Saco, José Antonio (1797–1879)

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Saco, José Antonio (1797–1879)

José Antonio Saco (b. 7 May 1797; d. 26 September 1879), Cuban writer, editor, and statesman. Born in Bayamo, Cuba, Saco studied philosophy and politics and became a professor of philosophy at the San Carlos Seminary in Havana. In 1828 he traveled to New York, where he founded the Mensajero Quincenal (Quarterly Messenger), a liberal publication that stressed the evils of slavery. Four years later, back in Havana, Saco founded a similar publication, the Revista Bimestre Cubana (Cuban Bimonthly Review). In 1830 Saco wrote Memoria sobre la vagancia (On Vagrancy), a subtle attack on many aspects of Cuban government and society, which was still under Spanish colonial rule. In 1834 Saco was exiled to Trinidad for writing Justa defensa de la Academia Cubana de literatura, a piece that marked his emergence as one of the leading spokespersons for the progressive Cuban creoles. Two years later Saco returned from exile and was named the Cuban representative in the Spanish Cortes. He traveled throughout Europe and while in Paris published an article arguing for U.S. annexation of Cuba. His greatest literary work was his monumental Historia de la esclavitud (History of Slavery) (2 vols., 1875–1879). Saco died in Barcelona, Spain.


Richard B. Kimball, Cuba, and the Cubans (1850).

José Antonio Saco, Historia de la esclavitud de la raza africana (1938).

Robert M. Levine, comp., Cuba in the 1850s: Through the Lens of Charles DeForest Fredericks (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Aguilera Manzano, José María. La formación de la identidad cubana (el debate Saco-La Sagra). Sevilla: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americano, 2005.

Portuondo Zúñiga, Olga. José Antonio Saco: Eternamente polémico. Santiago de Cuba: Editorial Oriente, 2005.

                                   Michael Powelson