El número cuarenta y cuatro segundo empieza con una armada donde se transportó el Rey negro nombrado TARRACO1 que se figura más adelante; el cual invadió a Tarragona de donde tomó este nombre: aparece con soldados negros algunos con botas encarnadas, todos con lanzas y Espadas llevando seis banderas amarillas= Debajo de la armada aparece un ejército con su letrero que  dice asi SANAQUERIN que manifestó el que absuelve ser el de Senaqueril derrotado por el ángel.2
Preguntado de que modo sabe que hubo tal Rey Tarraco que tomó a Tarragona dijo: que del libro de San Antonio Abad leído por el declarante y noticias de la Historia universal.3
Preguntado si el letrero TARRACO al pie del Rey negro explica el nombre de él, o que significa contestó: que así se llamaba el indicado soberano.
Preguntado en que parte de estas pinturas está figurada la Ciudad de Tarragona dijo: que no se ha demostrado en este pliego la referida Ciudad sino solo la armada que condujo al Rey y sus tropas cuyas insignias de banderas amarillas y leones negros con cruz encarnada son las que usan los de Abisinia.
Reconvenido por que mezcló la destrucción del ejército de Senaqueril con la invasión de Tarragona no teniendo conexión una y otra dijo: que aunque no juegan ambos sucesos, puso lo de Senaqueril por razón de Historia4 como todo lo demás del libro:5 y están divididos los lugares por un mar ancho aún sin embargo de parecer estrecho en la pintura.6
Preguntado que significan las botas encarnadas que llevan algunos soldados del ejército de morenos, dijo que aquellos son los gastadores.
Continúa el número con el monte Nubia en que se ve a San Mateo en traje de ermitaño convirtiendo dos negros bandoleros que habitaban en el Solagar= Sigue el palacio  del Rey Egipo padre de Santa Efigenia y del Rey Eufrón pintados, la primera conducida en andas por cuatro morenos y el segundo sentado en su solio de cristal= Se presentan en un templo nombrado la resurrección varias monjas morenas; el cual fue fabricado en treinta días por San Mateo= Este se ve a un lado convirtiendo las mismas negras y San Paulino de Nola del propio color= Mas arriba se advierte a Ytarco primo de Santa Efigenia que quiso casar con ella: pero habiéndose opuesto San Mateo lo mató o intentó matar Ytarco a puñaladas: a la Izquierda de este se ve Nemrod y a la derecha a Abalican Apóstol ordenado por San Felipe= En lo inferior aparece un negro lego de San Francisco junto a un pequeño Convento; y mas arriba a Yclimanote también moreno= Sigue un castillo chico de la población de la Nubia; y después del Rey Desipron habitaciones del mismo paraje.
Several plates later [XLIV–XLV], the army of the African king Tarraco appears, invading Hispania (an event dated to the 3rd century B.C.) parallel to the event of the defeat of Sennacherib by the angel (a biblical event dated historically around the 7th century B.C.). READ MOREFaced with the concern of the judges about the number of military successes of the black armies, Aponte would respond that they were represented there “for historical reasons like everything else in the book.” Besides the Bible, the Ethiopianist works, the historical synthesis, memory and family archives, the biography of Maurice de Saxe found in his library must also have inspired Aponte in the creation of this series of war plates, considering the prominence and fame of his battalion of black soldiers in the military successes of that well-known German freemason, who served European royalty during the 18th century. This confirms what Palmié called “the strange rigour” of Aponte’s procedure and “the horrific implication of the systematicity” of the Afro-Cuban artisan-historian in his zeal to rewrite in paintings the historical becoming of the Africans. (Pavez Ojeda 2012, 288-289)
Lo notable es que presenta el episodio de este ejército negro triunfante en un mismo plano de composición que el episodio de la derrota del rey asirio Senaquerib (láminas XLIV-B y XLV). READ MOREEl episodio bíblico de Senaquerib aparece relatado en la obra de Royaumond de Sombreval, que corresponde a lo que Aponte cita aquí como “las noticias de la Historia universal.” De Sombreval señala que Senaquerib, rey de los Asirios, quiere castigar a Exequias por no pagarle su tributo, lo insulta e insulta a su Dios que no lo puede defender contra él; Exequias le llora a Isaías, quien le profetiza que Dios iba a defenderlo del rey asirio. Entonces Dios “señalo su protección por un recurso invisible que se hizo sin embargo sentir en efectos muy visibles,” enviando un ángel que durante la noche mató los ciento ochenta y cinco mil soldados del ejército de Senaquerib. Luego el mismo Senaquerib moriría a puñaladas en manos de Adrammélec y Saréser, dos de sus hijos que huyen luego al país de Ararat (Armenia). Este episodio se encuentra más desarrollado en la Biblia (II Reyes, 18-19, e Isaías 36-37). Para el licenciado Nerey, quien hacía las preguntas, entre este relato bíblico y la historia del rey negro Tarraco, supuesto invasor de Tarragona, no existía ninguna relación. (Pavez Ojeda 2006b, 701)]
On page 44, Aponte explained, he had pictured a black king named Tarraco who invaded Tarragona and from whom that city derived its name. READ MOREBelow the image of Tarraco and his black armies, however, one sees another military expedition the standard of which reads “sanaguerin.” This, Aponte said, was meant to show that it was the army of Senaqueril who was smitten by the angel (“derrotado por el angel”). Nerey seems puzzled by this explanation. How did Aponte know of the existence of such a King Tarraco who conquered Tarragona? he asks. Aponte replies that he had read it in the book of San Antonio Abad and in a “Historia universal.” He further states that the yellow banners showing black lions and a cross carried by Tarraco’s troops identify them as Abyssinians. (Palmié 2002, 118-119)
Thus, in their discussion of picture 44b-45, which according to Aponte showed the invasion of Tarragona by the black King Tarraco and his black troops, Nerey asked “how he knew that there existed a King Tarraco who conquered Tarragona.”READ MOREAponte replied that he knew it from the “the book of San Antonio Abad which he had read” and from “noticias de la Historia universal.” The sources must have seemed legitimate to Nerey, so taking Aponte’s word that there was some factual basis for the story, he proceeded to delve deeper into the image. Why had he combined the story of King Tarraco with the biblical story of Sennacherib? Aponte’s answer was that he did it “for Reason of History, like everything else in the book.” Aponte’s answer sounds more consequential than Chacon’s insistence that the things authorities uncovered in his house were for scaring flies. Still, there is something similar in the responses: unscripted gestures of defiance that suggested to the interrogators that they, black men, were privy to a knowledge that they would not share or clarify beyond a certain point. Nerey’s ignorance would stand, Aponte seemed to say. He understood how history rendered these images coherent, even if Nerey could not. But what was this history to which Aponte referred? Clearly, it was a history of the world reconceived, a new universal history in which black men ruled. And in this pictorial history of the world, Aponte gave Ethiopia pride of place. Indeed, when one conspirator was asked how Aponte had explained the book to him, he said that the only description Aponte had offered was that the “blacks and Kings painted in it were from Abyssinia.” In that moment of complicity between two conspirators, Abyssinia, or Ethiopia, became the essence of the book. So, it is worth pausing to consider what Ethiopia might have meant for the revolution that Aponte and the others were trying to make in 1812. The Ethiopia that Aponte drew was a majestic and powerful one was a sovereign state and Christian kingdom ruled by a black king. In Aponte’s book, Ethiopian armies repelled attacks on Jerusalem; Ethiopian ambassadors were regaled in Europe; Ethiopian priests celebrated Mass in Rome; Ethiopian emperors even controlled nature, causing floods and droughts by closing and opening sluice gates at will. If Aponte’s inquisitioners doubted the truth of the scenes Aponte painted, the scenes in fact reflected knowledge of Ethiopia long in wide circulation. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Ethiopian rulers had launched a concerted effort to establish the country as an international power. Numerous Ethiopian missions traveled to Europe to seek alliances with Christian kingdoms. Ethiopian monks began a tradition of pilgrimage to Rome, most of the sojourners staying — as Aponte had explained in his description of Image 37 — at a religious complex called Santo Stefano degli Abissini. If these men embodied Ethiopia’s spiritual power, others embodied the power of the Ethiopian state. On their return from a mission to King Alfonso V of. Aragon in Spain, two Ethiopian ambassadors carried Alfonso’s offer to marry his daughter to the Ethiopian emperor Yeshaq and his son to an Ethiopian princess. It was this Ethiopia that appeared in the pages of Aponte’s book, populated as it was by black kings and priests whose power was wide recognized. About that Ethiopia, Aponte had numerous sources. Between the search of his house and his replies to Nerey during the discussion of the book, we know about some of them. Aponte mentioned, for instance, the 1610 Historia eclesiástica, política, natural y moral de los grandes y remotos reynos de la Etiopia, monarchía del emperador, llamado Preste Juan de las Indias, by Luis de Urreta, a priest and professor of theology in Valencia. In that book Aponte would have encountered not only vivid descriptions of Ethiopia, but also accounts of the visits of Ethiopian monks and ambassadors to Rome and Europe. Aponte shared this particular book with others, including his apprentice, Trinidad Núñez, who then shared it with a black woman from Guanabacoa named Catalina Gavilán, suggesting a world in which such images and texts circulated among urban blacks. Another book that came up repeatedly in the testimony was probably Fundación, vida y regla de la grande orden militar y monástica de los cavalleros y monges del glorioso Padre San Anton Abad, en la Etiopía, published in Valencia, Spain, in 1609, about the Ethiopian religious order, the Caballeros de San Antonio Abad, which had been established in the fourth century. The alleged author, Juan de Baltasar Abisino, was himself Ethiopian and a member of the order of Saint Anthony. In his account, Baltasar highlighted the Caballeros’ dual source of power, for the monks were also soldiers, having taken vows both religious and military, and their leader, Prester John, was a powerful black priest—king. For Aponte and his companions who wrote letters, penned proclamations, and offered testimony about fighting for liberty and their faith, the character of this fighting force likely resonated. It is possible, then, to find evidence for some of Aponte’s accounts of Ethiopia in works such as these and perhaps even to suggest affinities between those works and Aponte’s vision — the attraction of black state power, the significance of spiritual authority. But to do only that would be to miss an opportunity to explore the link between Aponte’s vision and other currents of imagination; it would be to bypass an important episode in the intellectual history of the Black Atlantic. Aponte may have relied on seventeenth-century Spanish texts to develop his vision of a faraway black kingdom, but he did so at the dawn of the nineteenth century, precisely at the same time that black men and women elsewhere were doing something analogous, for Ethiopia was already in the Americas when Aponte started drawing it. In the still new United States, black abolitionists and ministers spoke of the greatness of Ethiopia. New black churches called themselves Ethiopian and Abyssinian — the first in Savannah, the African Baptist Church, in 1773, and perhaps the most famous, the Abyssinian Baptist Church (today in Harlem) in 1808. In Jamaica, where Ethiopianism would develop with great force in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a former slave named George Liele, who was one of the founding members of the Savannah congregation, founded the island’s first Baptist church, the Ethiopian Baptist Church, in 1784. In these circles, it appears to have been biblical Ethiopia that was most consistently invoked. It was the Ethiopia of Psalm 68, Verse 31: “Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” The fact that the invocation was biblical did not mean that it was not also political. Recall the case of the battalion of enslaved soldiers in Virginia who fought for England against the patriots; they called themselves the Ethiopian Regiment and wore a sash across their uniforms that read “Liberty to Slaves.” Famous black freemason Prince Hall explicitly linked the biblical prophecy of Ethiopia with real-world struggles for black free-dom. In 1797, before his Masonic brothers in Boston, he cast blacks in revolutionary Saint-Domingue as the embodiment of Ethiopia’s prophetic promise: “My brethren, let us remember what a dark day it was with our African brethren, six years ago, in the French West Indies. Nothing but the snap of the whip was heard from morning to evening; hanging, broken on the wheel, burning, and all manner of tortures inflicted on those unhappy people, for nothing else but to gratify their masters’ pride, wantonness and cruelty. But blessed be God, the scene is changed; they now confess that God hath no respect of persons, and therefore receive them as their friends, and treat them as brothers. Thus doth Ethiopia begin to stretch forth her hand, from a sink of slavery to freedom and equality.” If the presence of Ethiopia in Black Atlantic texts and institutions was already established in the last decades of the eighteenth century, those mentions acquired new meaning and force with the establishment in 1804 of an actual existing black state in the New World. Like Ethiopia, but immediate in time and space, Haiti had black emperors and kings and victorious black armies. Might Haiti then be a sign of a new age on the horizon? Writers in Haiti certainly said so. Black victory in Haiti was the beginning of redemption, Haitians the “regenerators of Africa.” Haitian intellectuals invoked Ethiopia (and Egypt) to make a larger point about race. Theories of racial inferiority, they argued, were false justifications for slavery and colonialism. In fact, Africa was the cradle of civilization. Haitians elaborated this critique of European racism not just amongst themselves but internationally. For example, Prince Saunders, an African American educator, worked closely with Christophe’s government to publish a collection of “Haytian Papers” for circulation in England and the United States. The Africa argument served almost to close the last piece in the volume: “Our traducers pretend to have forgot-ten what the Egyptians and Ethiopians, our ancestors were: the Tharaca of Scripture [Tarraco in Aponte’s testimony], that mighty monarch who was the dread of the Assyrians, came from the interior of Africa, as far as the columns of Hercules.” Was Saunders imagining a response of incredulity when he added, “the records that attest their works stile’ remain: the testimony of Herodotus, of Strabo, and of other historians of antiquity, confirm these facts”? When Aponte told his own tales of African power and might — first in pictures, then in judicial testimony — authorities did doubt his account Yet black people in Haiti, the United States, Jamaica, and elsewhere were telling similar stories, and like Aponte and Saunders, they cited their sources to anticipate potential cynics. We do not know if Aponte had direct access to those other Black Atlantic stories of Ethiopia, but the fact that they all flourished at the same time might suggest their circulation, even without direct evidence. There is another important if perhaps more mundane way in which Ethiopia circulated in Aponte’s world, and that is in everyday speech, as a synonym for black. Just as black preachers and writers and artists used the term, so too did European authors and governors and slaveholders. They spoke of the propensities of the “Ethiopian race,” and they used “Ethiopian” when speaking of black people in the present. But there may have been important distinctions in the way the designation was applied. When speaking of slaves, rarely, I think, did authors or authorities use Ethiopian or its plural form. Those people were negros or nègres; the labor force as a whole the plantation’s negrada. The term “Ethiopian,” meanwhile, seemed to be used more when white speakers or writers wanted to call up a notion of an embodied threat. Thus, they wrote in 1791 of the “evil inclinations of descendants of Ethiopia” in Cuba, who would certainly ally with Haitian rebels if given the opportunity. In 1800 authorities wrote of Cuban slaves who would join Toussaint to achieve liberty and “honorific posts among the Ethiopian troops.” Frequently they referred to the Haitian rebels themselves as Ethiopians: Toussaint was a “sanguinary Ethiope,” the black fighters were “Ethiopian troops,” Georges Biassou marched with “other Ethiopian chiefs,” and so on. Thus, while the label Ethiopian was a synonym for black at the turn of the nineteenth century, it is imperative to note that it may not have been deployed randomly for “anyone black,” as some have suggested. It seems to have been used as a selective synonym for black, when white speakers sought to convey a certain power or autonomy in the black subjects about which they wrote — in other words, when they wrote not about “a slave,” but about what they feared a slave was capable of becoming. In a world in which black soldiers in Virginia donned the label Ethiopian, in which white governors spoke grudgingly of the achievements of Ethiopian armies in Haiti, in which black churches established themselves as Abyssinian or Ethiopian, and in which an enslaved black poet was known as “the Ethiopian poetess,” Aponte invoked Ethiopia in pictures and words. Doing so helped him, and others around him, imagine a victorious black revolution in Havana in 1812. The invocation allowed him to make the case that his revolution had two powerful precedents: a remote, prophetic one in Ethiopia and a proximate one in Haiti. But the Ethiopia conjured in Aponte’s book was a model in very specific ways. It was, first, a demonstration of a black power that was at once military, political, and spiritual. The victorious armies of Ethiopia defended their kingdom at least in part for religion, a formulation that was very much present in the testimony from Aponte and his companions, who said they fought not only for freedom from slavery but also for their faith in Jesus Christ. Here we glimpse the revolutionaries caught not only between the age of slavery and the age of emancipation, but also more immediately between the secular time of political and personal freedom and the nonsecular time of faith and eternal deliverance. Ethiopia served as a model in another way as well. It was a sovereign nation, ruled by a black king. No European country controlled it, and its leaders traveled the world as legitimate and respected envoys. The fact that Haiti had recently come into existence — thanks to the power of men to whom the world referred as Ethiopian — likely made it seem like the once-remote African model had new currency. Except in one regard. Unlike Ethiopia, Haiti was not recognized across the globe, and its emissaries were not welcomed by European dignitaries. In Havana just two years earlier, the possibility of having to receive a Haitian diplomat prompted the governor to disobey and denounce royal orders. By showing the reception given to Ethiopian officials, Aponte provided an image of black sovereignty while also perhaps elaborating an implicit critique of the world’s hostile response to Haitian independence. Aponte’s rendering of Ethiopia represented his efforts to think through the possibilities of black sovereignty in the age of Haiti. Here was a most powerful story: a land ruled by a black sovereign with military, political, and spiritual power, a black army that vanquished all its enemies, black Christians whose piousness made Ethiopia a prized ally of European states bent on containing the power of Islam. It was these true histories of black state power that Aponte showed to his co-organizers. He turned to these images to reinforce his points; he explained their meaning to men plotting to overthrow slavery by force. The facticity of the images helped make them persuasive. Maybe it was this that made the book an appealing tool for recruitment for the rebellion. With it, Aponte was able to show his companions a possible world, possible not just in fables but in history as well. Combined with other elements of the conspiracy, the centrality of Aponte’s Ethiopia might suggest that the horizon of his movement may indeed have been anticolonial. Not for nothing had Aponte spoken to his companions about becoming king. While Ethiopia is a critical presence in Aponte’s book, an honest examination would concede that this story, however powerful, is not the only one. Ethiopia shared the pages, sometimes even the same page, with many other things: Apollo and Neptune, Mars and Gemini; Spanish politicians and kings; black colonial militia members in Havana; ancient philosophers and Catholic saints; rivers and mountains and palaces. We are left then with a question perhaps not that different than the one Nerey himself asked: What was everything else in the book? Why were images of black power pictured together with so many other things seemingly unconnected? What, in the end, did Apollo’s carriage or Neptune’s mother have to do with black kings or black armies? If Aponte’s pictures ranged broadly across seemingly distant and disparate subjects, and they did so, as he said, for the sake of history, what history was he talking about? Some have read Aponte’s book as a window into the thought of an unusual, erudite, self-taught black artisan comparable, say, to Menocchio, the sixteenth-century Italian miller so appealingly studied by historian Carlo Ginzburg. While the comparison is instructive, it is imperative to remember that Aponte’s book was also a document of rebellion. The man who authored it, and the ones who saw it, connected its contents to their own revolution and to their own entry into history. How, then, can we connect those images to the history Aponte himself was trying to make in that moment? How might we read Aponte’s libro de pinturas — in all its unruly and inscrutable heterodoxy — alongside the ambitious if ultimately failed movement he led? To restore the book to the historical process requires that we embrace its impenetrability and center its inherent and strategic flexibility. In some sense, Aponte’s missing pictures (and the testimony that surrounds them demand a reading perhaps reminiscent of those intrinsic to practices with which the revolutionaries themselves might have been familiar. In communities of Santería (or freemasonry, which some have connected to Aponte’s movement), for example, ascending levels of initiation produce greater and deeper knowledge, understanding, and access. To situate Aponte’s contradictory and resistant descriptions of the images in the context of the other voluminous testimony from the movement allows us to begin to glimpse the many layers of possible meaning that allowed Aponte to tell different stories to different people. Sometimes the fact that he did so emerges clearly from the testimony; other times we can only infer it. Still, the analysis makes clear not only — as Aponte said — that he drew what and how he did “for reasons of History,” but also that he chose History for a reason. (Ferrer 2014, 303-312)
In what appears to have been an attempt to shame Aponte for his misunderstanding of what Nerey thought was “history,” the licenciado now asks “why he mixed the destruction of the army of Senaqueril with the invasion of Tarragona, [events] which had nothing to do with each other.” READ MOREAponte’s seemingly contradictory response is purposively ambiguous. “Although these two events do not go together,” he says, “he has nevertheless included that of Senaqueril for reasons of history, just like all the other [images] in the book: and [besides that] the two locations are divided by a wide sea, although it appears narrow in the image.” Nerey and his scribe, of course, had no idea that Aponte’s knowledge of certain aspects of their own culture exceeded theirs. For the mystery about the apparent temporal incongruity of the fall of Tarragona (to a black king about whom they apparently had never heard!) and the destruction of “Senaqueril’s army” is easily resolved by a look at the Bible. A passage in 2 Kings 19 relates how the angel of the Lord smote the army of the Assyrian king “Sanherib” besieging Jerusalem with the plague. Yet it also tells of a black king named “Tirhaka” similarly involved in warfare against the Assyrians. The “Abyssinian connection” appears to derive, ultimately, from Herodotus 2.141, from where it may have filtered through to Pliny or other medieval geographers and, finally, to the “vida de San Antonio” that Aponte admitted to having perused: here, “Sanacheribos” is mentioned as an Assyrian king besieging Egypt, said to have formerly been under Ethiopian rule. In this version, bats gnaw away at the armor of Sanacheribos’s troops under the cover of the night, thus rendering their weapons useless. Even “Tarragona” may make sense, for Strabo mentions that the Ethiopian king “Tearco” (Tarcus/Taracus/ Taharqa) reached Europe (Snowden 1970, 119), which may have made sense to Aponte, who had read about San Antonio’s mysterious removal from Ethiopia to Cataluña (Navarro 1760). However, he might also have known about Tarraco’s (i.e., Tarragona’s) historical association with New Carthage, although he was probably unaware of the questions surrounding the “racial” identity of the Phoenicians. Quite obviously, what Aponte had done was to cross-reference heterogeneous information according to a logic of his own, an “Order of Things” that dissembled the categories and narratives of his interrogators’ culture and rearranged their content in configurations they perceived as familiar and disturbing at one and the same time. Yet, even if Aponte had gotten it “all wrong,” “mixed it all up,” what did he mean by “por razón de Historia,” and why is it that, in his exegesis, these elements of Western intellectual history acquire such a conspicuous tinge of “blackness”? Surely, given the degree of control over his sources demonstrated in the last example, we cannot concur with Nerey’s assertion that Aponte simply scrambled history in an arbitrary fashion. Rather, what we are facing is the purposeful ambiguation and reinscription of historical narratives, and Nerey seems to have feared as much as well. Why, we should ask—and this time in agreement with Nerey, who obviously worried about these things quite a bit—why all these black saints, kings, bishops, and soldiers? Clearly, what disturbed Nerey was not Aponte’s palpable “madness”—the images conjured up by his “heated and fatuous brain.” It was the method at the back of it. The uncanny rigor of his procedure. The frightening implication of systematicity. Was this history for Aponte? Any attempt to answer this question must perforce remain speculation. Still, it appears not at all unlikely that Aponte—in a rather realistic manner—perceived the things and personages he read about or saw depicted in the images that he cut from books, fans, and other sources as emblematic semblances or signatures of power. If so, we might argue that, by appropriating and transforming them in acts of both physical and symbolic violence, he authorized a systemic adikos logos that he— and maybe some of his associates—regarded as generative of powerful knowledge. Of course, we do not know the particulars of Aponte’s ideas about power, authority, legitimacy, and related concepts. It is tempting here to follow Franco’s path and short-circuit the obvious imprint that his pondering over such matters left on the pages of his book with modern ethnographic records about similar conceptions in certain West African societies—specifically, of course, the Yoruba. But, at the same time, I think that we would be well advised not to pursue this too far, and not just because the procedure itself is deeply anachronistic. Surely, Aponte may have felt that the titles of European aristocrats, the commissions of priests, bishops, and popes, and the semidivine status of Catholic saints and virgins were equivalent to, for example, the Yoruba concept of oye, circumscribing, as Peel (1979–80) has argued, the ability (conceived of as independent of the person of the titleholder) to mobilize resources, human or superhuman, in order to achieve morally desirable ends. Yet, at the same time, Aponte may also have been familiar with European ideas of sacred kingship, which, at least formally, still underlay the title of “His Catholic Majesty” Fernando VII, the king of Spain, dethroned though he was in French exile by 1812. Given his historical positioning within an ecology of representations of truly Atlantic scope, biblical as well as African ideas about divine intervention in human affairs, sacred commissions, moral valor, and political authority may have structured his reading of such images of monarchs, priests, and saints. And his mode of typification and contextualization of such received information may have been as much akin to that of Petrarch and Boccaccio, Pico and Ficino, as to that of a Yoruba babalawo (divination priest) or even just the modern African popular artist raiding European forms and topoi with gusto and “a grand disregard for the conventions that sustain them” (Barber 1987, 36). And, even if we were to go along with Ginzburg in favoring a “traditional” solution, should we not acknowledge that African tradition—no less than European intellectual history—contains its polyvalences, heterologies, and “unofficial” (Barber 1987, 16) or “critical” (Apter 1992) registers? In the end, all these reductionist solutions, viable though some of them may perhaps be, direct our attention away from what really was at stake here. Aponte may have been inspired to cut out and rearrange these representations of individuals pertaining to what Mary Helms (1988, 182ff.) identifies as the conceptual category of power-filled strangers for quite a number of reasons and according to quite a number of rules. To pin him down on any single cultural template is to entrap once over his historical subjectivity in the deterministic conceptual snares generated by the reductionism inherent in tertiary discourses. What we do know, however, is that—at least this is what Aponte chose to tell us—the intended addressee of his libro de pinturas, the one person with whom he wanted to share his insights, was the (then-exiled) king of Spain. It was to his Catholic majesty that he had ultimately intended to present the book through the mediation of the Capitán General and the Ayuntamiento of Havana. Why this was so, Aponte never really explained. When asked what he had expected to gain or achieve by doing so, he answered that he desired only such reward as his majesty would see fit to bestow on him (Franco 1977, 144). Nerey probably thought that Aponte had lied to conceal the true purpose of the book as a strangely encoded blueprint for insurrectionary action or simply wrote it off as the naive fancy of a free black suffering from delusions of grandeur. Yet, for us, this detail provides ground for a number of intriguing speculations: Why would Aponte choose to address the Spanish sovereign in order to, so to speak, cash in the “symbolic capital” that he had been accumulating for years? What—if indeed he had not lied—did he expect from such a transaction? Had Aponte—conscious of history in the sense of the legitimacy or even power that the past can bestow on the present as he undoubtedly was—intended to recover by means of word and image the dignity and moral authority of which he and his fellow Afro-Cubans had been deprived? Their past had been obliterated by forces radiating outward from the faraway continent of Europe, forces shaping their very existence as black people in a society increasingly structured by racial slavery and impinging on their daily lives in the tangible form of legal as well as extralegal forms of social exclusion, exploitation, repression, and abuse. Although unleashed by what we now think of as the emergence of the modern capitalist world system, such forces and the contradictions that their impact engendered were experienced—by their perpetrators as well as by their victims—as concrete, sensual manifestations of power, whether in institutional, corporate, or personal guise. And it may well be that Aponte had reacted to such experiences by beginning to theorize about the nature and origins of such power: by appropriating representations likewise issuing from this axis mundi (whether conceived of as located in Madrid or Rome), might he not succeed in uncovering—in what would appear a strikingly modernistic move—similarly obliterated, perhaps even secret sources of power on which Europe drew but that, in fact, were originally African? There is no telling to what extent Aponte was aware of the foiled Napoleonic invasion of Egypt. Yet, although it is reasonably clear that he did not have access to the comte de Volney’s Voyage en Egypte et en Syrie (1787) and Les Ruines (1791), Baron Denon’s Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte (1802), and the monumental Description de l’Égypt of the Commission des Sciences et Arts d’Égypt, the first volume of which appeared only in 1809 (what, one wonders, could he have achieved had only a couple of its volumes fallen in his hand?), Aponte undoubtedly partook of a long-standing European discursive tradition that located the source of superior knowledge in or beyond the African floodplains of the lower Nile. (Palmié 2002, 118-123)
Sin intentar justificar la simultaneidad temporal o la colindancia espacial que expresa la lámina, Aponte asume aquí el valor contingente de una lectura geográfica que libera la historia de la lógica de la necesidad, sin que por ello, la representación geográfica de las figuras quede fuera de las relaciones intertextuales que articulan la narración histórica. READ MOREAl acercarse a sus fuentes, se puede ver esta vinculación entre los textos: Stephan Palmié destacó que en el episodio de Senaquerib, el libro II de Reyes también menciona al Faraón Taraca, rey negro que gobernaba Egipto y estaba “igualmente envuelto en guerras contra los Asirios.” Palmié cita aquí a Herodoto que menciona también a Sanaqueribos como el rey asirio que libera Egipto de la ocupación etiope. Por último, el episodio en que el rey etiope Tarraco (Tearco, Tarcus, Taraca) habría llegado a Cataluña (Estrabon dixit), se puede vincular con la historia de la emigración de San Antonio contada en la Vida de San Antonio que cita Aponte. Es precisamente este vínculo bibliográfico que Aponte afirma espacialmente (con su geopictografía) e históricamente en forma de analogía morfológica y metonímica (epistemología de su historia negra universal). El acercamiento entre los episodios es entonces más que coincidencia o azar y, como dice Palmié, muestra el “extraño rigor de su procedimiento” y la “pavorosa implicación de la sistematicidad” del autor de las pinturas. Es importante recalcar aquí que Aponte instala el problema mismo de la historicidad en el escenario africano de la Biblia y, eclipsando el rol de los hebreos de Judea en estos textos, propone un cuadro del enfrentamiento entre ejércitos orientales (imperio asirio de Senaquerib) y ejércitos africanos (imperio abisinio de Tarraco). El derrotero negro lleva a la toma de Europa por parte de los etíopes a los cuales se les traspone la ayuda del ángel que interviene en la versión bíblica del ataque a Jerusalén. (Pavez Ojeda 2006b, 701-702)