Slavery in Madrid


To end one of my courses on Minorities and the Marginalized, our professor led an excursion throughout Madrid to trace the presence of   slavery in the Madrileño society. Many people do not readily associate slavery with Spain, generally focusing on either the US or Portugal, who are considered to have been the major exporters and facilitators of the vile tradition.

That being said, Spain was not free from slavery, but rather had a very colored history of utilizing victims of “just” wars as slaves that later extended to the exportation of Africans across the Spanish Empire. In fact, slavery was not officially abolished until 1886 (the second to last to Brazil!). For a detailed history of this tradition I recommend José Piqueras’ book, La esclavitud en las españas: un lazo transatlantico (2012). 

In our trip throughout the city we looked the different places where slaves were sold, reprimanded and bought, and where they worked, lived, worshipped and died. Interestingly, we traveled throughout many of the streets that I had previously visited, since we started our tour in Sol. This presence truly affected the growth of the city throughout the centuries impacting the city that I currently live in. Our tour helped me to form a more complete vision of the world that I live in. (This is a photo of my professor and a few of my classmates on the excursion)


Of course the tour did not solely focus on the slavery, but rather on tracing the history of general masses. One such dialog appears attached to the buildings which carry the small white tiles depicted below. These tiles represent that a visit took place to the particular building. These visits were held to determine  the riches of the buildings and the use of spaces, so that they could be properly taxed. Many people and institutions attempted to avoid such taxes by not readily demonstrating their riches. So much so that a traveler once remarked that in the richest city of the Empire never has he seen people live in such common plain houses!

IMG_2419  IMG_2432

We worked up quite an appetite walking around the city and so we topped the day off with a meal at La Brava, one of the few places that sells Brava Sauce, according to the original recipe.  Brava sauce is a spice tomato based sauce that is then placed on top of either tortilla or potatoes (I am sure you could put it on anything you like).  We had it on top of both, and also had some octopus (pulpo), which was absolutely delicious.



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