Estaban Montejo (1860-1973) began life as a slave in 1860 in Cuba. In 1963 at the age of 103 his story was recorded by writer Miguel Barnet. Montejo details his experience of life on the sugar plantations in Cuba, his failed attempt at escape, and his successful try when he ran away to live as a maroon in the woods until the abolition of slavery.
After the abolition of slavery in 1886 while working as a paid sugar worker on the plantations he joined the Mambises to fight in the War of Independence (1895-1898) also known as the Spanish-Cuban-American War. He later witnessed the transformation and take over of Cuba by U.S. Troops.
This is truly one man's story of not only his life as a slave the but also the story of the social development of the late nineteenth century in Cuba. It is also an account of how African culture was introduced to the Caribbean through slavery. Montejo recalls his time on the plantation and in the woods among the maroons observing the various African belief systems and traditions strongly implemented within the slave community and at the same time used as a form of resistance to the institution of slavery.
The narrative is divided into three sections: Slavery, The Abolition of Slavery and The War of Independence. In Slavery Montejo recalls the work and living conditions endured by the slaves as well as the brutal treatment inflicted by slave masters. He also speaks on the various African traditions slaves brought with them using herbs and potions for healing. The Abolition of Slavery recalls Montejo's life in the woods living among the maroons. After the abolition of slavery Montejo returns to the plantations to work for wages. He notes that the conditions had not changed and blacks were treated the same as before... life was just as hard their movements were controlled with pass books.