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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

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. a week earlier, Rendón received a special commission from the captain general of Cuba to find “rapidly and promptly” the leaders of the insurrections and end the terrified panic voiced by the white population throughout the island.

The first revolts occurred near the east-central city of Puerto Príncipe two months earlier. Over the course of two days, beginning on 15 January 1812, slaves and free people of color rose in rebellion on five plantations all located within three miles of Puerto Príncipe. the first insurrection began at the plantation Najasa and immediately involved all the slaves. the rebels burnt the master's house, killed three whites, and then spread the movement to neighboring plantations. Within a matter of hours, slaves revolted at the Daganal plantation where they killed the white overseer, Pedro Cabrajal. Then the uprising moved to the San José sugar estate where the insurrectionaries killed two whites. Later, they spread their movement to the Santa Marta plantation where they killed another white and seriously injured two others. the uprising ended at the Montalban plantation where the rebels killed one white and injured another before the local militia, standing army, and armed citizens finally suppressed the insurrection. By the time the rebellions ended, slaves and free people of color had killed eight whites, injured numerous others, and burnt or partially destroyed several plantations. Colonial offi-

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