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January 03 , 2011

On Captivity

A Spanish Soldier's Experience in a Havana Prison, 1896-1898


On Captivity is the first translation into English of Del Cautiverio, Manuel Ciges Aparicio’s account of his imprisonment in the notorious La Cabaña fortress in Havana during the Cuban War of Independence (1895–98).
Ciges enlisted in the Spanish army in 1893 at the age of twenty. He served in Africa and then in Cuba, where he opposed Spanish General Valeriano Weyler’s policies in Cuba as well as the war itself. Ciges soon found himself imprisoned and facing execution for treason as punishment for an article critical of Weyler’s conducting of the war that was intercepted by Spanish authorities before it could be published in the pro-Cuban Parisian paper L’Intransigeant.
First published in book form in 1903, Ciges’s account includes detailed observations concerning prison organization, perceptions of political events and personalities of the time, as well as graphic descriptions of the daily life of the men confined in the infamous prison. Ciges is the only one of the so-called Generation of 1898—writers considered to have been deeply marked by el desastre (the loss of the colonies)—who was in Cuba during the war years. His witness to events there, colored by his stance as a freethinker and political skeptic, constitutes a significant historical document. Following his release from prison, Ciges returned to Spain where he resumed his career as an activist journalist and also earned acclaim as a translator and novelist. In time, his political allegiances shifted from socialism to liberal republicanism. He was acting as provincial governor of Avila when he was killed by unidentified assassins on August 4, 1936—eighteen days after the Falangist uprising against the Second Republic.
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