“There was a militarily gifted and exceptionally daring woman in the front line: Carlota, of Lucumbi origin…”
In 1843 Carlota, an enslaved woman, helped lead a Maafa (slavery) uprising at the Triumvirato sugar mill in the Matanzas Province of Cuba. She was one of the three leaders of the rebellion. Her name was later given to Cuba’s 1980′s operation Black Carlota in Southern Africa, which culminated in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the defeat of the South African army in pitch battle.
Carlota was kidnapped from her Yoruba people, brought in chains to Cuba as a child and forced into slavery in the city of Matanzas, working to harvest and process sugar cane under the most brutal of conditions. Matanzas was the scene of many confrontations between enslaved Africans and the brutal Maafa system regime in Cuba during 1843 and 1844. The uprising at the sugar estate Triumvirato under the leadership of the heroic Carlota had a great impact both inside and outside of the island.
Lili Bernard. Carlota Slaying the Slaver (after Artimesia Gentilesch’s Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1612), 2016 work-in-progress. Oil on Canvas, 60″x72″
Those struggles began in July and August of the year 1843. By means of ‘talking drums’ the insurgents were called for battle. When hearing the sounds of the drums, the enslavers most likely thought that the Africans were paying tribute to their ancestors in sessions held in and around their barracoons.
Two Lucumi/Yorubas, a man by the name of Evaristo and a woman called Fermina of the sugar estate Arcana, were in charge of all preparations. Their task was to encourage all the enslaved Blacks to rise up and put an end to the hated system of human exploitation. Their principal means of communication were the drums as their most relevant heritage from Africa.
On November 5 of 1843, the enslaved Blacks of Triumvirato broke out in a great uprising.
In addition to Fermina, other women had an energetic participation in the anti-Maafa movement, as well as their men. There was a militarily gifted and exceptionally daring woman in the front line: Carlota, of Lucumbi origin, who belonged to the Triunvirato mill.
Carlota, accompanied by her captains, went from Triumvirato to Acana to liberate their enslaved brothers and sisters. Of course, Carlota and her collaborators carefully prepared the whole plan of action in secret.
The successes at Triumvirato and Acana had an impact on the enslaved population, resulting an increase in guerilla attacks by freedom fighting Africans in the area. Together they broke the chains of their brothers and sisters in the areas known as Sabanilla del Encomendador, Guanábana, Santa Ana, belonging to the sugar – estates San Miguel, Concepción, San Lorenzo, and San Rafael. The coffee and cattle estates of the area, were also attacked.
Carlota was captured during an unequal battle. The repressive forces tied her to horses sent to run in opposite direction in order to destroy her body completely so that she would be unrecognizable forever.
In terms of its vigor and bravery, Carlota’s liberation struggle is part of the Cuban heritage of rebellion against oppression. Thus her name has been enshrined as a symbol of the operation that gave rise to the Cuban military mission in Angola 30 years ago.