This literary biography of José Arango y Nuñez del Castillo offers a useful, albeit limited, portrait of one member of Cuba's planter elite in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Manuel Hernández González begins with a description of the dense interlocking family ties of the aristocratic sugar elite into which José Arango was born and demonstrates how wealth and service to the crown intertwined. Arango studied law and joined the Real Sociedad Patriótica de La Habana in 1793, where he began his long career of commenting on public affairs. As a young man Arango participated fully in the heady environment of Enlightenment societies, in which he honed his skills as a promoter of the progress and interests of the landed, slaveholding class. In that period no one earned their bread by writing, and Arango's principal occupation was public service, since his...

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