Skip to main content

Dr. Ana María Silva Campo is an Assistant Professor in History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is a historian of race, gender, religion, and the law in colonial Latin American cities.

Her book manuscript, Crossing the Half-Moon Bridge, is an urban, religious, and social history of Cartagena de Indias, the main port for the trade in African captives to Spanish South America during the seventeenth century. Cartagena (in modern Colombia) was also one of three seats of the Spanish Inquisition in the Americas. Drawing from the rarely studied financial records of the Inquisition, the book shows how systems of belief and social control were inseparable from capital accumulation and slavery in during this formative era of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas. Crossing the Half-Moon Bridge tells the story of urban formation by tracing the properties of sixteen women of African descent who accumulated enough wealth to purchase their own freedom from enslavement and to become real estate owners in the city. Their lives took a dramatic turn in 1634 when the Inquisition accused them of witchcraft and confiscated their houses, selling them to men of European ancestry on credit. The book argues that the predominance of the trade in African captives drove religious dispossession in Cartagena, cementing the foundations of a Catholic social order that was racialized, and shaping long-term relationships of capital accumulation throughout the seventeenth century.

Dr. Silva Campo’s work has appeared in English in the Hispanic American Historical Review, the Colonial Latin American Review, and in Spanish in Varia História. She has received the Kimberly S. Hanger Article Prize from the Southern Historical Association, and honorable mention for the Paul Vanderwood Article Prize from the Conference in Latin American History. Her research for “Crossing the Half Moon Bridge” has been supported by the American Council for Learned Societies.

Dr. Silva Campo has also worked on two collaborative projects on race and slavery with interdisciplinary teams of researchers. The first one studies the dynamics of enslavement of refugees from the Haitian Revolution in the United States after the ban on the slave trade. The second one compares the histories of South Africans of different racial backgrounds who colonized areas of Patagonia, Argentina, during the twentieth century. As a public scholar, she has curated online and museum exhibits about slavery and its legacies in Colombia and Argentina and written for leading Latin American newspapers, including Argentina’s Clarín.

Dr. Silva Campo teaches courses on Latin America under colonial rule, law and society in Latin America, witchcraft and magic in the early modern world, and women and gender in Latin America.

Notable Publications

“Through the Gate of the Media Luna: Slavery and the Geographies of Legal Status in Colonial Cartagena de Indias,” in The Hispanic American Historical Review  100: 3 (August 2020): 391-421.

“Fragile Fortunes: Afro-descended Women, Property Seizures, and the Remaking of Urban Cartagena,” in Colonial Latin American Review 30: 2 (May 2021): 197-213.

En español:

“Pleitos civiles ante el tribunal de la Inquisición: Privilegios judiciales y poder local en Cartagena de Indias (s. XVII-XVIII),” in “Processos judiciais e escrita da história na América Latina e Caribe,” eds. Mariana Armond Dias Paes and Pedro Jiménez Cantisano, special issue, Varia História 37: 74 (May-August 2021): 361-391. 

Youtube: “Mujeres afrodescendientes, brujería y la transformación urbana de Cartagena de Indias” 


UNC – Institute for the Study of the Americas

UNC – Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Red Columnaria – The Study of Iberian Monarchies
The Law in Slavery and Freedom Project, University of Michigan Law School
From Africa to Patagonia: Voices of Displacement, Michigan Humanities Collaboratory



Department of History

418 Pauli Murray Hall. CB 3195

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3265