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19th century Mayan slave ship wreck discovered off Mexico



Archaeologists have identified the wreckage of a 19th century slave ship off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

The ship is the first from the Mayan slave trade to be discovered, say archaeologists.

According to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the shipwreck was found in Mexico about two nautical miles off Sisal, Yucatan, in 201

7. After three years of research in Mexico, Cuba and Spain, the ship was identified as the 19th century steamer “La Union”.

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“Between 1855 and 1861, an average of 25 and 30 Mayans were brought into Cuba each month, captured in the war or deceived with false documents,” INAH said in a statement.

A diver explores the wreck.

A diver explores the wreck.
(Photo by Helena Barba./INAH)

The ship sank after a fire on September 9, 1861.

Mexico abolished slavery in 1829, although the practice continued decades later. “Despite the fact that President Benito Juarez issued a statement on May 6, 1861 to prevent the forcible removal of Mayan individuals, the fire that caused the sinking of the steamer on its way to Cuba on September 19 of the same year shows This slavery continued without obeying any law, ”INAH said.

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The Maya were enslaved during the Yucatan Caste War, which lasted from 1847 to 1901. “One strategy that Hispanic and Mexican oligarchs had been using since 1848 was to order the expulsion of the Mayans captured in battle so that many were sent to Cuba,” INAH said. “Each slave was and could be sold to middlemen for up to 25 pesos in Havana for up to 160 Pesos for men and 120 Pesos for women. “

The wreck was discovered in 2017.  (Photo by Helena Barba / INAH)

The wreck was discovered in 2017. (Photo by Helena Barba / INAH)

Some Maya who lost their property in the war were also given false papers stating that they would become settlers in Cuba only to be enslaved.

“La Union” belonged to the Spanish company Zangroniz Hermanos y Compañía, which was founded in Havana in 1854. The following year it was admitted to trading in Mexico. “A year before its sinking, in October 1860, the Campeche steamer had been surprised by 29 Mayans, including boys and girls aged 7 and 10, but the public mockery was insufficient to end the smuggling carried out by ‘ . La Unión ‘”said INAH.

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When “La Union” sank, half of its 80 crew members and 60 passengers were killed. However, these figures do not include Mayan slaves transported by ship that were considered goods.

After the sinking, “the Mexican government paid more attention to searches in ports to prevent human trafficking on the routes to Cuba,” INAH said.

Another steamer from Zangroniz Hermanos y Compañía, “Mexico”, was also involved in the slave trade, according to INAH.

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Mexico continues to reveal new aspects of its history. At the beginning of this year, an elaborate 2000 year old “volcanic map” was discovered in Colima, which was carved into a large volcanic rock.

INAH recently released new details of a mysterious 18th century shipwreck that was discovered off the Mexican coast.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers




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