Colombia’s Pacific coast, especially the present-day Chocó Department, is often deemed a peripheral region. It is, to use Oslender’s phrase, an aquatic space, defined by mangroves, small rivers flowing through tropical forests to the Pacific, the Atrato river draining into the Gulf of Urabá on the Caribbean Coast, and extraordinary levels of rain.1 By centering the lives of the Black people of this region in the first half of the nineteenth century, Barragan inverts this working assumption of marginality. In this narrative, abolition, the debate about the meaning of freedom, the understanding of technologies of oppression, and the definition of Atlantic history all run through the Colombian Pacific.

The work follows two lines. One charts the process of abolition from the passage of the Free Womb Law in 1821 to the end of slavery in 1852. Barragan, a digital historian who created the The Free Womb Project (

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