Cuba: music scene, cane field, floating slave barrack, tourist hangout . . . and gulag. In Indigenous Passages to Cuba, Jason Yaremko calls our attention to the fact that almost from the moment of contact the island of Cuba became a destination for autochthonous peoples from all over Spain's far-flung American empire. Yaremko's story will ring true to most students of history, since everyone from the ancient Assyrians to Joseph Stalin has moved around subject peoples: to break up ethnic solidarity, isolate troublemakers, or reroute labor to key regions of demand. At the same time, for complicated, multiethnic empires, the existence of geographical options has sometimes come to the aid of peoples who are politically weak and short on resources. The Cuban story presents examples of all these dynamics.

The indigenous peoples who came this way answered to various descriptions and...

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