“The trivialization of slavery bothers me”

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She publishes her sixth novel, Esclava de la libertad, in which she describes the situation of tyrannized workers

Ildefonso Falcones (Barcelona, ​​​​​​1959) returns to the bookshop with ‘Esclava de la libertad’ (Grijalbo), a novel in which he denounces Spanish slavery in Cuba. Through the struggle for freedom of two black women, a slave who communicates with the gods and a young mulatto woman who serves in a house of several marquises, Falcones tells the adventures of two eras, set on the Caribbean island until the end of the 19th century and those in Spain in the 21st century. The present moment is a counterpoint that allows the writer to talk about the aristocracy of blood and money, with the vices it brings: power, violence and the oppression of the poor.

Falcones gives no names or surnames to the beneficiaries of that abomination that was slavery, a prosperous company in whose shadow vast fortunes were amassed. In the 19th century, Cuba’s economy was centered on the production of tobacco and sugar, raw materials that were processed in the so-called mills, which made intensive use of slave labor. “The slaves lived in appalling conditions. The trivialization made of slavery bothers me, sometimes presented as comic theatre. During the harvest season, which lasted five months from November, these people slept for two hours a day. He died of sheer exhaustion, combined with forced labor and whipping.

Writing the book has been painful, not only because of the subject it covers, but also because the cancer that the author has been battling for six years has resurfaced. While working on the project, Falcones had 30% of his liver and three parts of his lung removed. “It’s audacious to say you’re okay when only five years have passed since its appearance… it’s like you’ve challenged the bug. It’s not attractive.”

On January 19, 1880, the Congress of Deputies voted to abolish slavery in Cuba, ending one of the most infamous and unknown episodes in Spain’s history. Our country was one of the last to ban it. Because recruiting slaves eventually became more expensive, a quick solution was chosen. “It was suggested that some sort of human cattle be carried out effectively: the women gave birth to Creole slaves, which were more profitable than those who arrived as contraband”.

In the medical treatises of the time, blacks were branded lazy, lazy, and sluggish, despite the fact that their day was tiring. Except for the Yoruba religion, peopled by capricious and vengeful gods, few outlets were left to the slave. They could rebel, but in the end it involved a horrible sacrifice. “They had little chance of opposing the whites. They could decide not to give their masters any more children and to abort, or to stop working, which was achieved only by suicide.

Over the years, some of those slaves have joined forces with their former masters to fight for Cuba’s independence from the metropolis. The blacks and mulattoes fought for their freedom, and the Creole owners for their rights. The former were ill-equipped and had hardly any weapons, they could only handle sticks and often not even that, they faced death only with their fists. “The Spaniards were the only ones with good equipment.”

Twenty years after the Durban Declaration against Racism and Xenophobia was adopted, the author believes that little progress has been made in combating these humiliations. On the contrary, racism is getting a new impulse from the far right.

Recovering from that insult is complicated because the offspring are not responsible for what their great-grandparents did. However, institutions and possessions created in the heat of slavery still exist. «I’m not pointing, others have already done it. The money trail has been followed and it is known where it ended up.”

After two years of litigation with the Treasury, Falcones has again been cleared of tax fraud, although he does not have everything with him. “They will continue to appeal, but with two court decisions in my favour, it seems we are on the right track. It seems out of place to me to talk about the crimes with which I have been crushed ».

Falcones doesn’t handle criticism very well. He believes that many book commentators are not as independent as they preach, as they also write and sell books, thus also serving the publishing industry. He still speaks bitterly of the newspapers that assured him that he had received more help than was ethically permissible for writing ‘The Cathedral of the Sea’. “It is difficult to get over those lies. But with a few exceptions, I have reached a cordial understanding with the media».

Source: La Verdad

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