Rebecca Scott will deliver a talk "María Coleta and the Capuchin Friar: Slavery, Salvation, and the Adjudication of Status (Havana, 1817)."
This presentation – based on an essay by Rebecca Scott and Carlos Venegas -- explores the unlawful enslavement of free persons in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution. Departing Saint-Domingue/ Santo Domingo in 1796, could the young woman called Coleta maintain the legal freedom that she had achieved? After arriving in Havana, Coleta was soon claimed as a slave by María Francisca Lorignac, the woman from whom she had borrowed money for passage.
Twenty years later, a Capuchin friar was called to administer the last rites at Coleta's deathbed. After uttering her confession, Coleta refused to accept final absolution, imploring Friar Félix to make a written record of her narrative and submit it to a judge, in order to initiate a suit for freedom for her daughters. The resulting case file reveals deep indeterminacies of status, and the obstacles to legal redress in Cuban slave society. The exercise of powers that seemingly attached to ownership could place a legal cloak over an unlawful act, creating slave status itself. Through a final moment of daring, Coleta nonetheless told her story of a life lived across empires, insisting that she was a free woman unlawfully held as a slave, and that her children should not suffer the same injustice.
This event is co-sponsored by Cuba Studies Program DRCLAS