, I began my search and there was his death certificate– and I was floored. Above is William Snellgrave’s 1734 map of the region of Guinea that my 6th Great Grandfather was taken from made near the time he was born. To have a location identified is so rare, and unexpected since in his children’s records he and his wife are described as ‘morenos libres‘ literally ‘free browns’.

A Free man, a soldier in the Militia, a landowner and farmer in Rio Piedras with a wife and thirteen children. So many questions, so much joy at finding this cluster of family.

Juan Joseph Carrillo (1736-1810), Acta de defuncion, 3 Mar 1810, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Rio Piedras. FS.org https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6ZTL-QH8H

En este pueblo de Nuestra Señora del Pilar y en Gloria de San Juan Nepomuceno de Río Piedras a tres de marzo de mil ochocientos y diez años Yo el Beneficiado Don Manuel Marcelino Martínez Cepeda, Presbítero Cura Rector de él por Real Patronato de cepultura eclesiástico en el cementerio de esta Yglesia e hize los oficios de entierro doble con el []lia y misa cantadas al cadaver de Juan José Carrillo mis feligreses, natural de Guinea de edad de sesenta y cuatro años poco más o menos, negro libre y soldado cumplido de la Primera Compañía de Milicias Disciplinadas de Infantería que en común de Nuestra Santa Señora madre yglesia murió en su propia estancia Citio de los Ranchos de mi jurisdicción. Donde administran los santos sacraméntales de penetencia en [  ] y extrema unción: otorgó su testamento a estilo militar el diez de febrero del presente año, por ante Dn Francisco Roman subteniente del Regimiento de Milicias Urbanas de esta Ysla en la Compañía de Guaynabo de mancomún con la esposa el cual dispone su entierro de modo dicho con cuatro acompañados, mandado se celebran ocho misas resadas por su alma y las de purgatorio a nuestra señora del Rosario y del Carmen con tres más que fuera del su testamento en cargo de su hijo Joseph Vicente. Declaró había casado y velado en infacie eccles, con María Antonia de Figueredo, morena libre de este matrimonio deja trece hijos nombrados Simón, Juana Hilaria, Ysabel María, María Magdalena, José Vicente, Miguel, Cacimira, Ambrosía, Félix, Theodora, Roberto, Víctorio y Juan a quienes instituyó por ser legítimos herederos y por sus Albaceas su hijo y Victorio Marín su yerno de que doy fe. 

Manuel Martínez Cepeda

In this town of Our Lady of Pilar and Glory of Juan Nepomuceno de Rio Piedras on the 3rd of March one thousand eight hundred and ten years I the Incumbent Don Manuel Marcelino Martínez Cepeda, Priest Rector for him by Royal Patronage for ecclesiastic burial in the cemetery of this Church and made double burial services with the [ ] and sung masses for the cadaver of Juan Jose Carrillo of my parish, natural of Guinea of the age of sixty four years more or less, free Black and soldier of the First Company of Disciplined Militias of Infantry. that in common with Our Sacred Mother Church died on his proper farm Place of the Ranches under my jurisdiccion. Where was administered the Holy Sacraments of Penitence and Extreme Unction: He gave his will in military style the tenth of February of this year, before Don Francisco Roman sublieutenant of the Regiment of Urban Milicias of this Island in the Company of Guaynabo jointly with his wife who arranged his burial so said with four accompanying. mandated that eight prayed masses for his soul and for purgatory to Our Lady of the Rosary and of Carmen with three more besides that of his will in charge of his son Joseph Vicente. Declares having married and veiled in presence of the congregation with Maria Antonia de Figuredo, free brown woman: of this marriage leaves thirteen children named Simón, Juana Hilaria, Ysabel María, María Magdalena, José Vicente, Miguel, Cacimira, Ambrosía, Félix, Theodora, Roberto, Víctorio y Juan to whom he instituted as his legitimate heirs and for his Executors, his son and Victorio Marin his son in law that I bear witness. 

Manuel Martinez Cepeda

Family Tree of Juan Jose Carrillo & Antonia Maria Figueredo Santana

7th GGPs: Francisco Figueredo & Ana Santana

Antonia Maria Figueredo Santana dies at the age of 100 years in San Juan in 1830. Born about 1730, her parents are Francisco Figueredo and Ana Santana. I’m still researching and it seems she had at least one half sibling. Francisco gained his freedom sometime between 1711 and 1713. Records are fragmentary and i’m searching for more information.

For all the damaged and lost records I have seen for Puerto Rico, it is a miracle to learn their names. I want to thank all those who make the search easier, and possible via transcriptions & indexes- Yvonne Santana Rios, Yvette Izquierdo, distributed by Anna Bayala on her site Genealogia Nuestra, FS, the sharing of information in Facebook groups and list-serves, the DNA matches that come to be friends and family. There will be more to come…

You can read about how I traced my 5th GGPs which helped me get to this point: via their son Simon Carrillo and his wife Josefa Santiago Diaz: The Many Names of Telesforo Carrillo

Visualizing Genocide: Indigenous Interventions in Art, Archives and Museums

Visualizing Genocide book cover

So excited to be part of this project!

The book, edited by Yve Chavez & Nancy Marie Mithlo “examines how creative arts and memory institutions selectively commemorate or often outright ignore stark histories of colonialism.”

My piece for the volume: “Dying to Know You: Critical Insights from a case study of Indigenous Representations in Museums of the Early Republic.” Brings together a lot! I want to thank them for their help in getting this work out. Thanks to Blanca Gordo, who encouraged me to write the essay. Bomatum! (With thanks!)

It’s available for pre-order, with a 30% discount, see flyer for code.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being: Researching genealogical societies at the turn of the century

Cover illustration, LM Glackens, Eugenics
Louis M Glackens, “Eugenics Makes the World go ’round.” Puck, June 1913. LOC

I’ll be honest, researching this hasn’t been easy. I’ve written on historical moments that make for profound discomfort— early museum exhibits of Native American body parts and remains; the fact that the best known museum owner of his day (Peale) held a nuclear family (the Williams) in bondage, and that eugenics permeates a lot of what went for reasoning and genealogy in the early twentieth century (PPIE) among them.  

Now I’m tracing the east coast version of history for the National Genealogical Society, as I did with the involvement and implications of California Genealogical Society’s participation at the Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) of 1915. As someone who identifies as Indigenous, of ‘triracial’ descent, this is an alarming and disquieting history that ultimately led to the targeting of populations via law, via extrajudicial acts and other processes. But that’s often hidden from view, left for excavation decades later, with many unaware of such violent activities. 

Early genealogical societies were mostly composed of people who suffered from a bad, if not terminal case of negrophobia, today called anti-Blackness. Faced with the diversity that began to surround them, instead of helping,  they instead focused  on elevating the settlers and confederates, legitimizing theft, slavery and genocide. Such racist beliefs conceived of genealogy as a wall against the Great Migration, Eastern Europeans, Italians, people out of the Caribbean, basically anywhere that wasn’t Northern Europe.  

This is part of the early history of genealogy, which was not intended as a practice for people like me; it was a practice tied to documentation rather than oral history; to enslavers rather than the enslaved, not for those living in poverty or those who arrived from other shores. 

The 1880s-1910s were the heyday of fraternal, veteran and memorial organizations,  and genealogical organizations represented a way of holding on to supremacy by claiming lineages, reinforced by membership in other organizations.  

The interconnections between organizations is something that remains to be explored, and some of the links help explain responses to the varying pace of social change and motivations for their choice of organizations. For many of the early founders there’s  little information , so that facts are atomized across a variety of archives.   Some organizations, like the NY Southern Society, founded in 1882, simply disposed of their archives after it folded in 1972. Information can be scant. 

Still, I believe there’s much to be learned simply by following the  meetings and overlapping memberships of these organizations.  Where these paths lead says much about the history & politics that surrounded the early practice of genealogy and much like confederate memorials, what they tried to deny.

I’ve written about eugenics before, in Can Genealogy Be Racist? Identity, Roots & the Question of Proof.” 22 Mar 2018; also see “Eugenics, Identity and the California Genealogical Society’s International Congress of Genealogy at the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915.” The California Nugget, Journal of the California Genealogical Society. Special Edition, Fall 2018, 18-31. 

A shout out to historian Kevin M Levin, who recently held a great Chapter on The History of Confederate Memorials – appreciated the overview! And to Nicka Smith, Alex Trapps-Chabala and Yolanda Baker for their support on my drafts.

Searching Documents for Benejam Ancestors

Julio Ester ‘Ulla’ Rivera, November 2021. Photo courtesy of Julio Enrique Rivera.

I’ve finally submitted the materials, tables and text to accompany Part 3 of the Missing Registro Central de Esclavo volume for Northwest Puerto Rico to Hereditas. This set of transcriptions of cedulas are from Caja 2 (item 2) of 1870. The essay focuses on facets of the lives of 55 enslaved people held by Cristobal Benejam Suria or Serra in 1870, a Menorcan who arrived in Puerto Rico about 1817. Other family members were also enslavers. Several Benejam family clusters are traced from the cedula through the Registro Civil and census records, to reconstruct some of their history.

As it turns out, when I mentioned my project to my cousin, Julio Enrique Rivera, he mentioned that his dad, Julio Ester Rivera (looking very dapper in the photo above) was a Benejan. His great grandfather was Ricardo Benejam Vargas (1848-1924) born into slavery, the child of Maria Antonia Vargas and Pedro Benejam. This is Ricardo’s cedula of 1870.

Ricardo [Benejam] 22, 3531. Caja 4. Registro de Esclavos, 1867-1876 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-Z3WY-S?cc=3755445)

I am struck by how fragmented some of the resources available are.

Some of the documents i’m looking at:

Parish records

Municipal Document series – Censo y riqueza de Moca 1850

Cedulas, Registro Central de Esclavos

Registro Civil

What I wish there were more of for NWPR: census, contracts, notary documents; basically a database that can help descendants pull these fragments together.

As for books & articles, am rereading Benjamin Nistal-Moret’s “The Social Structure of Slavery in Puerto Rico” (1985). I’d like to use the tables as a model for what I am working on, which is information missing from the numbers he is using. This was “the first time in Puerto Rican historiography, an analysis of this magnitude has been completed with a computer.” He tells an interesting story about locating a missing 1872 Registro Central de Esclavos volume at the Library of Congress, microfilming it and returning it during the summer of 1975. As he did his work in the 1980s, his statistical work was entered onto punch cards of a computer program used in sociology. Which volume it was, Nistal-Moret doesn’t say.

I wonder how much archival material was lost, for instance, after the US returned the series of documents of the Gobernadores Espanoles – T1121 Record Group 186- Records of the Spanish Governors of Puerto Rico (impounded on the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1898) were transferred to the National Archives in 1943 and returned to Puerto Rico by joint resolution in 1957. The microfilm of the Registro de Esclavos and the Registro Central de Esclavos are part of that huge series, and NARA has a free version at the link above.

What I try to do in this series of articles are mini-histories of persons that appear on the 6 x8″ cedulas. Connecting someone in 1870 to their appearance in the Registro Civil that begins in 1885. The process takes time, as there is no mention of enslavement, save in the surname ‘Liberto.’ Some take different surnames, while many kept their enslaver’s name, or took that of a different owner when sold before 1870.

Some of the descendants of Luisa Benejan born about 1819 appear among the cedulas of Caja 4 of the Registro de Esclavos, while three appear in the Registro Civil. She doesn’t turn up on the Registro Civil. Still, the documents together reconstruct her family.

Also reconstructed are early family trees for Pedro Benejam of Moca, born about 1817 in Moca, and who partnered with Maria Antonia Vargas, who lived until 1902 and lived in Bo. Pueblo, Moca. Among their descendants is where my cousin Julio Enrique Rivera’s line connects. The families created after emancipation were often female headed households, with daughters that worked in the local service economy, and sons in agricultural labor.

We must continue to say their names.

References

Ricardo, 22, 3531. Caja 4, Registro de Esclavos, 1867-1876. “Puerto Rico Slave Registers, 1863-1879”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-Z3WY-S?cc=3755445 : 21 October 2021), > image 1 of 1.

Benjamin Nistal Moret, “Problems in the Social Structure of Slavery in Puerto Rico During the Process of Abolition, 1872”.  Manuel Moreno Fraginals, Frank Moya Pons & Stanley L. Engerman, eds.Between Slavery and Free Labor: The Spanish Speaking Caribbean in the Nineteenth Century, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1985, 141- 57.