Friday Miscellany: The “Economics” of Native American Slavery

Diving bell 17th secWhile I was researching the wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha, I was touched by one report that about half of the treasure was salvaged by the Spanish after the Atocha and her sister ship, the Margarita, sank in a hurricane off the coast of Florida Keys in 1622. Their methods were primitive, but effective. The cost, however, was the loss of life of the Native American slaves.

After the surviving ships brought the news of the disaster back to Havana, Spanish authorities dispatched another five ships to salvage the Atocha and the Santa Margarita which had run aground near where the Atocha sank. The Atocha had sunk in approximately 55 feet of water, making it difficult for divers to retrieve any of the cargo or guns from the ship. A second hurricane in October of that year made attempts at salvage even more difficult by scattering the wreckage of the ship still further.

Nevertheless, the Spaniards undertook salvage operations for several years using their Native American slaves. They recovered nearly half of the registered part of the rich treasure from the holds of the Margarita. The Spanish used a large brass diving bell with a glass window on one side. A slave would ride to the bottom, recover an item, and be hauled to the surface by the men on deck. It was often lethal, but more or less effective. Dead slaves were recorded as a business expense by the captains of salvage ships.

Unlike the Portugese who supported slavery, the Spanish monarchs abolished “slavery” soon after the Spanish established colonies in the Americas. The traditional slavery was replaced by the encomienda which regulated the use of Native Americans and to reward individual Spaniards for services to the crown.

In the encomienda system, the Spanish crown granted a person a specified number of natives of a specific community, with the indigenous leaders in charge of mobilizing the assessed tribute and labor. The receiver of the grant was to protect the natives from warring tribes and to instruct them in the Spanish language. In return they could extract tribute from the natives in the form of labor, gold, or other products.

In practice, the difference between encomienda and slavery could be minimal. The natives, whose populations had already been decimated by European diseases, were worked hard and gained little. Natives were forced to do hard labor and subjected to extreme punishment and death if they resisted. The enslaved natives were often displaced of those enslaved and the communities and family units broken up.

The Bishop of Santiago justified the practice in a report in 1544:

In the past the treatment [of the Indians] was very bad; now [it is better] because they are needed, since the Spaniards are supported by their services, and if they are treated harshly, they hang themselves or let themselves die. They do not give much work, especially when they extract gold, since they are given good sustenance and a real [silver coin] every day. If they were free they would just be idle and fight, which would cause the loss of  lives, souls, and the property of the settlers, and Your Majesty would lose the island. Although this does not produce revenue now, it is important to preserve it, and if the Indians were freed, within two years there would be few [settlers] left in the towns of Puerto del Principe, Sanctispiritus, Trinidad, Baracoa, and even Bayamo. Thus the latter and Havana would be the only towns left, and the island would become impassable because the thick-ness of its forests would close the roads, though Your Majesty would not have to pay the governor, bishop, clergy, or officials, since we would all leave.

Bishop of Santiago,

Report on his inspection of Cuba, 1544



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Thursday Redux: Keith Wayne McCoy’s Meet Jess Bennett

Keith Wayne McCoy is my first guest on Thursday Redux , where my favorite authors share their favorite posts. “Meet Jess Bennett” was first published by Keith as a character interview on fantasy author Olga Godim’s Blog on March 10th, 2014.

Meet Jess Bennett, a 78 years old protagonist of The Travelers, an urban fantasy novel by Keith Wayne McCoy.

1. Tell me a little about yourself—your name, profession, where you live, do you have a family, the usual.

My name is Jess Bennett and I am 78 years old. I was born and raised in a flat in London, England. World War II gave me an American GI named James to fall in love with and marry. After the war, we left England and my mother for New York on the ship of our destiny, the QUEEN MARY. We left Southampton with only each other but arrived in New York as a family after a North Atlantic encounter with an otherworldly, desperate mother and her two small children. My life began on that voyage.

2. What happened to you, so you ended up in this crazy adventure the novel talks about?

We began a life in southern Illinois in Jim’s ancestral Victorian farmhouse. It was heaven on earth, and I had never been happier. But when we lost our children just nine months apart, I fell off the path of the living and descended into the deathly world of bitterness and hostility. Losing just one of them would have been pain enough but both was simply too much, like a double amputation. My marriage disintegrated and despair leveled any hope of a normal existence and I became a recluse. Now, decades later, this young black filmmaker has brought Jim and I together again for a final reunion with that poor mother who has returned to shut doors all older mortals contemplate.

3. What is your biggest regret?

I lost the love of my life. I am happy Jim remarried but I absolutely hate his second wife because she has my man. I’ve never been with another man but have no one to blame for losing him except myself. I actually freed him because I knew I would never be the same. It was the hardest choice I’ve ever made, brave I tell myself, but it was necessary. But this young man has given me this final chance to find my way after all these decades and all I need before I die is to see that woman.



The Travelers

In 1947, the Queen Mary transmits a message which is intercepted by extraterrestrial intelligence. This errant radio signal serves as a beacon for a North Atlantic encounter between James and Jess Bennett, a GI and his war bride, and an otherworldly, desperate mother and her two small children.

In the present day, Guy Turner, a melancholy, black filmmaker, finds himself at the center of a supernatural mystery after a haunting prelude with the now elderly mother in a corridor aboard the retired liner in Long Beach, California. Standing at the edge of eternity, the old woman and the Bennetts have the complex task of setting certain aspects of the past in order as the doors to their lives are closing.

Guy is thrust into an unexpected and unwanted voyage of self-discovery as he is solely enjoined to bring the three together one last time.


Thank you for visiting, Keith. The buy info and links for The Travelers and Keith’s webpage and social media contacts are listed below:

Buy The Travelers at any of these sites: Amazon  / Barnes & Noble / Champagne Book Group

Note:  Visit Keith Wayne McCoy’s blog at where he shares some of his magnificent collection of Queen Mary memorabilia. Rita

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Wednesday’s Words: Mel Fisher, Treasure Hunter Extraordinaire

“TODAY’S THE DAY!” (Mel Fisher’s Motto)

Mel Fisher3Mel Fisher (1922 – 1998) spent sixteen years searching for the wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”), the most famous of the Spanish ships lost in a hurricane in 1622. It was a royal guard galleon with 40 tons of gold and silver aboard which sank in a devastating hurricane along with others in 1622.

After they found the ship in 1985, in keeping with his “today’s the day!” optimism, Mel commented later:

“I think that perseverance has paid. That’s one of the main things, just hang in there and do your thing and when people try to tear you down or get jealous, just let it go in one ear and out the other and keep on going.”

To learn more about Mel and his family and their enterprise check out their webpage Interested parties can dive one of the wrecks or buy some of the treasures.

(On a personal note, after the treasure was discovered, I attended a tour of the Atocha treasures when it was shown at a jewelry store in Mobile, AL (my home town) .  Kicking self now because I didn’t buy some of the coins which were for sale for MUCH less than they cost today.)

Photo of Mel Fisher from
Tomorrow, Thursday Redux



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The Wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha

Atoche shipNuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”) was the most famous ship of a fleet of Spanish  twenty-eight ships caught in a late-summer hurricane in 1622. The ship, built in Havana in 1620, was a three-masted galleon of 500 tons constructed of mahogany. She was 113 feet long and carried twenty guns with a crew of one hundred and ten. The Atocha sank off the Florida Keys in approximately fifty-five feet of water, but was never located by the Spanish when they attempted to salvage the sunken fleet.

The ship, named for the parish of Atocha in Madrid, carried copper, silver, gold, tobacco, gems, jewels, jewelry, and indigo. The Atocha had remained in Veracruz longer than planned before rendezvousing in Havana with the vessels of the Tierra Firme (Mainland) Fleet. The treasure arriving by mule to Panama City had been so immense that it took 2 months to record and load the precious cargo.

imagesULU8B9JLAfter more delays, the fleet, including the Atocha, left Havana on September 4th.  Two days out, the Atocha was driven by a severe hurricane onto the coral reefs off the Dry Tortugas – about thirty-five miles west of Key West.  With her hull badly damaged, the vessel sank quickly, drowning everyone on board except for three sailors and two slaves.

When the surviving ships reported the loss, the Spanish attempted to salvage the ships. Over ten years, the Spanish managed to retrieve about half the treasure from the Santa Magarita which had run aground. A second hurricane in October hampered salvage attempts by scattering the wreckage. The loss of the fleet forced Spain to borrow money and sell several galleons to finance the Thirty Years War.

Tomorrow, Wednesday’s Words: Mel Fisher, Treasure Hunter Extraordinaire



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This Week in History: The Treasure Ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha

Atocha mapThis Week in History the discovery of  Nuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”) on July 20, 1985 is rivaled only by the King Tut’s treasure. Mel Fisher and his investors in Treasure Salvors had searched for the wreck for over sixteen years. Imagine the celebration when Mel’s son, Kane, radioed the news from the salvage boat Dauntless to Treasure Salvors headquarters on the Florida coast when the wreck was discovered.

Nuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”) sank in 1622 off the Florida Keys while carrying an estimated $400,000,000 in treasure. In 1980 Fisher had salvaged part of the Atocha’s sister ship, Santa Margarita,  which had run aground in the same storm, but the Spanish had managed to salvage much of it already. The Spanish, however, had been unable to locate the Atocha with its treasure of silver, gold, and emeralds.

GoldUnderwaterThe professional divers were working for  minimum wage when they found the treasure which included stacks of silver bars, chests of silver coins, gold, jewels, and thousands of other unique artifacts from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha. The forty tons of salvaged coins, both gold and silver, were minted primarily between 1598 and 1621.

After the discovery, the Florida claimed title to the wreck and forced Fisher into a contract giving 25% of the found treasure to the state. After eight years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Fisher in July, 1992.

Atoche goldWhat now? The sterncastle, the part of the ship that would hold most of the gold and emeralds, is still missing from the shipwreck. These and other valuable items would have been stored in the Captain’s cabin for safekeeping in the rear part of the Atocha. In June 2011, Fisher treasure divers from found an antique emerald ring believed to be from the wreck of the Spanish ship. The ring is worth an estimated $500,000. The ring was found 35 miles from Key West with two silver spoons and other artifacts. Who knows what else lies beneath the waves?

Tomorrow, The Wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha


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Rita Bay Visits An Author’s Desk

Today, I (Rita Bay) am  the featured author at An Author’s Desk on my own blog. After so many guests have dropped by, it’s about time that I stepped up and bared my own author’s soul. I’m  a multi-genre writer  of romance who is happily published by Champagne Book Group (Paranormal/Fantasy), Secret Cravings Publishing (Contemporary Military), Siren BookStrand (Historical), and – most recently – a romantic comedy scorcher with Liquid Silver Books. I’ll also share a bit about my writing and work area, my current works in progress, and my upcoming books.

Rita's DesksmMY PLACE TO WRITE. The picture of my office on the right probably tells more than I intended. I write beside an antique mahogany Empire library table, kicked back in a traditional office chair with my laptop in my lap. All the nice things a mildly OCD writer needs – an antique carved soapstone pen holder, a high-tech multi-purpose lamp and a revolving desk caddy, folders for everything, binders for business, Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, and a set of  mini-filing drawers – sit on top of the desk. The bookcase contains my reference books with antique family pieces – irons, cobbler’s stand, and electrical glass insulators – serving as bookends. Not seen in the picture are two filing cabinets, a large pigeon-holed divider, and two additional bookcases.

MY WRITING. As for writing, I’m a plotter who occasionally deviates from the scene tracker when the story demands it. I’ve just finished edits for Conquering Cupid (the first story in a humorous mythological contemporary series – “Cupid’s Back in Town” contracted with Champagne Book Group) which will be released in December AND for The Caretaker’s Lady, a scorching hot contemporary romantic comedy from Liquid Silver Books which will be released in September. My current works in progress include The Alpha’s Prey, the third novella in the Lyons’ Den series with Champagne, and The Twelfth Night Queen - a Regency Christmas story.

The humorous, Greek mythology-based, contemporary erotic series “Cupid’s Back in Business” evolved from Her Teddy Bare (See cover), a sexy, humorous novella published by Champagne in their erotic series, “Aphrodite’s Island.” Check out the blurb for Conquering Cupid.

FINALHerTeddyBare_600x900Love and lust, the perfect mix for a happily ever after. When popular artist Diana Harper dumped her cheating fiancé and accepted an invitation “to attend a private event at Miss A’s island retreat to experience your most secret dreams and fondest fantasies,” her hostess gave her Teddy as an “attendant.” Despite his best efforts, Teddy is no submissive. Diana, however, plays his game for the profound passion, the best sex ever, and love that could last a lifetime.

Billionaire philanthropist Theodore Cooper “Coop” Bareston III fell in love with Diana when he saw her working out at his elite gym in New York City. He was willing to do anything to win her love, including wearing a skimpy thong in his “Teddy” role and posing nude in chains when Di’s interest in her art revived. As the sexual tension builds and passions explode, Teddy discovers he is intensely aroused by  playing the submissive to his Di’s dome.

After moving into Coop’s East Side penthouse, Diana is sucked into a world inhabited by supernatural denizens with powers beyond her imagination. Can she survive the challenges confronting her to live in Coop’s world or will she turn her back on the extraordinary destiny within her grasp?

You can read an excerpt/buy Her Teddy Bare before the series is released HERE.



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 Capuchin-Catacombs-670x472Catacombs are underground cemeteries with subterranean galleries with recesses for interments. They are spread over Western Europe. Some are religious; some are in cities that can no longer provide burial space for its residents.

Capuchin-Catacombs-The catacombs of Palermo were created in the 16th century by the Capuchin Monastery to house the deceased monks. In 1599 the monks mummified the first of their brothers and put him in the catacombs. Most of the monks were interred standing in their robes. Unlike little Rosalia – the expertly embalmed last resident to be interred, the standard method of preservation was to open up the corpse shortly after death and remove all the vital organs. The body would be stuffed with hay, and left in the sun to dry up. Some corpses, though odorless, have hay poking through their necks and falling out of holes in their skin.

crypt-capuchin-mummies_2945_600x450Centuries later, area citizens paid to be interred in the catacombs. Some even asked that their clothes be changed periodically. Most are arranged in galleries, either standing or reclining on shelves. A few or stored in trunks. Of the 8,000 inhabitants of the catacombs, just about 1,000 have been identified, with both their dates of birth and of death.

Horror-TourA personal note: I’ve visited a monastery in Southern Italy where most of the brothers’ bones have been used to create designs on the wall and ceiling. One brother spent most of his life creating the  “artwork.” To be honest, the monks still wearing their clothing and praying were more macabre.

Monday, Treasure Ship: Nuestra Señora de Atocha


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Thursday Redux #1 An Exclusive Interview with Miss Jane Austen

Thursday Redux is a new feature on my blog where authors share their favorite post, the story behind it, a blurb, and their links.

The story behind my favorite post. I wrote An Exclusive Interview with Miss Jane Austen for a group blog – Southern Sizzle Romance, when a guest blogger backed out a few hours before her post was scheduled to go up. I had recently read a collection of some of Jane Austen’s recently released letters and used excerpts of her letters for the answers to my interview questions. It’s far longer than most of my posts, but remains a favorite. Rita.

Wishing to share one of my favorite blogs for the introduction of my blog’s new feature – Thursday Redux, I determined to invite an incomparable guest to share her thoughts on writing and publishing. I retrieved my well worn Ouija board from the basement where it has resided for decades, dusted it off, and once again invoked the spirit of one whom every writer of romance esteems above all others. Miss Jane Austen, the genetrix of all writers of romance, graciously consented to an interview to be published as the first Thursday Redux blog (minus the references). Allow me to present Jane in her own words.

Miss Austen, could you share your thoughts on writing romance? “I could no more write a Romance than an Epic Poem.–I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life, & if it were indispensable for me to keep it up & never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first Chapter.”

But you have had great success with your books. I hesitate to mention gauche matters such as money but I understand that your books are selling rather well. “You will be glad to hear that every Copy of S.&S. is sold & that it has brought me £140–besides the Copyright, if that should ever be of any value.–I have now therefore written myself into £250.–which only makes me long for more.”

In my humble opinion, your literary endeavors merit the highest approbation. What has been your experience of the matter?  ” . . . there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labor of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.”

I appreciate your support of your fellow authors and admire your insistence on upholding only the highest standards in literary endeavors.  I should not have been surprised, therefore, to discover that you have been very hard on your critique partner, your niece Anna.  Her “Henry Mellish I am afraid will be too much in the common Novel style–a handsome, amiable, unexceptionable Young Man (such as do not much about in real Life) desperately in Love, & all in vain. But I have no business to judge him so early.” And her “Devereux Forester’s being ruined by his Vanity is extremely good; but I wish she would not let him plunge into a ‘vortex of Dissipation’. I do not object to the Thing, but I cannot bear the expression;–it is such thorough novel slang–and so old, that I dare say Adam met with it in the first novel he opened.”

I find your Elizabeth Bennet entrancing. Do you have a personal favorite? “I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.”

Have you considered following the emerging trends in the romance market? “No–I must keep to my own style & go on in my own Way; And though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.”

Miss Austen, please accept my sincere appreciation for visiting. I regret that you will be unable to respond to comments and I would never presume to channel you, so return to your blissful sleep content in the knowledge that you are the idol of many and exceeded by none.

Source of Jane Austen’s Quotations: Daily wit and inspiration from Austen, compiled by Lori Smith, author of A Walk with Miss Jane Austen


Duchess in Waiting is an erotic Regency romance, a Siren Classic which contains voyeurism, light consensual BDSM, and support characters (a dominatrix and her lover employed at the local brothel) who try to steal the story, but settle for educating the Duchess. Check out the cover (by Harris Channing), blurb, and buy info below.

CLICK TO READ EXCERPT/BUYIt’s not nice to keep a lady waiting. Lady Ellen Hammond languished for years at Madame Foret’s Academy for Young Ladies while her fiancé and guardian, the Duke of Ralston, enjoyed a rake’s life in London. When she must return to England to escape the violence of the Revolution, she decides that the life of a long-suffering duchess-in-waiting is not for her.

Posing as a valet, Devon Townsley, the Duke of Ralston, accompanies Robert Montclair to Paris to rescue Ellen and her English friends. Unprepared to settle down, he wants to discover if his fiancée will make a suitable duchess. He has his doubts when he must rescue her from captivity in a brothel.

Determined to settle her business in London and travel the world, Ellen finds romance and passion with Rob’s aggravating valet, Tobias Stanford. When sparks ignite between the two and burst into a passionate affair, Devon reconsiders his commitment to living a rake’s life. He discovers, however, that his deceit has a high price.

Buy or read an XXcerpt at my Siren BookStrand AUTHOR PAGE that includes all of my stories or at general ebook outlets. AMAZON / KOBO / NOOK



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Wednesday’s Words: A Famous Quote that Voltaire Never Wrote

VoltaireThe famous quote attributed to French author, humanist, and satirist Voltaire (1694 – 1778)
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
was not actually written by him. Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing as S. G. Tallentyre, wrote it as a summary of his philosophy in her essay in “The Friends of Voltaire” in 1906.

Voltaire did write in his Essay on Tolerance
“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.”

Voltaire, who was born François-Marie Arouet, also wrote in a letter to M. le Riche (February 6, 1770)
“Monsieur l’abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.”
Tomorrow, Thursday Redux: An Interview with Miss Jane Austen



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Discover History: Rosalia, The Sleeping Mummy

When two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo died from pneumonia in 1920, her grieving father wished her body to be preserved in death. Rosalia, one of the world’s best-preserved mummies, has become the most famous of the 8,000 mummies in the catacombs (below grown passages that are used as a burial place) of the Capuchin convent in Palermo, Sicily.

While most of the bodies in the catacombs are naturally dried. Little Rosalia was embalmed by Alfredo Salafia, a Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer, never revealed the chemicals used in his preservative. Salafia did his job so well that Rosalia, with blonde curls and blue eyes, appears sleep wrapped in a blanket.

rosalieIn 2009 Salafia’s formula was discovered. It contains: “one part glycerin, one part formalin saturated with both zinc sulfate and chloride, and one part of an alcohol solution saturated with salicylic acid.” The formalin kills bacteria, glycerin keeps her body from over-drying, salicylic acid kills fungi, and zinc salts petrified Rosalia’s body.

Recently, Rosalia was placed in a new glass coffin which will further protect her body from the ravages of time. As for little Rosalia’s eyes opening and closing throughout the day, scientists claim that it’s an illusion created as light moves through the catacombs through vents. Judge for yourself.

Read more about the Capuchin mummies and see more pictures HERE.

Tomorrow, Voltaire Misquoted.


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