Lesec, from Brave Mulato into Blackness?: Defection to France and Spanish Racial Regression

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2018-04-04 02:33Z by Steven

Lesec, from Brave Mulato into Blackness?: Defection to France and Spanish Racial Regression

Age of Revolutions
2018-04-02

Charlton W. Yingling, Assistant Professor of History
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky


“El ciudadano Hedouville habla al mentor de los negros…,” Jean-Louis Dubroca, Vida de J. J. Dessalines, gefe de los Negros de Santo Domingo (Mexico, 1806), University of Virginia Slavery Images Database, JCB_67-270-3. This well-known image is cropped to draw attention away from the figures’ faces and to their façades.

In May 1794, Governor JoaquĂ­n GarcĂ­a of Spanish Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) praised the “brave spirit” of “Carlos Gabriel Lesec, mulato,” a term denoting European and African heritage. As an officer in Spain’s Black Auxiliaries, Lesec had just repulsed troops of the French Republic in a resounding victory at Santa Susana on the border with Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). As the third anniversary of the Haitian Revolution approached, thousands of ex-slaves had expanded their liberatory war under Spanish flags and occupied nearly half of Saint-Domingue.[1] These “Black Auxiliaries” of Spain enjoyed limited manumissions and material support in their war against the French, their former exploiters. Their leaders, Jean-François and Georges Biassou, represented some of the earliest participants in the initial slave revolts of 1791. Those who ascended later, such as Toussaint Louverture and his officer Charles Lesec, seized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at upward mobility by punishing their former French oppressors. Despite these victories, GarcĂ­a was dismayed by the “disunion that reigns between the black chiefs Biassou and Toussaint,” who along with Jean-François were Lesec’s superiors.[2] Six months earlier French commissioner LĂ©ger-FĂ©licitĂ© Sonthonax had begun tactical, practical emancipations, in part to attract black supporters due to desperation over his opponents’ successes…

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