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José Antonio Saco Letters

Identifier: MSS 0388

Scope and Content

This collection consists of four letters written by the Cuban abolitionist José Antonio Saco during his residence in Europe. All the letters are addressed to his friend José Luis Alfonso y García and provide an intimate and personal account of the writer's own life. The letters very much reflect his advocacy for emancipation in Cuba. The first letter, written from Spain, is dated a few years after his expulsion from Cuba. In it, Saco describes groups in Spain that support Cuban independence and asks his friend for help in obtaining a passport that could allow for easier travel throughout Europe. The second letter, written during his stay in Paris, is the longest of this collection and highlights his liberal ideas and his anti-slavery stance, for which he gained the title of "amigo de los negros." The third letter expresses his concerns for Cuba as slave revolts and uprisings unfold, but he still states that emancipation is necessary. The final letter explains his work on an anti-slavery tract that would be published in Paris the following year.


  • Creation: 1837 December-1844 September



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

José Antonio Saco, (1797-1879), was a significant Cuban intellectual figure. Well known for both his abolitionist and nationalist ideals, Saco criticized the Cuban slave trade through his essays and writings. His liberal principles clashed with the views and actions of the Spanish Crown. As a result, he was expelled from Cuba in 1834. The letters from this collection document his exile in Europe. There he continued to advocate his philosophies through his writings. These include Supresión del tráfico de esclavos en Cuba (1845) and Ideas sobre la incorporación de Cuba a los E. U. (1848). Both of these works were published during his residence in Paris.

Slavery was prominent in Cuba from the sixteenth century to its official abolishment in 1886. During the British occupation of the island in 1762, colonists expanded the practice of slavery as it provided a large labor force for the sugar plantations, the basis of the island's economy. Later on even amongst anti-slavery efforts, as seen with the 1792 slave revolt in Hispaniola and the 1807 ban on the Atlantic slave trade in the United States and Britain, Cuba still relied heavily on slavery. It wasn't until the end of the nineteenth century that the slave trade in Cuba ceased.


.01 Linear feet (1 Folder)

Language of Materials

Spanish; Castilian


Letters written by the Cuban intellectual José Antonio Saco documenting his abolitionist efforts during his residence in Europe.


The letters are arranged in chronological order.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Finding Aid

This guide is available in Spanish at

Acquisition Information

The collection was purchased in 2016.

Alternative Format Available

Digital reproductions of items in the José Antonio Saco Letters are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

A Guide to the José Antonio Saco Letters
Finding aid created by Katiana M. Bagué
April 2017
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America