Afro-Spanish (Afroespagnols) are Spanish individuals of African descent. They are estimated at 683,000.
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Afroespangnols of today come from Nigeria, Senegal, Equitorial Guinea, and Dominican Republic. A strong Afro-Arab population from North Africa(Morocco, Algeria, Tunis) exist. In 2009, about 7,500 descendants of Africans were born in Spain.

Although, the visible blacks of today are recent arrivals, Spain has always had black people. Between the time of the Castillian Kingdom and mid-1700s, Spain had a sizeable black population of 100,000.  After Spain lost her commercial empire, most slaves in Spain were freed. In a few generations, the population intermarried into the general Spanish population. The only group that claim black descent in Spain, going back a century or more,  can be found in Gibraleon and Niebla--towns founded by escaped slaves from southern Portugal in Alentejo. Spain and Portugal were the only European nations to allow slavery on their soil, during the trans-atlantic slave period.



Black people have been in Spain since recorded history. Blacks were among the Carthaginian colonists, who colonized the Iberian Peninsula. Blacks were active in the social life of the Roman Empire. 


During the Afro-Arab( Cordobo Caliphate, Almoravid, Almohad) conquest, Berbers were major components of the troops that occupied Spain. By 720, all of Iberia was under Islamic control. Cordoba became the capital of the Islamic regime. Al-Andaluse became a thriving, prosperous, and intellectually progressive region. It was one of the most cosmopolitan place in the region. Individuals of many religions resided in the territory. Jews and Christians walked her streets. Slaves were of all races. White slaves from Frankish, Galic, and Slavic regions, Black slaves from Africa. Black and mulatto slave wives or djariyas existed. Some blacks made a name for themselves like Abu'l-Hasian Ali ibn Nafi or Ziryab(789-857). Ziryab made a name for himself as a trendsetter, introducing toothpaste and underarm deodorant, the wearing of seasonal clothing, hairstyles, the clean-shaven look. He introduced the eating of asparagus and Iraqi cuisine in al-Andaluse. Numerous recipes bear his name. He made the drinking of wine acceptable. Ishraq as-Suwaida, a black female, was well known for her knowledge of prosody and grammar. 

By 1094, al-Andaluse was incorporated in the Berber Almoravid Empire. The Almoravid army was constituted of many black troops. In fact, the Almoravid and later the Almohad printed a much recognized dinar supplied with gold from the Sahel. In 1212, the Christian Kingdom of Spain took much of Almohad territory. 

Time line of Afro-Spanish History

237 bc Hamilcar Barca (father of Hannibal) begins conquest of 
220 bc Iberia becomes part of the Carthaginian Empire
19   bc Iberia becomes part of the Roman Empire
714   Arabs introduce sugarcane & cotton in Iberian Penninsula
720   Iberia under Arab control
1094 al-Andaluse incorporated in Almoravid Empire
1172 al-Andaluse incorporated in the Almohad Empire
1232 Muslims diminished in Spain only muslim Granada remains till   
1333 Marinid invades southern Spain
1470 Kingdom of Spain(Castile & Aragon)
1492 muslim Granada becomes part of Spain
1492 Pedro Alonzo Nino-navigator of Santa Maria Columbus's ship
1501 Spanish throne approves African slavery
1508 Capture of Puerto Rico, black soldiers & slaves
1511 Capture of Cuba, black soldiers & slaves 
1517 Bishop de Las Casas advocate African slavery over native
1519 300 Africans with Hernando Cortes on conquest of Mexico
        Juan de Grijalba introduce wheat to Mexico
1520 Pizarro/black soldiers & slaves invade Incas(Peru)
1521 1st slave revolt in New World in Spanish Hispaniola 
1536 Juan Valiente with Diego de Almagro, Chile invasion
1539 Estevanico leads expedition from Mexico thru Southwest
1580 Spain and Portugal united to 1640
1640 Spain and Portugal union end, Portugal no longer slave source
1778 Treaty of El Pardo, Equitorial Guinea is Spanish from Portugal
1870 Moret Law ends slavery in Spain & colony(Cuba, PR)

1492 to 1750s

With the rise of the Kingdom of Castile in 1492, Spain and Portugal establish plantation slavery in the New World. Numerous Africans were forcibly taken to the New World as slaves. Some were also shipped to Spain. The licensia and asiento were awarded to individuals to carry slaves to the Spanish colonies and to Spain. The term negro came to mean slave eventually in Spanish society.

Black slaves could be found in Valencia, Seville, Barcellona, and Jaén. Seville was a major center in slave commerce and had the largest black population in all of Spain, during that era. All echeleon of Spanish society owned slaves: the clergy, aristocracy, businessmen, etc. Slaves were used in taverns, gambling houses, and printinghouses. Most were used in agriculture and as domestics.

The lives of slaves and free blacks were highly regulated in Spanish society. Special courts and judges were establish to deal with black issues. The Limpieza de Sangre (Purity of Blood) Laws provided for discrimination of blacks in practically everything. Blacks were not allowed to carry weapons. Their movements were limited.

Blacks experienced great hardship. They had problems finding adequate burial grounds. Black burial dumping grounds have been found outside of Seville. They were persecuted during the Inquisition. Some blacks spewed blasphemy, thinking the inquisitors would treat them better than their masters. Literacy was dependent on the slave masters, who would select slaves based on religious piety. Female slaves were used as prostitutes. Slaves were usually contracted out to do very hazardous and dangerous jobs.

Blacks formed confraternities(confradías de negros) for both free and slave population. These confraternities were the only way blacks could get representation in Spanish society and assistance from each other and other confraternities.

Even with great limitations, black Spaniards were able to achieve success and make contributions in Spanish society during her Golden Age (c.1500-1681). Juan Latino, humanist scholar and author of Austriad and Juan de Pareja, a painter, achieved great success. Black speech or lengua de negro was used in the theaters. Black dancers and entertainers were hired in religious celebrations. Black music and dance influenced greatly Spanish Renaissance music. Some were exported across the Atlantic, like the zarabanda, chacona, guineo, zamba, and mozambique

Free Blacks

Free blacks had difficulty making a living. They were banned from all the professions, church hierarchy, convents for women, universities, and all the trade guilds. Some chose to leave and were among the conquistadors and the ladinos, who helped conquer the new world for Spain.

End of Slavery

Portugal had lost its slave trading territory in Guinea to the Dutch, in the early part of the 1600s, and Seville eventually lost control of its colonies. Slaves became too expensive to import to Spain. Slave importation eventually came to a halt. Slaves now mainly came from Morocco and Algeria. The existing black population eventually were freed and mixed into the general Spanish population. By 1750, blacks cease being an identifiable group. Since being black was a hindrance in Spanish society no attempt was made to preserve any aspect of their African past.   

Slavery did not end in Spain until 1870, with the passing of the Moret Law. The law tried to end slavery and banned the importation of large numbers of blacks into Spain. 


Although importation of black slaves ceased. Afro-Arab populations from North Africa continued to pore into Spain. During the Spanish Civil War(1935-1939), an all Moroccan battalion fought for Spanish interest.

After 1959, with the independence of Equitorial Guinea, population immigration to Spain began. With political instability in the latter part of 1960s, Guinean immigration took off. 

During the 70s, Spain experienced labor shortages. Workers were needed in the low wage sectors. Many undocumented workers from the Maghrib were brought in to work the farms of eastern Andalusia and Catalonia. Dominicans and Guineans were used as domestics.  

In 1998, there were 77,000 blacks in Spain. Other black groups started joining Guineans,  especially Nigerians, and Senegalese.

Current Status

Spanish society has no recollection of its black past. A black person in Spain is something exotic. Spanish society is not use to seeing black people. Blacks are viewed stereotypically, mainly as domestics, poor, un-intelligent, and un-enlightened.

Organization like High Council of Black Communities (Alto Consejo de las Comunidades Negras) addresses issues dealing with the Afroespagnols and tries to make blacks more visible. BIBS (Barcelona International Black Sisters) is a social networking group for black women in Barcelona.

Works Cited

AfroEurope blog. Black People In Spain. 11-Jan-2010. retrieved 24 Nov. 2011

AfroEurope blog.Judi Oshowole On Life in Barcelona. 10-Oct-2010. retrieved 24 Nov. 2011

Delaney, Paul. Africans Say Spanish Show Racist Views.  New York Times, 10-Sept-1987, retrieved 24-Nov-2011

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