The Liquid Archive 10
We’re taught to imagine that one of the immediate conditions of the captured Africans was that they were deliberately mixed around so that they couldn’t recognize each other, couldn’t speak to each other, and therefore couldn’t organize against their captors. While this is not untrue for much of the Atlantic moment, we can see here that it’s not so true for Rio de Janeiro, where 86% of the trafficked Africans originated from West Central Africa and about 10% from Mozambique. And a reminder here: this isn’t the totality of it, nor is it the worst of it. We’re only looking at Rio de Janeiro with boundaries of 1750! It’s important to note that on this map, they log the embarkations and the disembarkations – completely erasing 345,000 souls who didn’t survive the crossing. More Africans didn’t survive the crossing than came to Rio from Mozambique.
We should also note that while contemporary maps are perhaps trying to be more about humans, they really can’t be. For the strong suggestion of motion that this map presents, we’re not talking about people. From this map, we don’t know what happened to them, where they ended up. We can’t construct a map of human migration based on records of business transactions. This is a map of an economic activity – port to port.
Of the entire Atlantic Slave Trade, up to 60% ended up in Brazil. Of them, over half disembarked in Rio de Janeiro alone. Rio de Janeiro is the slavery capital of the Atlantic, the chattel slavery capital of the world.
Now, let’s take a closer look at this West Central region of Africa…