Front Door to Cuba

Notes on Julián Valdés Sierra

Jose Rosario Cartoon

Julián Valdés Sierra was a black Cuban who fought with Antonio Maceo in the War of Independence and participated in the famed Western Invasion.

Not happy with how things had turned out for Afro-Cubans since the end of the war, Sierra joined the Partido Independiente de Color as a founding member.

In 1910, Sierra created the black cartoon character José Rosario, which personified the idea of "Cuban common sense and nationalism." The point was to encourage white Cubans to recognize blacks as a full component of Cuban society.

The name of José Rosario, combined the first names of Sierra's father and mother. His creation was a young Cuban black man of regular stature and sturdy composition. He wore a stripped shirt tucked into his trousers, with a palm-leaf hat, closely cut hair, and clean white teeth.

Sierra used the Rosario character to symbolize Cuban history, and to explain his view of race relations in Cuba. Rosario had been a slave and fought for Cuban independence, but was now denied his rightful place in society, as jobs and perks were being given to those who had sympathized with Spain over those black Cubans who had fought for independence.

On April 22 1910 Sierra was arrested with other leaders of the Partido Independiente de Color and charged with "illicit association and conspiracy" to foment an armed revolution. Other party leaders arrested were Estenoz, Antero Valdés Espada, Mauricio Lopez Luna, Agapito Rodriguez Pozo and José Inés García Madera. The following day, 17 other members of the party were arrested and brought to Havana. Bail was set at U.S. $10,000 for each of the 24 party leaders. (By the end of the year, over 220 party members were arrested throughout the island and sent to Havana for prosecution.)

A verdict of Not Guilty was returned on December 1910 for Sierra and the other 19 members of the Partido Independiente de Color still charged with conspiracy.

Race in Cuba
Opening | Introduction | End of Slavery | Race Fear | After the War | SUGAR | Race War | Race War Timeline | José Miguel Gómez | Morúa Delgado | Fernando Ortíz | Julián Valdés Sierra | Oriente Province | Martí on Race | Bibliography

Contents: Before the Revolution |

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