Pedro Dionisio Muñoz de Carballo arrived to Havana sometime in the late 1770s or early 1780s. Born to an enslaved mother from Angola and a Spanish father in Extremadura, Spain, he began a long career in the port city with the operation of three paint and general merchandise stores. Muñoz’s first business venture also landed him in trouble. In 1791, Francisco José Basabe y Cárdenas, the mayor of the Havana, began criminal proceedings against Muñoz for having sold paint and other substances “indistinctly” that had been used by enslaved men and women to poison their masters.
In an article in progress, I examine the proceedings in two primary aspects. First, they form a singular archival source that illuminates the social landscape of the painters who worked in Havana at the time, many also free men of color. The painters testify about their community and relationships with Muñoz. Secondly, the proceedings register the increasing “talk about Haiti” that circulated in Cuba following the outbreak of slave rebellions in the neighboring French colony of Saint Domingue. Spanish and creole elites in Cuba feared similar uprisings might occur there.
I’ve also compiled a StoryMap to begin mapping some of Muñoz’s life in Havana, beginning with the three stores he operated.