The Vision and Legacy of the Antillean Confederation: Unity and Sovereignty

Remysell Salas
3 min readSep 2


The Antillean Confederation, a visionary concept proposed by Ramón Emeterio Betances in the 19th century, remains a compelling historical endeavor that sought to unite the Caribbean nations of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Haiti. This visionary idea emerged as a response to the challenges posed by colonialism, and it aimed to preserve the sovereignty, culture, and well-being of these nations. While the confederation was never realized, its legacy continues to inspire discussions about unity, regional identity, and the shared aspirations of Caribbean nations.

Origins and Goals

The Antillean Confederation emerged from the fervor of the 19th-century struggles for independence and sovereignty in the Caribbean. Ramón Emeterio Betances, a prominent Puerto Rican nationalist and abolitionist, played a pivotal role in articulating the concept. He envisioned a united front against European colonialism in the Americas, advocating for a regional entity that would safeguard the interests and self-determination of the Caribbean people.

The primary goals of the Antillean Confederation were as follows:

  1. Sovereignty: The confederation aimed to counter the influence of colonial powers and assert the autonomy of the Caribbean nations in determining their destinies.
  2. Unity: By bringing together the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Haiti, the confederation aimed to foster unity among Caribbean nations that shared historical experiences and challenges.
  3. Preservation of Culture: Proponents of the confederation recognized the importance of preserving the cultural identities and heritage of the Caribbean nations in the face of external pressures.
E.g In red indicates the countries involved: Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Supporters and Advocates

Several influential figures championed the idea of the Antillean Confederation, including:

  • Ramón Emeterio Betances: A key proponent and visionary behind the confederation, Betances believed in the power of unity to overcome colonial oppression.
  • Eugenio María de Hostos: Often referred to as The Citizen of the Americas, Hostos shared Betances’ vision of a united Caribbean and promoted educational initiatives to support the idea.
  • José Martí: Known as The Apostle of Cuban Independence, Martí was a fervent advocate for the confederation, as he believed in the potential of unified action to free Cuba from Spanish colonial rule.
  • Gregorio Luperón: A hero of the Dominican Restoration War, Luperón supported the confederation idea as a means to secure the sovereignty of his homeland.
  • Anténor Firmin: He is best known for his work “De l’égalité des races humaines” (English: “On the Equality of Human Races”), which was published in 1885.

Despite the noble intentions and wide support, the Antillean Confederation faced numerous challenges that prevented its realization:

  1. Political Realities: The differing political systems, ideologies, and priorities of the member nations posed significant obstacles to creating a cohesive confederation.
  2. Sovereignty Concerns: Balancing the desire for unity with concerns about maintaining individual sovereignty presented complex challenges.
  3. Economic Disparities: Economic inequalities among the member nations raised questions about how to distribute benefits and resources equitably.
  4. Historical Tensions: Historical conflicts and rivalries between some member nations added to the difficulties of creating a harmonious confederation. Such as the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The legacy of the Antillean Confederation persists in the collective memory of the Caribbean region. While the concept itself was not realized, the underlying principles of unity, sovereignty, and cultural preservation continue to influence discussions about regional cooperation and identity.


The Antillean Confederation remains a testament to the ideals of unity and sovereignty that shaped the Caribbean’s history. Ramón Emeterio Betances and his fellow advocates envisioned a brighter future for the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Haiti through collective action. Although the confederation was not fully realized, its legacy endures as a reminder of the power of shared aspirations and the ongoing quest for self-determination, cultural preservation, and regional unity in the Caribbean.

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Remysell Salas

Rémy is a professor at CUNY for the Dept. of Ethnic and Race Studies. He lectures courses on politics, Caribbean identity, immigration, and NYC history.