Urban Slaves and Freed Blacks

Rafael Ocasio

in Afro-Cuban Costumbrismo

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780813041643
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780813043913 | DOI:
Urban Slaves and Freed Blacks

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“Urban Slaves and Freed Blacks” examines urban Blacks, slave and freed, who were part of a rather large population that worked in a substantial number but limited range of trades and lived in marginal neighborhoods throughout Cuban cities. Documentation of Black customs and, in particular, of representative character types, is the focus of the section entitled “Cuban Costumbristas’ Multifaceted Portraits of Black Women.” It presents an analysis of Black women as public figures, often depicted as essential components of a booming Creole Black urban culture. Negative characterization of certain Black female types demonstrates the subversive mechanisms that female slaves or freed Black women had at their disposal to confront the gender-based impositions of mainstream culture. Like Black males, Black women had to live and work in specific urban locales, and their whereabouts as street vendors or as medicine women became favorite themes for Costumbristas. Costumbrista writers followed similar trends observed in popular Cuban visual art, seeking to classify Black women in terms of their supposedly oversexualized behavior, of their acculturation into mainstream Cuban culture, or of the specific jobs they were allowed to engage. One common character is the mulata fina, a figure that acquired literary importance in unpublished abolitionist novels.

Keywords: nineteenth-century Cuba; urban slavery practices, Havana; racial divisions among slaves; Betancourt, José Victoriano; Cuban Black slave women; Cuban Black freed women; Gelabert, Francisco de Paula; mula(t)ta

Chapter.  15552 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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