The Year of the Lash Pt. 2: Cuba’s Inquisition

0 Posted by - April 26, 2023 - Black History, SLAVERY

In part one, we laid out the origins of the Year of the Lash. In 1843 rebellion hit Cuba as slaves took to plantations, mills, and other agricultural institutions and laid waste to homes and buildings. The previous governor, Captain General Jeronimo Valdes, isn’t active in dealing with the rebellions. Due to this, Captain General Leopoldo O’Donnell replaces him later in 1843.

With this new authority, an active hunt for conspirators is underway. While the slave rebellion ends in 1844, the Year of the Lash ramps up.



O’Donnell’s hunt brought in everyone suspected of being a part of the conspiracy. Influential people, entertainers, writers, members of the military, slaves, natives—no one was safe for this hunt. On top of that, there was very little to prove that there was a wide-reaching conspiracy where the slaves were backed by people of influence.

The rebellion was viewed as a conspiracy by undermining the ability of Black people to orchestrate it. The view was that there was no way that mostly uneducated or barely educated slaves could set this conspiracy up. They had to have help from people with pull.

Cuba officials torture suspects and force them to reveal secrets and collaborators they didn’t know. One of the main methods gave the conspiracy—La Conspiración de la Escalara—its name. Suspects were strapped to a ladder and whipped until they “confessed.” If they didn’t they were sometimes killed or

In tackling la conspiración, the bulk of Matanzas—roughly 97-percent—were charged with a number of crimes. The vast majority of that 97-percent turn out to be free Blacks and Mulattoes or slaves. In addition to this, the Black militia was disarmed while free born foreigners were given 15 days to leave the colony.

By the end of the Year of Lash the tolls were high. Almost 80 prisoners are executed while an addition 600 sat behind bars. Also, roughly 400 people are banished from Cuba. Finally, the Year of Lash ended with the “conspiracy” seemingly revealed.


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