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America's History in the Making

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Juan Garrido's Memoir to Charles V of Spain, 1538

I, Juan Garrido, black resident [de color negro vecino] of this city [Mexico], appear before Your Mercy and state that I am in need of making a probanza to the perpetuity of the king [a perpetuad rey], a report on how I served Your Majesty in the conquest and pacification of this New Spain, from the time when the Marqués del Valle [Cortés] entered it; and in his company I was present at all the invasions and conquests and pacifications which were carried out, always with the said Marqués, all of which I did at my own expense without being given either salary or allotment of natives [repartimiento de indios] or anything else. As I am married and a resident of this city, where I have always lived; and also as I went with the Marqués del Valle to discover the islands which are in that part of the southern sea [the Pacific] where there was much hunger and privation; and also as I went to discover and pacify the islands of San Juan de Buriquén de Puerto Rico; and also as I went on the pacification and conquest of the island of Cuba with the adelantado Diego Velázquez; in all these ways for thirty years have I served and continue to serve Your Majesty—for these reasons stated above do I petition Your Mercy. And also because I was the first to have the inspiration to sow maize [wheat] here in New Spain and to see if it took; I did this and experimented at my own expense.

Matthew Restall, "Black Conquistadors: Armed Africans in Early Spanish America," in The Americas, vol. 57, no. 2 (October 2000), 171—205.

Creator Juan Garrido
Context Juan Garrido was an African who participated in the conquest of Mexico, settled there, and became impoverished by the late 1540s.
Audience The Spanish Crown
Purpose To win financial support for himself and his family

Historical Significance

Juan Garrido was an African (though perhaps one born in Spain) who came to the Americas in about 1510, probably as a servant or slave. He participated, with other Africans, in the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán in 1521 and lived in Mexico City for many years, where he owned African and Indian slaves and struggled to prosper. He was evidently the first person in the Americas to plant wheat, a European plant that the Spanish preferred to corn. Garrido was one of a small but important group of Africans in early Spanish America.


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