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The passports contained descriptions of each black along with the false Spanish names that they had been given by their purchasers.On June 28, 1839, the Spanish dons loaded the Africans on a chartered two-masted black schooner called the Amistad.Two Spanish dons came to the barracoon in late June to select new slaves for their plantations in Puerto Principe, on the northwest coast of the island.
The British had been trying for nineteen years, since 1820, to enforce the provisions of a treaty between England and Spain that prohibited the importation of slaves to Cuba and other Spanish dominions.
The captain of the Portuguese slave ship knew, however, that the odds were with him.
Cinque say, “Me think and by and by I tell you.” Cinque then said, “If we do nothing, we be killed.
We may as well die in trying to be free as to be killed and eaten.” A nail hidden by Cinque under his arm became the captives’ means to freedom.
The startling news led Cinque to call a conference among the slaves on their third day at sea.
One of the slaves, a boy named Kinna, later recounted what happened: We feel bad, and we ask Cinque what to do.None of the slaves spoke Spanish and the children were far too young to have been born in Cuba before 1820.At midnight, the Amistad, captained by Ramon Ferrer, sailed out of Havana harbor with its cargo of fifty-three slaves and about ,000 in provisions.One of the captives, a physically impressive twenty-five-year-old named Cinque, used sign language to ask the ship’s cook, Celestino, what would happen to them when they reached their destination.Celestino smiled and pointed to a nearby pile of beef.Although they had papers, Montes and Ruiz knew their vessel was subject to search by British slave patrol boats.The papers showing the captives to be ladinos, or legal slaves born in Spanish territory, would not fool a conscientious enforcer of the anti-importation treaty.Quickly the crew loaded the ship’s cargo of over three hundred African men, women, and children—none over the age of twenty-five—into small boats and carried them to land.After everyone was on the beach, the crew hustled the Africans on a three-mile trek through the jungle.Time on deck was limited to meals and to brief relief breaks, taken a few at a time. Ruiz ordered crew members to flog a captive who took more than his alloted share of water.A sadistic joke turned the Africans to thoughts of mutiny.