5. Chafariz d’El-Rei

Mapping Coordinates: 38.7147° N, 9.1388° W
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Status: Uncontested

    Located in a square on the city riverbank, the Chafariz d’El-Rei was the main well of early modern Lisbon. Each day, large numbers of people filled the square, a diverse group from all corners of city’s population. Included in this cross section was enslaved people of African origin, as depicted in a late sixteenth-century painting of the Chafariz d’El-Rei. This representation partially matches written sources from the mid-sixteenth century, for instance the Lisbon census compiled by Portuguese squire and fidalgo of the king, João Brandão de Buarcos. A similar image is evoked by eyewitness accounts of people of African origin found in a long section of a book about the natural history of Portugal by the German scholar Leonhard Thurneysser zum Thurn, who himself visited Lisbon in 1555-56.  

From the archives

Enslaved people carrying heavy loads (1555-56) 
…in Lisbon, in its squares and markets, they take upon themselves often the most unbelievable weights, and carry such large and heavy loads, that to say or to write about it would be seen as impossible to believe…

(Leonhard Thurneysser zum Thurn, Verzeichnus unnd Beschreibung etzlicher Kreütter, Stauden unnd Früchten, so fürnemlich inn Lusitania befunnden [Index and Description of Various Herbs, Shrubs and Fruits That Can Be Mostly Found in Portugal], in Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Ms. Germ. Fol. 97, trans. by Thomas Horst and Bernardo Jerosch Herold) 
… zu Lysabon an gemeinenn Ortten oder Märckthen, offtmals unglaublich[e] Last auf sich nehmen, vnnd ein grosse schwere Burde tragenn, das sonnst zu sagen oder zu schreiben doch fast vngleüblich zu sein ansehen last…

Enslaved women carrying jugs and baskets (1552)
I tried to get the best information I could and found that 1,000 black women go around carrying [on their heads] jugs filled with water from the King’s Fountain and other parts. They earn 40 reis each. They pay 25 reis to their owners and the rest goes to them and their food, because they pay for their own lunch and have dinner in the house of their owners. And the profit of these enslaved women is 40,000 reis per day, which corresponds to 27,000 cruzados per year. 

There are 1,000 black women who carry [on their heads] jugs and wooden bowls, selling water all around the city.

Likewise, there are 1,000 black women who go around carrying [on their heads] a basket, and since they are of lower quality, I would say that they are worth 30 reis per day, which corresponds to 30,000 reis, and 20,250 cruzados per year, only considering the working days.

There are 1,000 black women who go around the city carrying [on their heads] a basket, and clean the city.

(João Brandão, Estátistica de Lisboa, in Lisbon, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Fundo Geral, Cod. 679) 

Trabalhei por me informar o melhor que pude, e achei que andam ao pote, a carretar água do chafariz de V. Alteza e doutras partes, 1.000 negras. As quais ganham dois vinténs cada uma. Porque delas pagam a seus senhores um vintém, vinte e cinco rs; e o mais que ganham é para si e seu comer, porque de dia comem à sua custa e de noite em casa dos senhores. E vale por dia o ganho destas escravas quarenta mil rs, e por ano vinte e sete mil cruzados.

Tem 1000 negras que andam ao pote e quartas, vendendo água por toda a cidade.

Da mesma maneira andam 1.000 negras de canastra, e porque são de mais baixo espírito que as que andam à água, lhe dou a trinta rs por dia, que valem por dia trinta mil rs, e por ano, nos dias de trabalhos, vinte mil e duzentos e cinquenta cruzados.

Tem 1000 negras que andam pela cidade com canastra, alimpando a cidade.