Mexico identifies submerged wreck of Mayan slave ship

This July 24, 2017 photo released by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) on Sept. 15, 2020, shows what the INAH says is a detail of the iron skylight from the bow area of a submerged ship, belonging to the Mayan slave ship "La Union," off Sisal, in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. Archaeologists in Mexico say the ship had been used to take Mayan Indigenous people from Mexico, captured during and 1847-1901 rebellion known as “The War of the Castes,” to work in sugarcane fields in Cuba. The La Unión was on a trip to Havana in September 1861 when its boilers exploded and it sank off the once-important Yucatan port of Sisal. (Helena Barba/INAH via AP)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Archaeologists in Mexico say that for the first time they have identified a ship that carried Maya indigenous people into virtual slavery in the 1850s. The wreck of the Cuban-based paddle-wheel steamboat was found in 2017, but wasn’t identified until researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History checked contemporary documents and found it was the ship “La Unión.” The ship had been used to take Mayas captured during and 1847-1901 rebellion to work in sugarcane fields in Cuba. Slavery was illegal in Mexico at the time, but similar ships had reportedly deceived Mayas left landless by the conflict to “sign on” as contract workers.