Amistad Replica Visits Cuba to Commemorate Victims of Slavery

Posted on March 28, 2010


Amistad Replica Visits Cuba to Commemorate Victims of Slavery
March 27, 2010

HAVANA – The U.S. replica of the Spanish schooner Amistad, famous for the 53 African slaves aboard who rebelled in 1839 and won their freedom, docked in the Cuban capital for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

As it entered Havana Bay, the port from which the original Amistad sailed in 1839, the American ship finally achieved its goal of visiting every city linked to the rebellion that became a worldwide symbol of abolitionism.

Cuban parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon and Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez were present at the official reception of the sailing ship.

The president of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union, Miguel Barnet, said that the ship’s presence in Havana shows that the Cuban and American people share a common history that “transcends” contemporary problems and disputes between the two governments.

He also said that as long as cultural gestures like this visit continue, the “knots” existing in the bonds between two countries can be eliminated through “goodwill” and a “dialogue of equals.”

Gregory Balinger, president of Amistad-America, the organization that owns the replica and operates its voyages, said that the visit to Cuba is an “honor” and completes the schooner’s goals.

The story of the Amistad, which was back in the media limelight when Steven Spielberg made a movie of it in 1997, began when a group of men and women were captured in Sierra Leone and sold as slaves to two Spanish traffickers for their subsequent sale in Cuba.

The plan was to take them from Havana to a port on the east end of the island, but the slaves took over the schooner and went adrift for several weeks until they were detained off the coast of New York.

Former U.S. President John Quincy Adams represented the slaves before the Supreme Court, which after a widely publicized trial granted them freedom in 1841.

The director for Cultural Heritage Policy at the Smithsonian Institution, James Early, said that the story of the ship “connects” Cuba with the United States, whose flag is not usually seen in Cuban ports because of the economic embargo that Washington has imposed on Havana since 1962.

Designated the official sailing ship of the state of Connecticut and the U.N. “floating ambassador” in honor of the victims of slavery, the Amistad replica flew both the Cuban and American flags on Friday, and will remain in Havana until the middle of next week. EFE

Posted in: Cuba, US