Map showing the location of Calabar, Congo River, Havana and the point of capture for the María, 1828

Voyage Map

The María was the ninth conviction of a slave ship by the Havana Slave Trade Commission. This Spanish schooner, under the command of Francisco Romero, began its voyage at Havana and set sail for West Africa on 21 December 1827. The captain purchased people at both Calabar and the Congo River. In total, 233 people boarded this slave ship and 23 individuals died during the middle passage.

At 3:25 in the morming of 29 November 1828, the HMS schooner Skipjack, under the command of James Pulling, observed this ship sailing westward from Havana toward Mariel. When Pulling "fired a gun to bring her to," the ship continued "sweeping and steering for the land." At about 7 a.m., the María ran aground near the Bay of the Jaimanita River, about 9 miles to the west of Havana. Once stranded, a number of boats came out from the shore and removed the majority of the people on board, while simultaneously firing guns at the Skipjack. After, the captain and crew set fire and blew up the María.

Pulling and some of his crew boarded the wreck and found some odd papers proving the ship was a slaver. They also rescued a single emaciated male, who "suffered much from sickness... and had several sores on various parts of his body." Pulling returned to Havana with this individual from the Congo River, who testified during the trial. On 4 December, the court declared the ship had been engaged in the illegal slave trade and issued a single emancipation certificate for this man.

Trial Summary

Thumbnail of Document for a Trial Summary

Register Statistics

The Register for this ship was for one male named, Congoellelá, Pedro, aged 23, height 5'1, of the Musicongo nación.

His physical descriptions included "a scar on his knee and some marks on the stomach"

Additional Resources

This case was the only one where there was a testimony of a Liberated African from the Havana Slave Trade Commission. At first, the court had difficulty in locating interpreters because the ship had gone from Calabar to the Congo River. On 3 Decmember 1828, the Francisco Ramo and Feliciano Batista, who were slaves of the "Congo nation" belonging to Maria de Carmen de Lima and Don Ignacio Herrera, were brought in to translate for Songoellelá and "made oath conformably to law." The following is an excerpt of the testimony:

"The following question were put to the said Negro - What is your name? and of what country are you a native? and the said Negro answered by means of the said Interpreters that his name was Congoellela and that he was of the Musicongo Nation in Africa. - He was then asked how he came to this Island, and if he came alone or in company with other Negroes, to which questions he answered that he left his country in a vessel with a number of other Negroes, but how many he could not state, but that there were a great many of them sick during the greatest part of the voyage; He was then asked where were these other Negroes with whom he had sailed from Africa, and he answered that they had escaped with the white men who were with them on board the vessel, and who had abandoned him after having fired a great deal on the persons with whom he was at present. The said Negro declared this to be the truth but took no oath on account of the interpreters declaring that he had no religion nor manifested any kind of belief and although many other questions were put to him concerning the affair it is hereby declared that he did not answer them, nor could sufficently explain himself, whether by reason of natural ignorance, fear or grevious sickness - he being in the last stage of estenuation; whereupon this act of investigation was concluded.