JosĂ© Antonio Aponte, sometimes known as â€śBlackâ€ť JosĂ© Aponte, organized the largest slave conspiracy in Cuba. In 1812, the government accused JosĂ© Antonio Aponte, a free moreno, of conspiring to overthrow colonial rule. Under the leadership of Aponte, the conspiracy united a wide range of urban and rural slaves and free people of color in its goal of ending Spanish rule and slavery. Aponte, as a carpenter, retired military officer, and leader of a cabildo de naciĂłn â€“ a socio-religious and cultural, mutual aid organization for free and slave men and women of African descent â€“ united skilled artisans, such as carpenters, furniture, shoe and saddle makers, along with ox-cart drivers and bellringers. Located throughout the island, cabildos de naciĂłn offered a sense of group identity and ethnic cohesion. Despite tensions among these organizations, cabildos de naciĂłn became a refuge for many; an autonomous space in a highly circumscribed world. Their links to subsequent rebellions brought them under close scrutiny by colonial authorities. The proliferation of cabildos enabled members associated with Aponteâ€™s rebellion to spread plans for an insurrection in the eastern areas of CamagĂĽey (formally Puerto PrĂ*ncipe) and Bayamo.
When the uprising was to take place, he even made contact with leaders of the new Haitian government for aid and arms. Not only did he want freedom and equality for the slaves but he was also committed to the independence of Cuba from Spain. In February of 1812, JosĂ© Antonio Aponte, leader of a African Cuban uprising, and eight of his collaborators are caught and imprisoned. April 9, 1812 at 9:30 a.m., Aponte and the other collaborators are put to death on the gallows. The head of Aponte is placed in an iron cage and displayed in front of the house where he lived, and his hand is displayed in another street. The heads of various accomplices are also displayed.
Another Cuban historian says, the Aponte Conspiracy of 1812 was born in the famous LukumĂ* cabildo ChangĂł TedĂşn. JosĂ© Antonio Aponte is believed to have been a priest of ShangĂł and the director of the cabildo when the conspiracy was being planned. Aponte is credited with having been the â€śfirst Cuban who dreamt of the beautiful inspiration of rebelling against Spanish dominion.â€ť
In 1825, over three hundred slaves revolted in the Matanzas province, setting fire to twenty-four coffee plantations in the wake. Each eruption of rebellion and conspiracy fed whitesâ€™ growing fears and suspicions. By the late 1820s, when the African-descended sector reached 55.8 percentâ€”thus, the majority of the islandâ€™s populationâ€”visions of Cuba becoming another Haiti surged.
In the 1830s, uprisings involving free people of color multiplied. In 1835, Hermengildo JĂˇurequi and Juan Nepomuceno Prieto, the latter a leader of the LucumĂ* cabildo and a retired militia officer, planned the LucumĂ* Conspiracy. Reports described groups of dozens of men carrying machetes in an organized effort to kill anyone who got in their path. They, like Aponte, wanted to abolish slavery and overthrow the government. Similarly, several pardo and moreno battalion officers organized a revolt in 1839. Captain LeĂłn MonzĂłn, sub-lieutenant JosĂ© del Monte del Pino, sergeant JosĂ© Dabares, and Pilar Borrego, a survivor from the Aponte Conspiracy, led a rebellion in the eastern Cubaâ€™s GuantĂˇnamo province, but authorities successfully defeated the uprising.
As already cited, the leaders of Cubaâ€™s Aponte Rebellion of 1812 were hung publicly. By the 1830s, execution by firing squad became more frequent. For example, leaders of the islandâ€™s LucumĂ* conspiracy in 1835 were sentenced to death by being shot in the back, as were those who led the revolt by mulatto and black militia officers in 1839, and the slave rebellion on a coffee plantation in 1840. In both types of execution, the victimâ€™s bodies were often decapitated and their heads mounted on poles and displayed at the sight of the revolt.