Sebastian Toral was an early Black conquistador in the New World. In the 1530s and 1540s, he was instrumental in the Spanish conquest of the southern Mexican state of Yucatán.
According to BlackPast, there is little information on Toral’s birthplace or early life, but there is a strong link that he was born in Africa and brought to the Spanish colonies as a slave.
He was a member of Francisco de Montejo’s forces during the second and final attempt to conquer the Maya people of Yucatán in 1541. Toral was not the only person of African descent, as Montejo was granted permission to import one hundred slaves. At the very least, there was one Black conquistador who picked up a Mayan language during the campaign.
Toral was granted manumission for his outstanding service. He was exempt from paying tribute, but he had to petition the Spanish crown at least twice to remind it of its commitment to him.
Toral’s role at the start of the Spanish colonial era exemplifies the services of conquerors like him who assisted the Spanish crown in convincing the New World to submit to its authority. Toral’s service to the Spanish crown was intended to improve his standard of living under Spanish control. Because they shared a common destiny at the time, people of African descent were forced to intermarry with indigenous people as a result of racism.
Toral moved to Merida with his family and worked in one of the few occupations that accepted Blacks. He worked as a doorkeeper or a guard. By the late colonial period, the Black and mixed race populations made up 10% of Yucantan’s population.