The boats would pull into the dock like any other day in Cartagena. As the vessels would unload, onlookers would have seen the living cargo present in the deepest levels of the ship. Many of these people were sold into the slave trade, and it’s estimated that often a third of them died in transit. But I’d imagine that there were no onlookers there, no one reaching out to greet those aboard the ship. Ships full of people seen as objects and not persons was a normal occurrence, so normal that the use of the person—the person made slave—was unseen, because it had been reconciled thusly in the hearts and minds of men.
But not St. Peter Claver.
Peter Claver had come to these docks shortly after his ordination to the priesthood and after working with Fr. Alfonso de Sandoval, who had dedicated more than forty years of his life to ministering to enslaved people. Peter not only took up the mantle but even called himself “Petrus Claver, Aethiopum servus,” or “Peter Claver, slave of the Africans.”