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This article contributes to the histories of slavery and of
African-descended families in the Americas by examining the recognition of
nineteenth-century Afro-Cuban hijos naturales (or children born
outside of wedlock) as a means of family formation in late colonial Cuba.
With legal "recognition," men from a variety of races and classes
claimed responsibility for these children. In doing so, they created a
creole family form that developed to suit a very local context and that
did not conform to Anglo-American standards of legitimacy or illegitimacy.
This article first outlines general Afro-Cuban reproductive patterns and
then reveals the social experiences of the families that include hijos naturales. Such families were valuable social agents that sought
the advancement of their members and that often provided a framework
through which individuals endured slavery and advanced into freedom.