Black maroon leader Sebastián Lemba’s head was exhibited (1553)

Black maroon leader Sebastián Lemba’s head was exhibited (1553)
In 1553, residents of Santo Domingo still remembered how Black maroon leader Sebastián Lemba’s head was exhibited in the city’s public square
ESPAÑA. MINISTERIO DE CULTURA, Archivo General de Indias,




como la pregunta dize que el /
dicho liçençiado grajeda en el dicho /
tiempo lo hizo cepto que este /
testigo aoydo dezir en esta /
çibdad que se hizo justicia co /
la corte de su magestad de vicen /
çio [pablo?] que la pregunta dize /
A la quarta pregunta dixo /
que la sabe porque este testigo /
se hallo en la gueRa que por /
mandado del dicho liçençiado gra /
Jeda se hizo para yr contra el /
dicho capitan lenba e su quadrilla /
e se hallo presente quando ma /
taron al dicho lenba y este testigo /
vio como le cortaron la cabeça /
y la truxeron a esta çibdad /
al dicho liçençiado e hizo justiçia /
de otros negros çimarrones /
y es e pasa ansi como la pregunta /
dize /
A la quinta pregunta dixo que /
la sabe porque ansi es la ver /
dad como la pregunta lo dize /
e ansi lo vio y paso ansi como la /
pregunta dize /


as the question says that the said licenciado Grajeda during the said time did it except that this witness has overheard in this city that justice was done at His Majesty’s court to Vicencio [Pablo?] mentioned in the question

[On the left margin: 4th] To the fourth question he said that he knows it because this witness was present in the war that by order from the said licenciado Grajeda was launched to go against the said captain Lemba and his

squad and he was present when the said Lenba was killed and this witness saw how his head was cut off and was brought to this city before the said licenciado and he did justice to the other maroon Blacks and it is and happens as the question says

[On the left margin: 5th] To the fifth question he said that he knows it because that is the truth as the question

says it and so he saw it and it happened as the question says it

Museo del Hombre Dominicano
Statue of Lemba. Museo del Hombre Dominicano


Sebastián Lemba is possibly the most well-known among the leaders of the enslaved Blacks who in sixteenth century La Española escaped from slavery and became maroons living independently from the Spanish settlers who had brought them as slaves.

Since approximately 1533, Lemba led a group of maroons who roamed different areas of he central regions of La Española’s wilderness, until enough forces were garnered by local authorities and colonists in 1547 to catch up with him and his group and kill them. In 1553, resident Juan de Lepe, gave his testimony on how Lemba’s head had been exposed publicly in the city.

In his deposition Lepe refers to Lemba and his followers using military terminology such as “Captain Lemba and his squad,” and describes the confrontation against the maroons as a “war.”

For many in the Dominican Republic today concerned with social justice and the Black African heritage of Dominican society, Lemba represents a very early symbol of resistance against oppression