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The history of Cuban slavery is a long one and is connected with many of the Latin American countries and the Iberian Peninsula, as well as outside sources (such as Britain) and the opposing forces of their own people and slaves (who were not considered as citizens and therefore cannot be “the people of Cuba”). For years, different forces “made proposals for abolishing the [slave] trade”(Schmidt-Nowara 14), but the efforts failed in their attempts. In 1835, Spain signed a treaty to ban slave trade to Cuba with Great Britain, but this did not end slavery (Schmidt-Nowara 15). Other treaties were signed, but despite the fact that they had entered a written agreement and receiving cash benefits from Britain to terminate the operation (Abolition in Cuba), more and more slaves were introducedto the country. In fact, “in the 1830’s… 181,600 slaves were introduced to Cuba”, importing more slaves to Cuba “than any other decade in history” (Schmidt-Nowara 18) and thus, the production of sugar continued to rise due to the forced labor, exporting “40 percent of their sugar on the global market” (Abolition and Emancipation). The sugar market was very productive and produced a lot of moneyfor the Cuban colony and this was all due to the slave labor. Without slavery, their global market would not have been so prosperous.
Even though Spain and Cuba continued its efforts to keep slavery a primary factor in its society and world market and with all continued efforts to maximize profits with forced labor, Cuba eventually did receive its independence and abolished slavery. There was apush in the Latin American countries for equality. However, in Cuba, this idea did not include the slave population (Chasteen 120), so its emancipation was fundamental in achieving a truly equal country, but equality for everyone would not come so easily, even after the abolishment of slavery in the country. It would take much more than the persistence of neighboring countries to produce a countrywhere freedom was a right everyone was guaranteed. Abolishing slavery, to many, meant destroying their economy. Even though slavery was “abolished” in as early as 1835, when the treaty was signed, it continued to exist, “using vagrancy laws and other techniques to bind laborers to their plantations” (Abolition and Emancipation) and therefore needed the values and opinions of their own people, thewhites and “criollos” to change before change could truly be seen.
When slavery was legally ended, “racial harmony” still did not exist in Cuba (Sierra). In fact, their “society didn’t exactly welcome the free slaves with open arms” (Sierra). The illiteracy rate remained very low comparatively to whites (11% of Afro-Cubans to 33% whites), titles of respect were removed from official documents,the Afro-Cubans were refused service in hotels, restaurants and theatres and schools denied entrance of any black children (Sierra). Therefore, a change needed to be made and people needed to realize the injustices of such treatment. This is when many writers began to take their pens and tell about the injustices of the society. Juan Francisco Manzano and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteagawrote their stories, along with others such as Mary Peabody Mann, about their views on Cuban society during this time. Movies, such as “La última cena” were introduced much later, but too, show the mindset of those living in that era, a mindset that in some people has yet to change. It is important here to note the years in which these works were produced. Sab was written in 1841 by Gertrudis Gómezde Avellaneda y Arteaga; Autobiography of a Slave was written by Manzano in 1838; “La última cena” was introduced in 1976. The book “Juanita: A Romance of Real Life in Cuba Fifty Years Ago” was written by Mann in 1887 and this book, we will see, has many overlaps with Sab. Also, in 1886 is the recognized date of the abolition of slavery in Cuba and that 1867 is the last known date of slave...
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