Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Eloise Quiñones-Keber

Subject Categories

Architecture | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Studies


architecture; Cuba; ingenio; Laplante; sugar; sugarmill


By the mid-nineteenth century, Cuba had become the world's leading sugar producer, providing about a third of the world's supply. As a result, sugar mills dominated the Cuban countryside, each one growing into a micro-town, with housing complexes (mansions for owners and slave barracks or bohios for workers), industrial facilities (mills and boiler houses), and adjoining buildings (kitchens, infirmaries, etc.), all organized around a central, open space, known as a batey. Owned by the Creole elite (New World offspring of Spanish settlers) and worked by African slaves, sugar mills became places of enslavement and subjugation as well as contact, interaction, and mestizaje.

My dissertation will provide the first comprehensive and in-depth study of the architecture of nineteenth-century Cuban sugar mills, with a twofold aim: first, to examine how the Creole sugar planters designed and manipulated the architectural forms and spaces to convey order, power, and affluence, and to enforce slavery and racial difference; second, to analyze how African slaves countered Creole power through violent forms of resistance (intentional fires, collective protests) as well as non-violent ones (preservation of native customs, beliefs, music and dance) that involved subversive and transformative uses of architectural spaces. A study of socio-spatial negotiation, this dissertation traces the process by which an architectural setting designed for subjugation developed a distinctive architectural language.

The first chapter reconstructs the typical plantation scheme adopted by most Cuban planters in the early nineteenth century, analyzing how it combined earlier Spanish models with more contemporaneous Neoclassical ones. The second chapter analyzes the architecture of the industrial naves, along with the beautifully rendered nineteenth-century lithographs of Eduardo Laplante, in the context of the Creoles' fascination with technology and mechanization. Chapter three explores the ways in which planters used architecture to enforce segregation, full visibility, and panoptic surveillance, while chapter four examines the development of a unique, distinctively Cuban architectural language, clearly manifested in the bohios and casas de viviendas. The fifth and last chapter investigates how the slaves appropriated and transformed the architectural spaces to undermine Creole power and make their own condition more bearable.