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On Captivity

A Spanish Soldier's Experience in a Havana Prison, 1896-1898

Manuel Ciges Aparicio

Publication Year: 2012

On Captivity is the first translation into English of Del Cautiverio, Manuel Ciges Aparicio’s account of his imprisonment in the notorious La Cabaña fortress in Havana during the Cuban War of Independence (1895–98).
Ciges enlisted in the Spanish army in 1893 at the age of twenty. He served in Africa and then in Cuba, where he opposed Spanish General Valeriano Weyler’s policies in Cuba as well as the war itself. Ciges soon found himself imprisoned and facing execution for treason as punishment for an article critical of Weyler’s conducting of the war that was intercepted by Spanish authorities before it could be published in the pro-Cuban Parisian paper L’Intransigeant.
First published in book form in 1903, Ciges’s account includes detailed observations concerning prison organization, perceptions of political events and personalities of the time, as well as graphic descriptions of the daily life of the men confined in the infamous prison. Ciges is the only one of the so-called Generation of 1898—writers considered to have been deeply marked by el desastre (the loss of the colonies)—who was in Cuba during the war years. His witness to events there, colored by his stance as a freethinker and political skeptic, constitutes a significant historical document. Following his release from prison, Ciges returned to Spain where he resumed his career as an activist journalist and also earned acclaim as a translator and novelist. In time, his political allegiances shifted from socialism to liberal republicanism. He was acting as provincial governor of Avila when he was killed by unidentified assassins on August 4, 1936—eighteen days after the Falangist uprising against the Second Republic.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xi

The Cuban War of Independence (1895–98) and the subsequent U.S. intervention in 1898 together formed a pivotal moment in world history: centuries of Spanish rule in the Americas came to an end, Cuba was on the verge of claiming its hard-won independence, and the United States suddenly emerged as a military power of global dimensions. Professor D. J. Walker has carried out an important ...

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pp. xiii

I want to thank fine arts photographer Harriet Blum for taking time from her primary work to photograph the illustrations used in this book. I am also greatly indebted to my typist, Sylvia A. Macey. As always, I wish to thank John T. O’Connor for his careful reading of my translation and his encouragement ...

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pp. 1-15

Manuel Ciges Aparicio’s On Captivity, composed at the turn of the twentieth century, recounts the Spanish author’s experiences as a prisoner in Havana from 1896 to 1898. Ciges was serving as a soldier in the Spanish army when he was arrested and accused of treason, presumably—as he indicated in his account—for having written an article for publication in a Paris newspaper critical of Spanish general ...

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Part I

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pp. 17-65

... They must have arranged for me to be confined in a place apart from the jail before they arrested me because there was a pile of useless items stacked before the door: old trunks, rickety tables, broken dishware. The room’s earthen floor still bore the marks of a recent thorough sweeping with stout brooms, and gray webs fashioned by patient spiders in the months or even years during which the ...

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Part II

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pp. 67-131

As the officer with the key unlocked the door to the new cell, I looked inside and trembled at the sight of a deep cavern inhabited by creatures piled together in a formless mass. They were scarcely visible, like shades of the damned in that sinister hole filled with dense smoke that swirled around the door in search of an exit. ...

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Part III

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pp. 133-206

The arrival of the new neighbors led to ill-natured rumblings among the old inhabitants because life was already materially impossible in that anthill, which was even smaller than number 57. The hammocks, fastened to long horizontal wooden supports, were crowded together; the men were piled up, and ten or twelve of them always had to sleep on the floor. It was not possible here, as in the ...

Appendix: Manuel Ciges Aparicio’s Intercepted Letter to Henri Rochefort, Editor of L’Intransigeant

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pp. 207-213


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pp. 215-234


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pp. 235-237


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pp. 239-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386221
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317690

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2012