Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama, even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education, young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world, but they also expose its hideous cruelty.
Cuba has fought three wars for independence, and still she is not free. Her people have been rounded up in reconcentration camps, where there is always too little food and too much illness. Rosa knows how to heal sickness with medicines made from wild plants. But with a price on her head for helping the rebels, Rosa dares not go out in the open. Instead, she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her.