Envisioning La Escalera--an underground rebel movement largely
composed of Africans living on farms and plantations in rural
western Cuba--in the larger context of the long emancipation
struggle in Cuba, Aisha Finch demonstrates how organized slave
resistance became critical to the unraveling not only of slavery
but also of colonial systems of power during the nineteenth
While the discovery of La Escalera unleashed a reign of terror by
the Spanish colonial powers in which hundreds of enslaved people
were tortured, tried, and executed, Finch revises historiographical
conceptions of the movement as a fiction conveniently invented by
the Spanish government in order to target anticolonial activities.
Connecting the political agitation stirred up by free people of
color in the urban centers to the slave rebellions that rocked the
countryside, Finch shows how the rural plantation was connected to
a much larger conspiratorial world outside the agrarian sector.
While acknowledging the role of foreign abolitionists and white
creoles in the broader history of emancipation, Finch teases apart
the organization, leadership, and effectiveness of the black
insurgents in midcentury dissident mobilizations that emerged
across western Cuba, presenting compelling evidence that black
women played a particularly critical role.