Asynchronous Assignment on The Poet Slave of Cuba (Pages 129-172)

Asynchronous Assignment (due on 5/4 before the class)


1. In the comment section down below, answer ONE of these questions (200-words minimum):


Discuss the ways Manzano achieves his dream of literacy and poetic rebellion.


Elaborate on how Manzano values her deceased mother’s spiritual well-being at all costs.  How the death of his mother amplify his rebelliousness?


In the last poem, Juan Francisco Manzano conveys the notion of a collectivity (concrete and abstract) praying for him, singing, and wishing him well in his escape from La Marquesa’s plantation. Expand on Manzano’s vision. How his escape represents a  form of historical awareness?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about The Poet Slave of Cuba (pages 129-172) do you want to bring into the discussion?

19 thoughts on “Asynchronous Assignment on The Poet Slave of Cuba (Pages 129-172)”

  1. Option 2
    After the loss of his mother and the discovery of her life-long efforts at buying his freedom, Manzano is all in for a rebellion. Without his mom, his inheritance, and his freedom, Manzano has nothing else to lose. He is accustomed to punishment and familiar with the ways of his tormentors, counting and waiting.

    La Marquesa has stripped this Cuban slave of everything, over and again, she is obsessed with torturing him. Yet, his words, his prayers, and his poetics transcend those grievances making him free in his heart and mind. That freedom is something that La Marquesa can’t reach, and this infuriates her.

    Manzano’s defiance becomes defined by his refusal to allow the inheritance of his mother’s gold bracelets to remain in the same confinement he has suffered all of his life. He reclaims them, because his mother’s “gifts of love” (pg.154) are spiritual and the gold is a representation of the one pure love Manzano holds dearly, and La Marquesa wants to take that too.

    Taking his mother’s bracelets back from La Marquesa and selling them for candles to burn in memory of his mother is an exact example of how Manzano values his deceased mothers’ spiritual well-being at all costs. Once sold and transferred to a fragranced candle, the golds worth becomes a value that is sacredly shared only between him, his mother, and God. His words “fly to God” (pg. 154) unreachable, his prayers, faith, and love cannot be contained, and this is a grand victory.

    This victory is a restoration of faith for Manzano. Always rock bottom, he takes life as it comes and for him it comes hard. But his character, noble and true, gains recognition from everyone, even La Marquesa, who is just so jealous and monstrous. She aims to contain, claim, and control him. Others admire and sympathize with him. We see this in the kind man (the prison guard) who is lenient and compassionate towards Manzano. But even that is temporary, he counts the nine days becoming “weary of being rescued by his tormentor” (pg.157), La Marquesa.
    His rebellion is revived by his protests of silence. His refusal to submit drives La Marquesa mad and this is the height of Manzano’s revolt. At this point, even in his weakened captivity, he is empowered by this shift.

    When La Marquesa can take no more from him, she torments him for his cleanliness (pg. 168) which is another turning point for Manzano, a man of God. Cleanliness is next to Godliness and bathing exemplifies his purity, one which he will not allow La Marquesa to taint. In this he escapes, and his journey is fueled by his rebellion. One that was sparked by the loss of his mother and fueled by the prayers of admirers in the dark winds helping to propel him forward towards his freedom.

    1. I both agree and disagree. Juan was always the rebellious type. By reciting, painting, and his creativity nature, Juan defied the system and la Marquesa. His mother was an anchor. The love he had for her and to avoid any retaliation from la Marquesa, Juan restrained his defiant nature. After his mother’s death and the cunning acts of La Marquesa to un-bequeathed him of his inheritance. At that moment Juan no longer had anchor that subdued his inner defiance. His love was so immense for his mother that he tolerated all kinds of atrocities to avoid retaliation. When all logic and love ceased to exist for Juan, he decided to rebel in whichever form suited him. His silence was the peak of his defiance to his master, he refused to acknowledge La Marquesa’s existence. His defiance was indifference the same type he received from his master. Most of times people do need a traumatic event that change parts of their character, but Juan was already rebellious. He waited till his mother death.

  2. The last poem emphasizes his respect and appreciation for his ancestors. This verse states, “now I see through the gloom many watch me many slaves and many free dark and light and in-between all are praying many voices, many languages from Africa and all the various dialects of Spain, many voices praying for me” (171). The verse is a powerful statement referring to those who have came before Juan and navigated the slave trade. He commends those who paved the way for his ability to gain future freedom. His ancestors served as warriors, who rebelled and died and inspired others to reach for freedom themselves. His ancestors translated what freedom could look like, and allowed him to aspire it for himself. His ancestors are his support system and are cheering him on to a future of liberty. This revelation however, would not have been possible without his mothers death. His mothers death connected him back with the idea of his ancestors. Death makes you reflect and remember those who have passed previously. In Juan’s case it was his mother and it reminded him of his father, grandparents, other slaves, etc. He is doing this for his mom, and all of those who came before her. It is also important to note the cultural backgrounds he is representing in this verse. He appreciates the diversity in language and skin tones that have all created him and are inspiring him to escape. The support system he receives is powerful and his spirituality with God is what he tributes as his strength to run away.

    1. I agree with Thalia when she states that Juan refers to this poem to the slaves that also came before him. Giving them as much recognition to who navigated the slave trade just as Thalia mentioned. Giving them credit for paving the way in order to gain such freedom. I also agree With you Thalia his ancestors were warriors because they had to die for what they truly believed in and to make a change to the generations to come. Juan is able to see his ancestors as his backbone thus inspiring him to write such poem. Thalia you make an excellent point stating that his mother would also be a part of of this revelation. Being that his mother died it allowed him to connect that to his ancestor and truly realize the sacrifice they have to make in order for the kids of the future to have such freedom

    2. Hi Thalia, I agree with your interpretation of the last poem. What gives him the final push to run away is his mother’s death but with the support of his faith in God and his ancestors he is able to ride through the dark night. When his mother dies he is given some of his mother’s belongings and he realizes that his mother bought his freedom yet it was never given to him. He learned to cook and sew and La Marquesa was paid but he was still stuck there. He wanted to pray for his mother’s soul and buy candles but of course, this just got Juan in to trouble. Juan gives la Marquesa the silent treatment and this also angers her. She was filled with hatred and it just took him taking a shower without permission to blow up and this is the turning point for Juan. When Juan receives his punishment and he is in pain unable to stand bleeding he knows he must leave. In the final poem, it is his ancestors that talk him through the dark night and keeps him company, and it’s his prayers that keep him safe. Regardless of all the pain, Juan suffers he never gives up on his faith and he always has his trust in God. He is reminded of the courage of his ancestors and now is his turn to be courageous and free himself. Many people before him thought for their rights and their freedom. It is time for him to no longer be a caged bird.

  3. Option 2

    After learning about the passing of his mother, it is revealed to Juan all of the efforts that his mother has taken in order to free him from the abuse brought on at the hands of La Marquesa. He is given a box that holds all the possession that he has been left, which include gold bracelets and other items. But, most importantly a document that La Marquesa owed her more than enough money to purchase his freedom but he is denied from doing so, which in my opinion, sparks the need in him to rebel and get his freedom. His mother can be viewed as the only thing keeping Juan from potentially doing something that could cost him his life, and now that she is gone, he doesn’t care.

    Juan’s first act of rebellion is when he stole back the gold bracelets that his mother had left for him from La Marquesa. He sold them in order to buy candles in order to honor his mother in his own way. But I also think that there is some significance in Juan stealing the bracelets back and buying candles with them. On page 155, Don Nicolas says important lines that also point to a shift in Juan. He states “… burning those candles, all the golf bracelets vanishing, strange alchemy, worked in reverse, changing jewelry, to flames, rising from the candles, light of air, life of dreams, melting wax.”
    He could have bought anything with the money earned from the bracelets (I’m just guessing), but he chose to buy candles. Choosing to buy candles is, in my opinion, Juan telling La Marquesa that he doesn’t care about anything she says or does to him anymore. She can torment him as much as she wants, but she will never break him and she will never beat him. But buying these candles can also be seen to be a promise to his mother that everything that she has done for him would not be in vain.

    Another instance that shows that his mother’s death amplified the rebellious nature in Juan is when he comes back from his punishment and he is with La Marquesa de Prado Ameno. On page 158, we are shown the conversation she and Juan have after he comes back from prison, where La Marquesa orders Juan to apologize and beg for her forgiveness. Normally when put in this type of situation, Juan would apologize and try to make amends with her to escape punishment. But this time around, Juan stands his ground and does not do as she wants. She makes promises that Juan can do things before that he was denied from doing before, such as going fishing, being able to study, and going horseback riding with Don. Juan stands his ground and stays silent, which angers La Marquesa and she states “His silence is torment. How dare he refuse to mee my eyes, smile, eat my food, give me thanks!” (158). From this moment we can see that Juan has solidified his plan and is not going to go back, and I think that even La Marquesa knows it too because she starts to treat Juan a different way in fear of what he is going to do.

  4. Option two:

    Before the death of his mother, Juan demonstrates how he doesn’t care about punishment when it comes to defending his mother. He says, “One day a free man insults my mother / I fight / unafraid of the lashes / the pain” (140). A slave fighting a free man. Juan didn’t think of the consequences; all he wanted was to defend and honor his mother.
    Now, after having a sense of what Juan is capable of for his mother, we’re going to talk about how the death of his mother amplifies his rebelliousness. Right after the death of Maria del Pilar, Juan finds out about his inheritance. In a letter, his mother tells him how la Marquesa owes her money and that he’s free. Juan asked la Marquesa for his inheritance and she denies it. As a consequence, Juan starts to rebel against his master. For instance, he sold his mother’s gold bracelets without la Marquesa’s permission. He goes to jail because of that. Then, once at home, he doesn’t speak. Juan does everything she demands without speaking. La Marquesa offers him gifts but he keeps quiet. She claims, “His silence is torment. / How dare he refuse / to meet my eyes, smile, eat my food, / give me thanks!” (158). La Marquesa couldn’t stand Juan’s silence. That was how he protested.

    Also, almost at the end, Juan takes a bath without permission. He knew he couldn’t do anything without permission but he did it anyway. The last act of rebellion was to run away. He escaped! I think having his mother dead and thinking there was nothing else to lose inspired him to take the lead of his life and escape.

    Rosa Tejada

    1. The presence of a mother can represent discipline and structure that is aligned with social norms. When children lose their mother, there exist instances where the mindset that was initially instilled in them goes out the window, especially when her passing is taken hard. Juan is no exception. Despite the social restrictions of slavery, Juan felt the need to express how he truly felt. As Rosa mentioned, Juan did in fact weaponize his silence in the face of his adversity. What is important about silence is the imperceptible nature of one’s thoughts, especially by a foe. In addition, silence can be used to greaten the magnitude of spontaneity, such as in the subsequent actions from Juan. Right after, we observed Juan express his uninterest in receiving victuals from La Marquesa and his recalcitrant behavior in performing other unauthorized and dangerous actions. It was this change from a mindset of passivity that resulted in his own escape.

      Some of us are still in the initial stages of Juan. We love those around us and we do our best to meet their expectations out of respect. However, because of this reverence, we become metaphorical slaves to a system that is primarily built in keeping us in place, instead of allowing us to learn about and develop our talents. Some of these talents include singing, acting, art, or any field or preference for which we exhibit a passion. The need to fuel our inner purpose and what we want for ourselves is prominent. It is when we open our eyes to these cultural and societal restrictions, are we then in a better position to remove these fetters and escape into our comfort zone, to be the best us possible.

  5. Juan the unfree slave values his deceased mother spiritual well-being at all cost which made him rebel against La Marquesa. He is rebelling because he knows after his mother’s death he should be free. He is legally free but under La Marquesa rules, Juan is not free yet. When his mother died, La Marquesa says “I fetch him, I almost apologize more or less as if I have allowed him to become the only person that matters in this, in my strange life.” (pg 2002) She sent a priest to go tell Juan the sad news then she further goes and says “I give him three whole coins for the priest to say a mass for her” (pg 2003) After so many attempts that Juan has done to escape from La Marquesa, it seems like La Marquesa don’t want to lose him.
    Juan’s mom left behind an inheritance, “three bracelets of gold, two rosaries, a crucifix a few dirty trinkets of coral and some paper” (pg2004)
    The paper is actually a proof that La Marquesa owed his mother money more than enough to purchase Juan’s freedom. But the document won’t be accepted by La Marquesa to grant Juan freedom. Juan further learns that his mother owned a horse, then a colt then more, all of those were sold to La Marquesa in an effort to gather wealth and save Juan but sadly his mother’s intention did not go as she wished. She menaced Juan to leave that subject of freedom and told him, “if you speak of her money to me again you will never see moonlight or sunlight or stars!” (pg. 2050)
    Juan took his mother’s bracelets and sold them to buy candles for his mother’s spirit to rest in peace. After selling those jewelry without his owner’s permission, he got punished again for nine days. Then La Marquesa brought him a new set of elegant clothes which makes Juan say “how weary I am of being rescued by my tormentor!”(pp2110)
    But the new strategy used by Juan after his sentence was over was the strategy that La Marquesa was not waiting for at all, she wanted Juan to speak to her, to make noise, to eat, laugh, meet her eyes at any price but fail to. She started promising Juan almost anything just to make him talk but still nothing no verse. Juan can’t loose his mom, feel castrated by La Marquesa and be the same again that’s not possible, he acted as if La Marquesa was invisible. This makes La Marquesa say “His silence is a torment.”(pg 2113)


    During the reading of “The Poet Slave of Cuba”, Manzano reflected so many ways of ”pure” affection that he had for his mother. One verse that I appreciate and resonate with is “one day a free man insults my mother, I fight, unafraid of the lashes the pain” (Juan, p.140). I feel this way because I know how great a mother’s love can feel, and you find inner strength to protect that love. Through out the entire book until Marie’s death, she has been his rock, main supporter and she would have sacrificed anything for him. Manzano knew exactly how his mother’s affection was for him because he had the same love for her. Manzano valued his deceased mothers well being at any cost by making it his mission to make sure that her spirit properly transitioned to heaven. Manzano used all his resources to make sure he took care of her. When Manzano learned of his mother’s death, La Marquesa “I give him three whole coins, for the priest, to say a mass for her soul” (p.148). But that was not enough. He sold his mother’s belongings that should have rightfully been his; purposely defying La Marquesa, knowing that she would be furious. He would be certainly punished. Manzano love for his mother out weighed all the torment that would be imposed on him. Don Nicolas verse, “what was he thinking defying my mother? What did he expect?” (p.155). The expressions in Juan’s verse, “The gold is my mother’s, a gift of love, I take her bracelets to the church, I sell them, to buy candles, Airy flames, a gift of love, For my mothers spirit, My prayers a fragrance of words flying to God” (p.154). The act of rebellionious inspired, this is one thing that Manzano wanted for his mother, her soul to be free like a bird. He did not care about the consequences that he would have to endure because the one person that meant the world to him was his mother, and she was worth it.

  7. Juan’s mother passing is the last straw in his obedience of La Marquesa. Sad and heartbroken, stripped of all his freedoms, he has nothing left to lose. He is used to a torture, and that no longer scars him.

    His rebellion is starting to be noticed by the silence in response to La Marquesa’s permission to speak, study and recite verses when she tries to be nice to him as an alternative form of control. We see it further by refusing the coins she was giving him; dirty money of hers had no value to him. What however had value to him were the gold bracelets, that belonged to his mother, and were confiscated by La Marquesa. They had value to him as they represented the connection and intimacy they had. He takes them from La Marquesa, sells them for candles, and burns them in her honor. As the “airy flames a gift of love” (154) combine with his prayers “a fragrance of word flying to God” (154), Juan is having the moment with his mother. This is the evident part of valuing his deceased mother at all costs.

    Juan’s rebellious efforts pivot when he manages to escape one dark night accompanied by the voices of his creative mind that are wishing him well.

  8. Option two:
    His mom meant everything for Manzano and he did everything he could in his power to get his freedom. “One day a free man insults my mother, I fight” (P.140). Like every child would protect their mother, Manzano did the same thing. He was unafraid of the pain he was about to go through. They tied him, took his shoes and even shaved his head and dragged him back to the fields where he worked. Throughout, Manzano rebelled. When Ameno told him about his mother, he was shocked and broken. She left him an inheritance box, inside there was gold bracelets. With the inheritance box, he knew that now he can buying his freedom. Even though he was having issues with Ameno owing him money , ” I long for wings to fly away” (P.154). He was desperately trying to get away and have his own freedom. Manzano sold her bracelets and bought candles instead for his mother’s spirits. When a kind man came to set him free, La Marquesa came to visit and had to be put in chains again by her orders.
    You can feel the sense of rebellion throughout especially on page 158 when Ameno tries to be nice to him by sending him fishing and going to the circus together. His response was nothing. This was a way to show his refusal towards her words and actions. He didn’t believe her odd way of speaking to him. “All he wanted was candles to burn in the church, candles for God” (p.159). “I think of my mother’s Psalms of faith a single prayer” (p.164). His rebellious behavior is also shown on page 170, when he goes onto a horse to ride away. He has never rode a horse before. This shows that did everything he could to run away and get his freedom.


    Juan did not care about being punished. His love for his mother definitely outweighed the consequences that came with rebelling and once his mother died, he was no longer afraid of the suffering. For Juan, I believe no amount of punishment would hurt him as much as losing his mother. Juan begins to rebel against his master when he realizes in a letter which his mother tells him that he’s free. La Marquesa denies Juan the inheritance that’s owed to him and that leads to Juan rebelling against his master. Juan stole and sold the bracelets his mother willed him in order to purchase candles for his deceased mother. It feels like now that Juan knows his mother is gone, he has nothing to lose and nothing to live for so now he can rebel and act however he wants without being afraid of the consequences. Juan also rebels by refusing to speak when he returns from prison and La Marquesa tells Juan to apologize, and he refuses. He basically tortures her with his silence. I believe rebelling helped Juan cope with his mothers death because for him it was a way to honor his mother and by the end, he ends up escaping since he has nothing more to lose.


    In the last poem, Juan Francisco Manzano goes through a myriad of feelings and what could be described as a tunnel, in which he is able to feel and perceive his ancestors as he is escaping La Marquesa del Prado Ameno’s plantation.

    His escape represents a form of historical awareness as it is the culmination of a chapter, not only in his life; but for his mother, for his ancestors and for all of the enslaved people that came before him. In his way to his escape, resembling a tunnel, Juan Francisco experiences encouragement in the form of prayers, singing and wishing him well from his ancestors and his mother; they are all rooting for him to successfully escape the plantation and bring end to such a painful chapter into to all of their lives, as was slavery. It is important for us to remember, that often times, our achievements are our ancestors’ achievements too; as they paved the way for us to be able to be where we are today. We should always walk with our heads up high and doing good, as we carry our ancestor’s legacy and we are everything they fought for and more.

  11. Option #4

    In the last poem, Juan Francisco Manzano conveys the notion of a collectivity praying for him, singing, and wishing him well in his escape from La Marquesa’s plantation. This was his support system to help him do what was considered impossible which was rebel.
    During slavery times, most slaves wouldn’t even consider running away because of fear however, Juan reconnects with his ancestors spiritually which gives him strength to free his mind from fear and from other European concepts. He remembers that his ancestors are warriors and that all descendants are also warriors because they are collective. In Manzano’s vision he is a bird and he evokes this dream by communicating to the dead and visiting his ancestors’ burial ground along with other spiritual powers. However, Manzano’s vision wasn’t fictional just meterophic he understood that it would take time to ultimately dismental slavery. When he said “ the night became the dark” (127) this was an active metaphor to say the nightmare is dissolved. However, there is still a lot more to achieve. “To save not my life – but rather the one that’s nearly lost” shows how selfless Manzano was as a person. He understood how each generation was responsible for changing fortunes.

  12. Option One

    In my opinion, the foremost example of Manzano’s achievement of becoming literate is through his rebellion, and more accurately, it isn’t even rebellion for Manzano, it is just that he has to be himself. In last week’s response, I discussed that “art is innate in him. It is not work – it simply is. It simply exists for him regardless of his environment and circumstance….” Manzano is unable and simply cannot stop doing what he loves and knows to be true about himself even while knowing he will suffer horrifically for continuing to read, write, imagine, daydream. Ameno wants to censure and control his internal thoughts, and each and every time she tries, Manzano rebukes her with his actions. Regardless of the treatment he suffers by either being tied to a ladder and being whipped almost nonstop over nine to ten days or having a pack of dogs attack him. We continue to see his commitment to his gift of creativity throughout on Pages 131-132; 135-136; 144-145; 162-163; 166-167. On Page 167, where Manzano has fallen in love, we see an even higher level of his gift where he says, “I tell her the truth, I tell her I am free, No more stony palace of wish for me, My verses are born now alive so new, No need to write them on flimsy paper, how could my heart even forget anything so true?” Lastly, the last stanza on Page 163 reads: “ Strange possession these other secret words, gifts, and actions the ones I create in my mind for myself.” Manzano clearly achieves his dream of literacy and poetic rebellion, but it is not without grave sacrifice and mental fortitude. The beauty of it is in the simplicity of it: Manzano just does not know how to be untrue to himself, and even today, that is incredibly brave and courageous.

  13. Option 3:
    “The last thing I hear is a voice God be with you hurry, hurry, don’t delay! At first I think I must be imagining the voice then I realise I’d imagined I was hidden by darkness, gloom and rain…all are praying for me”(pg.171). The last poem represents a matrix moment of Juan’s life, a montage of his memories as being the slave of La Marquesa and being tormented by her over and over again. But that day it was enough for him, I think a time comes in every human being’s life when he or she realises that he or she if brave enough to crush all the barriers. “Lord I trust this strange life of mine to the unknown”. Trust and faith keeps a person going, and a little hope is also necessary. That night Juan was not afraid of the consequences , he put his faith on the beauty of the unknown and then he finally understood that out beyond all the concepts of right doings and wrong doings there is a field where all his ancestors are praying for him and he is not alone. His escape from Ameno’s plantation will not only be his victory but his ancestors’ triumph as well. Juan used to think himself weak and small earlier, just like a bubble born in time. But, in the last poem he perceives that he is actually the water from which the bubble is formed, he is beyond time and his fears, he is the epitome of courage. And water is very powerful, it is softer than the softest and harder than the hardest, it can flow or it can crush. In the last poem he is enlightened and he finds encouragement in his ancestors prayers, all these years he was hidden by darkness, gloom and rain, but now its time for sun to shine in his life.

  14. option 3

    The text illustrates the power of the master/slave relationship by indicating that Marchioness controlled every aspect of his life. the relationship shows a power struggle between Manzano and the Marchioness.
    when Manzano lost his mother he basically lost himself. In a sense, it’s like he lost his purpose and fight. since his mother is no more he has nothing else to lose. when he was given the box of his mothers possession, he reclaims them as a token of her love. (pg.154) This shows that the gold is a representation of the one pure love Manzano holds dearly, and La Marquesa wants to take that too.
    Juan’s act of rebellion is when he stole back the gold bracelets that belonged to his mother from La Marquesa and He sold them in order to buy candles in order to pay respect to his mother.
    He could have gotten anything with the money from selling the bracelets but he chose to buy candles. I think it shows that he doesn’t really care about himself or his freedom since he is already accustomed to the punishment he has been receiving.

  15. Option 2

    After the death of his mother, Manzano is determined to ensure his mother’s soul goes through a rightful passage to the other side. He is desperate to make sure that a mass and burial is achieved for his mother. La Marquesa had taken a box of items his mother left him as an inheritance. Juan gets a hold of his mother’s gold bracelet and decides to sell it in order to buy candles to honor her. He buys candles despite the consequences he knows he will face. This is how much he values his mother’s spiritual well-being.

    The death of his mother awakens his desire to be free even more. His rebellion started with the selling of the bracelets. You can even say his small acts of drawing, writing, or learning words before her death are an act of rebellion. But after his mother’s death, his silence to La Marquesa is him being openly rebellious. By refusing to speak or answer La Marquesa, he is being defiant. As time goes on Juan grows even more unhappy. He finally decides enough is enough and he declares himself a free man. After being punished for bathing when he pleased, he takes a horse in the night and flees.

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