Ever Faithful

Race, Loyalty, and the Ends of Empire in Spanish Cuba

Ever Faithful

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 12 photographs, 1 map Published: January 2014

Author: David Sartorius

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Known for much of the nineteenth century as "the ever-faithful isle," Cuba did not earn its independence from Spain until 1898, long after most American colonies had achieved emancipation from European rule. In this groundbreaking history, David Sartorius explores the relationship between political allegiance and race in nineteenth-century Cuba. Challenging assumptions that loyalty to the Spanish empire was the exclusive province of the white Cuban elite, he examines the free and enslaved people of African descent who actively supported colonialism. By claiming loyalty, many black and mulatto Cubans attained some degree of social mobility, legal freedom, and political inclusion in a world where hierarchy and inequality were the fundamental lineaments of colonial subjectivity. Sartorius explores Cuba's battlefields, plantations, and meeting halls to consider the goals and limits of loyalty. In the process, he makes a bold call for fresh perspectives on imperial ideologies of race and on the rich political history of the African diaspora.


"Sartorius has presented a thought-provoking and enlightening work that challenges the traditional narrative surrounding the topic under discussion and will force historians to reconceptualize the relationship between racial identity and politics in Spanish Cuba during the nineteenth century. This is an excellent work that should interest any academic concerned with the study of race and loyalty in the imperial context." — Gregg French, H-Caribbean, H-Net Reviews

"[T]his carefully crafted study of Afro-Cubans masterfully teases out 'loyalist" positions toward the Spanish Empire that evolved in 19th-century Cuba. . . . [T]he author comments on central questions of race, citizenship, and the perdurance of empire, whose complexities and implications extend far beyond the ever-faithful island. Recommended. All levels/libraries." — G. W. McDonagh, Choice

“Sartorius has contributed a work of unprecedented importance for the study of the African Diaspora in nineteenth-century Cuba. The well-founded revisions of longstanding assumptions in nationalist history will prove invaluable to future scholarship in the field.” — Bonnie A. Lucero, The Latin Americanist

“A convincing demonstration that a contextualized history of loyalty is necessary to understand Cuba’s evolution in the long century that ended with the abolition of slavery and independence from Spain. . . . A major revision of the historiography of nineteenth-century Cuba that will also interest all students of race relations and colonialism.” — Aline Helg, Slavery & Abolition

"Overall, this persuasive account expands the scholarship on Cuban nationalism and provides insights into the parallel narrative of colonial allegiance. It also offers an important model for future studies on race and loyalty in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the broader Atlantic World." — Michele Reid-Vazquez, The Americas

Ever Faithful is a carefully crafted study of an aspect of nineteenth-century Cuban history that is seldom dwelled upon. Sartorius’s provocative perspective is strengthened by the importance he attaches to Cuba’s variegated political geography…. If Ever Faithful tells a history that is at times uncomfortable, it is not because Sartorius’s historical subjects failed to live up to our expectations. Understanding the persistence and versatility of Empire remains a vital endeavor, even if we do not like what we find.” — Andrés Pletch, Journal of Latin American Geography

"This book, rich in detail and in the variety of sources used, should open up the discussion of issues on racial identity, nationality, and political allegiances which may have been inhibited by patriotic considerations or priorities." — Fernando Picó, New West Indian Guide

"Sartorius . . . illuminate[s] themes that have been largely overlooked or neglected in national historiographies. For Sartorius, the question becomes why did people stay loyal to Spain, when self-interest suggests rebellion would have been a better idea. He contends that we cannot understand Cuban history if we only focus on the anti-imperialists, which is absolutely true." — Evan C. Rothera, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“Sartorius expands our understanding of the sociopolitical context that encouraged black Cubans to show their fidelity as a strategy for also contesting their subordination. His book should be read by scholars of empire, race, and resistance in Latin America and the Caribbean during the slavery era.” — Philip A. Howard, Hispanic American Historical Review

“David Sartorius’s Ever Faithful is a much-needed correction to the presumption of undifferentiated political goals among African-descended people in nineteenth-century Cuba.” — Brodwyn Fischer, Latin American Research Review

"Ever Faithful is an important book. Rather than add to the copious scholarship explaining how Cubans came to reject colonial rule, David Sartorius asks why so many remained loyal to Spain. Exploring how loyalty worked in practice, he focuses on people of color, whose allegiances were watched closely by both imperial and nationalist leaders. He offers an original and convincing thesis: that the history of loyalty explains as much or more about Cuban racial politics than does the history of revolution and independence." — Vincent Brown, author of The Reaper's Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery

"Ever Faithful: Race, Loyalty, and the Ends of Empire in Spanish Cuba is without a doubt among the most original interpretations of nineteenth-century Cuban history to appear in recent years. By not treating the path of nationhood as preordained, David Sartorius focuses our attention on the phenomenon of loyalty—always contingent yet rooted in long historical processes of incorporation—and on the myriad historical actors who professed it. A valuable and welcome study." — Ada Ferrer, author of Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898

"David Sartorius illuminates and complicates Cuban history from 1808 to 1898, focusing on loyalty to Spain to understand enduring colonial rule, the expansion and end of slavery, and a late and limited independence. Diverse Cubans negotiated Spanish citizenship. In a complex racial politics, opposition to empire and to slavery often diverged—prolonging both. Ever Faithful begins an essential rethinking of empire and citizenship, race and resistance in Cuba—with powerful implications for Brazil and the United States." — John Tutino, author of Making a New World: Founding Capitalism in the Bajío and Spanish North America


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David Sartorius is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction. A Faithful Account of Colonial Racial Politics 1

1. Belonging to an Empire: Race and Rights 21

2. Suspicious Affinities: Loyal Subjectivity and the Paternalist Public 52

3. The Will to Freedom: Spanish Allegiances in the Ten Years' War 94

4. Publicizing Loyalty: Race and the Post-Zanjón Public Sphere 128

5. "Long Live Spain! Death to Autonomy!": Liberalism and Slave Emancipation 158

6. The Price of Integrity: Limited Loyalties in Revolution 187

Conclusion. Subject Citizens and the Tragedy of Loyalty 217

Notes 227

Bibliography 271

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5593-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5579-3
Publicity material