His family lived by a sugarcane mill , so he was able to observe slavery and all of its evils from a very young age. In , the family moved to Havana , where he later studied law. He was, however, only briefly employed by a law firm before becoming a teacher and devoting himself to literature. He also attended the literary gatherings of Domingo del Monte , an advocate of public education. During this time, he made contributions to a number of now largely forgotten periodicals. In , before that occurred, Villaverde was arrested by Spanish soldiers in his own home but, the following year, successfully arranged his escape and fled to the United States and settled in New York, where he was politically active; working as the editor and publisher of some Cuban exile magazines, including La Verdad and El Independiente.
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The book takes place in early 19th century Cuba and was published in in Havana, revised several times, then published in New York City in The story is like a Greek tragedy, even Shakespearean.
Unfortunately, it misses the mark of great literature imho, not because of the plots and subplots which are riveting but the unevenness of the writing and a few minor contradictions, in the English language version at least.
Through much of the book, Villaverde goes into minutely detailed descriptions of scenes in Cuba. In different parts of the book, her grandmother and great-grandmother are described as mulatto with white fathers.
This is important in the story since these minor differences were very important in 19th century slave countries. Regardless, no matter how her lover, Leonardo, felt about her, he could not marry her and expect to be accepted by his family and friends. Cecilia looked white and aspired to marry her handsome upper-class white boyfriend, Leonardo. She adores him, failing to see his shallow character. Leonardo is described as a spoiled, self-absorbed young man.
So his devotion to Cecilia seems out of character. His mother is a malignant enabler. The feckless Leonardo wants it all. Ultimately, he succeeds in making Cecilia his mistress.
She gets pregnant and he gets bored with her. When Cecilia found out he was planning to marry someone else, she turned to her old friend and admirer, Pimienta and told him, "This marriage must not take place.
Cecilia was grief stricken. Cecilia had thought her mother was dead. Isabel, who was always tender-hearted and anti-slavery, decided to join a convent. Most of this was suddenly thrown at the reader at the end of the book. The book was a fascinating look into Cuban life in the 19th century, made all the more fascinating for me by a trip to Cuba in She had a close relationship to the escaped slave mentioned above.
Cecilia Valdés (novela)
After several revisions, the definitive and extended version was published in New York City in It has never been out of print in Spanish, and have been translated into several English editions as Cecilia Valdes" or "Angel Hill. It is widely regarded as the best Cuban novel of the 19th century. Leonardo de Gamboa is his legitimate son. Leonardo falls in love with Cecilia, not realizing that she is his own half-sister, and they become lovers. However, love between Leonardo and Cecilia does not last. He abandons her and becomes betrothed to a white upper class woman, Isabel Ilincheta.