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Book Chapter

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In this article, Scott takes a microhistorian approach as she looks at the ways in which three Cubans of color (Rafael Iznaga, Bárbara Pérez and Gregoria Quesada), from the same rural neighborhood, sought to define and attain citizenship during and immediately after the Cuban War of Independence from 1895-1898. Juxtaposing oral and written sources, Scott shows how such evidence can be both complementary and contradictory, and how each source should be examined in light of the others.

Rafael Iznaga fought in the war as a soldier of the Liberation Army, and returned with prestige and status. While his life can be traced in both written and oral sources, they conflict regarding when he was legally emancipated. Bárbara Pérez’s story is constructed through the recollections of those who knew her rather than in written documents. She used her occupation as a laundrywoman to smuggle bullets found in the uniforms of Spanish soldiers to the Cuban armies; she also read newspapers aloud on the sidewalks of Arimao, informing neighbors of new rights. In contrast, Gregoria Quesada survived almost exclusively in written documents; she appears in letters as the claimant of a disputed mule and in notarial records that trace her struggle to accumulate property. In the context of these life stories, Scott appreciates how small acts can play bigger roles and how freedom can be constructed on both national and local levels.