They were referred to as negros ladinos ("cultivated" or "latinized Blacks"), as opposed to negros bozales ("bosal Blacks", i.e. those captured in Africa. The Ladinos' skills granted them a higher price than those of bozales.
Prior to the arrival of Columbus to the Americas, there were Black people who either lived as free men, were brought through the Arab slave trade, or the Castilian or Portuguese colonization of Africa. After some time in Spanish society, those Africans became Christianized and learned Spanish. There were 50,000 Black Ladinos in Spain in the 15th century.
After the initial stages of the Spanish colonization of the Americas showed that Amerindians were not suitable for the labour that the conquerors required (mainly due to the Eurasian illnesses unknown in the Americas), Nicolás de Ovando decided to bring slaves from Spain. Between 1502 and 1518, Castile exiled hundreds of black slaves, primarily to work as miners. Opponents of their enslavement cited their Christian faith and their repeated attempts of escape to the mountains or to join the Native Americans in revolt. Proponents declared that the rapid diminution of the Native American population required a consistent supply of reliable low-cost workers. Free Spaniards were reluctant to do manual labor or to remain settled (especially after the discovery of gold on the mainland), and only slave labor assured the economic viability of the colonies.
- esclavo ladino in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española: "Slave who spent over a year in slavery".
- Nicomedes Santa Cruz. Obras Completas II. Investigación (1958-1991), page 306, Nicomedes Santa Cruz, LibrosEnRed, 2004
- Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean, Volume 2: Social Dynamics and Cultural Transformations: Eastern South America and the Caribbean, Norman E. Whitten, Jr., Arlene Torres, page 45.
- The Amistad Case Archived November 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- (in Spanish) La procedencia de los esclavos negros en Sevilla, "The provenience of black slaves in Seville".
- (in Spanish) Léxico Hispanoamericano del siglo 16, page 515, Peter Boyd-Bowman, Tamesis, 1971. Examples of the usage of ladino in 16th-century Spanish.
- (in Spanish) Hermandad Los Negritos, a Roman Catholic brotherhood in Seville, claiming to date from the 14th century, originally for Black Christians.