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A house in Amargura




a novel by Elisa Vázquez de Gey

WITH THE SETTING OF COLONIAL HAVANA AS THE SPECTACULAR BACKDROP, THREE CHARACTERS SET OFF TO FULFILL THE LAST WISHES OF THEIR DYING FRIEND; TO DIVE INTO THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE SYSTEM OF SLAVERY, TO OVERCOME THE SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS THAT EMANATE FROM IT, AND EXPLORE THE UNIVERSE OF STRANGE TRADES THAT SURROUND SLAVERY.


The memory of slavery has yet to be written. But it must be told that in a period of our history, a small number of countries perpetrated with impunity the greatest of atrocities: to capture free individuals in their places of origin, move them against their will to another continent, and enslave them for life, all to the benefit of the capturer. Also in nineteenth-century Cuba, with the approval of the Colonial Government, the slave trade had at its disposal the most skilled mercenaries; An army of clerks, copyists, trustees, and notaries proliferated along the length and breadth of the island, rearranging regulations, drafting contracts, enforcing "the letter of the law," attempting to give order to the complicated and unequal links between masters and slaves.
All this happened in a place that, at the time, was under Spanish rule.
In the silence of the archives, sleeping questions lie; Certificates of birth, baptism, marriage, death... manumissions, deeds of sales, purchases, and rentings of slaves, plagiarism, letters of freedom, wills... all await their moment. They are traces that prove the existence of "people without history" and compile the trail of those who were disregarded due to being slaves.
Perhaps we are still in time to talk about it.

the author

"linda habana acogedora"

lovely, wellcoming Havana

1855-1885

The ladies go shopping

The day went by all too quickly, in what we call an “Avemaría”. Ulysses guided us like the outstanding carriage driver he is, making sure the uneven paths do not trouble us too much, attentive to our thirst and our appetite, giving us bouquets of mint to withstand the foul smells of the market, bringing the ‘quitrin’ carriage as close to the bay as possible to feel the breeze of the sea, but was careful that the sun did not tan our faces. We toured the forty-five inner streets contemplating their buildings and monuments; We went to a fashion house in Obispo, took the measurements of Félicité and we sketched the designs for their "new tropical dresses", which would be ready to try-on in a couple of days and after "prêts à porter", as the French say. We stopped at "Las Delicias de las Damas" and the vendors took their pieces of fabrics out into the street so that, from the quitrin, we appreciated the textures and colors in the light of day (...)

Excerpt from chapter 26 of "Una Casa en Amargura"

ilustración desembarco MUELLE DE CABALLERÍA

The Xing disembarked on the island as "Oriental Californians," forming part of the second Asian migration that Cuba received, and landed in the Royal Villa of San Cristobal de Havana on a cloudy morning of December 1871.

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Damita en quitrín THE ROYAL VILLA

With a thousand smiles and a gesture of the hand I indicated to my guest that everything was ready and that we could climb into the quitrín carriage. He accepted, though has since refused to separate from his three bags and a pair of hat boxes.

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ilustración del Teatro Villanueva THE VILLANUEVA THEATRE

When we entered into armed conflict with Spain the tranquility of those who wore a blue tie, a garment with which the Cuban patriots were recognized and which, while the Spaniards did not discover their meaning, allowed them to be identified with the naked eye, was truncated forever.

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retrato de niño y su muleque POSING FOR A PORTRAIT

«Of the master's wife, who had gotten engaged to her husband-to-be, a recent widower with a daughter, having seen him only in a framed, embossed glass image sent to Bordeaux, I had to call her "Madame Denise". It seems that the portrait did not do justice to the man, because it showed an angelic being, when in fact he got fiercely angry for saying "good morning sir" too low, but married the two anyway, by proxy and at a distance.»

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carruaje fúnebre "¡QUIQUIRIBÚ MANDINGA!"

The doctors left, and I withdrew so that the maidservants, who truly valued Misterio, could busy themselves with washing and clothing her body. In order not to be carried away by grief, I wanted to keep myself occupied.

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Memories of Slavery

Papers Required


MATTERS OF SERVANTS

The morning that Misterio appeared in the study of the grand administrator she had to arrive very early. The servants commented that when they came to open the gates, she was third in line.

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BY THE LETTER OF THE LAW

An important date was that of June 1, 1870, because on that day we received the most awaited of notices: the state declared themselves free of dependence, and therefore all blacks who arrived to Cuba in ships between 1849 and 1853 were also free!

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REAL CASA DE BENEFICENCIA

The Charity House

The Casa de Beneficencia, The Charity House, rewarded the women who had just given birth with some wine, chocolate, and biscuits, but in my case, as the labor had been terribly difficult, they also added half a hen...

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Downloadable documents and texts


BIBLIOGRAPHICAL SOURCES

Literary and historical sources that served as a guide, publications and papers that helped me to understand the particular aspects of the daily life of the slaves in the Spanish slave society, and the documents consulted in archives, museums, and libraries, are all grouped by their area of interest and, in some cases, include comments

See bibliographic sources

SLAVERY ABOLITION LAW and

MORET LAW (called Libertad de Vientres)

Laws that order the abolition of slavery on the island of Cuba

See the documents

REGULATION OF SLAVES and

CONTRACTS OF EMANCIPATED BLACKS

Documents that regulate the life and emancipation of slaves in Cuba

See contracts and regulations

PHOTOS OF THE AUTHOR

Download photos of the author @ Asís G. Ayerbe in high resolution

Download photos

PRESS CLIPPINGS

Download press clippings

HAVANA BOOK FAIR... and a TV series!

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About the Author


Elisa vázquez de gey

Bibliography

Elisa Vázquez de Gey (Lugo) is the author of the only authorized biography of the Princess of Kapurthala. Her work "Anita Delgado, Maharaní de Kapurthala" (Barcelona, 1998) has been reprinted several times in Spain and translated into German and English. She studied philology at the University of Santiago de Compostela in 1984 and has since divided her time between her two passions: teaching and literary creation. Her writing career started with poetry and drifted toward the fields of biography and historical novels. Her most recent novel "Una casa en Amargura" (Ediciones B) is set in Colonial Cuba and recreates the daily life of masters and slaves within the elegant Havana mansions.
If you would like to know more, you are in the right spot.

 Sources:

Versos sin rimmel

(Torremozas, Madrid 1984) Poetry.

Queimar as meigas: Galicia 50 años de poesía escrita por mujeres

(Torremozas, Madrid 1988).

Atentamente suya

(Torremozas, Madrid 1994)Poetry.

Anita Delgado, Maharaní de Kapurthala

(Planeta 1998) Biography.

El sueño de la Maharaní

(Grijalbo, 2005) Historical novel.

La princesa de Kapurthala

(Planeta, BCN 2008) Biography.
www.princesadekapurthala.com

Impresiones de mis viajes por las Indias
Princesa Prem Kaur de Kapurthala (Anita Delgado)

Edición al cuidado de Elisa Vázquez de Gey. Travel journal.
(Ediciones del Viento, Coruña 2017)

Una casa en Amargura

(Ediciones B, BCN 2015) Historical novel.

Thank yous and credits


From island to island, I confess that this book has been a long journey. Fortunately it was not a solitary journey-- quite the opposite-- I was accompanied by the generosity and encouragement of a handful of friends and collaborators with whom I am affectionately indebted...

:: Texts ::
Elisa Vázquez de Gey

:: Images and Documentation ::
Archivo particular de fotografías y documentos de Elisa Vázquez de Gey
La fotografía “Niña Dulce y su Muleque” es propiedad de Fernando Montero
El óleo “Tres Pilluelos” es de Juana Borrero (1877-1896)
El óleo “La siesta” es de Guillermo Collazo (1850-1896)
Las escenas cubanas son de Víctor Patricio Landaluce (1830-1889)
La “Vista del puerto y la ciudad de La Habana” es de Louis le Breton (1818-1866)
Textos extraídos de los diarios cubanos “La Gaceta de La Habana” y “El diario de La Marina”
La obra "Lo que fuimos y lo que somos o La Habana antigua y moderna" de José María de la Torre:
Imprenta de Spencer y Compañía, Habana 1857
Las fotografías en BN con subtítulos en inglés pertenecen al libro: “Greater America; Heroes, Battles, Camps; Dewey Islands, Cuba, Porto Rico” 1898, de F. Tennyson Neely.
Las vistas de ingenios son de Eduardo Laplante, pintor, grabador y litografista.
Diarios gallegos “La Voz de Galicia” y “La Opinión de La Coruña”

::Online::
www.habananuestra.cu Portal de la Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad.
www.habanaradio.cu Tribuna del Historiador de la Ciudad, que transmite desde la Lonja del Comercio.
www.opushabana.cu Revista de la Oficina del Historiador y de actualidad cultural de La Habana Vieja.
www.lahabanaelegante.com Revista de literatura y cultura cubana, caribeña, latinoamericana y de estética.
www.cubaperiodistas.cu
www.creadorcubano.com

::Immigration records of Gallegos, Cuba::
Immigration records of Gallegos to Cuba: www.xenealoxia.org/rexistros/galegos-a-cuba/2126-urbano-feyjoo-sotomayor-y-cejo-181-1898

:: Cover of “Una casa en Amargura”::
Ediciones B, Barcelona, 2015

::Web Design::
Asís G. Ayerbe (www.losduelistas.es)

::Editing and Digitizing documents and photographs from the 19th century::
Simón Jiménez Rodríguez
www.carlosfotografos.com

Copyright 2015 - Elisa Vázquez de Gey
If you use these texts, please cite them

 

Please contact with any questions or comments: 

info@unacasaenamargura.com