Identified in the trial record as: Catecismo de la Doctrina Cristiana

Commentary by Pavez Ojeda: “About the catechism that Aponte owned, one can speculate about many possibilities, as this genre was the one that was printed and circulated with the most ease throughout the empire. In the case of colonial Cuba, Ambrosio Fornet notes that the royal printing house produced about 300 books, broadsheets, and pamphlets in the 18th century, that contained proclamations, decrees, regulations, prayers, catechisms, and prayer books. The author underscores that the printing presses did not finance book-length works and that the catechisms and prayer books required ‘high print runs that were paid for by the Church and private donors.’ On the other hand, he underscores that in the schools of the Economic Society of the Friends of the Country (SEAP), an Enlightenment institution created in the 18th century, they used the catechism of Abate Claude Fleury.[1] We must remember that Abate Fleury was also the author of a book known as Instituciones de Derecho Eclesiástico, printed in Paris in 1761, and expressly prohibited by the inquisition edict (August 26, 1780). The Enlightenment character of Abate did not impede that his catechism may have been used in institutions like the SEAP or may have circulated in the hands of readers like Aponte.

The reference is: Fleury, Abate Claude – Catecismo Histórico ó Compendio de la Historia Sagrada y de la Doctrina Cristiana para instrucción de los niños con preguntas, respuestas y lecciones seguidas para leerlas en las escuelas. Translated to the French ‘for the utility of the tender youth and adorned with 16 plates.’ The approval of the translation dates to 1783, but in the 19th century there were various re-editions. The First part contains a summary of Biblical history corresponding to 16 plates. This part is composed of 29 parts: creation, the first man’s sin and expulsion, the flood and natural law, Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs, the slavery of Egypt and Easter, the voyage through the desert and the Ten Commandments, the Alliance of God with the Israelites, Idolatry, David and Mesías, spiritual and natural Jews, etc. The Second part contained in summary fashion ‘Christian doctrine’ in 39 lessons.

Another possibility, because of the great quantity of print runs published in the 19th century, is the Catecismo de la Doctrina Cristiana of the Jesuit Gerónimo de Ripalda, a book that was sold for 10 cents at the beginning of the century and ‘a peso for a dozen,’ around 1830,’ becoming ‘the best-selling devotional book of the century.'[2]

A third possibility, the peculiar work of Antonio Nicolás Duque de Estrada 1797 – Explicación de la doctrina cristiana acomodada a la capacidad de los negros bozales por un presbítero de la Congregación del oratorio de la Havana, y se dedica á los Padres Capellanes de los ingenios. La Habana: Imprenta de Esteban Boloña, which was later re-published in 1818 (La Habana: Oficina de Arazoza, in 4to, 164 p.), and in 1823 (La Habana: Imprenta de Boloña, in 8vo, 143 p.). About this book, the erudite Bachiller y Morales writes: ‘In its explanations it imitates the incorrect language of blacks so that they would understand it: it is revealed in the book and the note the evangelical zeal of the very dignified priest.’ This eagerness described the pedagogical philosophy of the Duque de Estrada, who notes in his book: ‘In regard to the pronunciation, they will pronounce it if the catechist looks at them with pity,’ giving advice in order to not teach the black ‘to say nonsense.'[3] We see how the catechism also becomes a device of linguistic orthopedics to protect the Spanish language from the phonetic appropriation on the part of black slaves. Due to the bibliophile curiosity that Aponte displayed, it is possible that he had obtained the Explicación of Christian doctrine, destined for the formation of slaves.

Finally, we note here that from Clemente Chacón, another accused in Aponte’s cause, were seized various political proclamations and also a Notebook of Christian doctrine, from 1807, printed “with Royal privilege in the Holy Church of Vallalolid.'”[4] (Pavez Ojeda 2006a, 755-756)

[1] Ambrosio Fornet, El libro en Cuba (La Habana: Letras Cubanas, 1994), 59-61.
[2] Ibid 70.
[3] Antonio Bachiller y Morales, “Desfiguración a que está expuesto el idioma castellano al contacto y mezcla de las razas,” in Gladys Alonso & Angel Luis Fernández, eds. Antología de lingüística cubana (La Habana: Ciencias Sociales) p. 106.
[4] Ver Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Fondo Asuntos Políticos, Leg.12 n.14, 2da.pieza, ff.47-55, 19 marzo de 1812.

Google Books provides access to a 1825 edition, printed in Verona, of Fleury’s Catecismo Histórico; a 1817 edition, printed in Madrid, of Ripalda’s Catecismo de la Doctrina Cristiana (among other editions); and the 1818 re-publication in Havana of Estrada’s Explicación de la doctrina cristiana acomodada a la capacidad de los negros bozales.