1. La escalera (the ladder) refers to the practice of binding suspects to ladders for brutal
interrogations that often involved severe whipping. This was a central method used
against those allegedly involved in the 1812 conspiracy.
2. To this day this legacy privileges the white Dominican-born General Máximo Gó-
mez of the independence forces as the supreme military hero of a liberated Cuban
3. In this light, recently liberated blacks were figured in paternalistic terms as in-
debted wards of the independence movement, loyally indebted for their bestowed
4. Early Cuba’s nonracial promise was complicated by U.S. interventionism follow-
ing the Spanish-American War. Subsequent military occupations of 1898–1902 and
1906–9 secured U.S. capital expansion within the island’s sugar economy, enabling
U.S. firms to control upward of 75 percent of the island’s sugarcane production
by the mid-1930s (Jatar-Hausmann 1999: 11). Successive military administrations
entrenched discriminatory hiring practices in Cuban state institutions (Helg 1995),
while introducing ideologies of racial inferiority by way of Jim Crow–like segrega-
tion in U.S.-owned sugar facilities (de la Fuente 2001).
5. Here racialized terror, to borrow from Achille Mbembe, provided a way “of marking
[black] aberration in the body politic [where] politics is read both as the mobile
force of reason and as the errant attempt at creating a space where ‘error’ would be
reduced, truth enhanced, and the enemy disposed of ” (Mbembe 2003: 19).
6. Fidel Castro, “Revolución,” March 26, 1959, cited in Fernández Robaina 1993: 103.