The Last Supper- A View of Slavery

The Last Supper depicts different aspects of slavery in Latin America. According to ” Recasting Cuban Slavery: The Other Francisco and The Last Supper” by John Mraz, the work is based upon a historical document by Cuban historian Manuel Moreno Fraginals. It is based on the account of  a slave owner in 1790 who reinacted, with twelve of his slaves, The Last Supper from scripture.  Through this film, one can see the hardships delt with by the slaves themselves, the slave owners’ view of their “property”, and the owners’ use of religion as an attempt to control their slave population.

The hardships the slaves experienced were great. The film opens with an overseer in search of a slave named Sebastian who has escaped. He beats and insults others trying to find answers as to where Sebastian has gone. When the escapee is found later, his ear is cut off as punishment for his crime. He is then placed into the stocks, where it seems that he will die. In looking at this one character, the harsh environment of a slave’s life can be seen. Even if a slave is freed, there is nowhereto go. During the supper, an elderly slave is actually given freedom. He is saddened, however, because all that he knows is the mill.

The slaves were not even viewed as human beings. Before the supper, the owner washes their feet just as Christ washed his disciple’s feet. He is disgusted by this and reluctantly kisses each slave’s foot. Before he does so he is sure ro thouroughly cleans the spot on the foot he will kiss . Afterevery kiss he is sure to clean his mouth. The oversees is disgusted that the master would do such a thing to his lowly property. This attitude can be seen in “Slavery, Race, and Citizenship in the Empire of Brazil: Debates in the Constituent Assembly” by Kirsten Schultz. This work contains sessions from the formation of the constitution fo the Brazillian Empire. In these sessions we find representatives arguing as to weather or not freed slaves are to be considered citizens. The slaves are referred to as miserable persons by one delegate, and are seen as pagans and idolaters. The view reflected in the film is not that different from views held historically.

There were many slaves in Cuba at the time this film depicts. Naturally, it would be difficult to keep them under control. According to John Mraz, slave uprisings were a constant problem. Religion was a tool used to keep the slaves from revolting. In the film, they are constantly reminded of the command in scripture for slaves to obey their masters. For this obedience they will get to go to heaven. This backfires in the film, however, as religion tells the slaves that they should not work on Good Friday. When they are forced to work anyway, they rebell. This ends in the hunting down and killing of the slaves who attended the Last Supper. Ironically, unlike the Last Supper in scripture, it is the traitor Sebastian (named Judas by the slave owner) and the host of the supper who live. It is the other eleven who are “hung on a tree”.