Slave and non-slave, black and non-black prisoners together in Santo Domingo’s jail (1558)

Slave and non-slave, black and non-black prisoners together in Santo Domingo’s jail (1558)
In 1558 Santo Domingo, the local prison kept slave and non-slave, Black and non-Black, men and women detainees within the same building complex
ESPAÑA. MINISTERIO DE CULTURA, Archivo General de Indias,


v Yñigo lopez çamudio sin prisiones ___/
v pablos [sic] mestizo con grillos ___/
v El dicho Juan de triana con grillos ___/
v lope ortis portero con grillos ___/
v Gonçalo Dias vezino de açua sin prisiones/
v diego nuñez sin grillos ___ /
v Juana biçente mujer ___/
v Andrea de gusman mulata ___/
-negros E indios - /
v Antonio yndio sin prisiones ___/
v El negro de gonçalo garçia çapatero con grillos___/
v un negro de Elvira medel con grillos ___/
v pedro negro livre. por ladron con grillos ___/
v un negro de Juan ximenez del cotui deuda /
v [Crossed out: u] tres negros De pedro peres por deuda ___/
-por los alcaldes- /
v tomas Aleman por deuda ___/
v caro de [nyçina?] por deuda ___/
v alexos carullo platero sin prisiones ___/
v merchior [sic] hernandes por la me[di?]a de plata/
v bar tolome xuares por deuda ___/
v anton ximenez por deuda ___ /


v Yñigo Lopez Çamudio, without shackles ___ / v Pablos [sic], mestizo, with shackles ___/ v The said Juan de Triana, with shackles ___/ v Lope Ortis guard, with shackles ___/ v Gonçalo Dias resident of Azua, without shackles /

v Diego Nuñez, no shackles ___/ v Juana Biçente, female ___/ v Andrea de Gusman, Mulatto woman ___/

-Blacks and Indians -

v Antonio, Indian, without shackles ___/ v Gonçalo Garçia, black, shoemaker, with shackles___/ v A black man owned by Elvira Medel, with shackles ___/ v Pedro, free black man, for theft, with shackles ___ / v A black man owned by Juan Ximenez of El Cotui, for debt / v [Crossed out : u] three black men owned by Pedro Peres, for debt ___/

-by the alcaldes-

v Tomas Aleman, for debt ___/ v Caro de [Nyçina?], for debt ___/ v Alexos Carullo, silversmith, without shackles ___/ v Merchior [sic] Hernandes, for the [half ] of silver / v Bar tolome Xuares, for debt ___/ v Anton Ximenez, for debt ___/

Inside view of Santo Domingo’s colonial fortress
Inside view of Santo Domingo’s colonial fortress


There was at least one jail in Santo Domingo during the mid sixteenth century. In 1558, when the official in charge of the prison was replaced, he produced a report specifying the prisoners and equipment whose control and maintenance he was entrusting and transferring to his successor.

According to the report, detainees of different sexes, ages, social status, walks of life and legal standing, were kept within the same prison complex, though we do not know yet how much physical proximity there was exactly between each of them and the rest. Men, women, slaves and non slaves, Whites, Blacks, Mulatos and Mestizos are found among the prisoners. Some moved around without any kind of impediment while others had shackles. The prisoners came from remote villages of the colony or from Santo Domingo. The crimes highlighted in the report include theft and homicide; some seem to be in prison as sequestered property of their indebted owners.