How a Cuban Spy Sabotaged New York’s Thriving Illicit Slave Trade

Repeating Islands

John Harris (Smithsonian Magazine) writes about Cuban spy Emilio Sánchez and how, from 1859 to 1862, he helped the British government to fight “the lucrative business [the slave trade] as American authorities looked the other way.”[Many thanks to Odlanyer Hernández de Lara for sharing this item.]

The men of the “Portuguese Company,” about a dozen in total, arrived in 1850s Manhattan ready to bring the illegal slave trade to America’s mega-metropolis. Hailing from Brazil, Portugal and Angola, the group earned their moniker from their common tongue. They were attracted by New York’s large port, with ample ships and sailors, as well as the city’s vast financial services and lax law enforcement. Posing as merchants in legal business, the Company snapped up hundreds of ships to send to Africa for captives and then to the sugar estates of Cuba. The Company would traffic thousands of Africans for their…

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