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Spain & Portugal 2003

The expedition began with a few days completing the European section of the Greenwich meridian line. It passes from France into Spain in the High Pyrenees. We stayed in a hostel 1,300 metres high in Nerin. Our journey took us through the provinces of Aragon and Valencia. We found Greenwich meridian markers at the hilltop town of Barbegal and at El Verger near Denia.

In the second week, we were based in Seville. Our team here consisted of representatives from 11 nations from 4 continents and the sense of unity and reconciliation between us was a very special feature of our time together. We were also most appreciative of the support of Spanish people themselves. We walked in the yokes and chains twice in this city, which was a particularly significant location as it was the first place from which African slaves were taken to the Americas in 1510. There was an excellent response from the media, including radio and TV interviews and articles in El Pais and ABC newspapers. We also visited the town hall, where we presented the councillor we met with a copy of the apology statement from Liverpool City Council. He personally apologised for the city's role in the slave trade to the slave descendants on our team. He stated that the apology statement would be discussed by the city council which he hoped will be followed by a press release.

In a new development for the Lifeline Expedition, a meeting was held at the School of Hispanic and American Studies at which two lectures were given by Dr Enrequita Vila, a specialist in American history and Dr Isidoro Moreno of the Chair of Anthropology at Seville University. It was excellent to have this input from local academics and they were very appreciative of the heartfelt contributions afterwards from our African and African Diaspora representatives.

From our base in Seville, we also visited Palos de la Frontera, the town from which Christopher Columbus sailed in 1492 and Cadiz. In Palos, we walked in chains to the town hall, where we were also warmly received by the deputy mayor, who also called the local TV station. Team member Leo Lobo Pinzon was interviewed in front of the statue of his famous forbear Martin Pinzon, who was the second in command in 1492 voyage! In Cadiz, we also had the opportunity to share our mission with a town councillor. In all the cities we visited we handed out leaflets explaining our actions.

In the final week in Portugal, we were based first at the beautifil city of Lagos. It was here in 1443, that a voyage was made with the intention of capturing slaves in Africa. 235 slaves were captured and, when the ships returned in 1444, they were sold at the site of the old slave market, which still exists, now as an art gallery. For our walk in yokes and chains, we were joined by Portuguese and Angolan representatives. We read excerpts from Asuzara's Chronicles of Guinea, which vividly describes the events of that voyage. As in Seville, we were very aware that this is a key location in terms of the history of Europe's exploitation of Africa. We also visited the Town Hall and spoke with the Mayor and the Head of Culture.

Our last destination was Lisbon. Although ships from Lisbon carried many more slaves to America than cities like Liverpool, Nantes or Amsterdam, there seemed to be very little awareness of this aspect of the city's history. Three young Portuguese people joined us in the yokes and chains, perhaps particularly appropriate in view of the fact that the trade from Angola to Brazil was largely a trade in children and young people. We also had representatives from Guinea-Bissau and Angola as well as several Brazilians. A brief article and photograph appeared the next day in the Diario de Noticias newspaper.

It was a very demanding tour, but the main objectives, to be a team expressing reconciliation, to visit and pray at sites connected with the slave trade, to raise awareness of the issues through leaflet distribution, the media and town hall visits were all achieved. For this, we are profoundly thankful.

Click here for an article about the Lifeline Expedition and the root places of the Atlantic slave trade in Spain and Portugal.


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