Full circle: The Amistad's visit to Havana

Havana - Hours before the sun rose on Thursday, March 25, the crew of the Freedom Schooner Amistad climbed from their bunks to begin preparations for one of the vessel's most historic voyages.

Near perfect sailing weather would carry them from Matanzas, Cuba, where they had stopped for three days of cultural and historical events, to Havana harbor. There they were met by Cubans lining the Malecón and international media on the pier.

Their journey, on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, marked the 10th anniversary of the Amistad's launch and was a historic visit by a U.S. flagged vessel to the Cuban capital.

It was also a homecoming of sorts. The original La Amistad set sail from Havana 171 years ago, en route to the island's eastern plantations with a cargo of Africans bound for slavery. They rebelled, took over the ship and ultimately won their freedom.

For Amistad's builder, Mystic Seaport shipwright Quentin Snediker, and the ship's first captain, William Pinkney, the arrival in Havana marked the end of more than a decade of dreaming. Amistad had come full circle, returning to the port of origin the infamous ship had left in 1839.

Amistad is expected to return to New London on

May 20, in time for a new historical exhibit at the Custom House on Bank Street.

s.elliot@theday.com

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