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Not keeping up with technology is an excellent path to becoming a slave. Happens to the best of humans. It happened to Gaspar Yanga, and then he fought back.

The first and, arguably, only African Middle Passage rebel to win a fight against his captors and be granted land worked out of the palenques, renegade communities in the part of New Spain, that we now know as Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Captive Africans were indispensable to the mid-sixteenth century agriculture fortune that Spain was building in the Americas. New Spain had the highest slave population outside of Brazil, and by 1570 the coast’s Veracruz region had begun to see palenques of indigenous brown people and runaway blacks.

Though it is poorly documented, we know palenque life was simple: sustenance farming, religion that featured heavily the African but made room for what the indigenous people were into — and sometimes jumping the Spanish who traveled Mexico’s Camino Real (Royal Road). Though none of the palenque scene was especially to Spain’s liking, the Crown particularly disliked the part where caravans were robbed.

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