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At the turn of the century, the name "Evangelina Cisneros" (known in Cuba as Evangelina Cossio) was a household term throughout the United States. Newspapers and books described her daring escape from a Havana prison, and pleas on her behalf flourished--including a request for clemency by Queen Victoria and an eloquent letter from the wife of Jefferson Davis. Although the Cisneros saga has all but disappeared in the general historical references to the eighteen nineties, her prison predicament and her prominence in the press of the times reflect fundamental issues of race and gender that are part of the socio­-political climate of the war over Cuba. Who was Evangelina? Why did she become part of the Cuba frenzy whipped up by American newspapers such as the New York Journal, and the World? And what role did her race and gender play in United States fascination with abuses in Cuba?


This article originally appeared in SECOLAS Annals, volume 11, issue 1, 1999, pages 36-43, published by the Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies. Reposted with permission.