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The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery

The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery

Matt D. Childs
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery
    Book Description:

    In 1812 a series of revolts known collectively as the Aponte Rebellion erupted across the island of Cuba, comprising one of the largest and most important slave insurrections in Caribbean history. Matt Childs provides the first in-depth analysis of the rebellion, situating it in local, colonial, imperial, and Atlantic World contexts.Childs explains how slaves and free people of color responded to the nineteenth-century "sugar boom" in the Spanish colony by planning a rebellion against racial slavery and plantation agriculture. Striking alliances among free people of color and slaves, blacks and mulattoes, Africans and Creoles, and rural and urban populations, rebels were prompted to act by a widespread belief in rumors promising that emancipation was near. Taking further inspiration from the 1791 Haitian Revolution, rebels sought to destroy slavery in Cuba and perhaps even end Spanish rule. By comparing his findings to studies of slave insurrections in Brazil, Haiti, the British Caribbean, and the United States, Childs places the rebellion within the wider story of Atlantic World revolution and political change. The book also features a biographical table, constructed by Childs, of the more than 350 people investigated for their involvement in the rebellion, 34 of whom were executed.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0607-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION Worse than Aponte
    (pp. 1-20)

    On 24 March 1812 Cuban military officer Vicente de la Huerta and three assistants left the fortress of La Cabaña and headed for the free people of color neighborhood of Guadalupe located just outside Havana’s city walls. Cuban judicial official Juan Ignacio Rendón ordered Huerta and his aides to search houses “with the greatest thoroughness” for possible clues to a series of slave revolts that had erupted across the island in Puerto Príncipe, Bayamo, Holguín, and Havana during the last two months.¹ A week earlier, Rendón received a special commission from the captain general of Cuba to find “rapidly and...

  5. 1 The Present Time Period Is Very Delicate: Cuban Slavery and the Changing Atlantic World, 1750–1850
    (pp. 21-45)

    On the morning of 9 April 1812, a crowd of spectators gathered next to the military fort of La Punta, which to this day guards the western entrance to the Bay of Havana. Men, women, and children waited for the public execution of the conspirators who had attempted to overthrow Spanish colonialism and destroy Cuban slavery. According to the island’s captain general, the crowd responded to the execution of the leaders “with applause from the public who desired the quick satisfaction of repressing the [movement], and [it] provided an example to others of the horror of their excess.”¹ Among those...

  6. 2 Nothing Worse in the World than to Be a Slave: Slaves and Free People of Color in Early Nineteenth-Century Cuba
    (pp. 46-77)

    The slave Tiburcio Peñalver suffered the same fate as José Antonio Aponte and Juan Barbier when the Havana military escorted him to the execution scaffold for his participation in the revolt. Unlike numerous male slaves who labored in the countryside, Tiburcio’s master, Don Nicolás Peñalver, exempted him from the arduous task of cutting cane on his plantation named Trinidad, located outside of Havana. Tiburcio and a few other slaves held the privileged position of wagon drivers who delivered processed sugar cane to Havana merchants. Each time Tiburcio traveled to Havana, however, he delivered more than sugar cane. Tiburcio carried news...

  7. 3 Organizing the Rebellion: The Overlapping Worlds of the Militia and the Cabildos de Nación
    (pp. 78-119)

    The executions for involvement in the revolts did not end with the leader, José Antonio Aponte, the Frenchman Juan Barbier, the slave Tiburcio Peñalver, or the freedman, Juan Bautista Lisundia. Judicial officials added the name of the free black militia soldier Clemente Chacón to the hangman’s fatal list. When the rebels gathered early on the morning of 9 April 1812, it was not their first meeting, but it would be their last. The slave Tiburcio Peñalver testified that he stayed at Chacón’s boarding house and tavern in the neighborhood of Guadalupe when delivering sugar cane to Havana.¹ Free mulatto José...

  8. 4 Burn the Plantations: The Cuban Aponte Rebellion(s) of 1812
    (pp. 120-154)

    The hangman’s noose tightened once again during the early morning of 9 April 1812. The executioner added another name to the fatal list that included the leader of the rebellion, José Antonio Aponte, the Frenchman Juan Barbier, who had been to Saint Domingue, the slave Tiburcio Peñalver, who routinely traveled from the countryside to the city, the freedman Juan Bautista Lisundia, the militia soldier Clemente Chacón, and thecabildoleader Salvador Ternero. Estanislao Aguilar, a free mulatto from Havana, also suffered execution by hanging for his involvement in the rebellion.¹ Aguilar shared much more with his fellow rebels than having...

  9. 5 Vanquish the Arrogance of Our Enemies: Emancipation Rumors and Rebellious Royalism
    (pp. 155-172)

    And the executions continued for months. The hangman’s list did not end with the leader José Antonio Aponte, the Frenchman Juan Barbier, the slave Tiburcio Peñalver, the free black Juan Bautista Lisundia, the black militiaman Clemente Chacón, thecabildoleader Salvador Ternero, and the mulatto Estanislao Aguilar. The executioner added free black Francisco Javier Pacheco’s name to his deadly list. A Creole born in Havana who lived in the Salud neighborhood outside the city walls, Pacheco earned his living by working as a carpenter specializing in the repair of carriages. He also served as a volunteer militiaman in the black...

  10. CONCLUSION Plaques of Loyalty: The Legacy of the Aponte Rebellion
    (pp. 173-188)

    The crowd of spectators did not leave after they “applauded” the punishments meted out to the rebels.¹ When the executions and whippings of the insurgents came to an end, an encore performance began. Colonial authorities had to address the rebels’ strong desires for freedom that inspired their motivations for revolt. Executing the leaders served as a deadly warning of the consequences awaiting anyone who attempted to achieve their own independence by rebellion, but it did not address whether their hopes and aspirations for liberation were wrong. The Puerto Príncipe town council recognized that chopping off the heads of twelve leaders...

  11. APPENDIX Biographical Database of the Aponte Rebels
    (pp. 189-206)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 207-260)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-288)
  14. Index
    (pp. 289-300)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-301)