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Date: 11/01/2008

The ship La Amistad, a replica of the vessel that was seized on August 26, 1839 in United States territorial waters with more than 50 mutinied slaves on board, is re-enacting the path sailed by these slaves kidnapped from Sierra Leone by Portuguese merchants. The trip, an initiative on the part of American scientists, will visit a total of 22 ports and will stop in Cape Verde on February 24 and 25 on a technical layover that will not include Cidade Velha, once the hub of the international slave trade.

A number of specialists working on the preparation of Cidade Velha’s application as a UNESCO World Heritage Site admitted that they were “perplexed” by the lack of sensibility demonstrated by Cape Verdean authorities, who failed to provide more than superficial awareness regarding Cidade Velha to the American scientists traveling on board the replica of La Amistad.

The ship will arrive in Cape Verde on February 24, but will not stop in Cidade Velha.

The American scientists wish to re-create the trajectory of the more than 50 African slaves who took control of the Spanish ship La Amistad in 1893 after it departed from Cuba, where they had been taken by the Portuguese merchants who had captured them in Sierra Leone.

During the supposed return trip to the slaves’ homeland, La Amistad was seized on August 26, 1839 in United States territorial waters by the ship Washington.

The ship’s capture was followed by a long trial of slave rebel leader Sengbe Pieh and 52 other Africans, which ended in their being freed by the US Supreme Court. The United States’ highest court considered their capture illegal and ordered their liberation and repatriation to the African continent.

A number of American scientists are traveling aboard La Amistad, which had already been to Lisbon (in October of last year) and will anchor for two weeks on Goré island in Senegal. The ship will make a technical stopover in Praia. In the view of local specialists, this stop in Cape Verde “could have been more than just a technical one if authorities had been more agile.”

On board the replica of La Amistad, visitors can observe an exhibition on Sengbe Pieh, the rice farmer who led the revolt, as well as all of the other slaves who in 1839 fought for their freedom and for the dream of seeing their families once again.

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