Yanga in Málaga: Iberian Empire and the Hinge of Slavery
A public lecture by Daniel Nemser, University of Michigan
One of the best known and earliest cases of marronage (the formation of communities of escaped slaves) in the Americas involves the African-born Yanga, who around 1570 escaped from slavery and established a long-standing maroon community in colonial Mexico. For years, his followers raided wagons transporting goods along the nearby camino real (royal highway), threatening individual merchants, the Spanish crown, and by extension the emerging capitalist world system. This talk analyzes an anonymous pamphlet from 1619 that describes Yanga's rise to power. Strikingly, the pamphlet was printed not in Mexico but in Málaga, Spain. What did it mean to read Yanga's story in the metropole? How might the inhabitants of a port on Spain’s Mediterranean coast have made sense of a story of racial slavery, marronage, and freedom in colonial Mexico? By situating the pamphlet in the context of the expulsion of the Moriscos from the Iberian peninsula between 1609-1614, the talk explores Iberian empire as a spatial and temporal hinge between Mediterranean and Atlantic slavery.