Spanish author Mayte Uceda’s latest book is now out in Spanish. El maestro de azúcar (The Sugar Master) was published on January 17th by Editorial Planeta with great enthusiasm and to great acclaim. The novel is a gripping page-turner set in colonial Cuba immediately before the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898) that makes sure to highlight contemporary themes like diversity and female empowerment in its plot. A romantic love triangle and a touch of witchcraft make it an engrossing book to be read in a couple of sittings.
About the real-life women who inspired this fictional story, Mayte Uceda writes in the novel’s author’s note:
“Dolores Aleu Riera was the first Spanish woman ever to pursue medical studies. Enrolled in 1874, she attended the faculty with a guard to avoid being stoned. After completing her studies, she was prevented from undergoing her final exam until much later. Nevertheless, she practiced medicine for twenty-five years. Laura Martínez de Carvajal, the daughter of Spaniards settled in Cuba, was the first Cuban woman to complete a degree in Medicine and Surgery on July 15th, 1889. Almost thirty years later, in 1916, Anastasia Cruz Angulo Verdesi became the first black female doctor in Cuba. During her student years, Cruz also worked as a journalist for local and national magazines. Her articles campaigned against racism and in defense of social justice.”
All translation and audiovisual rights are currently available.
In the pictures above, the author signed books at the book launch in Zaragoza in late January.
The novel starts in northern Spain in 1895. Two women leave their peaceful town of Colombres in the region of Asturias to travel to the distant island of Cuba. Their reasons for travelling could not be more different: Mar, the daughter of the town’s doctor, undertakes the journey to follow her father, who has been selected to run a medical practice on a Cuban hacienda that functions as a sugar plantation called Dos Hermanos; Paulina, a very young widow who comes from humble origins, is forced to embark on a journey to marry a prestigious sugar master, a man she has never met. Mar dreams of being a doctor while Paulina wonders if she will lead a happy life alongside her imminent husband because she can’t help but constantly compare him to her late husband. Mar is focused on her work as a nurse alongside her father, but she soon begins to take a liking to the master.
This is the story of two young women united by the same fate, anchored by love and loyalty to their families, against the backdrop of an exotic island that hides ancient hostility and revenge beneath its shadows. The novel explores both sides of the sugar plantation, which is a pleasant place for some workers but injustices are everywhere, especially for the African and Asian indentured servants who are constantly being abused by their masters, despite working from sunrise to sunset. The Cuban War of Independence, known in Cuba as The Necessary War, is brewing, and it will soon give Cuba its much sought-after independence.
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