Seeking Freedom, Finding News: The Journey of Thomas de la Torre, A Slave in Spanish Florida

Alejandra Dubovsky, History

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In 1686, Thomas de la Torre, a 46-year mulatto slave, joined a Spanish military expedition against Port Royal, South Carolina. While the Spanish forces were defeated by ravaging storms, Thomas survived. The foul weather, however, proved to be only the beginning of his misfortunes; Thomas endured English imprisonment, pirate raids, and Indian threats, before being able to return to St. Augustine. This paper analyzes Thomas de la Torre’s testimony, a previously unexamined Spanish source, which gives insight into both the many forces shaping the colonial southeast and the ways in which an individual could travel and traverse through these contested spaces.

In 1686, Thomas de la Torre, a 46-year mulatto slave, joined a Spanish military expedition against Port Royal, South Carolina. While the Spanish forces were defeated by ravaging storms, Thomas survived. The foul weather, however, proved to be only the beginning of his misfortunes; Thomas endured English imprisonment, pirate raids, and Indian threats, before being able to return to St. Augustine. This paper analyzes Thomas de la Torre’s testimony, a previously unexamined Spanish source, which gives insight into both the many forces shaping the colonial southeast and the ways in which an individual could travel and traverse through these contested spaces.