In 1503, with the conquest and colonization of the island, the Spanish began to import large numbers of African slaves to replace the native labor, greatly reduced by wars, brutal working conditions and epidemics. About 80 or 90% of the native population died in the first century of the conquest. Meanwhile between 1492 and 1870 some 30,000 Africans were imported to the current Dominican territory to be devoted to sugar.
In 1503, arrived the first African slaves to the Española Island, mostly to the present Dominican Republic, since Spain had largely neglected the west of the island. This first slaves were Black “Ladinos”, i.e. born in Spain and Christianized and arrived as servants for the home of the island´s Spanish elite.
However, the number of slaves imported to the island was already sufficient for developed rebellions and escapes to the mountains by themselves. The rebels Africans lived with the indigenous in shelters away from urban centers. Even so, in 1510, were imported to the island others 250 Ladino slaves and in 1511, arrived others 5.000 African slaves to the shores of the island. In addition, with the establishment of the world’s first sugar mill on the Española island in 1516, the importation of African slaves greatly increased.
The slaves brought to Santo Domingo came from various parts of Africa and therefore belonged to different cultures. Although in the early days the slaves were Ladino, as traffic and intensified trade and colonial authorities demanded more slave labor for plantations and other housekeeping, were allowed introduction of black “bozales”, i.e. slaves imported directly from Africa. In 1522 took place on the island, the first major slave rebellion, rebellion led by 20 Muslims of Wolof origin, originating from Senegal, in an ingenio (sugar factory) of east of Santo Domingo island Many of the insurgents fled to the mountains and established what would become the first autonomous community African Maroon in America.
However, after the success of this revolt, slave revolts continued to emerge. So, emerged some leaders of African slaves, although already baptized by the Spanish, as is the case of Juan Vaquero, Diego de Guzmán and Diego del Campo. His rebellion led many slaves to flee their oppressors and establish many communities in the South West, North and East of the island, causing the first arrival of slaves, but free, in the current Haiti (remember that although this part of the island was also Spanish until 1697, when it was sold to France, had no Spanish people living in it).
This caused some concern among slaveholders and contributed to the Spanish emigration to other places. Thus, although sugarcane increased profitability in the island, the number of imported slaves who fled into it, continued to rise, mixing with Taíno indigenous of these regions. So, in 1530, Maroon bands already were considered dangerous to the Spanish colonists, so they had to carry large armed groups to travel outside the plantations and leaving the large part of the center and north of the island, very mountainous regions, where the Maroons lived (it was so, until 1654 with the conquest of Jamaica by Corsairs of British Admiral William Penn and general Robert Venables).
However, due to the discovery of precious metals in South America, the Spanish abandoned their migration to the island of Santo Domingo to emigrate to South America and Mexico in order to get rich, for they did not find much wealth in Santo Domingo. Thus, also abandoned the slave trade, that is, they stopped exporting slaves to the island. This led to the collapse of the colony in poverty. Anyway, during those years, slaves were forced to build a cathedral that in time became the most oldest in America. They build their monastery, first hospital and the Alcázar de Colón. In the 1540s, the Spanish authorities ordered the African slaves building a wall to defend the city from attacks by pirates who ravaged the islands. They also built the Puerta de las Lamentaciones (in Spanish: Gate of Mercy).
After 1700, with the arrival of new Spanish colonists, African slaves imported was renovated. In both plantations and isolated villages of runaways from east of the island, the population began to focus more on livestock and the importance of racial caste division was reduced, so that began to develop a mix between the Spanish colonists, African slaves and the natives of this part from Santo Domingo. This domain mixing together the social, cultural and economic European element will form the basis of national identity of Dominicans. It is estimated that the population of the colony in 1777 was 400,000, of which 100,000 were Europeans and Criollos, 60,000 African, 100.000 mestizo s, 60,000 Zambos and 100,000 mulatto.
At the end of the eighteenth century, arrived also to Spanish Santo Domingo, fugitive slaves from the French colony of the western part of the island, usually composed of black fugitives, escaped from the rigors of their masters, and that fed the Spanish colony since the time initial establishment of the French on the island. These slaves came directly from Africa, and in some cases they even form communities such as San Lorenzo de Los Mina, who is now district or sector of the city of Santo Domingo. Also, coming slaves from other parts of the West Indies, especially from the Lesser Antilles, dominated by French, English, Dutch, etc.
In 1801 Haitian leader Toussaint Louverture, who had occupied the east of Santo Domingo, abolished slavery in the place, as had happened in the west of the island, freeing about 40,000 slaves, and prompting most people who formed the elite of that part of the island flee to Cuba and Puerto Rico. However, when the Spanish recovered it, Spanish Santo Domingo re-established slavery in 1809. During those years, the French governor Ferrand imported a second group of Haitian slaves, brought by in order to use them in founding the Puerto Napoleon (Samana), French colonial enclave. There was no running for the defeat of the French.
The abolition of the slavery was made in 1822, during the Haitian occupation of the Dominican territory, started in February, 1822. Between 1824, began to arrived African American freed people to Santo Domingo, benefiting from the favorable pro-African immigration policy of Haitian president Jean Pierre Boyer since 1822. This settlers were established in Puerto Plata Province and the Samaná Peninsula —then under Haitian administration. They were called Samaná Americans. Later, in 1844, two Afro Dominicans, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Matías Ramón Mella, freed the country alongside with Juan Pablo Duarte, of Haitian domain.
More late, between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, was developed a traffic black workers from the British West Indies in the first third of this century to work in the sugar plantations of the east of the island, and whose descendants are known today with the name of Cocolos.
After, many Haitian people began to settle in the Dominican Republic, a migration that has continued until today.
The Atlantic slave trade involved nearly all of Africa’s west coast inhabitants to be forcibly taken to the new world. Most Dominican slaves tended to come from mostly the Kongo people of West-Central Africa (present-day Angola, Republic of Congo, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), along with the Igbo (originating from west from Nigeria), Yoruba, Akan and Mandinka tribes.
Others African ethnic groups arrived to Spanish Santo Domingo during the slavery´s period were: Wolof (imported from Senegal), Aja (also called Ararás in Santo Domingo and imported from Dahomey, current Benin), Ambundu (from the Kingdom of Ndongo, in north Angola), Bran (originating from Brong-Ahafo Region, west from Ghana), Fulbe, Kalabari (originating from slave port from Calabar, in Nigeria), Terranova (slaves bought probably in Porto-Novo, Benin), Zape (originating from Sierra Leone), Bambara and Biafada (this latter was originating from Guinea-Bissau) people.
The Wolof were imported to Spanish Santo Domingo from Senegal in the first half of the sixteenth century, until the import of this ethnic group was prohibited after his rebellion in 1522. Many of the slaves were also Ajas, usually taken in Whydah, Benin. The Ajas arrived in Santo Domingo, were well known for having made religious brotherhoods, integrated exclusively for them, as the call San Cosme and San Damian.