In No Limits to Their Sway: Cartagena’s Privateers and the Masterless Caribbean in the Age of Revolutions (Vanderbilt University Press, 2018), Edgardo Pérez Morales investigates the hemispheric connections between the Spanish American colony of New Granada (or Colombia) and the greater Caribbean in the wake of the Haitian Revolution. Residents in the port city of Cartagena enjoyed independence from Spain creating a radically egalitarian revolutionary state in the years 1812 to 1815. Seeking to maintain their tenuous liberty while building diplomatic contact with the Republic of Haiti, the port attracted hundreds of Haitians, men of full or partial African ancestry, where they enlisted as privateers and obtained citizenship. Joined by other masterless crew from ports throughout the Atlantic world, these privateers traversed the Caribbean, attacking Spanish ships outside of Cuba to weaken Spanish power. In doing so, these men helped to construct a radical vision of the revolutionary Atlantic where mostly Afro-Caribbean privateers established supranational networks and communities, which supported and disrupted elite political visions. This work offers a perspective of the maritime dimensions of Latin American sovereignty in the age of revolutions.
Sharika Crawford is an associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy.