“We find evidence of two pulses of African migration.The first pulse—which today is reflected by shorter, older ancestry tracts—consists of a genetic component more similar to coastal West African regions involved in early stages of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The second pulse—reflected by longer, younger tracts—is more similar to present-day West-Central African populations, supporting historical records of later transatlantic deportation.” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.1)
“Overall, we found evidence for a differential origin of the African lineages in present day Afro-Caribbean genomes, with shorter (and thus older) ancestry tracts tracing back to Far West Africa (represented by Mandenka and Brong), and longer tracts (and thus younger) tracing back to Central West Africa.” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.11)
“The Puerto Rico population lies between the Cape Verde and São Tomé populations, suggesting that it contains a Senegambian component smaller than that of Cape Verde but larger than that of São Tomé” (Viero-Vera, 2006, p. xix)
This blogpost will be featuring two very interesting studies dealing with the African ancestral component of Hispanic Caribbeans from Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico:.
- The Origins of the African Ancestry in the Puerto Rican Population According to Restriction Analysis of the Mitochondrial DNA. (Viero-Vera, 2006)
- Reconstructing the Population Genetic History of the Caribbean (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013)
I will start my discussion with the more recent one as it covers all of the Hispanic Caribbean and is also based on genomewide analysis instead of limited to just mtDNA. Still both studies seem to be indicating a strong founding effect of Upper Guinean captives brought to the Hispanic Caribbean in the earliest colonial period of the 1500’s. For historical context and even more recent confirmation of these findings see:
- Shared Upper Guinean roots between Cape Verdeans and Latin Americans.
- Specifying the African Origins of the Afro Diasporan Genome (part 1)). (Montinaro et al. (2015)
- Dominican AncestryDNA results
- Puerto Rican AncestryDNA results
Reconstructing the Population Genetic History of the Caribbean
(Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013)
Link to online article
“ Our ancestry-specific and size-based analyses allowed us to discover that African haplotypes derived from Caribbean populations still retain a signature from the first African ancestors despite the later dominance of African influx from multiple sub-continental components.” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.14)
“A total of 251 individuals representing six different Caribbean-descent populations were recruited in South Florida, USA. […] : 80 Cubans, 85 Colombians, 34 Dominicans, 27 Puerto Ricans, 19 Hondurans, and 6 Haitians.” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.14)
“We combined our data with publicly available genomic resources […] West Africans from Bryc et al. ” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.14)
“Haitians were not included in the analysis due to low sample size (n = 4).” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.16)
This study is very fascinating not only for the way it characterizes the African ancestry of the six Caribbean samplegroups, in fact it also provides a very valuable analysis about their European and Amerindian origins. As mentioned in the above quotes their African dataset is copied from Bryce et al. (2010), so their research results might be intercomparable with some earlier studies i discussed for African Americans (see Specifying the African origins of the African American Genome). The innovating part of this study is their use of DNA segment size to establish various “migration waves”. They had found their initial PCA analysis to be possibly misleading as it showed all their Caribbean samples to be clustering solely with the Yoruban samples (as also occurred for African Americans in Zakharia et al. (2009)!). They wanted to make sure this outcome was not just because the Yoruba samples happen to be:
” the midpoint of the two source populations, causing the difference to remain undetected by our standard ASPCA approach (which gives a point estimate averaging the signature of all African blocks along the genome).” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.16)
What we see in the above figure is a visual representation of how some DNA segments (measured in cM) were found to be mostly shorter ones (shown in black) for the Mandenka from Senegambia and the Brong, an Akan speaking subgroup from Ghana. Suggestive of a more older layer of ancestry deriving from Upper Guinea while the longer segments (>50cM, shown in red), less affected by recombination would be hinting towards more recent origins from Lower Guinea (based on the sample groups Yoruba, Igbo and Bamoun) and Central Africa (based on the Fang and Kongo samples). We can see it even more clearly in the plot below which only shows one single Puerto Rican sample (PUR).
“To exemplify our size-based ASPCA approach, the African genome of a Puerto Rican individual is displayed (denoted by PUR).Left: PUR clusters with Mandenka when only sites within short ancestry tracts (. Right: a similar background distribution is obtained but the same PUR individual no longer clusters with Mandenka when considering long ancestry tracts (>50 cM).”
Misrepresenting African history?
[…] “we provide compelling evidence that short African tracts are enriched with haplotypes from northern coastal West Africa, represented by Mandenka samples from Senegal and Brong from western Ghana, near the Ivory Coast. This is in agreement with documented deportation flows during the 15th–16th centuries, wherein most enslaved Africans were carried off from Senegambia and departed for the Americas from the Gorée Island, near Cape Verde.”[…]
[…] “The Mandinka Kingdom of Senegambia was part of the Mali Empire, one of the most influential domains in West Africa, spreading its language, laws, and culture along the Niger River. The empire’s total area included nearly all the land between the Sahara Desert and coastal forests, and by 1530 reached modern-day Ivory Coast and Ghana, possibly accounting for the shared pattern between the Mandenka and Brong with respect to the Caribbean’s short ancestry tracts.” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.13)
***(click to enlarge)
Even though this study is truly insightful in its genetic analysis it’s unfortunate that historical inaccuracies as quoted above have slipped in… The “Gorée myth” has been debunked already 2 decades ago and it’s a shame it’s still being perpetuated as it continues to cloud the real extent of Upper Guinean slave trade patterns. See also this article which appeared after Obama’s visit to Senegal in 2013. Actually for the 1500’s/1600’s it’s known that the main slave trading entrepot for Upper Guinea was Cape Verde and more specifically the island of Santiago as also depicted in the map above. However due to shifting trading routes in the late 1500’s Santiago (Ribeira Grande) gradually got replaced by Cacheu (Guiné Bissau) on the mainland (see this link for an overview of sources). It is also crucial to keep in mind that the captives being collected in Cape Verde had wideranging origins from throughout Upper Guinea, incl. Wolof from Senegal but also Temne from Sierra Leone (named “Sape” in Iberian sources).
The Mali Empire connections with Ghana seem to have been commercial and not political in nature. Most maps i’ve seen don’t show the Mali empire near Ghana at all, but rather reaching its southern boundaries in Burkina Faso. Moreno-Estrada et al. (2013) don’t seem to provide any references for their claim that the Mali Empire once ever also included Ghana . Perhaps there’s some mix-up with the ancient empire of Ghana after which the modernday country of Ghana named itself. The exact territorial extent of these culturally very influential empires are impossible to establish either way. So it seems farfetched to assume that the Brong, an Akan subgroup, would be genetically related to the Mandenka because of such an assumed political configuration. Even when some Mande speaking traders might have established themselves within Ghana’s borders, their presence seems to not have been lasting. That is judging from the presentday linguistic situation with Mande speakers in Ghana being very small in number and limited to 2 very small areas (see this map). Much more likely i would say is that the Bryce et al. (2010) dataset used by this study is inherently limited as it does not include any other Upper Guinean sample groups besides the Mandenka.
Two waves of African geneflow?
“We find that populations from the insular Caribbean are best modeled as mixtures absorbing two independent waves of African migrants. Assuming a 30-year generation time , the estimated average of 15 generations ago for the first pulse (circa 1550) agrees with the introduction of African slaves soon after European contact in the New World” [..]
“the second (and stronger) pulse of African tracts according to our model (e.g., 7 generations ago in Dominicans), pointing to the late 18th century.” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.13)
This paper mentions two distinct waves of Africans arriving in the Hispanic Caribbean. Intuitively this seems a rather good fitting description at least when wanting to model geneflow events in Caribbean populations in a straighforward fashion. However based on a close reading of the history of slave trade in the region we might say that there were in fact several more waves of Africans being brought over to Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. This region probably having the most diverse and longest lasting slave trade in place in between 1518 and 1859. Also despite many historical similarities for the early colonial period (1500’s-mid 1700’s) there’s also some striking differences in how each Hispanic Caribbean island developed populationwise after the 1750’s, strongly correlated with the (re)establishment of a sugar export sector in Cuba and Puerto Rico which mostly didn’t take place in the Dominican Republic because of their shared history with Haiti.
This is also showing up in the last two charts i posted above, which are outdated and incomplete to a great degree, (see this link for more details) but still useful for pointing out that:
- The Dominican Republic slave imports show a very different pattern from Puerto Rico & especially Cuba, peaking in the 1500’s/1600’s while not expanding in the late 1700’s.
- Cuba’s slave population was by far the most numerous and unlike what is said by this study, most Africans actually arrived in the 1800’s in violation of the abolition of slave trade.
The first graph in contrast is based on very recent research from 2015 which will bring forth a much anticipated update of the invaluable Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database from 2010 (Borucki et al., 2015). The figure itself can be seen as corroborating the “two African waves” theory to a great extent. However it should be kept in mind that it shows a summary of all slave imports into the Spanish Americas without making any regional distinction. As mentioned above it can be expected that the Dominican Republic especially will deviate from this main pattern. Also by including the intercolonial or “Trans-Imperial/Intra-American” slave trade (carried out mainly by the Dutch and English) the two peaks are less extreme and the interval of the late 1600’s/early 1700’s is shown to actually also have experienced major slave importations.
In upcoming blogposts i will delve into this topic with greater detail but for now i will quickly try to provide more ethnic specification for the two main African waves this study has identified. Using data on Cuba’s slave population which is probably best documented. Even when the vast majority of Africans arrived in Cuba relatively late in the 1800’s, it could still be possible that the earlier African origins might have become more widespread because of racial admixture and natural growth among the locally born population in the 1600’s/1700’s. While the African origins of the late 1700’s/1800’s might be more relevant for selfidentified “black” Cubans. I suppose when evaluating sample groups this type of possible substructure should also be taken into consideration. The same goes for the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico as also shown in the next DNA study.
The first two charts should be roughly representative for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as well. Even if Cuba was more succesful in preventing early economic decline because of the role Havanna played in Spanish imperial trading routes there by allowing more slave importations to continue (almost always contraband or intercolonial and therefore underreported). As seen in these first two charts actually besides an indeed strong Upper Guinean component there was also an early Central African “wave”, mostly from Angola, relatively starting later and therefore more relevant for Cuba. In earlier decades of the 1500’s the Upper Guinean slave trade would have been more predominant. The third chart showcasing the later “second wave” is more specific to Cuba and indeed clearly shows more Lower Guinean (“Lucumi”=Yoruba, “Carabali”=Igbo/Efik) and Central African origins (Congo), however also in this later period there was a continued Upper Guinean presence as seen in the frequent mentioning of the Mandinga and Ganga from Sierra Leone/Liberia.
The Origins of the African Ancestry in the Puerto Rican Population According to Restriction Analysis of the Mitochondrial DNA
Link to online article
***(click to enlarge)
“Our results, which corroborate the historical picture, underline the overwhelming impact of western and west-central African regions to the Puerto Rican mtDNA composition. Almost 60% of the Sub-Saharan haplogroups in the island are exclusive to or are more common in the West African populations and 26.5% in the West-Central African region.” (Viero-Vera, 2006, p.27)
“Haplogroup L1b, the most common of all Sub-Saharan African lineages in the island, with a frequency of 22.1%, is an exclusive West African haplogroup.” (Viero-Vera, 2006, p.27)
“Haplogroup L1c, ascribed to a west-central African origin (Salas et al., 2002; 2004; Trovoda et al., 2003), depicts 8.8% of the Sub-Saharan African mtDNAs in the Puerto Rican population. This haplogroup reaches particularly high frequencies amongst the Biaka Pygmies (~70%) from the Central African Republic, followed by the Bubi from the island of Bioko and the Angolans.” (Viero-Vera, 2006, p.27)
“Haplogroup L1c is also found in 8.0% of the Dominicans with Sub-Saharan African ancestry. This information reinforces the traditional history, which states similar Sub-Saharan African beginnings for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, both Spanish colonies (Díaz-Soler, 2000).” (Viero-Vera, 2006, p.28)
“The contributions of eastern, southeastern, and southern Africa to the Puerto Rican mtDNA gene pool appeared to be very small, again this concurs with historical research. History suggests that eastern African populations did not contribute significantly to the Atlantic slavetrade (Díaz-Soler, 2000). This statement is reinforced by the total absence of East African haplogroups L1e and L1f in Puerto Rico and other American populations (Salas et al., 2004).” (Viero-Vera, 2006, p.29)
“The Puerto Rican population lies within the West African cluster and is surrounded by populations from the Senegambia region, Cape Verde being the closest one. The grouping of Puerto Rico with the Senegambian populations broadly corroborates historical reports identifying this region as one of the largest sources of slaves to the island. Furthermore, Senegambian mtDNAs were predominant in the 16th century and thus have spent more time reproducing in Puerto Rico than mtDNAs from more to the south, which were more common among slaves brought in the 19th century, according to history. ”
“The Dominican Republic, another population historically associated to western African roots, also clusters within the West African grouping, in close proximity to the Cape Verde Islands.”
This 2006 study combines a seemingly quite representative nationwide sampling from Puerto Rico with an international dataset used previously already (in part?) by Salas et al. (2004):The African Diaspora: Mitochondrial DNA and the Atlantic Slave Trade. Their discussion of Amerindian haplogroups is also very fascinating but the African mtDNA results are most relevant of course for this blog’s purpose. Basically it seems to be signalling a cumulative founding effect for Upper Guinean maternal haplogroups among Puerto Ricans. Much like the genetic legacy left behind by the Taino, it represents an ancestral element encapsulated in the genome of a core group of early (mixed) Puerto Ricans from the 1500’s, preserved and widespread as the Puerto Rican population slowly grew bigger. This outcome seems to be also confirmed by personal DNA testing on Ancestry.com (see Puerto Rican AncestryDNA’s results). It is known that in the very first decades of Puerto Rico’s settlement, the Africans being present were mostly Ladino slaves but also freed Ladino/Mulatto servants, artisans and even conquistadores/soldiers (like Juan Garrido). And given the prevailing slave trade patterns at that time they would have been predominantly Upper Guinean.
Not many specifics have been recorded about the early ethnogenesis of Puerto Ricans taking place outside of the view of Spanish authorities in San Juan. But there are historical sources suggesting that the interior attracted both runaway and manumitted slaves as well as marginalized people of already mixed African background. They would most likely continue to mix in and get absorbed by a developing rural population of hybrid origins with a strong additional Taino imprint and ever increasing European/Canarian ancestry. Their total African ancestry becoming very much dilluted and minor in the process.
After a long period of stagnation in the 1600’s the sugar economy in Puerto Rico only really expanded again after 1765 when the slave imports grew massively. So we might assume then that the regional provenance zones of the slave trade from that period (1700’s/1800’s), known to also have included Lower Guinea and the Congo, might more strongly show up for people of greater and more recent African descent., and also more so for people living near areas where the sugar cane plantations were located.
However some caution should be in order as the authors mention themselves many maternal haplogroups are found throughout western and central Africa, therefore only an autosomal analysis can provide a complete picture. African origins dating from later periods should naturally also have left their genetic traces among Puerto Ricans but probably again according to some substructured patterns as also found in this study. I will follow up on this in later blogposts but for now i’ll finish with this sketchy impression of the possible ethnic and regional provenance hiding behind the various haplogroups identified by this study:
African roots from the 1500’s
This chart below is based on only a few slave registers to have survived from this early period (1500’s). Still the main top 5 ethnicities mentioned are pretty much the same all over the Spanish Americas in that period (see this overview). Which should serve as some independent confirmation. It’s quite wideranging but still with Upper Guineans being a clear majority. If i’m reading it correctly the Top 5 for Puerto Rico would be:
- Zape (= blanket term but mostly referring to modernday Temne from Sierra Leone)
- Brama/Bran (=modernday Papel from Guinea Bissau)
- Biafara/Biafra (= modernday Biafada from Guinea Bissau, NOT to be confused with Bight of Biafra, slaves from that area were generally termed Carabali in Spanish)
- Mandinga (= blanket term for Mandé speakers)
- Manicongo (=blanket term for people from the Kongo kingdom)
There’s several other Upper Guinean peoples mentioned as well, those i can recognise are the following:
- Jelofes= Wolof from Senegal
- Banol=Bainuk from Gambia/Casamance (southern Senegal)
- Fologajen=Fula from Senegambia or Guinea
- Berbesi=Sereer from Senegal
- Coculi=Baga subgroup from Guinea Conakry
- Nalu=ethnic group of same name in Guinea Bissau/Conakry
- Biojo= Bijago from Guinea Bissau
- Cacanga= Kasanga from Casamance (southern Senegal)
- Fula= Fula ak.a. Fulani/Peulh from Senegambia or Guinea
- Cabo Verde= most likely slaves born locally in Cape Verde
Lower Guinean ethnonyms would be:
- Terra Nova= anything east from Sierra Leone, but most likely Benin
- Calabar= southeastern Nigeria
- Malaguetta= reference to the socalled Pepper Coast, a.k.a. Liberia
- Arda= reference to Allada kingdom/slaveport in Benin
Central African ethnonyms would be:
- Loango= reference to Loango kingdom centered in Congo Brazzaville
- Angico= reference to Tio kingdom, upstream the Congo river
- Angola= reference to captives shipped from Luanda
p.s. for a closer look at where some of these ethnic groups are from you can also check the Map Section.
African roots from the 1700’s/1800’s
Slave trade voyages for Puerto Rico are greatly underreported because of widespread smuggling and intercolonial trading so don’t expect anything near full coverage! Still the main patterns of Bight of Biafra predominating together with Central Africa and Sierra Leone in third place would be valid enough judging also from cultural retention and other indications. The first chart is based on documented direct slave voyages from Africa starting from 1700, while the second one is based on estimated direct slave voyages from Africa for the entire slave trade period. When it comes to an ethnic specification things get more speculative as i haven’t found any major listing of African ethnicity in Puerto Rico during the 1700’s/1800’s yet. However the previous chart i posted for Cuba might also be somewhat representative for Puerto Rico, especially the Igbo/Carabali and the Congo presence but with a likely exception to be made for the Lucumi/Yoruba. The Bight of Benin being quite insignificant in direct slave voyages to Puerto Rico which might imply that the number of Yoruba captives being brought to Puerto Rico could have been quite minor. Any seemingly Yoruba retention in presentday Puerto Rico could actually be a recent cultural import via Cuba according to some.
– Borucki, A. et al. (2015). Atlantic History and the Slave Trade to Spanish America. The American Historical Review, 120, (2), 433-461.
– Carreira, A. (1972. Cabo Verde: formação e extinção de uma sociedade escravocrata (1460-1878)
– Curtin, P. (1969). The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census.
– Fuente de la, A. (2008). Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century.
– Sued Badillo, Jalil; López Canto, Angel (1986), Puerto Rico Negro.