1902 Encyclopedia > Cuba

Cuba




CUBA, the largest and richest of the West India Islands, and the most important colony of Spain, was dis-covered by Columbus on 28th October 1492, during his iîirst voyage.» It was first called Juana in honour of Prince John, son of Ferdinand and Isabella ; but after Ferdinand's death it received the name of Fernandina. It was sub-sequently designated Santiago, from the patron saint of Spain ; and still later Ave Maria, in honour of the Virgin. Its present name is that by which it was known among the natives at the time of its discovery. It was then divided into nine independent principalities, under as many caciques. The aborigines are described as living in a state of happy tranquillity among themselves, and possessing a religion devoid of rites and ceremonies, but inculcating a belief in the existence of a great and beneficent Being and in the immortality of the soul Cuba was twice visited by Columbus after its discovery—in April 1494, and again in 1502. In 1511 his son Diego Columbus, for the purpose of colonizing the island, fitted out an expedition, consisting of above 300 men, under Diego Velasquez, who had accompanied his father on his second voyage. Their first settlement was Baracoa, and in 1514 they founded Santiago and Trinidad. In July 1515 was planted a town called San Cristoval de la Havana, which name was transferred in 1519 to the present capital, the first-named place being now called Batabano. In 1538 Havana was reduced to ashes by a French privateer; and to prevent a similar disaster in future the Castillo de la Fuerza, a fortress which still exists, was built by Fernando de Soto, governor of Cuba, afterwards famous for his explorations in the southern and western regions of the United States, as well as for the discovery of the Mississippi. In 1554 the French again attacked and destroyed Havana. The early settlers devoted themselves principally to the rearing of cattle ; but about 1580 the cultivation of tobacco and the sugar-cane was commenced, and this led to the introduction of the system of negro slavery. Previous to 1600 two other fortresses were built for the defence of Havana—the Moro and the Punta, which are still in existence. For about a century and a half after this period the island was kept in a state of almost perpetual fear of invasion from the French, English, Dutch, or the pirates infesting these seas ; and several ineffectual efforts were made to reduce it. About 1665 the walls of Havana were commenced. In 1762 Havana was taken by an English fleet and army under Lord Albemarle, the former consisting of more than 200 vessels of all classes, and the latter of 14,041 men, while the Spanish army numbered 27,610 men. The defence was exceedingly obstinate. The English commenced operations on the 6th of June; but it was not until the 30th of July that the Moro Castle surrendered; and on the 14th August the city capitulated. The spoil divided among the captors amounted to £736,185. By the treaty of Paris, in February of the following year Cuba was restored to the Spaniards, and from that time its progress has been rapid; indeed, this restoration is regarded by native writers as the true era whence its importance and prosperity are to be dated. The administration of Las Casas, who arrived as captain-general in 1790, is represented by all Spanish writers as a brilliant epoch in Cuban history. He promoted with indefatigable perseverance a series of public works of the first utility, introduced the culture of indigo, extended the commercial importance of the island by removing as far as his authority extended the trammels imposed upon it by the old system of privilege and restriction, and made noble efforts to effect the emancipation of the enslaved native Indians. By his judicious administration the tranquillity of the island was maintained uninterrupted at the time of the revolution in San Domingo; although, as is generally believed, a con-spiracy was formed at the instigation of the French among the free people of colour in Cuba. In 1795 a number of French emigrants arrived from San Domingo. In 1802 Jesu Maria, a populous suburb of Havana, was destroyed by a fire, which deprived 11,400 people of their habita-tions. On the deposition of the royal family of Spain by Napoleon (the news of which arrived in July 1808) every member of the Cabildo took oath to preserve the island for the deposed sovereign, and declared war against Napoleon. Since that time the island has been ruled over by a succes-sion of governor-captain-generals from Spain, armed with almost absolute authority, some of whom have conducted themselves honourably, while the names of others are loaded with infamy, the office having been frequently sought and bestowed only as the means of acquiring a fortune. The deprivation of political, civil, and religious liberty, and exclusion from all public stations, combined with a heavy taxation to maintain the standing army and navy, have resulted in a deadly hatred between the native Cubans and the mass of officials sent from Spain. This has manifested itself in frequent risings for greater privileges and freedom. Of this kind were the conspiracy of the "Black Eagle" in 1829, the insurrection of the black population in 1844, the conspiracy of Narciso Lopez in 1848, his landing with 600 men from the United States in 1850, and his third attempt in 1851, which cost his life and that of many of his followers. Soon after this a reformist party sprang up, desirous of coming to a settle-ment which should insure the rights of the colony without impairing the interests of Spain, and after protracted efforts ttlis party succeeded in obtaining an inquiry at Madrid on the reforms needed by Cuba; but the only alteration decreed was that of a new system of taxation, more oppressive than the former. Great sympathy had long been shown for the Cubans by the people of the United States, and in 1848 President Polk had gone the length of proposing through the American ambassador at Madrid a transference of the island to the United States for a sum of $1,000,000. A similar proposal was made ten years afterwards in the senate—the sum suggested being $30,000,000—but after debate it was withdrawn. When the Spanish revolution of 1868 broke out, the advanced party in Cuba at once matured their plans for the liberation of the island from the military despotism of Spain, rose in arms at Yara in the district of Bayamo, and made a declaration of independence, dated at Manzanillo, on the 10th of October of that year. This insurrection soon assumed formidable dimensions in the eastern portion of the island ; on the 18th of October the town of Bayamo was taken, and on the 28th the jurisdiction of Holguin rose in arms. Early in November the patriots defeated a force which had been sent against them from Santiago de Cuba, and the greater number of the Spanish-American republics hastened to recognize the Cubans as belligerents. During subsequent years, in spite of the large and continued increase of the number of troops sent from Spain, and organized by the Spanish authorities in the island, the yearly campaigns up to the present time have shown that in the eastern interior the Cuban patriots are practically invincible, and that by maintaining a guerilla warfare they can attack and harass and even defeat their enemies who may be bold enough to act on the aggressive.

In a debate on Cuban affairs in the Cortes of Madrid in November 1876 it was stated that, during the past eight years, in attempting to crush the insurgents, Spain had sent to Cuba 145,000 soldiers and her most favoured commanders, but with little or no result. On the other hand Cuba, under the perpetual apprehension of the rebellion, has seen her trade decrease, her crops reduced, and her Creoles deserting to the United States and Spanish republics; and her taxes have been trebled in vain to meet the ever-increasing expenses and floating debts.

The island of Cuba is long and narrow, somewhat in the form of an irregular crescent with its convex side towards Position the north. It divides the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico and extent. mto two passages, that to the north-west being 130 English miles wide at the narrowest part, between the points of Ycacos in Cuba and Sable on the Florida coast, and the south-west passage of nearly the same width, between the Cabo de San Antonio of Cuba and the Cabo de Catoche, the most salient extremity of the peninsula of Yucatan. On the north-east, east, and south-east, narrower channels separate it from the Bahamas, Hayti, and Jamaica. Cuba lies between 74° and 85° W. long., and 19° and 23° N. lat. Its length, following a curved line through its centre, is 730 miles, and its average breadth is 80 miles. The area of Cuba is 43,319 English square miles; the neighbouring island of Pinos, 1214 square miles; and the smaller coastal islands, 1350 square miles;—in all 45,883 square miles. The coast of Cuba is generally low and flat, and is surrounded by numerous islands and reefs, which render the approach both difficult and dangerous to those not acquainted with the proper channels. The low nature of the shore subjects it to frequent floods and inundations; and especially on the north side of the island there are many large lagoons, from which a considerable quantity of salt is obtained. No island, however, in pro-portion to its size, has a greater number of excellent harbours, many of them accessible even to ships of the line. Of these the chief are the ports of Bahia, Honda, Mariel Havana, Matanzas, Cardenas, Nuevitas, and Nipe on the northern side, and Guatanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, and Cienfuegos on Xagua Bay on the southern.

The highest part of the island is in the range extending in the south-east from the Punta de Maysi to Cape Cruz, called the Sierra or Montanos de Maestra or Cobre, th6 summits of which are the Pico de Tarquino, 7670 feet, the highest point of the whole island ; Gran Piedra, 5200 feet; Yunque and Ojo del Toro, 3500 feet. From this sierra a ridge of much smaller general elevation follows nearly the central line of the island westward throughout its extent, rising to form a more marked range in the extreme west of Cuba, on which the Pan de Guajaibon attains 2530 feet. An almost isolated mass, of which the Pico de Potrerillo is the summit, 2990 feet above the sea, rises immediately behind the harbour of Trinidad, near the centre of the southern coastland. The south-eastern sierra is one great calcareous mass, resting on a schistose formation. The summits are for the most part rocky and naked, occasionally interrupted by more gentle undulations. The central and western parts of the island contain two formations of com-pact limestone, one of clayey sandstone, and another of gypsum. Caverns abound in the limestone formations. The secondary formations, east of Havana, are pierced by syenitic and euphotide rocks united in groups. The syenite strata are intercalated with serpentine, and inclined to the north-west. In some places petroleum runs out of rents in the serpentine; and abundant springs of this fluid are also found in the eastern part of the island.

The rivers are necessarily short, and flow toward the north j>;vers, and south. The largest is the Cauto, rising in the Sierra del Cobre, and falling into the Bay of Buena Esperanza on the southern coast, after a course of fifty leagues, for twenty of which it is navigable by boats, though at low water obstructed by bars. The Sagua la Grande rises in the Sierra del Escambray, and falls into the sea in front of the Boca de Maravillas, being navigable for five leagues. The principal of the other rivers are the Sagua le Chica, the North and South Iatibonica, the Cuyaguateje, Sasa, Agobama, and Hanabana. North-east of Guantanamo the hills of the south-eastern sierra are known as those of Quibijan and Baracoa, and in the hill of Moa in this range there is formed a huge cavern in which the Biver Moa descends from a height of 100 yards, forming a superb cascade.

Situated within and near the border of the northern tropical zone the climate of the low coastlands of Cuba is that of the torrid zone, but the higher interior of the island enjoys a more temperate atmosphere. As in other lands on the border of the tropics, the year is divided between a hotter and wetter season, corresponding to the northern declination of the sun, and a cooler and drier period. The months from the beginning of May to October are called the wet season, though rain falls in every month of the year. With May spring begins in the island, rain and thunder are of almost daily occurrence, and the temperature rises high with little daily variation. The period from November to April is called the dry season by contrast. On a mean of seven years, the rainfall at Havana in the wet season has been observed to be 27 "8 inches, of the dry months 12-7 or 40'5 inches for the year. At Havana in the warmest months, those of July and August, the average temperature is 82° Fahr., fluctuating between a maximum of 88° and a minimum of 76°; in the cooler months of December and January the thermometer averages 72°, the maximum being 78°, the minimum 58°; the average temperature of the year at Havana, on a mean of seven years, is 77°. But in the interior, at elevations of over 300 feet above the sea, the thermometer occasionally falls to the freezing point in winter, hoar frost is not uncommon, and during north winds thin ice may form, though snow is unknown in any part of the island. The prevailing wind is the easterly trade breeze, but from November to February cool north winds (los nortes, or " northers "), rarely lasting more than forty-eight hours, are experienced in the western portion of the island, to which they add a third seasonal change. From 10 to 12 o'clock are the hottest hours of the day; after noon a refreshing breeze (la virazón) sets in from the sea. Hurricanes may occur from August to October, but are less frequent than in Jamaica or Hayti, and sometimes five or six years may pass without such a storm. Slight shocks of earthquake are occasionally felt. There are no diseases specially indigenous to the island; the yellow fever, which breaks out with renewed virulence regularly with the wet season in the coastlands and seaports of Cuba, annually causing great loss of life, is quite unknown in the interior.





The mineral riches of the island have not yet been ex-plored to any considerable extent. Though gold and silver have undoubtedly been found in the island, the quantity has never been sufficient to repay the labour of search. Gold was sent to Spain from this island by the early settlers, but it was more probably the accumulated wealth of the aborigines in previous centuries, wrested from them by tyranny and rapine at the period of the conquest, than the product of honest labour on the part of the colonists. Traces of auriferous sand are found in the rivers Holguin, Escawbray, &c. Some specimens of the finest gold have been obtained from the workings of Agabama and Sagua la Grande, but at an expense of time and labour that could not remunerate the parties engaged in it. In 1827 silver and copper were discovered in the jurisdiction of Villa Clara, and the first ores gave no less than 7 oz. of pure silver to the quintal (= 107 J lb) of ore ; but they have become less productive, probably from not being properly worked. The Cobre copper mines, twelve miles from Santiago, in the eastern part of the island, are of great extent, and very rich ; a village of 2000 inhabitants has formed on their site, and a railroad unites them with the shipping port of Funta de Sal. As much as 50 tons of ore are taken out daily, the richest part of which, being broken up, is shipped to Europe; while the poorer part is smelted at the works, yielding about 14 per cent, of metal. These mines were wrought with some success during the 17th cen-tury, and had been abandoned for more than 100 y ears. Coal of a highly bituminous character, affording a strong heat, and leaving very little solid residue in the form of ashes or cinders, is very abundant. In some places it degenerates into a form resembling asphaltum, and near the coast it is often found in a semi-liquid state like petroleum or naphtha. In the quarries near Havana a thick slate is found, fit for floors and pavements. Marbles and jaspers, of various colours, and susceptible of a high polish, are found in many parts of the island, and particularly in the Isle of Pines. It is generally believed that iron exists in various districts of Cuba, and many parts of the great Cordillera undoubtedly contain rocks of a ferruginous nature ; but from the difficulty of access, the scarcity of fuel, and the want of capital, no extensive mining operations have been engaged in. Native loadstone, however, has been found in various parts, and chalybeate springs are numerous.

Animais. The only peculiar quadruped known in the island is the jutia or hutia, an animal shaped like a rat, and from 12 to 18 inches in length exclusive of the tail. It is of a clear black colour, inhabits the hollows and clefts of trees, and feeds on leaves and fruits. Its flesh is insipid, but is sometimes eaten. A few deer are found about the swamps, but they are supposed to have been introduced from the continent. The woods abound in wild dogs and cats, sprung from these animals in a domestic state, and differ-ing from them only in habits and size. They are very destructive to poultry and cattle. Of domestic animals, the ox, the horse, and the pig are the most valuable, and form a large proportion of the wealth of the island; the sheep, goats, and mules, are less numerous. The manati frequents the shores. The domestic fowls include geese, turkeys, peacocks, and pigeons. The indigenous birds are distinguished by the beauty of their plumage, and are very numerous, including upwards of 200 species. Birds of prey are few. The vulture and turkey-buzzard are pro-tected by law and custom, on account of their services in the removal of offal. The rivers, bays, and inlets are well supplied with fish. Oysters and other shell-fish arc numerous, but of inferior quality. The reefs and shallows, and the sandy portion of the beach, abound in turtle ; and the crocodile, cayman, and iguana are common. Large numbers of land-crabs are frequently seen; they cross the island from north to south every spring, when the rains commence. Snakes are not numerous; the maja—12 or 14 feet in length, and 18 or 20 inches in circumference—is the largest, but is harmless ; the juba, which is about 6 feet long, is venomous. Among the insects may be specially noticed the bee and the phosphorescent fly. These flies are very numerous, and much used among the poorer inhabitants. Fifteen or twenty of them confined in a calabash pierced with holes frequently serve during the night as a sort of lantern. The noxious insects are the chigoe or jigger, a species of ant called vivajagua, the mosquito, the sand-fly, the scorpion (less poisonous than that of Europe\ and spiders whose bite is malignant enough to produce fever.

Vegetable products. The forests of Cuba are of vast extent, and so dense as to be almost impenetrable. It is estimated that of nearly 20,000,000 acres of land still remaining perfectly wild and uncultivated, nearly 13,000,000 are uncleared forest. Mahogany and other hard woods, such as the Cuban ebony, cedar, sabicei, and granadilla, valuable for manufactures, cabinet work, and ship-building, are indigenous, and are exported to a considerable extent. The palm is the queen of the Cuban forests, and the most valuable tree on the island. The most common species, the Palma Real. (Oreodoxa regia), is found in all parts, but especially in the west. The fruits of Cuba are those common to the tropics, of which the pine-apple and orange are the most esteemed. Of the alimentary plants, the plantain is by far the most important. Next in order come the sweet and bitter cassava—the sweet root being eaten as a vegetable, and the bitter converted into bread after its poisonous juice has been extracted. The sweet potato, and other farinaceous roots, are also common. Indian corn is indigenous, and rice is extensively cultivated ; cocoa or chocolate is also grown.

The chief agricultural products of Cuba are, however,
sugar, coffee, and tobacco. The " ingenios" or sugar
estates, with large buildings and mills for sugar-refining
and distillation of rum, are the most important industrial
establishments of the island, varying in extent from 500
to as much as 10,000 acres. Of late years, partly from
the effects of the insurrection, and partly from the rapidly
extending cultivation of beet-root sugar in other countries,
the demand for Cuban sugar has been diminishing, and the
sugar estates have not flourished. The United States take
about 70 or 80 per cent, of the sugar grown in Cuba, the
greater part of the remainder passing to Europe. The
quantity exported in 1873 from the ports of Havana,
Matanzas, Cardenas, Sagua la Grande, Eemedios, Nuevitas,
Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, and Cienfuegos exceeded
600,000 tons, of a value of about £12,000,000. Besides
this 242,000 tons of molasses were exported. After the
" ingenios" the " cafetales" or coffee estates are the
most important establishments. They vary in extent from
100 to upwards of 1000 acres, or even more in the mountain
districts,—the number of hands employed being as high as
100 in the low country, but generally averaging fifty or
sixty negroes to 1000 acres. The first coffee plantation
was established in 1748, the seeds having been brought
from San Domingo. Though at one time coffee was sent
out from Cuba in enormous quautities, it does not now
figure largely in the exports. Tobacco is indigenous to
Cuba, and its excellent quality is celebrated in all parts of
the world. The estates devoted to its cultivation are
scattered over the greater part of the island, but the finest
qualities of tobacco are those grown in the country west of
Havana, known as the " vuelta abajo." In 1873,
224,765,OOOcigars were exported,.besides nearly 13,500,000
lb of leaf, to the United States, Great Britain, Hamburg
and Bremen, Holland, France, and Spain. Among the
other industrial establishments of Cuba may be mentioned
the numerous cattle farms, cotton plantations, fruit and
vegetable farms, chocolate plantations, and " colmenaries "
or farms devoted to the production of honey and wax.
imports. The imports consist mainly of jerked beef from South
America, codfish from the British North American pro-
vinces, flour from Spain, rice from Carolina, Spain, and
the East Indies, wine and olive oil from Spain, boards for
boxes and barrels from North America, coals from Europe
and North America, and petroleum from the United
States, besides large quantities of British, German, and
Belgian manufactures and hardwares. Heavy differential
duties in favour of goods imported into Cuba in Spanish
ships are in force, so that the greater part of the imports
arrive in these. Cattle are imported from Florida and
the coasts of the Mexican Gulf. There are no manufactur-
ing industries of importance in the island.

Education. Education is in a remarkably backward state in Cuba. In the absence of recent statistics, it is estimated that of perhaps 100,000 children of free parents, not a tenth part receive lettered education of any kind ; and even among the higher classes of society liberal education is very far from being universally diffused. A few literary and scientific men, wherever educated, are however to be found "both in the higher and middle ranks, and, previous to the disturbances which began in 1868, the question of public instruction excited much interest among the Creole popula-tion, an impetus to this having been given by the same liberal portion of the population which originated the JSoeiedad Economical of Havana and Santiago de Cuba, an institution which has for its object the advancement of education and popular industry. At Havana is the royal university with a rector and thirty professors and medical and law schools, as well as an institution called the Boyal College of Havana. There is a similar establishment at Puerto Principe, in the eastern interior; and both at Havana and Santiago de Cuba there is a college in which the branches of ecclesiastical education are taught, together with the humanities and philosophy. Besides this there are several private schools, but none are accessible to the masses. The inhabitants of Havana can scarcely be said to have any literature—a few daily and weekly journals, under a rigid censorship, supply almost all the taste for letters in the capital.
The Boman Catholic is the only religion tolerated by Government. At first there was but one diocese, which included not only the whole island, but also Louisiana and the two Floridas, all under one bishop. In 1788 Cuba was divided into two dioceses, each embracing half the island. The eastern diocese, or that of Santiago de Cuba, was in 1804 erected into an archbishopric, while that of Havana still remains under a bishop.





Divisions. Politically the island is a province of Spain ruled over directly by a governor-captain-general of the class of lieutenant-general of the Spanish army, whose authority for the time being is despotic. He is appointed by the Crown, the term of office being generally from three to five years, is responsible only to the sovereign of Spain, and is supreme head of the civil, military, and ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Cuba. The captain-general is assisted by governors of departments, who have under their orders the lieutenant-governors, commanders of the thirty-two juris-dictions of the island, each of which is subdivided into " partidos" or captaincies. In each city or town a municipal body termed the ayuntamento, or town council, is at the head of affairs, but municipal representation exists only in appearance. The military division is into two departments-—that of the west with Havana for its capital, and that of the east with Santiago de Cuba for its head-quarters. The boundary between these departments, which is also the limit of the dioceses, starts from the brook Yana in front of the eastern part of the island of Yuriguano, and terminates near Sabana-la-Mar.

The judicial division comprises the whole island, as the territory of the " Real Audiencia Pretorial," or supreme court. In each of the twenty-six judicial districts into which this is subdivided there is an " alcalde mayor," having for auxiliary delegates the ordinary " alcaldes," or local judges. The "Beal Audiencia," holding session at Havana, is a species of council of state which the captain-general consults on all difficult matters of administration. The maritime division is subject to a commander-general, and consists of five stations or provinces, with their centres at Havana, Trinidad, San Juan de los Eemedios, Nuevitas, and Santiago de Cuba.

In popular language the different portions of the island are distinguished as the Vuelta Abajo, or the portion extending from the meridian of Havana to the western extremity of the island; the Vuelta Arriba, from the meridian of Havana towards the east as far as Cienfuegos ; Las Cinco Villas from the meridian of Cienfuegos to that of Santo Espiritu; and Tierra Adentro from that of Santa Espiritu to Holguin and the extreme east of the island.

Finance. The Crown revenues of the island are the rentas maritimas, including duties on imports, exports, and tonnage, and the local or municipal duties levied at some of the custom-houses ; the impuestas interiores, including the tax on home manufactures, the sale of stamped paper, the profits derived from the lottery, and the impost on cock-fights ; deductions from the rentas ecclesiasticas, particularly those called the royal ninths and the con-solidated fund, the sinking fund, the media annata, and the annual and monthly revenues of the clergy; personal deductions, such as from the pay of public func-tionaries, and the price of exemption from military service; miscellaneous receipts, as the produce of the sale of royal lands, the rents of vacant livings and of unclaimed estates, the produce of vendible offices ; and casual receipts, in-cluding deposits, confiscations, donations, and the recovery of arrears.

Previous to the outbreak of the insurrection of 1868 the total revenue of Cuba had reached nearly to 26,000,000 dollars, of which sum about 6,000,000 dollars was annually remitted to Spain, leaving the remainder to cover the ex-penses of the army, navy, and civil service of the island. Since 1868 the imposts have been much increased, but have not been sufficient to cover the enormous increase of expen-diture consequent on the rebellion. The Government of the island has thus been compelled to borrow large sums for its war funds. Public finances are specially under the manage-ment of the Government bank called the Banco Español, and have fallen into an unsatisfactory and confused state consequent on the steps taken by the island Government for obtaining funds by the emission of large amounts of notes without additional security, and without a special guarantee for each issue from the Madrid Government, resulting in a depreciation of the paper, or a premium on gold and silver.

The coins in use are chiefly the old Spanish " doblón," or "onza de oro," worth about £3, 4s., or 16 silver dollars of Spain,but it is legal tender for 17 dollars in the island. Gold coins of half a doblón, " media onza," of 8 dollars 50 cents, and of half and quarter that amount, and the " peso," or dollar in gold or silver, are also in circulation. There is scarcely any smaller silver currency in Cuba, excepting the American 10 cent piece or dime, called the " real sencilla."

The roads of Cuba are generally in a very wretched condition. Several railways have been established. The oldest, opened in 1838, extends from Havana to Guiñes, a distance of forty-five miles, and has branches to Batabano, San Antonio, and Los Palos. There are lines in operation from Matanzas to Sabanilla, Cardenas to Bamba and Jucaro, and thence to unite with the line which crosses the island between Sagua la Grande and Cienfuegos, as well as from Puerto Principe to Nuevitas. The whole length of lines in operation is nearly 400 miles. Coastal communication is kept up by steamers which ply regularly between the different ports. Numerous lines of steamers run between Havana and New York, New Orleans, Key West, Philadelphia, and Baltimore ; and with Europe communica-tion is maintained by English mail as well as French and German lines of ocean steamers. The islaud is connected by telegraph with the mainland and with Jamaica.

Conflicting accounts render it impossible to arrive at anything like certainty as to the number of inhabitants on the island at the time of its conquest; but it may be esti-mated at from 300,000 to 400,000. There is little doubt, however, that before 1560 the whole of this population had disappeared from the island. The first census of Cuba was taken in 1774, when the population was 171,620. In 1791 it was 272,300. The following table gives the population since that period :—

Yeai Whites. Free Blacks. Slaves. Total.
1811... 1817... 1827... 1841... 1846... 1849... 1860... 274,000 290,021 311,051 418,291 425,769 457,133 604,610 114,000 115,691 106,494 152,838 149,226 164,410 207,735 212,000 225,268 286,942 436,495 323,759 323,897 367,370 600,000 630,980 704,487
1,007,624 898,752 945,440
1,179,715
total

Owing to the disturbed condition of the island, no census of the inhabitants has been taken since that of 1861. The results of the enumeration of that year made the population 1,396,530, distributed thus :—
naturalized Whites 730,894
Asiatic Coolies 34,834
Mexicans (Yucatese) 1,047
766,775
Free Coloured 232,493
Slaves 370,553
603,046
Resident foreigners 5,298
Passing , 3,987
Spaniards 17,424
26,709

An estimate, based on this census, made in 1869 gives the total population as 1,414,508, including 50,000 coolies.

The following statement appears in The Times, March 16, 1877:—

"The American press despatch from Havana states that the official figures show that in the year 1870 there were in the island 363,000 slaves; in 1^73, 287,000 ; and 1876, 199,000.
The numbers of free blacks in the island in 1873 was 26,000 ; in 1874, 50,000 ; in 1875, 75,000 ; and in 1876, 84,000. The free blacks in the four jurisdictions in which no census could be taken are estimated at 6000."

Writing in 1872, Mr Gallenga quotes an official state-ment of the population, giving a total of 1,359,437 ; or 1,034,616 in the western division of which Havana (population, 230,000) is the chief city; 75,725 in the central districts round Puerto Principe (population, 31,000); and 249,096 in the eastern division, the chief town of which is Santiago de Cuba (population, 37,000). The only other town of importance is Matanzas with a popu-lation of 36,000.

The inhabitants of Cuba are divided into four classes,— the native Spaniards, who occupy nearly all the offices of power and trust ; the creóles, who are mostly planters, farmers, or lawyers, and are generally looked upon with contempt by the Spaniards ; the third class, composed of free mulattoes and free negroes in about equal parts, who are excluded by law from all civil offices ; those under ser-vitude, constituting the fourth class, divided into the bozales, those recently brought from Africa,—the ladinos, those im-ported before the law of 1821 prohibiting the slave trade,-— and the criollos, those born on the island. Cuba was long notorious for the extent to which the slave trade was carried on there, and the ineffectual efforts made to suppress it. The English Government succeeded, however, in 1853 in inducing the Spanish Government to pledge itself to adopt measures for its suppression ; and the importation of African slaves has consequently ceased for a number of years. In their place Asiatic coolies have been introduced in consider-able numbers, and the plan has worked well for the planters, though it is almost certain death in a short time to the coolies, who are slaves in almost every sense.

Under a better and more liberal system of government, there can be no doubt that Cuba would speedily attain a much higher state of prosperity and importance than it has yet enjoyed. Great as is its productiveness at present, some writers assert that under good government it would be increased five-fold ; its mineral resources would then be fully developed, and it would be able fully to take advan-tage of its admirable position to develop its trade.

[Further Reading] --The following authorities may be consulted—Ramon de la Sagra, Historia Mea, polit., y natural ele la I. de Cuba, 13 vols., Madrid, 1849-1861, and Cuba en 1860, Paris 1862 ; Cuba and the Cubans, comprising a History of the Island of Cuba, New York, 1850 ; Jegor vori Sivers, Cuba, die Pcrle der Antillen, Leipsic, 1861 ; Fernandez de Castro, Estudios sobre las minas de oro en la I. de Cuba, Havana, 1865 ; Jac. de la Pezuela, Diet, geogr. estadístico-historico de la I. de Cuba, Madrid, 1864; Emilio Blanchet; Compendio de la Hist. de Cuba, Matanzas, 1866; R. Ferrer, "Estudios fisicos, geogr., y geologicas de Cuba," in Revista de España, t. xxii. 1871; S. Hazard, Cuba with Pen and Pencil, London, 1873; A. Gallenga, The Pearl of the Antilles, London, 1873; Hippolyte Piron, L'Ile de Cuba, Paris, 1876. (K. J.)



Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries