Interactive Map Places of memory related
to serious human rights violations

Castillo de San Severino. Slave Route Museum

Theme: Slavery


Castillo de San Severino







Theme: Slavery

Purpose of Memory

To commemorate the slaves in Cuba between the 16th and the 19th centuries.

Institutional Designation

Castillo de San Severino. Slave Route Museum

Date of creation / identification / declaration


Public Access


UNESCO Connection

2006: Integrated into the project Places of Memory of “The Slave Route” in the Latin Caribbean.

Location description

The Museum of the Slave Route located in the Castillo de San Severino, has four rooms: the Commander’s house, Archeological Presentation, Slavery Presentation and Orishas room. Objects, pieces, pictures and belongings that illustrate the slavery times are exhibited. The space also has the “Afro-America: The Third Root” exhibition, composed by fourteen sculptures donated by the Cuban artist Lorenzo Padilla on the meaning of Africanity and history in Iberic-American countries, a proposal that intends to expand knowledge on the subject. Also, the Museum offers a great variety of activities, such as workshops and lectures, throughout the year. 

Cuba is one of the countries that underwent through the longest slavery period in the world, since 1511 until 1886. Of the two and a half million enslaved people imported into the Spanish colonies from Africa, almost 40% were taken to Cuba.  Castillo San Severino was specifically built to serve as a defense against the attacks of privateers and pirates in the southern area of the Island. Its construction started on October 13, 1693 and ended in 1735.

Later on, it served as Seat of the Main Commander of the City Defense System and was part of a system integrated to the San José de la Vigía Fort, battery of Cajigal and Morillo. The castle was destroyed in 1762 to prevent it from being occupied by the English army that had recently occupied the city of Havana. When the invaders left the Island, the castle was rebuilt and thousands of Africans and their descendants participated in the task, and they were all forced to work as slave labor in inhuman conditions. 

In the castle -one of the oldest of the city of Matanzas- the marks made by slaves on stones, in order to keep
count of and justify the day´s task for their masters, can still be seen. 
In 1978, Castillo de Severino was declared National Monument of the Republic of Cuba after more than three hundred years since its construction.

With the beginning of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, a great number of historical investigations were carried out, and documentaries and films were made about the colonial and enslavement history.  In 1994, Cuba was included in the UNESCO Slave Route Project and became a permanent member of its scientific committee through the organization of the Slave Route Cuban Committee. The Committee works specifically in recognition, rescue, protection and safekeeping of the African heritage. In this work, there are representatives from various groups and institutions, such as the National Cuba Archive, the School of Arts and Language of Universidad de La Habana, the Cuban Anthropology Institute, the Fernando Ortiz foundation, the Juan Marinello Cuban Institute of Cultural Investigation, the National Council of Cultural Heritage, the Slave Route Museum, the Africa House, the Municipal Museum of Guanabacoa, the Fernando Ortiz African Cultural Center, the National Folkloric Group of Cuba, and the José Martí National Library and Caribbean House. In addition, Cuba is one of the promoters, since 2012, of the Afro-descendant Cultural Universe project, oriented
towards the safeguard of music, dance and songs belonging to the afro-descendant immaterial heritage in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Three national monuments of Cuba were selected from the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are part of the Slave Route: Valle de los Ingenios, Valle de Viñales and the Archeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the Southeast of Cuba.  Castillo de San Severino was declared a national monument in 1978 and, years later, was chosen to become the Slave Route Museum. Based on this initiative, the Museum intends to be not only an object of the past with touristic purposes, but also an educational tool and a memorial for the African descent community.  Since the beginning of the museological proposal, different African descent organizations participate in the Museum by organizing cultural, social and religious activities. The Universidad Camilo Cienfuegos, that receives a number of students from Africa, organizes various activities in the castle, such as Africa Day and Independence Day of each of these countries.

Currently, the Museum is part of the national and international scientific disclosure activities for investigators, school and university students.  Among the most relevant activities, we can mention October 12th: date of the official foundation of Matanzas city and not the date to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus to America in 1492, which is not observed in Cuba.

Organization in Charge - Main Referent