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Esteban Montejo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Esteban Mesa Montejo (1860–1973) was a Cuban slave who escaped to freedom before slavery was abolished on the island in 1886. He lived as a maroon in the mountains until that time. He also served in the war of independence in Cuba. He is known for having his biography published in 1966, in both Spanish and English, several years before his death and when he was already more than 100 years old.

After being featured in a newspaper article, Montejo had been contacted in 1963 by Cuban ethnologist Miguel Barnet, who conducted a series of taped interviews with him. From these, he published a book about Montejo's life.[1]


Esteban Mesa Montejo was born into slavery in 1860 on a sugar cane plantation in Cuba. He grew up with the Afro-Cuban religion, which combined Catholicism and elements of Yoruba religion known as Santería.

As a young man he was determined to be free and escaped from the plantation. He fled to the mountains, where there were communities of other maroons, refugee slaves who lived beyond the reach of planters. Cuba did not abolish slavery until 1886, when Montejo was about 26 years old.

After that, he worked mostly on farms and plantations, which made up most of the Cuban economy. During the war of independence in 1898, he fought for Cuba. In his last years, he lived in a Veterans' Home.

1962-1963 to 1970

In 1962 Montejo was one of two people featured in a newspaper article about Cubans who were more than a century old. Both were former slaves. He was contacted by ethnologist Miguel Barnet, who wanted to interview him about his life.

Barnet edited the transcripts and published an account of Montejo's life in 1966, as Biografía de un cimarrón. Montejo and Barnet's book includes descriptions of Afro-Cuban religious expression and of Montejo's life as a fugitive slave. He also recounted his memories of the Cuban war for independence from Spain in 1898, which he fought in. The United States intervened and its military forces occupied Cuba for several years. Barnet ends the book in 1905, following the US occupation of Cuba from 1898–1902.[1]

An English translation was published in 1966 in the United Kingdom and Australia as The Autobiography of a Runaway Slave.[2] Years later, it was published in English in the United States, as Biography of a Runaway Slave.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b Review of Biography of a Runaway Slave, H-Net
  2. ^ Montejo, Esteban (1966). The Autobiography of a Runaway Slave. London, Sydney: Bodley Head. ISBN 9780370004495.
  3. ^ Montejo, Esteban (1994). Biography of a Runaway Slave. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone. ISBN 978-1-880684-18-4.

External links

This page was last edited on 23 April 2019, at 07:19
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