Ulrike Schmieder

The Remembrance of Atlantic Slavery in Postcolonial and Post-slavery Port Towns: Barcelona and Cádiz, Havana and Matanzas 

My paper will present the research on Memories of Atlantic Slavery in France and Spain, the French Caribbean and Cuba. One focus is directed to Spanish slave trade port towns and their hidden past as centers of slave trade until 1867 to the Cuban Second Slavery, industrializing mass slavery, and as centers of capital transfer from plantation slavery to urbanization and industrialization. Barcelona and Cádiz are constantly referring to their maritimity and glorious past as trade centers with America. The no de-colonized view of the Spanish Empire and the silencing enslavement of Africans as part of it has been contested in Barcelona recently. In Havana and Matanzas as port towns of slave trade and capitals of sugar-producing provinces with high numbers of enslaved Africans, the Black Atlantic is Afro-Cuban culture and religions. But there are less memorial sites remembering slavery and honoring enslaved rebels and more places honoring white slaveholding elites as one would suppose in a socialist country referring positively to the resistance of the enslaved and maroons as part of the anti-colonialist wars of 1868-1878, 1879 and 1895-1898.

My research refers to physical sites of memory as the monument for slave rebellion in Triunvirato near Matanzas, the Museum of the Slave Route in Matanzas or the House of Africa in Havana, the presence of slave trade in the Museum of History of Barcelona, etc. I look also the handling of the remnants of slave trade and slavery: residences, banks, cultural and charity institutions built with slave trade money, memorials of slave merchants in Europe, master ́s houses, barracks of the enslaved, sugar mills in the Caribbean. I do oral history around those places: who promoted, who tried to prevent visualization of the slavery past in museums or the public space, who uses a museum for which purpose, what do the descendants of the enslaved think about a monument or a museum? Are the memories of slavery in the family or in the religious group more important for the remembrance of slavery and emancipation as state institutions? For the presentation in Bremen, I will look more closely on the verbal, visual and symbolical presence of the Sea, the coasts and ships in the post-colonial memories of port towns. I will work with theoretical approaches named in the CfP but also with Ortiz (transculturación) and present concepts used by Afro Spanish intellectuals (Toasije, Caballero, Romero).