On a recent trip to the Caribbean, I was reminded of my own journey, in which I became a passenger on a Carnival ship that left the port of Santo Domingo in October 1839.
As a passenger, I learned that the ship was in a perilous position: a small, frail vessel, carrying just one crew member, had been hit by a cannon.
When the ship broke loose from its port, the captain had a bad case of pneumonia and died shortly afterward.
At the time, a single survivor from the ship’s first crew, a woman named Marie-Thérèse, was barely a few years older than me.
That day, the ship drifted into the sea off the coast of Cape Verde, a tiny island off the Caribbean coast, and was lost for nearly two months.
In the months that followed, I spent a few days in the port, talking with Marie-THÉRÉSE, her two young daughters, and the rest of the crew.
We spent the rest on the ship, which was still mostly undamaged.
As the weeks passed, I began to notice the ship drifting and struggling against the reef, with all its cargo and crew.
As my visits dwindled, I wondered if Marie-TRÉESSE had been taken aboard a shipwreck.
Was it possible that Marie-FRÉESESSE was the shipwreck’s last survivor?
Were there other survivors on the same ship?
Were they still on the deck?
I wondered about all these things, as I wondered for days.
I knew the answers to those questions: Yes, Marie-MARTÍN was the last survivor, and Yes, she was on the other side of the ship.
The shipwreck was actually a small island, known as El Vía de los Reyes, or El Víctor Reyes.
The name is a port-and-shoe translation of the Spanish word for island.
The island is roughly the size of Delaware.
I found the name el Vícer Reyes on the map I drew of Santos island, a small peninsula in the center of the Caribbean Sea, and that was that.
But that didn’t stop me from wondering about the other survivors: Marie-ARTÍNE, who had lived with her family on the island and later on in Santo, was a young woman who had worked as a sailor.
She was about thirty years old.
She had been on the El Vísquero in January 1839 and had been a passenger aboard the ship the day it left Santo.
She is survived by her daughters, who were all between the ages of two and eight.
The other survivor, who was about twenty-two years old, was an unmarried woman named Maria-TÓNE.
She came from the same family as Marie-TÉESSEE and had married into the same Spanish family.
She and her husband, Francisco, were also survivors of the El Verano shipwreck and had stayed on the vessel.
In addition to Marie-JÓRÉES, there were three other survivors of that El VÍcer Reyes: Juanita, a young widow, and her three children: Málaga, twenty-one, José, twenty, and Elena, twenty.
Maria-JEROME was a little girl of seven years old when she first saw Marie-NÉESsee and the other two surviving survivors of El Vínciara.
Maria told me that the three women had been working in the fields when she and her parents had gone to live with their relatives in Santa Rosa, in the Santa Elena district of San Juan de San Miguel.
On the day that the Elvícer was hit by the cannon, the family had been traveling through a jungle, Maria said.
When they came to the village of Santa Rosa to pick up some provisions, they saw a young man on a horse with a woman.
The woman had on a white cloak and was riding in the saddle.
The young man was wearing an orange cap, but the woman was wearing a white frock coat, which Maria and her mother identified as that of Marie-DÉESNE.
The man rode away from the village and Maria and the others ran for their lives.
After they reached the city of Santa Ana, the three people were discovered by the police.
They were found by a fisherman named Fernando Martínez, who took them to a nearby field where they were taken in by the family.
They told the police that they had been kidnapped.
In January 1838, the families were taken to the island of San Pedro de Canarias, on the southern coast of Cuba, where the authorities arrested them and sent them to Santo de la Cruz, where they lived for a few months.
Maria and José were transferred to San Pedro, where Maria lived for nearly three years.
Maria’s husband, Jose, died of tuberculosis in March 1841, but José’s health was improved.