At a Glance:
Conde (Count), Judge, Landowner, Sugar Plantation Owner
Species names: 1
Fernandina’s Flicker, Gail Hampshire [link]
CONTENT NOTE: THIS PROFILE CONTAINS DISCUSSION OF SLAVERY
Fernandina’s flicker (Colaptes fernandinae)
After naturalists, perhaps the most common eponyms are those created to honour royalty and members of the aristocracy. Such is the case with the Fernandina Flicker, a Cuban endemic woodpecker species named for one of it’s most powerful residents; Don José María Herrera y Herrera , 2nd Conde de Fernandina (1788-1863).
It was named at the request of Mr Macleay who first collected the species on account of the “various marks of attention and assistance” that the Conde had provided to him. This is not necessarily an uncommon phenomenon; there are a number of instances of naturalists who named species for powerful benefactors, but in such cases it becomes even more important to examine the power structures behind those people.
For the Conde, that power came in multiple forms. Yet, while the noble title and position as judge are certainly aspects that cannot be ignored, the wealth behind that came from one source of note; sugar plantations run on slave labour. The Conde is noted in documentation from the time as “one of the largest slave owners on the island” and owned multiple plantations.
Slavery definited the Cuban economy during the time that the Conde’s lifetime. For much of its Colonial history, Cuba had been a minor exporter of tobacco and lumber, but during the lifetime of the Conde this shifted considerably to a large network of plantations operated on the back of the slave trade. Indeed, as slavery declined elsewhere upon it was outlawed in the British Empire, the plantations of Cuba were able to boom as they were used to run the sugar plantations in a manner that emancipated nations could not.
The explorer Humboldt provided figures for the slave trade for at least part of this time period, and these records note thousands of slaves being imported annually, with a high of 25,841 in 1817 during the recorded period he noted. Cuba was the last major slave economy in North America standing, outlasting even the United States, and being a slave owner through its peak, Don José María Herrera y Herrera profited enormously from this industrial scale inhumanity.
Herbert S. Klein. The Cuban Slave Trade in a Period of 1790-1843, 1975, p 67-89
Luis Martinez-Fernandez – Fighting Slavery in the Caribbean. The Life and Times of a British Family in Nineteenth-Century Havana