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Article

Aaron Myers

In the first half of the nineteenth century, thousands of African slaves were involuntarily brought from the Calabar region of southwestern Nigeria to Cuba in order to labor on the sugar plantations. In Cuba, these enslaved people reconstructed aspects of their language (Igbo) and religious rituals in Abakuás, all-male organizations with closely guarded religious, musical, and dance traditions. The prototype for Cuba's Abakuás can be found in Calabar's leopard societies, groups of highly respected, accomplished men who adopted the leopard as a symbol of masculinity. Today as in the past, Abakuás are found predominantly in the city of Havana and the province of Matanzas and are united by a common African mythology and ritual system.

Abakuás preserve African traditions through performative ceremonies a complex system of signs and narratives in the Igbo language Customarily led by four leaders and eight subordinate officers members of the Abakuás seek to protect ...

Article

Cacos  

Georges Michel

After the downfall of Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer in 1843, the peasants in the southern part of the island revolted. These revolutionaries were named piquets, because they carried wooden poles, called picks, as weapons. In the 1860s, peasants in northern Haiti followed the example of the piquets, becoming known as Cacos. The Cacos movement was based in the northern part of the republic in an area comprising the towns of Vallieres, Capotilles, and Mont-Organise. Some say that the term Cacos comes from the name of a small bird of prey; others trace it to the name of a species of Haitian red ants that have a bad sting.

The Cacos movement appeared for the first time during the civil war of 1868. The rebellious peasants later fought against President Sylvain Salnave in 1870 The Cacos proved themselves formidable fighters and instrumental to Salnave s ...

Article

George Reid Andrews

The son of former slaves, João Cândido was born in the cattle-ranching country of southern Brazil. In 1895, at the age of fifteen, he joined the Brazilian navy, which at that time had a very clear racial hierarchy. While the officer corps was exclusively white, an estimated 80–90 percent of the enlisted seamen were Afro-Brazilian, many of them forcibly recruited against their will. Slavery had been abolished in Brazil only a few years earlier, in 1888, and many officers continued to treat crews as though they were in fact slaves. Conditions of service were extremely harsh; and even though whipping had been outlawed in the navy in 1890, it was still widely used as a means of discipline.

Brazil joined the naval arms race of the 1890s and early 1900s expanding its fleet to become the largest naval power in Latin America Cândido himself was sent ...

Article

Sam Hitchmough

Between 1789 and 1832 there were more than twenty revolts on the island that transformed itself from French Saint Domingue, the richest colony in the world, to Haiti, the first independent black state in the Western Hemisphere, established with finality through a successful slave uprising in 1804. A fragile independence in what Frederick Douglass called the “Black Republic” again witnessed recurring upheavals, and between 1843 and 1915 the country had twenty-two heads of state, fourteen of whom were deposed by revolution.

The most significant revolt was the uprising that resulted in Haitian independence, initially led by Toussaint Louverture. Inspired by the French Revolution of 1789, all three of the main groups on the island—slaves, free blacks, and white colonists—pressed for greater autonomy. At first the colony was allowed internal selfgovernment under metropolitan supervision, but the position of blacks remained ambiguous. Vincent Ogé led a brief rebellion ...

Article

Juan Otero-Garabis

As a child, Esteban Montejo escaped a sugar plantation to live as a maroon until the abolition of slavery in 1885. His memories were published by the Cuban writer Miguel Barnet in Maroon's Biography (1966), considered a pioneering work of the Latin American testimonial genre. The first part of the book is one of the most detailed descriptions of the harsh working and living conditions of slaves on the sugar plantations. Montejo's account of his survival as a solitary runaway affirms that hunger and lack of shelter were preferable to living the life of a slave.

In the last part of the book Montejo narrates his experience in the Cuban Liberation Army during the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). His account underscores the important role played by the Afro-Cuban officials and soldiers, particularly of Antonio Maceo This section of the book also describes the ...

Article

The struggle against slavery throughout the Americas involved different forms of rebellion. Many slaves escaped; some merged with the urban free black and colored population, while others became maroons and set up their own communities in the backlands, often in cooperation with indigenous peoples. Slaves who remained within the system worked to undermine it, through sabotage of production. At the same time they found ways of using their owners' dependence on their labor to influence their terms of work. And from time to time these slave workers, sometimes in alliance with freed people, erupted in rebellion in an effort to destroy slavery outright.