Reclaiming the bones: The African Cemetery on Higgs Beach, Key West
I know that we must reclaim the bones in the Atlantic Ocean. Do you know that there is not a plaque, a memorial, a day, a ritual or an hour that is erected in memorial to those one hundred million bodies in the Atlantic Ocean? All those African bones in briny deep. All those people who said “no” and jumped ship. All those people who tried to figure out a way to steer, to navigate amongst the sharks. We don’t call upon that power. We don’t call upon those spirits. We don’t celebrate those ancestors. We don’t have a marker, an expression, a song that we use to acknowledge them. We have nothing to indicated that those were our people and they mattered! We willingly self-administer knockout drops. More horrendous is the fact that we dont tap; we don’t tap into the ancestral presence in those waters. [Toni Cade Bambara]
The boat was relatively large (see annimation link below) but had no cover or shade. There appears to have been some chaos around the departure of the boat as apparently the Spaniard in charged jumped ship at the last minute. 5 of the Senegalese also left the boat and another got scared after the boat set off and jumped out and swam back to shore. He managed to get his money back from the Spanish “pirate” and later made a report to the police.
The boat is thought to have gone past Mauritania but when it reached Nuadibu (Nouadhibou, Mauritania ) there was a storm and they lost control of the boat. They then started to call friends and family. One of the people they called was the Spanish pirate. A few hours later they were rescued by another boat which towed them to the middle of the ocean and then abandoned them. They only had 40 litres of fuel which ran out plus they had to cope with storms and high seas of the Atlantic.
According to the medical report the people died in the first month. There were a series of storms, the first on January 6th then one approximately every 10 days and with the high winds they were pushed towards Barbados over the 4 month period. The people died of hunger and thirst with bodies being thrown overboard one by one as they died.
Some messages were found on the boat.
“I don’t think I will live (survive) — please call my friend”
“I am from Senegal, I was living 1 year in Cabo Verde. Things are going very badly. I don’t think I will survive. I need the person who finds me to send this money to my family. Please call my friend Ibrahima Drame on this number…” signed Diaw Sounkar Diemi. He left 1300 euros.
The boat was found 76 miles off Ragged Point in the St Phillips parish in SE Barbados with 11 bodies more or less mummified of the 47 who had left Cabo Verde 4 months earlier. The authorities used the telephone messages to reconstruct the story. The 11 bodies are in Bridgetown mortuary
Haitians arriving in the US have always been subjected to discriminatory immigration policies compared with those arriving from Cuba or Venezuela, dating back to the 1980s when all Cubans and Haitians were labeled “Cuban-Haitian entrants”. Decisions on entry were discretionary and left to the Attorney-General and no surprise Haitians – fleeing from the Jean-Claude Duvalier [Baby Doc] regime and poverty were the ones refused entry whilst Cubans fleeing from Castro were not. Later under President Reagan, Haitians were further subjected to humiliating and discriminatory treatment when Duvalier and the US government sanctioned the search of Haitian ships on the high seas. In November 1997, the US Congress passed the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act [NACARA], which allowed Nicaraguans and Cubans to become legal citizens as well as other Central America and Easter European citizens, Haitians were not included.