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Esteban Montejo: A Captivating Tale of a Runaway Slave

Jul 24, 2023 | 0 comments

Jul 24, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Autobiography of Latina America-Esteban Montejo

Few documentaries are available that give information concerning the history of Latina America. In many cases, the documentaries are put in history by different authors that focus on the history of Latina America. Many African authors have been found to document the history of most of the personalities in Latina America due to their close contact with the people from South America and a few parts of northern America that have a great history on slavery. [1]In Brazil, the history of the two Mulatto abolitionists was documented by the personal experiences of the victims and recorded in the Latina America archive that later documented other articles in the forum that paved way for the historians to understand the issue of slavery at a personal level. However, several historical experiences were documented by different personalities that had an interest in exploring the history of Latina America.[2] In this regard, the history of Esteban Montejo was documented by Miguel Barnet in a tape recording that gives the personal experience of the victim during the colonial period of the Spaniard and the entire Portuguese rule.[3] This made a significant impact in Cuban historiography and even beyond Cuba. Hence, the paper gives an account of the details that accompanied Esteban Montejo during slavery.


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The institution of slavery has been clearly condemned by the documentation of the personal experience of Esteban Montejo. [4]The victim had fallen into the trap of the Spaniard colonial rule, becomes the first victim to come out clearly in a documented forum to condemn the action of slavery. The history of Latina America had risen from the population of the people who had an interest in studying slavery as it occurred in Cuba. Esteban Montejo has been named the person who experienced maroon slavery in the n and Latina America that has a good understanding of the events that surrounded slavery. [5]Esteban Montejo gives information on the testimonial experience that promotes a better understanding of the memories that occurred several years ago.

In 1963, Esteban Montejo explains in a better understanding what happened to him as a slave in the colonial period. In the account that is narrated by the victim during the colonial era, the victim tackles three major areas that were more significant to him during the era. [6]The religious events that surrounded the colonial period are well explained by the individual. Moreover, the venting of the scenes that coupled the fugitive hiding in the woodlands was intended to set him free from the slavery that was cruel at his face. The book gives an account of the direct quotes that appear to be readable from the archive of the scholars that later interpreted the events that surrounded the whole matter of slavery.

In 1860 as a slave, Esteban Montejo became an eyewitness and a victim of turbulent events that coupled slavery in Latina America. Historically, the people of Cuba had evolved in terms of agricultural production that occurred under the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) making sugar to be the major commercial product in Cuba. [7] As a matter of fact, the colonial rule started trafficking people from Africa to Cuba especially the Caribbean island of St. Dominique due to the desire for cheap and affordable labor. The parents of Esteban Montejo were the slaves that were transported from Africa to provide cheap labor during the sugar production that was taking root in Latina America. The merchants and the planters of sugarcane played a key role in the slave recruitment between the years 1780 and 1860 shortly before slavery was abolished in the year 1863. The mission was intended to satisfy the demand of the inexpensive labor that was highly appreciated in the land during the sugar production plantations and processing industries.

[8]In the era of slavery, many Africans had arrived in the midst of the white men. Esteban Montejo had an opportunity to experience the change in culture as a result of interaction with foreign people. [9]According to Esteban Montejo, most of the Africans expressed their culture to preserve what they considered as African norms. Also, he witnessed the resistance of the slavery that came as a result of forced labor and little care about the welfare of the workers in the plantations of sugar and the industries that could process the raw materials for the sugar.

Many people could not withstand the pressure and the humiliation of slavery before their sons and daughters. [10]They experienced several attempts to boycott the sessions in the plantations. Wherein in Cuba’s Ten Year’s War (1868-1878) Montejo escaped from the colonial master and started his own way of living. He names the life he lived as the runaway slave since he could not acquire all the comfortable means of living since they were in a new land away from their ancestral lands. Memories of the war that led to the attainment of American independence came as a result of the utilization of the slaves from Africa, as Montejo remembers traumatized his entire life.

In his narrative, Montejo gives an account of what it entails to be nature. He claims that nature is everything that includes what one cannot be able to see. [11]In the revelation of what cannot be seen be categorized as nature, he explains the mindset as one of the elements that describe nature without having a glance at all the events in the world. Moreover, in the new environment where the insects were a source of the additional pain that ruined the Africans in the new land, he remembers the way the Africans suffered by using the natural herbs in curing the infections that could arise from the insect bites. [12]Also, they used the herbs to seek medication in other illnesses as the white man had little interest in the welfare of the Africans.

African women and men had different residential areas depending on the location they were put to work on.[13] Montejo recalls delighting in the residential areas they occupied as the Africans when it came to issues that surrounded the sugar plantation. The areas included Musungo Congos, Mandingos, Gangas, Lucumis, and Carabalis. The issues that surrounded the entire life of Montejo were the roles they played in the milling sites of sugarcane as they were allowed to express their levels of hard work as well as their entire lives of skill evaluation. [14]Moreover, the events that surrounded the life of Montejo include the narration of the events that enabled the Africans to be transported back to Africa with a religious tag that was called the Prenda. He denies the claims that were recorded by other narrators of history that Africans committed suicide by hanging themselves whenever they felt life was not heading in the right direction to their perspectives.

He depicts the people he lived with as the people with beauty, compassion, and high levels of sensuality. He gives evidence of the brutal treatment they experienced during the era of slavery. The master and the overseers were cruel to Africans for petty issues and enactment a punishment of two to three months without any trial or dialogue to understand the source of the problem. Planters locked their slaves and commonly enforced whipping of both the parents and the children without any ethical consideration. He laments the treatment the white man gave the black man as an object that should be controlled without being listened to. According to Montejo, the barracoon which was slaves’ headquarters was ever dirty and bore. Slaves were been woken up at 6 am and could get back to their residential areas in the evening around 6 pm with only one meal a day.

Montejo explains what transpired between him and his overseer that led him into the woods. He hated the harassment of the overseers. [15]As a result of being harassed, he threw a wooden stick at the overseer and hit him on his head. He had understood the events that will follow him as a punishment that will let him get locked in the dark for three months. He escaped into the woods just like his counterpart Sethe in Toni Morrison’s novel. Most of the slaves who escaped their masters in the United States preferred to get their way to the north or southern region of America. However, for Montejo, he decided to stay in the woods lonely. He settled in the thick forests of Cuba that enabled him to grow strong and courageous regarding the challenges he had faced

Life in the forest taught him how to face the wild animals. Whenever he could hear the barks of the forest animals, he immediately removed his clothing to avoid the animals from picking up the scent that could let him get attacked. He made the cave his home and lived for several months without talking to any person. The experience taught him to withstand the high pain of loneliness and the desire to be focused on the end goal. [16]He describes how careful he was about the voices he made as well as the fires he builds at the entry of the cave to avoid being noticed by the overseers and the merchants. He survived by stealing food from the plantations during the night enabling him to live a healthy life.

Most of the food he stole was the pigs and the food crops from the farm. He narrates how he made his hair grow long into kinka which possibly means that he grew the hair into long dreadlocks. He made himself his own boss. His legs were hard as sticks and the hair started growing all over his body as a sign of the cold environment he experienced in the forest. He never wanted to go to either south or north of America due to the policy of slavery that was brutal all over the nation. [17]He admired secretive life that could not let his rights get infringed. He narrates having a feeling of being a Cimarron in his own eyes. After some time, he learned that slavery was abolished and every person was a free man, he left the wooden forest and started seeking employment in the sugar plantation.

After slavery was abolished he worked as a free laborer in the sugar plantation in Puri and Ariosa. The notion of slavery had not ended with most of the merchants. They believed that the blacks were meant for locking up and whipping. Despite being free men on the plantation, some of the merchants could not seize from extending the cruel treatment, and aftermath of the abolition of slavery.[18] According to his thought, the Africans were also not aware that things had changed. Most of them were submissive to the cruel treatment since it was what they had accepted to do for a long period of time. He took a firm stand against harassment as he always argued he worked as a free man. He stayed clearing the fields, cutting sugarcane, and staying in control of the milling sites of the sugarcane that was set ready for processing.

Most important, Montejo criticized the quality of education amongst the blacks and the Mulatto children. He felt that slavery had not ended if the blacks were denied access to quality education. Despite having all the qualifications to join the important professions, they were denied access to education as they were regarded to be professionals of manual work. Also, the blacks never had a chance to face the important rule that enabled them to avail themselves of better education. In most of his work as an iconic personality, he reserved the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that was considered holy for fellowship. He stated that women were devils as they concerted most of their followers into a house of whores. The priests put the women into the caves where they could set them ready for execution.

In most incidences, Montejo witnesses the introduction of passports and identity cards. Even in the enrollment program, the identification cards were restricted to certain units that encompassed the blacks. [19]They were restricted in movement through the issuing of the identification cards that had only a limited movement location. The rest of the natives were free to move over from one place to the other. He hated the conditions that always came up as the policies of the government of the USA that wanted to see the blacks been oppressed. They never wanted to create an equal society between the natives and the old slaves.

Montejo gives a wide explanation of how they lived with the rest of the communities in terms of social interaction as well as the way communities enhanced the mutuality of obligation. The Chinese doctors served them with herbal medicine as well as grassroots that served as an essential element in establishing a healthy life. [20] In San Juan, he experienced the true power of religion as the inhabitants were full observers of the culture. Despite facing several challenges in suiting the new religions, he was never undermined by their events. The Africans were never left out in the fields of parties as they embraced their cultures equally as the white men. Montejo in his narration that was recorded feels that during his living period, the Africans were very wise and nobody likened them to the wild animals as they were more friendly and caring than any other race. Racial discrimination affected the lifestyle of the rest of the Africans who could not withstand the stigma. Montejo recalls a woman falling into a pit after being stigmatized of her looks as a result of being depressed.

[21]The final documentation of Montejo’s narrative entailed the war for independence. The war lasted from the year 1895 to 1898. The three-year war played a key role in defining the role of the black people in the community. They proved to be wise than the Spaniard troops as they used the machetes to chop off the heads of the young troops from Spain. The most important position played by Montejo was the mobilization of the Black men and the encouragement that they were to make it despite the underrating that they experienced from the White man. The arrival of USA troops into the war in 1898 just a week before the end of the war marked a significant reinforcement that facilitated the attainment of independence. [22]The black women played the role of spying the Spaniard troops upon being detained as used as the house girls to the soldiers of the Spaniard colonel. The role of these women served as a significant move that led to the defeat of the colonels of Spaniard rule that always got them out of the plan due to the leaked information. The colonels could not be in a position to explain why their new tactics in the war failed.

[23]Moreno has presented a written a significantly cohesive analysis related to the social as well as the structural history of the key aspect of sugar production within the conditions that existed during nineteenth-century slavery in Cuba. He succeeded in identifying and grasping one’s perspective of this society’s form of oppression. [24]This point of view was not derived from a perspective of a slave from the plantations instead it comes from the point of view of Cimarron; the runaway slave himself. Therefore, this narrative of the highly oppressive structures as well as the existing irrepressible desire and urge for achieving the freedom of the Afro-Cuban; narrated by a former slave of a hundred years old.

[25]However, ‘oral history’ has faced a ton of criticism by scholars and historians over the years. Therefore, Barnet together with his Cimarron has faced several objections towards his methodology and content; as well as the narrator’s self-representation. A group of scholars has great criticism of this particular method of oral history in consideration of black narrator mimesis on the side of a writer who is white; moreover they also critic Barnet’s principles utilized in his selection of materials and line of questioning. Furthermore, they critique his presentation of the early nineteen sixties official Cuba; thus affecting the illegibility of his account.[26] Scholars argue that Barnet together with his narrator is by default faulted towards anti-imperialism, hero-worship; as well as for the sexualization of freedom for Montejo. Moreover, Montejo has a depiction in place as a free-spirited individual; who lived without any substantial social ties as well as any organizational affiliation in place.

Despite these critics and arguments against Barnet and his methodology; Montejo manages to give a significantly vivid account of day-to-day life. [27]He creates a clear image of the eating, drinking, working, sexuality as well as the revolution during the year 1985 in the war towards independence.

In conclusion, Montejo in his late-life as a black civilian set a precedent in the fight against slavery. The encouragement he gave the people acted as a central understanding to why all the races needed to equally treat their counterparts. The experience of moving in the forest and never aiming to escape the region until the issues were set right explains the anger that was experienced by the colonial rule among all other people. Families were mistreated and all the blacks were detained whenever they could object the slavery. Montejo gives a limelight on how the Africans were mistreated by being whipped in front of their family members and detained without trial for three months in the dark. The sugar plantation acted as a platform of all evil against the blacks due to the need to obtain cheap labor. The merchants had a strong desire to get cheap labor by reinforcing the labor from West African countries through human trafficking. Hence, Montejo’s life gives an account of all the history of Latina America and how slavery emerged to undermine the rights of others, the struggle and all the challenges faced by women and children, racial discrimination as well as the role of each gender in slavery.

Works Cited

“The ‘cimarrón’ in the Archives: a Re-Reading of Miguel Barnet’s Biography of Esteban Montejo.” Nwig. 71 (1997): 265-279. Print.

Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Precorder


  1. Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Print.
  2. “The ‘cimarrón’ in the Archives: a Re-Reading of Miguel Barnet’s Biography of Esteban Montejo.” Nwig. 71 (1997): 265-279. Print.,
  3. Ibid.., 270. ↑
  4. Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Print.
  5. “The ‘cimarrón’ in the Archives: a Re-Reading of Miguel Barnet’s Biography of Esteban Montejo.” Nwig. 71 (1997): 265-279. Print., 272.
  6. Ibid..,
  7. Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Print.
  8. “The ‘cimarrón’ in the Archives: a Re-Reading of Miguel Barnet’s Biography of Esteban Montejo.” Nwig. 71 (1997): 265-279. Print., 265.
  9. Ibid..,273. ↑
  10. Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Print.
  11. Ibid..,
  12. Ibid..,
  13. Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Print.
  14. Ibid..,
  15. Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Print.
  16. Ibid..,
  17. Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Print.
  18. “The ‘cimarrón’ in the Archives: a Re-Reading of Miguel Barnet’s Biography of Esteban Montejo.” Nwig. 71 (1997): 265-279. Print.,268.
  19. Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Print.
  20. Ibid..,
  21. Montejo, Esteban, Miguel Barnet, W N. Hill, and William Luis. Biography of a Runaway Slave. , 2016. Print.
  22. Ibid..,
  23. “The ‘cimarrón’ in the Archives: a Re-Reading of Miguel Barnet’s Biography of Esteban Montejo.” Nwig. 71 (1997): 265-279. Print., 265.
  24. “The ‘cimarrón’ in the Archives: a Re-Reading of Miguel Barnet’s Biography of Esteban Montejo.” Nwig. 71 (1997): 265-279. Print., 265.
  25. Ibid.., 266.
  26. Ibid.., 267.
  27. Ibid.., 267.
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