Documented African Roots of Dominicans

Lemba 4200976_African ethnonyms in Dominican historical sources: 1547-1606


Estimated number of Africans: 9,648 – 30,000
African origins specified: 79


Bran” (Guiné Bissau) 15 – 19% of African specified
Zape” (Sierra Leone) 15 – 19% of African specified
Biafara” (Guiné Bissau) 10 – 12% of African specified
Source: Deive (1980, p.239).

Even though this summary is based on a rather small sized dataset (n=79) and reflecting only a limited timespan, there are many indications from other Hispanic American countries to confirm these 3 ethnic groups from Upper Guinea having a significant presence in the Dominican Republic throughout the 1500’s. But they were not the only ones in that particular timeperiod of course and in later decades/centuries the ethnic compostion of Africans within Hispaniola would change constantly with other ethnic origins from Lower Guinea and Central Africa becoming more prevalent.

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African origins of Hispanic Caribbeans according to DNA studies

Moreno-Estrada, (2013) - Fig.6A

Reconstructing the Population Genetic History of the Caribbean (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013)


We find evidence of two pulses of African migration.The first pulse—which today is reflected by shorter, older ancestry tracts—consists of a genetic component more similar to coastal West African regions involved in early stages of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The second pulse—reflected by longer, younger tracts—is more similar to present-day West-Central African populations, supporting historical records of later transatlantic deportation.” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.1)

“Overall, we found evidence for a differential origin of the African lineages in present day Afro-Caribbean genomes, with shorter (and thus older) ancestry tracts tracing back to Far West Africa (represented by Mandenka and Brong), and longer tracts (and thus younger) tracing back to Central West Africa.”  (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.11)


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Locating Afro-Diasporan haplogroups within Africa

Dissecting... (Tabel S6, country breakdown)a

Dissecting the Within-Africa Ancestry of Populations of African Descent in the Americas (Stefflova et al., 2011)


Limitations of our study

Our database and analyses have several limitations. First, there remains limited data from W/WC Africa, where the published literature does not cover Ivory and Gold Coasts. Thus, the analysis of genotype data is limited by the available published data.”  […] 

“Second, mtDNA is a single locus that can inform us only about group maternal ancestry and needs to be complemented with study of NRY and AIMs. While NRY analysis is complicated by limited resolution and coverage of the published data in Africa as well as Bantu speakers’ migrations.” (Stefflova et al., 2011, p.7)


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Ethnic identities of African-born slaves: valid or imposed?


Mandinga/Mandingo is undoubtedly one of the best known African ethnonyms in the Afro-Diaspora. Not only in the USA but also in the Hispanic Americas, Brazil and Cape Verde the Mandinga name is still alive in popular imagination but with very different associations it must be noted 😉 Nowadays in Brazil it is used to refer to a distinct capoeira style. In Cape Verde the socalled Mandinga parades are part of carnival celebrations. While in some Hispanic countries (Peru, Puerto Rico) there still exists a popular saying which goes:  “El que no tiene (de) Inga tiene Mandinga“, meaning Continue reading

From Creole to African

Nos tud nos é criol


Cape Verde football team participating in Africa Cup 2013

“Ethnic groups of Cape Verde:
Creole (mulatto) 71%, African 28%, European 1%”
Source: CIA Factbook,


“Statistics from Portuguese administration in the sixties stated that the racial composition of the inhabitants was 71% of mestiços, 28% of “Africans” (i.e. blacks) and 1% of “Europeans” (i.e. whites). Those figures have been overused in several sites, in spite of not being up to date [and misleading]. Since the independence in 1975 the official statistics in Cape Verde have no longer made statistics based on racial groups. Official sources[1] only states “the majority of the population is mulatto” (“…maioritariamente mestiça…”) without stating any number. Ethnically, Cape Verdeans see themselves as a single group, regardless of being mulatto, black or white.” (Wikipedia)

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Do Cape Verdeans and African Americans share African ethnic roots?

In the previous posts i have established that:

  1. most of the slave trade that passed through Cape Verde took place in the 1500’s/1600’s
  2. involved people from the Upper Guinea region
  3. with destinations in the Hispanic Americas
  4. only northern Brazil had significant Upper Guinean slave imports in the 1700’s/1800’s
  5. a separate Cape Verdean diaspora arrived in the Americas out of their free will, most of them living in the USA but many also residing in Argentina.

This brings me to my next question: to what degree do African Americans and Cape Verdeans show overlap in their African ethnic/regional origins? Continue reading

Cape Verdean Diaspora or Afro-Diapora?

It’s important to keep in mind that the slaves/captives reexported via Cape Verde mostly in the 1500’s/1600’s were almost always enslaved Africans born on the mainland and not born on the islands themselves. Cape Verde being known for turning African born slaves into “seasoned” Ladino slaves (baptism + basic Portuguese/Creole language skills). Besides the Ladino’s and the socalled Bozales (“fresh of the boat” slaves) a third distinction was made (according to Sandoval 1624) of socalled Naturales, that is Cape Verde born slaves. Continue reading

Shared Upper Guinean roots between Cape Verdeans and Latin Americans

Cape Verde was used by the Portuguese in the 1500’s/1600’s as a midway station for collecting, “seasoning” and reexporting captives born in Upper Guinea to the labour-starved cities, mines and plantations of the Spanish Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Colombia and Peru.  Unlike what you might have expected few slaves exported via Cape Verde were actually going to Brazil but rather they were headed to the Hispanic Americas during this particular time period.  Continue reading

Upper Guinean roots for Cape Verdeans

This post is meant to be introductory as i intend to blog much more in future posts about Cape Verdean ethnic roots on the continent as well as its shared ancestral connections with other Afro-diasporeans in the Americas. In fact i’ve just recently created a separate website ( focusing exclusively on specifying the African Ethnic Origins for Cape Verdeans. Here’s the link for it: