They were referred to as negros ladinos ("cultivated" or "latinized Blacks"), as opposed to negros bozales ("muzzled Blacks", i.e. those captured in Africa and tied up to prevent them from escaping). The Ladinos' skills granted them a higher price than those of bozales.
Prior to the arrival of Columbus to the Americas, there were Black or Moorish Africans (there has been a very long history of moors in Europe) in the Iberian Peninsula, brought either through the Arab slave trade, the Castilian and Portuguese colonization of Africa, or as free men assimilated into the population. After some time in the Spanish society, these slaves become Christianized and learnt Spanish. There were 50,000 Black Ladinos in Spain in the 15th century. 
After the initial stages of the Spanish colonization of the Americas showed that Amerindians were not suitable for the labour that the conquerors required (mainly due to the Eurasian illnesses unknown in the Americas), Nicolás de Ovando decided to bring slaves from Spain. Between 1502 and 1518, Castile exiled hundreds of black slaves, primarily to work as miners. Opponents of their enslavement cited their Christian faith and their repeated attempts of escape to the mountains or to join the Native Americans in revolt. Proponents declared that the rapid diminution of the Native American population required a consistent supply of reliable low-cost workers. Free Spaniards were reluctant to do manual labor or to remain settled (especially after the discovery of gold on the mainland), and only slave labor assured the economic viability of the colonies.
- Estevanico (c. 1500–1539), a Berber captured by the Portuguese and sold to a Spanish Conquistador.
- The slaves in the schooner La Amistad were Mendes captured in Africa but were described as Ladinos by their Cuban buyers to avoid the ban on international slave trade.
- Afro-Spaniard: Current inhabitants of Spain of African descent.
- Emancipados: Black Spanish Guineans who enjoyed a special status by their Roman Catholic and Spanish education.
- esclavo ladino in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española: "Slave who spent over a year in slavery".
- Nicomedes Santa Cruz. Obras Completas II. Investigación (1958-1991), page 306, Nicomedes Santa Cruz, LibrosEnRed, 2004
- Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean, Volume 2: Social Dynamics and Cultural Transformations: Eastern South America and the Caribbean, Norman E. Whitten, Jr., Arlene Torres, page 45.
- The Amistad Case
- (Spanish) La procedencia de los esclavos negros en Sevilla, "The provenience of black slaves in Seville".
- (Spanish) Léxico Hispanoamericano del siglo 16, page 515, Peter Boyd-Bowman, Tamesis, 1971. Examples of the usage of ladino in 16th-century Spanish.
- (Spanish) Hermandad Los Negritos, a Roman Catholic brotherhood in Seville, claiming to date from the 14th century, originally for Black Christians.