Afro-Cuban women, family ties and colonial deportation to the Spanish Chafarinas Islands (1880-1883)

Alternative forms of kinship
By Albert Garcia-Balañà

During the final days of the Little War (1879-1880), the Spanish military authorities in Cuba deported for the first time dozens of supposed Afro-Cuban families to penitentiary areas in North Africa and the Mediterranean. The women and children were first all deported to the tiny Isabel II Island, in the archipelago of the Chafarinas Islands. This paper demonstrates that the colonial state used family-related vocabulary to justify an administrative deportation of women and children. This deportation was a continuation, by other means, of the war “against families”—against non-combatant women linked to the anti-colonial guerrilla movement—that the Spanish military officer Camilo Polavieja had attempted in eastern Cuba in 1879-1880. However, the deported women also used family references to work together to change their situation and end their imprisonment.

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