Trouvadore – A Global Story

Following the Archival Trail

The Trouvadore story crosses national and language barriers. It is not just a story about the Turks and Caicos Islands. Research so far has taken the team to eight countries and three continents, and future research work will probably see more nations becoming involved.


Port of Santiago de Cuba

The story of Trouvadore starts at Santiago de Cuba. From here the ship set sail to Africa to pick up its cargo. Little else is known about the Cuba connection. The archive research there has yet to uncover any of the Trouvadore Story. We know that the captured crew of the Trouvadore was returned to Cuba for trial.

The Bahamas play a pivotal part of the Liberated African story between 1811 and 1860. It was here that many Liberated Africans from shipwrecks and captured slave ships were freed, including the Esperenza, which wrecked off Middle Caicos in 1837.

At the time of the wrecking of Trouvadore the Bahamas Assembly governed the Turks and Caicos Islands on behalf of the British Government. The records show that 24 of the African survivors were taken to Nassau at the same time as the crew from Trouvadore.

Turks and Caicos Islands
The Turks and Caicos Islands is the focal point of the Trouvadore story. The ship wrecked here, the authorities rescued the crew and Africans, and liberated most of the Africans into the local community. The African Legacy is still being explored in the Turks and Caicos Islands.


The British Government governed the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands at the time of the wrecking. Their laws regarding slavery and the African Slave Trade is a principal part of the story. It was the correspondence between the British Government, Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos Islands that revealed most of the story for Trouvadore and put the event into its political and historical context.

The Spanish government had overseas territories, one of which was Cuba. They had also outlawed the African Slave Trade but did not enforce the laws as fervently as the British. Trouvadore was flying the Spanish flag when it sank.

After many of the Spanish crew died during the crossing from Cuba to Africa, they were replaced with Portuguese sailors. The exchange of crew took place at Sao Tome, a Portuguese territory.


Location of Sao Tome (click to enlarge)

Sao Tome
This is the first, and so far only, reference to Trouvadore‘s arrival in Africa. Sao Tome, a Portuguese governed Island, was a slave port for many centuries. We know that Trouvadore picked up new crew here but research is still being undertaken to find out if the cargo of Africans was also picked up here.

Mainland Africa
At present, the research has not uncovered the exact location from where the African survivors were captured. This is an important part of the story. One clue maybe the settlement of Bambarra in Middle Caicos as settlements called “Bambara” can be found in modern day Chad and Mali.

North America

United States of America
The modern day uncovering of the story of Trouvadore started at the Museum of Natural History in New York City when letters written by George Gibbs in 1878 were uncovered. The wooden idols that came fromĀ Trouvadore are on display in the Pacific Gallery of that museum.