Carlotta Lucumi, “La Negra Carlota”, This Yoruba Woman Led One Of Cuba’s Biggest Revolts In 1844

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Carlota Lucumí, popularly known as La Negra Carlota whose date of birth is unknown but died in November 1844. Carlota was an enslaved African woman from the Kingdom of Benin in West Africa. Her last name, Lucumi, comes from her ethnic group, who were descendants from the Yoruba people who are presently Nigerian and in the Benin Republic.

Carlota Leading the Slaves in Matanzas by Lili Bernard
Public domain image

Lucumi was kidnapped when she was ten years old, taken from her African homeland to the Matanzas province of Cuba. The strictness of plantation agriculture in Cuba led to several slave rebellions throughout the 1830s to 1840s. Carlota lived and worked as a slave on Triunvirato sugar plantation. Although slavery had been abolished in Haiti in 1793, and it was in the process of being abolished throughout Latin America and in the British Empire in the 1800s, it continued in Cuba and Carlota suffered under harsh conditions and savage treatments by Spanish plantation owners.

In 1843, Carlota and another enslaved woman, Firmina, began to plot a revolt among the slaves. Their plan called for a simultaneous uprising on Triunvirato and surrounding plantations. A plantation owner found Firmina as she was distributing this information to other plantations and had her severely lashed and then imprisoned. Despite this disadvantage, Carlota continued to organize the uprising. Using music as a form of communication, she sent coded messages by talking drum to nearby slaves, coordinating the revolts.

An artistic impression which depicts Carlota with a matchet in hand

On November 3, 1843, Carlota along with other tribal leaders Filip, Narcisco, Manuel, and Eduardo, led an incursion which begun what would be known as the Triunvirato Rebellion. Wielding a machete, she first freed Firmina, her counterpart and a dozen other slaves being held in captivity in a house on the property. She then burned the house that had been used to torture slaves, killed the overseer’s daughter, Maria de Regla, and then forced Julian Luis Alfonso, the owner of the Triunvirato plantation, to move out.

Carlota and her followers then went to the Acane plantation, killing as many whites as they could find. In their revolts in two days, they destroyed five sugar plantations, as well as a number of coffee and cattle farmlands. The day the last plantation was destroyed, Carlota and Firmina were both captured and executed. Carlota’s body was tied to moving horses, and the horses dragged her body along until she died. Her followers found her body on the morning of November 6, 1843, and vowed to continue to fight for their freedom. Finally, in November, fully-armed Spanish colonial forces overpowered the machete wielding slaves and the rebellion ended.

The following year, 1844, became known as the “Year of the Lashes” in Cuba as slaveholders unrelentingly without exaggeration punished all enslaved people on the island, both those who participated in the uprising and deterred those who did not.

Monument of the Triumvirato rebellion at the
Triumvirato sugar plantation, Cuba .Carlota in the middle built on July 25 1991

Lucumi’s tale of bravery during the rebellion, nonetheless spread throughout Cuba. Her actions inspired numerous rebellions after Carlota’s death, against white slave owners on that island and throughout the Caribbean. There is now a monument to the legacy of La Negra Carlota Lucumi at the Triunvirato sugar mill.

References:
Ana Lucia Araujo (2014-08-07). Shadows of the Slave Past: Memory, Heritage and Slavery (Routledge Studies in Cultural History). Routledge, 2014. p. 198. ISBN 978-1-135-0119-70.

 Richard Gott (2005). Cuba: A New History. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-111-149.

 Eugene Godfried. “CARLOTA , Lukumí/Yoruba Woman Fighter for Liberation Massacred in Matanzas, Cuba, in 1844”.

 

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