Colonial Transfusions: Cuban Bodies and Spanish Loyalty in the Nineteenth Century

  • David Sartorius


By the early nineteenth century, talk of blood continued to do a great deal of work in giving meaning to political and social life in Spain’s American colonies. “Con sangre se hace azúcar”—”Sugar is made with blood”: this was a saying popular among Cuban planters during the nineteenth century, and it grimly evoked the backbreaking labor and quotidian violence that made possible their extraordinary wealth.1 Those planters were among many Cubans who undertook a major expansion of the island’s sugar industry and enslaved African labor force just as antislavery sentiment gained momentum throughout the Atlantic world. By 1791, British abolitionists circulated pamphlets advocating the boycott of Caribbean sugar, “steeped in the blood of our fellow-creatures.”2 In August of that same year in St Domingue, the French colony less than 50 miles from Cuba’s easternmost point, a slave named Boukman led a ceremony in which he and his conspirators sacrificed a black pig and drank its blood. That event initiated an island-wide revolt that ended slavery in far more radical and violent ways than sugar planters and officials, and even many abolitionists, had desired.3 The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) facilitated Cuba’s global dominance in sugar production but at a bloody price, namely, the brutality elemental to slave societies.


African Descent Political Allegiance Atlantic World Spanish Citizenship Anthropological Society 
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© David Sartorius 2014

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  • David Sartorius

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