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In Cuba, a distinctive process of gradual emancipation brought a large number of enslaved and recently-freed men and women into the legal culture. What earlier might have remained oral or physical challenges now took legal form, as slaves and former slaves built alliances with those who could assist them in their appeals. The assertions of former slaves suggest an emerging conviction of a "right to have rights", going well beyond the immediate refusal of their own bondage. In this light, the office of the notary and the courts of first instance became places where freedom itself was constituted through the exercise of action in a forum that brought public acknowledgement of claims. Indeed asserting standing could be as important as achieving a specific outcome.