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The Neglected Narratives of Cuba's Partido Independiente de Color: Civil Rights, Popular Politics, and Emancipatory Reading Practices

  • Alexander Sotelo Eastman (a1)

Extract

On March 10, 1910, Pío Coronel informed his readers that he was abandoning his home in the western province of Pinar del Río and saddling up his horse to set out on an important journalistic and political assignment. The black press journalist noted that once he got wind of Cuban president José Miguel Gómez's plans to set off from the presidential palace on a political campaign across the island, he kissed his wife goodbye and took off in pursuit with little more than a pen and a shoulder bag. In the following weeks, Pío galloped hundreds of miles across the Cuban countryside, or, as he called it, the “ill-fated American Colony,” to report on how black communities from Havana to Guantánamo received President Gómez. In other words, Pío showcased Cuba's black public sphere, which despite its effervescent political and civic life was outside the purview of Cuba's mainstream reporters. As this article argues, it was also largely neglected by subsequent generations of historians.

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The bulk of the archival research that informs this article was made possible thanks to the Council on Library and Information Resources Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources. Additional funding was provided by the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College and a Graduate Research Fellowship from the University of Miami's Cuban Heritage Collection. Without the activism, support and friendship of Bárbara Danzie León at the Archivo Nacional de Cuba this article simply would not exist. I am grateful for the feedback from participants at the African American Intellectual History Society conference (Vanderbilt University, 2017) and “Arts in the Black Press During the Age of Jim Crow” (Yale University, 2017). Additional thanks to the anonymous readers from The Americas and, as always, Emma Shaw Crane, for generative feedback on the structure and arguments presented here.

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1. See Pío Coronel in Previsión, “Desde Vuelta Abajo: el Coronel Pío y el Sr. Presidente,” March 10, 1910; “Desde el Continente Negro,” April 19, 1910; and “Excursión imperial,” March 20, 1910. All translations are mine unless otherwise noted.

2. Archivo Nacional de Cuba [hereafter ANC], Congreso de la República de Cuba, Diario de Sesiones del Senado, leg. 943, exp. 42582, February 11, 1910.

Sesiones del Senado, leg. 943, exp. 42582, February 11, 1910.

3. “Feliz viaje,” La Lucha, February 28, 1910.

4. “El viaje del Presidente,” La Lucha, March 1, 1910.

5. “El viaje del Presidente,” La Lucha, March 2, 1910. For other examples of La Lucha's coverage of Gómez's political tour, see “Viaje del Presidente,” La Lucha, March 7, 9, 11, and 15, 1910; “El Presidente en Vuelta Abajo,” La Lucha, March 30, 1910; and “El doctor Zayas en Artemisa,” La Lucha, April 24, 1910.

6. “Desde Vuelta Abajo,” Previsión, March 10, 1910. Pío referenced the 1812 Aponte Rebellion and the 1844 “Ladder Conspiracy.” On the history and lasting effects on black political action of the former, see Childs, Matt, The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle Against Atlantic Slavery (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006). On the latter, see Paquette, Robert, Sugar is Made with Blood: The Conspiracy of La Escalera and the Conflict Between Empires Over Slavery in Cuba (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1998); and Finch, Aisha, Rethinking Slave Rebellion in Cuba: La Escalera and the Insurgencies of 1841–1844 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

7. See, for instance, “Espléndido recibimiento–Manifestaciones de simpatía. Nuestro Presidente es mejor recibido que el General José Miguel Gómez” [Splendid Reception –Sympathetic Demonstrations. Our President is Better Received than General José Miguel Gómez] wherein a Previsión correspondent compared the fanfare provoked by the arrival of Estenoz and other PIC leaders in Santiago de Cuba to the day national independence was declared: “Everyone was delirious with enthusiasm” (Previsión, March 29, 1910). Previsión took particular issue with Havana newspapers, which blatantly distorted the size of the crowds at PIC rallies (“Cinematógrafo cubano,” Previsión, April 27, 1910).

8. In addition to Previsión (Havana) and Reivindicación (Sagua la Grande), PIC committees in Oriente maintained at least four papers: La Razón, Unión Oriental, Equidad (all from Santiago de Cuba) and Solución (Guantánamo). ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 710, exp. 1, fol. 293, “Partido Independiente de Color. Comisión Reorganizadora del Municipio de La Habana,” November 1911.

9. ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 228–1, exp. 7, fols. 1229–1400.

10. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 25.

11. Trouillot, Silencing the Past, 23.

12. Notwithstanding the absence of a formal indexical category for the black press, several Cuban historians contributed pioneering bibliographic works that generated the conditions of possibility for scholarly work on black journalistic and cultural productions in Cuba. Among the earliest works is Trelles's, Carlos M.La bibliografía de autores de la raza de color,” Cuba Contemporánea (Havana) 43:169 (1927): 3078. Pedro Deschamps-Chapeaux's seminal bibliographical book El negro en el periodismo cubano del siglo XIX (Havana: Ediciones R, 1963) provided titles and brief descriptions of dozens of black press newspapers and magazines. However, as his title (“Blacks in Nineteenth-Century Cuban Journalism”) indicates, he stopped short of classifying a black press tradition to instead prioritize the history of national journalism. Robaina's, Tomás Fernández Bibliografía de temas afrocubanos (Havana: Biblioteca Nacional de José Martí, 1985) contains bibliographic references to numerous black journalists and publications. More recently, Bárbara Danzie León, anti-racism activist and former archivist at the ANC, has played a pivotal role in dusting off the decades of silence that condemned PIC materials to oblivion. This article would not have been possible without Danzie León's collaboration, as the PIC materials continue to be difficult to access. For a sampling of the massive archival recovery she led with a team of researchers at the ANC, see León, Danzie, Cárdenas, Loreto Raúl, Véliz, Doreye Gómez, and Maya, Ivan Dalai Vásquez, Apuntes cronológicos sobre el Partido Independiente de Color (Santiago de Cuba: Ediciones Santiago, 2012).

13. Putnam, Lara, “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast,” American Historical Review 121:2 (April 2016): 377402, 377.

14. Studies that reference dissident manifestos to question the PIC's popular appeal include Rafael Fermoselle, Política y color en Cuba: la guerrita de 1912 (Montevideo: Editorial Colibrí, 1998 [1974]); Thomas Tondee Orum, “The Politics of Color: The Racial Dimension of Cuban Politics during the Early Republican Years, 1900–1912” (PhD diss.: New York University, 1975), 218–219; Louis A. Pérez, “Politics, Peasants, and People of Color: The 1912 ‘Race War’ in Cuba Reconsidered,” Hispanic American Historical Review 66:3 (1986): 509–539, 529, and Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 168; Alejandro de la Fuente, A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 66–78, and “Myths of Racial Democracy: Cuba, 1900–1912,” Latin American Research Review 34:3 (1999): 39–73, 64–67; and Rolando Rodríguez, La conspiración de los iguales. La protesta de los Independientes de Color en 1912 (Havana: Imagen Contemporánea, 2010).

15. See, in particular, de la Fuente, A Nation for All; Rebecca Scott, Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005); Frank Guridy, Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010); and Melina Pappademos, Black Political Activism and the Cuban Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

16. ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, December 23, 1910, leg. 229–1, exp. 437.

17. Serafín Portuondo Linares, Los independientes de color: historia del Partido Independiente de Color (Havana: Publicaciones del Ministerio de Educación, 1950). Subsequent citations in this article refer to the revised second edition: Serafín Portuondo Linares, Los independientes de color: historia del Partido Independiente de Color [2da edición corregida y mejorada] (Havana: Editorial Caminos, 2002).

18. “Sobre el libro ‘Los independientes de color,’” Fundamentos 11 (May 1951): 481–488. For an excellent overview of Cuban historiography on the PIC and the 1912 massacre, see Aline Helg, “La masacre de los Independientes de Color en Cuba en la historiografía cubana (1912–2012),” Boletín 74 (2012): 37–43, esp. 38. See also Tomás Fernández Robaina, “Hacia el centenario de la fundación del Partido Independiente de Color: aproximación crítica a tres nuevas contribuciones,” Caribbean Studies 36:1 (2008): 131–140.

19. Fermoselle, Política y color en Cuba.

20. Tomás Fernández Robaina, El negro en Cuba, 1902–1958: apuntes para la historia de la lucha contra la discriminación racial (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1990), 95–103.

21. Fernández Robaina, El negro en Cuba, 1902–1958, 68–94.

22. Aline Helg, Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886–1912 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995). See also Helg, “Afro-Cuban Protest: The Partido Independiente de Color, 1908–1912,” Cuban Studies 21 (1991): 101–121.

23. Aline Helg, Lo que nos corresponde: la lucha de los negros y mulatos por la igualdad en Cuba, 1886–1912, José Antonio Tabares del Real, trans. (Havana: Imagen Contemporánea, 2000); Helg, “La masacre de los independientes,” 41.

24. Several recent books have turned to provincial archives to make important contributions to the historiography on the PIC through a focus on regional responses to the party and the 1912 massacre. Rebecca Scott argues that “the best vantage point from which to examine the full potential” of the PIC is not Havana but the eastern province of Oriente, where a large rural population stood to benefit from the PIC's political campaign. Yet, Scott notes that assessing the rural population's reaction to the party is fraught with difficulties. See Degrees of Freedom, 234–244, 250. Examples from Cuban scholars include Silvio Castro Fernández, La masacre de los Independientes de Color en 1912 (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2002); María de los Ángeles Meriño Fuentes, Una vuelta necesaria a mayo de 1912 (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2006); Ricardo Rey Riquenes Herrera, Guantánamo en el vórtice de los Independientes de Color (Guantánamo: Editorial El Mar y la Montaña, 2007); and Sandra Estévez Rivero, Pedro Castro Monterrey, and Olga Portuondo Zúñiga, coords., Por la identidad del negro cubano (Santiago de Cuba: Ediciones Caserón, 2011). In their histories of black political activism in twentieth-century Cuba, de la Fuente (A Nation for All), Guridy, (Forging Diaspora) and Pappademos (Black Political Activism) forcefully countered the thesis that race-based mobilization ceased with the 1912 massacre. Although these works added new dimensions to later manifestations of black organization in Cuba, they did not concentrate on the PIC's activism campaign.

25. Rodríguez, La conspiración de los iguales; de la Fuente, Alejandro, “Los pasados de este presente: la polémica en torno al Partido Independiente de Color,” Cuban Studies 43 (2015): 141148. See also Helg's highly critical review of the book, “La masacre de los independientes,” 41–42.

26. On the significance of the PIC's history in the twenty-first century, see de la Fuente, “Los pasados de este presente.”

27. Notable exceptions in the scholarship have indeed consulted the PIC's propaganda materials, including manifestos and newspapers. These include Portuondo Linares, Los independientes; Helg, Our Rightful Share, 146–156, and “Afro-Cuban Protest”; and Fernández, La masacre de los independientes, 43–59. Also see Gloria Rolando's documentaries 1912: Voces para un silencio (Imágenes del Caribe, 2010), and Las raíces de mi corazón (Imágenes del Caribe, 2001), both of which make the process of archival recovery central to racial consciousness and politics.

28. Kelley, Robin, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), ix.

29. “Carta remitida al Gobernador Provisional de Cuba, referente a los propósitos de la Agrupación Independiente de Color,” September 30, 1908, ANC, Secretaría de la Presidencia, leg. 22, exp. 33. The literature on Cuba's myth of racial harmony is rich and growing. For useful surveys, see Alejandro de la Fuente, “Myths of Racial Democracy”; and Lillian Guerra, The Myth of José Martí: Conflicting Nationalisms in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).

30. “Acta de la constitución de la Agrupación Independiente de Color,” Previsión, September 15, 1908.

31. “Nuestra tirada de 9,000 ejemplares,” Previsión, October 20, 1909.

32. Earl Lewis, “To Turn As on a Pivot: Writing African Americans into a History of Overlapping Diasporas,” American Historical Review 100:3 (June 1995): 765–787.

33. R. G. Miranda, “Carta del extranjero,” Previsión, April 27, 1910.

34. For a sampling of the PIC's connections and affiliations in Mexico, see “La actualidad palpitante. Juicios ajenos,” Previsión, May 2, 1910; Rosa Brioso, “Mi sueño electoral: a los cubanos de México,” Previsión, May 2, 1910; Antonio Pérez S., “México y Cuba. A la prensa mexicana,” Previsión, May 14, 1910; Antonio Pérez S, “Carta abierta (Puebla, México),” Previsión, May 21, 1910; and “Cinematógrafo cubano,” Previsión, May 28, 1910.

35. Pérez, Between Reform and Revolution, 168. Pérez argues that the PIC failed to gain traction with the rural population, including peasants and farmers, who were not politically or ideologically mobilized but concerned with “subsistence and survival.” He adds that “the purpose of the independiente leadership was never clearly defined or well publicized” (Pérez, “Politics, Peasants,” 529, 531). De la Fuente echoes this argument (Nation for All, 71). Scott is similarly skeptical of the PIC's assertions about party affiliates, particularly in rural areas, though she concedes that Previsión “circulated fairly widely” (Degrees of Freedom, 227, 229, 232–233). Portuondo Linares, Robaina, and Helg stand out in their assertions that the PIC was not constituted by a black “bourgeoisie” but rather a working-class population (Portuondo Linares, Los independientes, 23–28; Robaina, El negro en Cuba, 95–103; Helg, Our Rightful Share, 156–157). Police records from the prosecution of PIC members, identified as day laborers, construction workers, cobblers, and the like, confirm this. See Causa Criminal 321 from 1910, ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 228–1 and 229; Causa Criminal 354 from 1912, ANC, Audiencia de Santiago de Cuba, leg. 51, exp. 6; ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 216; and ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 710.

36. “Nuestro programa,” Previsión, August 30, 1908, in ANC, Fondo Especial, leg. 50, exp. 7. For an overview of the PIC's political platform, see Portuondo Linares, Los independientes, 37–52; and Helg, Our Rightful Share, 146–148.

37. In 1907, at about 60 percent, nearly equal ratios of white and black Cubans under the age of 19 were literate. The ratios became exponentially more disparate in older generations such as the 55-to-64 age group, where 49.9 percent of whites were literate in comparison to just 15.9 percent of blacks. See Censo de la República de Cuba bajo la administración provisional de los Estados Unidos, 1907 (Washington, DC: Oficina del Censo de los Estados Unidos, 1908), 273, 275. On the unequal breakdown of educational access, in particular the private school offerings that favored white students, see Memoria de la administración del presidente de la República de Cuba Mayor General José Miguel Gómez, durante el período comprendido entre el 28 de enero y el 31 de diciembre de 1909 (Havana: Imprenta y Papelería de Rambla y Bouza, 1910), 307–312.

38. Poesía manuscrita por Seberiano Solíz, ANC, Fondo Especial, leg. 4, exp. 136. Other notable examples of poetry dedicated to the party or its members include Caracol, “La Jaca Morcilla,” Previsión, April 27, 1910; and Jerónimo A. Guerra, “¡Cumpleaños! En la cárcel de la Habana,” Previsión, May 14, 1910.

39. On Cuba's first wave of black press newspapers in the late nineteenth century, see Alexander Sotelo Eastman, “Binding Consumption: Cuba's Early Black Press and the Struggle for Legitimacy, 1879–1886,” Siglo Diecinueve 21 (2015): 29–46.

40. Fraser, Nancy, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Habermas and the Public Sphere, Calhoun, Craig, ed. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992): 109–142; Warner, Michael, “Publics and Counterpublics,” Public Culture 14:1 (2002): 4990: 81–85; Putnam, Lara, Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 126, 154.

41. L. de la Luz Pullés, “Nuestro deber,” Previsión, November 25, 1909.

42. Juan de Dios Cepeda, “A los hombres de color, ¡¡Alerta!!,” October 20, 1909, Placetas, Cuba, ANC, Documentos diversos, fuera de caja, 9–22. Previsión also published the manifesto, “A los hombres de color,” November 5, 1909.

43. Juan de Dios Cepeda, “A los hombres de color, ¡¡Alerta!!” In the early years of the republic, a number of black writers and intellectuals criticized black “career politicians” who were seen as impediments to racial mobilization and racial justice activism. See, for example, Campos Marquetti, “Carta abierta,” El Puritano, May 13, 1905; Antonio Mantecón, “El Directorio. Ley imperiosa,” La Estrella Refulgente, March 25, 1906; Juan Bravo, “Aclarando Puntos,” La Estrella Refulgente, April 15, 1906; and Juan Bravo, “Lo que debe hacerse,” La Estrella Refulgente, May 4, 1906.

44. There are countless articles in PIC newspapers and dozens of circulars in the vein of Cepeda's “A los hombres de color.” Representative examples include Porfirio Morgado “Negros, ya es hora,” Placetas, November 15, 1909, ANC, Fondo Especial, leg. 4, exp. 123; Francisco Leal, “Réplica. Hay que ser franco,” 1910, ANC, Fondo Especial, fuera de caja, 10–15; and José Miguel Díaz, “Manifiesto a la Raza de Color de Cardenas [sic],” January 9, 1910, ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 228–1, exp. 7; Lauverture, “Independientes,” Reivindicación, April 10, 1910; Lauverture, “El rábano por las hojas,” Reivindicación, April 17, 1910; and Abelardo Pacheco, “No hay esclusivismo,” Reivindicación, July [day illegible], 1910.

45. Ronald Jacobs, Race, Media and the Crisis of Civil Society: From the Watts Riots to Rodney King (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 52.

46. “Acta de la constitución de la Agrupación Independiente de Color,” Previsión, September 15, 1908.

47. Juan León Pimentel, “De Marianao,” Previsión, October 20, 1909, emphasis in original.

48. “Lo que se ve,” Previsión, October 20, 1909. Irmary Reyes-Santos, Our Caribbean Kin Race and Nation in the Neoliberal Antilles (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2015), examines how tropes of brotherhood, marriage, and lineage have been employed to build alliances and to construct “political kinship” among Antilleans.

49. “Brillante carta,” Previsión, December 20, 1909.

50. Cuba's national and secret police agents frequently referenced the possession of PIC newspapers and propaganda materials as motive for the surveillance and arrest of people of color. See ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 228–1, exp. 724; ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 229–1, exp. 1; ANC, Audiencia de La Habana. leg, 216, exp. 1; ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 710, exp. 1.

51. W. D. Beach to Army of Pacification, September 16, 1907 and September 28, 1907, US National Archive [hereafter USNA], RG 350, Entry 5, File 2499; José Jérez Varona, chief of the Secret Police, to Major Frederick Foltz, aide to the Provisional Governor, August 3, 5, 1907; Confidential Memorandum, Frederick Foltz to the Provisional Governor, August 2, 1907, USNA, RG 350, Entry 5, File 2499; and “Memorandum for the Chief of Staff,” May 21, 1908, USNA, RG 199, 159.

52. “Gallo tapado,” La Lucha, August 8, 1907.

53. See, for instance, the cartoon of Estenoz: “Remedio Santo,” La Lucha, April 9, 1910. Mainstream newspapers circulated rumors that Eugenio Lacoste used “brujería y espiritismo” to attract adepts and pointed to his Haitian descent to discredit him (“Antecedentes de Eugenio Lacoste,” El Triunfo, June 21, 1912; La Lucha, May 28, 1912; “‘Holy Man’ is Ill,” Cuba News, September 7, 1913; Helg, Our Rightful Share, 197).

54. “Los conservadores,” La Lucha, August 8, 1907.

55. Fermoselle, Política y color, 124–130.

56. “Matrimonios políticos,” La Política Cómica, August 16, 1908. La Política Cómica ruthlessly mocked Estenoz and the PIC. See “Agrupación de Caballeria,” La Política Cómica, October 11, 1908; and “A trabajar, compañeros,” La Política Cómica, September 27, 1908, which portrays Estenoz as a fumbling negro catedrático.

57. Orum, “The Politics of Color,” 151; de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 71. On Freyre de Andrade's defense of the PIC in the 1910 criminal court case, see ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 229, exp. 1, fols. 400–581; and “Tribunales,” La Lucha, December 6, 7, 1910.

58. Isidoro Sotolongo y Ríos, “¡¡Alerta raza de color!!, ” El Triunfo, September 20, 1908.

59. “A la raza de color,” El Triunfo, September 27, 1908.

60. For examples of the relatively neutral coverage of the PIC in La Discusión during the 1908 elections, see “Agrupación Independiente de color. Gran mitín de propaganda,” September 20, 1908; “El nuevo partido de la raza de color,” September 21, 1908; “La raza de color con Menocal/Montoro,” September 22, 1908; “El Nuevo Partido. Los hombres de color en Cienfuegos,” September 24, 1908; and “A la raza de color,” September 27, 1908.

61. Examples abound to show the alleged unpreparedness of people of color for high-ranking positions. See, for example, “Un almuerzo a Rabí,” La Lucha, September 13, 1908.

62. Juan B. Valdés and José Luis Areos, “Tribuna libre: El partido de la raza de color,” Diario de la Marina, September 20, 1908.

63. “Cintematógrafo cubano” was printed on the first page of nearly every issue of Previsión, beginning on November 5, 1909.

64. “Cintematógrafo cubano,” Previsión, November 5, 1909.

65. “Cintematógrafo cubano,” Previsión, April 19, 1910.

66. For a representative sampling of “Cintematógrafo cubano” and Previsión's general vigilance of mainstream media distortion, see “Inconsciente!,” November 25, 1909; “Todavía esclavos,” and “Alerta suscriptores!” December 5, 1909; Lino D'ou, “Contestando,” December 25, 1909; Juan Bravo, “Quien calla, otorga,” January 5, 1910; “Cinematógrafo cubano,” February 5, 1910; “Cinematógrafo cubano,” and “La actualidad palpitante. Hablando con Evaristo Estenoz,” April 24, 1910; “Cinematógrafo cubano,” and “Desde arriba,” May 2, 1910; “Laborantismo malévolo,” and “Manifiesto al país: Comité Ejecutivo del Partido Independiente de Color,” May 7, 1910; Lorenzo Secada Lastras, “Fuera careta al pueblo de Cardenas,” May 14, 1910; and Francisco Caballero Tejera, “Moral periodística,” May 21, 1910.

67. Previsión, December 10, 1909.

68. Sierra, “Presentación importante. Liborio y José Rosario,” Previsión, December 30, 1909; Sierra, “Liborio y José Rosario (finaliza),” Previsión, January 5, 1910; Helg, Our Rightful Share, 151–155.

69. “Los elementos de color disgustados. El atropello en Güines,” Previsión, December 5, 1909. Several months later public alarm reached even higher levels when the government deployed military troops to the Oriente and Santa Clara provinces, which were identified as particularly vulnerable to PIC propagandists. Shortly after the PIC campaigned among sugar workers in Santa Clara, the PIC's municipal committees in the region circulated in a local newspaper “¡Justicia e igualdad para los negros!,” a manifesto denouncing the arrests of innocent people of color on vague and inflated charges (“Manifiesto. ¡Justicia e igualdad para los negros!,” published in La Ristra, April 2, 1910, Asamblea Municipal del Partido Independiente de Color in Santa Clara, ANC, Documentos diversos, leg. 35, exp. 2. Another PIC committee, in Ranchuelo, Santa Clara, reported that the Rural Guard had been collaborating with private property owners, such as the owner of Central Santa Rosa, to apprehend any black person who entered the sugar mill and discussed the PIC's doctrine. The committee published a manifesto that denounced the complicity of capitalists and the armed forces, likening their persecution of black citizens in the republic to that of slavers and the Spanish empire (Partido Independiente de Color, Asamblea Municipal de Ranchuelo, April 1910, ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 228–1, exp. 6).

70. Portuondo Linares, Los independientes, 13–22; Helg, Our Rightful Share, 146.

71. See Previsión, March 5, and 10, 1910. The Licor de Berro ad featuring Morúa Delgado was also published in the Liberal newspaper La Lucha. See, for example, April 9, 1910.

72. See the reader responses in Previsión in March 1910.

73. “Three Central Figures in Cuba's Present Crisis,” New York Times, June 9, 1912.

74. Previsión printed the Colegio ad frequently from 1908 through 1910.

75. For more on Planas y Hernández's industrial school, see “San Pedro y San Pablo,” La Estrella Refulgente, November 12, 1905; Reverendo Emilio Planas y Hernández, “Prospecto. Colegio San Pedro y San Pablo,” El Nuevo Criollo, February 10, 1906; Emilio Planas y Hernández to Cartas a Juan Gualberto Gómez [letters], January 21, 1906, Matanzas, ANC, Adquisiciones, leg. 38, exp. 3008; and Reverend Albion W. Knight, Bishop of Cuba, “A Trip to Limonar,” The Spirit of Missions, January 1908.

76. Policarpo Mira, “Santiago de las Vegas,” Previsión, March 20, 1910.

77. Policarpo Mira, El Camino. Cuentecillo ‘especialmente para la familia de color’ [The Path: A Short Story ‘Particularly for Families of Color’] (Havana: Los Obreros Mikleff, 1907). The other two known black novelists from this period are Martín Morúa Delgado, La familia Unzuazu. Novela cubana (Havana: Imp. La prosperidad, 1901); and Saturnino Cos Riera, Maravillas y misterios, novela histórica (Santiago de Cuba: Pozo del Rey, 1903).

78. Risquet, Juan Felipe, Rectificaciones; la cuestión político-social en la isla de Cuba (Havana: Imp. Patria, 1900), 180. Following the dissolution of the PIC, Mira served as a spokesperson for La Resistencia, a tobacco labor group in Oriente (“Vida obrera,” Diario de la Marina, April 10, 1914).

79. Previsión, February 6, 1910.

80. For examples of reviews and publicity for the book, see Rufino Padrón, “El camino,” La Voz Juvenil, July 1, 1909; “El camino,” La Voz Juvenil, July 15, 1909; “El camino,” La Voz Juvenil, August 1, 1909; Norberto Bello, “Sobre ‘El Camino’ para mi buen amigo Policarpo Mira,” La Voz Juvenil, September 1, 1909; and Mira, “Santiago de las Vegas,” Previsión, March 20, 1910.

81. Given the culture of public and performative reading in Cuba—a result of a massive illiterate population and high printing costs during the colonial period—it is likely that people often read these newspapers to groups of eager listeners at the location of purchase. See Rodríguez, Alain Basail, El lápiz rojo: prensa, censura e identidad cubana (1878–1895) (Havana: Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Cultura Cubana, 2004), 8081; Smorkaloff, Pamela María, Readers and Writers in Cuba: A Social History of Print Culture, 1830s-1990s (New York: Garland Publishing, 1997), 916; Lane, Jill, Blackface Cuba, 1840–1895 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 107111; and Tinajero, Araceli, El lector de tabaquería. Historia de una tradición cubana (Madrid: Verbum, 2007), 122.

82. Policarpo Mira, “Santiago de las Vegas,” Previsión, October 28, 1909.

83. Mira, El camino, 28. Mira's critique of the social and economic structures that produced a racialized domestic service had a precedent in Cuba's republican black press. See, for example, “Esclavos voluntarios,” El Nuevo Criollo, August 19, 1905; “Actitud elevada. Cómo se procede en P. del Río. Tentativa de violación de una niña negra por un adinerado comerciante español,” El Nuevo Criollo, January 28, 1905; “Promesa cumplida. Booker T. Washington, interpretado por la preocupación cubana,” El Nuevo Criollo, November 19, 1905; and J. García González, “Sobre los mismo, un poco más,” El Nuevo Criollo, August 25, 1905.

84. Mira, El camino, 25.

85. Mira, El camino, 43.

86. Mira, El camino, 40–41.

87. Mira, El camino, 43. The Cuban government's promotion of white, and especially Spanish, immigration and active opposition to the entrance of immigrants of color significantly changed the country's demographic. Nearly 130,000 Spaniards migrated to Cuba between 1902 and 1907 (Helg, Our Rightful Share, 99, 104).

88. Mira, El camino, 45.

89. Mira, El camino, 44.

90. Mira, El camino, 47–48. The 1907 census makes patent the racialization of employment, Censo 1907, 59, 66, 284, 314–315, 508–510, 545–546, 572–573. For breakdowns of the ratios of black professionals in the early republic and unequal employment opportunities, see Helg, Our Rightful Share, 99–102; and de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 149–160.

91. Mira, El camino, 48.

92. Mira, El camino, 49.

93. Mira, El camino, 51.

94. Mira, El camino, 53.

95. Policarpo Mira, “Santiago de las Vegas,” Previsión, October 28, 1909.

96. In 1916, Vasconcelos published a book in which he denounced the state-sponsored massacre of PIC sympathizers in 1912 and condemned President Gómez's “trickery,” by which he “frightened white society with the specter of black racism” in order to provoke a national crisis that would then allow him to win the election by “saving the day” against the invented black threat. See El General Gómez y la sedición de mayo (Havana: Bernabeu y Casanovas, 1916), 16.

97. Ramón Vasconcelos, “Palpitaciones de la raza de color,” La Prensa, July 17, 1915.

98. Ramón Vasconcelos, “Comentario breve,” La Prensa, September 20, 1915.

99. Ramón Vasconcelos, “Sueño de verano,” La Prensa, September 23, 1915.

100. Vasconcelos, “Sueño de verano.”

101. Vasconcelos, “Sueño de verano”; José Miguel Díaz, Manifiesto a la raza de color de Cardenas [sic]. ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 228–1, exp. 7.

102. Vasconcelos, “Sueño de verano.”

103. See Archivo Histórico Provincial de Santiago de Cuba, Gobierno Provincial, leg. 2452 and 2453. On the development of Garveyism in Cuba, see Guridy, Forging Diaspora, especially chapter 2; McLeod, Marc C., “Sin dejar de ser cubanos: Cuban Blacks and the Challenges of Garveyism in Cuba,” Caribbean Studies 31 (2003): 75104, and “Garveyism in Cuba, 1920–1940,” Journal of Caribbean History 30 (1996): 132–168; Sandra Estévez Rivero, La sombra de Marcus Garvey sobre el oriente cubano (Santiago de Cuba: Ediciones Santiago, 2005); and Sandra Estévez Rivero, “El garveyismo y la guerrita de 1912: el fantasma del Partido Independiente de Color en Cuba,” Visitas al Patio 6 (2012): 45–54.

104. Numerous PIC materials referenced the history of African American political activism as a model for action, either to be avoided or followed, and reported on comparisons of the social standing and general well-being of black people in the United States and Cuba. See, for example, “El progreso de los negros,” Previsión, October 10, 1909 [reprinted from The Advocate]; “Nada puede ser americano sin el negro,” Previsión, October 10, 1909 [reprinted from The Advocate]; “El nivel intelectual de los negros cubanos y americanos,” Previsión, October 28, 1909; Cepeda, “A los hombres de color. Alerta!”; Policarpo Mira, “Santiago de las Vegas,” Previsión, October 28, 1909; Tomás Carrión, “Ten con Ten: impresiones de un viaje a la América del Norte,” Previsión, October 20 to November 28, 1909; “Linchamiento moral,” Previsión, November 25, 1909; “Linchamiento moral,” Previsión, December 30, 1909; and “Los polvos en el chocolate,” Previsión, April 15, 1910.

105. Hoffnung-Garskof, Jesse, “The Migrations of Arturo Schomburg: On Being Antillano, Negro, and Puerto Rican in New York 1891–1938,” Journal of American Ethnic History 21:1 (Fall 2001): 349, 25; Horne, Gerald, Race to Revolution: The United States and Cuba during Slavery and Jim Crow (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2014), 184188.

106. Garvey, Marcus, The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, vol. 2, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), 159.

107. Ewing, Adam, The Age of Garvey: How a Jamaican Activist Created a Mass Movement and Changed Global Black Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).

108. W. D. Beach to Army of Pacification, September 28, 1907, USNA, Record Group (RG) 350, entry 5, file 2499.

109. For Morúa Delgado's original proposal to amend Article 17 of the constitution, dated February 11, 1910, see ANC, Congreso de la República de Cuba, Diario de sesiones del Senado, leg. 943, exp. 42582. His motion passed on May 2, 1910. See ANC, Congreso de la República de Cuba, Diario de sesiones de la Cámara de Representantes, leg. 57965.

110. Previsión published a page on events held by municipal committees, including the names of their leading representatives. For the dates when these committees were formed, see Danzie León et al., Apuntes cronológicos.

111. Previsión, March 30, 1910, and April 3, and 7, 1910.

112. See, for example, PIC propaganda circulars for festivities in Matanzas: Partido Independiente de Color. Grandes fiestas de propaganda, March 1910, ANC, Audiencia de La Habana, leg. 229–1, exp. 1; and Grandes fiestas del Partido Independiente de Color, April 1910, ANC, Fondo Especial, leg. 51, exp. 6.

113. “La actualidad palpitante. Hablando con Evaristo Estenoz,” La Discusión, April 21, 1910.

114. “Al gobierno y á los negros de Cuba,” Previsión, January 30, 1910.

115. Portuondo Linares, Los independientes, 139; Helg, Our Rightful Share, 172.

116. For analysis of the persecution of the PIC and the aftermath of its repression, see Helg, Our Rightful Share, 161–248; Chomsky, Aviva, “The Aftermath of Repression: Race and Nation in Cuba After 1912,” Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research 4:2 (December 1998): 140; Alejandra Bronfman, “La barbarie y sus descontentos: raza y civilización.1912–1919,” Temas 24–25 (January-June 2001): 23–33; Alexander Sotelo Eastman, “Binding Freedom: Cuba's Black Public Sphere, 1868–1912,” (PhD diss.: Washington University in St. Louis, 2016), 240–263.

117. Rolando, 1912: Voces para un silencio, and Las raíces de mi corazón. On Cuban hip hop artists’ engagement with the PIC, see Perry, Marc D., Negro Soy Yo: Hip Hop and Race Citizenship in Neoliberal Cuba (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016), 135, 140142, 144–145. For more on the significance of the PIC's history in the twenty-first century, see de la Fuente, “Los pasados de este presente.”

The bulk of the archival research that informs this article was made possible thanks to the Council on Library and Information Resources Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources. Additional funding was provided by the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College and a Graduate Research Fellowship from the University of Miami's Cuban Heritage Collection. Without the activism, support and friendship of Bárbara Danzie León at the Archivo Nacional de Cuba this article simply would not exist. I am grateful for the feedback from participants at the African American Intellectual History Society conference (Vanderbilt University, 2017) and “Arts in the Black Press During the Age of Jim Crow” (Yale University, 2017). Additional thanks to the anonymous readers from The Americas and, as always, Emma Shaw Crane, for generative feedback on the structure and arguments presented here.

The Neglected Narratives of Cuba's Partido Independiente de Color: Civil Rights, Popular Politics, and Emancipatory Reading Practices

  • Alexander Sotelo Eastman (a1)

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