This article examines the revolutionary politics of Puerto Rican intellectual and physician Ramón Emeterio Betances (1827–98) through an inter-Caribbean lens that goes beyond teleological and insular narratives of national liberation and identity. An under-examined figure in Caribbean intellectual history, Betances stood out among his fellow Cuban and Puerto Ricans revolutionaries for his singular experiences of dislocation: he lived most of his life in France, he included Haiti within his vision of a Caribbean federation, and he was of African descent. The article focuses on Betances’s resignification of the Haitian Revolution within the transatlantic context of the Ten Years War in Cuba, looking at two key pamphlets: his translation of US radical abolitionist Wendell Phillips’s encomiastic biography of Toussaint Louverture, “Touissant L’ouverture” (1869), and “A Cuba libre,” an account of the life of Haitian revolutionary general and president Aléxandre Pétion (1871). Though Betances aligns himself with Phillips’s prophetic brand of abolitionism, his distinct romantic discourse concerning the Haitian Revolution and Pétion is ultimately linked to his affinity for French republicanism. I also explore Betances’s friendship with the Haitian intellectual and politician Anténor Firmin (1850–1911) and the latter’s musings about Betances, Haiti, and the Caribbean in Letters from Saint Thomas (1910), showing how the uses of community in Betances and Firmin signify an incipient “Latin” form of identification.


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pp. 11-36
Launched on MUSE
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