Project Gutenberg's The History of Cuba, vol. 1, by Willis Fletcher Johnson

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Title: The History of Cuba, vol. 1

Author: Willis Fletcher Johnson

Release Date: October 8, 2010 [EBook #33847]

Language: English

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Etext transcriber's note:

Some of the images may be seen at an enlarged size by clicking on them.

Although several typographical errors have been corrected, the variation in the use of Spanish accents has not been altered (ie. both Senor and Señor [tilde n] appear.)

The Index included at the end of this etext (which includes volumes 1 thru 4) appears at the end of volume four of The History of Cuba. It is provided here for convenience.



The picture of Columbus which has been engraved for this work and which here appears is that known as the Janez portrait, which is generally accepted in Spain as the most faithful presentment of the features of the great Discoverer.


A.M., L.H.D.
Author of "A Century of Expansion," "Four Centuries of
the Panama Canal," "America's Foreign Relations"
Honorary Professor of the History of American Foreign
Relations in New York University



of ship-at-sea logo not available

156 Fifth Avenue

Copyright, 1920,

All rights reserved
Entered at Stationers Hall







Index to Volumes 1 thru 4.



It is my purpose in these volumes to write a History of Cuba. The title may imply either the land and its natural conditions, or the people and the nation which inhabit it. It in fact implies both, and to both I shall address myself, though it will appropriately be with the latter rather than with the former that the narrative will be most concerned. For it is with Cuba as with other countries: In the last supreme analysis the people make the history of the land. Apart from the people, it is true, the Island of Cuba is of unusual interest. There are few countries of similar extent comparable with it in native variety, charm and wealth. There are few which contribute more, actually and potentially, to the world's supplies of greatly used products. One of the most universally used and prized vegetable products became first known to mankind from Cuba, and there to this day is most profusely and most perfectly grown and prepared; while another, one of the most universally used and essential articles of food, is there produced in its greatest abundance. There also may be found an immense number and bewildering variety of the most serviceable articles in both the vegetable and mineral kingdoms, in noteworthy profusion and perfection, together with possibilities and facilities for a comparable development of the animal kingdom.

Nor is the geographical situation of the island less favorable or less inviting than its natural resources. Lying just within the Torrid Zone, it has a climate which combines the fecund influences of the tropics with the agreeable moderation of the Temperate Zones. It fronts at once upon the most frequented ocean of the globe and upon two of the greatest and most important semi-inland seas.{vi} It lies directly between the two great continents of the Western Hemisphere, with such supremely fortunate orientation that travel and commerce between them naturally skirt and touch its shores rather than follow the longer and more difficult route by land which is the sole alternative. A line drawn from the heart of the United States to the heart of South America passes through the heart of Cuba. A line drawn from the mouth of the Mississippi to the mouth of the Amazon traverses Cuba almost from end to end. Circled about the island and fronting on the narrow seas which divide them from it are the territories of no fewer than fourteen independent national sovereignties. It lies, moreover, directly in the path of the world's commerce between the two great oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific, by the way of that gigantic artificial waterway which, created largely because of Cuba, was the fulfilment of the world's four centuries of effort and desire. There is scarcely a more suggestive and romantic theme in the world's history than this: That Columbus made his epochal adventure for the prime purpose of finding a passageway from the Atlantic to the Pacific; or rather from Europe to Asia by way of the Atlantic, since he assumed the Atlantic and the Pacific to be one; that, failing to find that non-existent passageway, he found Cuba instead and imagined that he had found therein the fulfilment of his dreams; that four centuries later that passageway was artificially provided through the enterprise and energy of a power which in his day had not yet come into existence; and that this transcendent deed was accomplished largely because of Cuba and because of the conflict through which that island violently divorced herself from the imperial sovereignty which Columbus had planted upon her shores.

Lying thus in a peculiar sense at the commercial centre of the world, between North America and South America, between Europe and Asia, between all the lands of the Atlantic and all the lands of the Pacific and subject to important approach from all directions, we must {vii}reckon it not mere chance but the provision of benevolent design that Cuba at almost all parts of her peculiarly ample coastline is endowed with a greater number of first-rate harbors than any other country of the world. In recognition of these facts and of their gradual development and application to the purposes and processes of civilization, is a theme worthy to pique the interest and to absorb the attention of the most ambitious historian, whether for the mere chronicling of conditions and events, or for the philosophical analysis of causes and results.

All these things, however, fascinating as they are and copious as is their suggestion of interest, are after all only a minor and the less important part of the real History of Cuba, such as I must endeavor to write. Without the Cuban people, Cuba would have remained a negligible factor in the equations of humanity. Without the people of the island, "what to me were sun or clime?" The genial climate, the fecund soil, the wealth of mines and field and forest, the capacious harbors and the encircling seas, all would be vanity of vanities. Nor is it for nothing that I have suggested differentiation between the Cuban People and the Cuban Nation. Without the development of the former into the latter, all these things could never have hoped to reach their greatest value and utility. The Cuban People have existed for four centuries, the Cuban Nation in its consummate sense for less than a single generation. Yet in the latter brief span more progress has been made toward realization of Cuba's possibilities and destinies than in all those former ages. It is a circumstance of peculiar significance that almost the oldest of all civilized communities in the Western Hemisphere should be the youngest of all the nations. It will be a task of no mean magnitude, but of unsurpassed profit and pleasure, to trace the deliberate development of that early colony into this late nation, and to observe the causes and forces which so long repressed and thwarted the sovereign aspirations of the Cuban People,{viii} and also, more gratefully, the causes and forces which inevitably, in the slow fullness of time, achieved their ultimate fulfilment in the secure establishment of the Cuban Nation.

The origin of the Cuban People presents a striking historical and ethnological anomaly. The early settlers of the island, and therefore the progenitors of the present Cuban people, were beyond question the flower of the Spanish race at the very time when that race was at the height of its marvellous puissance and efficience. The Sixteenth Century was the Golden Age of Spain, and they were conspicuous representatives of those who made it so who implanted the genius of their time upon the hospitable soil of the great West Indian island. That rule has been, indeed, common to the colonial enterprises of all lands. The best men become the pioneers. Colonization implies adventure, and adventure implies courage, enterprise, endurance, vision, prudence, the very essential elements of both individual and civic greatness. Strong men, not weaklings, are the founders of new settlements. Even in those lands which were largely populated involuntarily, as penal settlements, the same rule holds good; because many of the convict exiles were merely political proscripts, who in fact were men of virtue, light and leading, often superior to those who banished them.

There is fruit for almost endless thought and speculation in the circumstance that so many of the early Cuban settlers, as indeed of all the Spanish explorers and conquerors of the Sixteenth Century, came from the two Iberian Provinces of Estremadura and Seville. They were, and are, two of the most widely contrasting provinces of Spain. The one a rude, rugged, half sterile region of swineherds and mountaineers, poverty-stricken and remote; the other plethoric with the wealth of agriculture, industry and commerce, and endowed above most regions of the world with the treasures of learning and art. Yet it was from barren, impoverished and uncultured{ix} Estremadura that there came Cortez, Pizarro, Balboa, De Soto, and their compeers and followers. We might speculate upon the questions whether great men were thus numerously produced by nature in that region by way of compensation for the paucity and poverty of other products; and whether it was because of their innate genius or because of their desire to seek a better land than their own, that they became the adventurers that they were. The other province which most contributed to the founding of Cuba had from time immemorial been noted for its wealth and culture. In the days of the Cæsars it had been the favorite colonial resort of the plutocracy and aristocracy of Rome, and it had been the birthplace of the Emperors Hadrian, Trajan and Theodosius. Under the Catholic Kings it was the capital and the metropolis of Spain and the chief mart of her world-wide commerce. Indeed it would not be difficult to establish the proposition that it was with the removal of the capital from Seville to Madrid, and the change of national and international policy which was inseparably associated with that removal, that the decline of Spain began.

Cuba was thus in her foundation the fortunate recipient of the rugged and masterful spirit of Estremadura, and of the elements of government and of social grace and intellectual power which Seville could so well and so abundantly supply; and these two contrasting yet by no means incompatible elements became characteristic of the Cuban people; complementarily contributing to the development of a national character quite distinct from that of the Mother Country or that of any other of her offshoots. For the Cuban people and their social organism, separated far from Spain, though subject to her rule, retained largely unimpaired their pristine vigor, and avoided sharing in the degeneracy and decline which befell the Peninsula soon after the malign Hapsburg influence became dominant in its affairs of state; a decline which in the Seventeenth Century became one of the most{x} distressing and pathetic tragedies in the drama of the world.

It was an interesting and a significant circumstance, too, that while Spain was resplendent and exultant in the Golden Age of the Sixteenth Century, Cuba remained intellectually dormant and inactive, and that when at the end of the Eighteenth Century Spain reached her nadir of degradation, Cuba began to rise to intellectual puissance. While Spain was great, it was to be said of Cuba stat nominis umbra; but when Spain declined, Cuba arose to take her place, insistent that the race and its letters, at least, should not universally fall into decay.

It is one of the anomalies of Cuban history that while the island was denied the enjoyment of even those incipient and inchoate intimations of potential nationality which were granted to other Spanish provinces, such as Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru, it was nevertheless, perhaps more than any other, involved from early times in the international complications and conflicts of Spain. At least equally with the mainland coasts Cuba's shores were ravaged by pirates and freebooters, and were attacked or menaced by the commissioned fleets of hostile powers. Her insular character and her geographical position doubtless accounted for this in great degree, as did also the purblind policy of Spain in failing to give her the care and protection which were lavished upon other no more worthy possessions.

So it came to pass that for a time Cuba was actually conquered and seized by an alien power and was forcibly separated from Spanish sovereignty; and that for many years thereafter she was the object of covetous desire and indeed of almost incessant intrigue for acquisition by two of Spain's chief rivals and adversaries. For nearly half a century Great Britain and France were frequently, almost continuously, each planning to annex Cuba as a colonial possession, either by conquest in war or through barter or purchase in time of peace. It was not until a {xi}third great power arose and asserted in unmistakable terms its paramount interest in the island, only a little while previous to our own time, that such designs were reluctantly forsaken.

It was the interesting fortune of Cuba, therefore, not only to engage the early and earnest diplomatic interest of the United States in her behalf, but also to afford to that country occasion for the conception, formulation and promulgation of perhaps the most important of all the fundamental principles of its state policy in international affairs. We have suggested, in anticipation of the narrative, that Cuba was largely to be credited with the inception of the impulse for the prompt construction of the Isthmian Canal. In a far more valid and direct sense Cuba suggested the enunciation of the Monroe Doctrine. It is true that in relation first to Louisiana and then to Florida there had previously been preliminary hints at and approximations to that Doctrine. But those were territories contiguous with our own and already marked by the United States for eventual annexation and incorporation. Cuba, on the {xvi}contrary, was entirely detached from our domain, and while there were then those who anticipated and desired her ultimate annexation, there was no such confident and determined resolution to that effect that there was in the case of the other regions named. Cuba was therefore the first detached country, not destined for annexation, to which the United States extended and applied the fundamental principle which was later developed into the Monroe Doctrine. We may not doubt that the Monroe Doctrine would have been put forward, even had it not been for Cuba. We may not deny nor dispute that it was because of Cuba and concerning Cuba that the first specific and indubitable intimation of that doctrine was given.

The development of American policy toward Cuba is an important and interesting part of the history of the United States as well as of Cuba. The progressively significant utterances of the younger Adams, of Clay and of {xii}Forsythe, culminating years afterward in those of Cleveland and McKinley, form one of the most consistent, logical and convincing chapters in American diplomatic history. It is marred, we must confess, by some adventitious excrescences, chiefly contributed by Calhoun and Pierre Soule. Yet even these, deplorable as they ever must be regarded, fail to destroy the symmetry of the whole. It is a chapter, indeed, which more than any other is comprehensive and expository of the whole spirit and trend of American international transactions.

Cuba has also been intimately connected with three great issues of American domestic politics, as well as with that supreme principle of her foreign policy. The first of these was that of human slavery. From the end of the second war with Great Britain to the beginning of the Civil War that issue dominated American politics and therefore determined largely the American attitude toward Cuba. The pro-slavery influences, which were generally paramount at Washington, resisted all efforts, which otherwise might have been successful, to draw Cuba into the community of republics freed from Spanish rule in Central and South America, because of unwillingness to have her become, like them, free soil; and subsequently the same influences planned and plotted and fought for Cuban annexation to the United States, either by conquest or by purchase, in order that she might thus be added to the slave-holding domain. On the other hand, the anti-slavery party, because of its abhorrence of these schemes, opposed the manifestation of what would have been a quite legitimate and benevolent interest in Cuban affairs. For forty years Cuba was a pawn in the game between these contending factions. Of course this issue was disposed of by the Civil War and the consequent abolition of slavery in the United States.

Another issue was that of expansion. There was from the first a considerable party in the United States that favored the widest possible acquisition of territory, sometimes quite regardless of the means, and it early fixed {xiii}upon Cuba as what Jefferson and the younger Adams had declared it to be, the most interesting and most natural addition that could be made to the federal system. There was also a party that was resolutely opposed to any further extension of American territorial sovereignty, whether by conquest or purchase. Sometimes the one and sometimes the other of these prevailed in American politics, and not infrequently Cuba was the chief issue between them. Ultimately it was over Cuba that their greatest conflict was waged; resulting in a compromise, under which the United States on the one hand renounced all designs of annexing Cuba, and on the other hand did annex other still more extensive territories.

The third of these issues was that of the tariff. Commercial relations between Cuba and the United States were naturally intimate and important to both countries, and afforded scope for almost endless discussions concerning and manipulations of tariff duties. It was in the power of the United States to enhance or to depress the prosperity of Cuba, by the adjustment of tariff rates. To admit Cuban sugar, not to mention tobacco, freely or at a low duty, into the American market meant prosperity for the island. To place a high tariff rate upon it meant hard times if not disaster in Cuba. During the period between the Ten Years' War and the War of Independence in Cuba, such tariff changes very seriously affected the economic and also the political condition of Cuba; and the final withdrawal of the reciprocity arrangement which had opened American markets to Cuba was one of the chief provoking causes of the final revolution in the island. That revolution would doubtless have come, in any case, but it was measurably hastened and exacerbated by the economic distress which was thus precipitated upon the island, and against which it was realized there could be no assurance until Cuba was an independent nation with full power to regulate and control her own commerce and her own economic system. Even then, as we shall see, for a time the island was involved in economic {xiv}distress because of the unwillingness of certain sordid interests in the United States to perform the most obvious and indisputable moral duty of that country toward its neighbor. There are few passages which the friendly historian must more regret to record in the story of Cuban-American relations than that of the delay of the American Congress to enter into proper commercial reciprocity with Cuba as soon as the independence of that island was established.

We shall see in these pages why it was necessary, from the very beginning, for Cuba to be entirely freed and divorced from all political connection with Spain, and why all the various proposals of autonomy were essentially and inevitably unacceptable. Such proposals were repeatedly made, by the Spanish government, but they were invariably either consciously or unconsciously delusive. The story of Spain's promises to Cuba is a story of broken promises, and of disappointed hopes. Nor is that to be wondered at by those who take into consideration the circumstances in which the promises were made. When the impossible is promised, the promise is doomed to non-fulfilment. Spain was in an impossible position. In order to pacify Cuba she had to promise her reforms, autonomy, liberty. But in order to maintain herself at home she had to repudiate those promises. Their fulfilment in the West Indies would have been disastrous in the Iberian Peninsula. While Spain was a reactionary monarchy at home, she could not practice liberal and progressive democracy in her colonies. Even when her monarchy became constitutional, and even during the brief periods of her republican government, the full concession of Cuba's demands would have been incompatible with her domestic status. There was an irreconcilable conflict between the European system—even European republicanism—and the American system. Spain was compelled for the sake of her Peninsular integrity and tranquillity to adhere to the former, while Cuba would {xv}be and could be contented with nothing short of the latter. Such were the terms of the problem which arose in the early part of the Nineteenth Century. Its only possible solution was in the complete separation of the two countries, and the complete independence of Cuba.

We must not wonder, however, at the circumstance that this was not universally recognized at first, but that year after year some of the wisest and best of Cuban patriots strove merely for reforms in government under continued and perpetual union with the Spanish crown, and that they even deprecated and opposed all efforts at independence. We must not wonder, even, that so late as the War of Independence some of the foremost Cuban statesmen, who yielded precedence to none in purity of purpose and in sincere devotion to what they regarded as the best interests of the island, were willing and even proud to be known as Autonomists and to essay the impossible task of trying to make an Autonomist government successful. The Cubans of to-day, with vision cleared of the red glare of war and of the mists of misapprehension, doubtless understand what the conditions were at that time and appreciate the motives, however mistaken they proved to me, of the Autonomists. American readers, with less vision and comprehension of Cuban affairs, should equally understand the matter when they are reminded that the Cuban Autonomists were merely following the example of some of the men whom Americans most delight to honor.

For precisely the same conditions prevailed, only to a much wider extent, in the Thirteen Colonies at the beginning of the American Revolution, when Washington and Franklin and Jefferson and Jay were American Autonomists, inexorably opposed to independence. Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill were fought not for independence but for autonomy under the British Crown and in perpetual union with the British Empire. When the First Continental Congress met in the spring of 1774 there was no word, at least, of independence. On the contrary, according to some of the very foremost members of that historic body, the idea of independence, at least in the Middle and Southern colonies, was "as unpopular as the Stamp Act itself." Not only did that Congress complete its course without saying a word for independence, but it adopted an address to the people of Great Britain declaring that the reports which had got abroad that the Colonies wanted independence were "mere calumnies," and that nothing was desired but equality of rights with their fellow subjects in the British Isles. The Second Colonial Congress met after Lexington and Concord and just before Bunker Hill. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were members of it. But they spoke no word for independence. Instead, Jefferson drafted a declaration, which Congress adopted, to the effect that the Colonies had "not raised armies with designs of separating from Great Britain and establishing independent states"; and in other addresses which the same Congress adopted after the battle of Bunker Hill it was explicitly stated that the Colonists were loyal to the British Crown, that they wished for lasting union with Great Britain, and that they had taken up arms not to find liberty outside of the British Empire but to vindicate and defend liberty within that Empire. After the adjournment of that Congress in August, 1775, less than a year before the Declaration of Independence, so representative a man and so ardent a patriot as John Jay publicly denounced the imputation that the Congress had "aimed at independence" as "ungenerous and groundless," and as marked with "malice and falsity." Not until the spring of 1776 was there any significant turning toward independence as the inevitable resort.

If I have thus dwelt at length upon well-known facts which pertain to the history of the United States rather than to that of Cuba, it is in order to remind American readers, on the strength of a precedent which they, at any rate, must regard with the highest respect, how reasonable it was for Cubans even as late as in 1897 and 1898 to {xvii}cling to a policy and a hope substantially identical with those which were cherished by the foremost representative American patriots in 1774 and 1775. We can see now, they themselves can see now, that they were in error and that their hopes were vain. But they were no more in error than were the immortal American Autonomists of the beginning of the American Revolution.

Similarly it was necessary that Cuba should not only be entirely separated from Spain but also should be made independent, and not be annexed to the United States. On that point, too, many good men were in error. As we shall see, the first important Cuban revolutionist—although not himself a native Cuban—had in view not independence but annexation to the United States, and so did many another sterling patriot after him. Probably the general feeling was that the one thing supremely essential was to be sundered from Spain, and since annexation to the United States seemed to promise the effecting of that most promptly, most easily and most surely, it was to be accepted as the best solution of the problem. Of course, too, the annexation sentiment in Cuba was greatly encouraged and promoted by the advocates of annexation in the United States, who were numerous, and aggressive, and actuated by a variety of motives.

For three fundamental reasons, however, annexation would have been a deplorable mistake, for both parties. One was, that the Cuban people at heart wanted independence and would permanently have been satisfied with nothing less. Every other Spanish colony in the Western Hemisphere had attained independent sovereignty, and it would have been a reproach to Cuba to have been satisfied with any less status than theirs. The second reason was that Cuba and the United States were incompatible in temperament, and could not have got on well together. That is to be said without the slightest reflection upon either. The two countries were of different racial stocks, different languages, different traditions, different {xviii}civic ideals. It was and is possible for them to be the best of friends and neighbors, but that is quite different from being yoke-fellows.

The third reason was, that Cuba would not have thought of annexation without Statehood in the Federal Union, to which the United States would not or at any rate should not have admitted her. Nor is that any reflection upon Cuba. The principle was established by governmental utterances, nearly half a century before Cuban independence was achieved, and indeed before any important efforts were made by the United States to purchase Cuba, that outlying territories not contiguous with the continental Union of States, were not to be considered as fitting candidates for statehood. Had Cuba been acquired by the United States at any time it is certain that her admission as a State would have been vigorously opposed on that historic ground. The sequel would have been either that Cuba would have been excluded from the Union, to her entire and intense dissatisfaction, or the United States would have abandoned a highly desirable policy and would have established a precedent under which grave abuses might thereafter have occurred.

The redemption of Cuba from Spanish rule was long delayed, for a number of reasons. One was, obviously, the difficulty of achieving it alone. The South and Central American provinces had revolted simultaneously, or in rapid succession, so that each was of assistance to the others. But at that time Cuba remained faithful to Spain; and when years afterward she sought to follow the example of the others, she found that she had to do so single-handed against the undivided might of the Peninsula. Another very potent reason was, the strength of the pro-Spanish sentiment and influence in the island, caused by the flocking thither of many Spanish loyalists from the Central and South American states and from Santo Domingo. Here, too, American readers may interpret Cuban conditions through reference to their own history. At the close of the American Revolution multitudes{xix} of British Loyalists left the United States and settled in Upper Canada, with the result that that Province of Ontario became proverbially "more British than Great Britain." We shall see in our narrative how strong the Spanish loyalist party in Cuba was, and to what extremes it went in its opposition to Cuban independence. In that we may perceive simply a repetition of conditions which prevailed at the close of the American War of Independence. It is probable, too, that the insular position of Cuba, with her coastal waters controlled by the Spanish fleet, and her central position, making her an object of intense international interest and intrigue, also contributed to the same end. Of course, too, since Cuba and Porto Rico were her last remaining possessions in the Western World, Spain made extraordinary efforts to retain them and to prevent the success of any revolutionary movement.

One other influence must be noted, that of the United States. If at any time the counsels of that country had been harmonious and united, they would have had a powerful, perhaps a preponderating, effect upon Cuban affairs. But as we have intimated, and as we shall more fully see in our narrative, they were strongly, often violently, divided. Some were for intervention, some were for non-intervention; some were for making Cuba a free country, some were for preserving it as a slaveholding land; some were for aiding it to become independent, some were for annexing it to the United States. There was no unity of policy, and therefore there was no assurance as to what the United States would do in any given emergency. Cubans did not know what they could depend upon. If they revolted, America might help them, and she might not. There can be no question that this uncertainty was a potent factor in restraining Cubans from radical action, and that it materially postponed the final crisis.

We shall see that more and more, however, the United {xx}States was forced by the logic of irresistible events into adopting a united and consistent policy toward Cuba, and that in the ultimate crisis that country was inextricably implicated with the Cuban cause. This was indeed a logical development. In each successive Cuban revolution, beginning with that of Lopez, the United States had been increasingly interested. Commercial and social relations between the two countries were strong and intimate. For nearly three quarters of a century the United States had maintained a quasi-protectorate over the island in behalf of Spain for the time being, but—though unconsciously—in behalf of Cuba itself for the greater time to come. The welfare of the United States had become involved in the disposition of the island in only a less degree than that of the Cuban people.

There can be no doubt that the United States was of very great service and assistance to the Cuban patriots in the War of Independence. Nobody has testified to that fact more earnestly or more comprehensively than the Cubans themselves. They realized it. They appreciated it. They were and are profoundly grateful for it. Their testimony to it is ample for all time. America is relieved of the need of vaunting herself upon it. It would, however, be of a great error and a great injustice to assume that the intervention of the United States in April, 1898, was indispensable to the achievement of Cuban independence, or indeed that it was the United States that set Cuba free from Spain. That would be as great a perversion of the truth of history as it would be to pretend that the United States went to war with Spain over the sinking of the Maine. For the United States to have done the latter would have been one of the monumental crimes of history; and of course it was not done. War was inevitable before the Maine went to Havana Harbor, and would have come just the same if the Maine had not gone thither; perhaps sooner than it did, perhaps not so soon. So Cuban independence would have been won by the Cubans themselves if the United States had {xxi}not intervened. Possibly it would have come sooner than it did; probably it would not have come so soon. But it would have come. Nobody who has studied the condition of affairs as they then were in Cuba can reasonably doubt it. Nor should recognition of that fact lessen in any degree the propriety—indeed, the necessity—of the American intervention or the grateful appreciation thereof which Cubans feel.

To draw once more upon American history for an example which should convincingly appeal to Americans, the case may be likened to the intervention of France in the American Revolution. There is no American who does not remember that performance with sincere gratitude and with deep appreciation of the undoubtedly great aid which France rendered to the Thirteen Colonies. But I should doubt if there is a well informed American willing to concede that the French aid was indispensable, or that without it Washington and Greene would have been vanquished and the Revolution would have failed. American independence would have been achieved without French aid, though perhaps not so promptly and at greater cost.

An immense service, also, which the United States rendered Cuba in the War of Independence antedated the actual intervention, and consisted in the aid in men, money and supplies which went from the United States to Cuba. It is true that this aid was given largely by Cubans resident in the United States, though many Americans also gave much in money, and some were permitted by the Cubans to give themselves for service in the army. It is also true that much of it was done in surreptitious violation of the neutrality laws; a species of law-breaking at which many United States officials were inclined to wink, and which by common consent was to be regarded as culpable only when it was found out, and then the finding out was more to be regretted than the act itself was to be condemned! Such is the "unwritten law" of international relations in cases in {xxii}which the technical requirements of the law run counter to generous and righteous human sympathies.

While, therefore, we must believe that even without American intervention in the actual war the Cubans would have won their independence, we may doubt whether such would have been the case if the United States had not all along been dose at hand, a resourceful and hospitable country, in which Cuban political exiles could find secure asylum, in which a Cuban Junta could plan revolution, in which funds to aid the patriot cause could be raised, and which, in brief, could partly in secret and partly in the open be used as a base of supplies and operations. It is to such aid that Cuba owes more than she does to the achievements of the American army and navy in 1898, admirable and useful as they were.

Comparably great, as we shall most notably see in the ensuing chapters, were the services of the United States to Cuba after the War of Independence. These were manifold. The first was diplomatic, in serving as an intermediary between Cuba and Spain, in making the treaty of peace, and in securing the Spanish withdrawal from the island. There is no doubt that all those things were done more smoothly, more satisfactorily and more expeditiously than they could have been had they been left to direct settlement between Cuba and Spain. The services of the United States during the last part of 1898 were more indispensable than those of the spring and summer of that year. Indeed, it might perhaps be claimed that the chief advantage in having the United States intervene was that it enabled her to play that important part in the making of peace and the post-bellum readjustment.

The second great service rendered by the United States was the rehabilitation of the island. This was a manifold undertaking. It comprised rehabilitation after many years of Spanish misrule and neglect, and rehabilitation after the ravages of three years of peculiarly destructive war. The civic maladies to be cured were thus {xxiii}both chronic and acute. Moreover, the work was political, and sanitary, and educational, and economic. Order was to be restored, law was to be administered, government was to be organized, pestilence was to be abated, schools were to be created, the whole work of civilization was to be performed. Splendid as was the work of Sampson's fleet at Santiago, still more beneficent was that of General Wood within the precincts of that city and throughout the Province of Oriente. Nobly memorable was the work of Shafter's army, but we shall read history to little avail if we do not give higher credit to the work of the Military Governor and his lieutenants.

A third service was in acting as guide, philosopher and friend in the great task of organizing and installing the native Cuban government which had been promised by the United States in the act of declaring war against Spain. That self-abnegatory pledge was a noble thing, and noble was the faithful fulfilment of it. I have heard of an eminent and enlightened Cuban who regarded that pledge with incredulity, saying, "It can never be fulfilled!" and who persisted in that incredulity until that memorable noonday when the American flag came down from the Palace and the Morro and the flag of Cuba Libre rose in its place; and then, with tear-suffused eyes, exclaimed, "It can't be; but it is!" Never before in the history of the world had such a thing been done, but it was done and it was well done.

There followed a fourth service, which we may hope has now been definitely completed, but which in the very nature of the case is a potentially recurrent service, which may—absit omen!—be needed again and again; and which the United States may be trusted to perform, if necessary, as faithfully and generously and efficiently as it has already performed it. For we shall see that after the Cuban government had been established and had vindicated its existence by great good service to the island, sordid and treacherous men unlawfully conspired against it and sought to overthrow it by violence and crime. Their {xxiv}success would have meant ruin for the island. Their partial success—for such they had—meant immeasurable loss. But fortunately the United States intervened as readily against Cuban crime as it had against Spanish oppression, and the republic was saved, though "as through fire."

It is this service, following the others which I have named, which differentiates the Cuban Republic from most of the other states which have been formed from the Spanish Empire in America. Of the two states which at one time planned to wrest Cuba from Spain by force and make her a part of their community of nations, Colombia was for half a century in a chronic condition of revolution, and Mexico through the same evil processes has given the word Mexicanize to the political vocabulary. It was the intention of the United States that Cuba should not fall into that category; but it is by no means certain that she would not have done so had it not been for the guardianship of that country.

Our history will disclose more than all these things. These are the records of achievement. But there are other records, even those of conditions as they exist, and as they have been made to exist by virtue of these achievements. Marvellous indeed shall we find them. The story of Cuba's development from a neglected and oppressed colony to an independent nation is stirring and impressive, adorned with the names and deeds of brave men. The story of her development in civilization, from a backward rank to the foremost, is no less impressive, and it is adorned with the names and the labors of wise men, statesmen and scholars, who gave of their best for the welfare of the insular republic for which so many of their kin gave willingly their very lives.

The account which we shall have of the opulent charms and resources of Cuba may be regarded as a volume of contemporary history. It will reveal to us some of the consequences of that narrative of the past which forms {xxv}the major portion of our story. But it will be more and will do more than that. It must serve as an intimation, a suggestion, almost perhaps a prophecy, of what the future of the Pearl of the Antilles will be. Grateful as is the work of recalling and rehearsing the story of the past, from the days of Columbus and Velasquez to the present, the historian finds it more pleasant and more welcome to dwell upon the present scene. If these volumes, laboriously produced and with a consciousness too often of falling short of the high merits of the theme, shall serve their intended purpose of introducing Cuba, past and present, more fully and most favorably to the knowledge of the world, I shall be more than abundantly repaid. But the supreme and most enduring satisfaction will come from some assurance that I have brought to the appreciative attention of the world not merely the Cuba of four centuries past, with all its legends of adventure and romance, and too often of cruelty and crime, and with its fluctuating though still persistent progress toward the "foremost files of time," but also and still more the Cuba of this present moment and, we may hope, of unmeasured future time. It is a Cuba that is beautiful for situation, opulent in resources, entrancing in charm, illimitable in potentialities; a land of "fair women and brave men," upon which recollection fondly dwells; a land which justifies the latest writer concerning it to repeat once more the estimate of the first who ever wrote of it—"the most beautiful that the eyes of man have ever seen."

Willis Fletcher Johnson.
New York, U. S. A., June, 1919. {xxvi}



Chapter I1
"In Cuba the Annals of America Begin"—The First Landing Place of Columbus—Theories Concerning Various Islands—His Expectation of Reaching the Coast of Asia—Cuba Supposed to be Cathay—The Physical History of Cuba—Character of the Aboriginal Inhabitants—A Race of Amiable Savages Without Enduring Monuments.
Chapter II11
Discovery of Cuba on Sunday, October 28, 1492—The First Landing Place on the Island—Named for the Heir of the Spanish Throne—Appreciation of the Beauty and Charm of the Island—First Contact with its Inhabitants—Exploration of the Northern Coast—Cuba Supposed to be the Country of the Great Khan—Further Explorations of the Coast—Departure for Hispaniola—Second Visit to Cuba—Exploration of the Southern Coast—Discovery of Jamaica—Navigating the Caribbean Sea—Some Inland Excursions—Experiences with the Natives—Reaching the Western End of the Island—Exhortation of a Native Sage—Columbus's Final Departure from Cuba.
Chapter III28
First Impressions of Cuba—Columbus's Observations of the People and Resources of the Island—Native Villages and Boats—Negotiations with the Natives—First Use of Tobacco by Europeans—Columbus's Meagre Knowledge of the Island—His Death and Burial in Hispaniola—Removal of His Remains to Havana—Disputes Concerning His Tomb—Final Return of His Remains to Spain.
Chapter IV37
Archeology of Cuba—The Oldest Rock Formation—Theory of Cuban Continuity with Florida—The Eocene Age—Submersion in the Oligocene Period—Miocene Uplift—Changes During the Pleistocene Period—Topography of the Island—The Mountain Ranges—The Mountains of Oriente—The Organ Mountains and Magotes—The Valley of the Vinales—Plains and Valleys—Composition of the Soil—The Climate of Cuba—Fortunate Situation of the Island—The Rainfall of a Land of Sunshine.
Chapter V{xxviii} 53
Neglect of Cuba by Spanish Explorers and Conquerors—Rule of Ovando—Ocampo Discovers Cuba to be an Island—First Attempts at Colonization—Enciso's Story of Ojeda's Adventure—A Test Between Christianity and Paganism—The Lust of Gold—Diego and Bartholomew Columbus—Diego Velasquez Appointed Governor—His First Settlement at Baracoa—The War with Hatuey—Narvaez and His Horsemen—Las Casas the "Apostle to the Indies"—More Trouble with the Natives—Exploration of the Island Throughout its Length.
Chapter VI68
Marriage and Bereavement of Velasquez—Other Settlements Founded in Cuba—Santiago Made the First Capital—System of Government—Apportionment of the Natives to the Settlers—Appropriation of the Land—Evils of the Repartimiento System—The Statesmanship of Velasquez—Enslavement of the Natives—Famous Men in Cuba's Early History—Gold Mines and Fertile Plantations—Beginning of the Mission of Las Casas—Death of King Ferdinand and Accession of Charles I—Cardinal Ximenes—The Order of St. Jerome—The Fate of the Natives.
Chapter VII81
Gold Mining in Cuba—Political Organization of the Island—Relations with the Spanish Crown—Development of the Slave Trade—Expeditions to Yucatan—Exploration of the Mexican Coast—Failure of Grijalva's Expedition—The Expedition of Christopher de Olid—Unmerited Fate of Grijalva, the Discoverer and First Explorer of Mexico.
Chapter VIII90
Hernando Cortez Commissioned by Velasquez to Explore Mexico—Some Romantic Adventures—Why Cortez went to Cuba—His Relations with Velasquez—A Crisis in Spain's American Affairs—Appointment of Velasquez as Adelantado—Departure of Cortez—His Refusal to Return when Summoned by Velasquez—Arrival in Mexico—Appointment of Cortez as Royal Governor of New Spain—Preparations by Velasquez to Subdue Cortez—Disastrous Fate of Narvaez's Expedition—Conspiracy to Assassinate Cortez—Velasquez Removed from the Governorship of Cuba—Zuazo, the Second Governor—Vindication of Velasquez and Repudiation of Zuazo—Character and Work of First Cuban Governor.
Chapter IX105
Administration of Manuel de Rojas—The Rise of Cuba's Proper Interests—Development of Resources—Appointment of Altamarino—Post Mortem Investigation of Velasquez—Violent Opposition to Altamarino—Removal of a Discredited Governor—Accession of Guzman—Controversies over Local Government—Injudicious Course of Guzman—Protest Against the Tyranny of the Councils—"Cuba for the Cubans."{xxix}
Chapter X115
Controversies Over the Treasurership—Appointment of Hurtado, the Honest but Cantankerous—Fortunes of the Guzman Family—A Marriage for Money and its Consequences—Services of Vadillo—Investigations and Reforms—Heavy Sentences Against Guzman—An Appeal to the Council for the Indies—Manuel de Rojas again Governor.
Chapter XI122
Development of the Church Establishment in Cuba—The First Bishop—Early Conflict Between Church and State—Transfer of the Cathedral from Baracoa to Santiago—A Bishop in Politics—The Governor Excommunicated—Insurrections and Raids of the Natives—Effective Work of Rojas against the Cimarrones—Disposal of the "Tame" Indians—Further Conflicts of Church and State—Intervention of the Crown—Practical Extermination of the Natives—Reforms that Were not Made—Well Meant Efforts of Rojas—Failure of Attempts to Civilize the Natives—A Good Governor Ill Treated—His Resignation and Departure.
Chapter XII137
Guzman's Second Administration—A Masterful Politician—Decline of Cuban Welfare—An Interregnum in the Governorship—The Coming of De Soto—His Imposing Arrival at Santiago—Progress Across the Island—Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa Made De Soto's Lieutenant—Cuba a Stepping Stone to Florida—De Soto's Removal from Santiago to Havana—Organization of the Florida Expedition—Report of the First Scouts—Departure of De Soto—Lady De Soto's Faithful Watch—Tragic Fate of the Explorer—Evil Effects upon Cuba—Serious Trouble with the Indians—Intrigues of Guzman and Bishop Sarmiento.
Chapter XIII151
Governorship of Juan de Avila—Royal Order against Slavery in the Mines—An Appeal to the Council for the Indies—Popular Revolt Against the Council—De Avila's Marriage to a Rich Widow—Removal to Havana—Appointment of Antonio Chaves—Scandalous Charges Against de Avila—The Matter Carried to Spain for Settlement—Another Bad Administration—Chaves Reprimanded by the King—His Persistence in Slavery—Hurtado's Indictment of Chaves—Gonzalo de Angulo Made Governor—Trial and Punishment of Chaves—Emancipation Proclamation.
Chapter XIV165
A Bad Time in Cuban History—Santiago in 1550—Raid of a French Privateer—The Founding and Rise of Havana—The Founding of Puerto Principe—Baracoa, Trinidad and Other Settlements—Italians and Other Aliens in Cuba—Efforts to Populate the Island—Importation of Negro Slaves—Slaves Treated Humanely—Disappearance of the Native Indians—The Early Industries of Cuba—Discovery of the Copper Mines of El Cobre—Beginning of the Sugar Industry—Fiscal Policy of the Spanish Government.
Chapter XV{xxx}177
A Turning Point in Cuban History—International Interest in the Island—Raids of French Privateers—A Famous Fight in Santiago Harbor—The Capture and Looting of Havana—First Building of La Fuerza—Rise of Havana in Importance—The Governor's Residence in Havana—Deposition of Angulo—Guarding Havana Against French Attack—Inadequacy of the Defenses—Seizure of the City by Jacques Sores—Flight of the Governor and Resolute Defense of Lobera—Attempt to Destroy the French Conquerors—Destruction of the City.
Chapter XVI191
Administration of Mazariegos—His Disastrous Voyage—Rebuilding of Havana—Manners and Morals of a Soldier of Fortune—Defense of Havana by a Military Governor—Improvement of the Fortifications—Rebuilding La Fuerza—The Founding of Morro Castle—Complications in Florida—Osorio Appointed Governor—His Care for the Defenses of the Island—The Campaigns of Pedro Menendez—Conflict Between Osorio and Menendez—Attempts at Mutiny—Disagreement over Fortifications—Illegitimate Trade at Santiago—Menendez Appointed Governor—A Succession of Lieutenants—Charting the Bahama Channel—Codifying Municipal Ordinances.
Chapter XVII208
Approach of the "Sea Beggars"—More Work on La Fuerza—Seeking Financial Aid from Mexico—A Requisition for Slave Labor—Investigating Public Accounts—The Downfall of Menendez—Investigation of His Accounts—Succeeded by Montalvo—Increase of Smuggling—General Progress of the Island—Havana the Commercial Metropolis.
Chapter XVIII217
Governorship of Montalvo—Rehabilitation of Santiago—Disorder at Havana—Conflict with the Rojas Family—Charges Made Against the Governor—The Increase of Smuggling—Ravages of the French—Seeking Naval Defenses for Cuba—Haggling Over the Building of La Fuerza—A Badly Built Fort—Montalvo's Development of Insular Resources—Promotion of Sugar Growing and General Agriculture—The Governor's Quarrel with the Bishop.
Chapter XIX228
Administration of Francisco Carreño—The First Cuban Governor to Die in Office—A Record of Hard Work and Progress—The Problem of Free Negroes—Features of the Slave System—Some Literally Constructive Statesmanship—The First Custom House—Trying to Deal with the Land Question—The Reforms Proposed by Caceres—Development of Stock Raising—Bad Administration of Torres.{xxxi}
Chapter XX236
Administration of Gabriel de Luzan—Controversies Among Officials—The Quarrel Between Luzan and Arana—Questions of Official Residence—Removal of the Royal Accountant—Charges Against the Governor—Further Efforts to Complete La Fuerza—The Work of Quiñones—Unseemly Personal and Political Feuds—Investigation of the Governor's Administration—Renewal of the Quarrel with Quiñones—Governor and Captain-General Brought into Accord Through Peril of an Attack by the British—Desperate Preparations for Defense.
Chapter XXI246
War Between Spain and England—Drake's Conquest of Hispaniola—An Attack upon Cuba Anticipated—Raising Forces for Defense—Feuds Forgotten in the Common Emergency—Plans for the Defense of Havana—Increase of the Garrison—Admirable Unity of the People—Drake's Approach to Cuba—His Landing at the Western End of the Island—Appearance of his Fleet off Havana—Departure of Drake's Fleet without an Assault—His Doings at St. Augustine and in the North—Reasons for Not Attacking Havana—Disaster to Santiago—That City Destroyed by the French—Rebuilt by an Energetic Patriot—Interest in Copper Mining.
Chapter XXII260
Drake's Menace a Blessing to Cuba—Spanish Interest in Cuba for Its Own Sake—The Governorship of Tejada—The Public Works of Antonelli—Building Roads, Dams and Aqueducts—Havana Made a Real City—Controversy with Bishop Salcedo—Appreciation of Tejada's Services—Accession of Barrionuevo—Progress of Civilization in Cuba—The First Theatrical Performance.
Chapter XXIII267
Changes in European Nations—Rise of the Protectionist Policy—Retaliation by Smugglers—Hostilities against Spain—Prevalence of Piracy—Some Strong Governors of Cuba—Good Works of Maldonado and Valdes—Invasions by Pirates—Division of the Island—Interest in Religious Affairs—Successive Governors Working at Cross Purposes—Building a Fleet—Protection of the Port of Havana—An Attack by the Dutch—The Exploits of Oquendo—The Slave Market in Havana—Fall of Cabrera.{xxxii}
Chapter XXIV283
The Decline of Spain—Enterprise and Aggressions of the Dutch—The Dutch West India' Company—Governors Who Saved Cuba for Spain—Warring with Dutch Privateers—The Great Fight with Pie de Palo—Fiscal Reforms in Cuba—Gamboa's Improvement of Fortifications—Sarmiento's Organization of Cuban Troops—Ravages of a Great Pestilence—Noble Deeds of the Religious Orders—Public Works Planned—The Walls of Havana—Aggressions of the British—Conquest of Jamaica—Records of Piracy—Exploits of Lolonois—Henry Morgan—British Capture and Plundering of Santiago—Repairing the Fortifications—A Compact against Piracy.
Chapter XXV304
British Designs against Spanish Possessions—Covetous Eyes Turned upon Cuba by British Empire-Builders—Isolation of Cuba from Spain—France Playing False—Cuban Reprisals—Further Attacks by Freebooters—Controversy over British Prisoners—Disastrous Earthquakes—Ecclesiastical Troubles—Spain at the Brink of Bankruptcy—Cordova's Administration—Revised Code of Laws for the Indies—Civil and Ecclesiastical Controversies—Some Ruthless Work—Founding of the City of Matanzas—Official Disputes and Scandals.
Chapter XXVI325
The War of the Austrian Succession—The Treaty of Utrecht—Reign of Philip V—Renewed Conflicts in the West Indies—Settlement of Pensacola—Aggressions of the French—Cuban Interests Affected by European Affairs—Increased Protection of the Island—Two Local Governors—Attacks upon Charleston—Raids of British Warships—Speculation in Tobacco—More Fortifications in a Time of Peace—Churches and Convents—Sanitary Measures—Official Quarrels—Reorganization of the Tobacco Industry—Seeking Administrative Stability—A Tobacco Insurrection—A Warning to the British—Fortifications of Havana.{xxxiii}
Chapter XXVII345
Great Impetus Given to Discovery and Exploration Throughout the World—Interesting Observations upon Cuba and the Indies—Some Quaint Records—A Description of the Natives of Cuba—Something About the Natural Resources of the Island from Ancient Authorities—Spanish and Alien Descriptions of Cuba—Early Writings About Cuba in Various Languages—Fra Vincente Fonseca—A Dutch Description of Cuba—Attention Given to the Wealth of Cuban Forests—Reasons Given for the Rise and Subsequent Decline of Spanish Power—Some Superstitions and Legends.
Chapter XXVIII360
Cuba Neglected During an Era of Great Achievements—The Golden Age of Spain—Culture at Home and Conquest Abroad—A Noteworthy Group of Spanish Historians—The University of Santo Domingo—The First American Books—Cuba's Lack of Participation in these Activities, and the Reasons for it—A Turning Point in Cuban History at the End of the Sixteenth Century—Cubans Beginning to Become Cubans and Not Spaniards—A Significant Change in the Temper and Character of the People of the Island.



Columbus (Janez Portrait)Frontispiece
The Havana Cathedral36
La Fuerza146
Morro Castle, Havana180
San Francisco Church226
Morro Castle, Santiago298
Monument on Supposed First Tending Place of Columbus, Watling's Island3
Queen Isabella13
Diego Velasquez59
Baracoa, First Capital of Cuba60
Panfilo de Narvaez63
Bartholomew de las Casas64
Ponce de Leon72
Hernando Cortez90
Hernando de Soto140
San Lazaro Watch Tower, Havana155
Pedro Menendez de Aviles199

{Page 1}



Cuba; America: America; Cuba. The two names are inseparable. The record of each is in a peculiar sense identified with that of the other. Far more than any other land the Queen of the Antilles is associated with that Columbian enterprise from which the modern and practical history of the Western Hemisphere is dated. In Cuba the annals of America begin.

This island was not, it is true, the first land discovered by Columbus after leaving Spain. It was at least the fifth visited and named by him, and it was perhaps the tenth or twelfth which he saw and at which he touched in passing. But in at least three major respects it had the unquestionable primacy among all the discoveries of his first, second and third voyages, while in his own estimation it was not surpassed in importance by the main land of the continent which he finally reached in his fourth and last expedition. It was the first land visited or seen by him of the identity of which there has never been the slightest question. It was the first considerable land discovered by him, the first which was worth while sailing across the ocean to discover, and it was by far the most important of all found by him in his first three adventures. It was, also, the first and indeed the only land which caused him to believe that the theory of his undertaking had been vindicated and that the supreme object of his quest had been attained. Let us, in order to appreciate the transcendent significance of his discovery of Cuba, briefly consider these three circumstances.

We must remember with respect to the first that the{2} identity of Columbus's first landing place has been much disputed, and indeed has never been determined to universal satisfaction: We know that it was an island of small or moderate size. Columbus himself called it in one place "small" and in another "fairly large." It was level, low-lying, well watered, with a large central lagoon, which may or may not have been a permanent feature, seeing that his visit was in the rainy season, when any depression in the land was likely to be flooded. It was certainly one of the Bahama archipelago. But that extensive group comprises 36 islands, 687 cays, and 2,414 rocks. Which of all these was it upon which the Admiral landed, which was called by the natives Guanahani, and which, with his characteristic religious fervor, Columbus immediately renamed San Salvador, the Island of the Holy Saviour?

The distinction has been claimed, by authorities worthy of respectful consideration, for no fewer than five. Down to the middle of the Nineteenth Century the weight of opinion and tradition favored Cat Island, and upon most maps and charts it was designated as "Guanahani, or San Salvador." It is by far the largest and the northernmost of the five islands in question. Next, to the southeast, lies Watling's Island, to which the distinction of having been the scene of Columbus's landfall has now for half a century been most generally given, and upon maps it is generally named San Salvador. It is the only one of the five which stands out in the Atlantic, beyond the generally uniform line of the Bahamas, as a sort of advance post to greet the voyager from the east. Samana, south by east from Watling's, also called Attwood's Cay, was selected as the true Guanahani by some officers of the United States Coast Survey. Mariguana, further in the same direction, was proclaimed "La Verdadera Guanahani" by F. A. de Varnhagen in a scholarly treatise published in 1864 at Santiago de Chili. Finally, Grand Turk Island, at the southeastern extremity of the Bahama chain, and just{3} north of the coast of Hayti, was designated by Navarrete, in 1825, and by various other authorities, chiefly American, at later dates.


The chief interest of these speculations for present consideration in this writing is their bearing upon the subsequent course of Columbus, the identity of the next islands which he visited, and finally the point at which he first touched the coast of Cuba. If the original landfall was on Cat or on Watling's Island, then the second land visited, which Columbus called Santa Maria de la Concepcion, was probably either the tiny island now known as Concepcion or the larger Rum Cay; the third, called by him Ferdinandina or Fernandina, was either Great Exuma or Long Island; the fourth, Isabella, may have been either Long Island or Crooked Island, according to whether Fernandina was Great Exuma or Long Island; and the coast of Cuba was reached at some point between Punta Lucrecia and Port Nuevitas. On the other hand, if Grand Turk Island was first reached, the second land would naturally have been, as Navarrete{4} held, at Gran Caico; the third at Little Inagua; the fourth at Great Inagua; and Cuba would have been reached somewhere between Cape Maysi and Sama Point. To me it seems decidedly the more probable that the former course was pursued, and I have accordingly adopted the theory that Columbus first landed in Cuba in the region between Nuevitas and Punta Lucrecia.

The second circumstance which I have mentioned scarcely requires discussion. The first, second and third voyages of Columbus were confined to discoveries and explorations of the West India Islands, and of all of these, even including Hayti and Jamaica, there can be no question of Cuba's primacy, whether in size, in wealth of resources, in political and strategical importance, or in historical interest. It was so recognized by Columbus himself, who indeed in one respect actually esteemed it more highly than it deserved. For after long and careful exploration he became convinced that it was not an island, but was the mainland of the Asian continent—Mangi, or Cathay: that country of the Great Khan of which Marco Polo had written and which Toscanelli had indicated upon his map, and the visiting of which was the supreme object of the Admiral's enterprise.

To understand this aright we must remember that Columbus was not seeking a new continent. He had no thought that one existed. He held, with Isidore of Seville, that all the lands of the world were comprehended in Europe, Africa and Asia, and that there was only one great ocean, the Atlantic, which stretched unbroken save by islands from the western shores of Europe and Africa to the eastern coast of Asia and the East Indies. Moreover, he considerably overestimated the extent of Asia and underestimated the circumference of the earth. Years later, long after the circumnavigation of the globe had been effected, Antonio Galvano, learned historian and geographer though he was, computed the equatorial circumference of the earth at only 23,500 miles, or about 1,400 miles too little; while the best maps of the sixteenth{5} century indicated the Asian continent as extending far into the western hemisphere, and the Pacific Ocean as a narrow strip not nearly comparable with the Atlantic in extent. Schoener's globe, of 1520, which is still to be seen at Nuremberg, represents the "Terra de Cuba" as integral with the whole North American continent, with its western coast only five degrees of longitude or 300 miles from the shore of Zipangu or Japan, and only 30 degrees or 1,800 miles from the mainland of Asia.

Columbus therefore expected to find the coast of Asia in about the longitude in which he actually found America. When he reached the Bahamas he confidently assumed them to be the group of islands which Toscanelli had indicated as lying off the coast of Cathay; and when he learned from the natives of a much larger island lying to the south, which they called Colba, Cuba, or Cubanacan, he believed it to be none other than Cipango, or Zipangu, which Toscanelli had shown as by far the largest of the East Indian islands. It has been commonly assumed, apparently with little dispute or attempt at investigation, that Cipango was Japan. But the distance—1,500 miles—at which it was said to lie from the coast of China, the southerly latitude assigned to it, and the multitude of small islands which were clustered about and near it, are circumstances which suggest that instead of Japan the island meant may have been Luzon, the northernmost and largest of the Philippines. However that may be, Columbus promptly decided to steer straight for Cipango, with the result that he reached the northern shore of the eastern part of Cuba.

The third circumstance which I have mentioned was then developed. It was a great triumph, and a vindication of his enterprise, that he had reached Cipango. But even that was not enough. He was in quest of the mainland of Mangi or Cathay, the land of the Great Khan. He found in Cuba no traces of the opulence and splendor of which Marco Polo had written. Yet the natives frequently referred to "Cuba-nacan" as a great place some{6}where in the interior. The phrase merely meant the central part of the island, but the final syllable was identified by Columbus with "Khan," and, with the wish as father of the thought, he presently conceived the notion that it was not the island of Cipango upon which he had landed, but the shore of Cathay itself. Further explorations, including coasting along the northern shore to within a few miles of the western extremity, confirmed him in this belief, which became absolute conviction. To the end of his life, therefore, he believed that Cuba was the eastern extremity of the Asian continent, which indeed Toscanelli had delineated upon his map as terminating in a long, narrow cape; and it was upon the strength of this belief and report of Columbus that Schoener in 1520 and Muenster in 1532 identified Cuba with the whole North American continent, while various other cartographers of that time made it integral with Cathay itself. The maps of La Cosa and Ruysch, in 1508, hinted at this. The Nancy Globe, and a notable map in the Sloane MSS. in the British Museum, dated 1530, do, it is true, indicate Cuba to be an island, but they also make India Superior and Tibet contiguous with Mexico at the northwest, with the latter country fronting directly upon the Indian Ocean. We know, of course, that during his second voyage, in 1494, while off the southern coast of Cuba, Columbus required his companions to sign with him a formal declaration that they were off the coast of Asia. Such, then, was the Admiral's estimate of Cuba, in which there is no reason to doubt he persisted to the end of his life. He had achieved the object of his great adventure: He had reached the country of the Great Khan.

Despite these delusions and vagaries, however, the facts remain that he did discover and partly explore Cuba, and that it was the first land in the Western Hemisphere of which that can confidently be said. Cuba is therefore the starting point of the history of the Columbian discovery and exploration and the subsequent colonization{7} and civilization of America. With Cuba the history of the New World begins.

Similarly, and with equal truth, we may say that the history of Cuba begins with the Columbian discovery of America. That is not true of all parts of the American continents. Some of them had already had important histories. The northeastern coast of North America had been visited and temporarily colonized by the Norsemen, and the northwestern coast by the Chinese; and both of those peoples had left enduring traces of their enterprise. The Iroquois and Algonquins had for centuries enjoyed a degree of social, political and industrial development, the records of which still survive. The Toltecs, the Mayas and the Incas had risen to a height of culture not unworthy to be compared with that of Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome, the remains of which to this day command the wonder and admiration of the world. But not so Cuba. Carlyle might well have had this island in mind when he said, "Happy the people whose annals are blank in history books."

The physical history of Cuba indicates that in some remote period the two mountainous ends of the island were two separate and distinctly different islands, separated by a considerable stretch of sea, and that they were afterward united by a rising of the bottom of the sea, to form the central plain of Cuba. It is observed that the two ends are unlike each other on geological structure and composition, in soil, and in indigenous flora. Indeed, they have ever differed from each other radically in their cultivated crops. At what date the union of them occurred, and by what means it was effected, we can only guess. But it is a reasonable assumption that the raising of the sea-floor to form the central plain of the island was caused by one of the seismic disturbances to which this general region of the earth's surface has from time immemorial been subject. There are, moreover, reasons for suspecting that this occurred at a time subsequent to the{8} creation of man, and indeed after both of the original islands had become inhabited. That is because the two ends of the island appear, in Columbus's day, to have been occupied by different races. Of the inhabitants of the western end we know comparatively little, save that they were more warlike and adventurous than those at the east, and several authorities have likened them either to the Caribs or to the Mayas of Yucatan. That they were Mayas seems, however, doubtful, since they left no traces of the high degree of civilization which formerly prevailed among that distinguished race in Yucatan.

The people of the eastern end of Cuba, when the island was discovered by Columbus, were doubtless of Antillan stock, or "Tainan" as some have called them, with possibly a slight admixture of Carib, though not sufficient materially to affect them in any respect. They were physically a handsome, stalwart people, of a light reddish brown color, somewhat lighter than the North American Indians. They wore no clothing, with the exception of the married women, who wore breech clouts, and confined their adornments to slight necklaces and bracelets. They lived in neatly constructed cabins of cane or bamboo and thatch, rectangular or circular in form and generally of two or three rooms each; equipped with furniture of cane or of handsomely carved wood. For beds, however, they used hammocks, of woven cotton or plaited grass; the name, hammock, being of Antillan or Carib origin. These houses were, according to early Spanish testimony, kept scrupulously clean and neat. They were grouped in villages, around a central square which served as a market place and playground.

They were agriculturists, tilling the ground with considerable skill and producing yuca, corn, beans, peanuts, squashes, peppers and various other crops, besides fruits and tobacco. They were singularly expert fishermen, and for the purpose of that pursuit they constructed fine canoes, of the hollowed boles of large trees, but unlike the Caribs they do not seem to have resorted to navigation{9} for any other purpose. They also hunted game on the land, solely for food, but their hunting was much restricted, since there were no large animals of any kind on the island. Their manufactures were confined to primitive cotton weaving, wood carving, basketry, pottery—of a pretty good quality of decorated ware—and various stoneware implements.

In disposition and manners they were friendly, hospitable, courteous, and confiding. Despite their nudity they had the unconscious modesty of nature, and their morals were superior to those of most primitive peoples. The tradition that venereal diseases prevailed among them and were thus first made known to European peoples through their having been acquired from the natives by Columbus's men, seems to be quite void of foundation; indubitable proof exists of the prevalence of those diseases in both Europe and Asia at an earlier date than Columbus's time. They practised but recognized domestic, social and civic equality of the sexes. They were almost universal tobacco smokers, and it was from them that the use of that plant was first learned. They were pleasure loving, much given to dancing, to games of ball, and to swimming.

Their form of government was patriarchal, though there seem to have been chiefs of some sort over whole villages or even districts. The laws were, however, mild and humane. In religion they presented a striking and most grateful contrast to the Toltecs, Aztecs and other peoples of the continent, having none of the human sacrifices and atrocious tortures that disfigured their worship. They believed in a Supreme Being and a future and immortal life. They had a form of worship in which the use of idols as symbols, and the smoking of tobacco, largely figured. They had a regularly constituted priest-hood, the members of which they credited with powers of divination and of healing. There were none of the revolting practises and superstitions, however, which have been common to many primitive peoples. They were not{10} warlike, and had no military organization, but they certainly were not cowards, as some of the early Spanish conquistadors had cause to know.

They had, it is obvious, nothing which could survive them as a memorial of their existence. Their architecture, if so it may be called, was most perishable. They had no art, save in pottery, and that was not highly developed. They had no literature. The result was that when they perished through unfavorable contact with a more powerful and aggressive race they left scarcely a trace of themselves behind, save in the records and testimony of their conquerors and destroyers. Some specimens of their pottery have been preserved: the words "hammock" and "canoe" come to us from them; and the use of tobacco is their universal memorial.

Such were the aborigines, if not the absolute autochthones, of Cuba. Their only history lives in the brief and scanty records of them made by their destroyers. They left no enduring impress upon the island, save its name. How many they were is unknown, and estimates which are mere guesses differ widely. In a single generation they disappeared, partly through slaughter and partly through such diseases as small pox and measles, which were introduced to the island—of course, not intentionally—by the Spaniards, and which the natives were unable to resist. The only significant history of Cuba begins, therefore, with the landfall of Christopher Columbus upon its shores.{11}


Sunday, October 28, 1492, was the natal day of Cuba; the day of its advent into the ken of the civilized world. At the island which he called Isabella—either Long Island or Crooked Island—Columbus had heard of a very great land which the natives called Cuba, and which, the wish being father to the thought, he instantly identified with Cipango. Toward it, therefore, his course had thereafter been directed. Progress was slow, because of contrary winds and calms, and there were numerous small islands along the way to engage at least passing attention. Particularly was there a group of seven or eight, lying in a row extending north and south, which he called the Islas de Arena, and which we may confidently identify with the Mucaras. Early on the morning of Saturday, October 27, he had left the last of the Sandy Isles behind, and from a point considerably to the eastward of them, probably near what is now known as Rocky Heads, he had set his course a little west of south for the shore of Cuba. Thus he had passed across the southeastern end of the Great Bahama Bank, since most appropriately called the Columbus Bank, until just at nightfall he had seen looming before him on the southern horizon the mountainous form of a vast land. It was too late, however, to continue the voyage that night, so he lay to, and at earliest daybreak of Sunday morning, leaving behind him the islet fittingly called Caya Santo Domingo, completed his course to the land which he fondly but vainly hailed as the much-sought Cipango.

The coast at the point at which he reached it seemed specially designed by nature for his favorable and auspicious reception. There lay before him what seemed the estuary of a large and beautiful river, free from rocks or other impediments, and with a very gentle current.{12} It had an ample depth of water for his vessels, and was sufficiently broad, even at a considerable distance inland, for them to beat about in. It was encircled by lofty and picturesque hills, the aspect of which reminded him of the "Pena de los Enamorados" near Granada, in Spain; and upon the summit of one of them was what he described as another little hill, shaped like a graceful mosque. Enchanted with the vision, and gratified beyond expression at what he confidently assumed to be the reaching of his goal and the vindication of his enterprise, he gave to the spot a repetition of the name which he had devoutly bestowed upon his first landfall, calling the port San Salvador.

The identity of this spot has been much questioned and disputed; perhaps even more than that of Columbus's first landing in the Bahamas; and it is not to be regarded as entirely certain. Washington Irving pretty confidently placed it at Caravelas Grandes, far to the west of Nuevitas del Principe, while others insist that it was at Nuevitas itself. Navarrete, on the other hand, with his theory that the first landfall was at Grand Turk Island, held that Cuba was reached at Nipe Bay, east of Holguin; while Las Casas and Herrera insisted that the port of San Salvador was at Baracoa, near Cape Maysi, at the extreme eastern end of the island. Midway between the extremes, that most scholarly and judicious of geographers, Sir Clements Markham, selected the natural harbor of Naranjo, a little to the west of Punta Lucrecia and Punta Mulas. Other historians and geographers, after painstaking research, declare that they do not believe the place can be determined.

With this, in the ultimate analysis, I would agree. It is probably impossible to establish indisputably the identity of the place. Yet it does seem to me that the arguments in favor of Naranjo, as selected by Markham, are so strong as to be all but entirely convincing, and that it will be judicious, therefore, to assume that it was there that the Admiral first reached the shore of Cuba. A{13} glance at the map shows this to be the region which was nearest and which he was likeliest to reach first, coming from either Long Island or Crooked Island, eastward of the Mucaras, on a south-southwest course, which, we are told, is what he steered. The port of Naranjo answers to his description in depth and breadth more nearly than any other on that part of the coast. It is the estuary of a considerable river, as was Columbus's San Salvador, though how large the river really was he does not appear to have undertaken to ascertain, though he did ascend the stream some little distance on his first day's visit. Finally, it is to be observed that Naranjo is girt about by hills, precisely as was his San Salvador, and on the crest of one of them there is a huge rock, jutting up like "another little hill" and roughly resembling in shape a mosque, because of which the hill is called "Loma del Temple." This, then, and not Nuevitas, Nipe, nor Baracoa, I believe to have been the scene of Columbus's discovery of Cuba.


We have seen that Columbus at first unhesitatingly believed it to be Cipango which he had reached. Despite that fact, and also despite the fact that the natives called it Cuba, he insisted upon renaming it. In accordance with his previous practice in nomenclature, it must have a very noble and distinguished name. His first landfall he had named for the Holy Saviour Himself; the second for the Holy Virgin; the third for the King, and the fourth for the Queen of Leon and Castile. The next name in order, in dignity and distinction, was that of the heir to the dual throne, wherefore he named the land Juana. Most writers, including Irving, have made the curious but facile mistake of saying that this name was given "in honor of Prince Juan, the son of Ferdinand and Isa{14}bella." It was, in fact, in honor of Princess Juana, the daughter of those sovereigns. She was that unhappy princess who because of her insanity was called "La Loca," and who by her marriage with Philip of Burgundy and of Hapsburg brought a new dynasty to the Spanish throne and greatly involved the monarchy in the politics and wars of Central Europe. Juana was mentally incompetent to succeed to the throne of Castile which she inherited upon the death of her mother, wherefore she was compelled to relinquish it to the regency of her father; and when he united Castile with Aragon, and conquered and annexed Navarre and Granada, and thus became the first King of Spain, Cuba was renamed in his honor and known no longer as Juana but as Ferdinandina, or Fernandina. Still later it was called San Diego, or Santiago; and again Ave Maria Alfa y Omega. But these names were transitory. The natives never accepted one of them, but clung to the old name of Cuba, and there was a fine touch of poetic justice in the fact that that name survived the extinction of the race that had cherished it. Under the ruthless rule of the Conquistadores the aboriginal population of the island almost entirely vanished, and with them practically all traces of their existence save four. These were the name and use of tobacco, the name and use of hammocks, the name and use of canoes, and the name of the island itself.

It would not have been surprising, and it would have been quite pardonable, had Columbus seen everything in the New World through glasses of couleur de rose. Naturally of a romantic and imaginative temperament, he experienced in the realization of his long-cherished ambition such a degree of spiritual and mental exaltation as seldom has come to mortal man. Yet quite apart from this, the native beauty of Cuba, as seen to our eyes to-day, abundantly justifies the rhapsodies in which he indulged in describing it. On that first memorable Sunday he wrote in his diary, "This is the most beautiful land ever beheld by human eyes." From the quarter-deck of the{15} Santa Maria he gazed with rapture upon the profuse verdure of the shore and of the hills which rose in the back-ground, observing with admiration and surprise that the trees grew down to the very water's edge, as did also the herbage, as he had never seen it elsewhere. The palms and other trees were largely of different kinds from those which he had seen in Spain, in Guinea, and elsewhere, and they bore flowers and fruit in great profusion, while among them were innumerable birds, beautiful to the eye and with songs entrancing to the ear.

Two canoes, containing each several natives, put out from a recess in the harbor shore to meet the Spanish ships, but when a boat was lowered from one of the latter, to proceed ahead and take soundings, they incontinently fled. Columbus himself then entered a small boat and went ashore, where he found two houses, which he assumed to belong to the owners of the two canoes. No persons were to be found upon the premises, and the only living things were "a kind of dog that never barks," which we may assume to have been some small animal of the ant bear tribe, now probably extinct or at any rate no longer domesticated. The houses were notably neat and clean, and were evidently the abode of fishermen, since in them were nets and cordage of palm fibre, fish-hooks of horn, and harpoons of bone. All about the houses the herbage was as profuse, at the end of October, as it was in Andalusia in May. Most of the herbs as well as the trees were strange to Columbus, but he found some wild amaranth, and much common purslane. He went some distance up the harbor, or river as he called it, at every step or stroke of the oars seeing something new to excite his admiration.

The natives of Guanahani whom he had brought on his ship informed him that Cuba was a very large island, which could not be circumnavigated in twenty days; that it contained ten large rivers and that its whole expanse was well watered. They were also understood by Columbus to say that gold mines and pearls were to be found{16} in the island, and that large ships came thither from the mainland domains of the Grand Khan, ten days' sail away. The bulk of this "information" was of course quite mistaken by Columbus, his vivid imagination and his eager desires easily misleading him into interpreting anything which the natives might say, largely in sign language, as meaning just what he wished to be true.

The next day Columbus left San Salvador and sailed westward along the coast. That was the direction in which, according to the natives of Guanahani, the mainland and the capital of the King or the Grand Khan were to be found. That, too, was the direction in which Mangi and Cathay were to be found according to the map of Toscanelli, assuming Cuba to be Cipango: which Columbus at this stage of his enterprise confidently believed. Of the researches of the great voyager along the Cuban coast we have a detailed account in his journal. Unfortunately, there is no certain means of identifying the points at which he landed. They are described as being so many leagues from his starting point, San Salvador; wherefore it is obvious that all depends upon the identity of the latter. Yet it seems to me that his account of his coastwise explorations strongly confirms the theory that his San Salvador was Port Naranjo and not Nuevitas. For we are told that six leagues westward he found a cape or point of land extending toward the northwest; ten leagues further another point, extending toward the east; one league further a small river, which he called the Rio de la Luna; and beyond it another much larger river, which he called the Rio de Mares. This latter river had for its estuary a broad basin resembling a lake, and its entrance was marked by two round mountains on the one side and a lofty promontory on the other.

Now, making reasonable allowance for lack of accuracy in measurements and for discrepancies in descriptions, this account may readily be applied to the coast westward from Port Naranjo to Nuevitas, while it is altogether inapplicable to the coast westward from Nuevitas.{17} For a score of leagues westward from Naranjo there are capes and mountains and rivers, and there is more than one river with precisely such a lagoon-like estuary as that which Columbus found at his Rio de Mares. Indeed, Port Padre, with its extensive lagoon into which several rivers flow, or Port Manati, with the Cramal and Yarigua rivers, might either of them be identified, in approximate distance and in topography, with the Rio de Mares. On the other hand, if we were to assume Nuevitas to have been the starting point, what should we find? Either he must have been skirting the outer side of the Sabinal and Romano keys, and Guajaba Island, which do not at all coincide with the description given, or he must have been navigating the great littoral lagoon between those keys and the mainland of Cuba; in which latter case it is to be observed that that part of the Cuban coast does not correspond with his description, and that it is certainly extraordinary that he made no mention of his voyage having been in what is practically an inland sea. That he could have passed in through the Nuevitas Channel, or the Carebelas Channel, or the Guajaba Channel, without observing and remarking upon Sabinal Key, Guajaba Island, or Romano Key, is simply not supposable. Such a feature of "Cipango" could not have escaped notice on his first arrival there, though it might easily have been ignored or passed over as of no special significance in subsequent explorations.

On Tuesday of that memorable week, October 30, Columbus left the Rio de Mares and sailed to the northwest for fifteen leagues, and there discovered a point which he named the Cape of Palms. Beyond it was a river, the entrance of which was said to be four days' journey from what the natives called Cubanacan, meaning the heart of the island, the centre of Cuba. With his characteristic habit of interpreting native names and statements in accordance with his own desires, Columbus at once assumed this to mean Kublai Khan, or the City of the Khan, of which he was in quest; and accordingly he bent all his{18} energies and gave all his attention to getting thither, disregarding the things which he passed by on the way. It was probably at this time, therefore, that he sailed through one of the channels among the keys, and entered the great coastal sound which stretches from Nuevitas to Caibarien, if not indeed to Cardenas. He reached the river on Wednesday, but found it too shallow for his ships, and therefore, after some fruitless cruisings, returned to the Rio de Mares.

It was on November 12 that he again sailed from the Rio de Mares, and on the next day that he sailed south-westward into a great gulf, which he supposed to divide Cuba from another island called by the natives "Bohio"—the word really meaning not an island at all but "home." Thereafter for some time he was obviously cruising around Guajaba Island and Romano Key, which, with Sabinal Key, he supposed to be the mythical "Bohio." Some port, possibly Boca de la Yana, he called Puerto Principe, and the water, presumably between Thiguano Island and Cocos Key, he called the Mar de la Nuestra Senora. Rounding Guillermo Key, as we may suppose, he swung into the Old Bahama Channel, and by wind and tide was carried backward to Guajaba Island and perhaps to Nuevitas. Thence he made his way westward and southward, rounding Point Sama and Point Lucrecia, and reaching Port Nipe and Port Banes on the morning of November 27. Those two capacious bays he did not attempt to enter. He regarded them indeed not as bays but as straits, or arms of the sea, and the promontory between them he supposed to be an island. At Taco he landed for a few moments, and then pursued his way, and at nightfall dropped anchors at what he called Puerto Santo, which we may probably identify with the modern Baracoa. There he remained until December 4, when he sailed to the southeast, and the following day passed out of sight of Cape Maysi and left Cuba behind him; crossing the Windward Passage to reach "Bohio" or "Babeque," where there were said to be pearls and gold, and{19} reaching Hayti, or Santo Domingo, which he called Espagnola. He did not revisit Cuba during the remainder of his first American voyage.

Espagnola, Latinized by us into Hispaniola, became thereafter the chief care of the Admiral. It was there that he planted, on his second voyage, the first European colony in the western hemisphere. But after various operations in Hayti, marked with both trials and triumphs, during his second American expedition he returned to the Cuban coast for further explorations of what he still thought to be Cipango. It was at the end of April, 1494, that he sailed from Mole St. Nicholas, Hayti, across the Windward Passage toward Cape Maysi, which he himself had called Cape Alpha and Omega. Instead, however, of retracing his way to Baracoa and along the north coast, he went to the left of Cape Maysi and began skirting the southern coast of Cuba. This route would, according to Toscanelli's map, take him to the southward of Mangi and Cathay, but it would lead him to the Golden Chersonesus, around the southern shore of Asia, and so home to Europe by circumnavigating the globe.

The points visited by him on this excursion are more easily and surely to be identified than those of his first voyage. His first landing was at Guantanamo, which he called Puerto Grande. He found an entrance passage, winding but deep, leading in to a spacious land-locked lagoon, surrounded by hills covered with verdure. Here he established friendly relations with the natives, and remained for two or three days. Thence he sailed westward, as close to the shore as safety would permit, and frequently entered into friendly intercourse with the natives who thronged the strand to gaze in wonderment at his strange ships. At Santiago de Cuba he spent a night, and during his stay he diligently inquired of the natives for the land in which gold was to be found. They indicated it to lie farther to the south and west, doubtless meaning South America. Columbus thereupon set sail in that direction, partly because gold was most desirable to{20} obtain, and partly because he assumed the land of gold to be the land of the Great Khan, which he was still intent upon reaching. The result was his discovery of Jamaica. A fortnight later, however, on May 18, he returned to Cuba, reaching it at Cabo de la Cruz, or Cape Cruz. Here he found a large village, whose chief and indeed all whose inhabitants had heard of him as one descended from heaven. He was hospitably received, and was able to make many inquiries about the country. He was told that Cuba was an island, but of so vast extent that nobody had ever sailed around it. He thereupon set out to circumnavigate it and sailed from Cape Cruz northward into the Gulf of Guacanabo. There he found a multitude of small islands, which he named the Queen's Gardens, and there, remembering that Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville had both reported the coast of Asia to be fringed with a crowded archipelago, he was again confirmed in his belief that he was approaching the shore either of Cathay or of the Golden Chersonesus.

Navigation among these islands, however, was difficult, dangerous and slow, particularly when tropical thunderstorms were raging, as they then were almost daily, and it was with much relief that the expedition at last reached the Cuban coast, probably at or near Santa Cruz del Sur. There they were told that they were in the province of Ornofay; the province which they had formerly visited, at Cape Cruz, was Macaca; and to the west there lay the important province of Mangon, where they could secure much fuller information on all subjects. They were again assured that Cuba was an island, but so vast in extent that nobody could hope ever to go around it. The mention of the province of Mangon again stimulated the hopes and fancy of Columbus. He identified it with Mangi, the southernmost and richest province of the Great Khan, and in this he was confirmed by the fantastic statement of the natives, that the people of Mangon had tails and wore long robes to conceal them! Columbus recalled that Sir John Mandeville had related a similar{21} story as current among some tribes in Eastern Asia. He therefore set out with renewed eagerness and expectation for the coast of Mangon.

Emerging from the archipelago, he sailed for many miles along the southern coast of Cuba, through an open sea, with the mountain ranges of Santa Clara at his right hand and at his left the open expanse of the Caribbean, its intense blue attesting its depth. After passing the Gulf of Xagua, however, there came a sudden change. The sea became shallow, and thickly dotted with small islands, keys, and banks, while the water was white as milk. The voyagers had crossed the Gulf of Cazones and were among the Juan Luis Keys, where the water is shallow and where at times the agitation of the water by storms causes it to be whitened and rendered opaque with the calcareous deposit with which the sea floor is there thickly covered. This character of the bottom also made it impossible for the vessels to find anchorage. The anchors dragged and the water became more white and turbid. To the members of the crews these phenomena caused great terror, which was by no means ill founded, since there was imminent danger of the vessels being driven ashore and wrecked. To Columbus, in his state of mental exaltation and high expectancy, however, they were full of inspiration and encouragement to proceed, indicating to him that he was entering strange regions where extraordinary discoveries were to be made. For we must remember that, far as he was in advance of his time in geographical vision, he still thought that the earth was not globular but pear-shaped, and he expected to find tribes of men with tails, and with only one eye and with their heads growing beneath their shoulders!

Finding anchorage at last upon the shore of a small island, he sent the smallest of his vessels forward to explore the archipelago and also to visit the coast of the mainland. The report which was brought back to him was that the archipelago was as dense and as intricate as the Gardens of the Queen which they had left behind{22} them, and that the coast of the mainland was flat, marshy, and covered with almost impenetrable mangrove forests, far beyond which fertile uplands and mountain ranges were to be seen, while numerous columns of smoke ascending gave token of a considerable population. At this the entire expedition proceeded, to retrace the course which had been pursued by the pilot caravel, and after much difficulty and occasional groundings of the vessels, the coast of Cuba was reached, doubtless near the eastern extremity of the great Zapata Peninsula. The vast marshes gave little encouragement for landing, and the expedition continued eastward until Punta Gorda was reached, to which Columbus gave the name of Punta Serafina.

Rounding this point and heading northward, the fine expanse of Broa Bay confronted them, with the coast of the Province of Havana far beyond, and with another archipelago at the west. The mountains which lie between Guines and Matanzas fringed the horizon, and toward them the Admiral steered, presently reaching good anchorage off a most inviting coast. The mangrove swamps of Zapata had been left behind, and here the shore was high and dry, and covered with groves of palm and other trees. Here a landing was made, and copious supplies of fresh water were found for the refilling of their casks, while some of the archers strayed into the forest in quest of game. One of the latter presently returned in haste and fear, crying for help. He reported that he had seen in a forest glade three men of white complexion, clad in long white tunics, leading a company of about thirty more, armed with clubs and spears. They did not attack him, but one of them advanced alone as if to speak with him; whereupon he fled. At this report all his companions joined him in hastening back to the ships for safety.

When Columbus heard these things he was much pleased. He saw in them confirmation of what he had been told about the Province of Mangon, with its men{23} who had tails and who wore long robes to hide them. He at once sent a strongly armed party inland to seek these men and parley with them; directing them to go as much as forty miles inland, if necessary, to find them, and to find the populous cities which he confidently believed to exist in that region. These explorers readily enough traversed the open palm forest which bordered the coast. But then they came to extensive open upland plains or savannahs, with few trees but with rank grass and other herbage as high as their heads and so dense as to be almost impenetrable. No roads or paths were to be found, and it was necessary to cut a trail through the herbage. For a mile they struggled on, and then gave up the attempt and returned to the ships. The next day another party was sent in another direction, with no better results. Its members found fine open forests, abounding with grapevines laden with fruit, and they saw flocks of cranes which they described as twice the size of those of Europe. But they also saw on the ground the footprints, as they supposed, of lions and of griffins, which so alarmed them that they beat a hasty retreat.

Lions, and indeed all large beasts of prey, were never known to exist in Cuba, and the griffin was of course never anything but imaginary—unless a tradition of some prehistoric monster, ages ago extinct. But huge alligators or caymans abounded in Cuban waters, and the footprints which frightened Columbus's explorers were doubtless made by them. The observation of large cranes suggests, also, an explanation of the panic-stricken archer's story of men clothed in white robes. A flock of those huge birds, standing erect and in line, with their leader advanced before them, as is their custom, in the semi-gloom of a strange forest, might well have given him the impression of a company of white-robed men. Of course, no men of that description were ever found in Cuba, nor were there traces of any.

It did not take Columbus long to explore Broa Bay sufficiently to ascertain that it was not an arm of the sea,{24} but a mere coastal indentation; whereupon he resumed his westward cruising. A little further on, probably in the neighborhood of Batabano, he found the shore inhabited, and though neither he nor his interpreters could understand the language of the natives, they contrived to hold some communication with them by means of signs. He gleaned from them in this manner the information that far to westward, among the mountains, there was a great king, ruling in magnificence over many provinces; that he wore long white robes and was considered a semi-divine personage, and that he never spoke but conveyed his decrees in signs, which nobody dared to disobey. To what extent this was really intended by the natives, and to what extent was the mere figment of the Admiral's lively imagination, it is impossible to say. It is entirely conceivable, however, that the Cubans had some knowledge of the Aztecs and Toltecs of Mexico, and the Mayas of Yucatan, and were referring to them. Certainly they could not have referred to anybody in Cuba. But Columbus, as ever fondly believing whatever he wished to be true, confidently assumed that they were telling him of the mythical Prester John, and that he was on the shores of that potentate's domain. The mountains of which the natives spoke, he supposed, were those of Pinar del Rio, which were already in sight on the northwestern horizon.

Concerning the extent of Cuba, and of the coast along which he was sailing, Columbus could get little information. He was told that the coast extended westward for at least twenty days' journey, but whether it then ended, and how it ended, he could not learn. He therefore took one of the natives with him as a guide, and resumed his voyage. Almost immediately, however, he plunged into another archipelago, almost as dense and troublesome as that through which he had passed a few days before. Making his way through it with great difficulty, he reached the coast of Pinar del Rio, and effected a landing amid swamps and forests, only to find the region {25}uninhabited, though frequent columns of smoke rising inland indicated to him the presence of a considerable population. For some time he made his way along that inhospitable coast, which trended steadily toward the southwest, a direction agreeing with his conceptions of the Asian coast as described by Marco Polo. Surely, he thought, he was on the coast of Indo-China, headed straight for the Golden Chersonesus. If he persisted, he would cross the Indian Ocean and reach the Red Sea, whence he could complete his journey to Europe overland by way of Palestine; or he could steer southward along the African coast and around that continent, and so reach home by circumnavigating the globe.

These fancies appear to have been shared by his companions, among whom were several accomplished navigators and geographers. The delusions were of course largely due to the erroneous estimate of the size of the globe, which made its circumference too little by some thousands of miles. But his companions could not be persuaded to approve his scheme of going on to circumnavigate the globe. The glamor of that vision did not blind their eyes to the worn and dilapidated condition of the ships, the lack of supplies, and the weariness of the crews. They were in no condition, they insisted, to proceed further through unknown regions. It was already satisfactorily demonstrated, they held, that they had reached the Asian coast. The part of prudence was to turn back to Isabella, if not to Spain, and refit their vessels for another and longer voyage.

These counsels finally prevailed upon Columbus himself, at the time when his flotilla lay at anchor in the Bay of Cortez, near the western extremity of Cuba. He was indeed so near that extremity that a day or two more of sailing would have brought him to Cape San Antonio and would have shown him that Cuba was an island. Or from the top of some tall tree, or even from the mast head, he might have looked across the lakes and lowlands of that region and seen the waters of Guadiana Bay, on{26} the north side of the island. But this was not to be. Instead, he required every member of his company, from sailing master to cabin boy, to swear to and sign a formal declaration to the effect that the land which they had discovered and explored was a part of the Indies and of the Asian continent. Then, on June 13, he turned his course toward the southeast, only to enter another archipelago, the San Felipe and Indian keys. Beyond lay a large land, with mountains, to which he gave the name of Evangelista. It was, of course, the Isle of Pines, which he reached a little south of Point Barcos. Taking in a supply of water and wood, he skirted the coast southward, with the result that he ran into the land-locked recesses of the Bay of Sunianea. Finding no thoroughfare in that direction, he sailed back almost to the Bay of Cortez, and then made his way along the Cuban coast, through the archipelagoes, milky seas and what not which had given him so much trouble on his westward trip.

It was on July 7 that the next landing in Cuba was made, at a point on the southeastern coast of Camaguey, and at the mouth of a fine river which Columbus called the Rio de la Missa but the identity of which is now uncertain. It may have been the San Juan de Najasa or the Sevilla, or one of the several streams between those two. There, in a most genial and fruitful region, they spent some days and established friendly relations with the chief of a considerable community. In the presence of this chief and his retainers an altar was erected beneath a great tree, and mass was celebrated. An aged native, apparently a priest, watched this proceeding with much interest, and at its close approached Columbus and addressed him, saying:

"This which thou hast done is, I perceive, thy method of worshipping thy God; which is well. I am told that thou hast come hither with a strong force, and hast subdued many lands, filling the people with great fear. Be not, however, vainglorious. The souls of men after these bodies are dead have, according to our belief, one of two{27} journeys to pursue. One is to a place that is dismal, foul and dark, which is prepared for those who have been cruel and unjust to their fellow men. The other is to a place of light and joy, prepared for those who have practised peace and justice. Therefore if thou art mortal, and must some time die, and dost expect that all men are to be rewarded according to the deeds done in their bodies, see that thou work justice and do no harm to those who have done no harm to thee."

In this address was revealed the most that we know of the religion of the Cuban aborigines. Columbus listened to it with surprise and gratification, not having supposed that any such faith or such knowledge of the future life existed among the natives of Cuba. He responded through his interpreter sympathetically, assuring the old man that he had been sent forth by his sovereigns to teach the true faith and to do good and no evil, and that all innocent and peaceable men might confidently look to him for friendship and protection. He also had his interpreter tell the people of the greatness, riches and splendor of Spain; to which they listened in credulous bewilderment. Then, on July 16, he sailed away from Cuba again, amid expressions of regret by the chief and his comrades; taking with him one of the young men whom he afterward sent to the Spanish court. But a storm struck his feeble vessels and nearly wrecked them. On July 18 they anchored near Cape Cruz for repairs, and were most hospitably received by the natives. At last, on July 22, they departed for Jamaica, whence they returned to Isabella. Never again did Columbus visit Cuba, though he approached its southern shore on his fourth voyage, on his way to the coast of Central America. To the end of his life, presumably, he believed Cuba to be a part of the Asian continent, continuous with Honduras and Veragua.{28}


We have already quoted the enthusiastic encomium of Columbus upon Cuba at his first sight of and landing upon its shore. His diary and his narrative to the sovereigns of Leon and Castile on his return to Spain abound with similar expressions, as well as with informing bits of description of Cuba as they then found it. In the very first days of his first visit he found villages of houses "made like booths, very large, and looking like tents in a camp without regular streets but one here and another there. Within they were clean and well swept, with furniture well made. All were of palm branches, beautifully constructed. They found many images in the shape of women, and many heads like masks, very well carved. It was not known whether these were used as ornaments, or were to be worshipped."

The waters abounded in fish, and the people of the coast regions were apparently nearly all fishermen. The only domestic animals were the "dogs which never barked," and birds in cages. There were seen, however, skulls like those of cows, on which account Columbus assumed that inland there were herds of cattle. All night the air was vocal with the songs of birds and the chirping of crickets and other insects, which lulled the voyagers to rest. Along the shore and in the mouths of rivers were found large shells, unlike any that he had known in Spain, but no pearls were in them. The air was soft and salubrious, and the nights were neither hot nor cold. On the other islands which he had visited the heat was oppressive, a circumstance which he attributed to the flat and low-lying land; while Cuba was mountainous and therefore was blessed with cooling breezes.

At some point on the northeastern coast, probably in{29} the neighborhood of Point Sama, a month after his first landing, he imagined that he had discovered deposits of gold. It was in the bed of a river, near its mouth, that he saw stones shining, as if with gold, and he had them gathered, to take home to Spain and to present to the sovereigns. At the same point some of the sailors called his attention to the pine trees on a neighboring hill. They were "so wonderfully large that he could not exaggerate their height and straightness, and he perceived that in them was material for great stores of planks and masts for the largest ships of Spain."

Further on, probably in the neighborhood of Baracoa, "they came to the largest inhabited place that they had yet seen, and a vast concourse of people came down to the beach with loud shouts, all naked, with darts in their hands." Columbus desired to have speech with them, and accordingly anchored his ships and sent boats ashore, bearing gifts for the natives. The people at first seemed inclined to resist any landing, but when the Spaniards in the boats pressed on and began to land, without manifesting any fear, they abandoned their hostile attitude and began to withdraw. The Spaniards who landed called to them and strove to lure them back, but without success. They all ran away. In consequence of this and similar incidents, Columbus wrote:

"I have not been able to see much of the natives, because they take to flight. But now, if Our Lord pleases, I will see as much as possible, and will proceed little by little, learning and comprehending; and I will make some of my followers learn the language—for I have perceived that there is only one language up to this point. After they understand the advantages I shall labor to make all these people Christians. They will readily become such, because they have no religion nor idolatry; and Your Highnesses"—he was addressing the sovereigns, in his journal—"will send orders to build a city and fortress, and to convert these people.

"It does not appear to me," he continued, "that there{30} can be a more fertile country or a better climate under the sun, with more abundant supplies of water. This is not like the rivers of Guinea, which are all pestilential. I thank Our Lord that up to this time there has not been a person of my company who has had so much as a head-ache, except one old man who has suffered from stone all his life, and he was well again in two days. I speak of all three vessels. If it should please God that Your Highness should send learned men out here, they will see the truth of all I have said."

While in the neighborhood of Baracoa, at the end of November and beginning of December, 1492, he saw a canoe made of the hole of a single tree, 95 palms long and capable of carrying 150 persons. "Leaving the river, they came to a cove in which there were five large canoes, so well constructed that it was a pleasure to look at them. They were under spreading trees, and a path led to them from a very well built boathouse, so thatched that neither sun nor rain could do any harm. Within it there was another canoe made out of a single tree like the others, like a galley with 17 benches. It was a pleasant sight to look upon such goodly work.

"The Admiral ascended a mountain, and afterward found the country level and cultivated with many things. In the middle there was a large village, and they came upon the people suddenly, but as soon as they were seen the men and women took to flight. The Admiral made the Indian from on board, who was with him, give them bells, copper ornaments, and glass beads, green and yellow, with which they were well content. He saw that they had no gold nor any other precious thing, and that it would suffice to leave them in peace. The whole district was well peopled.... No arms are carried by them except wands, on the point of which a short piece of wood is fixed, hardened by fire, and these they are very ready to exchange.

"Returning to where he had left the boats, he sent back some men up the hill, because he fancied he had seen a{31} large apiary. Before those he had sent could return, they were joined by many Indians, and they went to the boats, where the Admiral was waiting with all his people. One of the natives advanced into the river near the stern of the boat and made a long speech, which the Admiral did not understand. At intervals the other Indians raised their hands to heaven and shouted. The Admiral thought that the orator was assuring him that he was pleased at his arrival. But he saw the Indian who came from the ship change the color of his face and turn as yellow as wax, trembling much and indicating to the Admiral by signs that he should leave the river, as they were going to kill him. The Admiral then pointed to a cross-bow which one of his followers had, and showed it to the Indians, making them understand that they would all be slain, because that weapon killed people at a great distance. He also drew a sword from its sheath and showed it to them, telling them that it, too, would slay them. Thereupon they all took to flight; while the Indian from the ship still trembled from cowardice, though he was a tall, strong man."

Columbus then determined to seek further acquaintance with the natives, and accordingly had his boat rowed to a point on the shore of the river where they were assembled in great numbers. They were naked, and painted; some wearing tufts of feathers on their heads, and all carrying bundles of darts. "I came to them," said Columbus, "and gave them bread, asking for the darts, in exchange for which I gave copper ornaments, bells and glass beads. This made them peaceable, so that they came to the boats again and gave us what they had. The sailors had killed a turtle, and the shell was on the boat, cut into pieces, some of which the sailors gave them in exchange for a bundle of darts. They were like the other people we had seen, with the same belief that we had come from heaven." They were ready, he added, to give anything that they had in exchange for any trifle, which they would accept without saying that it was little, and Columbus be{32}lieved that they would thus give away gold and spices, if they had had any. In one of the houses which he entered "shells and other things were fastened to the ceiling." He thought that it was a temple, and he inquired, by signs, if such was the case and if prayers were there offered. The natives replied in the negative, and one of them climbed up to take down the ceiling ornaments and give them to Columbus, who accepted a few of them.

It was early in November, 1492, that one of the most noteworthy discoveries in relation to Cuba was made. At that time Columbus sent inland from the port at the mouth of the Rio de Mares two men, Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, to explore the inland country and to find if possible the high road to the capital and palace of the Great Khan. These men did not find what they had been sent for, but something else, which proved in after years to be of incalculable value to Cuba and to the world. To quote Las Casas:

"They met on the road many men and women, passing to their villages, the men always with half-burned brands in their hands and certain herbs for smoking. These herbs are dry and are placed in a dry leaf made in the shape of the paper tubes which the boys make at Easter. Lighted at one end, at the other the smoke is sucked or drawn in with the breath. The effect of it is to make them sleepy and as it were intoxicated, and they say that using it relieves the feeling of fatigue. These rolls they call 'tabacos.'" Some of Columbus's men, when it was reported to them, tried smoking the "tabacos," and the habit soon became prevalent among the Spanish colonists in Hispaniola.

These few items, then, compose practically the sum and substance of the knowledge which Columbus acquired of that land which was, second to only the continent, by far the most important of all his discoveries. They are few and meagre. It is indeed doubtful if history records an even approximately comparable instance of the disappearance of a numerous and capable people from a coun{33}try of vast interest and importance, leaving behind them so few traces of themselves and so little information concerning them. For these things are not merely all that Columbus learned about Cuba. They are all that his successors learned and that the world has ever learned about Cuba as it existed prior to and at the time of the great discovery. Tobacco, hammocks, canoes, and the name of the island and the names of various places on it which have persisted in spite of the repeated attempts to substitute a new nomenclature; these are the world's memorials of pre-Columbian Cuba.

The brief visits and superficial inspection which we have recorded were not, however, destined to be the full compass of the Discoverer's personal relationship to Cuba. While he did not again visit the island in life, nor give to it any of the attention which ampler knowledge would have shown him it deserved, his mortal remains were conveyed thither, and there remained for a considerable period; though by a strange fatality this fact, well authenticated as it is, has been persistently and elaborately disputed, until the tomb of Columbus has in the minds of many become almost as much a matter of speculation and uncertainty as the place of his birth.

It was on Ascension Day, May 20, 1506, that Columbus died at Valladolid, in Spain, and there his body was laid to rest in the parish church of Santa Maria de la Antigua, a church of the Franciscan Fathers. The date of the first removal is unknown, and is much disputed. Some have placed it as late as the year 1513, while others, as the result of later and more assured research, declare it to have been within a year or two, or at most within three years, of his death. Of the new place of sepulture, however, there is no question. It was in a chapel of the Carthusian monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas, at Seville; where also, years afterward, were laid the remains of his son, Diego, who died at Montalban on February 23, 1526.

But as in life, so in death Columbus must needs be a{34} wanderer. In 1542 the city of Santo Domingo, the capital of that island colony of Hispaniola to which Columbus's chief attention had been given, demanded to be made the repository of the body of its founder. Accordingly, Charles I decreed the removal, and the bodies of Christopher Columbus and his son Diego were both transferred from Seville to a double tomb in the cathedral of Santo Domingo, hard by the fortress in which the Discoverer had once been confined by Bobadilla as a prisoner. Thus far the record was and is clear; and for two and a half centuries the tomb remained inviolate. Indeed, it was so little meddled with that its precise location became a matter of doubt, save that it was somewhere "in the main sanctuary" of the cathedral.

The first attempt to determine it was made about 1783 by the French politician and writer, Moreau de Saint-Mery, a kinsman of the Empress Josephine and a member of the Colonial Council of Santo Domingo. Diligent inquiry, without actual exhumation, resulted in the information that the remains of Christopher Columbus, enclosed first in a leaden casket and then in a massive coffin of stone, lay underneath the Gospel side of the sanctuary, and that those of his brother, Bartholomew Columbus, similarly enclosed, lay underneath the Epistle side. This was contrary, in one respect, to the understanding of years before, which was that it was the body of Columbus's grandson Luis which lay under the Epistle side of the sanctuary. The problem was complicated by the fact that the cathedral had been so remodelled that the tomb of Columbus was underneath its wall, where actual examination was difficult; and in fact no exhumation was then attempted.

In 1795, however, the island was transferred to French sovereignty, and the Spanish governor, on relinquishing his rule, requested permission to remove the remains of Columbus to Havana, Cuba, in order that they might continue to rest beneath the Spanish flag. This was granted to him, and accordingly, in January, 1796, the tomb be{35}neath the wall on the Gospel side of the sanctuary of the cathedral of Santo Domingo was opened, and the coffin found within was reverently removed and borne to Havana, where it was deposited in a new tomb in the cathedral—formerly the Church of the Jesuits—where its presence was indicated by a medallion and inscription on the wall of the chancel. For many years that was indubitably regarded as the tomb of the Discoverer.

It was not until 1877 that doubt of this fact arose. In that year repairs were made to the cathedral of Santo Domingo, in the course of which the rector, the Rev. Francis Navier Billini, insisted upon reopening the tomb underneath the Epistle side of the sanctuary, which had of old been reputed to contain the coffin of Luis Columbus, but which Saint-Mery had been informed contained the remains of Bartholomew Columbus. There was discovered a leaden casket, which, like that which had been taken to Havana, bore no inscription. But upon or close by it there lay a sheet of lead bearing the words, "The Admiral Don Luis Colon, Duke of Veragua and Marquis of...." The remainder was undecipherable. The casket was therefore accepted as that of Columbus's grandson; confirming the common belief before the time of Saint-Mery.

Not content with this discovery, the enterprising rector continued his excavations, and presently the finding of another leaden casket was announced, which was reported to bear an inscription, much abbreviated, which, amplified, ran thus: "Discoverer of America; First Admiral." This created a great sensation, and stimulated Dominican pride. The rector at once sent for the President of Santo Domingo and other dignitaries of state and church, including various foreign diplomats and consuls, and in their presence continued the examination of the treasure trove. Upon opening the casket, the inner side of the lid was found also to bear an inscription, greatly abbreviated, which was interpreted as reading: "Illustrious and Noble Man, Don Cristoval Colon." This the {36}Dominicans joyfully proclaimed to be proof positive that the remains of the Discoverer were still in their possession, and that the casket which had been taken to Havana contained the bones of some other member of the Columbus family.

From that event arose a controversy which probably will never be settled to universal satisfaction. The Dominicans marshalled to the support of their claims various historical and antiquarian authorities, and the Cubans and the Spanish government secured at least an equal array in support of their claim that the remains of Columbus had been transferred to Havana. A strongly convincing report to the latter effect was made to the Spanish government by Señor Colmeiro, of the Spanish Royal Academy of History, and his judgment was generally accepted throughout Cuba and Spain. It was pointed out that the inscriptions contained various anachronisms indicating that they must have been written at a much later date than that of the death and interment of Columbus.

Havana therefore continued confidently to pride itself upon being the repository of the dust of the Great Admiral, and his tomb in the ancient cathedral was thus recognized and revered by countless visitors. But at last, in 1899, after the independence of Cuba from Spain had been accomplished, a request was made by the Spanish Government for the transfer of the casket and its precious contents back to Spain, where historically they belonged. It was indeed pointed out that the transfer to Havana in 1796 had been intended to be only temporary, pending a fitting opportunity for a further removal to Spain. This request was granted, and the dust of the Discoverer was finally reinterred in the cathedral of Seville.


Originally the church of the Jesuits, this imposing edifice was built in 1656, though not completed until 1724, and took the place of the first cathedral in 1762. Within a tomb within its walls the remains of Columbus rested from 1796, when they were taken thither from Santo Domingo, to 1899, when they were conveyed to Spain.




Between these first merely tentative and inconclusive visits of Columbus to Cuba, in which so much was imagined and so little learned or done, and the actual occupation and settlement of the island, which were reserved for a few years later, it will be profitable to pause for a brief space, to review what science has revealed to us of not merely the pre-Columbian but indeed what we may term the archaic history of this chief member of the Antillean group. It is a history written in the rocks and soils, in the mountains and plains and rivers; in brief, the natural history of the island.

This was something at which Columbus could merely have guessed, if indeed he had taken the trouble to think of it at all. He knew only that it was a fair land to look upon and promised to be a pleasant land in which to dwell; and his successors in the quest hoped to find its river beds and its mountain rocks rich with the gold which they coveted. That was all. It remained for the ampler knowledge and the more patient and painstaking research of later years to analyze the structure of the island, to discern the causes and the processes through which it had been developed into its present beautiful and opulent condition, and to learn that on the surface and just below the surface of its almost infinitely variegated face there lay the potency and the promise of wealth beyond the utmost limits of the dreams of those conquistadors of ancient Spain who were oestrus-driven by the auri sacra fames.

Let us consider, then, the geological history of Cuba, so far as it has been ascertained; and the topography of the land as it has been revealed through a far more comprehensive survey than that of the Great Admiral's enraptured vision.{38}

It is, of course, impossible to know the geological history of a country until its paleontology has been thoroughly studied and investigated. Where formations of different geological ages are lithologically so similar as to be often indistinguishable, the only method of differentiating them is by their fossils. Some paleontological work has been done in Cuba, but the specimens collected were not accompanied by the necessary data.

In the present imperfect state of our knowledge of the stratigraphy and areal geology of the island, it would be hazardous to attempt to indicate the times at which the various levels were developed, or to designate the periods during which they remained above the level of the sea. To do this would require a detailed knowledge of nearly all the various phases of its geology.

The oldest rocks in Cuba, with the possible exception of the schistose limestones of Trinidad, are composed of granites and serpentines. The relative age of these rocks, to the central mass of limestones in the province of Pinar del Rio, has not been determined, but we do know that the oldest igneous rocks were themselves folded, faulted and subjected to other processes of metamorphism, and that subsequent to the changes to which they were subjected, the entire region was uplifted and deeply eroded before the cretaceous sedimentation began. No data are available for determining the geologic period at which the pre-cretaceous erosion began, but the region has doubtless been standing above the waters of the ocean for a very long interval, since the amount of rock carried away has been manifestly great.

The surface upon which the cretaceous sediments were deposited, appears to have been reduced by erosion to a very low relief, so that the land was a featureless plain when the cretaceous subsidence began. The time interval required for the accomplishment of this erosion must have been very long, since when it began the region was undoubtedly mountainous.

The complex character and disturbed altitude of the{39} pre-cretaceous rocks, the granites, diorites and other granular rocks which appear on the surface because of this erosion, were originally formed deep within the crust of the earth, and therefore furnish a reason for believing that this period of erosion was exceedingly long.

It has been suggested that during the Jurassic times, the southeastern coast of the United States was connected by a long isthmus, following the line of the Antilles, to the northeastern coast of South America. The data presented would seem to indicate that at least the eastern half of Cuba stood high above the level during this period of the earth's history, and although data concerning the western half are less definite, it too was probably composed of high land masses.

The elevation, and long period of erosion just described, were followed by subsidence, and on the surface of these old rocks the cretaceous formations were deposited. The lowest cretaceous rocks yet found are composed of an arkose, derived in large part from the original igneous mass. The main body of the strata is composed of limestones, and such fossils as they contain belong to the genera similar to those of the cretaceous rocks of Jamaica—Radiolites, Barrettra, Requienia, etc.

During this time the whole of the Island of Cuba was probably submerged below the level of the sea. The cretaceous rocks in Santa Clara province occur in the bottoms of synclines, and the projected dips appear sufficiently to carry the beds over the tops of the dividing anti-clinal axis. It is believed, however, that the depth of the cretaceous sea over the island was probably never very great.

Owing to a lack of paleontological data, the history of the island during the Eocene time is vague, but it is probable that a large part of it was submerged. This is certainly true of the province of Oriente, where Eocene fossils have been collected. During, and possibly previous to that period, volcanic agencies were active in Oriente, since volcanic rocks are found interbedded with sediments{40} of the Eocene age. The same forces were probably active in other sections of the island, and the intrusion of Diorite porphyries in Santa Clara and other provinces probably took place during that period.

A portion of the island, at least in the vicinity of Baracoa, was deeply submerged during the lower Oligocene times, as is proved by the occurrence of radiolarian earth beneath the upper oligocene limestones near the above town. Radiolarian oozes are at present being formed on the sea bottom at depths of between 2,000 and 4,000 fathoms. This, of course, does not prove that the deposits of Baracoa were laid down at so great a depth as present day dredging would indicate, but we can at least feel confident that they were formed in very deep water. This does not imply however that the whole island was sunken to the abysmal depths.

During the upper Oligocene time very nearly the whole island was undoubtedly submerged. Previous to this volcanic agencies had been very active throughout the larger portion of the island. Mountain building in Oriente had begun before the deposition of upper Oligocene strata, and the Sierra Maestra had already been elevated to a considerable height above the sea. It is probable that the sea at this time covered the whole of the island, with the exception of portions of Oriente province along its north and south coast, and occasional high peaks along the axis of the provinces further west.

The Miocene period was one of general uplift. The whole of the island as we at present know it, was above the level of the ocean's waters. There were foldings and uplifts during this period, and volcanic elevation along the axial line being greater than at the sides. It is probable that the folding of the Oligocene strata noted in the vicinity of Havana and Matanzas took place during this time. It may be inferred that the central portion of the province of Oriente was more highly elevated than the coastal portions, since upper Oligocene limestones occur{41} in this section at considerably higher elevations than along either the north or south coast.

It is furthermore very probable that the terracing of the Oligocene coral reefs, such as may be seen in the vicinity of the city of Santiago, was taking place during that time. All the evidence goes to show that these are wave-cut terraces. It may be added here that all of the elevated Pleistocene coral reefs recorded are plastered on the surface of the upper Oligocene formations, or in some instances older geologic rocks. This applies to every later coral terrace that has been described, beginning with Cabanas and extending entirely around the island to the City of Santiago.

The existence of marine Pliocene in Cuba has not been proved. There may be pliocene rocks in the vicinity of Havana some 60 feet above the sea level. If these are true Pliocene, it would indicate a subsidence during that time of from ISO to 180 feet. The character of the fauna found in the quarry on Calle Infanta does not indicate a greater depth than from SO to 70 feet for the water in which the limestone was deposited.

Subsequent to this deposition, there was an elevation which caused the land to stand some forty or fifty feet higher than it does to-day. This probably took place in early Pleistocene times, at which time the Isle of Pines and Cuba were connected. One reason for the belief in this elevation is the existence of an old, deep and comparatively narrow cut in the bed of the present channel leading out of Havana harbor. There is further evidence of a general elevation found in borings for water, three miles southeast of the city of Santiago.

At a depth of some 70 feet below the sea level, in the Rio San Juan Valley, stream-carried pebbles were found. This would indicate that the bottom of this valley once stood at least 70 feet or more above sea level. Subsequent to this elevation, there was a subsidence varying from 40 to 70 feet. There were doubtless other slight{42} oscillations during the Pleistocene period, and these may be going on at the present time, although we have no evidence from records of actually measured monuments established since the Spanish occupation of the island.

Paleontologic, biologic and physiographic research seems to indicate that there has been no land connection between Cuba and North America at any time since the beginning of the Tertiary, unless perhaps during the Oligocene period, and it seems probable there was no connection whatever during cretaceous times.

Cuba furnishes a very interesting field, not only for geologic research, but for a far more extended study and survey of its many important mineral zones both for scientific and for economic reasons.

Topographically the surface of Cuba may be divided into five rather distinct zones, three of which are essentially mountainous. The first includes the entire eastern third of the province of Oriente, together with the greater part of its coast line, where the highest mountains of the island are found. The second includes the greater part of the province of Camaguey, made up of gently rolling plains broken by occasional hills or low mountains, that along the northern coast, and again in the southeast center of the province, rise to a height of approximately 1,500 feet above the general level.

The next is a mountainous district including the greater part of eastern Santa Clara. The fourth comprises the western portion of this province together with all of Matanzas and Havana. The surface of this middle section is largely made up of rolling plains, broken here and there by hills that rise a few hundred feet above the sea level.

The fifth includes the province of Pinar del Rio, the northern half of which is traversed from one end to the other by several more or less parallel ranges of sierras, with mean altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet, leaving the southern half of the province a flat plain, into{43} which, along its northern edge, project spurs and foot hills of the main range.

The highest mountains of Cuba are located in the province of Oriente, where their general elevation is somewhat higher than that of the Allegheny or eastern ranges of the United States. The mountainous area of this province is greater than that of the combined mountain areas of all other parts of the island. The mountains occur in groups, composed of different kinds of rock, and have diverse structures, more or less connected with one another.

The principal range is the Sierra Maestra, extending from Cabo Cruz to the Bay of Guantanamo, forty miles east of Santiago. This chain is continuous and of fairly uniform altitude, with the exception of a break in the vicinity of Santiago where the wide basin of Santiago Bay cuts across the main trend of the range. The highest peak of the island is known as Turquino, located near the middle of the Sierra Maestra, and reaching an altitude of 8,642 feet.

The hills back of Santiago Bay, separating it from the Valley of the Cauto, are similar in structure to the northern foothills of the main sierra. In the western part of the range, the mountains rise abruptly from the depths of the Caribbean Sea, but near the City of Santiago, and to the eastward, they are separated from the ocean by a narrow coastal plain, very much dissected. The streams which traverse it occupy valleys several hundred feet in depth, while the remnants of the plateau appear in the tops of the hills.

East of Guantanamo Bay there are mountains which are structurally distinct from the Sierra Maestra, and these continue to Cape Maysi, the eastern terminus of Cuba. To the west they rise abruptly from the ocean bed, but further east they are bordered by terraced foothills. Towards the north they continue straight across the island as features of bold relief, connecting with the rugged Cuchillas of Baracoa, and with "El Yunque" lying to the southwest.{44}

Extending west from this eastern mass are high plateaus and mesas that form the northern side of the great amphitheatre which drains into Guantanamo Bay. Much of this section, when raised from the sea, was probably a great elevated plain, cut up and eroded through the ages since the seismic uplift that caused its birth.

The most prominent feature of the northern mountains of Oriente Province, west of "El Yunque," is the range comprising the Sierras Cristal and Nipe. These extend east and west, but are separated into several distinct masses by the Rio Sagua, and the Rio Mayari, which break through and empty into harbors on the north coast. The high country south of these ranges has the character of a deeply dissected plateau, the upper stratum of which is limestone.

The character of the surface would indicate that nearly all the mountains of the eastern part of Oriente have been carved through erosion of centuries from a high plateau, the summits of which are found in "El Yunque" near Baracoa, and other flat topped mountains within the drainage basins of the Mayari and the Sagua rivers. The flat summits of the Sierra Nipe are probably remnants of the same great uplift.

Below this level are other benches or broad plateaus, the two most prominent occurring respectively at 1,500 and 2,000 feet above sea level. The highest summits rise to an altitude of 2,800 or 3,000 feet. The 2,000 foot plateau of the Sierra Nipe alone includes an area estimated at not less than 40 square miles. It would seem that these elevated plateaus with their rich soils might be utilized for the production of wheat, and some of the northern fruits that require a cooler temperature than that found in other parts of Cuba.

In the province of Oriente, the various mountain groups form two marginal ranges, which merge in the east, and diverge toward the west. The southern range is far more continuous, while the northern is composed of irregular groups separated by numerous river valleys.{45} Between these divergent ranges lies the broad undulating plain of the famous Cauto Valley, which increases in width as it extends westward. The northern half of this valley merges into the plains of Camaguey, whose surface has been disturbed by volcanic uplifts only by a small group known as the Najassa Hills, in the southeast center of the province, and by the Sierra Cubitas Range, which parallels the coast from the basin of Nuevitas Bay until it terminates in the isolated hill known as Loma Cunagua.

The central mountainous region of the island is located in the province of Santa Clara, where a belt of mountains and hills following approximately northeast and southwest lines, passes through the cities of Sancti Spiritus and Santa Clara. Four groups are found here, one of which lies southwest of Sancti Spiritus and east of the Rio Agabama. A second group is included between the valleys of the Agabama and the Rio Arimao.

The highest peak of Santa Clara is known as Potrerillo, located seven miles north of Trinidad, with an altitude of 2,900 feet. A third group lies southeast of the city of Santa Clara, and includes the Sierra del Escambray and the Alta de Agabama. The rounded hills of this region have an altitude of about 1,000 feet although a few of the summits are somewhat higher.

The fourth group consists of a line of hills, beginning 25 miles east of Sagua la Grande, and extending into the province of Camaguey. The trend of this range is transverse with the general geological structure of the region.

East of the city of Santa Clara the hills of this last group merge with those of the central portion of the province. The summits in the northern line reach an altitude of only a thousand feet. The principal members are known as the Sierra Morena, west of Sagua la Grande, Lomas de Santa Fe, near Camaguini, the Sierra de Bamburanao, near Yaguajay, and the Lomas of the Savanas, south of the last mentioned town.

In the province of Pinar del Rio, we find another system,{46} or chain of mountains, dominated by the Sierra de los Organos or Organ mountains. These begin a little west of Guardiana Bay, with a chain of "magotes" known as the "Pena Blanca," composed of tertiary limestone. These are the result of a seismic upheaval running from north to south, almost at right angles with the main axis of the chains that form the mountainous vertebrae of the island.

Between the city of Pinar del Rio and the north coast of La Esperanza, the Organos are broken up into four or five parallel ridges, two of which are composed of limestone, while the others are of slate, sandstones and schists. The term "magote," in Cuba, is applied to one of the most interesting and strikingly beautiful mountain formations in the world. They are evidently remnants of high ranges running usually from east to west, and have resulted from the upheaval of tertiary strata that dates back probably to the Jurassic period.

The soft white material of this limestone, through countless eons of time, has been hammered by tropical rains that gradually washed away the surface and carved their once ragged peaks into peculiar, round, dome-shaped elevations that often rise perpendicularly to a height of 1,000 feet or more above the level grass plains that form their base. Meanwhile the continual seepage of water formed great caverns within, that sooner or later caved in and fell, hastening thus the gradual leveling to which all mountains are doomed as long as the world is supplied with air and water. The softening and continual crumbling away of the rock have formed a rich soil on which grows a wonderful wealth of tropical vegetation, unlike anything known to other sections of Cuba, or perhaps to the world.

The valley of the Vinales, lying between the city of Pinar del Rio and the north coast, might well be called the garden of the "magotes," since not only is it surrounded by their precipitous walls, but several of them,{47} detached from the main chain, rise abruptly from the floor of the valley, converting it into one of the most strangely beautiful spots in the world.

John D. Henderson, the naturalist, in speaking of this region, says: "The valley of the Vinales must not be compared with the Yosemite or Grand Cañon, or some famed Alpine passage, for it cannot display the astounding contrast of these, or of many well-known valleys among the higher mountains of the world. We were all of us traveled men who viewed this panorama, but all agreed that never before had we gazed on so charming a sight. There are recesses among the Rocky Mountains of Canada into which one gazes with awe and bated breath, where the very silence oppresses, and the beholder instinctively reaches out for support to guard against slipping into the awful chasm below. But the Valley of Vinales, on the contrary, seems to soothe and lull the senses. Like great birds suspended in the sky, we long to soar above it, and then alighting within some palm grove, far below, to rejoice in its atmosphere of perfect peace."

A mountain maze of high, round-topped lomas, dominates almost the entire northern half of Pinar del Rio. It is the picturesque remnant of an elevated plain that at some time in the geological life of the island was raised above the surface 1,500, perhaps 2,000, feet. This, through the erosion of thousands of centuries, has been carved into great land surges, without any particular alignment or system.

Straight up through the center of this mountainous area are projected a series of more or less parallel limestone ridges. These, as a rule, have an east and west axis, and attain a greater elevation than the lomas. They are known as the Sierras de los Organos, although having many local names at different points. Water and atmospheric agencies have carved them into most fantastic shapes, so that they do, in places, present an organ{48} pipe appearance. They are almost always steep, often with vertical walls or "paradones" that rise 1,000 feet from the floor or base on which they rest.

The northernmost range, running parallel to the Gulf Coast, is known as the "Costanero." The highest peak of Pinar del Rio is called Guajaibon, which rises to an altitude of 3,000 feet, with its base but very little above the level of the sea. It is probably of Jurassic limestone and forms the eastern outpost of the Costaneros.

The southern range of the Organos begins with an interesting peak known as the Pan de Azucar, located only a few miles east of the Pena Blanca. From this western sentinel with many breaks extends the great southern chain of the Organos with its various groups of "magotes," reaching eastward throughout the entire province. At its extreme eastern terminus we find a lower and detached ridge known as the Pan de Guanajay, which passes for a few miles beyond the boundary line, and into the province of Havana.

Surrounding the Organos from La Esperanza west, and bordering it also on the south for a short distance east of the city of Pinar del Rio, are ranges of round topped lomas, composed largely of sandstone, slate and shale. The surface of these is covered with the small pines, scrubby palms and undergrowth found only on poor soil.

From the Mulato River east, along the north coast, the character of the lomas changes abruptly. Here we have deep rich soil covered with splendid forests of hard woods, that reach up into the Organos some ten miles back from the coast. Along the southern edge of the Organos, from Herredura east, lies a charming narrow belt of rolling country covered with a rich sandy loam that extends almost to the city of Artemisa.

Extensions, or occasional outcroppings, of the Pinar del Rio mountain system, appear in the Province of Havana, and continue on into Matanzas, where another short coastal range appears, just west of the valley of the Yumuri. This, as before stated, has its continuation in{49} detached ranges that extend along the entire north coast, with but few interruptions, until merged into the mountain maze of eastern Oriente.

Outside of the mountainous district thus described, the general surface of Cuba is a gently undulating plain, with altitudes varying from only a few feet above the sea level to 500 or 600 feet, near El Cristo in Oriente. In Pinar del Rio it forms a piedmont plain that entirely surrounds the mountain range. On the south this plain has a maximum width of about 25 miles and ascends gradually from the shores of the Caribbean at the rate of seven or eight feet to the mile until it reaches the edge of the foothills along the line of the automobile drive connecting Havana with the capital of Pinar del Rio.

North of the mountain range, the lowland belt is very much narrower and in some places reaches a height of 200 feet as a rule deeply dissected, so that in places only the level of the hill tops mark the position of the original plain.

The two piedmont plains of Pinar del Rio unite at the eastern extremity of the Organos Mountains and extend over the greater part of the provinces of Havana and Matanzas and the western half of Santa Clara. The divide as a whole is near the center of this plain, although the land has a gradual slope from near the northern margin towards the south.

In the neighborhood of Havana, the elevation varies between 300 and 400 feet, continuing eastward to Cardenas. The streams flowing north have lowered their channels as the land rose, and the surface drained by them has become deeply dissected, while the streams flowing toward the south have been but little affected by the elevation and remain generally in very narrow channels.

East of Cardenas the general elevation of the plain is low, sloping gradually both north and south from the axis of the island. Considerable areas of this plain are found among the various mountain groups in the eastern half of Santa Clara province, beyond which it extends{50} over the greater part of Camaguey and into Oriente. Here it reaches the northern coast between isolated mountain groups, extending as far east as Nipe Bay, and toward the south, merges into the great Cauto Valley.

From Cabo Cruz the plain extends along the northern base of the Sierra Maestra to the head of the Cauto Valley. Its elevation near Manzanillo is about 200 feet, whence it increases to 640 feet at El Cristo. In the central section of Oriente, the Cauto River and its tributaries have cut channels into this plain from 50 to 200 feet in depth. In the lower part of the valley these channels are sometimes several miles across and are occupied by alluvial flats or river bottoms. They decrease in width toward the east and in the upper part of the valley become narrow gorges.

A large part of this plain of Cuba, especially in the central provinces, is underlaid by porous limestone, through which the surface waters have found underground passages. This accounts for the fact that large areas are occasionally devoid of flowing surface streams. The rain water sinks into the ground as soon as it falls, and after flowing long distances under ground, emerges into bold springs, such as those of the Almendares that burst out of the river bank some eight miles south of the City of Havana. Engineers of the rope and cordage plant, just north of the City of Matanzas, while boring for water, found unexpectedly a swift, running river, only ten feet below the surface, that has given them an inexhaustible supply of excellent water.

Most of the plains of Cuba above indicated have been formed by the erosion of its surface, and are covered with residual soil derived from the underlying limestones. Where they consist of red or black clays they are, as a rule, exceedingly fertile. Certain portions of the plains, especially those bordering on the southern side of the mountains of Pinar del Rio, are covered with a layer of sand and gravel, washed down from the adjoining highlands, and are, as a rule, inferior in fertility to soils de{51}rived from the erosion of limestone. Similar superficial deposits are met in the vicinity of Cienfuegos, and in other sections of the island, where the plain forms a piedmont adjacent to highlands composed of silicious rocks.

The most striking and perhaps the most important fact in regard to the climate of Cuba is its freedom from those extremes of temperature which are considered prejudicial to health in any country. The difference between the mean annual temperature of winter and that of summer is only twelve degrees, or from 76 degrees to 88 degrees. Even between the coldest days of winter, when the mercury once went as low as 58 degrees, and the extreme limit of summer, registered as 92 degrees, we have a difference of only 34 degrees; and the extremes of summer are seldom noticed, since the fresh northeast trade winds coming from the Atlantic sweep across the island, carrying away with them the heated atmosphere of the interior.

The fact that the main axis of the island, with its seven hundred mile stretch of territory, extends from southeast to northwest, almost at right angles to the general direction of the wind, plays a very important part in the equability of Cuba's climate. Then again, the island is completely surrounded by oceans, the temperature of which remains constant, and this plays an important part in preventing extremes of heat or cold.

Ice, of course, cannot form, and frost is found only on the tops of the tallest mountain ranges. The few cold days during winter, when the thermometer may drop to 60 after sundown, are the advance waves of "Northers" that sweep down from the Dakotas, across Oklahoma and the great plains of Texas, eventually reaching Cuba, but only after the sting of the cold has been tempered in its passage of six hundred miles across the Gulf of Mexico.

A temperature of 60 degrees in Cuba is not agreeable to the natives, or even to those residents who once lived in northern climes. This may be due to the fact that life in the tropics has a tendency to thin the blood, and to{52} render it less resistant to low temperature; and also because Cuban residences are largely of stone, brick or reinforced concrete, with either tile or marble floors, and have no provision whatever against cold. And, although the walls are heavy, the windows, doors and openings are many times larger than those of residences in the United States, hence the cold cannot readily be excluded as in other countries. There is said to be but one fireplace on the Island of Cuba, and that was built in the beautiful home of an American, near Guayabal, just to remind him, he said, of the country whence he came.

Again, in the matter of rainfall and its bearing on the climate of a country, Cuba is very fortunate. The rains all come in the form of showers during the summer months, from the middle of May until the end of October, and serve to purify and temper the heat of summer. On the other hand, the cooler months of winter are quite dry, and absolutely free from the chilling rains, sleets, snows, mists and dampness, that endanger the health, if not the life, of those less fortunate people who dwell in latitudes close to 40 degrees.

Cloudy, gloomy days are almost unknown in Cuba, and the sun can be depended upon to shine for at least thirty days every month, and according to the testimony of physicians nothing is better than sunshine to eliminate the germs of contagious diseases. Hence we can truthfully say that in the matter of climate and health, Cuba asks no favor of any country on earth.{53}


For a considerable time after the last visit of Columbus, Cuba was strangely neglected by the enterprising explorers and conquistadors of Spain. Hispaniola, since known as Hayti or Santo Domingo, became the chief colony and centre of Spanish authority in the Antilles, and it for many years far outranked Cuba in interest and importance. It does not appear that for more than a dozen years after the last visit of Columbus any attempt whatever was made to colonize or to explore the great island, if indeed it was so much as voluntarily visited. Navigators doubtless frequently passed near its shores, on their way to and from Darien and the Venezuelan coast, and occasionally stress of weather on the "stormy Caribbean" or actual shipwreck compelled some to land upon it. Such involuntary landings were presumably made either in the neighborhood of the Zapata Peninsula or, still more probably, not exactly upon Cuba at all but upon the southern shore of the tributary Isle of Pines. In consequence, the voyagers carried back to Hispaniola or to Spain the not unnatural report that Cuba consisted of nothing but swamps; a report which of course did not inspire others with zeal to visit so unfavorable a place.

For a similar space of time, too, the delusion that Cuba was a part of the continent generally prevailed. It is true that on a map of Juan de la Cosa's, to which the date of 1500 is attributed, Cuba is indicated to be an island. But the date is not certain, by any means; and it is notorious that more than one early cartographer drew upon imagination as well as upon ascertained geographical facts. Somewhat more significant is the fact that Peter Martyr spoke of Cuba as an island, and said that some{54} sailors pretended to have circumnavigated it. There is no proof, however, that this was more than rumor. What seems certain is that as late as 1508 the best authorities were ignorant whether Cuba was island or mainland, and that not until that time was the question settled.

Columbus had been succeeded in authority in Hispaniola by Francisco de Bobadilla, and the latter in turn had in 1501 given way to Nicholas de Ovando. It does not appear that Ovando sought to colonize Cuba. But he did wish to determine its extent, and whether it was insular or continental, and in a memorial to the King of Spain he broached a proposal for at least its littoral exploration. Ferdinand gave him, however, no encouragement. On the contrary, he forbade him to spend any public money on so needless and useless an enterprise. Ovando then decided to undertake the exploit at his own charge, and, according to Las Casas, commissioned Sebastian de Ocampo to explore the coasts of the country and, if he found it to be an island, to circumnavigate it. This Ocampo did, returning to Hispaniola in the fall of 1508 with the report that he had sailed completely round Cuba. On the way, he said, he had made occasional landings, and had found the whole island to be inhabited by a kindly and intelligent people, well disposed toward Spain.

Immediately following this expedition, various efforts were made to colonize Cuba, and to enter into relations with the natives. Conspicuous among these efforts was one which had for its object the introduction of Christianity into Cuba, and of which an interesting account is given by Martin Ferdinand de Enciso in his "Suma de Geografia," the first book ever published about America. Enciso, it will be remembered, was a partner of Alonzo de Ojeda, that brilliant and gallant cavalier of Spain who in 1508 was Governor of Nueva Andalusia, a region which we now know as the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It was Enciso who in 1509 went to Uraba to the relief of Francisco Pizarro, who had been in com{55}mand there but who had become discouraged, had suffered heavy losses from attacks by the natives, and who was about to abandon the place. It was on one of Enciso's ships, too, that his friend Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, concealed in a cask to avoid his creditors, escaped from Hispaniola and was conveyed to Darien, thus getting his opportunity to cross the isthmus and to discover the Pacific Ocean.

Enciso relates that a Spanish vessel, cruising off the southern coast of Cuba, somewhere near Cape de la Cruz, put ashore a young mariner who had fallen ill, so that he might have a better chance to recover from his illness than he would on shipboard. The identity of this young man is not assured, though it has been strongly suggested that he was no other than Ojeda himself. However that may be, he found himself in his convalescence the guest of a native chieftain or Cacique who professed Christianity. The chief had presumably been visited by Ocampo's expedition. He had been much impressed by the prowess and culture of the Spaniards, and had desired to become affiliated with the religion which they professed and to which he attributed their superiority to the natives of Cuba. Hearing from them that they had been sent thither by the Comendador Ovando—the Governor of Hispaniola was a Comendador of the Order of Knights of Alcantara—he chose that title for his own baptismal name, and was thenceforth known as the Cacique Comendador.

Pleased to find a Christian chief, and grateful for his own restoration to health, Ojeda—if it was indeed he—erected in Comendador's house an altar and placed thereon an image of the Holy Virgin, and instructed the people to bow before it every evening and to repeat the "Ave, Maria!" and "Salve, Regina!" This was pleasing to Comendador, but offensive to the neighboring Caciques, who worshipped an idol which they called Cemi. In consequence a primitive religious war arose among the natives, in which, according to Enciso, Comendador{56} and his followers were pretty uniformly successful. His victories were attributed to the intervention and aid of "a beautiful woman, clad in white, and carrying a wand." Finally a test was agreed upon which reminds us of Elijah's Battle of the Gods on the scathed crest of Mount Carmel. A representative warrior of each party was to be bound securely, hand and foot, and be placed in an open field for the night, and if one of them was set free from his bonds, that would be proof of the superiority of his God. "The God who looses his servant's bonds, let him be the Lord!" This was done, and guards of both parties were placed about the field, to make sure that nobody should meddle with the experiment.

At midnight, says Enciso, Cemi came to unbind his follower. But before he could reach him or touch his bonds, the Holy Virgin appeared, clad in white and bearing a wand. At her approach, Cemi incontinently fled. At a touch of her wand the bonds fell from the limbs of the Christian champion, and were added to those already on the limbs of the other man. Despite the presence of the guards, the Caciques insisted that there had been trickery, and demanded another trial, to which Comendador, confident in his faith, agreed. The result was the same as before. Still they were unconvinced, and demanded a third trial, at which they themselves would be present as watchers and guards. This also was granted, and once more the same miracle was wrought. At that the Caciques all confessed their defeat and the defeat of Cemi, and declared that the Virgin was worthy to be worshipped.

This auspicious implanting of Christianity and of good relations between the natives and the Spaniards did not, unfortunately, endure. It was interfered with by the too common cause of trouble in those days, the auri sacra fames, the accursed lust for gold. We have seen that King Ferdinand was unwilling, in his niggardliness, for money to be spent from his treasury for the exploration of Cuba. But after that work had been done at Ovando's{57} personal cost, Ferdinand desired to reap the gains, if any there were. The suggestion was revived that Cuba might be rich in gold. The King suspected that Ovando and others were deceiving him concerning the island, and were secretly planning to secure its riches for themselves. These suspicions were materially increased by the course of Diego Columbus which, while probably quite honest, was lacking in tact and worldly wisdom. For when Diego succeeded Ovando as Governor-General or Viceroy of the Indies, at Hispaniola, one of his first acts was to commission his uncle, Bartholomew Columbus, to lead an expedition for the exploration and settlement of Cuba. That was a legitimate and indeed praiseworthy enterprise. But unfortunately Diego did not secure in advance the King's authority for it, nor did he acquaint the King with his intentions. His enemies, however, of whom he had many, were quick to report the matter to the King, putting it in the light most unfavorable to both Diego and Bartholomew; and the result was that Ferdinand at once recalled Bartholomew Columbus to Spain, and compelled Diego to select another head for the expedition.

In 1510, then, the King directed Diego Columbus to send forth his proposed expedition to Cuba, to make a careful examination of the island, to ascertain the character of its resources, and above all to determine whether it contained gold. He took pains, moreover, to impress upon Diego and through him the actual members of the expedition, the eminent desirability of cultivating the most friendly and confidential relations with the natives, both as a matter of policy and for the sake of humanity and religion. The result was the sending, early in 1511, from Hispaniola, of an expedition in which were interested if not actually implicated a number of the most conspicuous men in the Indies, and which marked the actual and permanent opening of Cuba to Spanish settlement and civilization.

Diego Columbus was the son and heir of the Great{58} Discoverer, who under the terms of the royal compact of 1492 was to inherit all his father's powers and dignities as Admiral and Viceroy of the Western Hemisphere. For a time Ferdinand on various pretexts refused to fulfil that compact and to recognize his rights, but appointed Ovando to rule in Hispaniola in his stead. But after Diego's marriage to Doña Maria de Toledo, the daughter of the Grand Commander of Leon and the niece of the King's favorite councillor and friend, the Duke of Alba, a combination of personal, social and political influence prevailed for the vindication of his claims, and he was invested with supreme authority in place of Ovando, who was provided for elsewhere. Diego seems to have been a man of integrity and engaging character, though perhaps more idealistic than practical, and not always a match in policy for the scheming politicians by whom he was surrounded.

Bartholomew Columbus was the brother of Christopher, was intimately associated with him in his great enterprises, and was named by him Adelantado, or Lieutenant Governor, of the Indies. He too was a man of character and fine parts, bold and enterprising, and possessed of more practical worldly wisdom than either his brother or his nephew.

These two stood alone, against a numerous company of personal and political enemies, both in Hispaniola and in Spain. Indeed, as Bartholomew was recalled to Spain and was kept there for some time, Diego was left solitary to contend with or to yield to his foes. It was therefore probably through necessity that he organized the Cuban expedition largely with men hostile to him.

Miguel Pasamonte was his chief foe. He had been the secretary of Queen Isabella, and had filled important Ambassadorships, but was now the royal treasurer in Hispaniola. He had been one of the bitterest enemies of Christopher Columbus, and had transferred a full measure of hostility to Diego; and it was he who reported to the King in its most unfavorable light Diego's plans for{59} sending Bartholomew Columbus to Cuba. In his hostility to both Christopher and Diego Columbus he was greatly aided and abetted by Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, Bishop of Seville; who had violently quarrelled with Christopher Columbus over the fitting out of his second voyage and who also had transferred his hatred to the Admiral's son.


Diego Velasquez was another of the faction hostile to the Columbuses, though at first he had been a friend and companion of the Admiral. It is probable that he had no personal enmity toward Diego Columbus, but joined himself to the other faction through motives not unconnected with personal pecuniary profit. He had gone from Spain to Hispaniola with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage, and had ever since been one of the most efficient administrators in that island and indeed in all the Indies. For a time he was a military leader in campaigns against hostile natives, and afterward he became Lieutenant Governor of the island. He was a man of high ability, of singularly handsome person, of engaging manners, of much popularity, and of abundant force of character for successful leadership and command of men. He was, however, not always scrupulous in his dealings, and it was not to his moral credit that he became the richest man in all the Indies. He was a close friend and partisan of Pasamonte, and associated with him in the same alliance were the royal secretary in Hispaniola, Conchillos, and also the royal accountant, Christopher de Cuellar, who was both the cousin and father-in-law of Velasquez.

Diego Columbus, then, either through policy or through compulsion, appointed Velasquez to be his {60}lieutenant in Cuba, and commissioned him to organize and personally to lead the intended expedition to that island. He also promised that the King would refund whatever private expenditures Velasquez and his companions should make on account of it; a promise which was authorized by the King, but not fulfilled save in the indirect way of empowering the members of the expedition to recoup themselves at the expense of the people of the island; an arrangement decidedly at variance with Ferdinand's former solicitude for good treatment for the natives. Further than that, Diego had little or nothing to do with Cuba, and in a short time Velasquez was known not as Lieutenant but as Governor, as though he were entirely independent of the Viceroy in Hispaniola.

First Capital of Cuba BARACOA
First Capital of Cuba

Early in 1511 Velasquez assembled a flotilla of three or four vessels on the northwest coast of Hispaniola, at or near the place where Columbus had landed when he discovered that island and first visited it from Cuba. In the adjacent region he recruited a company of about three hundred men, and with that force set out for the conquest and colonization of Cuba. The precise date of his expedition is not to be ascertained, but it was probably in February or at latest March of that year. The place of his landing in Cuba, however, is known. It was at Baracoa, where also Columbus had landed before{61} him. Following the practice of Columbus and the other explorers he promptly gave the place a new name of his own selection, calling it the City of Our Lady of the Assumption. There he established his seat of government and base of further operations, giving to the place in both civil and ecclesiastical affairs the technical rank and dignity of a city. But, as also frequently happened, the new name was unable to supplant the old one in popular usage; and when, in 1514, the insular capital was transferred to Santiago de Cuba, and in 1522 the cathedral of the diocese was similarly transferred, the new name was permitted to lapse, and the place became again universally known as Baracoa. Despite its vicissitudes of fortune, therefore, and its loss of its former high estate, Baracoa is entitled to the triple distinction of having been the site of the first permanent European settlement in Cuba, of the first civilized government, and of the first cathedral church.

At Baracoa, immediately upon his arrival, Velasquez built a fort, the exact site of which is now matter of conjecture, and various other edifices. These were all constructed of wood, probably of bamboo and thatch, and no trace of them remains to-day. Search was also promptly made for gold, and some seems to have been found in the beds of streams, though in no large quantities, and the attempt to operate mines was soon abandoned. Attention was then turned to further explorations and conquests, and to the quest for gold in other parts of the island.

Still more unfortunate than the failure to find much gold, and largely because of that fruitless quest, was the rise of bitter hostilities between the Spaniards and the natives. This was also a sequel to and in part a consequence of the Spanish administration in Hispaniola and particularly of the part which Velasquez had played therein. Shortly before coming to Cuba, Velasquez had waged several strenuous and probably somewhat ruthless campaigns against the natives of Hispaniola, chiefly{62} in that part of the island which lay nearest to Cuba and in which he recruited his Cuban expedition. His chief opponent there was a native chief named Hatuey, who, finding himself unable to cope with the Spaniards, fled to Cuba with many of his followers and settled in the country near Baracoa. These refugees were of course quick to report to the natives of Cuba the cause of their migration, and to portray the conduct and character of the Spaniards, and of Velasquez personally, in the most unfavorable light. The natural result was to predispose the Cuban natives to regard the Spaniards with distrust and aversion. And when Velasquez himself presently appeared among the very people who had been thus prejudiced against him, trouble inevitably arose.

The leader in the trouble was Hatuey, who had a large following both of his own tribe from Hispaniola and also of Cubans. He had maintained a system of spying and communication through which he kept himself perfectly informed of the doings of Velasquez, whom he considered his chief foe, not only politically but personally, and when he learned that he was coming to Cuba he busied himself with preparations to resist him. He was foremost in spreading among the Cuban natives all manner of evil reports concerning the Spaniards, all of which, whether true or false, found ready credence.

Thus on one occasion, as related by Herrera, he gathered many of the natives together with a promise to reveal to them the God of the Spaniards, whom they worshipped and to whom they made human sacrifices of Indians' lives. When they were assembled and their anticipation was whetted, he placed before them a small basket filled with gold. "That," said he, "is the God which the Spaniards worship, and in quest of which they are following us hither. Let us, therefore, ourselves pay this God reverence and implore him to bid his Spanish worshippers not to harm us when they come hither!" The natives performed a religious dance and other rites about the gold, until they were exhausted, and then{63} Hatuey further counselled them to cast the gold into the river, where the Spaniards could not find it; since if they found it they would continue their search for more, even to cutting out the hearts of the people in quest of it.

Whether true or fabricated, the story indicates the attitude of Hatuey toward the Spaniards and explains the intensity of the bitterness which prevailed between him and Velasquez. Of course, when the Spaniards arrived and immediately began to hunt for gold, Hatuey's words about their God seemed to be confirmed. War began, which soon resulted in the defeat and capture of Hatuey, who was put to death. Tradition has it that he was burned at the stake, as was the common custom in those times, and that just before the fire was lighted he was invited to accept Christianity and be baptized, but refused on the ground that he did not want to meet any Spaniards in the other world. He was succeeded in command of the hostile natives by Caguax, who had been his comrade in Hispaniola and who had come to Cuba with him; and the hostilities were continued with the usual result of conflicts between a higher and a lower civilization. In a short time the province of Maysi was conquered and partly pacified, and that of Bayamo was invaded.


At this time and in these operations there appeared in Cuba two more men of commanding importance in the early history of the island, who were sent thither from Hispaniola to assist Velasquez soon after the defeat and death of Hatuey. One of these was Panfilo de Narvaez, a soldier and the leader of a company of thirty expert crossbow-men who had been serving in Jamaica but were no longer needed by the governor of that island, Esquivel. Narvaez was a{64} native of Valladolid, Spain, near which city Velasquez also had been born. It is possible, indeed, that the two men were related, since there was a marked physical resemblance between them; both being tall, handsome, and of a pronounced blond complexion. At any rate, they had long been friends, and Velasquez was glad to make Narvaez his chief lieutenant and right-hand man. Narvaez appears to have been a man of high intelligence, honorable character, and much personal charm. He was, however, too much inclined toward fighting, was sometimes reckless in his leadership, and was no more scrupulous in his conduct toward the natives than were many other conquerors of various lands in those days of adventure and violence. At the head of a force of more than a hundred and fifty men, including a score of horsemen, he led the way in the conquest, first of Bayamo and finally of all the rest of the island. In his campaign he enjoyed immense advantage from the awe and terror which were caused among the natives by the appearance of the horses, which were the first ever seen in Cuba.


The other and more famous of these two men was Bartholomew de Las Casas, known to the world as the "Protector of the Indians" and as the "Apostle to the Indies." As a youth he had accompanied his father on Columbus's third voyage to America, and he had come to the Antilles a second time and permanently with Ovando, the Governor of Hispaniola, in 1502. In 1510 he was ordained to be a priest, and it was in that clerical capacity that he was sent over to Cuba to assist Velasquez in the conquest, pacification and settlement of the island. He appears at first to have had no important religious scruples against{65} oppression of the natives, but joined with Velasquez and Narvaez in their sometimes ruthless policy. When the island was divided among the conquerors under the system of repartimientos, or allotments of natives as practical slaves of the Spaniards, he received and accepted without demur his encomienda or commandery, and held it for some time in partnership with his friend Pedro de Renteria. But a little later, realizing the injustice and cruelties which the natives suffered under this system, he became, as he himself described it, "converted," and thereafter was an earnest, zealous and almost fanatical champion of their rights. He visited Spain several times, to secure commissions of inquiry and other measures for their relief. Also, thinking thus to redeem them from enforced servitude, he secured royal sanction for the introduction of Negro slavery and the importation of Negro slaves into Cuba; a policy which he afterward deeply regretted.

After a brief campaign in Bayamo, which was not particularly successful, beyond the killing of Caguax and the final dispersion of the force which Hatuey had organized, Narvaez formed an expedition of perhaps five hundred men for more extended enterprises, in which he had as his principal companions Las Casas and a young nephew of Velasquez, Juan de Grijalva. The precise route of this expedition cannot now be stated. It certainly, however, traversed the Bayamo region, and went as far west as Camaguey. It also visited the neighborhood of Cape Cruz and there passed through the town of Cueyba, as Las Casas called it, where, as hitherto related, a Spanish mariner, presumably Ojeda, had landed and had established a Christian shrine with a statue of the Holy Virgin. Here and at other places amicable relations were maintained between the Spaniards and the natives.

Unhappily that was not always the rule. At the large town of Caonao, probably near Manzanillo, a number of Spanish soldiers, as if suddenly stricken with madness,{66} began a massacre of the natives, killed a great number, and drove the rest into flight. Narvaez does not seem to have ordered nor to have taken part in the slaughter, but neither did he exert himself to prevent it or to stop it. Whereupon Las Casas, righteously wrathful, bade him to go to the Devil, and thereafter devoted himself to ministering to the sufferers and to reassuring the survivors.

From Caonao the expedition moved westward, through the southern part of the Province of Camaguey, where the natives were so frightened that they fled to the little islands off the coast which Columbus had named the Queen's Gardens. Thence it went across the island to the north coast, and probably in the region of Sagua la Grande, in Santa Clara Province, found some small deposits of gold. After stopping there for some time, it continued its progress into Havana Province, where more gold was found and where, unhappily, serious trouble with the natives was renewed.

On the way across the island Narvaez had heard of three Spaniards, a man and two women, who had been shipwrecked on the coast and were living with the Indians somewhere in the west. He sent word of this report back to Velasquez, who returned him orders to search for the castaways even in preference to gold, and who also dispatched a ship along the north coast to meet Narvaez and his party in the region to which they were going. In Santa Clara the two women were found, unharmed and well, and they presently married members of the expedition. Finally, in Havana the man also was found. He too was unharmed and well, though he had become in speech and habits more like an Indian than a Spaniard. According to his story, he and the two women were the sole survivors of a company of twenty-six. They had fled from Ojeda's ill-starred settlement at Uraba, on the Gulf of Darien, and were trying to make their way back to Hispaniola, but had been driven out of their course around the north coast of Cuba. Not far{67} from Cape San Antonio they had been shipwrecked and thence had made their way by land, along the north coast. Most of them had been killed by natives while trying to cross an arm of the sea, which has been assumed to have been the Bay of Matanzas, which was so named on that account.

On the Havana coast the expedition met the vessel which Velasquez had sent. But leaving it in port there the expedition went across the island again to Xagua, or Cienfuegos, there to meet Velasquez himself and another expedition which he was leading, and there to spend with him the Christmas season of 1513. At the beginning of 1514 Narvaez and a hundred men returned to Havana and thence marched westward into Pinar del Rio, the vessel keeping in touch with them along the coast. How far they went in that province is not now certainly known. Some accounts have it that they stopped at Bahia Honda and there took ship back for Baracoa, while others insist that they got as far as Nombre de Dios. All that is certain is that Narvaez and his comrades visited on this expedition all parts of the island, and thus completed the nominal exploration and occupation of Cuba in the early part of 1514.{68}


Velasquez was for a number of years the dominant figure in Cuban history, and he much more than any other man is to be credited with the settlement of the island and its social, political and economical organization. He was married at Baracoa in the early part of 1513 to Donna Maria de Cuellar, daughter of Christopher de Cuellar, the royal treasurer in the island, but within a week was left a widower. To find solace for his grief in action, he threw himself with extraordinary energy into the work of exploring, pacifying and colonizing the island.

After founding the town of San Salvador de Bayamo he went westward, as already stated, to meet Narvaez and to spend Christmas at Xagua or Cienfuegos. Less than a month later he founded La Villa de Trinidad, and later in the year La Villa de Sancti Spiritus and, finally, Santiago de Cuba. At all of these places excepting the last named gold was found, though not in any large quantities. He was thus encouraged to continue his search for that precious metal, while at the same time he was admonished not to look too much to it for the prosperity of the Island, but to pay attention to the development of its other resources, and particularly its obvious agricultural potentialities.

Accordingly in the spring of 1514 he sent a vessel to Hispaniola for horses and cattle with which to stock Cuba, and for supplies of grain and other seeds, and agricultural implements. In the cargo which it brought back to him lay the germ of the subsequent agricultural greatness of Cuba. At about the same time, also, he founded Cuban commerce by the establishment of regular communication between the island and Jamaica, Darien and{69} other Spanish settlements at the south. In this latter enterprise the King was especially interested, and his directions to Velasquez were that he should develop it to the largest possible extent. He did not expect Cuba ever to rival Darien and other regions in mineral wealth, but that island could, he thought, surpass them in agriculture, and thus could serve as a source of supply to them, and as a base of operations.

It was, indeed, in pursuance of this policy of commerce with the countries at the south and west of the Caribbean that Santiago de Cuba was founded as the seventh of the seven cities among which the island was partitioned, and that it was made the insular capital. The site was, as already stated, the only one at which gold was not found. It was selected partly because of the secure and commodious harbor, one of the finest anywhere on the shores of the Caribbean, and partly because its situation on the south coast made it particularly accessible to and from Jamaica, Darien and the other regions in which the Spanish crown was interested. As soon as it was founded, the seat of civil, military and ecclesiastical authority was transferred thither from Baracoa, and Santiago de Cuba became the second capital of the island. Meantime Narvaez, at the north, had founded Havana, which was destined to be the third and final capital.

Each city or town was made, however, a capital unto itself. The principle of local autonomy or home rule had long been cherished by the Spanish people in the Iberian Kingdom, and it was transplanted by them in an increased degree to their Antillean colonies. In accord with that principle, these first seven cities were planned and arranged with a view to civic self-sufficiency. The plan was uniform. Each place had its central park or plaza, upon which fronted the town hall, the parish church and the residence of the governor or the alcalde. The plan of government was also uniform. In each place Velasquez appointed an Alcalde, who was not a mayor but a judge of first instance; a Deputy Alcalde,{70} and three regidores or councillors; the Alcalde and the regidores sitting together forming the Town Council. There were also a procurador, or public prosecutor; an alguacil, or sheriff; and one or more escribanos, or notaries public.

There was also at this time established throughout the island a social and economic system borrowed from Hispaniola, where it had not been in operation long enough for its evil effects to be demonstrated. Its intention was unquestionably benevolent, and, given a sufficiently altruistic quality of human nature, its results might have been good. With human nature what it was, it became almost unrelievedly evil. This was known as the system of Repartimiento, or Encomienda. First of all, the whole territory of the island was partitioned among the seven cities. Then in each there were appointed persons whom we might describe as land-holders and slave-holders. The former, known as vecinos, were the representatives of the king in ownership of the land, all of which was regarded as the property of the crown, to be apportioned for working to suitable loyal subjects. The latter were called encomenderos, and to them were apportioned the native population, in tutelage and servitude.

Now the fundamental evil of the system lay in the appropriation of the land. It was all taken for the crown, and the natives who had been occupying it were ipso facto transformed into squatters, or trespassers. But as the king claimed the whole area of the island, there was no other land for them to occupy; wherefore they must remain on the king's land. But if they did that, they must become his serfs. They were therefore apportioned among the land-holders; to remain in their homes and to be educated, fed and clothed and generally cared for by the latter; and in return to do a certain amount of useful work. Thus they would become civilized and Christianized, and perhaps themselves fitted to become land-holders.

It was an excellent plan, in theory; and it seemed the{71} more likely to succeed because the Spanish colonists manifested no such caste prejudice against the natives as those of some other lands did. Thus it was an unusual thing for a French settler in North America, and a still more unusual thing for a British settler, to marry an Indian woman, and such unions, when they did occur, were generally regarded as debasing. But there was no such feeling among the Spanish, and intermarriages between the races, of an entirely legal and honorable character, were not uncommon and were not regarded with disfavor. Nevertheless, the repartimiento system soon lapsed into utter evil, as such a relationship between a superior and an inferior race seems certain to do. In brief, it became slavery, pure and simple.

The benevolent and statesmanlike spirit of Velasquez was shown, in contrast to that of most other conquistadors of that time, in the circumstance that he ordered the natives to be thus impressed into work for a period of only a single month, to be paid for their labor at a prescribed rate, and to be engaged as largely as possible in agricultural pursuits. He did not prohibit the employment of them at gold mining, but he strove earnestly to extend agricultural enterprise. This was partly, no doubt, in pursuance of the king's order, that he should make Cuba a source of food supplies for the supposedly less favored regions at Darien and elsewhere, but was partly, too, because Velasquez recognized the agricultural possibilities of Cuba and was determined to make it self-supporting. He exercised this authority, not merely as Governor General of the island, but also as Repartidor, or Partitioner of the Natives, to which office he was expressly appointed by the king, with responsibility to nobody but the king himself. He apportioned the natives in lots of from not fewer than forty to not more than three hundred, according to the land held by the vecino, and ordered that they be well treated, and of course be not sold nor transferred from one master to another.

There was, unfortunately, another class of native servi{72}tors, to wit, those taken as captives in battle in the occasional hostilities between the two races. These were by royal decree made outright and life-long slaves, subject to be bought and sold and even branded with their owners' names, like cattle. The number of these being few after the collapse of Hatuey's short-lived resistance, the practice arose of adding to their number natives from Mexico, Darien and elsewhere, who were seized and brought to Cuba as slaves. All this was declared to be illegal and was ordered abolished by a royal decree which was promulgated in Cuba in November, 1531. But long before that time the evil system had become widespread, and had involved in absolute slavery encomendado natives as well as the captives. The bad results of the system were reflected upon the masters if possible more than upon the slaves, and were felt for many years after the native population had so nearly vanished as to be no longer a factor in Cuban affairs worthy of consideration.


Following the establishment of these political and industrial systems, Cuban colonization made extraordinarily rapid progress. The island which for years had been neglected and all but ignored became the chief centre of Antillean interest. It drew from Hispaniola, Darien and other lands, both insular and continental, many of their best colonists, including some who afterward became famous for their achievements elsewhere. Thus, Hernando Cortez was alcalde of Santiago de Cuba. Bernal Diaz, whose honest soul revolted against the infamies of Pedrarias Davila at Darien, settled for a time at Sancti Spiritus before following Cortez to Mexico. Vasco de Figueroa was a great plantation owner at Camaguey. Las Casas was at Trinidad until he returned to Spain to{73} begin his propaganda for the welfare of the Indians. Ponce de Leon also spent some time in Cuba, and so did La Salle. Velasquez himself was of course settled at Santiago de Cuba, with Christopher de Cuellar, the royal treasurer, and Hurtado de Isunsolo and Amador de Lares, fiscal agents of the King. At Santiago was established the royal assay office and refining works for the output of the gold mines of the island.

In brief, the island prospered greatly in all respects. The mines were rich, the plantations fertile and productive, and live stock greatly thrived. The island, according to Oviedo, became "much populated with both Christians and Indians." It appears to have been at the instance of Velasquez that its name was changed in 1515 from Juana to Fernandina, in honor of the king; an incident which added to the high regard which that monarch cherished for Velasquez, of whom he said that "no man could more wisely administer the affairs of the island." This tribute was probably deserved. But it cannot be said that Velasquez served his King for naught, or that he promoted the interests of the island to the neglect of his own, since he himself so greatly prospered that he became the richest man in all Cuba and probably in all the Antilles, and was so secure in his place that he could feel quite independent of even the Admiral himself, Diego Columbus, at Hispaniola.

A noteworthy tribute to Velasquez was paid, also, in a series of cedulas issued by the King. The first, dated December 12, 1512, thanked him for his pacification of Cuba and his tactful and humane treatment of the natives. Another, on April 8, 1513, was much to the same effect, adding the exhortation: "Because I much desire that all diligence possible be used to convert the natives of the island, I direct that you undertake this with all means possible. In nothing can you do me greater service." Five days later a third cedula formally appointed Velasquez Governor of the town and fortress of Baracoa, with a salary of 20,000 maravedis a year. After the complete{74} organization of the insular government and industrial system, as already described, the King in a cedula of February 28, 1515, commended all that had been done, adding: "The chief recommendation I would make to you is that you have all possible care for the conversion and good treatment of the Indians of the island, and that you endeavor in every way to have them taught and indoctrinated in our Holy Catholic Faith and to have them remain in it; so that we may be without burden on our conscience regarding them and so that you may free yourself of all the obligation which you have assumed for their welfare."

It was impossible that Velasquez should, however, escape the attacks of envy and malice. Suggestions were made to the King that he was growing too rich, and that he was manipulating the affairs of the island in his own interest rather than in the interest of the royal treasury. But these were without effect, save to confirm Velasquez in royal confidence and favor. To the suggestion that a residencia or investigation be made of the administration of Velasquez and his lieutenants, the King returned an emphatic negative. In a cedula of July 7, 1515, he expressly ordered that no residencia be taken, since he was entirely satisfied with the administration of the island. This was of material advantage to Velasquez, and was also a most unusual honor; the more unusual and noteworthy when we remember that Ferdinand had developed a particularly selfish and suspicious disposition and was little inclined to give full confidence to any man.

Nor was the royal favor short lived or confined to the reign of Ferdinand. In November, 1518, another royal decree from Ferdinand's successor, Charles I, appointed Velasquez Adelantado of all lands which he personally or through his agents might discover, and endowed him with one-fifteenth part of all the revenues which might be obtained from them. At this time Velasquez was already busy with enterprises of exploration, and his efforts were redoubled under this incentive. But in so doing he suf{75}fered the same fate that he himself had inflicted upon Diego Columbus. For he sent Hernando Cortez, who had been alcalde of Santiago de Cuba, upon the expedition which resulted in the conquest of Mexico; upon achieving which transcendent exploit, Cortez repudiated him and his authority, much as Velasquez had repudiated the authority of Columbus in Hispaniola.

The year 1515 marked a turning-point in the early history of Cuba. In that year Las Casas began his great crusade in behalf of the natives. At first, as we have seen, he accepted and approved the repartimiento system, and himself with his partner and close friend Pedro de Renteria took several hundred Indians as his wards and servants on the land which had been allotted to him at Trinidad. But when he became "converted," as he himself described it, he was convinced that the system, which had degenerated into little else than slavery, was wholly evil and could be nothing else, putting all who practised it in imminent danger of hell fire. To this conviction he was brought through consideration of what he had heard Dominican friars preach in Hispaniola.

At this time his partner, Renteria, was absent, in Jamaica, and Las Casas was ignorant of his views on the subject. Moreover, he realized that the natives whom he had in his possession belonged to Renteria as much as to him, and he could not properly do anything which would be injurious to the interests of his partner. Accordingly he went to Velasquez and told him that his conscience would no longer permit him to hold slaves, and he must therefore release them; but he wished the matter held in abeyance and confidence until the return of Renteria, in order that the latter might protect his own interests as he saw fit. In addition, he passionately adjured Velasquez, for the sake of his own soul, to free all the natives and to abolish the repartimiento system. Velasquez did not follow this advice, but he continued to hold Las Casas in the highest esteem and to show him all possible favors.

Las Casas then at once began publicly preaching{76} against the sin of slavery, and proclaiming the right of the natives to equal freedom with the Spaniards; a course which gave great offense to many in the island but in which Velasquez protected him. Then he determined to hasten at once to Spain and to lay the matter before the King, who in his various cedulas and messages to Velasquez had expressed so much concern for the welfare of the Indians. He accordingly wrote to Renteria, in Jamaica, that he was called to Spain on imperatively urgent business, and that unless he, Renteria, could return to Cuba at once, he would have to go without seeing him first, which he would regret to do. Upon receiving this letter, Renteria immediately hastened back to Cuba; and then was disclosed one of the most extraordinary coincidences in history.

The meeting of the two friends was in the presence of Velasquez and others, and nothing was said by Las Casas concerning his plans, nor did Renteria say anything about his own affairs. But as soon as they were alone together, Renteria announced that he was planning himself to go to Spain, and that he would therefore accompany Las Casas. He then explained that while in Jamaica he had gone for a time into "retreat" at a Franciscan monastery, and while thus engaged in pious meditation had become convinced that the Indians of Cuba were being very badly treated, and had resolved to go to Spain and there to plead their cause before the King, especially asking for the foundation of schools and colleges in which the Indian youth could be educated. The astonishment and delight of Las Casas at hearing this was equalled only by the similar feelings of Renteria when in turn Las Casas told him the purpose of his proposed mission to Spain. Hundreds of miles apart, and entirely unknown to each other, the two friends at precisely the same time had been cherishing the same noble purposes. It was quickly agreed between them that Las Casas alone should undertake the mission, that their native wards should be surrendered at once to Velasquez, and that their land and{77} other property should be sold, if necessary, to provide Las Casas with the money needed for his journey. In his departure from Cuba and his journey to Spain, Las Casas was also greatly assisted by Pedro de Cordova, the head of the Dominican Order in Hispaniola.

Simultaneously with the departure of Las Casas another and very different mission was dispatched to the same goal. This was one consisting of Narvaez and Antonio Velasquez—not the Governor, Diego Velasquez—bearing a petition to the King to the effect that the repartimiento system should be transformed into one of absolute and perpetual slavery; so that the land-owners might hold their Indians permanently, and bequeath them to their heirs like any other property. That this was sent simultaneously with Las Casas's going is not to be regarded as a coincidence, however. It is altogether probable that the action was inspired by knowledge of the purpose of Las Casas and by a determination to forestall him or to defeat him.

How Ferdinand would have decided between the two, whether the impassioned eloquence of Las Casas or the gold which Narvaez and Antonio Velasquez bore with their petition, would have been the more potent, must ever remain matter of uncertainty; for he was never called upon to make the decision. Before the issue could be put to him, on January 23, 1516, he died. In the interregnum, before the arrival of the new King, Charles I, from Flanders, Cardinal Ximenes was Regent, and it was to him that Las Casas addressed himself; after he had first been scornfully received and his mission ridiculed by Bishop Fonseca, of Burgos. The great Cardinal had long been an advocate of humane treatment of the Indians, and was quite ready to listen to Las Casas, calling into council for the purpose several other prelates and statesmen. Early in the hearings, in order to make sure of his ground, Ximenes bade the clerk to read the full text of the laws relating to the Indians, and that functionary, being a partisan of the advocates of slavery, purposely misread{78} one important clause. Las Casas cried out, "That is not the law!" Ximenes bade the clerk to read it again. He did so, with the same perversion; and again Las Casas exclaimed, "The law says no such thing!" Annoyed, Ximenes rebuked Las Casas and threatened him with a penalty if he interrupted again. "Your Lordship is welcome to send my head to the block," retorted the undaunted Las Casas, "if what the clerk has read is in the law!" Other members of the Council thereupon snatched the laws from the clerk's hand, and found that Las Casas was right, whereupon the clerk wished that he had never been born, while Las Casas, as he himself modestly records, "lost nothing of the regard which the Cardinal had for him or of the credit which he gave to him."

The result of the conferences was that Ximenes authorized Las Casas, Palacios Rubios and Antonio Montesino to prepare the draft of a plan for emancipating the Indians and providing for their just government and education. When the plan was completed and adopted there was some question as to whom it should be entrusted for execution. Ximenes invited Las Casas to nominate a commission, but the latter declined because his long absence from Spain had left him unfamiliar with men there and their qualifications. The Cardinal therefore decided to select a commission from among the monks of the Order of St. Jerome. That Order was selected because, while the Dominicans and Franciscans were already settled in Hispaniola and Jamaica and had committed themselves to a certain policy toward the Indian question, the Jeronimites had not yet gone thither and were quite without bias or predisposition.

This was on July 8, 1516. The following Sunday the Cardinal and other members of the council, and also Las Casas, went to the Jeronimite monastery, near Madrid, to attend mass and to make a selection of three Commissioners or judges from among the twelve who had been nominated by the head of the Order. There Las Casas was received with much distinction by the monks and by{79} the Cardinal, to the chagrin of his enemy the Bishop of Burgos, who was present in the congregation. After some consideration, Ximenes then announced that Las Casas should be provided with money and letters of credit to the General of the Order at Seville, and should himself go thither and select the three Commissioners. This was immediately done, and the result was the selection of Luis de Figueroa, Prior of La Mejorada; Alonzo de Santo Domingo, Prior of Ortega; and Bernardino Manzanedo. These three were thereupon commissioned by Ximenes to proceed to Hispaniola, to take away all the Indians held by members of the Council, judges and other officers, and hold a court of impeachment upon all colonial officers, who were charged as having "lived, like Moors, without a king." They were then to consult with both the colonists and the chief men among the Indians as to the condition of the Indians and the ways and means of bettering it; so that the Indians, who had become Christians, should be set free and enabled to govern themselves. They were to assure the Indians it was the will of the Cardinal that they should be treated as free men and Christians. That Ximenes was sincere in giving these orders there can be no question. On more than one occasion he vehemently declared that the Indians were as a matter of right and should and must be as a matter of fact free men.

But all this was too late to save the Indians. Immediately upon Las Casas's departure from Cuba, treatment of the Indians there and elsewhere in the Indies became more harsh and oppressive, actually tending toward extinction of the race. Moreover, when the bearers of the petition of Narvaez and Antonio Velasquez finally got a hearing before Ximenes, they were referred to the three Commissioners, who were about to leave Spain for Hispaniola. They therefore went to see them, and succeeded, apparently, to some degree in alienating them from Las Casas and his colleagues and in prejudicing them against the Indians; to such an extent that before their departure for Hispaniola Las Casas had begun to doubt whether{80} much real good would come from their mission. He and the three Commissioners travelled to Hispaniola on separate ships, and on their arrival in that island the three were more ready to confer with others, even with his opponents, than with him.

It is true that Cardinal Ximenes gave detailed and generally admirable directions to the Jeronimite Fathers as to the course which they were to pursue; not only toward the natives of Cuba but also toward those of the other islands and the continent. These provided that the natives were to be well treated. They were to be formed into autonomous communities of their own, under their own chiefs and owning their own land and cattle. They were to be provided with churches, schools and hospitals, and were to be converted to Christianity and educated. They were, however, to be required to work for a part of the time in the gold mines of the Spaniards, for which service they would be paid a percentage of the gold obtained. In compensation for thus being deprived of what was fast becoming the slave labor of the native islanders, the Spanish settlers of Cuba were permitted each to hold as outright slaves four or five Caribs from other islands, Negroes from Africa, or, in time, Red Indians from the North American continent. The net result was that for a time the Cuban natives were fairly well treated, though their fate was simply postponed for a few years. At the same time there was generally established in Cuba, as in most other lands of the world at that time, the hateful institution of human slavery.{81}


Gold mining in Cuba appears for some time to have been profitable. There was not the vast opulence of the precious metal which a little later was discovered in Peru and elsewhere on the South American continent, but there was enough greatly to encourage an influx of colonists from Spain and also from the other Antilles. Hispaniola itself was for a time almost depopulated. Nor did this multitude of settlers consist exclusively of gold-seekers. There were also many agriculturists, artificers and tradesmen, who perceived that their activities would be needed to complement the gold-mining industry.

From the same cause arose at this time an important development of the political organization of the island. Nominally, all the provincial capitals were of equal dignity. But the smelting works and assay office were at Santiago, and thither, therefore, all gold miners had to repair at intervals, to have their nuggets, dust and ore refined and its value determined. They came in the spring, just before the beginning of the rainy season. Naturally their coming thither attracted at the same time tradesmen from all parts of the island, and Santiago thus became the business and social metropolis.

Moreover, each of the other provincial capitals deemed it profitable to send to Santiago at that time an official representative of its local government. These procuradors, as they were called, came together at Santiago to exchange experiences and advice and to confer for the general welfare of their respective communities. Thus early in Cuban history were the rudiments of a representative insular legislature established; through the influence of which the various provinces were drawn together in sympathy and made uniform in administration, and the foundations of Cuban nationality were laid.{82}

Soon, indeed, a regular organization was voluntarily formed, with the Alcalde of Santiago as presiding officer and with rules of order and a programme of procedure. As a result of each annual session of this primitive insular council an address was prepared for transmission to the King of Spain. This consisted of a report upon the condition, progress and prospects of the island, and a request for the supplying of its legislative, administrative or other needs. In the presentation of this address the insular council performed a function practically identical with that of the Spanish Cortes of that time; a body which had no legislative or other authority, but merely the privilege of protest and petition to the King. Usually a procurador representing the council was despatched to Spain, to present the address in person to the King; who was received with something of the attention and honor which were paid to important foreign ambassadors.

The first such mission from Cuba to the King was that which has already been mentioned as consisting of Panfilo de Narvaez and Antonio Velasquez. It went to Spain in July, 1515, and it bore not alone the address of the council but also the king's share of the gold that had down to that time been mined in the island. The amount of that share was more than 12,000 "pieces of eight," which we must believe was most welcome to the money-loving King. As that was supposed to be twenty per cent of the whole output of gold, but was certainly not more than that proportion, it follows that in about three years more than 60,000 pesos of gold had been taken. It is not to be wondered at that Ferdinand welcomed them cordially, and promptly granted many of their requests; those which required expenditure of cash being paid for out of the insular tribute which the envoys had brought; and that he expressed profound satisfaction, as already mentioned, with the existing government of the island.

One of the requests which these envoys bore was not, however, granted. That was, their request that the natives of Cuba be given to them in perpetuity as slaves.{83} In consequence of the refusal to grant this, the Cuban gold-miners and planters suffered more and more from scarcity of labor, and more and more engaged in slave-hunting elsewhere to supply their needs. This pernicious traffic was resolutely opposed by Las Casas, but not with entire success. But it brought with it in a measure its own penalty. As a direct result of it there soon occurred an event mischievous to Cuba, but of transcendent interest to Spain and to all the world.

The slave-hunters naturally sought new islands, which had not yet been depopulated, and where the Jeronimite Fathers had not yet established themselves to interfere with the trade in human flesh. Accordingly in 1516 a squadron of vessels from Cuba visited the Guanajes Islands, as they had been called by Columbus when he discovered them, off the coast of Yucatan. There they took many captives, loading all the vessels with them. Leaving twenty-five men to guard their landing place on the island, the squadron returned to Cuba with the slaves. Havana was the port to which they were taken; a port which from that time forward increased rapidly in importance. Before they could all be landed, the slaves on one vessel mutinied, overpowered the crew, took possession of the vessel, and sailed back to the Yucatan islands. There the vessel was run ashore and wrecked, but the slaves escaped from it and, going ashore, exterminated the Spanish garrison which had been left there. A relief expedition was hastily sent from Havana, but it arrived too late. It found only the wreck of the ship, and no trace of the Spanish garrison. However, it looted the islands and was thus enabled to carry back to Cuba some 20,000 pesos in gold.

This had a revolutionary effect. Cubans who were becoming dissatisfied with the scarcity of slave labor and with the waning production of gold in the island, were roused by the promise of greater riches in the lands to the westward, and began to plan further adventures in that direction. In this movement the first important{84} leader was Francisco Hernandez de Cordova, a wealthy land-holder, planter and miner of Sancti Spiritus. He with more than a hundred others equipped a squadron of three vessels, to sail westward, not, however, for slaves but for gold. One of these vessels appears to have belonged to Velasquez, the Governor, and in return for the use of it he asked that the expedition should bring him back a cargo of slaves. This Cordova indignantly refused, declaring that the slave-trade was offensive to God and man. So, at least, says Bernal Diaz del Castillo; though there are others who say that slave trading was the real object of the expedition. However that may be, the expedition set out from either Havana or Jaruco, near by, on February 8, 1517, piloted by Antonio Alaminos who, as a boy, had sailed with Columbus on his fourth voyage on which he skirted the coast of Central America. Columbus had believed that coast to be the Golden Chersonesus, a land of fabulous riches, and it was with eagerness that Alaminos guided the Cuban expedition thither.

The Mugeres Islands were the first land reached after leaving Cape San Antonio, and two days later, on March 4, 1517, they landed at Punta Catoche—a name said to have been given to it by them because of the words "con escotoch" which the natives uttered on greeting them upon their landing, words meaning "welcome to our home." All thoughts of seizing slaves were quickly abandoned when they found the natives a well clad, armed and civilized people, living in large cities, with houses and temples built of fine masonry, comparable with those of the cities of Spain. Hostilities, however, speedily arose. It does not appear whether the Spanish or the natives of Yucatan were the aggressors, but the upshot of it was that the Spanish were ambuscaded and several of them were badly wounded. The explorers persisted in their enterprise, however, and made their way along the northern coast and thence southward along the shore of the Gulf of Campeche, as far as Champoton. Hostilities with the natives increased, and nearly a third of the party perished from{85} wounds or thirst and fever before they got back to Havana. Moreover, one ship was lost, and the other two were in so bad condition that they with difficulty were beached for repairs at Havana, while the survivors marched afoot across the island to Santiago, there to report to Velasquez the results of their expedition. It is believed that on their way back they were driven by a "norther" far out of their course, and touched the southern extremity of Florida, or at least some of its islands. Cordova himself had been so badly wounded that he was unable to go to Santiago, but made his way to his home at Sancti Spiritus, where he soon afterward died.

Immense interest was aroused in Cuba by the tales of Cordova's men, and by the appearance of the two captive Mayas of Yucatan whom they brought with them. The reports of large cities, built of stone dressed and carved and laid in mortar,—reports which were, of course, entirely true,—piqued curiosity as to the identity of the people who had built them, and the belief became widespread that they were some of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, or at least descendants of the Jews who were driven into exile after Vespasian's conquest of Jerusalem. Velasquez himself was foremost in interesting himself in the matter, perhaps partly with a desire to recoup the loss of his ship; and he accordingly sent his nephew Gonzalez de Guzman, of Santiago, as a messenger to the King in Spain, to tell him of these discoveries and to ask that he, Velasquez, be commissioned Adelantado of Yucatan and all other lands which he might discover.

Now we have seen how high an opinion King Ferdinand had of Velasquez; regarding him as the best possible Governor of Cuba, whose administration should not be subject even to the balancing and auditing of accounts which he elsewhere required. But Ferdinand was now dead, and the new king, Charles, knew not Velasquez, or at least not so well. Guzman pleaded the cause as strongly as he could, and so, we may assume, did Narvaez, who was still in Spain, though Antonio Velasquez{86} had returned to Cuba. The king was not, however, to be so easily persuaded. He was not unfavorable to the ambition of Velasquez, but neither was he unhesitatingly favorable to it. Accordingly he temporized. Instead of giving Velasquez the appointment, he sent two agents, procuradors, to Hispaniola, to look into the whole matter with plenary authority. These agents, the name of one of whom marks an epoch in Cuban and in American history, were Diego de Orellano and Hernando Cortez.

Velasquez was disappointed but not deterred from prosecuting the great enterprise which he had in mind. He would not wait for the report of the procuradors and the action which the king might take upon it, but hastened his preparations for another expedition to Yucatan, which he regarded as by far the most important land of all that had thus far been discovered by the Spanish in the Western Hemisphere. The leader of the new venture was to be his nephew, Juan de Grijalva, who appears not to have been well fitted for the task. Grijalva was commissioned in January, 1518, and in the same month set out from Santiago de Cuba with a flotilla of four vessels. Sailing eastward he rounded Cape Maysi and thence proceeded north and west along the Cuban coast to what is now Matanzas, where a stop was made for repairs and supplies. Thence he went to Havana for further supplies and men, and tarried for some time, so that it was not until some time in April—some say April 5, others a much later date—that he finally set out from Cuba. He had four vessels, carrying two hundred and fifty men, among whom were several of whom the world was later to hear much; such as Bernal Diaz, and Pedro de Alvarado, who was captain of one of the vessels. The chief pilot was Antonio Alaminos, whose plan was to follow the same course that Cordova's expedition had pursued.

Upon passing Cape San Antonio, however, the little squadron fell into the grip of a "norther" which carried it somewhat out of its course, and on May 3 it first sighted land at Cozumel Island, of which Grijalva was thus the{87} discoverer. Doubling back, the expedition followed the course of its predecessor around Punta Catoche and along the Yucatan coast to Champoton. Thence it continued westward, discovering the Tabasco and other rivers, and the great bay near Vera Cruz which still bears the name of Alvarado. How far up the Mexican coast it sailed is not altogether clear, but it certainly passed Cabo Rojo, and probably reached Tampico and the mouth of the Panuco River. Thus to two Cuban expeditions must be credited the discovery of the vast empire thereafter known as New Spain. De Solis and Pinzon had skirted a part of the coast of Yucatan in 1506 but had made no landing. Indeed, Columbus himself on his last voyage had visited some of the coastal islands, but had apparently ignored the proximity of the mainland. Cordova was the first to reach the actual coast of Yucatan and to explore a portion of that country. Grijalva in turn was the first to discover and to land in Mexico; of which country he formally claimed possession, in the name of Velasquez, for the King of Spain, it was he, too, or some member of his expedition, who gave to Mexico the name of New Spain.

In his commission Grijalva had been directed to discover and explore new lands, and to take possession of them for the King of Spain, but he was forbidden to undertake colonization of them or to make any permanent settlements. To that prohibition must be ascribed the practical failure of his expedition. He appears to have realized the desirability of making permanent settlements, but felt himself restrained by his orders. His men murmured and almost mutinied because they were not permitted to build forts, take land, and establish colonies; but Grijalva, though firm to resist them, dared not violate the orders of his uncle. However, at midsummer he sent Alvarado back with two ships, carrying the sick and wounded, and also much treasure in gold which had been obtained from the natives in barter. He likewise wrote to Velasquez, asking and indeed urging that his commis{88}sion be so amended as to permit him to make permanent settlements in the lands which he had discovered.

It does not appear that Velasquez made a favorable response to this request, if indeed he made any at all. He had previously manifested his impatience to learn what Grijalva was doing and what he had found, by sending Christopher de Olid with one vessel to offer him reenforcements and supplies, if needed, and to get a report of his achievements. Off the Mexican coast, however, that expedition ran into a succession of violent storms which so discouraged and dismayed Olid that he abandoned his errand and scuttled incontinently back to Cuba without so much as communicating with Grijalva. The latter, accordingly, after spending the summer and early fall in Mexico, and despairing of receiving the increased authority which he deemed essential to the further success of his expedition, reembarked and returned to Cuba, arriving at Matanzas early in October.

There he found Olid, who had reached that port only a few days before, and who had not yet communicated with Velasquez the news of the failure of his errand. Olid's report to Velasquez, which was then promptly dispatched, contained therefore the news of Grijalva's return as well as his own. As soon as he received this, Velasquez sent word to Grijalva to come at once to Santiago and report to him in person, but to let his men remain at Matanzas, or at Havana, since he wanted them to serve in another Mexican expedition which he was already fitting out. Most of the men were willing to do this, and were accordingly maintained there at the cost of Velasquez, or of the Spanish Crown, until he was ready to use them; though a certain number expressed themselves as having had their fill of exploring and accordingly returned to their homes in various parts of Cuba.

Grijalva repaired, as summoned, to Santiago, and there met what we must regard as an unjust and unmerited fate. Velasquez expressed entire dissatisfaction with his conduct, particularly in not having planted permanent set{89}tlements in Mexico; the very thing which Grijalva had wanted to do but was forbidden by Velasquez himself to do. This extraordinary inconsistency on the part of Velasquez can probably be explained on the ground that he himself had been forbidden by the Jeronimite Fathers to plant such colonies, and did not venture to disobey them, but had hoped that Grijalva would disobey them. He further let his unhappy nephew know that, because of his failure to disobey orders, he would have no further use for him. He was sending out another expedition to Mexico, to plant permanent colonies there, but it would be under other leadership, and Grijalva would have no part in it whatever. As Grijalva had already alienated most of his men by refusing to break his orders, he was thus left friendless, and he played no further part in the history either of the Cuba which he had loyally served or of the Mexico of which he was the discoverer and first explorer.{90}


The new Mexican expedition was entrusted by Velasquez to the leadership of the greatest of all the Spanish conquistadors, Hernando Cortez, then Alcalde of Santiago de Cuba. This famous man was then, in 1518, only thirty-three years of age. HERNANDO CORTEZ HERNANDO CORTEZ He had been born in Estremadura, had survived a particularly weak and sickly childhood, and had studied law at the University of Salamanca. Leaving the University, he enlisted in the company of Nicolas de Ovando, also of Estremadura, for an expedition to America. But on the very eve of sailing he went to bid a tender farewell to his inamorata; while scaling the garden wall to reach her window he fell and had part of the wall topple upon him, and in consequence was laid abed for some time, while Ovando's expedition sailed without him. Recovering from this mishap, he passed a year or two in obscurity and poverty, and then secured passage, in 1504, for Hispaniola. His courage and prowess during a storm which threatened to swamp the vessel made him a conspicuous member of the company, and on landing at Hispaniola he was quickly taken into the good graces and the employ of both Velasquez and Ovando. Having overcome his early delicacy of constitution, he was now a stalwart, handsome youth, of engaging manners, fine education and much spirit and capacity in martial adventure; in brief, admirably fitted for the great career which he was already unconsciously confronting.{91}

We have seen that a mishap in a love affair determined the time and circumstances of his leaving Spain for the New World. A sequel to that incident again determined his course. He had enlisted in the expedition of Diego de Nicuesa bound for Darien when from the old injury from his garden wall disaster there developed an abscess in his right knee, which again disabled him for a time and restrained him from going on that voyage. Had he gone on it, perhaps he might have become the conqueror of Peru, instead of his fellow Estremaduran, Pizarro, who was a member of Nicuesa's company, and the discoverer of the Pacific, instead of that other Estremaduran, Balboa, who went to Darien at a little later date. Instead, Cortez was detailed by Diego Columbus to go to Cuba as a secretary to Velasquez. In that capacity he acquitted himself so well that he received an extensive grant of land, together with a large number of natives as slaves, and for a time he settled down as a Cuban planter.

His adventurous spirit would not permit him permanently to engage in so placid an occupation, however, and he presently became involved in some strenuous transactions which came near to making an end of him. Precisely what happened is uncertain. Historic accounts differ. According to Benito Martinez, he made himself the leader of a faction opposed to Velasquez, and undertook to go from Cuba to Hispaniola in an open boat to carry to certain royal Judges there complaints and accusations against the Governor. As he was setting out on this venture, however, he was betrayed and arrested, was charged with fomenting a revolt against Velasquez, and was condemned to be hanged. Upon the intercession of friends, however, Velasquez commuted the sentence into exile from Cuba, and put Cortez aboard a vessel bound for Hispaniola. Soon after the vessel sailed Cortez contrived to slip overboard unperceived, caught hold of a floating log, and swam back to Cuba. There he found refuge in a church, until once more his passion for the fair sex came near to being his undoing. For one day as he{92} was slipping out of the church to keep a love-tryst, he was seized by an alguazil named Juan Escudero, and returned to prison. Velasquez then again ordered him hanged, but again yielded to intercession, and gave Cortez his freedom. Incidentally, Cortez afterward hanged Escudero, in Mexico.

So runs one version of the story, told by Herrera and others. Gomara, Barcia and others tell quite another. It is to the effect that Cortez went to Cuba as an accountant for Miguel de Pasamonte, the royal treasurer, though he also did much business for Velasquez and was in charge of the assay office and the hospital at Santiago; and that the feud between him and Velasquez arose over a love affair. Cortez had engaged himself to marry Doña Catalina Suarez, one of the ladies in waiting upon Maria de Toledo, the consort of the Admiral and Viceroy, Diego Columbus, but either delayed to fulfil the engagement or was suspected of an intention to break it by Velasquez, who was much interested in the lady's sister. In the course of this feud, Cortez was arrested and was found to have on his person papers unfriendly to Velasquez. He escaped, and took refuge in a church. But in time he emerged from sanctuary, married Doña Catalina, and "lived happily with her ever after." He also became reconciled to Velasquez, so much that the latter stood as god-father to the first-born child of Cortez.

This latter story seems the more probable of the two, and more in accord with what we know of the characters and dispositions of both Velasquez and Cortez. Certain it is that after their disagreements and conflicts Velasquez took Cortez back into full favor, made him Alcalde of Santiago de Cuba, and selected him in preference to his own nephew, Grijalva, to be the leader of what he himself considered to be the most important of all his enterprises.

In making this choice, which was of epochal importance both to himself and to Cuba and the Spanish colonial empire, Velasquez was doubtless largely influenced by the{93} arguments and persuasions of his own secretary, Andres de Ducro, and by the royal contador in Cuba, Amador de Lares. These two appear to have worked together, with a mutual understanding, and also with an understanding with Cortez; so that we might almost consider the three to have formed a conspiracy to prevail upon the Governor. Perhaps their chief argument, or temptation, was to promise Velasquez the royal appointment as Adelantado, not alone over Cuba but also over all other lands which he might discover, and it was shrewdly pointed out to him that if haste was made, he might secure that appointment in time to claim the enormously rich land of Mexico as part of his domain. All that would be necessary would be for him to get the appointment before the return of Grijalva with the official report of his discoveries. As this appointment was the dearest wish and ambition of Velasquez's life, it is easy to understand how potent this offer was in persuading him to make Cortez the leader of the expedition.

There was on the other hand much opposition to the choice. All of the relatives and many of the friends and counsellors of Velasquez warned him not to trust Cortez. Las Casas joined his advice with theirs, warning Velasquez, however, not so much against Cortez as against the royal contador, De Lares, and anyone whom he might favor. De Lares, he said, had lived long in Italy, a country then considered to be a very hotbed of trickery and treachery, and was doubtless deeply imbued with the spirit of conspiracy and intrigue, which he was quite likely to exercise against Velasquez himself.

Cortez was of course well aware of these conflicting influences, and for some time felt much uncertainty as to which side would prove the more powerful. He especially dreaded the return of Grijalva, fearing that either he would regain the favor of his uncle, or would give so glowing a report of the wealth of Mexico as to excite the cupidity of Velasquez to a degree that would move him to go thither in person. When he learned that Grijalva{94} had arrived at Havana and was about to come across the island to Santiago, he pushed preparations for his departure with feverish haste, apparently determined to set out whether Velasquez approved his going or not. He borrowed large sums of money, wherever he could, for fitting out the expedition at his own expense if necessary, and in fact he did thus provide a large share of its cost. He also recruited a number of men upon whom he could depend to stand by him in any emergency; even if he should have to defy the authority of Velasquez and sail without his permission.

The middle of November, 1518, was the crucial and indeed epochal time; in which the fate of Velasquez, the fortunes of Cortez, and in a large measure the future of the Spanish empire in America, were all decided. Within a week, three major incidents occurred. First, on November 13, Velasquez received his commission from the King, as Adelantado of Cuba and all new lands which he might cause to be discovered. In getting that for him, De Ducro and De Lares fulfilled their promise; whereupon Velasquez in turn fulfilled his agreement, by confirming the appointment of Cortez. Two days later, on November 15, Grijalva arrived at Santiago, and as already stated was unfavorably received. Nevertheless, the apprehensions of Cortez were partially fulfilled. Velasquez did not, indeed, restore his nephew to favor, but he was so impressed by the reports and visible and tangible tokens of the wealth of Mexico, that he hesitated to let Cortez go. The thought occurred to him that it would be better to go himself, or to send somebody upon whom he could more implicitly depend.

His hesitation became known to Cortez, and of course greatly disquieted and alarmed him. But with the intrepidity and resolution which were characteristic of him, he hastened his preparations for departure and added to them preparations for breaking away by force if that should be necessary. It has been said by some that he{95} finally sailed secretly, by night. Las Casas tells that story, and the American historian of Cortez, Prescott, credits and repeats it. Others have pictured Cortez as sailing away openly, with Velasquez falling upon his knees on the shore, imploring him not to go. We may prudently relegate both these versions to the realm of imagination. The far more likely story is that given by honest Bernal Diaz. He tells us that Andres de Ducro—probably knowing that there was danger that Velasquez would change his mind and revoke the appointment of Cortez—urged Cortez to sail without delay; that Cortez accordingly, the second day after Grijalva's arrival at Santiago ordered all his men to go aboard ship and remain there; that he then went with De Ducro and De Lares to bid Velasquez adieu; and that the next day, November 18, after attending an early mass at the cathedral, he went aboard and at once set sail for Mexico. That was five days after the appointment of Velasquez as Adelantado, and three days after the arrival of the real discoverer of Mexico, Grijalva, at Santiago.

With those three incidents, as we have said, a new era began. We need not here concern ourselves with the further doings of Cortez, excepting in that he took from Cuba several hundred of its most venturesome and competent men, including many of those who had been with Grijalva; and that he promptly renounced the authority of Velasquez over the new lands which were to be discovered. The breach between the two occurred when Cortez, having sailed from Santiago, put into the Cuban port of Trinidad for men and supplies. There he was intercepted by a messenger from Velasquez, with orders to return at once to Santiago. If he would not obey this summons, the Alcalde, Verduzo, was authorized forcibly to deprive him of his commission and to give it instead to Vasco Portallo. The latter was a friend of Velasquez, who had formerly been considered by him for the leadership of the expedition, before the choice fell on Cortez.{96} Another candidate had been Baltazar Bermudez, whom indeed Velasquez actually selected for the place, only to have him decline it.

Cortez, as might have been expected, refused to return. Instead, he prevailed upon the Governor's own messenger to join his expedition. To the demand of the Alcalde, that he surrender his commission, he replied with a haughty refusal, and so strong was the force which he had with him that Verduzo prudently refrained from any attempt to coerce him. He then wrote a friendly letter to Velasquez, assuring him that he was giving himself needless concern, took on additional supplies, and resumed his voyage. He had previously helped himself freely from a royal storehouse at Macaca, saying that he was going on the King's business and was therefore entitled to the King's goods. Also he is said to have stopped a merchant ship bound for Hispaniola, and to have taken such goods from its cargo as he desired.

Thus provided, he next put in at the harbor at or near Batabano which had in 1514 been called San Cristobal de la Havana, but which by this time was falling into some disuse and was surrendering its name to the far more important port on the northern coast. Here another messenger from Velasquez intercepted him, with a similar command, to which Cortez gave a similar reply. Last of all, he touched at Guane, on what is now appropriately known as Cortez Bay, near the western extremity of the island; and thence, at the middle of February, 1519, left Cuba for the island of Cozumel, thence to proceed to Vera Cruz, Mexico. The story of his burning his ships after he had landed, in order that his men might have no thought or hope of returning, is historic, and is true. But in effect he did the same, at least for himself, before that time. He departed from Cuba in circumstances which made his return to that island impossible; at least as long as Velasquez was its governor. Then, to seal the matter and make the breach with his former friend and patron more absolutely irremediable, immediately{97} upon landing at Vera Cruz he organized a government by appointing some of his own men to be a municipal council. Then to that Council of his own creation he surrendered the commission which Velasquez had bestowed upon him; and finally, also from his own creatures, he accepted appointment as Royal Governor of New Spain!

It was of course out of the question that Velasquez would meekly acquiesce in this flouting of his authority, and particularly in this open attempt to deprive him of his newly-won authority as Adelantado of Mexico. He immediately reported to the King what Cortez had done, and protested against it as a defiance of the King's authority as well as his own. But Cortez answered his protests and appeals to the Crown with still more potent arguments in justification of his course. These arguments took the form of bars and ingots of gold, which he secured in Mexico and sent to Spain; in some cases "ballasting his ships" with the precious metal. One of the first of these treasure ships was a brigantine, dispatched in the midsummer of 1519 under the pilot-captain Alaminos. As it passed Havana it was espied by Juan de Rojas, a cousin of Velasquez, who sent word of it to Velasquez. The latter sent out Gonzalo de Guzman to intercept and seize it, but he failed in the errand.

Finding his appeals and protests ineffective against the gold of Cortez, Velasquez determined to use force. He was Adelantado, by royal commission. Therefore Cortez was a rebel. He rallied his friends, in both Cuba and Hispaniola. He used his own immense wealth freely for the purchase and equipment of ships. He enlisted an army twice as great as the force which had accompanied Cortez. With this expedition he purposed to follow Cortez to Mexico, and compel his submission. Whether he would have succeeded in this undertaking, had it not been interfered with, must remain subject matter of speculation; for there was prompt and effective interference. Diego Columbus, in Hispaniola, became much concerned. He was still Admiral, and nominally, at least, superior in{98} authority to Velasquez as well as to Cortez, and he did not wish to have his subordinates fighting among themselves. So he sent one of the most eminent Spanish colonial judges, Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, to Cuba to make peace. This envoy reached Santiago in January, 1520, just in time to find that Velasquez and his expedition had already sailed for Mexico. With the swiftest vessel he could find he set out in pursuit, and was lucky enough to overtake them where they had stopped for supplies, in Corrientes Bay, near the extreme western point of the island.

Ayllon seems to have been vested with no actual authority over Velasquez. He merely tried to dissuade him from executing his purpose. He urged him to content himself with sending one or two vessels on to Mexico, with a summons to Cortez, to return or at least to abandon his pretensions of independence and to acknowledge the authority of Velasquez; under penalty of being reported to the King as a contumacious rebel. The rest of the expedition, he suggested, might be used in explorations elsewhere. Above all, he pleaded with Velasquez not to go to Mexico himself, but to return to Santiago, where his presence was sorely needed. Velasquez yielded to these entreaties so far as to abandon personal leadership of the expedition. He made Panfilo de Narvaez leader in his stead, and then returned to Santiago. Ayllon went along with Narvaez, to keep the peace. The result was that soon after landing in Mexico, Narvaez was wounded and made captive by Cortez, and practically all his men, with their stores, munitions, arms and ships, who had been sent out to subdue Cortez, became loyal followers of that resourceful conquistador. In fact, we may judiciously reckon that Cortez owed his success in the conquest of Mexico to the reenforcements which he thus received from the expedition which had been sent against him.

Later, it is true, some members of Narvaez's party became a source of serious peril to Cortez. This was at the beginning of the year 1521, after the death of Montezuma{99} and the noche triste, and at the time when Cortez was planning to return to the city of Mexico as its conqueror. A number of Narvaez's men entered into a conspiracy to assassinate Cortez, and at their head was one Villafana, who had been a very close friend and earnest partisan of Velasquez. Because of that relationship, it was suspected by Cortez that the man had been incited to undertake the crime by Velasquez himself. Of this there was, however, no proof, and no attempt was made to fasten responsibility or odium upon Velasquez; which we may be sure would have been done had any real ground for it been discovered. By interesting coincidence, the conspiracy was made, detected and punished at the very time when, as we shall see, Velasquez was being removed from the Governorship of Cuba.

Villafana modelled his plans upon those of the slayers of Julius Cæsar. All the conspirators were to approach Cortez in public, and one of them was to approach him with what should purport to be a letter from his father, Martin Cortez, just arrived on a vessel from Spain. The moment he took the letter and began to read it, all were to rush upon him and stab him with their knives. Cortez detected the plot just in time. He personally went with guards to Villafana's apartments and arrested him, while others took the other conspirators into custody. Villafana was put to death, and the others were imprisoned. Then Cortez, with characteristic resourcefulness, turned the incident to account for his own profit, by making it the pretext for continually thereafter surrounding himself with an armed body guard of his most trusted soldiers.

Velasquez returned to Santiago to find affairs in a sad plight. Small pox, measles and other epidemics were raging, and disastrous tropical hurricanes had swept the island, destroying crops and buildings. A large proportion of the most efficient men of the island had followed Cortez—and Narvaez—to Mexico. Moreover, Diego Columbus, at Hispaniola, was threatening trouble. It must be remembered that Velasquez had practically{100} flouted Columbus's authority, almost as much as his own had been flouted by Cortez. At any rate, the Admiral had a serious grievance against him, and deemed this a fitting time for calling him to account. Apparently he was further aggrieved because Velasquez would not more fully accept the counsel of Ayllon. At any rate, in the middle of January, 1521, he sent over to Cuba an envoy, to take the place of Velasquez as Governor of Cuba and to investigate the manner in which Velasquez had administered his affairs. This envoy was Alfonso de Zuazo, who thus became the second Governor of Cuba.

In this action Velasquez acquiesced; probably because he durst not do otherwise. It would have been a dangerous thing in any circumstances to defy the Admiral; and it would have been superlatively so at a time when Cuba had just been stripped of its ships and its best fighting men. Nevertheless, he pointed out that he himself was still commandant of the fort at Baracoa, and was Repartidor of the natives throughout the island. This latter was in some important respects a more influential office than that of Governor, and it Velasquez held, not by the Admiral's appointment but by virtue of a commission granted directly by the King himself. He could not, therefore, be superseded or interfered with in any way by the Admiral or any of his underlings, nor by anybody short of the King himself. In this he was quite right, and when Zuazo, relying upon Diego Columbus's authority, did infringe upon some of Velasquez's functions and powers, the latter complained to the King, and the King disavowed Zuazo, and severely reprimanded Columbus.

Velasquez was not, however, yet at the end of his difficulties. The royal vindication of his claims was gratifying, and he doubtless felt some secret satisfaction in the humiliation of Diego Columbus. But the son of the great Admiral was not a man to be flouted with impunity, not even by the King of Spain. True, he acquiesced, perforce, in the royal decree. But his resourceful mind{101} quickly devised another line of attack upon Velasquez. At the beginning of 1522, accompanied by two judges of the supreme court of Hispaniola, he proceeded to Santiago de Cuba, and there instituted a judicial investigation into the conduct of Velasquez's administration. To this Velasquez demurred, on the grounds already mentioned that as Repartidor he was accountable to the King alone. Diego Columbus responded by pointing out in the commission of Velasquez as Repartidor a provision that the judges of Hispaniola might and indeed should give him specific advice as to the conduct of his office; and such advice they thereupon proceeded to give, in terms indistinguishable from commands. To this Velasquez could not demur; the text of his commission did indeed provide for that very thing. But his retort was prompt and effective. The commission provided for the giving of advice, but it did not require Velasquez to accept it! As a matter of fact, it was not accepted but ignored, and Diego Columbus and his judges returned to Hispaniola in defeat.

One more effort was made by Velasquez to vindicate his authority over Cortez in Mexico. He went so far as to equip a third expedition of which he personally took command, intending to invade Mexico and compel Cortez to submit to his authority. This expedition sailed from Cuba in the fall of 1522, but never reached the coast of Mexico. It was intercepted by a message from the King, announcing that he had appointed Cortez to be Governor of Mexico in entire independence of Cuba, and expressly forbidding Velasquez to interfere with him in any way. This was conclusive, and Velasquez returned home, abandoning all further thoughts of Mexico.

Despite his losses and the great expense to which he had gone in fruitless Mexican ventures, he was still one of the richest men in Cuba; especially since the death of his father-in-law, Cristobal de Cuellar, who had left him the major part of his large fortune. As Repartidor, also, he continued his activities in public affairs. In the sum{102}mer of 1523 he personally directed a campaign against a revolt and depredations of an Indian tribe inhabiting some of the small islands off the Cuban coast. He suffered humiliation, it is true, in having at about that same time public proclamation made in Cuba of the royal decree inhibiting him from further designs against Cortez. But before the end of the year atonement was made for this in another royal decree completely restoring Velasquez to his place as Governor of Cuba.

The causes which led to this extraordinary action are obscure, but it seems probable that the King recognized the really great services and merits of Velasquez, and it is quite possible that he had reason for dissatisfaction with Zuazo. At any rate, at about Christmas time, 1523, Velasquez was restored and Zuazo was summarily dismissed. No charges were at that time preferred against Zuazo, nor was he prosecuted or subjected to any penalties. But his commission as Governor was declared to have been illegal and all his acts to have been therefore null and void. Everything was therefore put back in as nearly as possible the condition it was in when Velasquez was formerly Governor.

Zuazo seems to have taken his dismissal philosophically, without demur or resentment; wherefore we may suspect that as a lawyer he realized that there had indeed been a fatal flaw in his commission. He remained at Santiago for a few weeks, and then went to Mexico as the attorney and envoy of Francisco de Garay, the Governor of Jamaica, who had a controversy with Cortez as to which of them was the rightful Governor of Panuco. In this errand he was frustrated by shipwreck and other vicissitudes, and it does not appear that he ever had an opportunity of serving Garay as had been intended. In time, however, he reached Mexico, and was regarded with much favor by Cortez, who appointed him to a lucrative and influential office. A little later he was extradited by the Cuban government, and was brought back to that island as a prisoner, to undergo trial for alleged misde{103}meanors committed when he was Governor. This strenuous action was taken in 1525. Zuazo complained bitterly of such harsh treatment, which probably was unwarranted. At any rate, he was acquitted; whereupon he went to Hispaniola and spent the remainder of his life there in prosperity.

We have seen that the restoration of Velasquez to the Governorship of Cuba came as a sort of solatium for his loss and humiliation with respect to Mexico. But it did not altogether reconcile him to the destruction of his hopes and ambitions. On the contrary, he conceived the scheme of remonstrating with the King and pleading his cause in person. Setting his affairs in order, therefore, he prepared to set sail for Spain, and was just on the point of doing so when death supervened. He died on June 12, 1524, and was interred, according to his wish, in the cathedral of Santiago de Cuba.

The King, who had so recently both humiliated him and honored him, was profoundly affected by the loss of one who had added much lustre to the crown of Spain, and wrote for his tomb an epitaph in Latin, eloquently setting forth his merits and his services. This was not, however, inscribed above his remains, and soon was forgotten. Instead, there was popularly circulated and remembered an epigram upon him coined by some adversary whose identity is unknown. This declared Velasquez to have been "Covetous of honor, but more covetous of gain."

This we must regard as unjust. Velasquez had his faults, and some of them were grave. He was at times arbitrary and ruthless, as most empire-builders of all lands have been. He was not always grateful to those who served him faithfully, nor was he impartial in his dealings with men. These faults were, however, common in those times, and they were no more marked in Velasquez than in his contemporaries. On the other hand he unquestionably had great virtues. He had courage, vision, enterprise, and statesmanlike views for the develop{104}ment of his domain. His work in Cuba was over-shadowed by that of Cortez in Mexico and of Pizarro in Peru, but it was in essence not less meritorious than theirs, for which indeed it prepared and opened the way. It is one of the tragedies of history that his very tomb should have been forgotten and lost, and his name remembered as a name and nothing more. For in the early history of Cuba there is no other name which stands for so much in conquest and colonization, and in the foundation, organization and development of the State, as that of the first Cuban Governor, Diego de Velasquez.{105}


Velasquez had been Governor—technically Lieutenant-Governor under the Admiral, Diego Columbus, at Hispaniola—for more than thirteen years; save for the abortive and illegal administration of Zuazo. But after him gubernatorial terms were destined to be of much shorter duration, and marked with many vicissitudes. His nominal successor was appointed some time before his death. Whether in anticipation of his decease, or with the design of ousting him, is not clear. At any rate, at the middle of May, probably on May 20, 1524, Juan Altamarino was named by the King to be the next governor, for a term of two years and no more. He appears not to have been in any way identified with the island, though probably he had been associated with Diego Columbus in Hispaniola; and at the time of his appointment he was in peninsular Spain. He made no haste to go to Cuba and assume his office, wherefore it was necessary, upon the death of Velasquez a few weeks later, that some stop-gap governor should be named. Diego Columbus, who as Admiral might have made such temporary appointment, was also in Spain. In consequence, the Audiencia or supreme court of Hispaniola acted in his stead, and appointed Manuel de Rojas.

This forceful and patriotic man was a cousin of Velasquez, who had been sent by the latter to Spain in July, 1521, as his advocate before the King in the controversy with Cortez over Mexico. He had served for some time as Alcalde of Baracoa; he was a loyal friend of Velasquez, and a man of approved ability and integrity. He was also the first Cuban governor of Cuba. By that I mean that he was the first to regard Cuba as a separate entity, apart from Hispaniola and Mexico and{106} even from Spain itself. Velasquez, vast as were his services, was never able to dissociate the interests of Cuba from those of Spain, or even from those of Mexico and other Spanish lands in this hemisphere, insular and continental; and had actually compromised the welfare of Cuba in grasping at the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Zuazo, if he is to be reckoned in the line of governors at all, was quite alien to Cuba. But Rojas was an insular patriot. He was of course entirely loyal to Spain. But that fact did not restrain him from developing an intense local patriotism. He regarded Cuba as a great enough country to command his entire attention and devotion. His policy was, Cuba for the Cubans; and he was the first of a line of Governors, not always unbroken, committed to that enlightened policy.

The island at this time, indeed, well merited such regard. It had been extensively settled, and its resources were beginning to be developed. Gold mining was profitably practised. Agriculture and cattle-raising had made great progress. Juan Mosquera, as the envoy or representative of the Cuban municipalities in Spain, had in February, 1523, secured from the King the first recognition of and encouragement for the sugar industry, which had already been established in Hispaniola, and which far-sighted men perceived to be capable of great things in Cuba. He had also, a year earlier, secured from the King grants of free trade between Cuba and all other Spanish colonies around the Caribbean, insular or continental; together with some reforms of the royalty system in gold mining and a comprehensive and orderly scheme of taxation for the building of roads and bridges and other necessary public works. In fact, Cuba was beginning to "find herself" and to show herself worthy of the affection and patriotism of her people.

The administration of Rojas was for the time, however, cut short. It had been ordered legally enough, but with the understanding that it was only temporary, pending the coming of Altamarino. Unfortunately the His{107}paniola audiencia went too far. It also appointed Rojas to succeed Velasquez as repartidor of the natives, which it had no right to do, the power to make that appointment being reserved exclusively for the King himself. It does not appear that he misused his power, or even indeed that he exercised it at all as repartidor; though it is likely that his illegal appointment to that office caused some quite unmerited prejudice against him at Madrid. His administration of the governorship, which was legal, was brief. Altamarino entered Santiago de Cuba on March 14, 1525, and at once assumed office, and Rojas retired without demur and without reproach.

Altamarino had been commissioned as juez de residencia, to investigate the administration and conduct of Velasquez. That commission came of course from the King, but there is reason for suspecting that Diego Columbus had something to do with it. If he did not instigate it, he certainly heartily approved it. Now Velasquez had, at the time of Altamarino's appointment, been living and in office. But at the time when Altamarino actually assumed the powers and duties of the governorship and those of the juez de residencia, Velasquez had been dead and buried in the cathedral of Santiago for nine months. No such trifling circumstance as that was, however, to be permitted to cause any deviation of the course of Spanish official procedure; particularly when the latter was urged on by personal animus. Diego Columbus had desired and the King had commanded Velasquez to be investigated, and investigated he must be, alive or dead. His remains were not, it is true, to be disinterred and placed at the bar. But his name and reputation were made the target for all manner of attack. A proclamation was issued, inviting everybody who had anything against the former governor to make it known, publicly, fully and fearlessly, being assured of immunity for anything they might say.

In response there was a mighty flood of insinuations, complaints, accusations, calumnies. Nor did Altamarino{108} content himself with this. He ransacked the archives of Cuba for all complaints, protests and what not that had ever been made, and if the makers of them could be found, as most of them could, he summoned them before his tribunal and required them to testify everything they could to the discredit of Velasquez. A similar inquisition was conducted into the affairs of all the chief office-holders and administrators under Velasquez. The result was what might have been expected, seeing that there was no opportunity for Velasquez to reply to the charges or to cross-examine the witnesses against him, or to produce other testimony in rebuttal. The founder of the Cuban State was charged with the acceptance of gifts, including a horse and a mule; with having levied and collected taxes without special authority from the King, though these were admittedly for road-building and other useful public purposes; with having participated in gambling games, though Rojas pointed out that his fellow gamblers were among the foremost members of the community; with having failed to check and punish blasphemous utterances; with having neglected to pay for some of the supplies which were taken for his Mexican expeditions; and with having administered justice without due regard to the letter of the statute law, which was not strange, seeing that he was not a lawyer. In his mortuary absence, he was found guilty, by default, and was condemned to pay heavy fines; which were collected from his heirs.

The dead lion was not, however, without his vengeance upon the jackals that would defile his sepulchre. The inquisition went too far, and too dearly disclosed its animus. A vigorous resentment and reaction soon arose, widespread and formidable; among the municipal councils and among the people. The kinsmen and friends of Velasquez were numerous, loyal to his memory, and powerful in influence. Gonzalo de Guzman, who had been the advocate of Velasquez at court at Madrid, not only against Cortez but also against Diego Columbus him{109}self, and Nuñez de Guzman, the royal treasurer at Santiago de Cuba, were brothers-in-law of Velasquez; and Andres Duero, Pedro de Paz, and Diego de Soto were his steadfast friends. These were all men of wealth and influence. Like Rojas, they were Cuban colonists, and resented meddling in Cuban affairs by one whom they considered an outsider. They were, moreover, life members of the Municipal Council of Santiago, by appointment of the King, and were therefore independent of the Governor so far as their tenure of office was concerned, and removable only by the King.

They therefore arrayed themselves solidly against Altamarino, and rallied to the opposition the councils of the other municipalities and many of the principal men throughout the island. Altamarino replied by trumping up charges against several of the life councillors, of having expended public funds without authorization, and suspended them from their functions, or attempted to do so. He certainly could not remove them outright, and there was much question of his right to suspend them, unless during actual trial in court. The Guzmans and their allies retorted by obtaining from the court at Hispaniola an injunction restraining Altamarino from attending meetings of the Council, so that he would not know whether the suspended members continued their functions or not. Against this the Governor furiously protested, declaring that his predecessors had habitually attended all Council meetings, and he issued an order forbidding the Council of Santiago to transact any business whatever or indeed to meet officially, in his absence. Of course this brought matters to an impasse, which could be solved only through appeal to the King. This was made, and resulted in a royal decision in favor of the Councils, confirming the injunction of the Hispaniola tribunal against the Governor's intrusion into council meetings.

This, in the early autumn of 1525, was obviously the beginning of the end for Altamarino. A little later, in{110} October of that year, the various municipal councils of the island united in sending Rodrigo Duran to Hispaniola, to prefer to the court there charges against Altamarino of a most serious character. They were indeed tantamount to his impeachment and a demand for his removal from the Governorship. The court hesitated to take action so radical, but considered the charges sufficiently important to warrant reference to the King. The result was that the King promptly decided against the Governor. Less than nine months after his actual assumption of office, and little more than a year and a half after his appointment to it, Altamarino was summarily removed from the place to which he had been appointed for two years.

Immediately after this, at the beginning of December, 1525, Altamarino's chief antagonist, Gonzalo de Guzman, a life Councillor of Santiago, was appointed to succeed him as Governor, and also as Repartidor of the natives, with all the plenary authority that Velasquez had exercised. Nor was that all. Guzman was commissioned juez de residencia, to investigate the affairs of the deposed Altamarino as the latter had investigated those of the deceased Velasquez. Guzman appears not actually to have taken office until April 25, 1526, and not to have begun his inquest into his predecessor's affairs until midsummer of that year. But he then made up for the delay with the searching and ruthless character of his investigation. We can scarcely doubt that he was moved by a large degree of personal vindictiveness. Certainly he seemed to try to be as irritating and as humiliating to Altamarino as possible; the more so, perhaps, because he realized that there was nothing serious to be proved, and that the chief penalty the ex-Governor would suffer would be the heckling and denunciation which he received during the investigation. There were charges enough against him, but not one warranted any severe punishment. As a matter of fact, all the penalties imposed upon him were light, and they were all promptly remitted by the King; the royal advisers at Madrid reporting to His Maj{111}esty that the whole business had been nothing but a tempest in a teapot. Nevertheless, the episode ended the career of Altamarino in Cuba. He at once departed to Mexico, and was seen in the island no more.

We may now fittingly observe a certain highly significant political development which at this time was manifested in the island. Reference has already been made to the rise of a feeling of local pride and municipal independence in the various provinces into which the island was divided, and also to the marked assertion of insular patriotism under Rojas and his colleagues. The former movement dated from as early as 1518, when Panfilo de Narvaez secured from the King a decree giving to some of the members of municipal councils life terms of office. In that year, accordingly, Gonzalo de Guzman and Diego de Sumana were appointed by the King to be life Councillors, or Regidors, in Santiago; Alonzo Bembrilla and Bernardino Yniguez in Trinidad; and Francisco Santa Cruz and, as we might suppose, Panfilo de Narvaez himself in Bayamo. A little later Diego de Caballero and Fernando de Medina were appointed in Sancti Spiritus, and Rodrigo Canon and Sancho de Urrutia in Puerto del Principe. In addition to these there were, of course, other Councillors appointed by the Governor for limited terms. But the life Councillors gave tone and direction to the municipal administrations and developed a certain degree of local independence of the general government of the island. In brief, there began to be promulgated at this early date the salutary principle that the various municipalities or provinces were to enjoy home rule in all purely local matters, while of course remaining subject to the Governor in everything relating to the general welfare of the island; and also that the island was to enjoy home rule in all matters pertaining exclusively to it, while subject and loyal to the Crown in everything affecting the general welfare and integrity of the Spanish kingdom and its colonial empire.

The motives and purpose of Narvaez in seeking this{112} permanent tenure for municipal Councillors have been much debated. He has been charged by some, and not unnaturally, with a selfish purpose to entrench himself and his friends irremovably in office. On the other hand there have been those who have credited him with a high-minded and statesmanlike design of promoting the welfare of Cuba by securing stability of local government under the best men. Knowing what we do of his character, it seems reasonable to suppose that the latter motive was potent, even if the other also had some influence. What is quite certain is, however, that the system quickly became a formidable power in Cuban politics, sometimes beneficent and sometimes mischievous. These permanent Councillors were powerful in bringing to naught the brief administration of Zuazo, and they formed, as already stated, the head and front of the successful opposition to Altamarino. At the same time, through their control of the election of alcaldes and other local officers they gave to the local administrations a stability which they might not otherwise have enjoyed.

With the accession of Gonzalo de Guzman to the Governorship, however, a strong and widespread reaction against the Councillors arose. This was doubtless largely provoked by the injudicious action of Guzman himself. As a life Councillor of Santiago he had been foremost in securing the exclusion of Altamarino from sessions of the councils. But when he himself became Governor, he retained his life Councillorship and therefore insisted upon his right to continue attending the meetings. Remonstrance against this was made, to the King; he having appointed Guzman to both offices; but he declined to interfere. He did, however, appoint additional life Councillors, enough largely to outnumber the partisans of Guzman. He also took the very important step of authorizing each municipality to elect from among its Councillors a Procurator, or public advocate, corresponding in some respects to a Tribune of the ancient Roman Republic.{113}

These procurators soon found their chief occupation in resisting and protesting against those acts of the Councils which they deemed inimical to the public welfare. The procurators of all the municipalities met together, to compare notes and to take counsel together for the common good, and there was an increasing inclination among them to oppose what they regarded as the growing tyranny of the Councils. At such a meeting of all the procurators, in March, 1528, Manuel de Rojas, procurator for Bayamo, took the sensational action of presenting a formal popular protest against what was described as the arrogance and oligarchical tendencies of the Councils. This provoked an impassioned reply from Juan de Quexo, the procurator for Havana, who denied the statements and insinuations of the document and opposed its reception by the meeting. But after an acrimonious controversy, Rojas won the day. The protest was received, adopted by the convention, and forwarded to the King of Spain. Together with it the procurators forwarded to the King some radical recommendations for the improvement of the insular government. These were, that the Governor should always be selected from among the bona fide residents of the island and should be appointed for a term of three years; that the life tenure of Councillors should be abolished; and that all councillors, alcaldes and procurators should be elected yearly by the people.

These suggestions were not in their entirety received favorably by the King. He refused outright to adopt those relating to the selection and appointment of governors, and to the abolition of life councillorships. He did, however, order that the procurators should be elected yearly by the people, and he greatly enlarged the functions and powers of that office. A new system of choosing alcaldes was also decreed. Instead of their being elected yearly by the Councils, it was ordered that the Council presided over by the alcalde should nominate two candidates, that the Council members without the alcalde should nominate two more, and that the Governor should{114} name one; and that from among these five a first and second alcalde should be chosen by lot.

Thus in the administration of Gonzalo de Guzman the principle of "Cuba for the Cubans," afterward long neglected, was pretty efficiently established. The Governor, at that time, and all other royal officers of the island, were Cuban colonists; and the people were invested with power to select their own procurators or advocates, who were irremovable, and who were competent to represent the people not only in the Cuban courts and in those of Hispaniola, but also before the Royal Council for the Indies at Madrid, and who were empowered to proceed against the municipal councils, the royal officials, or even the Governor himself.{115}


The early part of the administration of Gonzalo de Guzman was chiefly occupied with the investigation of his predecessors' stewardships, and with controversies with the municipal councils. There was also a controversy with the Crown over the payment to him of a salary for his services, which he requested of the King, and which the King ordered to be paid to him, but which he did not receive. Then came complications over the royal treasurership in the island. Christopher de Cuellar had been succeeded in that office by Pedro Nuñez de Guzman. The latter died, leaving a considerable fortune, and the colonial government at Hispaniola immediately designated Andres Duero to succeed him temporarily, until the King should make a permanent appointment; the expectation apparently being that Duero would be confirmed in the office. Unfortunately for the success of this design, however, the temporary appointment had been made without consulting the royal officials; who were not unnaturally piqued and offended. The result was that a protest was made to the King, not only against the method of his appointment but also against Duero himself. To this the King listened sympathetically, and he presently overruled the appointment of Duero, and in place of him named Hernando de Castro as temporary treasurer, until such time as he could have conditions investigated and could select some fitting man as a permanent incumbent.

Oddly enough, Castro had once before supplanted Duero, as the royal factor in Cuba. This office had first been held by Bernardino Velasquez, upon whose death Andres Duero had been appointed to hold it temporarily, only to be speedily replaced by Castro. The latter appears to have been one of the most enterprising men of{116} affairs of that time, and to have done more than most of his contemporaries for the industrial and economic development of the island. He became engaged in commerce between Spain and the West Indies at an early date, and paid much attention to agriculture, which he believed would be the chief permanent industry of Cuba. It was he who introduced the cultivation of wheat and other staples, with a view to making the island self-supporting, and for such activities he received the formal thanks of the King. Unfortunately, he too somewhat compromised himself by attempting to appropriate as his own the native Cubans who had been the serfs of Bernardino Velasquez and whom Duero, the factor pro tempore, had seized.

Soon after the replacing of Duero with Castro as treasurer pro tempore the former died, and then the latter was in turn replaced by the permanent appointment of Lopez Hurtado, who held the place for many years, and who was distinguished at once for his honesty and his irrepressible cantankerousness. He seemed to have a mania for faultfinding; though doubtless there was much legitimate occasion for the exercise of that faculty. To his mind, almost every other man in Cuba was a knave, and he never wearied of reporting to the King, in interminable written messages, his complaints and accusations. Not only in spite of but also because of this he was a most useful public servant.

Pedro Nuñez de Guzman, who died in 1527, left, as we have seen, a considerable fortune. Practically all of it was left to his widow, and her the thrifty Gonzalo de Guzman presently married, and thus got himself into one of the most serious controversies of his whole career. A part of the fortune of Pedro consisted of about two hundred Cuban serfs. These Gonzalo de Guzman, as Repartidor, transferred to the widow, and then, of course, when he married her, they became his property. This roused the animosity of the honest but cantankerous Hurtado, who thought that the Cubans should have been given to himself, as their former owner's official successor; ac{117}cording to the example set by Hernando de Castro, as already related. Hurtado accordingly wrote to the King a long letter on the subject, which, though it did not cause intervention in that special matter, attracted the King's attention to the complications which the Guzman marriage was producing.

The mother of the late Pedro Nuñez de Guzman next appeared as a party to the controversy. This lady, Doña Leonora de Quiñones, who had remained in Spain, complained that a great injustice had been done to her and to her other children by the transfer of Pedro's entire fortune to his widow and thence to the latter's second husband, and she applied to the Spanish courts for relief. The result was a series of lawsuits, which scandalized the Spanish courts for a term of years. In these suits many prominent Cubans were involved, and nearly the whole population of the island took sides for one or the other of the parties. Street brawls occurred over it, and the violence culminated in a physical scuffle in the aisle of the cathedral, between Gonzalo de Guzman and the Alcalde of Santiago, in which the latter had most of his clothes torn from his back, and for which Guzman was required to do penance.

The King had given his assent to the Guzman marriage, and was unwilling to withdraw it, or to censure Guzman for taking and striving to retain all of Pedro's estate. Nevertheless he remonstrated with the litigants for the fury of their controversy, which he truly told them was not only a disgrace to the island but was also a grave practical injury to it. The conflict continued, however, until all the resources of the law courts were exhausted. By that time many of the lawyers were considerably enriched, but a still large part of the estate was confirmed in the possession of Gonzalo de Guzman and his wife. All this militated against the confidence with which Guzman had been regarded, and hastened steps for the subjection of him to the fate of his predecessors.

We have seen that Guzman had been commissioned to{118} investigate the administration of his predecessor, Altamarino, and that he had performed that congenial task with energy and zeal. Now came his own turn to undergo the same treatment. It was only a little more than two years after his accession to the governorship that the King or the Crown officials in Spain concluded that it would be well to have his affairs looked into. For the performance of this work Juan Vadillo was selected, in the autumn of 1528. He was a notably efficient man. He had been employed for some time by the crown as a debt-collector in Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Porto Rico, and had been highly successful in that work; wherefore it was thought that he would subject Guzman's administration to a particularly thorough examination.

He declined, however, to accept the commission; for a variety of reasons. One was, that he had thitherto taken his orders and received his commissions directly from the King, and he considered it beneath his dignity now to be an underling of a mere Admiral of the Indies—or of the widow of the Admiral, since the commission for this job was to be given by the widow of Diego Columbus. Another reason was found in the terms on which the commission was to be granted. He was to be governor of Cuba for thirty days. During that time he was to conduct his investigation of Guzman's administration. Then, with the assumption that thirty days would afford him ample time to complete the work, he was to restore the governorship to Guzman, apparently quite irrespective of the result of his inquest. Still another reason was, that his instructions were not sufficiently explicit. It was not, for example, made clear whether he was to replace Guzman as repartidor as well as in the governorship. A final reason, perhaps not least of all, was that the salary offered was not sufficient.

While thus declining to accept the commission, Vadillo manifested his fitness for it and his serviceable interest in Cuban affairs by pointing out to the sovereign various grave defects in the administration of Cuban affairs,{119} particularly in that of the repartidor's functions. One important object of the repartimiento system was to assure a suitable distribution of native labor throughout the island. It was in fact operating to just the contrary effect. Some parts of the island were overcrowded, while others were almost entirely destitute of labor. These representations had their effect at court; not, it is true, in the ordering of correction of the evils, but in confirming the desire to have Vadillo investigate insular affairs.

After more than two years' delay, then, on February 27, 1531, another summons was sent to Vadillo. This time it was not a request but a peremptory order to go at once to Cuba and undertake the work. The conditions were, however, materially changed. He was to have his commission from the King. He was to be governor for sixty days instead of thirty. He was to be repartidor, also, in conjunction with the Bishop of Cuba. He was to have an adequate salary. And at the end of his investigation of Guzman's administration he was to hand the governorship over, not necessarily to Guzman again, but to anyone whom he might choose, until the widow of Diego Columbus should make a permanent appointment.

On these conditions Vadillo accepted the commission and entered upon his work with the efficiency and zeal that had marked his former undertaking. He quickly found that there was much need for investigation, and of thorough reforms. The whole administration had become demoralized by the personal jealousies and local feuds which for years had been raging. Bribery, slander, false arrest, even murder, had been resorted to by political partisans for the accomplishment of their ends, until something like chaos had been precipitated upon the unhappy island. It was in November, 1531, that Vadillo arrived at Santiago de Cuba on his formidable errand. He purposed to spend a few weeks in preliminary surveys of the ground, announcing that his sixty days' incumbency of the governorship would begin on January 1.

On the latter date the actual house-cleaning began.{120} The tremendous indictment which Guzman had made against Altamarino was a petty trifle in comparison with that which Vadillo launched against Guzman. There was scarcely any conceivable form of maladministration which was not charged against the governor. He had, said Vadillo, interfered with freedom of suffrage at elections. He had levied and collected taxes for which there was no warrant in law. He had appointed and commissioned notaries, although he had no legal power to do so. He had failed to compel married men either to return to their wives in Spain or to send for their wives to come to Cuba. He had permitted illicit trade in slaves. He had been biassed and partial in his administration of justice. All these and other accusations were made with much circumstance and with a formidable array of corroborative testimony, against Guzman as governor. Against him as repartidor it was charged that he had been guilty of gross and injurious misrepresentations to the Crown and to the people; that he had assigned natives as serfs to his relatives and friends in defiance of law; and that he had made the distribution of native labor inequitable.

All these charges were indignantly denied by Guzman, who defended himself with much vigor and shrewdness. But Vadillo found him to be guilty of almost every one of them, and sentenced him to pay a heavy fine and to be removed from office, both as governor and as repartidor. Against this judgment Guzman made appeal to the Council for the Indies, in Spain. In order to bring all possible influence to bear upon that body, he himself went to Spain, in August, 1532, carrying a vast mass of documents, and accompanied by Bishop Ramirez, who was returning to Spain to be consecrated. This ecclesiastic had been Guzman's most staunch and zealous partisan during the investigation. He had gone so far as to threaten with excommunication anyone who should testify against the governor, and had actually excommunicated Vadillo. Against this act Vadillo had protested to the King, and the King had reprimanded the Bishop and had{121} compelled him to withdraw the writ of excommunication. Guzman therefore took the Bishop along with him, partly so that the latter might be formally consecrated and have his conduct if possible vindicated, and partly to aid himself in his appeal to the Council for the Indies.

Vadillo did not trouble himself to go to Spain to counteract Guzman's appeal. A month before the departure of Guzman and the Bishop he left Cuba for Hispaniola, conscious of having done his duty. He had been a fearless and thorough investigator and a just judge; and he had rendered to Cuba and to the Spanish crown services far greater than he ever received compensation or credit for. Indeed, he did not enjoy so much as the gratitude of the people of Cuba, most of whom were partisans of Guzman or of some other political leader, and had become so accustomed to the corrupt ways which had been followed for years that they were inclined to resent any attempt at reform.

Upon the expiration of his sixty days' incumbency, Vadillo designated Manuel de Rojas to be governor in his stead, until an appointment of permanent character could be made by the Admiral at Hispaniola. Rojas was reluctant to accept the place, knowing that he would find it more arduous and even perilous than before, but he was finally prevailed upon to do so, apparently more through a sense of public duty than for any expectation of personal advantage.{122}


The first governorship of Gonzalo de Guzman was marked with two features of very great importance to the young nation—for such we may properly regard Cuba as having been at that time. One of these was the development of the ecclesiastical establishment into a strong and sometimes dominant force in the body politic and social; and the other was the crisis of the protracted problem of dealing with or disposing of the native Indians. These two matters were, as they had been from the beginning, closely related to each other.

It is a commonplace of history that there was a certain thread of religious motive running all through the exploits of Columbus. He emphasized the significance of his name, Christopher, Christ-Bearer, sometimes signing himself X. Ferens. The same idea was expressed, as we have already seen, in the names which he gave to the various lands which he discovered. Nor were his successors in exploration and conquest neglectful of the same spirit. Accordingly the first Spanish settlers in Cuba took pains to plant there immediately the church of their faith, and to seek to convert the natives to Christianity. Among the very earliest to land upon the shores of the island were priests of the Roman Catholic church, and the first church was built at the first point of settlement, Baracoa.

Some obscurity invests the records of the early ecclesiastical organization, but it seems altogether probable that the first Bishop was Hernando de Mesa, a member of the Order of St. Dominic. There is no available record of his appointment and consecration, but he appears to have begun his episcopal work at Baracoa in 1513 and 1514. He built the first Cuban cathedral at Baracoa, and secured from the Spanish government in 1515 a system of tithes for the support and propagation of the{123} church. These tithes were to be paid not in coin but in merchandise, and they were to be collected not by the priests or other agents of the church, but by officers of the secular government. The latter was, moreover, to retain one-third of them for the erection of new church buildings, a task which it took upon itself as a measure of public works. It was not infrequently remarked that these royal tithe-gatherers were much more diligent, prompt and efficient in collecting the tithes from the people than in turning the proceeds over to the church.

Bishop De Mesa reigned over the diocese for about three years, and then was succeeded by Juan de Ubite, concerning whom the records are much more detailed and explicit. He seems to have been an aggressive and fearless man, who did not hesitate to engage in controversy and even in litigation with the royal government over the matter of the tithes. He protested against the government's retaining and administering the one-third of the tithes which was devoted to church-building, insisting that it also should be turned over to the ecclesiastical authorities, who were best fitted to know the needs and to direct the work of church building. In this contention he was not successful, but he did manage to secure the levying of tithes upon the crown estates the same as upon all other property.

One of the most important achievements of Bishop Ubite was the transfer of the cathedral from Baracoa to Santiago. For this change he gave two reasons. One was, that Baracoa was an unhealthful spot; in which he was surely in error. The other was, that Santiago was a larger and more important place, indeed, the chief city of the island; in which he was quite correct. The transfer was authorized by the civil government in October, 1522, and plots of land were granted to the Bishop for the sites of the new cathedral and of the houses of the Bishop and other clergy. These latter were the same plots which are still occupied by ecclesiastical buildings, in the heart of the city of Santiago de Cuba.{124}

This change of the site of the cathedral was doubtless to the advantage of the church. It was probably profitable, also, to the good Bishop personally. Following it he became the proprietor of extensive lands, of great herds of cattle, and of a number of Negro and Indian slaves. He interested himself to good effect in seeing to it that the civil government provided from its third of the tithes abundant funds for church building, and thus secured the erection of two churches at Trinidad, one at Sancti Spiritus, and one at Havana, a place even at that early date rising rapidly in importance.

Bishop Ubite reigned over the diocese until April, 1525, and then, in circumstances which are obscure and for reasons not clearly apparent, took the extraordinary step of resigning his see. The office remained vacant until early in 1527, when Miguel Ramirez was appointed to it. This third Bishop was, like each of his predecessors, a Dominican. He was officially styled not only Bishop but also Protector of the Indians, with the purpose of making him a sort of check upon the Repartidor. He did not arrive at Santiago until the fall of 1528, when he promptly made up for the delay by plunging into both industrial and political activities. Like Bishop Ubite, he was an extensive land owner, cattle-raiser and slaveholder.

Bishop Ramirez appears to have been a great meddler into politics, particularly as a hot partisan of Gonzalo de Guzman. He came into conflict more than once with the royal treasurer, Hurtado, and was denounced by that austere censor as a scandalous disturber of the peace. This characterization was provoked by the Bishop's attitude and conduct toward Vadillo's investigation of Guzman's administration; and it is probably not unjust to assume that the Bishop's attitude and conduct were due to the fact that Vadillo had seized a lot of gold which had been mined by the husband of the Bishop's niece. Vadillo made this seizure on two grounds: That the nephew-in-law was a mere figure-head for the Bishop{125} himself, who had no legal right to engage in gold-mining; and that the gold in question properly belonged to the royal treasury and therefore should be turned over to Hurtado. At any rate the Bishop was furious, and strove to restrain, with threats of excommunication, witnesses from testifying against Guzman in the inquests which Vadillo was conducting. Vadillo was not at all alarmed or abashed by the episcopal wrath, but proceeded to look into the affairs of the church as well as the civil government, and among other reforms ordered the Bishop and clergy to stop charging for funeral masses higher fees than those which were charged in Hispaniola. At this the Bishop seems quite to have lost his head. He began a denunciatory tirade against Vadillo in the cathedral, at which the latter contemptuously turned his back upon the speaker and walked out of the building. Then the Bishop excommunicated him. Vadillo made appeal to the King, and the King, after careful consideration and investigation, compelled the Bishop to withdraw the excommunication, and in addition gave his royal approval to all that Vadillo had done with respect to the church.

In the first clash between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, therefore, the former were victorious. Nevertheless, the church exerted much and steadily increasing influence, particularly in matters relating to the Indian natives. And these matters were of much importance. Although the repartimiento system, adopted early in the administration of Velasquez, was designed and supposed to put all the natives under government control, it failed to do so. Among those apportioned to the colonists as serfs—practically slaves—dissatisfaction and resentment widely prevailed, and insurrections sometimes occurred. But by no means all the natives were thus apportioned. Some fled to mountain fastnesses, and others, perhaps the majority, to the small islands or Keys off the Cuban coast, whence they became known as Key Indians. They used these islands, moreover, not alone as places of refuge but also as bases from which to make depredatory raids{126} upon the mainland of Cuba, to the great detriment and disturbance of the Spanish settlers.

So numerous, extensive and disastrous did these raids become that Velasquez in 1523 commissioned Rodrigo de Tamayo to organize a military and naval expedition against the Key Indians, and to kill or capture them all. This programme was not fully carried out, but it was sufficiently executed to abate the troubles and to secure peace on the coasts for several years. Tamayo's commission was renewed by Altamarino, as a matter of form, there being then no need of action; and when in the administration of Gonzalo de Guzman there was some recrudescence of hostilities, the royal government specially authorized the waging of a campaign which should bring the last of the Key Indians into subjection. The new outbreaks did not, however, prove sufficiently serious to call for or to warrant strenuous action.

The scene of trouble was, however, shifted from the coast to the interior of the island. Several numerous companies of Indians, securely lodged among the mountains, began hostilities, raiding the very suburbs of Santiago itself. They were known as Cimarrons, or Wild Indians, to distinguish them from the serfs and slaves. Their pernicious activities began in 1529, and in the following year their operations were so extensive and persistent as to simulate civil war. Manuel de Rojas organized a force and led it against them with much success, and would probably have soon made an end of the troubles had he not been restrained by Guzman. The governor was probably jealous of the ability, popularity and rising influence of Rojas, and was not willing that he should gain the prestige which complete victory would confer upon him. So he called him back in circumstances which would, he thought, discredit Rojas and make his campaign seem a failure. Vadillo during his brief administration sought to end the troubles by pacific and conciliatory overtures, but failed.

It was thus left for Rojas, on becoming governor in{127} succession to Guzman, to take up again the work from which he had been recalled by his predecessor. This he did to much effect at the end of 1532. He sent a strong force against the mountain fastness of Guama, the foremost chieftain of the Cimarrons, and completely defeated him, putting him to flight and almost extirpating his band. Shortly after this victory of Rojas's, Guama was killed by one of his own few remaining followers. Rojas then sent his troops to disperse Cimarron bands near Bayamo, and Baracoa, which they did with much success, so that peace and security were pretty well restored throughout the island.

This left unsettled, however, the other and in some respects more important and more trying phase of the Indian question, namely, the treatment and disposal of the "tame" Indians, who for years had been in a state of practical slavery under the repartimiento system. It will be recalled that at the beginning they were placed under the protection of the Jeronimite Order of monks; a protection which did not effectively protect. In fact, within a dozen years of the foundation of the system the Jeronimites were more oppressors than protectors, and were chiefly engaged in making what pecuniary profit they could out of their hapless wards. On this account their nominal protectorate was formally abolished by the crown, in 1526, and Gonzalo de Guzman was made repartidor with powers equal to those which Velasquez had exercised. Indeed, his powers were even more absolute than those of Velasquez, since the supreme court of Hispaniola was deprived of jurisdiction over him in his administration of Indian affairs. Later the Bishop, Ramirez, was made co-repartidor with him.

There then arose a protracted and bitter rivalry between the governor and Bishop on the one side and the municipal alcaldes on the other, for the exercise of powers of inspection of and supervision over the labor of the natives. Both sides appointed inspectors, whose functions clashed. Appeal was made to the crown, with{128} the result that the dispute was decided in favor of the alcaldes, who were authorized to appoint inspectors, which the governor and Bishop were forbidden to do. As is usual in such cases, the objects of the contention were the chief sufferers. Indeed, so wretched became their plight that some inkling of the truth reached the ears of the King, who thereupon commissioned a Provincial of the Franciscan Order to go from Hispaniola to Cuba, to investigate charges of cruelty, and to punish severely all who were found guilty. The King also directed that he should arrange for the liberation of the natives to the fullest extent for which they seemed to be fitted.

Learning of this before the arrival of this commissioner, Guzman and his friends set energetically to work to defeat his mission in advance. A vast mass of "evidence" was cooked up, pretending to demonstrate the unfitness of the Indians for any greater measure of liberty than they were already enjoying, which was practically none at all. It was declared that the Indians were at that very time largely armed and threatening the Spaniards with massacre and extermination, and that any further privileges granted to them would certainly provoke a tragic catastrophe. The Indians would exterminate the Spanish colonists and of course revert to heathen idolatry, and it would be necessary to conquer and to convert the island over again. This perjured stuff, responsibility for which must be regarded as the worst stain upon Gonzalo de Guzman's fame, was presented to the King in the name of the government and people of Cuba.

But King Charles was no fool. Thousands of miles away though he was, and absorbed in important problems of other parts of his vast empire, he took pains to find out the truth about Cuba. Learning it, he threw the stuff which Guzman had sent him into the waste basket, gave his Franciscan commissioner stronger orders, declared that he wanted the Indians to be treated as free men and not as slaves, and promulgated a set of new laws concerning them. In connection with these{129} laws, as a statement of the need of them, the King delivered himself of a scathing indictment of the Cuban government and people for ill-treatment of the natives and for causing depopulation of the island. (The original population of the island at the time of the first Spanish settlements is unknown, but has reasonably been estimated at several hundred thousand. By the end of Guzman's administration the number of surviving Indians was reckoned at not more than five thousand!)

These new laws, issued in the latter part of 1526, forbade further compulsion of the Indians as laborers in the mines. But in the course of a few weeks some modifications of them—to the disadvantage of the Indians—were obtained through false representations at court, with the result that conditions became almost as bad as before. The King next directed Sebastian Ramirez, who was Bishop of Hispaniola and president of the supreme court, to report to him on the desirability of retaining or abolishing the repartimiento system; and that functionary reported in favor of retaining it. Then Miguel Ramirez was made Bishop of Cuba and Protector of the Indians; and he, as we have seen, fell completely under the influence of Guzman. The result was that no reforms were effected, and the state of the Indians went from bad to worse.

The King learned of this, and was profoundly dissatisfied. In the latter part of 1529 he demanded to know why reforms had not been effected, and especially why there had not been made the experiment of granting the natives entire freedom. Equivocal replies were made, and it was not until the spring of 1531 that Guzman undertook the experiment. At that time one of the colonists, who had held some 120 slaves, died, and Guzman directed that they be set at liberty and be given a chance to show what they could do as farmers. Every conceivable condition was imposed upon them which would tend to make the experiment the failure which Guzman intended that it should be. In the midst of the experiment,{130} which was to last a year, Guzman was removed from office. Vadillo, who succeeded him for sixty days, had no authority to do anything in the premises, and so the completion of the ill-begun business was left for Manuel de Rojas.

Then began one of the most deplorable passages in all the early history of Cuba, in which good intentions were frustrated, benevolent purposes defeated, and the remnants of a race undeservedly doomed to destruction. Manuel de Rojas should be credited with having been of all men of this time one of the most honest and able, and most sincere in his desire to do justice to the native Indians. He saw through the web of trickery and malign conditions in which they had been enmeshed by those who were predetermined that the experiment of emancipation should fail, and he unsparingly denounced it all. The Indians who had been "selected" for the experiment had in fact not been selected at all, but had been taken at haphazard, without regard to their fitness; if indeed they had not been taken largely because of their unfitness. They had, moreover, been subjected to the instruction and direction of those who seemed more interested in extorting profit from them than in assisting them to independence.

Rojas demanded that these abuses should be corrected, and that the natives should have at least a fair, unhampered chance to show themselves fit for freedom and Cuban citizenship. As a result of his own painstaking investigation, he reported to the King that the tales of Indian insurrections, actual or threatened, which his predecessor had circulated, were chiefly false; obviously invented for the purpose of discrediting the Indians. It was the old story: "Give a dog a bad name, and hang him." The Indians were to be slandered, and represented as incorrigible criminals, and then doomed to slavery. Moreover, in the few cases in which revolts or attempted revolts had occurred, the blame should rest upon the Spaniards more than upon the Indians, for{131} the former had goaded the latter to desperation by inhuman cruelties, in resisting which the Indians were manifesting not savagery but manhood.

In support of this view of the situation, Rojas was able to cite many specific and perfectly well authenticated instances of cruelty and injustice. To correct these evils he recommended that whenever it was proved that a mine-owner, farmer or other employer of native labor, had deliberately treated his Indians cruelly or unjustly, the men should be taken away from him and either set at liberty or be assigned to a more humane employer. The danger of thus being deprived of their workmen would, he plausibly believed, restrain employers from brutality. He also insisted that the professional "slave catchers," who made a profitable business of running down and returning to their employers fugitive Indians, and who notoriously treated such captives with gross cruelty, should be forbidden longer to ply their nefarious trade.

This wise and humane policy was approved by the crown, and Rojas sincerely and perseveringly strove to make it effective throughout the island; devoting to it for a couple of years the greater part of his time and attention. But unfortunately he found the people, the civil officials, and to a large extent the clergy, arrayed against him. The auri sacra fames possessed the people. Slave labor was profitable; therefore they resented and opposed anything which would deprive them of it. Especially did they oppose the provision that men should be deprived of their workmen because they had treated them cruelly. Fines or other penalties for excessive brutality might be well enough, but to take a man's slaves away from him was, in their opinion, going too far. He was not thus deprived of his horses and cattle. Why should he be deprived of his Indians?

Yet in the face of such opposition Rojas bravely persevered. He seems to have been animated by two motives, both creditable and honorable. One was that of humanity and justice. It revolted him to see his fellow{132} human beings treated as badly as beasts. The other was that of patriotic policy. He believed that it was bad for Cuba, that it corrupted the present and compromised the future, to maintain this abominable system of human slavery. So he flung himself into the work of emancipation and reform with all the resolution and energy of which he was capable. He travelled over the island, personally inspecting the conditions of labor at all points, and personally listening to all complaints, petitions, suggestions and what not that were offered. Particularly was he interested in the "experimental village" near Bayamo, where natives were trying to work out their own salvation on farms of their own. He corrected as far as possible the unfavorable conditions which had been imposed upon them, and encouraged them to their best efforts.

Unfortunately the royal government had been misled into sanctioning the imposition upon these people of burdens "almost too heavy to be borne." Regardless of the fact that as inexpert beginners in agriculture they were not likely in the first year or two to make large profits from their labor, they were weighed down with far heavier taxation than that to which Spanish colonists were subjected. They were required to pay a large tribute in cash as "vassals." They were also required to pay large salaries to various functionaries who were saddled upon them without their desire or need. One was an ecclesiastic, who was charged with protecting their spiritual welfare. Another was a layman, who was supposed to be their political guide, philosopher and friend. These overseers probably did them much more harm than good, though Rojas seems to have selected for those places the best men he could find. But the result of these impositions was that many of the Indians became discouraged and indicated a preference for returning to serfdom or slavery. As free men in the experimental village they had to support themselves and in addition to pay practically all their earnings to the tax-gatherer. It{133} would be better to give all their labor to an employer who in return would at least provide them with the necessaries of existence.

On this ground many of the villagers indicated a desire to abandon the experiment and return to the old system. It is probable that some of them were really convinced that this would be best. They were driven to despair by being thrown upon their own resources and then being oppressed with unjust taxes. But there is also reason to suspect that other influences were brought to bear upon many of them. They were threatened with all manner of punishment and persecution if they did not renounce the experiment and ask to be returned to slavery. Similar tactics were certainly employed against those outside of the villages. Wherever Rojas went on his tours of inspection and investigation, he heard of natives who had complaints to make, or petitions to offer, or who wished to be released from serfdom and to enter the free village. But when he reached the spot and sought for these Indians, they had disappeared, or had changed their minds. He had little doubt of foul play, that they were smuggled out of sight, or were coerced into action and speech contrary to their real desires; but he was seldom able to prove it, so general was the conspiracy against emancipation.

The result was inevitable. Rojas lost heart. It is possible that he still clung to his beliefs, but realized that the obstacles to his policy were too great for him to overcome. It may be, on the other hand, that he became convinced that he had erred, that the Indians were not as fit for freedom as he had supposed, and that their general emancipation was impracticable. In any case, he gave up the struggle. "Before God and his conscience," he said, he was convinced that little if any good had come of the experiment of freedom, and that it would be best to abandon it and to return the Indians to the control of well-disposed Spaniards; with a proviso that any who wished for freedom and showed fitness for it{134} should be emancipated. A tone of sadness but of sincerity pervaded the report in which he made this recommendation. The King accepted it and approved it, doubtless with the same reluctance and regret which Rojas must have had in making it; and that chapter of Cuban history was ended.

Not one of all the early governors of Cuba deserves more grateful memory than Rojas. Not one of them surpassed him in ability, in statesmanship, in executive efficiency, in breadth and penetration of vision in discerning the needs and the possibilities of the island. Not one, certainly, surpassed if indeed any rivalled him in integrity, benevolence, and self-sacrificing devotion to duty. Velasquez, indeed, occupied the governorship for a longer period, and was associated with more striking events; naturally, being the first and the founder of the line. But not even he had as true a public spirit or as just a conception of the ways and means by which a substantial and prosperous commonwealth was to be developed, as had Manuel de Rojas.

Yet no other governor in those times was more shabbily and ungratefully treated than he, both during and after his administration. A wise, just judge, an indefatigable administrator, above all an honest man, he devoted himself to the task of promoting the interests of the island, of its people, with a sincerity and a whole-heartedness unfortunately uncommon in those days or in any days. It is true that he failed to solve the problem of saving the Indian natives, and some others which confronted him. But that was not for lack of noble effort or high purpose. It was because he was either honestly misled by those upon whom it was necessary for him to rely, or because he found himself confronted with difficulties too great for a man to overcome alone, and at the same time abandoned if not actually betrayed and antagonized by those who should have aided him and with whose aid he might have been triumphant.

He labored at the cost of great self-sacrifice. The sal{135}ary which was paid to him by the Crown was insufficient, and his personal fortune was not large. He was, moreover, too busy with public affairs to engage in gainful occupations of any kind while governor, and he was too honest to enrich himself in any devious ways. He spent his own private means freely for public purposes, not only in official tours of the island, but in paying the expenses of suppressing Indian outbreaks and apprehending criminals. The result was that he found himself becoming impoverished. Nor did he have so much as the consolation of appreciation. Doubtless the King did appreciate, theoretically, his loyalty, efficiency and integrity; but he altogether neglected to manifest his appreciation in a practical manner by giving Rojas the encouragement and support which he deserved and which he greatly needed. So far as the people of Cuba were concerned, they showed still less regard for him, while the majority of their political and social leaders were openly hostile to him. Guzman and his relatives and friends, who were numerous and powerful, in particular neglected no opportunity to thwart, annoy or discredit him.

In these circumstances it was not to be wondered at that Rojas grew weary of his discouraging and ungrateful task, in which he had not even the satisfaction of feeling that he was accomplishing something, and consequently begged to be relieved of it. He had too high a sense of duty to abandon his place without the permission of the King, and that for some time was withheld. But at last his increasingly importunate appeals had their effect. In October, 1535, the King accepted his resignation, and, it is pleasant to record, paid him a tribute which was unique and which must have been peculiarly gratifying to Rojas. That was, that the examination of his accounts should be of an altogether perfunctory and formal character. There was to be no such inquest as all other governors had been compelled to endure. There was really no need of any, but in order to maintain the custom one must be held. But there were no charges, no{136} investigations, no trials. This was the more noteworthy because of the hostility of so many of the people, and above all of Rojas's successor.

But this exemption from inquest was his sole reward. He had asked to be relieved not merely of the governorship of Cuba but also of all public duties, in order that he might give his undivided attention to his own personal and private interests. But this was denied him. The King accepted his resignation of the governorship, but refused to grant him permission to join his brother in Peru, where he had hoped to recoup his fortunes. Instead, he sent him to Jamaica, as a royal auditor of accounts, an arduous and somewhat invidious duty, which Rojas accepted doubtless with much reluctance. Still more distasteful was the task which followed it, which was to return to Cuba to conduct a judicial investigation into the conduct of the royal officials there, including the governor himself, and to try those who seemed deserving of prosecution. To some this would have been a welcome undertaking, since it involved the prosecution for serious misdemeanors of those politicians who had been most hostile to him and had given him the greatest annoyance; and even bringing his arch-enemy, the governor, Guzman, under scrutiny. But it was a repugnant task to Rojas, who had no vindictiveness in his nature, and who wished above all to get away and remain away from the scenes of his unsuccessful labors and agonizing ordeals. He bore himself, however, with the same firmness, integrity and high spirit that had marked his former services, and at the end departed, with the royal permission, from Cuba, not to visit it again.{137}


The successor of Rojas was Gonzalo de Guzman, who thus returned for a second term of the governorship. That adroit, masterful and often unscrupulous politician had spent his time in Spain to good advantage. In various ways and through various methods, not altogether dissociated from the golden treasure which he carried thither from the mines of Cuba, he ingratiated himself with a number of influential courtiers, and through them with the royal court itself. Before long he was able to secure a revision of the sentence which Vadillo had passed upon him, and a reversal of its most harsh decrees and a mitigation of others. Thus he was largely vindicated, and was enabled to plume himself upon having received the royal favor. At the same time he conducted, through his faithful retainers, a campaign of intrigue in Hispaniola, with the result that the Admiral, or Vicereine, the widow of Diego Columbus, appointed him back to his old place as governor of Cuba. The appointment was not to be effective, however, until ratified by the King, and such ratification the King for some time delayed to grant.

Guzman was confident, however, of receiving the royal ratification, and so, without waiting for it, he proceeded to Cuba as governor-elect, and began elaborate preparations for resuming office. That was in the midsummer of 1534, more than a year before Rojas was permitted to retire. Indeed, we may well believe that it was the presence and conduct of Guzman that made the island intolerable to Rojas. For Guzman established himself in a fine house, with a retinue of servants, and attracted to himself most of the practical politicians of Cuba, especially those who were inclined to "welcome the{138} coming, speed the parting, guest." They all knew that Rojas was to retire, and that Guzman was to succeed him; wherefore they paid all possible deference to the former and treated the latter with neglect if not with contempt.

The actual change came, as we have already seen, in October, 1535. Rojas relinquished the governorship, and Guzman resumed it; and a most grievous decline of Cuba began. Guzman promptly set about serving his own personal interests, rewarding his friends, and punishing all of his opponents who were still within reach. Few of them were within reach, however; all who could do so having fled the island, for Jamaica or elsewhere. Cuba was thus deprived of some of its most useful citizens, while its important public offices were filled with self-seeking politicians.

Happily, this unworthy and detrimental administration was short lived; and it was ended through what was nothing less than a peaceful revolution in the political status of Cuba. For some time there had been controversy and litigation between the heirs of Columbus and the Spanish crown, concerning the rights, powers and privileges of the former in the West Indies. The suits came to an end in the spring of 1537, when a settlement was effected, one of the bases of which was the complete renunciation, by the heirs of Columbus, of all right, title or jurisdiction of any kind whatever over the island of Cuba. That of course completely separated Cuba from the jurisdiction of Hispaniola, and made it directly responsible to and dependent upon Spain. It was no longer an adjunct to Hispaniola, but a colony of Spain.

Now thitherto the governor and most of the other officials in Cuba had received their commissions from the Admiral or Vicereine in Hispaniola, or from the Supreme Court there. Such was the case with Guzman, though his Hispaniolan commission had received the ratification of the King. It was therefore logically held that all com{139}missions thus given in Cuba by the Hispaniola government became null and void with the emancipation of Cuba from dependence upon the other and smaller island. In consequence, Guzman's second term in the governorship came to an end in March, 1537.

An interregnum ensued. The King was contemplating further reorganization of his American domains, and consequently forebore for some time to appoint a successor to Guzman, or indeed to any of the important officials whose terms of office had been involuntarily ended. There had just been, as we have seen, widespread investigations and trials of royal functionaries for frauds, and the King was solicitous to find someone who was indubitably trustworthy, before making further appointments. The result was that the affairs of the island, which had been gravely disturbed and damaged by Guzman, went rapidly from bad to worse, and threatened to plunge into utter chaos.

Nor was the solution of this crisis for the advantage of the island. On the contrary, it was to its still further detriment. Once before, in the time of Velasquez, Cuba had been made to suffer greatly because of the development of Mexico and the exodus of many enterprising Cubans to that country. That experience was now to be repeated even more disastrously, in the attempted development of Florida. That country had long been known. It was placed upon the maps as early as 1502, and it was in 1513, at the time when Velasquez was making his first settlements in Cuba, that Juan Ponce de Leon obtained a royal charter to discover and to settle the Island of Bimini, as it was called, on which there was reputed to be a fountain of extraordinary curative powers, capable of restoring to the aged all the vigor of youth. Actual colonization of Florida was not undertaken, however, until 1521, in which enterprise Ponce de Leon himself was wounded in a fight with Indians, and came to Cuba to die. Again in 1527 Panfilo de Narvaez led a large ex{140}pedition from Cuba to Florida, in which he and all but four of his six hundred men were lost in Indian fighting and in a great Gulf storm.

There next came upon the scene a far more formidable personage than any of these, or indeed than any who had visited Cuba since Columbus with the exception of Cortez. HERNANDO DE SOTO HERNANDO DE SOTO This was none other than Hernando de Soto. Like many another famous Spanish conquistador, he was an impoverished nobleman of Estremadura, who had been in youth a protégé of the infamous Pedrarias d'Avila, the constructive murderer of Balboa and the scourge of Darien. Through the bounty of d'Avila he had passed through a university; he had gone to Darien with his patron in 1519; and in 1532 he had gone with reenforcements to Pizarro in Peru. There he played a great part, personally seizing the Inca monarch, Atahualpa, and discovering the mountain pass which led to the treasure city of Cuzco. Incidentally he seized for himself a vast fortune, with which he returned to Spain, where he married the daughter of d'Avila and for a time settled down in splendid state.

When, however, Cabeza de Vaca, one of the four survivors of the last expedition of Narvaez, reached Spain with stories of the marvellous wealth of Florida, de Soto's adventurous spirit, or his cupidity, was again aroused. He disposed of part of his estates, purchased and armed four ships, recruited a force of 620 foot soldiers and 120 horsemen, and sought from the King a commission to explore, conquer and colonize Florida. In him the King apparently saw, as he imagined, the solution of the problem, what to do about Cuba. He accordingly joined Florida and Cuba together, politically, making de Soto{141} Adelantado of the former and governor of the latter. With this commission de Soto sailed from Spain in April, 1538, bound first for Cuba and thence for Florida. The expedition called for a time at the Canary Islands, where its members were richly entertained by the Governor of Gomera. There De Soto's wife, the Lady Isabel, engaged the beautiful daughter of the Governor to accompany her as her chief lady-in-waiting, a choice which led to some interesting personal complications, actually affecting the progress of the expedition.

It was on June 7, 1538, that De Soto arrived at Santiago with probably the most imposing fleet that had ever yet visited that port or the waters of Cuba. It comprised more than a score of vessels, carrying more than a thousand soldiers. This armada comprised the galleons San Cristobal, Buena Fortuna, Magdalena, Conception, San Juan, San Antonio, and Santa Barbara; one caravel (a three-masted vessel), two light brigs (two masted), and about a dozen smaller craft. Juan de Anasco was chief pilot of the expedition, and the captains were Nuñez Tobar, Luis Morosco de Alvarado, Andres de Vasconcelas, Arias Tinoco, Alfonso Robo de Cardenosa, Diego Garcia, and Pedro Calderon. Among the commanders of the troops were Carlos Enriques, Micer de Espinola, Dionisio de Paris, Rodrigo Gallego, Francisco del Poso, and Diego Banuelos. Nor was the propagation of the True Faith neglected. It was entrusted to a mission comprising four priests and a number of Dominican friars, under the leadership of the friar Luis de Soto, a cousin of the generalissimo of the expedition. Santiago was naturally selected for the entry to Cuba seeing that it was still the official capital and that De Soto was already commissioned Governor. There was a narrow escape from shipwreck in entering the narrow and somewhat tortuous mouth of the great harbor, after which the Governor was received by the municipal functionaries with all the pomp and dignity of which the capital was capable. Tidings of the coming of the new Gov{142}ernor had spread throughout the Island and people of consequence from all parts had flocked to Santiago to welcome him, to seek to ingratiate themselves with him and to celebrate what they fondly hoped would prove to be the beginning of a new and splendid era in the history of Cuba. It is recorded that the gentlemen of the town sent down to the boat landing a fine roan horse for De Soto to ride and a richly caparisoned mule for Doña Isabel. He and all his company were lodged in the most luxurious quarters the town could afford and were hospitably entertained without cost to themselves. Santiago had at this time about eighty houses which were described as spacious and well appointed. About half of them were of masonry and tile and the remainder of boards and thatch. There were also many attractive country estates surrounding the city.

The day following his landing De Soto formally assumed his authority as Governor, and Bartolome de Ortiz became Alcalde mayor of Santiago. Scarcely had he done this, however, when news came that a French corsair had attacked Havana, ransacked the church, and burned a number of houses; after which he had sailed away. De Soto at once sent Mateo Aceituna to the scene, with a company of soldiers and artisans, with instructions to rebuild the houses and then to begin the construction of a fort which would serve as an adequate defence for the town. Having done this, he sent Lady Isabel, escorted by his nephew Don Carlos, to Havana by sea, with a strong squadron, while he himself with the remainder of his company set out on horseback for a tour of the islands. He first went to Bayamo, and thence to Trinidad, and Puerto Principe. From the latter place he went in a canoe to the great country estate of Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa at Camaguey, there to get news of Lady Isabel's arrival at Havana. Thence he proceeded to Sancti Spiritus, which at that time was a place of only about thirty houses. Half of his company landed there, and half went on to Trinidad, which was a still smaller{143} place of not more than twenty houses, though it contained a hospital for the poor, the only such institution on the whole Island. Thence he proceeded to Havana without finding another town or settlement of any kind on the entire road.

During his stay in Havana De Soto deprived Nuñez Tobar of his rank as Captain-General and gave it instead to Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa, because Tobar had made love to Doña Isabel's lady-in-waiting, the daughter of the Governor of Gomera, and indeed had seduced her. In spite, or perhaps because of this punishment Tobar thereupon married the girl and afterward joined De Soto's expedition to Florida in a subordinate capacity.

There can be no question that Hernando de Soto came to Cuba with a prestige far surpassing that of any of his predecessors. He was in the prime of manhood and at the height of his fame. He had been the hero of great adventures and of marvellous achievements, and was possessed of great wealth. He was not only governor of Cuba but also Adelantado of Florida, which meant all the lands at the north of the Gulf, from the Atlantic to Mexico, and thus, it was confidently assumed, Cuba would become the chief province and Santiago the capital city, of an empire exceeding in extent and wealth both Mexico and Peru.

These brilliant anticipations were, however, doomed to speedy and most crushing disappointment. It soon became clear that de Soto regarded Cuba as a mere stepping stone to Florida, and that he was not merely willing to sacrifice the island's interests to the gratification of his continental ambitions, but had from the first been intent upon so doing. He paid little attention to the representations which were made to him in behalf of Cuba, or indeed to the duties of his office as governor. Instead, all his thought seemed to be given and all his efforts directed, to preparations for proceeding on his way to the alluring regions beyond the Gulf. Moreover, he tempted into joining him in that enterprise many of the richest and{144} most forceful men of Cuba. Among these was Vasco de Figueroa, who had been a comrade of Velasquez. He had settled in Camaguey as early as 1514, and had grown very rich. We may say, indeed, that he was the richest and most influential man in all that part of Cuba. He eagerly accepted an invitation to join the expedition, as de Soto's first lieutenant, and he drew along with him many other substantial men from Camaguey and other parts of the island.

Nor was the island thus to suffer for the sake of Florida, merely as a whole. The capital, Santiago, was specially to suffer. Its traditions and its long-established interests were nothing to De Soto, who looked for nothing but to promote his Florida venture. Manifestly, Santiago was no place to serve as a base of operations to the northward, so he presently transferred his headquarters to Havana. That city had been founded in 1514 on the south coast, near what is now Batabano, but a few years later had been transferred by migration of populace and name to its present commanding site at the north. In 1537 it had been raided and partly destroyed by fire, by buccaneers, but at the time of de Soto's coming was rapidly being rebuilt and restored to greater importance than before.

So a few weeks after his arrival at Santiago, in the early part of August, 1538, de Soto ruthlessly closed his mansion at Santiago and removed his whole household to Havana. His household and his foot soldiers were sent thither in his vessels, of which he now had five. He himself with his horsemen travelled overland, Vasco de Figueroa acting as guide. The beauty and riches of the island seem not greatly to have impressed the great adventurer; certainly not enough to withhold him for one moment from his quest. Mountain and plain were alike to him merely the road toward Florida.

It was late in December before all members of the expedition were assembled at Havana. There it was necessary to remain a while, to refit the vessels, gather{145} provisions, and prepare for an adventure into an unknown and potentially hostile wilderness. Additional ships were sought, and more men; and recruits came flocking thither eagerly from all parts of the island. Meanwhile, a scouting party of fifty, with one vessel, was sent to the Florida coast, to discover a desirable spot for the landing of the whole expedition. It returned in February, 1539, with the report that no suitable place could be found, and with a recommendation against undertaking the venture. This incensed de Soto, and he made the men hasten back to Florida and not return until they had found that which was the object of their quest. Their second expedition lasted three months. At the end of that time they reappeared at Havana, disembarked, fell upon their knees, and on their knees made their way from the wharf to the church, where they offered thanks for their deliverance. This was their fulfilment of a vow which they had made when they were in imminent danger of death; and they would not so much as speak to the governor or to anyone until the pious act was completed.

They then reported to de Soto that amid great perils they had found a place which would be suitable for his purpose. They had named it the Bay of Espiritu Santo, as it is to this day called, on the West Coast of Florida. To this place accordingly de Soto hastened, at the end of May, 1539, with nine vessels, more than 500 men beside sailors, and half as many horses; leaving his wife at Havana as acting governor in his absence, with Juan de Rojas as her chief assistant. Vasco de Figueroa soon returned, disgusted with Florida, which he described as a land of interminable swamps, but he left his son with de Soto to serve as lieutenant in his stead. Then Gomez Arias, brother of Lady Isabel de Soto, also returned, with glowing reports of the beauty and wealth of Florida, and it was proclaimed throughout all Cuba that the expedition was succeeding beyond all expectation, and that Florida was the garden of the world. The effect was{146} to excite the Spaniards of Cuba with eagerness to leave their homes in quest of fortunes in this new land.

Accordingly, when in February, 1540, Diego Maldonado came from Florida to Havana, to obtain recruits, arms and provisions, there was no lack of response to his call. It seemed as though almost every able-bodied man in Cuba had caught the Florida fever, and went flocking to Maldonado's standard. Eight great ship-loads of men, horses and provisions were quickly obtained, and sailed away for Florida, leaving behind them three classes of people in Cuba. There were those who lamented that there had not been room enough on the ships to take them, too. There were those who lamented that Cuba was thus being stripped and impoverished to enrich another country, if not in a vain and profitless quest. There were also those, the surviving Indian natives, who rejoiced, because the Spaniards were all leaving Cuba, so that the natives could come to their own again. But all three classes were mistaken in their views of the situation.

Maldonado and Gomez Arias sailed away with their eight ships, to meet de Soto at an appointed place on the Florida coast. Months later they returned without having met him or having been able to ascertain any information of his whereabouts. That was in 1541. In 1542 they sailed again to meet him at the same place; with like result. In 1543 they made a third such venture, and explored the entire coast from the southern extremity of Florida to Mexico. They posted messages upon trees, rocks and headlands. They sent Indian runners inland to inquire for the adventurers. They resorted to every effort they could devise to find their missing chief, but all in vain.

Meantime at Havana the Lady Isabel awaited his return, with unfaltering loyalty and unshaken hope. Bartholomew Ortiz, alcalde mayor, by her lord's appointment, relieved her of the technical duties of gubernatorial rule; which was well, for there was much trouble abroad{147} in the island. It was thus left for her to watch and wait for the coming of the ship which never came. At morning and at evening, day after day, she paced the little pathway on the crest of a fort which her husband had begun to build, the beginning of La Fuerza—of which we shall hear much more. Hour by hour she gazed from that parapet northward, not on guard for hostile sail, but to espy the first glimpse of one returning from the Land of Flowers. There is no more touching picture in all the early history of Cuba than that of this devoted woman, scanning the northern horizon in vain for the appearance of one whose restless and adventurous body was sleeping the last sleep in the bed of the Father of Waters.


Havana's oldest and most famous fortress and the oldest inhabited building in the Western Hemisphere. The construction of it was prolonged through the administrations of many Governors and was for years the chief issue of political contention in the island. It was long the Governor's residence as well as a fortress; from it Hernando de Soto set out for the exploration of Florida and the discovery of the Mississippi River, and from its ramparts his wife, Doña Isabel, long but vainly maintained her daily vigil for his return.


News came at last, to end in grief her agonizing vigil. It was near the end of 1543 that some three hundred weary and worn survivors of de Soto's expedition reached Panuco, on the Mexican coast, with tidings of their leader's death and the destruction of all the rest of the party. They had wandered through what is now the State of Georgia northward as far as the Tennessee Mountains, thence back to Mobile Bay, in Alabama, thence northwest to the Mississippi, and to the Ouachita, or Washita, in Arkansas. While thence descending the Mississippi, in June, 1542, de Soto had died, and his body had been sunk in the great river. The remainder of his company, led by Luis de Alvarado, had continued down the Mississippi River to the Gulf, and thence sailed along the coast to Panuco.

Thus ended the career of one of the most famous of all the Spanish explorers; and thus ended another brief but disastrous chapter in Cuban history. The island had been drained of men, horses, supplies of all kinds; for its population was still so small that the loss of a few hundred of its best men and horses was a serious deprivation. Its own domestic interests had been neglected. Its government had become inefficient. The Indians, taking advantage of the weakness of the Spaniards, had begun{148} to cherish hopes of regaining their old freedom, and in some places had risen forcibly to seek that end, with the effect of enraging the Spaniards against them even to the extreme of resolving upon either their complete enslavement or their extermination.

Indeed, serious trouble arose with the Indians during de Soto's brief stay in the island. Shortly before his arrival there had been an outbreak of the natives at Baracoa, which resulted in the partial destruction of that town by burning. Towns built entirely of sun-dried thatch were easily burned. Hearing of this, de Soto in almost his first official utterance in Cuba authorized the sending of strong expeditions against the natives, to hunt them down and destroy them ruthlessly. The offending Indians were all Cimarrons, or "wild" Indians who had never been under the repartimiento system, and who expected and solicited the "tame" Indians to rise and join them. The latter not only refused to do this, however, but offered to go out and fight and subdue the Cimarrons, provided they were permitted to do so without being accompanied by Spanish troops; to which the authorities unfortunately would not agree.

De Soto sent all available men out against the Indians, and suppressed them, for the time. But as soon as he left Santiago for Havana, taking with him all the fighting men in the eastern end of the island, the Cimarrons sprang to arms again behind him and became more menacing than ever. They again threatened Baracoa, and were active even in the suburbs of Santiago itself. The departure of Vasco de Figueroa from Camaguey was disastrous. He had been vigorous and unsparing in his suppression of even the slightest uprising, and in his absence the Indians were freed from the greatest restraining influence in that part of the island.

The general confusion of affairs was further aggravated by the intrigues of two marplots. One of these was Gonzalo de Guzman, who had remained in the island after his removal from office, and who was never weary{149} in mischief-making. He kept himself in frequent communication with the government in Spain, and made all sorts of complaints against de Soto and against the Florida enterprise. Doubtless he was right in saying that the taking of so many fighting men out of Cuba for Florida endangered the peace and safety of the island; though we must think that he exaggerated the condition of Cuba when he wrote to the Spanish government that two-thirds of the island had become depopulated, and all of the towns in the central part of it had been or were in imminent danger of being burned.

The other trouble-maker was the new Bishop, Diego Sarmiento, who had succeeded Bishop Ramirez, deceased. He maintained a large establishment of slaves, and continued the political policy of his predecessor. He had arrived in Cuba almost simultaneously with de Soto, and inclined toward the policy of the latter in respect to Florida.

A strong governor might have saved even this unfortunate and unpromising situation. But there was none. Lady Isabel died of grief a few months after learning of her husband's fate, and for a time thereafter there was no actual governor at all. De Soto had been empowered to appoint an alcalde mayor to serve as his substitute while he was out of the island, if he so desired. He did thus appoint Bartholomew Ortiz; a good enough man but aged and infirm, and quite unable to cope with the problems which confronted him. He found himself involved in a vigorous rivalry between Santiago and Havana in the matter of fortifications. De Soto had begun the construction of an earthwork fort at the entrance to Santiago. Then when he went across to Havana he ordered the building of a strong fort there of stone masonry. This of course aroused the jealousy of Santiago, whose indignant citizens pointed out that their city was and always would be the capital of the island, and was therefore at least as well entitled to a stone fort as Havana. The sacking and burning of Havana, and{150} of Carthagena and other places on the continent, alarmed them, lest Santiago should suffer a like fate. Their insistence was finally rewarded in the building of a stone fort near the mouth of the harbor.{151}


Bartholomew Ortiz was at last, on his earnest entreaty, relieved of his duties as alcalde mayor in the fall of 1542, and for some time the insular government was again without a head. But in August, 1543, since nothing had been heard from or of de Soto for three years, the crown assumed that he was dead and that his office was vacant. It therefore appointed Juan de Avila to be not alcalde mayor but governor; permitting the title of Adelantado of Florida to fall into desuetude. The new governor was a young lawyer, whose chief recommendation was that he was a member of the de Avila family, a relative of Lady Isabel de Soto and of her father, the formidable Pedrarias d'Avila. He seems to have been doubtful of his own ability to administer the office successfully, and therefore reluctant to assume its duties. However, he finally came to Cuba, arriving at Santiago at the beginning of February, 1544, nearly six months after his appointment. He was, of course, regularly appointed and commissioned by the crown, with the full powers of governor, and for those reasons he was received at Santiago with grateful rejoicings. The people of that city and indeed of all Cuba had become tired of having an absentee governor and an alcalde mayor in his place.

Juan de Avila's first official act of importance was to make the usual examination of his predecessor's affairs. This was a slight task, because of the short time in which de Soto had actually administered the governorship, and nothing wrong appears to have been found. The affairs of all other officials were likewise in good order. He then turned his attention to the question of the Indians; after which, the deluge.{152}

The royal government had for the time acquiesced in the ruthless policy of de Soto. At least it had not vetoed nor opposed it. But now it had reconsidered the matter, and had resumed its former and better policy, of treating the natives justly and kindly, and giving them their freedom. Perhaps it was moved to do this partly through horror at what Pedrarias d'Avila had done at Darien, in all but exterminating an entire race, and was minded to make atonement by requiring the young kinsman of that "Timour of the Indies" to do the opposite in Cuba. At any rate orders were sent to Cuba that there should be no more enslavement of the natives in gold mining. In fact, they were not to be employed in mining at all. Now as mining was practically the only work in which the Indians were engaged, the effect of that order, if enforced, would have been very marked. It would have stopped gold mining, and would have left the natives in idleness. In fact, it was not enforced. The governor received it, and transmitted it to the various local officials for promulgation and enforcement; and they ignored it. Presently the governor wanted to know why the order had not been obeyed, and was curtly told that it would have been disastrous to the industries and interests of the island. This he reported to the crown, asking for further directions.

The reply was a reminder that the new Bishop, Sarmiento, was Protector of the Indians, and that the governor and he should cooperate for their welfare and for the enforcement of the decrees in their behalf. But the people were no readier to listen to the bishop than to the governor; particularly since that ecclesiastic was himself a slave-holder. Indeed, the municipal council of Santiago formally protested against his appointment as Protector of the Indians and refused to recognize his authority. There were some actual conflicts with force and arms between the two factions, in which the followers of the local government appear to have triumphed over the fewer adherents of the Bishop, and from which no profit{153} nor advantage of any kind accrued to the unhappy objects of the strife.

When these things were reported to the King and his advisers, there was much indignation, and new and peremptory orders were sent to the governor, that involuntary service by the Indians was immediately to be abolished, and that the natives were to be free to work for whom they pleased, or not to work at all. Moreover, they were to be treated in all respects as well as the Spaniards themselves. This radical decree seems to have impressed the governor and bishop as going a little too far, and an appeal was made by common consent to the Council for the Indies, in Spain. That body was divided in opinion, but the majority of it inclined to a modification of the order, to which the King agreed. The governor and the bishop were directed to act together for the welfare of the natives, with a view to granting them ultimately entire liberty and equal rights. There was to be no more slavery. All the Indian slaves who had been brought to Cuba from other islands or from the mainland were to be released and returned to their homes. To hold such slaves, or to engage in the slave trade, was made a grave penal offense. The native Cubans who were held under the repartimiento system were not immediately to be released, but they were not to be transferred from one master to another, and upon the death of their master they were not to be bequeathed as chattels to his heirs, but were to be released. Moreover, if any of the proprietors were proved to be cruel to their native workmen, or neglectful of their interests, the natives were to be released from their authority and set at liberty. In all cases, the natives were to receive fair wages for their labor, and were not to be compelled to do any kind of work for which they were not suited or to which they objected. Finally, it was forbidden for the governor, the bishop, or any other functionary of state or church to hold native Cuban Indians in bondage, though negro slavery was apparently still permitted.{154}

These regulations, put forward by the King and the Council for the Indies, were actually more far-reaching than the order of the crown which had been disputed, though they would not take effect so abruptly. The governor received them, and himself had them publicly proclaimed throughout the island; with prodigious effect. The whole island rose against them. Municipal councils and others officials, as well as planters and gold miners, protested against them, and pleaded for at least postponement of their enforcement until they could have an opportunity to appeal to the crown and to the Council for the Indies against them. To this plea for delay, De Avila acceded; to his own subsequent undoing, as we shall presently see. His own brother, Alfonso de Avila, turned against him, and went to Spain as the chief spokesman of the opponents of the new rules.

While the question of the Indians was thus held in suspension, De Avila turned his attention to other matters, largely matrimonial and domestic. On coming to Cuba, a young bachelor, he made his home in the house of the wealthy widow of Pedro de Paz. This lady, who had otherwise been much married, and who was by birth a member of the formidable Guzman family, whose name she now bore, was past fifty years old, or about twice the age of the young governor. Indeed, she had sons and daughters of about De Avila's age. It was therefore assumed to be quite permissible for the governor to live in her house. The arrangement proved in the end, however, to be disastrous. It was probably the lady's intention from the beginning to take the young man for her husband—her fourth or fifth. At any rate, his domestic association with her, while it could not compromise her reputation, did so compromise his that he could get none of the eligible young women of Cuba to marry him, although he sought the hands of several of them. So after a time, despairing of any other bride, and doubtless much impressed by the wealth of his mature hostess, he married her; and thereafter was her slave.{155}

Built 1536

For the remainder of the ill-starred administration the lady was the real governor. A large part of her fortune was in Indian slaves, or in enterprises dependent upon their labor. Therefore it was she who was foremost in opposing the enforcement of the decrees for their emancipation. It was owing to her influence that De Avila acquiesced in their suspension. Then, when the matter was being appealed, it was she who constrained De Avila to leave Santiago for a tour of the island, ostensibly for inspection, but in reality to get away from Santiago, where the social atmosphere was not agreeable, and to settle in some more advantageous place.

That new place was found at Havana. Since the burning of it by French buccaneers that city had been rebuilt in a much more attractive style than Santiago, and{156} society there was more hospitable to the governor's wife. A plausible excuse for settling there was, moreover, readily found. It was necessary, for the protection of the place against another French attack, that the valiant governor should remain there in person. For the furtherance of this purpose, he procured the free granting to him of a choice tract of land, and also the free gift of materials for building him a fine mansion. Whether the citizens of Havana gave the materials willingly, for the sake of having the governor of the island living among them, or under some sort of compulsion, may not certainly be declared. Two traditions have been extant. One was, that they gave the materials under compulsion, and that for that reason the governor's mansion was called the "House of Fear." The other was, that they gave them willingly, even eagerly, because of actual dread of another French descent; thinking that if the governor himself lived there, he would take all possible measures for the defence of the place; and that it was for that reason that it was called the "House of Fear."

After completing the house and living there for some time, however, De Avila deemed it politic to return to Santiago. His absence from the latter place had given rise to great dissatisfaction there and throughout all the eastern part of the island, where of course the majority of the population, of wealth and of political and other influence were still to be found. Indeed, protests had been lodged with the crown against what was described as the governor's abandonment of the lawful seat of government of the island. Suspicions of his unworthiness had already strongly arisen at court, and orders were sent for the Supreme Court of Hispaniola, which still had jurisdiction in Cuba, to investigate his conduct. The report was unfavorable, and in consequence the crown summarily appointed Antonio Chaves to succeed him as governor; directing Chaves to conduct a searching inquest into De Avila's administration without regard to{157} the report already made by the agent of the supreme court of Hispaniola.

The sequel was the greatest public scandal that had thus far marred the history of Cuba. It was at the beginning of October, 1545, that Antonio Chaves was commissioned to be governor of Cuba, and it was at the beginning of June in the following year that he arrived at Santiago and entered upon the duties of his office. The first task was to investigate his predecessor, and this he performed with a thoroughness which seemed ferocious and which certainly suggests either some personal hatred of De Avila or a natural desire to be cruel and ruthless. He charged De Avila with having committed malfeasance of office for the furtherance of his wife's interests; with having engaged in commercial and industrial enterprises himself, to the detriment of public interests; with having established monopolies for enriching himself or his wife; with having both given and accepted bribes; with having intimidated local officials and the people; and with having, largely at the instance of his wife, neglected to enforce the order of the King for the emancipation of the natives.

It is quite probable that De Avila was guilty of most of these charges, particularly of those in which his wife was concerned. Certain it is that Antonio Chaves set about trying to prove them with a strenuous zeal which had never before been displayed. One of his first acts was to seize and search the governor's house; not merely in its public or semi-public offices but in its most private parts. The wardrobe of the governor's wife was ransacked, the furniture examined, the walls and floors sounded and even broken in quest of concealed treasure. To some of these proceedings the governor, or ex-governor, and his wife, too, attempted to offer physical resistance, but they were overpowered and bound while the search went on. Their servants, or slaves, were questioned and even, it is said, threatened with torture if they{158} did not tell all they knew. Under such compulsion they told of bars of gold hidden underneath the floor of a country house; which were found.

Chaves went so far as to order De Avila to be chained fast to a post in the market place, where fugitive slaves had formerly been chained, and the former governor was actually subjected to this indignity, though he had not yet been convicted and sentenced by a court of justice. But this was carrying prosecution too far. It was regarded as not prosecution but persecution. There was a reaction of popular sentiment in favor of De Avila, and he was assisted to escape from his bonds and to find sanctuary in the Franciscan monastery. After a time he undertook to get away, to Spain, but was quickly detected and recaptured by Chaves. After some further controversy, Chaves discreetly agreed that De Avila might go to Spain, to defend himself if he could before the Council for the Indies; doubtless expecting that such defence would be in vain because of De Avila's offences against that Council's decrees.

So De Avila departed for Spain, with his advocates and his accusers on the same ship. Most fortunately for him, his wife also went, carrying with her an ample store of gold and gems which had escaped the search and confiscation of Chaves. Her conduct in this emergency indicates that she had a sincere devotion to her young husband, in addition, of course, to a desire to protect her own material fortune. Certain it is that she constituted herself his chief and most effective champion, freely expending in his behalf the gold which she had taken to Spain. She testified that all the property which he was accused of having unlawfully acquired was in fact hers and not his, possessed by her before she was married to him, and that if he had in any sense acquired it, it was solely through having married her; and there was no law against a governor's marrying a rich wife.

Her argument prevailed. The litigation in Spain lasted for several years, during part of which time De{159} Avila was in prison. But in the end he was released; the heavy fines which had been levied against him were remitted; and the sentence of perpetual banishment from Cuba was revoked. Thereupon the devoted couple returned in triumph to Cuba, with a great retinue of servants, and reestablished themselves at Santiago. They held aloof from political affairs, and gave their attention to an exceedingly profitable commerce between Cuba and other West India Islands and Spain; which happy state of affairs lasted until De Avila's death, a dozen years later. He left behind him the reputation of being one of the worst of Cuban governors, not so much because of any inherent viciousness as because of his weakness of character and his complete subservience to the often sordid and sometimes unscrupulous doings of his wife.

That there was any gain for Cuba in the substitution of Antonio Chaves for Juan de Avila is scarcely, however, to be maintained. On the contrary, there was probably some loss. It was a substitution of King Stork for King Log. De Avila had been weak and passive. Chaves was strong and aggressive; as his campaign against his predecessor demonstrated. In point of morals there was probably little to choose between them. So far as enforcement of the laws concerning the natives was concerned, Chaves was worse than De Avila. For De Avila personally wished to enforce them, but was dissuaded from so doing by the influence of his wife and the almost unanimous demands of the officials and people. Chaves, on the other hand, appears to have been personally opposed to all emancipation laws, and inclined to subject the natives to ruthless slavery. Although he had savagely attacked De Avila for acquiescing in the suspension or postponement of the royal decrees, Chaves himself went even further in the same direction. He declined to enforce the laws, protested against them, and petitioned for their repeal on the ground that they would be ruinous to the material welfare of the island. The rule against employment of{160} natives in the mines was especially obnoxious to him, and he advised the crown that unless it were repealed, together with all other such measures, the island would soon be "possessed of the devil."

Seeing that Chaves was now doing the very thing that he had condemned his predecessor for doing, the King was disgusted with him, and sent him the sharpest kind of a reprimand, reminding him of his gross inconsistency and bidding him to enforce the law without further ado. Chaves pretended to obey. In fact, he promptly replied that he was obeying. But he obeyed only in pretence. He did not scruple to declare—in Cuba—that he was opposed to giving the natives their freedom. He did not consider them fit for it. Why? Because they were not Christians, and if set free they would not become Christians, and therefore would infallibly be damned eternally. Therefore to save their souls from hell fire, their bodies must be enslaved, so that they could find salvation through being physically compelled to conform with the external practices of Christianity. Particularly necessary was it, he argued, for this system of spiritual salvation through corporeal bondage to prevail in the provinces of Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus and Puerto del Principe, because they had no agricultural interests but were dependent upon mining, and if they could not compel the Indians to work in the mines, they would be ruined.

This logic, more ingenious than ingenuous, did not favorably impress the King, nor was he better pleased with Chaves's proposal that the Indians should be made free in name only, and that while traffic in them as chattels should be forbidden, they should in fact remain in involuntary domestic servitude. Another sharp reprimand was accordingly sent to Chaves, with an intimation that something worse might follow; to which warning the governor was blind and deaf. Accordingly, the blow soon fell.{161}

We have hitherto heard much of Lopez Hurtado, the crabbed, surly and cantankerous old royal treasurer, with his impregnable honesty. It was quite impossible that he should countenance even passively such conduct as that of Chaves. So at the end of 1548 he sent to the King an appalling indictment of the governor, charging him with all manner of public crimes and private vices. He declared that Chaves was enriching himself at the expense of the people, and that he was neglecting public business for private enterprises, that he was permitting his subordinates to practice extortion and oppression, that he was ill-treating and persecuting honest men, and that he was corrupting the women of the island; all of which was probably true.

The King acted promptly. Chaves had been appointed governor in October, 1545, for a term of four years, at a salary of a thousand ducats a year. He had now, at the end of 1548, been in office three years and more; though he claimed that his term ran for four years from June, 1546, when he actually took office. However, there was no tenure of office law to keep him in his place beyond the royal pleasure; certainly not to protect him from removal for cause. So the supreme court of Hispaniola was directed to investigate him, and Gonzalo Perez de Angulo was appointed governor in his stead. The court of Hispaniola sent Geronimo de Aguayo to Cuba to make a private investigation of the governor's doings; Hurtado agreeing to pay the expenses out of his own pocket. Aguayo came to Santiago in April, 1549, while Chaves was absent at Havana, planning to remove the seat of government to that city. Three months were spent in the investigation, and then Aguayo reported to the court a docket of about three hundred charges against Chaves, some of which were serious enough but many of which were altogether trifling. The court decided to take no action upon them, but to hold them for the new governor, Angulo, to use as the basis{162} of the investigation which he, according to law and precedent, would at once make into his predecessor's administration.

Gonzalo de Angulo had been appointed at the beginning of September, 1548, but did not at once come to the West Indies. He reached Hispaniola in the summer of 1549, shortly after Aguayo had made his report, and he remained there for some time, considering the report and conferring with the members of the supreme court. Finally, at the beginning of November, he proceeded to Santiago and assumed the governorship. He entered upon the investigation, using Aguayo's three hundred charges as the basis of it, despite the protest of Chaves that Aguayo had been a prejudiced investigator, moved by political and even pecuniary considerations and intent not upon discovering the truth but merely upon defaming him (Chaves) to the fullest possible extent.

The result of the new governor's inquest was that at the beginning of July, 1550, Chaves was arrested and sent as a prisoner to Spain, for trial there upon a multitude of accusations. These were partly grave and partly—mostly—frivolous. In the former category was the charge that Chaves had refused or at least failed to enforce royal decrees for the enfranchisement of the natives. That was a very serious matter, apparently, and there was no question that it was true. Indeed, Chaves admitted it. But, he said, some of these decrees had been suspended, there had been pleas for the suspension of others, officials had failed to proclaim some, and the Hispaniola court had interfered with others; so that the whole business was in a hopeless tangle and he really could not determine what he ought to do. This argument impressed the Spanish authorities, and they consequently dismissed that and other like charges against him.

But when it came to other charges, they could not be got rid of so easily. Thus, he had refused to pay an apothecary for a dose of medicine. He had called Hurtado's nephew a Jew! He had called certain citizens{163} "conspirators" because they were forming some sort of a secret organization. He had arrested a priest for acting disrespectfully toward him. These were indeed serious matters; particularly when the irate Hurtado produced voluminous affidavits, from parents, physicians, clergy, and whom not, to prove that his nephew like himself was a good Christian. So for these things Chaves was thrown into prison, and even, it is said, bound with heavy fetters, until he should pay the fines which were imposed upon him.

It must be recorded in Chaves's favor that he was unable to pay these fines. Indeed, he seems not to have had means sufficient to employ a lawyer to defend him, wherefore he was compelled to conduct his own case; which he was quite competent to do, being a licentiate of the bar. There was, then, of course no thought of his being able to influence the course of justice by the use of money, as De Avila was supposed to have done. Whether he was actually so poor, or whether his fortune had been so invested in Cuba that he was unable at once to realize upon it, does not appear. In charity we may accept the former theory, as the more creditable to him. At any rate, after two years of litigation and imprisonment, he secured a final reduction of the fines levied against him to a little more than 100,000 maravedi, which he was required to pay within a year. This trifling amount he contrived to raise and so regained his freedom; going thereafter back to Cuba to settle up his personal affairs there, and thence to Peru, to engage no more in Cuban politics.

Apart from his prosecution of Chaves, the first act of Gonzalo de Angulo on assuming the governorship was to attempt a radical solution of the Indian problem. This he did by proclaiming the full and universal emancipation of all natives, however and by whomsoever held. Seeing how strenuously and vociferously similar action had been resisted only a few years before, as sure to be ruinous to the island, it is worthy of remark that this{164} provoked no remonstrances and caused no economic disturbance. The explanation is simple. The former proposals for emancipation included slaves who had been brought to Cuba from other lands, while this one applied only to natives. Now the latter, through disease, fighting, and other causes, had been steadily decreasing in numbers, until they were now practically a negligible quantity. They probably numbered not more than twenty-five hundred in the entire island. It really mattered little, from an industrial point of view, whether they were enslaved or free. They were in fact set free, in good faith, and then practically disappeared. They did not relapse into primitive barbarism, but they lived in squalor, most of them, and gradually died out.

Not all of them, however, suffered such a fate. Some settled on lands near if not actually among the Spanish colonists, adopted the ways of civilization, and prospered. They acquired freehold of land and houses, kept herds of cattle, built ships and engaged in commerce. Some of them intermarried with Spanish families, and the offspring of such unions often rose to honorable rank in society and the state.

The question of slavery was not by any means disposed of by this emancipation of the native Indians. There was a much larger number of slaves in the island who had been brought thither from other countries, including both insular and continental Indians and African negroes. Governor Angulo was directed to order their emancipation and repatriation at the same time with the others. But he withheld the decree. These foreign slaves were far more numerous than the natives and were consequently more important to industry and commerce. They had not been simply "assigned" to owners, like the Cuban Indians, but had been purchased outright for cash, like any other merchandise, and were legally as much the property of their owners as land, houses or cattle. In view of this circumstance, Angulo declined to proclaim their emancipation.{165}


The administration of Gonzalo Perez de Angulo marked the lowest point in the early history of Cuba. That was not because of the character of his administration, which was indeed better than some of its predecessors, but because various processes militating against the progress and prosperity of the island then reached their culmination. Foremost among these was the migration to Florida, Mexico, Peru and other lands, which were richer, or were reputed to be richer, than the Pearl of the Antilles. Cuba contained no such cities and treasures as those of Mexico and Peru; no such traditions as that of Florida's Fountain of Youth pertained to her. The island had been explored from end to end, and its resources were known; though by no means appreciated. The adventurers of those days were not inclined to engage in agriculture, even in so fertile a land as Cuba, when the gold and gems of the Incas were within reach. With the decline and practical disappearance of the Indians, and the increasing difficulties of the African or other slave trade, the scarcity of labor disinclined the Spanish settlers even to raise cattle. The middle of the sixteenth century saw, therefore, a menacing emigration from Cuba to other lands which threatened to leave the island uninhabited.

Statistics of those days are scanty and not altogether trustworthy. It was the custom to report merely the number of householders or land-owners or heads of families in a place, leaving it to be estimated how many members each family contained. An exact census of the island in Angulo's time would astonish the reader of to-day with the meagreness of the settlements which had been effected in the course of forty years.{166}

Of the seven cities which Velasquez had founded—they were called cities, and we must through courtesy retain the name—Santiago was still the largest, and was the capital. It probably contained at the period of which we are writing fewer than five hundred Spaniards and other Europeans. De Avila saw only two hundred assembled to welcome him on his arrival as Governor. The number of houses and other buildings was less than a hundred. The first town hall and church which were built there were structures of logs and thatch, which were burned by a fire which destroyed most of the place in 1528. Four years later the Franciscan monastery and other buildings shared a like fate. The Spanish government then urged the erection of buildings of stone with tiled roofs, and a few such were erected. At the end of Guzman's second administration there were perhaps a dozen such, of which Guzman himself owned two. The harbor boasted a single wharf or pier, of logs and earth, near which for protection two small cannon were placed behind an earthwork.

Such was the Cuban capital in 1550. Three years later, in 1553, a French privateer entered the harbor, silenced the two cannon, and landed a company of four hundred men, who outnumbered the entire population of the place. These freebooters took possession of Santiago and lived there at their ease, at the expense of the people, during the whole month of July. Then, having exacted from the inhabitants a ransom of what would be about $80,000 in modern currency, they departed, leaving the place uninjured save for the depletion of its people's purses. Following this visitation there was a numerous exodus of the inhabitants, to Bayamo and other places; some leaving the island altogether.

Havana was at this time the second city of the island, and was steadily rising toward first place. It had been the last of the seven cities to be founded by Velasquez, and was now occupying its third and final site. It was first planted in July, 1515, near the mouth of the Guines{167} or Mayabeque River, on the south shore of Cuba; that shore then being the favorite part of the island for the sake of trade with Jamaica and the South American continent. But the location was unhealthful, the swarms of mosquitoes particularly being intolerable, and two years later the city was transferred almost directly across the island to the north shore. This second site was near the mouth of the Almendares River, near the present town of Vedado, and was found to be vastly preferable to the former one. It was impossible, however, that the superb harbor on which the city now fronts should be neglected. It had been discovered in 1508 by Sebastian de Ocampo, while circumnavigating the island, and had been called Carenas. Accordingly in 1519 the young city of Havana, bearing the Indian name of that province of the island, was transported thither.

Credible tradition has it that the first meeting of the Municipal Council was held under a huge ceiba tree, and that Mass was first celebrated at the same sylvan spot, the site of the tree now being marked by the building known as the Templete, in the heart of the great city. Two fine historical paintings by the artist Escobar, representing the two gatherings named, hang upon the walls of that building. In De Soto's time Havana became marked as the coming capital and metropolis of the island, partly because of its unsurpassed situation, and partly for a reason similar to that which caused it first to be founded on the south coast, namely, for the sake of trade with Mexico and Florida. De Soto during his brief sojourn there began the erection of the fortification known as La Fuerza, which has long been noted as the oldest inhabited building in the western hemisphere which was built by Europeans. By the time of Governor Angulo, Havana had grown into—or been reduced to—a community of about two hundred Europeans, and perhaps three hundred Indians and negro slaves.

Santa Maria del Puerto Principe was originally founded in 1515 on the north coast, but a dozen years{168} later was removed inland for security against the rovers of the sea, and became known by its present name of Camaguey. For many years Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa was its chief man; a man of wealth and great force of character, who lived like a prince upon a vast estate with a great retinue of servants and slaves. All the rest of Camaguey was tributary to him; with a total population of fewer than five hundred souls.

Baracoa, originally Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion, was the first permanent settlement in Cuba. Shut off from the rest of the island by a mountain wall, and visited by several disastrous epidemics, it was all but obliterated, and in the time of De Soto and Angulo contained fewer than a dozen European families. As for Trinidad, on the south coast, it fared even worse, for every Spanish or other European settler deserted it, chiefly for Sancti Spiritus, leaving there only a score of Indians. But that did not mean any great accession to Sancti Spiritus, which place had only about two hundred Europeans, and perhaps as many more Indians and negro slaves. Bayamo was another city which was moved inland from its original site. It had in Angulo's time fewer than a hundred Spaniards and perhaps twice as many Indians and negroes.

Thus after forty years of settlement and colonization, all Cuba had not more than 1,200 inhabitants of European origin, and perhaps twice that number of Indians and negroes. The great majority of the former were, of course, Spaniards. Even at this early date, however, there was a sprinkling of other nationalities. Some Portuguese came hither in the second quarter of the century, and engaged in vine growing and agriculture. Indeed, by the middle of the century most of the profitable and commercial agriculture of the island was in their hands. The value of such colonists was appreciated by the Spanish, who were glad to have others engage in the agriculture for which they themselves had little taste or aptitude. Accordingly Portuguese settlers were encour{169}aged to come to Cuba, and legislation was enacted in their favor. Their naturalization as Spanish subjects was facilitated, and free homesteads were given to them, of choice agricultural lands.

Some Italians also came to Cuba in those early years, partly as soldiers of fortune, to enlist in the forces of the island or to seek further adventures of exploration and conquest, and partly to become horticulturists and agriculturists, after the manner of the Portuguese. Even a few Arabs and Moors visited the island, and some German artisans. French and English there were none, because of the generally prevailing hostilities between them and Spain.

The Spanish government was chiefly intent upon encouraging conquests in the great treasure-yielding lands of Mexico and Central and South America. Yet it was not blind to the potential value of Cuba, nor altogether neglectful of that island's interests. Various attempts were made to stimulate immigration and permanent settlement, and even to prevent settlers, once there, from leaving the island. Some of these measures were, indeed, so stringent as probably to react against their own purpose. Thus it was required that merchants and ship-masters sailing from Cuba for trade with other lands should give bonds for their return, while the death penalty, with confiscation of estate, was actually prescribed for many years for all persons leaving the island without permission from the authorities. The effect of this extraordinary measure was what might have been expected. Knowing that once in Cuba it would be difficult and perhaps impossible for them to get away again, prudent people were reluctant to go thither.

Efforts were also made to stimulate increase of population. Married men in Spain were forbidden to go to Cuba without taking their wives with them. Bachelors and widowers in Cuba were not permitted to employ Indians or to hold slaves, while illicit unions with native women were discouraged under penalty. Regular mar{170}riages with native women were, however, legitimized, and there were many such which resulted satisfactorily. In spite of these precautions there were, of course, some illegitimate children, and these the government took steps to legitimize, in order that they might, in default of other heirs, inherit their fathers' property and become substantial members of the community.

The population of Cuba was materially increased in another and by no means commendable way. This was by the importation of negro slaves from Africa. The traffic in human beings began in the West Indies at about the time that Velasquez began the conquest and settlement of Cuba; perhaps a little before that time. Naturally, with the settlement of Cuba slave traders visited that island to offer their wares. It must be recorded to the credit of Velasquez that he at first prohibited the entrance of negro slaves into the island, and to the end of his life opposed it though he was forced after a while to permit it. This was partly on the ground of morals, and partly on that of prudence. He did not scruple to enslave to some extent the native Cubans. But that was in order to civilize and Christianize them, and also to afford the colonists protection from them in their wild native state. Such, at least, was the argument with which he justified his policy. Moreover, the Indians were already there, in the island, and had to be dealt with in some fashion. But it was manifestly a very different thing to import savages from some distant land for the express purpose of making slaves of them. The other reason was his fear that if many negroes were imported they and the Indians would so outnumber the whites as to be a grave menace.

Nevertheless the slave trade was established and soon attained considerable proportions. It became so flourishing that presently the Spanish government forbade private parties to conduct it save under special charter from the crown and on payment of a considerable royalty on each negro imported. Ostensibly, this was because it{171} was feared that too many negroes might be imported, so as to endanger the security of the colonists, as Velasquez had suggested; but in fact it was largely for the sake of the revenue which thus accrued to the royal treasury. The popular sentiment in Cuba was generally in favor of slavery. It was held that thus only could sufficient labor be secured for the development of the resources of the island. The number of negroes never was as great as some colonists urged that it should be, to wit, three male and three female slaves for every white householder, but it is probable that before the middle of the century the negro population of the island outnumbered the European.

Treatment of the slaves was on the whole humane. The negroes were forbidden to carry weapons, or to go about in companies of more than four. They were at times subjected to physical punishment by their masters for misdemeanors, though generally such discipline was required to be administered by the authorities. Miscegenation between Europeans and negroes was prohibited under penalty, and as an additional safeguard against it slaves were required to be imported in equal numbers of the sexes, and all were required to be married. It may be doubted if a similar regard for their sexual morals was ever exhibited elsewhere. There was a provision under which it was possible for industrious and faithful slaves to purchase their freedom, and a considerable number of them did so; after which they became members of the community with almost the same legal rights and privileges as the Europeans.

There was, it is pleasant to record, never the prejudice against the negro in Cuba that prevailed in the states of North America. He was a slave, but he was a man. He was a social and political inferior, because of his enslavement; but he was mentally and spiritually the peer of his master. The text "Cursed be Canaan" was never thundered from Cuban pulpits, nor was it ever held that the negro must not be educated nor instructed in religion.{172} On the contrary, it was required by law that the slaves should have the advantages of all the services of the church equally with their masters; and the Spanish aristocrat and his African slaves thus knelt side by side at the same altar. This attitude of the races toward each other had two natural results. One was, that the slaves were generally contented and peaceful, and attempts at insurrection among them, while not unknown, were rare. The other was, that amalgamation of the races became frequent and was recognized as quite legitimate. We have said that miscegenation in illegitimate fashion, between negro slaves and Europeans, was forbidden. But there was no ban against marriage between whites and emancipated negroes, and such unions not infrequently occurred, with satisfactory results.

The importation of negroes naturally increased with the gradual extermination of the native Indians, and it was favored by the very men who most strongly inveighed against the enslavement of the Indians. Even La Casas himself, with all his fervor in behalf of the natives, acquiesced in negro slavery; favored it, indeed, as a means of saving the Indians from such a fate. During the second administration of Guzman, the restrictions which had been placed upon the slave trade were removed, and free importations, without payment of a royalty, were thereafter permitted. Indeed, a further step than this was contemplated. It was urged that if the King wished the Indians to be emancipated, he should supply their places with negroes. This extraordinary argument prevailed, and for at least one year all the King's revenues from Cuba were ordered to be invested in negroes, who were then to be distributed among the colonists of the island in place of the Indians who were set free. These were not, however, to be free gifts, but were to be paid for by the colonists in the course of a term of years. The revenues for that year amounted to about 7,000 pesos, and it was reckoned that at the prices then prevailing in the slave market at least 700 slaves could be purchased.{173} But at the last moment the King, or else the Council for the Indies, reconsidered the matter, and the slaves were never purchased. At the same time the enfranchisement of the Indians was postponed.

The early industries of Cuba were, in the order of their importance, gold mining, stock raising, and agriculture. The last named was practised by the Spanish settlers only to an extent sufficient to supply their own needs for food. Stock raising, both horses and cattle, was engaged in much more extensively, not only to supply local needs but also to supply the needs of Spanish explorers and gold-seekers in Mexico and Central and South America, who had no time nor opportunity in their strenuous quest there to attend to such matters. But the first thought of the first settlers in Cuba was for gold, and for many years the mining of that metal was the most profitable occupation. Within the first twenty years of Spanish settlement more than 500,000 pesos in gold were secured. Indeed in a single year, 1531, the mines at Cuyeba produced 50,000 pesos. There were paying mines at Savanna, at Savanna de Guaimaro, at Puerto Principe, at Portillo, and elsewhere throughout the central districts of the island; some of them being ore veins in the mountains and some placers in the river beds. But in the course of twenty-five years the mines began to fail and new ones were not discovered, so that by De Soto's time the output of gold had become insignificant. This was doubtless one of the strong contributing causes of the migration of so many settlers from the island, the eagerness of men to seek new fields in Florida, and the general decline which Cuba then suffered.

There was some compensation for the decline of gold mining in the discovery of rich copper mines, though the full value of them was not at first realized. It was during the first administration of Guzman that copper was discovered at Cobre, near Santiago. (This was the place where, as formerly related, Alonzo de Ojeda, in gratitude for his restoration to health, presented a statue{174} of the Holy Virgin to the native chief, Comendador, who had been his host and nurse and who had embraced Christianity. The statue was long famous as Our Lady of Cobre.) There is reason for believing that the Cuban natives had formerly worked those mines to a considerable extent, for traffic with other lands, though they themselves apparently did not make use of the metal in their own arts. The governor, Guzman, learning of the discovery, urged the development of the mines as the property of the discoverers, while the royal treasurer claimed that they should belong to the crown. A controversy was maintained for some time, with the result that the crown, lightly esteeming the value of the find, permitted private exploitation of the mines on a basis of ten per cent royalty. An assayer was sent from Spain to superintend the refining of the copper from the ore, and suitable works were erected. But little or nothing was done for several years. Then, after the administration of De Soto, and while the alcalde mayor, Ortiz, was acting governor, a great demand for copper arose, for the casting of cannon, in Spain, and interest in the mines was revived. A German engineer made an agreement with the local authorities to extract the copper and did so with great success. The ore was found to be very rich in copper and also to contain so much gold and silver that it would be worth working for those metals entirely apart from the copper. Under this expert management the mines became highly profitable.

In the administration of Angulo the German engineer had two mines assigned to him as his own, in return for which he instructed all comers—chiefly slaves who were sent to him for the purpose by the settlers—in the art of smelting and refining copper. Large quantities of the copper were at that time sent to Spain, and the first cannon mounted on La Fuerza, in Havana, were made of it, being cast at the royal foundry at Seville. It is related that one of these cannon, a small falconet, burst in the casting, and so badly injured the superintendent of the{175} works that he had to be taken to a hospital, where he expressed a bad opinion of Cuban copper. This was the origin of the really unfounded belief which long prevailed, and which was recorded in technological works, that Cuban copper had some peculiar quality which rendered it difficult and even dangerous to work.

The first essays toward the growing of sugar, which has become one of the greatest industries of the island and in which Cuba surpasses any other equal area of the earth's surface, were made as already related in the closing years of Velasquez's administration. They did not at that time prove important, and nothing more was done until the first administration of Guzman. That enterprising governor, always ready to do anything to enrich himself, asked permission to import negro slaves free of royalty, in order to establish the sugar industry, promising under penalty to begin the construction of a sugar mill within two years and to complete it within four years. The crown considered that too long a time, and refused to waive the royalty on slaves for his benefit, whereupon he abandoned the scheme. Then Hernando de Castro made a similar proposal, reducing the time of completion of the mill to three years. The crown was more favorably impressed by his offer, and agreed to it, only to have him withdraw it. Juan de Avila and his brother Alfonso reported strongly in favor of establishing the industry in Cuba, and asked for a loan of capital from the royal treasury to finance the undertaking; but nothing was done. Chaves and Angulo also successively reported that Cuba was admirably adapted to the industry, and it was known that at that very time sugar growing was enormously successful in Hispaniola, Porto Rico and other islands. Yet by some strange fatality nothing practical was done, and the actual establishment of the great industry was postponed until near the end of the century.

The fiscal policy of the Spanish government was in early years not unfavorable to Cuba. Apart from a royalty of from five to ten per cent on precious metals{176} mined, and on copper, and the royalty already described on the importation of negro slaves, and a customs duty of seven and a half per cent ad valorem on all imports, the island was free from taxation. The royalties in question were certainly not oppressive, and the fact that the Seville government imposed the same customs duty on all goods imported into Spain from Cuba made the tariff seem entirely just. Indeed, Cuba was favored above all other islands In the West Indies for many years. Thus after the middle of the sixteenth century one-third of what had been the import duty on goods received in Spain from the West Indies was required to be paid in the Indies as an export tax; but Cuba alone of all the islands was exempted from this arrangement. It was not, indeed, until the decline of Spain herself set in, with increasing expenses for maintaining an inefficient and often corrupt bureaucracy, and with sorely diminishing resources and revenues, that Cuba began to be detrimentally exploited for the sake of the Mother Country.{177}


We have said that the administration of Angulo marked the nadir of early Cuban history. It also marked the turning point, and the entrance of the island into international affairs. Not yet had the great duel between Spain and England begun; which in the next century was to have so momentous results. France was the enemy. Francis I became King of that country in 1515, when Velasquez was beginning the settlement of Cuba, and Charles I (Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire) became King of Spain in the following year; and in 1521, while Velasquez was still governor of Cuba, those two monarchs began the first of their series of six wars. Adopting the policy which was afterward pursued by England against Spain and against France, and by France against England, France struck at Spain in her American colonies. During the first, second and third wars, French attention was chiefly given to conquests in North America, with occasional raids against Spanish commerce in the Caribbean and along the coast of Mexico. Cuba appears to have remained unscathed.

With the outbreak of the fourth war in 1536, however, trouble for Cuba began. French privateers, little better than pirates in their practices, sometimes, swarmed the Caribbean and the Gulf, preying upon Spanish commerce and raiding Spanish seacoast towns. The first such blow was struck at Cuba in 1537. A fleet of five Spanish ships, richly laden, was about to set forth from Havana for Spain, by way of the Bahama Channel. Just as they spread their sails and weighed their anchors, a venturesome French privateer entered the harbor's mouth. The intruder hesitated at sight of so many vessels, whereupon three of the Spaniards, being well armed as well as laden,{178} as most ships had to be in those troublous days, gave chase. The Frenchman retired, fighting stubbornly, as far as the harbor of Mariel, where he turned at bay and for three days kept up the unequal conflict. Then, just as he seemed preparing to give up the fight and flee, an unfavorable wind struck the Spanish ships, placing them at such disadvantage that their captains ordered them to be abandoned and burned. This was done, but the French boarded one before the flames had made headway, extinguished the fire, and sailed away with the prize. The daring Frenchman then returned to Havana, entered the harbor with the two ships, and proclaimed to the alcaldes and citizens that he would do the place no harm if none was done to him, but that if any attack was made upon his ships, he would sack the town. After a while he went out and sailed away to the west.

At that same time all commerce out of and into Santiago was practically blocked by the presence of French privateers hovering off that port. In April, 1538, an attack was made upon Santiago, and the place was defended in a most extraordinary fashion. A Spanish vessel tried to leave port, met a French vessel returning from a raid on Hispaniola, and tried to scuttle back, but was overtaken and captured at the entrance to the harbor. Next day, having despoiled the prize, the Frenchman sailed into the deep harbor, which never before had been thus invaded, and menaced the town. The town had no defences whatever, and the citizens were unarmed. Guzman, then just at the end of his administration, was furious at his helplessness. He railed against the citizens because they would not rush down to the wharf and repel the invader with clubs and stones. But railing was in vain, and so there was nothing to do but to take to flight inland, which most of the officials and citizens did, carrying all portable treasure with them.

The Frenchman then threatened to burn the town, which Guzman wished he would do, in order to bring the King's government to its senses and arouse it to the neces{179}sity of defending Cuba. But there chanced to be in the port a certain merchant of Seville, by name Diego Perez, who was at least as daring as the Frenchman himself. He had a little merchant sloop, not more than half the size of the Frenchman, but well armed, with guns that would carry at least as far as the Frenchman's. He ran his little craft into water too shallow for the bigger Frenchman, where he would be secure against ramming or boarding, and there began peppering the enemy with his long range guns, Perez himself aiming the best of them. The fight lasted all day, and Perez was ready to resume it next morning. But in the darkness of the night the Frenchman stole away and was seen no more in Santiago harbor. Perez had three men killed, and his vessel was badly damaged; but the Frenchman probably suffered heavier losses, since two of his men who were killed fell overboard and were picked up and buried by the Spaniards, and there were almost certainly others killed. For his valor on thus saving the capital of Cuba from destruction, Perez received from the King a coat of arms with a device emblematic of his achievement.

That same Frenchman a little later, having repaired his vessel, wreaked his revenge upon Havana. When he entered the harbor there the people fled and left the town for him to loot at his leisure. It is recorded that he took even the church bells. Moreover, being a truculent Huguenot, he took an image of Saint Peter from the church and let his men use it as a target to pelt with oranges! This incident caused De Soto, who arrived at Havana a little later, to hasten work on the defences of the place. For some time there had been talk of building a fort, but no agreement had been reached as to where it should be; whether at the Cabana, or the Morro, or on the hill in what is now Central Park. But the Frenchman's raid brought the controversy to an end, and De Soto was authorized to build wherever he thought best. The result was the building of La Fuerza. It was hastily built, and therefore badly, so that ten years later part{180} of it had to be torn down and the whole remodelled into its present form.

By this time it was considered certain that Havana would one day become the capital and chief city of Cuba, wherefore it was decided to fortify it rather than Santiago or any other port. Beside, it was the most convenient port of call for treasure ships and others plying between Mexico and Spain. A battery of cannon was therefore placed upon the Morro headland, long before the building of the castle, and La Fuerza was strongly armed. It became the custom for treasure ships to put into Havana harbor, and if pursued to unload their treasure there, for safe keeping on shore until the danger was past. But no further attack was made upon Havana or any other Cuban port, and in 1544 the war was ended.

The prospect of Havana's becoming the capital seemed temporarily to be realized in 1550, when Angulo established his permanent residence there—the first governor so to do, though some of his predecessors had spent some time there, and De Avila had actually established a residence there. Angulo began building a large stone church at Havana, in place of the wooden thatched hut which had served the purpose before him; he built an addition to the hospital, two store houses and a slaughter house, and rebuilt the jail. He also regulated the prices of food, so as to put a stop to the artificial raising of prices whenever ships came in for supplies. Yet when, in obedience to the orders of the crown, in November, 1552, he issued an emancipation proclamation in favor of the Indians, a storm of abuse broke upon him, in Havana as well as elsewhere. Santiago, piqued because he had spent so much time away from that place, took the initiative in demanding a judicial investigation of his conduct, charging him with venality and peculations. But the city council of Havana quickly followed suit, made more than fifty specific charges against him, and provided a ship to fetch a judge from Hispaniola to try him.


A grim guardian, seated on the headland at one side of the entrance to Havana's peerless harbor; founded to protect the city from the sixteenth-century corsairs; captured in the seventeenth century by the British and the American Colonists after the most stubborn resistance; and in later years the prison in which many Cuban patriots were immured.



Curiously enough, while Santiago was hostile to him because he would not live there, Havana was hostile because he would live there. It was specifically complained that he persisted in living at Havana against the will of the people of that place. They did not want him there, they said, because they were convinced that he was there for his own profit. So they besought the court to compel him to return to Santiago. Other complaints were that he had imposed various new-fangled devices upon the city, that he was a gambler, that he engaged in trade for his own profit, that he permitted his wife to decide suits at law, and that he had instructed one of his officers to strike with a club anyone who did not rise to his feet when the governor entered the church.

Angulo denied all the charges, and declared that they had been trumped up against him because he had obeyed the King in emancipating the Indians. He went to Hispaniola in person to argue his cause before the Supreme Court, the chief counsel against him being Alfonso de Rojas. The court decided in his favor so far as to suspend all action and let him return to Havana, until the King could pass upon the case. No judge would be appointed to investigate him, the court added, unless one were sent from Spain. So the governor returned to Cuba in triumph. Landing at Santiago, he proclaimed the freedom of all Indians there. Thence he proceeded to Baracoa, to Bayamo, to Trinidad, and to Puerto Principe, repeating the emancipation proclamation at each place. At the midsummer of 1553 he reached Havana, to find that the town council had "deposed" him, on the ground that he had been absent from his jurisdiction without leave for more than ninety days; a decree which he ignored. Meanwhile the crown had appointed a judge to investigate him, but the judge did not come and the inquest was not held. Soon after his arrival at Havana, finding that he would not give up the governorship at its word, the town council begged the Hispaniola court to{182} have him investigated, and the court commissioned a judge for that purpose, who declined or at least failed to act. This was in August, 1554.

Now trouble was renewed with France, the sixth war between Henry II, who had succeeded Francis, and Charles beginning in 1552 and continuing until 1559, Charles meanwhile abdicating in favor of Philip II in 1556. The French navy was more potent than ever, and French privateers swarmed the Spanish Main. Every Cuban port was warned to be on its guard against attack, Havana most of all, since it was now the richest and was in the most exposed situation. It was not until the fall of 1553 that the official news of the renewal of hostilities reached Cuba, and great was the consternation which it caused.

Juan de Lobera was at that time the commander of the fortifications of Havana, to wit, La Fuerza. He appears to have been a man of strangely mingled temperament, at times fearful and timorous, at others resolute and valiant. At the beginning the former characteristics prevailed. He realized, only too truly, that the fortifications and petty garrison would be entirely insufficient for the protection of the place against any considerable force, such as even a single French ship might bring against it, and he fell into something like a panic. Happily, however, he did not desert his post, but made passionate demands upon the governor and the town council for additional guards. Happily, too, in the presence of menace the animosities of faction were stilled, and the council cooperated heartily with the governor whom it had just been trying to depose and whom only a little later it denounced to the court as worthy of investigation and indictment.

New guards were supplied. Day and night the beach was patrolled. Watchmen were stationed on the Morro headland to espy approaching vessels and to signal the tidings to the fort and city. At the mouth of the Almendares River, where it was supposed that invaders were likely to land, horsemen were stationed, to hasten back to{183} the city with news of any such landing or of the appearance of a hostile vessel. Twelve men, expert in arms, were held in readiness day and night to man the fort the moment a strange vessel was reported; La Fuerza being otherwise without a garrison—which amply justified the commander's lack of faith in its defensive efficiency. In case of an attack, all able-bodied citizens were to present themselves in a massed levy under command of the governor. Every man was to be armed, at least with a sword, day and night, and none was to absent himself from the city without the permission of the governor. Every vessel of any kind that approached the harbor was signalled to stop outside until it could be visited and its identity be established; though if any refused thus to halt there was no adequate power to compel it to do so. However, refusal to stop would of course be regarded as proof of hostile character.

With all these preparations the defensive ability of Havana was pitifully if not ludicrously slight. Three small cannon manned by twelve volunteers constituted the armament of a fort which might be attacked by a ship of twenty guns and two hundred men. The "army" of the place comprised sixteen horsemen and less than seventy footmen, scarcely any two of them armed alike. The chief commander under the governor was Juan de Rojas, who was the governor's bitterest political enemy, though he had once been his close friend and deputy. He was a brother of the former governor, Manuel de Rojas. In these circumstances the commander of the fort awaited with unspeakable trepidation the anticipated approach of the enemy.

His fears were presently realized in the coming of perhaps the most formidable of all the Frenchmen then scouring the seas; the famous Jacques Sores. This daring captain was not only a Frenchman and therefore hostile to Spaniards on racial and political grounds, but he was also a Huguenot, like many other French seamen of that day, and therefore hostile to them on religious{184} grounds. He was supposed to be under the patronage of the great Condé, and also at one time to have received material aid from Queen Elizabeth of England. Indeed, he was at this time regarded as the foremost champion of the Protestant cause at sea. Although a privateer, he commanded not a single vessel but a squadron of three, which he handled with the skill of a master mariner.

Sores did not, however, deem it needful to bring his whole array against Havana. A single vessel, a brigantine, would be sufficient. So it came to pass that in the early morning of July 10, 1554, a signal came from the watchers on the Morro headland, that a strange sail, probably French, was approaching. A shot was fired from La Fuerza, to summon the men of Havana to arms. Lobera led his garrison of twelve men to their places within the fort. Angulo took command outside. For an hour or two there was uncertainty as to the identity of the vessel, and horsemen were dispatched to the beach to watch its movements. They presently hastened back with the news that the brigantine had cast anchor off what is now San Lazaro and had sent ashore two boatloads of armed men, who were now approaching the city through the jungle. This indicated treachery, for the jungle was impenetrable save by a certain secret path which no strangers could know, and indeed it was presently disclosed that the invaders were guided by two men who had formerly lived in Havana, one of whom had been a harbor pilot.

The governor unhesitatingly considered discretion to be the better part of valor, and betook himself to instant flight, conveying his family and such of his property as he could carry to the native village of Guanabacoa, at the other side of the bay, where he was joined during the day by a majority of the residents of Havana. Lobera, on the other hand, now that he was face to face with a great crisis, forgot his fears and acquitted himself as a man of valor. With his little garrison, half of whom were negro slaves, and with a score of refugees, old men,{185} women and children, he shut himself within the fort, with its walls of stone and gates of timber, and prepared to fight to the death. He had found three more cannon and had taken them into the fort, thus totalling six, with a good supply of ammunition and provisions. He dispatched a message to Angulo, reproaching him for his cowardly flight and imploring him to send all able bodied men to the aid of the garrison, for the honor of Spain. This the governor promised to do at or before nightfall; a promise which was not kept.

The invaders were commanded by Captain Sores in person. They took possession of the town without resistance, and then summoned the fort to surrender; expecting to find in it much treasure from Spanish vessels which had recently been wrecked on the Florida coast, though in fact no such treasure was there. Lobera unhesitatingly refused to surrender, and the fight began. The first assault upon the fort, from the landward side, was repulsed. Then the brigantine was seen to be approaching at the other side, accompanied by another and larger vessel of Sores's squadron, which had just arrived; wherefore Lobera had to transfer two of his cannon to that side of the fort to prevent a landing of more troops. A second assault was repulsed, during which a Spanish gunner shot down the French flag from the staff on which Sores had raised it at the stone house of Juan de Rojas, which the French had occupied as headquarters. A third assault, near nightfall, was also repulsed, but the two wooden gates of La Fuerza were burned with nearly all the contents of the tower. The little garrison and the refugees spent the night on an open terrace, with only a little powder and shot and not a day's food left. Hoping for help from the governor and citizens, Lobera fired his largest gun at intervals during the night, beat the drums and sounded bugle calls; but all in vain. "The darkness gave no token."

The French demanded his surrender, promising good treatment, but threatening a ruthless assault which would{186} mean death if he persisted in trying to hold his indefensible position. Lobera refused, until the break of day. Then he saw that no help was approaching from Angulo, that an overwhelming force of French soldiers surrounded him on all sides, and that successful defence was impossible. His ammunition was all but gone. The cords of the crossbows with which his men were armed were frayed and broken. Some of his men were slain, while some of the survivors, especially one German gunner, mutinously held converse with the enemy. The refugees fell on their knees before him bidding him die fighting if he would, but to let their lives be spared. In this desperate plight Lobera yielded, offering to surrender on honorable terms, if the lives of his men were spared and the women were protected from dishonor. To this Sores gave his word, and the fort capitulated. The flag of France was raised over La Fuerza, and twenty-odd Spanish subjects were prisoners.

The women and children were quickly released, but all the men were locked up in the house of Juan de Rojas, which was the strongest stone building in the city. About a score more were added to their number, of Spaniards and Portuguese whom Sores had captured elsewhere.

A few hours after the surrender, word was received from Angulo. He had at last organized a force of about fifty men, chiefly Indians, and had started to the relief of the fort when he heard of its capitulation. At this he realized that all was lost, and retired to Guanabacoa, there to seek negotiations with the French for the ransom of Havana. A truce was declared, and the prisoners were released from Rojas's house on parole, pledged not to fight, or to leave town, and to return to their prison at nightfall. Angulo offered a ransom of three thousand ducats, declaring that no more could be raised. The Frenchmen scorned the offer, and demanded thirty thousand pesos—eighty thousand had been collected at Santiago the year before—and a hundred loads of bread. An{187}gulo protested his inability to raise such an amount, but begged for time in which to see what he could do.

A week passed, the French occupying Havana at their ease and Angulo scouring the surrounding country, ostensibly for ransom money but in fact for men and arms. By the end of the week he had surreptitiously collected a force of 335 men, of whom about thirty-five were Spaniards and the rest negroes and Indians. They were armed chiefly with clubs and stones. Himself and eight others were mounted on horseback. With this motley force he hoped to surprise the French by night, and to capture Rojas's house, where he would take Sores himself prisoner and release the Spanish captives.

The desperate plan would probably have succeeded had not some of the Indians indiscreetly uttered their war cry as they rushed upon the house, arousing the Frenchmen and giving them time to close and bar the massive doors. The few Frenchmen who were sleeping outside of the house were quickly overcome and slain, and Angulo laid siege to the house itself, summoning Sores to surrender. The French commander was furious at what he not unreasonably regarded as a breach of the truce. Moreover, his brother was among those who had been killed outside the house. In a fury he ordered that all the Spanish prisoners in the house be put to death. This was quickly done, with the exception of Lobera, who was confined in an upper room. Sores reserved the killing of him for himself, and entered the room where Lobera was for that purpose. Lobera defended himself, meanwhile protesting that he had had no part in the treachery; and his evidently honest pleas moved a French officer to intervene in his behalf and to disarm Sores. Then, at the direction of Sores, Lobera showed himself at a window and addressed Angulo, reproaching him for the breach of truce, and imploring him to withdraw. Angulo refused, declaring that he had already recaptured the town, and that at daylight he would complete the work by capturing the Rojas house and its inmates.{188}

With the coming of daylight, however, the folly of this course became apparent. Angulo had, indeed, a larger force than the Frenchmen still remaining in Havana; though as the latter were far the better armed a conflict between them would probably have been disastrous to the Spaniards. But the two ships in the harbor were now aroused and began firing upon the Spaniards with their artillery, while reenforcements of men for Sores put off for shore in boats. Sores and his companions made a fierce sally from the house. The few Spaniards made a stand, but the negroes and most of the Indians would not oppose clubs and stones to swords and arquebuses. They fled incontinently to the jungle, followed by Angulo himself.

His victory thus completed, Sores returned to the house where he had left Lobera locked in a room with the dead and dying. He absolved the commander from all responsibility for Angulo's treacherous conduct, and complimented him upon the valor with which he had defended La Fuerza as well as upon his good faith. He would not, however, release him without a ransom, according to the custom of the times. In default of the ransom, he would take him to France as a prisoner, though treated with all consideration. Lobera was without means, but his friends with whom he was permitted to communicate soon raised the required sum of two thousand two hundred pesos, and he was set at liberty. He thereafter went to Spain, carrying with him the news of what had happened to Havana.

The negotiations for the ransom of the town were less successful. Angulo had fled far inland, and could not be reached, and the Spaniards who remained could not offer more than a thousand pesos, a sum which Sores scorned. In default of ransom, therefore, the place was looted and burned. Three buildings alone remained standing: La Fuerza, the church, and the hospital. Indeed, the interior of the church was almost entirely destroyed. Sores and his men were fierce Huguenots, and they tore down{189} the images of saints and took the robes and altar vestments to make cloaks for themselves. All the boats found in the harbor were burned. The neighboring estates for miles around were destroyed, and some of the negroes who offered resistance were hanged. The harbor was carefully surveyed and sounded, to facilitate future entries. Finally, his work being thus thoroughly done, Sores sailed away at midnight of August 5, less than a month after his arrival.

At the end of September a little French vessel, containing only a dozen men, entered the harbor, inspected the ruins of the city, and seized a Spanish caravel which lay there, taking it away with them to the harbor of Mariel, where there were several French ships. Ten days later the entire French force entered the harbor of Havana and landed many men. They did not, however, molest the Spanish residents nor destroy the new buildings which they were beginning to erect, but seemed to regard them with good humored tolerance, as too insignificant to merit attention. Indeed, there were only a few dozen of the Spanish, all told, and they were helpless and disheartened. The Frenchmen contented themselves with going to several of the outlying farms and taking all the hides they could find to add to the cargo which they were already carrying. They remained there, on amicable terms with the Spanish, for more than a fortnight, and then sailed away.

These things occurred at the time when Philip of Spain was marrying Queen Mary of England and was taking possession of the Netherlands, and when Spain vaunted herself as the foremost military power of the world. It must not be wondered at that the people of Cuba, and particularly of Havana, regarded themselves as grievously neglected by those who should have been their protectors, and bitterly reproached not alone the governor but even the King himself for not having afforded them more ample protection. The explanation was, doubtless, that Spain regarded Mexico, South Amer{190}ica, and of course her European possessions, as of far greater importance than the island whose gold mines were about exhausted, which had failed to provide iron for Spanish artillery, and which had served chiefly as a stepping stone to more valuable lands. It was a strange irony of fate that the island which was thus slighted was destined to be the most faithful and the longest held of all the colonial possessions of Spain.{191}


The disastrous events which have been related in the preceding chapter suggested to the Spaniards in Cuba and also to the government at Seville the desirability, if not the necessity, of establishing a more militant administration of affairs if the island was not to be the prey of all comers and perhaps ultimately be lost to the Spanish crown. Thitherto, with the exception of Velasquez and the possible exception of De Soto, every governor of the island had been a civilian and a lawyer. It seemed an experiment worth making, then, to appoint a military man to the office, in the hope that he would be better fitted to provide for the protection of the island against the privateers and corsairs who roved the seas in increasing numbers and with increasing boldness. True, immediately after the abdication of Charles I and the accession of Philip II, in 1556, a truce was concluded between France and Spain, which was to last five years. But few expected that it would last so long, as indeed it did not, being broken in two years; and even while it did last privateering was by no means abolished. In any case, be it peace or be it war, Spain had tried to hold her western empire by virtue of Divine Right and ecclesiastical decrees, and had failed. Now she would try holding what was left of it with military and naval force; and to that end would have a soldier for governor of Cuba.

The man chosen was indeed an expert and competent soldier, by no means devoid of statesmanship. Diego de Mazariegos had been one of the most efficient lieutenants of Cortez in Mexico, and distinguished himself as a brave and skilful fighter against the Indians. He had also given much attention to international relations, and to the privateering which had become such a scourge of the{192} seas. Indeed, it was through some of his writings on this latter subject that the court of Seville was led to consider him as a candidate for the Cuban governorship. Dr. Angulo had been appointed in 1550, and five years was long enough, it was thought, for a man to serve, unless he served better than Angulo had done in the latter part of his term. So Mazariegos was selected to succeed him, in March, 1555. Juan Martinez, a lawyer, was selected to go with him as lieutenant governor. These were the last appointments made in Cuba by King Charles before his retirement from the throne.

Some time was required for preparations for the voyage and for residence in a new land, so that Mazariegos and Martinez did not sail from Spain until late in the summer. On the way they suffered shipwreck and Martinez and all his family were drowned. Mazariegos escaped, but lost everything he had with him save the clothes which he was wearing. This disaster made it necessary still further to postpone his assumption of the governorship, so that he did not reach Cuba until March 7, 1556. It is noteworthy that instead of landing at Santiago, as every other governor had done, he went straight to Havana, where Angulo awaited him, and the very next day, March 8, he was installed as governor. In accordance with custom he conducted an investigation of Angulo's accounts and general administration, which was permitted to pass as a merely formal and perfunctory performance. The passionate demands for Angulo's indictment and punishment were by this time forgotten.

Havana had been partially rebuilt since the raid of Captain Sores, and had been completely transformed in character. It had a very much larger population than before, and that population was restless and turbulent to a degree. It contained adventurers from every country and of every type; fortune hunters, fugitive criminals, gamblers, bankrupts, the shady output of Mexico, Darien and Peru, who sought in Cuba a No Man's Land in which they would not be troubled with law and order. In this{193} expectation they reckoned without their host. Or perhaps they counted upon the rough and ready soldier as likely to countenance a large degree of laxity. If so, they were mistaken. Mazariegos had indeed the personal morals of a soldier of fortune. Soon after the death of Angulo he took the latter's widow for his mistress and lived with her openly, to the great scandal of the church, until after the death of the lady's mother, when he married her, as he said he had all along intended to do; the delay being due to his unwillingness to have a mother-in-law. But this was regarded by the governor as a trifling peccadillo. Upon graver offenses, murder, robbery, brawling and what not, he frowned with the wrath of a Precisian.

Nor was he any respecter of persons. When Francisco de Angulo, the son of the lady whom he had taken as his mistress and was soon to make his wife, scandalized law and order with his drunkenness and brawling, he exiled him to Mexico. For like offenses he also banished Gomez de Rojas, the youngest brother of Juan de Rojas, one of the foremost citizens of Havana; expressing as he did so a fervent wish that the young man might quickly meet with an evil death. As for his own nephew, Francisco de Mazariegos, when he became notorious for gambling, lechery and fighting, he inflicted upon him with his own hands a physical chastisement which was a more than nine days' example to all the other youth of the town.

Santiago still being the nominal capital of the island, the new governor thought it incumbent upon him at least to visit it. In fact, he spent nearly the whole year 1557 there, endeavoring to provide it with means of defence against French privateers. He stationed a captain of the army there, with four small cannon, some muskets and pikes, and a supply of gunpowder, urging the citizens to learn to fight so as to defend themselves. Then, in January, 1558, he hastened back to Havana to defend it against raiders who were said to be on their way thither. Five months later a French privateer visited Santiago, took the place without so much as a blow from the cap{194}tain, considered it too small and poor to be worth looting or burning, and sailed away again after collecting only 400 pesos ransom; probably the smallest ransom on record for a capital city!

On his return to Havana, Mazariegos showed the value of a military governor for the protection of a city. For six weeks that summer a French squadron of four vessels lay off Havana, without venturing to attack the place, knowing that Mazariegos had mobilized and trained for fighting every able-bodied man in the place, and even some robust and athletic negro women. But the governor was not satisfied with defence alone. He contrived to get word to some Spanish captains at Nombre de Dios, who were going to convoy treasure ships to Spain, with the result that they presently came up unannounced and captured the whole French squadron. Again and again thereafter Havana was menaced, even attacked, but invariably Mazariegos repulsed the enemy, generally with heavy loss to the latter.

He felt, however, the need of better equipment, particularly of more cannon, and asked the crown to provide it. The crown declined or at any rate failed to do so, whereupon he set about doing it himself, and succeeded in getting, sometimes by rather strenuous means, a number of cannon and a good supply of powder. But a better fort than the ruins of La Fuerza was also needed, and to that enterprise he turned his attention with zeal. At the beginning of his administration Geronimo Bustamente de Herrera was commissioned by the crown to build a new fort, but after making plans and engaging workmen he fell ill and had to abandon the job. At the beginning of 1558, just as Mazariegos returned thither from Santiago, Herrera was replaced by Bartolome Sanchez, a competent engineer; who prepared new plans for the rebuilding of La Fuerza as it stands to this day. The Viceroy of Mexico, who was much interested in the safety of Mexican treasure ships which might put in at Havana, contributed 12,000 pesos in gold for the beginning of the{195} work. There was much trouble in getting laborers for the work, in Spain. Sanchez wanted at least a hundred negro slaves. The government thought the number excessive, and gave him authorization for only thirty; whereupon he declared that the enterprise might as well be given up. In fact he secured in Spain only fifteen workmen, and with them he sailed for Cuba, hoping to secure the rest there, or elsewhere in the West Indies.

The work began early in December, 1558. A stone quarry was opened near Guanabacoa, and a kiln for making lime was built. But labor was still lacking. Sanchez wanted two hundred, negro slaves or others, and appealed to the people of the town to help him get them. In response they procured for him thirty slaves—their own, whom they were willing to turn over to him "for a consideration." Then the governor took a hand in the game. There were forty slaves at Santiago, who had been brought thither without the proper shipping papers, and were being held for that reason. Mazariegos sent to Santiago, confiscated them all, and brought them up to Havana, to work on the new fort. Some French prisoners who had been taken in a fight off Matanzas were also set at work on it. All tramps and vagabonds who were arrested were sent to La Fuerza or to the quarry, and for a time, until the crown stopped it, one third of the Indian village of Guanabacoa were kept at work on the fort.

Although Sanchez was in charge of the work and was responsible for it, Mazariegos spent much of his time there, watching it, directing it, and chastising with tongue and sometimes even with rod all who seemed laggards at the job. In time he succeeded Sanchez in authority. For Sanchez incurred much enmity on the part of some influential citizens, whose houses he took in order to make an open place about the fort. They accused him of corruption, of making gross errors in the plans for the fort, of fomenting discord, and of wasting money. He was too busy with building the fort to pay much attention to these things, even when they took the form of letters to the{196} King. The outcome of it was that in the summer of 1560 Sanchez was removed from his place, and Mazariegos was put in charge of the completion of La Fuerza. A few months later Sanchez reached Seville, and pleaded his case to so good effect that the crown was convinced that injustice had been done him, and that he should not have been discharged. However, it was not practicable to reinstate him, though he was sent back a few years later to make an official inspection of the completed fort.

In addition to La Fuerza, Mazariegos built the first forerunner of the Morro Castle. In 1563 he built on the Morro headland a tower of masonry more than thirty feet high. It was intended primarily as a landmark, and was therefore painted white in order to make it visible at the greatest possible distance. But a watchman was generally kept in it, to espy approaching vessels and to signal to the city news of their approach. The tower is said to have cost only 200 pesos, and was paid for by the city of Havana.

Mazariegos presently became involved in affairs outside of Cuba. Many men deserted at Havana from the vessels of Angelo de Villafane, governor of Florida. Villafane complained and wanted Mazariegos to capture and return them. Mazariegos replied that he could not do it; to which we may doubtless add that he would not have done so if he could. He was desirous of increasing the population of Cuba, even in that way. When Villafane attempted to plant a Spanish colony at what is now Port Royal, South Carolina, and failed, Mazariegos had some correspondence with the King, and probably acquiesced in the royal opinion, that it would be impracticable to establish a colony at that point. In 1563, however, the King learned that the French had been quite successful in planting a colony on that very spot where the Spaniards under Villafane had failed, and he informed Mazariegos of the fact. The governor, acting upon his own initiative, but shrewdly guessing what would be acceptable to the King, sent Hernando de Rojas thither with a{197} frigate and twenty-five soldiers, to see how much of a settlement the French had made, and to destroy it if he was able to do so with that force. In the summer of 1564 Rojas returned, reporting that the settlement had been abandoned by the French. He brought back with him one young Frenchman as a prisoner, and also a memorial stone which the French had set up to commemorate the founding of the place, bearing the date, 1561. Mazariegos commended Rojas for his work, sent the memorial stone to Seville, and then began planning to go in person or to send an expedition to search the Carolina and other coasts in quest of new French colonies. His theory was that the more French settlements there were, the more French vessels there would be, and therefore the more subject Cuba would be to alien annoyance.

This, however, was not to be. The end of Mazariegos's administration was already drawing near. He fell into some violent disputes with the citizens of Havana, over the appointment of alcaldes, a duty which they charged him with neglecting. He was also charged with packing the town council with his own creatures, with tampering with the mails so as to prevent people from writing to Spain any complaints of his maladministration, and of other misdemeanors. Bartolome Sanchez, who had returned from Spain and who had a bitter personal grudge against the governor for supplanting him as builder of the fort, petitioned the King to have a judge sent from Hispaniola to investigate him, but the King refused. Mazariegos, learning this, and feeling unwarrantably secure in royal favor, adopted a more arrogant attitude toward his opponents and critics, which did him no good.

In the spring of 1565, Garcia Osorio de Sandoval was appointed to succeed him as governor. Mazariegos thereupon wrote to the King, asking that there be no unnecessary law suits brought against him, as he was old, and ill, and poor. (He was not yet fifty years of age!) The King granted his request, and in consequence in{198}structed Osorio to make his investigation as little annoying as possible. Osorio obeyed, and although the report of the inquest filled three big volumes, Mazariegos was not brought to trial on any charges and had no fines assessed against him. He remained living at Havana for some time, and then completed his career in the King's service as governor of Caracas, Venezuela. His administration had been a stormy one, but on the whole advantageous to Cuba, and had confirmed the Seville government in its policy of appointing others than mere lawyers to the insular governorship.

Garcia Osorio de Sandoval became governor of Cuba on September 12, 1565. As he was not a lawyer, the precedent which had been set in Mazariegos's case was followed in his, of appointing a lieutenant governor who was a lawyer to serve with him. His lieutenant was Luis Cabrera, who did not reach Cuba until later in the year, having suffered shipwreck and been obliged to put back to Spain and await the sailing of another vessel.

Osorio appears to have been a soldier, though probably retired from active service at the time of his appointment to the governorship. At any rate he made it his first care to improve the defences of the island. It is related that he bore with him from Spain to Havana a cargo of arms and munitions, including four brass cannon. These he placed upon the fortification, thus making a battery of eight pieces, and built a substantial platform of timber for them to stand upon. La Fuerza was not yet completed, but he took measures to expedite the work and hoped to have it finished in a year. In order to protect the place from possible raids by land, he closed and blocked all roads and trails leading into it from the west excepting the one along the beach. He organized a force of seventy men armed with arquebuses, to be quickly summoned in an emergency, and required them and all citizens to assemble for service whenever a strange sail was sighted. In addition, as a permanent contribution to defence, a spacious arsenal was built near the water{199} front, to contain the stores of ammunition and to shelter the guards and citizens.

There was thus much promise that Osorio would prove to be an energetic and useful governor. Unfortunately, at the very beginning of his administration he came into conflict with another and much stronger functionary of the Spanish crown; indeed, one of the most formidable figures of the time. This was none other than Pedro Menendez de Aviles, whose record fills so large a place in the early annals of Florida and the West Indies. He took to the sea in boyhood, and became one of the most expert navigators of Spain. At the age of thirty he was captain of his own ship, and it was one of the most active and efficient vessels among all that guarded and convoyed the treasure ships and fleets of the Spanish Main. At that time he warned the government of Hispaniola and also that of Mexico of the grave danger of letting the French get any foothold upon those shores, or even of navigating those waters. The Bahama Channel, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea should all, he insisted, be declared and kept closed seas, into which no vessels but those of Spain should enter save by special license.


Menendez was, moreover, an ardent and indeed fanatical Catholic, who deemed it a duty to extirpate "Lutheran dogs," as he termed the French Huguenots and other Protestants; and as most of the French seamen and foreign adventurers at that time were of the Huguenot faith, he cherished a special animosity against them.

Now, his recommendations to the governments of Hispaniola and Mexico were transmitted to Seville and were laid before the King. Charles was at that time weary of royal cares and was about to resign them, and he paid{200} little or no attention to the letters of the young captain. But when Philip II came to the throne, attention was given to them. That painstaking monarch read them and was much struck by them, both in their warning of military danger from the French and in their zealous animosity against heretics. Their writer was evidently, he thought, a man after his own heart. So he sent for Menendez, talked with him, and commissioned him to be the guardian of the highway to the Indies, with the title of captain-general. It was his function to guard Spanish treasure ships all the way across the Atlantic, from Mexico to Spain, as he had formerly guarded them in the narrow seas about the Indies. It was thus that he was serving during a part of Mazariegos's administration in Cuba, and in that capacity he spent much time at Havana. On one or two occasions he took charge of the few little vessels which formed Mazariegos's navy, and did good service with them. At this time, also, he wrote to the King about the increasing ravages and peril of French privateers in those waters, very much as he had written to the local governments years before.

The result was that the King in March, 1565, appointed him to be Adelantado of Florida, and captain-general of the Spanish fleet in that part of the world specially commissioned to guard the coasts and ports of the Indies. That was six months before Osorio became governor of Cuba.

The commission of Menendez bade him to "guard the coasts and ports of the Indies." Very well. Cuba was certainly one of the Indies. Therefore he was commissioned to guard the ports and coasts of Cuba. Being familiar with Cuba, and recognizing its very great importance, he naturally deemed the guarding of that island as one of the very first of his duties. Mazariegos did not demur, since he was himself soon to retire from the governorship. But when Osorio came to Havana six months later, and found Menendez in command of all that pertained to harbor and coast defence, there was trouble.{201} Osorio asserted his rights and authority as governor of Cuba. Menendez replied with an assertion of his as captain-general "to guard the coasts and ports."

The first clash came because Menendez interpreted his jurisdiction as extending to fortifications on land as well as to shipping; which we must regard as extreme if not overstrained. He assumed direction of the garrison of Havana, and had two hundred men sent thither from a large detachment which was sent to Florida. As La Fuerza was not yet finished sufficiently to accommodate them, houses were hired to receive them. Osorio was not notified in advance that they were coming, or that they had arrived; and after they were there they refused to regard his authority but took orders solely from Baltazar Barreda, a captain whom Menendez had assigned to their command. Presently Barreda took charge of La Fuerza and began moving thither the artillery, including the four pieces which Osorio had brought with him from Spain. Osorio remonstrated, saying that the fort was not yet sufficiently completed for use. Barreda defied his authority, and was sustained by Menendez, who happened to be in Havana at the time. The governor yielded, for the time. But as soon as Menendez was out of the city he clapped Barreda into jail, after a violent physical struggle, and appointed Pedro de Redroban to the command of the fort in his stead. News of this reached Menendez and he hastened back and released Barreda. As for Redroban, he and half a dozen of his men fled to the woods, in well-founded fear of Menendez.

Now, Redroban was one of Menendez's soldiers, just as much as Barreda, and was probably as loyal to him as Barreda. But he had deemed it incumbent upon himself to obey the commands of the governor of the island. Nevertheless, Menendez charged Osorio with having incited mutiny in the garrison, and he denounced Redroban as a deserter and traitor, who should be captured and put to death, and his head exhibited in the market-place with an inscription proclaiming him a traitor to the King and{202} disobedient to his commander. Redroban and some of his comrades were captured, tried, and condemned to death; but on appeal to the crown their sentences were commuted. Menendez then ordered Barreda to set the garrison at work digging a moat about the fort, and demanded picks and shovels from the governor for the purpose. These Osorio refused to supply, and Barreda thereupon secured them from the people of the town. Still another cause of friction was found in the coming to Cuba of many men, both civilians and runaway soldiers, from Florida. These Osorio received and sent to the interior of Cuba to engage in agriculture. Menendez complained that Osorio was inciting and assisting desertions from Florida; and Osorio bitterly replied that affairs were so bad in Florida under Menendez's rule that people had to flee from the place to save their lives from starvation and pestilence.

Whatever were the general merits of the controversy between the two men, it was certain from the beginning that Menendez would win. He had the higher official rank, and he enjoyed the special favor of the King. More and more he made Havana his headquarters, preferring it to any port on the Florida coast; to which it was, of course, naturally much superior. More and more, too, he assumed authority in Havana, not alone in military but even in civil affairs. More and more Osorio was ignored. And as Menendez had the stronger force of men, and was backed by the approval and favor of the King, it was in vain that Osorio resented the slights which were heaped upon him.

Matters reached their climax in the matter of further fortifications. Osorio wanted to build a sea wall in front of the city, such as the engineer Sanchez had planned years before, at the beginning of Mazariegos's administration. Menendez curtly dismissed that scheme, and commissioned his son-in-law, Pedro de Valdes, with some other officers from Florida, to survey the waterfront of the city and recommend additional fortifications. They re{203}ported that it would be folly to build a sea wall, and that all that was needed was a round tower, about thirty-seven feet high, on the headland opposite the Morro, on which latter an observation tower had already been erected. Valdes suggested that the tower might be built by the garrison of La Fuerza, at no cost, if the governor would provide the materials. This Osorio refused to do. He had no money for such a purpose, and no authority to spend any for it. Moreover, he condemned the plan of thus dividing the garrison, holding that it would be far better to finish La Fuerza and concentrate all the forces there. The outcome of it was, therefore, that the proposed Punta Castle had to be for the time abandoned; Menendez perforce contenting himself with some earth-works on Punta, in which he placed a couple of cannons.

At the same time other friction arose at Santiago, a place which could not yet be altogether neglected. Menendez's attention was called to that place by having one of his own ships chased into Santiago harbor by a French privateer. The captain of that ship reported to him that Santiago had a fine harbor but practically no defences. A fort had indeed been begun on the headland at one side of the harbor entrance, but had not been finished, and the sea wall for which the people had petitioned had not been started. Menendez thereupon sent thither a company of fifty men with four cannon, under command of Captain Godoy; without, of course, consulting Osorio as governor of the island.

This force remained there about three months, in the summer of 1567. It saw nothing of French privateers, or of any menace of an attack upon the town. But it did see a good deal of merchant ships of various nations, French, Scottish and Portuguese, which came thither with slaves and merchandise, but which seldom ventured in for fear of Godoy and his men. For such trade with foreigners, and particularly with those who were or were suspected to be heretics was strictly forbidden. Godoy and his men were therefore most unwelcome visitors, to{204} the merchants and people of Santiago, and to the lieutenant of the governor, Martin de Mendoza. It was suspected, not without reason, that Osorio had sent word to Mendoza to antagonize Godoy as much as possible. At any rate, one day a particularly big French merchant vessel came into the harbor; Godoy rallied his men to the battery near the wharf, to prevent it from landing its cargo; and Mendoza arrested Godoy and sent him to jail, where he kept him until the cargo had been discharged and another taken on in its place, amid the jubilations of the people. Then Godoy was released, with profound apologies for the error which had been committed in arresting him!

Godoy remained for some time thereafter at Santiago, though much against his will. His superior officer commanded him to remain. But he sent an appeal for relief to the Supreme Court of Hispaniola, with the result that Mendoza was removed from office, in the winter of 1557-58. This was a relief to both Mendoza and Godoy, though it did not make their feelings less bitter. On Palm Sunday the two met at church, Mendoza accompanied by his wife and Godoy by a friend named Cordoba. The latter two grossly insulted both Mendoza and his wife, then ran into the church for security from chastisement, forcibly resisted arrest, and committed acts of sacrilege. They were finally overpowered, and on being brought to trial before the local court were condemned, Godoy to be hanged and his body quartered, and Cordoba to be flogged and sent to the galleys. The sentence was executed, Godoy being hanged on a gallows at the door of the church the sanctity of which he had violated. When Menendez heard of this he was furious. He instituted proceedings against Mendoza and the local alcaldes at Santiago, charging them with conspiracy to destroy Godoy so that their illegal traffic with Frenchmen and other foreigners would not be molested. Mendoza thought it prudent to remove to Carthagena, in New Granada, for fear of personal violence; whence he proceeded{205} to Spain, where he was acquitted of all the charges which Menendez had made against him.

Meantime, the governorship of Osorio had ended. Early in 1567, at the time when the controversy arose over the sea wall and the Punta fortifications, he had realized that his usefulness as governor was ended, and had asked the King to accept his resignation; declaring that his presence there was no longer of value to his majesty. In August, 1567, the King appointed Diego de Santillan to be governor in his stead, and commissioned him to investigate Osorio's stewardship, and particularly to bring him to trial on certain charges of false arrest and cruelty to a prisoner. But just as Santillan was about to embark for Cuba, in October, 1567, his commission was revoked and Menendez was appointed governor of Cuba in his stead. It has been said that this appointment was made by the fanatical King to show his approval and appreciation of Menendez's act on September 20, 1565, when he massacred the French garrison of Fort Caroline, Florida, "not as Frenchmen but as Lutherans."

Menendez was not able, however, as Adelantado of Florida, to reside permanently in Cuba, or indeed to spend much time there; wherefore it was arranged that a lieutenant governor should be the actual administrator in his stead. The man chosen was Francisco Zayas, a lawyer, who had been selected by the King to be lieutenant governor with Santillan. He reached Havana in July, 1568, and at once assumed the office which Osorio was glad to relinquish. It cannot be said that he was greatly welcomed by the people of Havana or of any part of Cuba, since it was assumed that he would be a mere puppet acting for Menendez, and it was feared that Menendez would use Cuba as a mere stepping stone or adjunct to Florida, draining it of men and resources for the benefit of the larger province on the continent. This apprehension, happily, was not realized.

Osorio personally had cause for fear. Zayas was commissioned to conduct the investigation into his affairs,{206} and there was every reason to suppose that Menendez would compel him to make the inquest as drastic as possible and to impose the heaviest possible penalties for any misdemeanors which might be proved against him. But Zayas was after all a just and reasonable man, who was not afraid to assert his independence of Menendez, particularly since, as he pointed out, his commission as lieutenant governor antedated that of Menendez as governor by two months. Moreover the people of Havana, through dislike of Menendez and fear of his policy, gave their strongest support to Osorio, testifying in his behalf, and at the end sending a great memorial to the King, signed by almost every man of consequence in Havana, petitioning for the utmost possible favor for the governor. The result was that the lightest of sentences was passed upon Osorio, two years after his actual retirement from office.

In dealing thus with Osorio, however, Zayas sealed his own fate. Nothing that he could do thereafter pleased Menendez, while he was called upon by the latter to do or to sanction things which offended his sense of right. By the beginning of May, 1569, relations between them reached the breaking point. Menendez caused the city council to protest that Zayas had never filed the bond which was required of a lieutenant governor, and to characterize this as a grave offence, indicating criminal intent. Zayas thereupon resigned his office. Suits were instituted against him and his wife in Spain, by Menendez, and he returned to the country to meet them. He appears to have been successful in his defence, since the King subsequently appointed him to be a judge in the Canary Islands.

Menendez appointed in place of Zayas as lieutenant governor Diego de Cabrera, who had filled that place under Osorio. His term of service was short, however, and no fewer than five others succeeded him, one after another, during the administration of Menendez. They were Diego de Ribera; Pedro Menendez Marquez, a{207} nephew of Menendez; Juan de Ynestrosa; Juan Alfonso de Nabia; and Sancho Pardo Osorio.

Diego de Ribera, who served for a brief space under Menendez as lieutenant-governor, was captain of the galleons, and was presently commissioned for an expedition to Florida. He was succeeded by Pedro Menendez Marquez, a nephew of Menendez. He was an accomplished navigator and on that account was directed by his uncle to sound and chart the Old Bahama Channel, a much-frequented route of commerce and approach to Cuba from the north and east. To this undertaking he devoted only a few weeks, but his observations were so exact, thorough and comprehensive that the Council for the Indies, on receiving his charts, immediately approved them and ordered them to be regarded as the authority for navigation of those waters.

The administration of Sancho Pardo Osorio was marked with much energy in advancing the defences of Havana and in caring for the commerce which frequented or touched at Cuban ports. The former work proceeded slowly, because of the necessity of depending almost exclusively upon the local community for aid. At this time also was effected the immensely important reform of codifying the municipal ordinances. This work was done under a commission of the Supreme Court by Dr. Alfonso Casares, of Havana, who on January 14, 1577, presented the results of his labors to a council consisting of Sancho Pardo, the Alcaldes Geronimo de Rojas Avellaneda, and Alfonso Velasquez de Cuellar, and the Regidores Diego Lopez Duran, Juan Bautista de Rojas, Baltasar de Barreda, Antonio Recio, and Rodrigo Carreño. The code was unanimously approved by them, and it remained in force and active practice until the War of Independence in 1898.{208}


Menendez was governor of Cuba for a little more than six years, from October 24, 1567, to December 13, 1573. Those were important years for the world at large. They saw the Duke of Alva, as governor of the Netherlands, establish there the Bloody Tribunal, and in return the "Beggars of the Sea" engage in their indomitable campaigns against the oppressor, extending even to the coasts of Cuba. Spain engaged in a great war with the Ottoman Turks. France had the second and third civil wars, culminating in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day. Elizabeth of England fully committed herself to the Protestant cause and was excommunicated by the Pope. Mary of Scotland fled from her throne and was succeeded by young James VI.

Menendez, more a statesman of world-wide vision than any of his predecessors, was not unmindful of these transactions, or of the far greater events which they portended, and he strove after his fashion to prepare Cuba for her part in great affairs. He realized that in the wars of the European powers their American possessions were increasingly likely to become implicated. Despite his utmost efforts, various other nations sent vessels to West Indian waters, to harry the fleets of Spain. The numbers of such intruders were increasing. His utmost efforts had not been sufficient to drive the French away and to keep them away. Now others than the French began to appear. The "Sea Beggars" of the Netherlands were daring navigators and formidable fighters, and they began to prowl around the coasts of Cuba. English captains had found their way to the Spanish Main, and Hawkins made his way to Vera Cruz, and Drake plundered Nombre de Dios.{209}

Finding himself unable to protect the Spanish treasure ships and to keep all enemies away from West Indian waters, Menendez sought at least to make Cuba secure against invasion, or its capital—for such Havana was about to become in name as well as in fact—secure against capture and looting by buccaneers. To this work he gave his chief attention, and, above all else, to the completion of La Fuerza. The rebuilding of that fortification dragged scandalously. Sometimes it was for lack of money, sometimes for lack of workmen. Menendez told the Council for the Indies that in its unfinished state it was an actual menace to the town, because a hostile force could easily land and capture it, and having done this, they could quickly complete it and make it almost impregnable against any attempt to drive them out. He did not explain why he could not complete it as quickly as an invading force could, but he asked for a force of three hundred negro slaves to work on it. With them, he said, it would be possible to finish the fort in two years. The Council was not favorably impressed. It could not understand how a few score buccaneers, landing and seizing the fort, could finish it in a few days, while it would take Menendez with three hundred slaves two years to do the work.

Diego de Ribera, as Acting Governor, also took up the matter. The fort was already sufficiently advanced to permit him to mount eight pieces of artillery, but he wanted twenty more. Also, he wanted a large permanent garrison of professional soldiers. It was unsatisfactory to have to depend upon a rallying of the citizens, because it interfered with the occupations of the citizens, because they were not expert in arms, and because when they were summoned not more than half their number responded, so that the commander never knew how many he could depend upon. There should, he urged, be a permanent garrison of two hundred men, under the command of the governor. Of course such a garrison could not be furnished by the town itself, because there were not in all{210} Havana more than two hundred fighting men, all told. This gives, by the way, a hint concerning the rapid growth of the place at the time of Mazariegos. A town containing two hundred men capable of bearing arms must have had a total population approximating two thousand.

Ribera's arguments and appeals appear to have been more effective than those of Menendez. The Council for the Indies, and the King, too, ordered practical steps to be taken for finishing and equipping the building which had so long been neglected. As Cuba, or perhaps especially the port of Havana, was of no great importance to the Spanish colonies on the mainland, for the safeguarding of their shipping, and also as Cuba had been so drained of men and supplies in former years for the exploitation of colonies on the main land, it was but justice as it was a matter of practical convenience and expediency for the government to call upon Mexico and Castilla del Oro to contribute largely to the payment of the cost of fortifying Havana. That place was a little later called, by royal decree, "Llave del Nuevo Mundo y Antemural de las Indias Occidentales," or Key of the New World and Bulwark of the West Indies. Certainly it was fitting that the New World should pay for its key and that the Indies should pay for their bulwark.

So Mexico was required to contribute four thousand ducats, and Florida to provide fifty good men to form the garrison of La Fuerza. The cost of maintaining the garrison was charged against Venezuela and Darien. The providing of labor was a more difficult matter. It seemed to be settled that negro slave labor must be employed. In order to secure it at little cost it was proposed to give slave-traders the privilege of taking as many slaves as they pleased to Cuba, provided that they would lend them to the government to work on La Fuerza until its completion; after which they might be sold or otherwise disposed of at the traders' will. The objection to this from the traders' point of view was the length of time that it was expected to take to finish the fort. The gov{211}ernment estimated it at three years. Now the traders would have been willing thus to lend their slaves for a shorter time, for six months, or for a year. But they considered three years entirely too long. After working for so long a time, under a rigorous taskmaster, the average slave would be so nearly worn out that his value would be much impaired. So that scheme failed.

The next plan for getting labor for the fort was disastrous. A contract was made with a trader to provide three hundred negro slaves, by the end of 1572. He did deliver 191 of them in the summer of that year, and later sent the rest but they never got further than Hispaniola. The 191 whom he did deliver were, however, infected with small pox. A number of them died of that plague after their arrival at Havana, and the contagion got abroad in the city with the result that many other slaves and a number of the Spaniards also perished from it. Still, enough of the slaves in that plague-stricken cargo survived to cause the authorities of Havana much embarrassment in feeding and clothing them. Agriculture was not yet receiving the attention which it deserved, and even a hundred or a hundred and fifty more mouths to feed overtaxed the local resources. Requisition was therefore made upon the government of Yucatan to send a sufficient supply of corn and meat to feed the slaves, while the king himself undertook to clothe them. He was led to do this in a way which strikingly indicates the limitations of Philip's mind. To all appeals for clothing for their comfort or for decent appearance's sake, he was deaf. But when it represented to him that they must have clothes in order to be able to attend mass, he at once ordered them to be clad from his royal bounty!

More money was needed, and was raised in various ways. An examiner went about the island, looking into the accounts of public officials. Generally he found that there was something due to the state from them. Of the money thus collected, nearly all, to the amount of nearly four thousand pesos, was devoted to the costs of the fort.{212} Other funds were taken for the purpose, and when there was still a deficit it was actually proposed to sell some of the slaves to pay for the maintenance of the rest. This counsel of despair was not, however, acted upon. Instead, Sancho Pardo Osorio when acting governor, near the end of Menendez's administration, advanced much money from his own purse, trusting to the government to reimburse him. Another draft of four thousand ducats was finally obtained from Mexico, and smaller sums came from Venezuela and Darien. Thus the enterprise dragged on, until the summer of 1573 found the fort still far from finished, the builders of it heavily in debt for labor, materials and maintenance, and the garrison, workmen, and citizens of Havana all profoundly dissatisfied.

Naturally, and inevitably, this state of affairs reflected upon Menendez, and compassed his downfall. He was not merely governor of Cuba. He was Adelantado of Florida, and he gave to Florida his first thought and chief attention. He spent most of his time there, leaving Cuban affairs to be administered by acting governors of his own selection. This was altogether unsatisfactory to the people of Cuba, and especially of Havana. They wanted their governor to live among them, where he would be accessible, and pay much more attention to them and their interests. So they began agitating against him, and demanded a governor who should not be Adelantado of Florida, nor subject to that functionary. They did more than complain. They refused supplies. They would not send to Florida the supplies which Menendez urgently needed for his enterprises there. When the King reprimanded them and bade them do their duty, they replied with surprising defiance that they wanted payment, first, for supplies long ago furnished to the Havana garrison. They also wanted to be relieved of the burden of being compelled to guard or to watch the coast themselves, at their own cost for arms and ammunition. They wanted these things done for them before they would trouble{213} themselves for the furtherance of the Adelantado's enterprises in Florida.

Meantime, the Council for the Indies, at Seville, was also unfriendly to Menendez. Tired of the delay in building La Fuerza, it recommended to the king his removal in favor of someone who would more vigorously expedite that essential work. It was the bitter irony of fate that he should thus be condemned for failing to do the very thing upon which he had most set his heart to do. The Council also condemned him for faults of administration which were due, it held, to his personal neglect through absence from the island, and it therefore urged that a governor be appointed in his place who would spend his time chiefly in Cuba and would give to that island and its interests his first and best thoughts. These representations were made to the King as early as the spring of 1571, and they had much weight with him.

The sequel was that in 1572 Menendez was recalled to Spain, and was commissioned for a work similar to that in which he had first won distinction, to wit, the protection of Spanish commerce against hostile privateers; only it was not now the commerce between Spain and Mexico which he was to safeguard in the West Indian seas, but that between Spain and the Netherlands, along the coast of France and in the British Channel. In that capacity he was commander of a considerable fleet, and the work was doubtless in itself congenial to him, and one which he was well fitted to perform with success. But his heart was set on Florida, with which he aspired to be identified as Cortez had been with Mexico and Pizarro with Peru; and he bitterly lamented his being so far separated from that country.

So far as his governorship of Cuba was concerned, which is all in which we need here be interested, he had at this time reached the beginning of the end. The king decided to remove him from that office, though probably not so much to get rid of him there as to be able to keep{214} his valuable talents continually employed nearer home. He had decided that Menendez was of more value to him as a captain of his fleet than as a civil administrator. Accordingly at the beginning of 1573 Alfonso de Caceres Ovando, a temporarily retired judge of the Supreme Court of Hispaniola, was commissioned to make the customary investigation of Menendez's administration. He was not, however, appointed to succeed Menendez as governor, but the latter was left for the time in office. This was a mark of the high favor in which Menendez was held by the king; and another token to the same effect was the provision that Menendez need not personally appear to answer any charges which might be made against him, but might, if he preferred, send an attorney in his stead. A third and perhaps still more notable indication of royal favor was in the fact that when Menendez elected not to appear in person, and not to send an attorney, but to ignore the whole investigation, he was not called to task, but was permitted to go without so much as a reprimand.

The investigation did not take place until November, 1573. Though brief it was thorough and searching. But it disclosed little that was to the discredit of Menendez, and nothing that was really serious. He seems to have been a somewhat gloomy and cruel fanatic, but a man of integrity and singular loyalty to his sovereign and his faith. He was zealous and energetic, but better fitted to command a ship or a fleet, or indeed an army, than to govern a state. Yet in both respects he failed. His chief concern in Cuba, as we have seen, was to promote her military defences; but he left La Fuerza incomplete, while the inestimable economic potentialities of the island were altogether neglected. So in Florida, he aimed at conquest with the sword and little else; and while he succeeded in holding the land against French assaults and intrigues, he did not develop there a colony comparable with those which were being developed elsewhere in the New World; and he had the mortification of seeing, in the closing years of his life, French, Dutch and British priva{215}teers swarming in defiance of him the seas which Spain claimed for her exclusive own.

It was just a month after the beginning of the investigation into his affairs that Menendez was superseded in office by the appointment as governor of Cuba of Don Gabriel Montalvo. This gentleman was a nobleman of great distinction in Spain. He was a Knight of the Order of Saint James, and he was also high sheriff of the Court of the Holy Inquisition in the city of Granada. The latter office indicates him to have been a man after the King's own heart. It remains to be added that Menendez returned to Spain after being superseded, and died there a few months later, at Santander; men said, of a broken heart at the enforced abandonment of his ambitions in Florida.

Little either attractive or grateful is to be found in the record of the condition of Cuba during the administration of Menendez, or as he left it to his successor. Rich as the island was in agricultural possibilities—it might well have been said of Cuba as Douglas Jerrold said of Australia, "Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest"—and few as were its inhabitants, it yet produced not enough to feed those few. It produced nothing with which to clothe them. After the decline of gold mining, the raising of cattle became the chief industry; chiefly for their hides, which were an important article of export. Bayamo was the centre of this industry, and was also the centre of a thriving but illegitimate commerce.

In fact the whole southeastern part of the Cuban coast was the resort of contraband traders, who brought thither silks and linens, wines, and sometimes cargoes of slaves, to exchange without paying tariff duties for hides and the valuable woods with which Cuba abounded. No attempt was made, at least with any efficiency, by the governor or the royal officials at Havana to stop this lawless trade. Now and then, however, the Supreme Court at Hispaniola interfered, arrested citizens of Bayamo, Man{216}zanillo, and Santiago itself, and fined them heavily. Then the government at Havana, which had done nothing to enforce the law, remonstrated and protested against so much money being taken from Cuba to Hispaniola.

The island was, nevertheless, making some progress; appropriately enough through a reversal of the conditions which had formerly involved it in disaster. The Mexican adventure of Cortez had drawn away from Cuba men and resources almost to the exhaustion of the island. But now that country began sending men and means back to Cuba. Cortez had long been dead, but under his successors the wealth of Mexico was being wondrously developed, as was indeed that of Peru and other South American countries. Some of the commerce between South America and Spain went by other routes, though a considerable portion of it passed by the shores of Cuba and utilized that island as a stopping place, to its material benefit. But all the Mexican traffic followed the Cuban route, the most of it passing along the north coast and making Havana a port of call or of refuge. Florida, too, which had likewise drawn much from Cuba, was now sending men and supplies back to the island.

By 1575 Havana was the commercial metropolis of the West Indies, and it had for some years been the practical capital of the island, though Santiago continued nominally to enjoy that distinction until 1589. Vessels from Vera Cruz, bearing the treasures of New Spain, and from Nombre de Dios, laden with the wealth of Castilla del Oro and of Peru, thronged the harbor, and contributed to the trade of the city. To meet the requirements of the thousands of transient visitors, houses in the city were multiplied in number, and plantations in the suburbs extended their borders. The people began to realize how profitable a business was to be conducted in providing supplies of food for the ships' companies. And while the southeastern part of the island was, as we have seen, in a backward condition, the northwestern part entered upon an era of progress and prosperity.{217}


Don Gabriel Montalvo was appointed to be Governor of Cuba early in December, 1573. As was the custom in those days, however, he delayed for some time actual assumption of office, so that it was not until October 29, 1574, that he entered upon his duties. He was also charged with some important duties in Florida, but they were subordinate to those in Cuba. He made his home in the island and spent most of his time there. Indeed, he seems to have planned to make his home at Santiago, and to restore that place to its former prestige. On coming to Cuba he landed at Manzanillo instead of coming to Havana, and sent Diego de Soto to be his representative, practically deputy governor, at the latter place. From Manzanillo he went straight to Santiago, refurbished the governor's house and the public buildings, and began planning an elaborate system of harbor defences worthy of the capital of the island. He was naturally received with great joy by the people of Santiago and of the eastern end of the island generally, who saw in him, as they thought, a promise of restoration of that region to its former importance.

From Santiago the governor set out on a tour of the eastern cities and towns, and had got as far as Bayamo when there came a hurried and urgent appeal for him to come to Havana. There was trouble in the city. Diego de Soto, the deputy governor there, had made Gomez de Rojas commander of La Fuerza—that reckless and truculent younger brother of Juan de Rojas whom Governor Mazariegos had once exiled from the island for disorderly if not criminal conduct. Now Gomez de Rojas was a land owner, and therefore, under the law, ineligible thus to serve. But confiding in the powerful influence of his family he ignored the law and held his place in defiance{218} of all protests and demands for his retirement. The town council demanded his retirement, and the populace of Havana raged against him, but he shut himself up in the unfinished fort, trained his guns against the town, and prepared to resist with force any attempt which might be made by force to compel his resignation.

Such was the emergency which sent a message post haste to the new governor asking him to hasten to Havana. He came, and at his coming Gomez de Rojas capitulated without a blow. Montalvo rebuked him severely and imposed upon him a heavy fine, which was paid. But in this the governor incurred the hostility of the Rojas family. The feud was taken up by Juan Bautista de Rojas, who had succeeded his cousin Juan de Ynestrosa, deceased, as royal treasurer. This official charged the governor with conniving with smugglers and receivers of smuggled goods, and also with those who exported goods to countries with which traffic was prohibited, and on that account demanded for himself the right to inspect vessels and their cargoes; a function which had been exercised by the governor.

This demand was curtly rejected by Montalvo, who appears to have been a stickler for dignity and technical rights. Thereupon De Rojas made appeal to the King, coupling the appeal with a detailed and bitter arraignment of the governor and an impeachment of his integrity. This seems to have impressed the king deeply, for he presently decided the controversy in favor of his own treasurer. He sent word to the governor that thereafter he should not inspect or even visit ships, but should leave that whole business in the hands of the royal treasurer. The advantage thus gained was mercilessly pressed by the Rojas family, with the purpose of compelling the retirement of Montalvo. They accused him of employing for his own private work slaves belonging to the crown and intended for employment on La Fuerza and other public works. They charged him specifically with having made Bartolome Morales a notary for a considera{219}tion of five hundred ducats; a transaction the evil of which consisted not in selling the appointment for cash, but in selling it for so little to a favored friend when it might have been sold to someone else for twice as much. Finally he was accused of corruption and maladministration in connection with La Fuerza, in that he had appointed friends to places at exorbitant salaries, and that he had ignored the suggestions of the royal officials in completing the plans of the fort.

These charges were serious, and there is reason to think that some of them, at least, were true. The Rojas family made them and repeated them to the king, again and again, until that monarch was constrained to remark that the time seemed to be near at hand when an investigation would have to be ordered, and Montalvo's administration be brought to a close. Nevertheless the king's favorable disposition toward Montalvo was potent, and prevailed. The governor had been appointed, as was the custom, for the specific term of four years, reckoned from the date of his appointment and not of his actual assumption of office, and the king delayed calling for an investigation until the four years were so nearly expired that they would be entirely filled out by the time the investigation was completed and a new governor was ready to take the place.

The order for the investigation was given in February, 1577, and at the same time, on February 13, Captain Francisco Carreño was named to succeed Montalvo as governor. The investigation was vigorously prosecuted, and some of the charges against Montalvo were proved. Yet so great was the king's personal regard for him that he was permitted to go with a nominal fine, and was retained in the royal service in important capacities for some years thereafter. He remained governor of Cuba until the accession of his successor, which did not occur until June 2, 1578.

The administration of Montalvo was unfavorably marked by three things. One was, the continuance of the{220} contraband trade already referred to, in both imports and exports; in which, as already related, the governor himself was charged with participating. Montalvo at any rate gave the appearance of striving to suppress it. He sent agents to investigate the business, some of whom found their own relatives engaged in it and therefore refrained from reporting upon it, and some were prevented by the people from executing that for which they had been sent. Not merely the people, but the local officials all along the southeastern coast did all in their power to hamper and prevent investigation or any interference with the contraband trade. Indeed, alcaldes and other officials were foremost among those engaged in the unlawful commerce.

The second feature of the administration was the persistent ravages of the French. Despite the fact that they were engaged in contraband trade with the people of Cuba, the French were at this time the most frequent raiders of Cuban coast towns; sometimes directing their attacks against the very towns in which they had been peacefully trading, while the people were quite ready at any time to trade with those who just before had visited them with fire and sword and demands for ransom. It was a curious circumstance that by far the most efficient guardian of Cuba against such raids was that same Gomez de Rojas who had been exiled by Mazariegos and who had illegally assumed command of La Fuerza and had bitterly quarreled with Montalvo. After being compelled to leave La Fuerza he had taken to seafaring, and as commander of a Spanish vessel he drove more than one French privateer away from the neighborhood of Havana.

Montalvo was the first to urge that Cuba be protected not alone with land fortifications and batteries but also by naval vessels. Particularly he wished for a powerful war-galley, which the king did not provide him. In 1576 French raiders attacked Santiago, and were with difficulty repulsed; upon which Montalvo sarcastically reported that if another such attack occurred he would{221} himself be relieved of the necessity of fortifying the harbor and city of Santiago, for the place would cease to exist. A little later a daring French raid was made upon Spanish shipping just outside the harbor of Havana. This greatly incensed Montalvo, and caused him to renew his pleadings for a galley. He urged that the whole Cuban coast should be patrolled by light, swift vessels, preferably frigates, and that strong galleys should be stationed at the chief ports. He would have had the frigates, at any rate, built in Cuba and at least partly paid for by that island; but the Havana municipal council protested against this, demanding that Cuba be entirely exempted from the costs of defending her from enemies. The result was that in the lack of means of defence Cuba suffered more and more from the ravages of privateers and freebooters, which became more frequent as the island increased in population and wealth and thus became better worth raiding.

The third unfavorable feature of the time was the haggling over La Fuerza. Begun by De Soto, and later almost entirely rebuilt, that famous fortress seemed to be under some malign spell which made it a source of injury rather than of benefit to Havana. Year after year passed, appropriation after appropriation was made and expended, and still it remained unfinished. Man after man undertook the task of completing it, only to fail and lose his personal reputation either for efficiency or for honesty. Moreover, as the work proceeded grave faults were developed, both in plan and in construction. The fort, which at first had been denounced as needlessly large, was seen to be entirely too small to shelter a garrison sufficient for the defence of Havana. The original design had been to make it a shelter to which all the people of the town could flee in case of attack, and it might have served this purpose at a time when the people of Havana were numbered by scores, or at most by a hundred or two. But with the figures extending into thousands it became evident that La Fuerza was{222} entirely inadequate to any such purpose. Indeed, it was realized that that design was ill-conceived, for if the place was to grow into a considerable city it would be impracticable and undesirable to make any fortification large enough to hold all the population.

The construction was also faulty. The fort was built of stone, but there had thoughtlessly been chosen for the purpose a stone which had the advantages of being plentiful and so soft as to be easily worked. Unhappily it had also the very serious disadvantages of being so soft that it would probably soon be battered to fragments by cannon balls, and of being so porous that water soaked into and through it as through a sponge. During the rainy season the place was flooded, water standing in pools on the floor, and the magazine being so wet that gunpowder could not be kept there without spoiling; wherefore another building, of wood, had to be provided for that purpose. The same kind of stone was used, moreover, for the reservoir which was to provide fort and city with water, with the result that its contents quickly leaked out. There arose a proverbial saying in the city that the powder magazine was always wet and the water reservoir was always dry; and it was sarcastically proposed that the functions of the two be exchanged. The powder would be kept dry in the reservoir, and there would always be plenty of water in the magazine! Nor was this the only error in construction. The whole structure was said to be dangerously weak, so that if all its guns should be fired simultaneously, the shock might tumble the walls into ruin. The guns were available for use in only a narrow zone; they were of too short range to carry to the other extremity of the harbor, and they were so placed that they could not be depressed so as to hit vessels which had come close in toward the water front of the city. Therefore a hostile ship with long range guns could lie out of reach of La Fuerza and bombard the fort and city at will. Or one could sail swiftly in, running the gantlet of the narrow{223} zone of fire, and gain a place under the walls of the fort where it would be quite safe for the guns of the latter while it could use its own at short range with deadly effect. It was also complained that the parapet was too low to afford shelter to the men serving the guns, and that the four big wooden gates were a source of fatal weakness.

It was presently perceived, too, that fortifications elsewhere than in the heart of the city were needed for adequate defence of the place. Especially were such works needed at the headlands commanding the entrance to the harbor. Without them, a daring enemy might seize one of those spots, bring up some long range guns from his ships, and have not only Havana but La Fuerza itself at his mercy. Montalvo appears to have recognized this need, and to have urged the construction of such forts, especially on the Cabañas hill, but to no avail. Instead, the royal government proposed the construction of a strong wall around the entire city, including the water front. It actually ordered that work to be undertaken, the first step being to destroy a large part of the city, including the church, to make room for the wall. Against this suicidal policy Montalvo effectively protested, declaring that if the city were thus demolished it would never be rebuilt, and also pointing out that the day of walled cities was past. In the face of his representations the wall scheme was abandoned; but his wise suggestions of forts commanding the harbor were not acted upon until years afterward.

It is to be recorded to his credit that Montalvo gave more attention than his immediate predecessors had done to development of some of the natural resources of the island. He interested himself in forestry, and soon had an immense trade in timber and lumber between Cuba and Spain. The exquisite cabinet work of the Escurial, in Spain, was made of wood from the forests of Cuba—mahogany, ebony, ironwood, cedar, and what not. Wood was supplied for other purposes, too, notably for ship-{224}building. It was at this time that interest arose in the great island just off the southern coast, which at that time was so richly clad with pine forests as to receive from Montalvo on that account its present name of "Isle of Pines." During the administration of Menendez the whole island was granted to Alfonso de Rojas for a cattle range, a purpose for which it was admirably adapted, and there are legends to the effect that the water between the Isle of Pines and Cuba was at times so shallow as to make it possible to drive herds of cattle across from the one land to the other. It is to be observed, in passing, that thus early in history was the Isle of Pines recognized as an integral part of Cuba.

Montalvo also did much to promote agriculture, and the raising of swine. He endeavored to revive interest in both gold and copper mining, and seems to have been persuaded that there were enormously rich deposits of the former metal hidden somewhere on the island, in places known only to the natives. He strove diligently and persistently to get from the few surviving Indians information concerning these mines, but in vain. If the Indians knew, they would not tell; but it seems altogether probable that they did not know, and that no such mineral wealth existed on the island.

It was in Montalvo's time, too, that what was destined to become Cuba's greatest industry had its permanent establishment. At various times and places thitherto men had experimented with sugar growing and manufacture, with varying degrees of success. But every such undertaking had after a while been abandoned, either for lack of profit or because of the superior attractions of something else. It was not until 1576 that plantations were established which were never to be abandoned but were to continue in cultivation down to this present time, and that sugar mills of similar permanence were put into operation. The scene of this epochal enterprise was the region around Havana, particularly between Havana and Matanzas. There in the year named at least three mills{225} were established, a fact indicating that a considerable area was planted in cane. These mills were of the most primitive description, each consisting of three wooden rollers, formed of logs of trees denuded of the bark, mounted in a rude frame of timber, and caused to revolve by a long pole of which one end was fastened to the end of one of the upright rollers while to the other was hitched a mule or an ox, which walked in a circle around the "mill." The expressed juice was caught in trays or jars of earthenware, and then was boiled in open pans. The sugar thus produced was not refined beyond the stage of what would now be considered a very coarse brown sugar, but it served the uses of the island. It does not appear that any considerable quantity was exported until a number of years later. These primitive establishments in 1576 were, however, the beginning of Cuba's gigantic sugar industry.

One other incident of Montalvo's administration must be recalled, to wit, his quarrel with the church, or at least with the Bishop. Diego Sarmiento, who became Bishop in De Soto's time, had been gathered to his fathers, and had been succeeded by Bishop Durango. The latter had in turn died, and in 1560 had been succeeded by Bernardino de Villapando, who spent only three years in the island and then departed for Mexico under unpleasant charges of embezzlement of funds. The charges against him do not appear to have been pressed, nor did they affect his standing in the church, for he was presently transferred to the then much more important see of Guatemala. Moreover, despite the charges made against him, he was recognized as a most energetic and successful prelate. He established many mission stations throughout the island, and expedited the completion of the cathedral at Santiago.

Upon his promotion to Guatemala after three years' service Bishop Villapando was succeeded by Juan de Burgos, who continued with much success the work of his predecessor. He secured the erection of a large church{226} school on the site now occupied by the Hospital of San Juan de Dios, at Havana, and there the famous missionary preachers and teachers, Juan Roger and Francisco Villaroel, gave instruction to Indian youths in the Christian religion and in the Spanish tongue. In connection with this school there was built the church of San Juan de Dios, and from the establishment thus founded by Bishop Burgos grew the first hospital in Havana. It took originally the form of a military hospital, for the soldiers of the Havana garrison and for soldiers in transit to or from Florida, Mexico and other places. It is recorded that for his work Bishop Burgos depended entirely upon the offerings of the people; demonstrating what could be accomplished by an honest and businesslike administrator.

The next Bishop of Cuba was Pedro del Castillo, who came to the island from the University of Salamanca. He was a most aggressive and strenuous prelate, with policies of his own and with the courage to enforce them. Arriving in Cuba in 1570, he glanced at Santiago when he landed there, crossed the island to Havana, where he spent a little time, and then proceeded to Bayamo, where he established his home, preferring that to any other city of Cuba. He then laid claim to the island of Jamaica as a part of his bishopric, and succeeded in carrying that point despite the opposition of the Archbishop at Hispaniola. Then he complained that the royal officials were not properly collecting the tithes, or at any rate were not paying him his proper revenue; wherefore he himself began collecting the tithes. This brought him into conflict with the crown, a circumstance which did not alarm him nor swerve him from his course. He made a number of appointments of the clergy under him which he deemed to be for the good of their parishes but which made him unpopular with them. Also he incurred much unpopularity among the people by his insistence upon certain reforms in their morals.

This strenuous policy presently led Castillo into {227}conflict with Montalvo. The Governor thought that the Bishop ought to reside at Santiago, where were his official residence and also the Cathedral. Castillo refused to do so, on the nominal ground that he considered Santiago an unhealthful spot. There is reason to suspect, however, that he preferred Bayamo because of certain very rich legacies which had been left years before for the erection of a masonry church and parochial school at that place. The provisions of these wills had not been carried out, and the strenuous Bishop set himself to the task of finding out why the church and school had not been built, and of getting possession of the legacies and administering them himself. In the litigation which ensued he quarrelled with Montalvo so bitterly that he excommunicated him; an act which the governor did not take greatly to heart. The strife between the two accentuated, however, the antagonism between church and state which was even at that early time beginning to prevail.


One of the most ancient of the many ecclesiastical edifices in Havana, built in 1575 and rebuilt in 1731, and presenting a singularly perfect and characteristic example of ancient Spanish architecture. In late years it was used by the Government for a custom house, and post office. The illustration presents it in its earlier aspect with its former surroundings restored.




It would be easy for the reflective historian to engage in many interesting and pertinent observations concerning the time in which Captain Francisco Carreño became governor of Cuba. It was the year 1577. That was the year in which the sixth religious war in France began, a struggle which made inevitable the still greater religious wars which followed, in which not merely two factions in France but the two great powers of Spain and England were the chief belligerents. That was the year, too, in which Sir Francis Drake began his voyage around the world, which was perhaps the most momentous since that of Columbus in 1492, since it led directly to the strife between Spain and England in America, the English conquest of Cuba, the foundation of the English colonies in North America, and the subsequent development of the United States; all having the most direct and important bearing upon the fortunes of Cuba.

Albeit he was a native of that city of Cadiz in the harbor of which Drake performed one of his most daring and most famous feats, Carreño probably entered upon his governorship with no premonitions of what was in store. While Drake was furrowing the strange expanses of the South Sea, it was French privateers that chiefly troubled the Spanish Main and menaced the ports of Cuba. Their favorite cruising ground was in the waters between Cuba and Jamaica, and between Cuba and Hispaniola, and their menace to Cuba was chiefly to the ports between Cape Maysi and Cape Cruz, and in the Gulf of Guacanabo. The chief sufferers, as also the chief gainers from contraband trade, were Santiago, Manzanillo, and the settlements at the mouth of the Guantanamo River. The people of those places were never{229} sure whether an approaching French vessel was bent on contraband trade or war and plunder; and indeed the Frenchman himself sometimes left that question to be answered after he had landed and viewed the place. He then decided which would be the more profitable, to trade with the people or to plunder them. At times, too, it must be confessed, the Spaniards were in similar uncertainty whether to receive the French as traders or to slay them—if they could—as enemies.

Carreño was the first governor of Cuba to die in office, his death occurring on April 27, 1579. His administration thus lasted only two years; but they were years filled with hard work on his part and with much progress for the island. The sugar industry which had been founded in the preceding administration prospered and expanded, and caused a considerable increase in slave-holding. Negro slaves were the favorite workmen on the plantations and at the mills, and a large number of them was needed at each establishment. The increase in the number of slaves caused, however, some anxiety lest there should be servile insurrections, such as had occurred on the Isthmus of Panama, in Mexico and elsewhere; so that in 1579 the government refused to permit any more to be imported, even though they were wanted by the governor himself. It is recorded that his personal request for a thousand negroes to work at copper mining was refused by the King, or by the Council for the Indies.

Anxiety was caused, also, by the increasing number of free negroes, and of slaves who were practically free. Most of the entirely free negroes had been slaves but had bought their freedom from their masters for cash. This was not particularly difficult, since the market value of the best negro slaves at that time was only from fifty to sixty pesos. Those practically free were slaves who were permitted by their owners to live where they pleased and work as they pleased, on condition of paying their masters certain royalties every week or month. In {230}Carreño's time there were hundreds of negroes of these classes in and about Havana, and probably still more of them in the eastern end of the island. The anxiety concerning them arose from two causes. One was, the fear that they might incite the slaves to insurrection, placing themselves at the head of the movement; a fear which was not at that time realized. The other was, the fear that they would build up objectionable communities. Thus in Havana they occupied a quarter of the town by themselves, in which their wooden cabins were huddled closely together; the sanitary conditions were bad; and the danger of fire which might imperil the whole town was obviously imminent. There was in Carreño's time a movement to procure their deportation to Florida or elsewhere, and to forbid the residence of free negroes in Cuba; but it did not become effective.

It is agreeable to remember that in spite of the obviously objectionable nature of the institution of slavery, and in spite of the fears and anxieties which have been mentioned, negro slavery in Cuba in those early days was not marked with the distressing features which it has elsewhere borne. It was probably more humane than it was two and a half centuries later in the United States. The slaves were seldom sold by one master to another, and never in circumstances which separated husband and wife, or parents and young children. Severe physical punishments were prohibited. Their masters were compelled to feed them well, and to provide them with decent and comfortable clothes. There was no personal or social prejudice against them, but they were permitted to attend church and to frequent all public places on equal terms with the Spaniards. Ordinarily they were not permitted to carry weapons; but those who occupation seemed to make it desirable for them to be armed, such as cattle-rangers, and messengers travelling from one part of the island to another, were permitted to bear arms just as white men would have done. Moreover, the free negroes were called upon equally with the whites to serve as{231} sentinels on the water fronts of cities, and were of course provided with arms. There are no authentic records of intermarriage between Spaniards and negroes, yet neither is there any proof that it did not occasionally occur. We have already seen that amalgamation with the Indians was not unknown, and in other Spanish colonies of those and later days there were some fusions with African blood.

What is chiefly to be remembered, however, is that negroes, although enslaved, were regarded in Cuba as human beings, with immortal souls, no less than their masters, and that they were invariably so treated. There was no pretence that they were of an intrinsically inferior race, or that they were suffering from the primaeval curse of Canaan or of Ham. And when they gained their freedom and became educated, they were treated socially and politically according to their merits, without regard for the color of their skin.

In the most literal sense, the administration of Carreño was marked with constructive statesmanship. As a statesman this Governor set about enlarging and improving Havana and other cities, and providing them with public and private buildings commensurate with the needs of an increasing population. He laid out enough of the streets of Havana to establish for all time the plan of that city. He encouraged the building of houses, or at any rate discouraged the holding of town sites unimproved, by making distributions of lots to all who wished them, on condition that the owners would promptly build. If they did not build within six months, their titles were forfeited. Another important reform effected by him was the substitution of adobe or other masonry for wood as building material. By the end of his administration fully half of the houses in Havana had walls of masonry, and a considerable number had also tiled roofs.

It was Carreño, too, who began the building of the first custom house in Cuba, at Havana. The king had ordered Montalvo to undertake this enterprise, but he{232} appears to have taken no steps whatever in that direction, not even selecting a site. Carreño essayed the task with characteristic energy. He selected an appropriate site, at the water front and close to the principal wharf, where an excellent rock foundation was to be found, and there he planned to erect a building of solid masonry, seventy feet long and two stories high. The royal government approved the plans, and the work was promptly entered upon.

Finally, it was impossible that the new governor should not be seriously concerned with La Fuerza. Carreño found that long-delayed edifice practically finished, according to the old plans; its though condition was, as hitherto suggested, decidedly unsatisfactory. He began by insisting upon clearing away all buildings of any kind close to the fort. This had been ordered nearly a score of years before but had never been done. The purpose was, of course, to strengthen the fort by leaving no shelter near its walls which might harbor or facilitate the approach of a hostile force. Then he insisted upon building an additional story on La Fuerza. This he declared was necessary, for barracks for the garrison, and for a storage place for gunpowder, the fort proper being flooded more than half the time. Doubtless these needs were real, and Carreño intended to meet them with the new story. Yet it seems also to have been his plan thus to secure for himself living quarters more pleasant than the house which had been assigned to him for that purpose. There was much opposition to his plans for enlarging La Fuerza, but he persisted in them, and they were nearly completed at the time of his death.

During the administration of Governor Carreño the question of the distribution, proprietorship and use of land became of much social and economic importance in Cuba. The population of the Island was still small, and yet because of the immense size of the tracts which many settlers had appropriated for cattle ranges nearly all the accessible and available area had been taken up. In the{233} eastern part of the Island there was practically no unclaimed land left excepting that in the mountains and some almost impenetrable swamps, and already many controversies and not a few forcible conflicts had arisen over rival claims. Thus far no private ownership of land was authorized outside of building sites in the towns and cities. Cattle ranges and farms were held under indefinite leases from the Crown, subject to forfeit if the land were permitted to remain unoccupied and unused for the space of three years. These grants were made by the municipal government in the name of the Crown. At first the tracts thus taken were of unlimited extent and indeed their boundaries were defined in only the vaguest possible manner. The result naturally was that innumerable and interminable conflicts arose over overlapping claims.

To correct such evils and to provide for a more equitable distribution of land in future, Alfonso Caceres, who had been sent to investigate the administration of Governor Menendez, was charged with a complete revision of the land system of the Island and with the prescribing of new rules and regulations for subsequent grants and titles. In entering upon that work he found some settlers holding enormous tracts which they had never attempted to utilize. Of these he summarily voided the titles and assigned the land to others. Such areas were quickly taken up by new comers, in smaller and definitely bounded tracts, so that by the time of Governor Carreño practically the only unoccupied lands of considerable extent and practical value were to be found in the extreme west end of the Island.

Around Havana and some other large municipalities there were reserved unassigned zones of from fifteen to twenty miles in width which were kept practically as public game preserves. No grants of cattle ranges were made in them. But they were infested by many stray cattle and hogs which had escaped from the ranges beyond and were there running at large in practically a{234} wild state, and these were regarded as fair game for hunters from the cities. It was, however, insisted that anyone killing such stray animals must bring their hides to market with the ears attached, so as to prove that they were indeed wild strays, since then their ears would be unbranded while all the animals on the ranges had their ears branded with their owner's marks.

The Government wisely desired to encourage agriculture, even at the expense of stock raising, the latter occupation having been expanded disproportionately to the former. It was accordingly provided that grants of land for farming purposes might be made within this hunting zone, and also that such grants might be made of land already apportioned for cattle ranges, the owners of the ranges thus invaded being indemnified by other grants of land elsewhere. By this means a varied agricultural industry was gradually developed to the great advantage of the Island, though for many years cattle raising remained the chief industry. During Carreño's administration more than 20,000 hides were exported yearly, and in the great demand for leather at that time this trade was exceedingly profitable. Of course a large amount of meat was also produced, but the difficulty of preserving it in the warm climate of Cuba caused much of it to go to waste, so that yearly thousands of heads of cattle were slaughtered for their hides alone, their carcasses being left to the dogs and buzzards.

The sudden death of Carreño caused some curious complications in the Government of the Island. As he had been appointed for a definite term of four years, and as that term was scarcely half expired, no successor had yet been chosen for him. In this emergency the Supreme Court of Hispaniola appointed a temporary governor to discharge the functions of the office until the Crown should make a permanent appointment. The choice of the court fell upon a lawyer, Gaspar de Torres. Even he was not appointed until several months after the death of Carreño, and in fact not until after the King had se{235}lected a permanent Governor to succeed Carreño. However, as the permanent Governor would not take office until the expiration of the term for which Carreño had been appointed it was necessary for the temporary Governor to fill the vacancy. Torres was appointed in October, 1579, but did not actually assume office until the first of January, 1580. Little is known of his antecedents, but he appears to have been an unworthy member of the legal profession. He was possessed of an itching palm. As a result his brief administration was filled with scandals and with controversies and conflicts, practically all arising from his pecuniary greed and from the unscrupulous means which he employed for satisfying it.

He came into conflict with the powerful and numerous Rojas family, and particularly with the most conspicuous member, Juan Bautista Rojas, the Royal Treasurer. This latter official declared that Torres was the worst Governor Cuba had ever had, and that he misappropriated more funds than all his predecessors put together. Apparently as Torres had been appointed merely to fill out Carreño's unexpired term, he determined to make hay while the sun shone. He took office in January, 1580. Eight months later a judicial investigation into his administration was ordered, as a result of which he was very quickly convicted of misappropriation of funds and was ordered to refund several thousand ducats which had been improperly collected and retained by him. Instead of refunding, however, he absconded, leaving his bondsman to make good his liabilities.{236}


The regularly appointed successor of Governor Carreño was another soldier, to wit, Captain Gabriel de Luzan. He was an army veteran who had performed distinguished service in the Netherlands and elsewhere and was personally known to and greatly favored by the King. He was selected for the governorship and was informed of the appointment in the early fall of 1579, a few weeks before the malodorous Torres was appointed by the Court of Hispaniola. It was intended, however, that he should not actually take office until the expiration of the full term for which Carreño had been appointed, and he accordingly had much time to attend to his affairs in Spain and elsewhere before removing to Havana. His duties were not to begin until 1581. But he removed to Cuba in the fall of 1580 while Torres was being investigated. There came to Cuba with him Juan Ceballos, who had been selected for Lieutenant-Governor. Both of these officials were to receive the same salaries that their predecessors had received, although Rojas, the Royal Treasurer, vigorously protested that their salaries should be reduced by one-half.

Governor Luzan was very soon involved in numerous controversies, largely over questions of dignity and precedents among insular officials. Something of the spirit of the formal Spanish Court appears to have permeated Cuba at this time, and the insular and municipal officials became as great sticklers for forms and ceremonies and for recognition of their comparative ranks as any of the Grandees at Seville or Madrid. Thus Jorge de Balza, Adjutant General of the Royal Forces in the Island, insisted upon the privilege of wearing his sword at meetings of the municipal council of Havana, of which he was ex officio a member, although it was a penal{237} offense for anyone else, even the Governor himself, to wear a sword or dagger in that assembly. Another controversy arose, as might confidently be assumed, over La Fuerza. The office of captain or commander of that fortress paid a salary of 300 ducats, on which account several former governors had appointed themselves to the place and had drawn that salary for themselves. Governor Carreño regarded this practice as reprehensible. It was not right, he said, for the Governor to hold another office and to draw a second salary. Therefore, he appointed his own son, a lad just in his teens, to be Captain of La Fuerza and to draw the salary. Whether the boy had the spending of the money himself or dutifully handed it over to his father is not a matter of record.

Governor Luzan stopped this nonsense and put a real soldier at the head of the Fort and then quarreled with him. This commander was Captain Melchior Sarto de Arana, an expert soldier who had been Luzan's comrade in arms in the wars of Spain, in the Netherlands and in Italy. He and his family moved into that upper story of La Fuerza which Carreño had insisted upon building, regarding it as the most desirable place of residence in Havana. The unhappy garrison in the lower part of the building was subject to the dampness which there prevailed, to the great detriment of health. Indeed conditions were so bad that their weapons became almost ruined with rust and it was almost impossible to keep gunpowder in condition for use. The Governor appears to have envied Captain Arana his quarters in the Fort, but he was not able to displace him, and so he turned his own attention to completing the Custom House for his own use. Governor Torres had stopped all work upon this latter building because of some uncertainty concerning the site, and had appropriated to his own use some of the funds which had been provided for completing it. But Luzan secured the necessary funds, hurried the work of construction and soon moved in to the fine new quarters which that building provided.{238}

This gave great umbrage to the royal accountant of the Island, one Pedro de Arana, who does not appear to have been related, unless very remotely, to the Commander of the Fort. He declared that the Governor had no right to live in the Custom House, that the King's money had not been appropriated for any such purpose. It was true, he admitted, that a part of the Custom House building had been designed for an official residence. But it was not for the Governor, but for one of the royal officials. Now as Rojas, the Royal Treasurer, had a fine house of his own, the meaning of this suggestion was obvious. The royal accountant wanted the place for himself. He indeed went so far as to order the Governor, in the King's name, to vacate the building. But he did not venture to move in and take possession himself, and so the Governor presently returned and remained. In retaliation Luzan personally charged Pedro de Arana with various illegal acts, particularly in violating the law which forbade royal officials to encourage any trade. He declared that Arana was the owner, or half owner, of a vessel trading between Cuba and Yucatan, a vessel which was built to be chiefly used for smuggling. He also said that Arana was organizing an expedition to seek and raise sunken treasure ships along the coast and was planning to establish cattle ranches in Bermuda. On the strength of these charges, which were probably true, he began a searching investigation into Arana's affairs, raided his house and ordered him to be arrested by his namesake and confined in a cell in La Fuerza. To this, however, Captain Melchior de Arana demurred. It was not that he did not regard the accountant as worthy of arrest. But he held that it was beneath his dignity to arrest a mere civilian and beneath the dignity of the Fort to serve as a prison for him. The arrest, he said, should be made by the sheriff, and the prisoner should be confined in the civil jail. At this the Governor was furious and he retaliated by sending the sheriff to arrest Captain Melchior de Arana and to con{239}fine him not in the military fortress but in the civil jail. A little later, however, he had the Captain transferred to a cell in La Fuerza. Then he made his brother-in-law, Juan de Ferrer, Captain of the Fort in Melchior's place.

In his strenuous dealings with the royal accountant the Governor appears merely to have anticipated the King himself. At any rate, a very little while after he had begun his investigation of Pedro de Arana the instructions came to him from Madrid that he should pursue precisely that course. This naturally encouraged him to renewed zeal in the prosecution. And the result was that in March, 1582, he removed Arana from the office of royal accountant and appointed Manuel Diaz temporarily to fill his place. At this Arana made his way to Hispaniola, there to appeal to the Supreme Court against the Governor. He did more than appeal. He made grave charges against Luzon and got the court to order an investigation. The court appointed as chief inquisitor into Luzan's affairs Garcia de Torquemada, who went to Cuba in April, 1583, taking Arana along with him. Diaz made no attempt to maintain his title to the office, but, regarding discretion as the better part of valor, left Havana and repaired to his plantation in the Far West. But the Governor and also Rojas, the Royal Treasurer, who sided with him against Arana, stood their ground.

In the meantime, early in 1582, the King became dissatisfied with the fast and loose game which was being played at Havana, and chiefly at La Fuerza, and determined to take matters into his own hand. He did so by appointing a Captain-General to be Commander of the Fortress, who should be independent of the Governor of Cuba. This involved some awkward complications. The Governor, Luzan, had been regularly commissioned as Captain-General as well as Governor. And the King naturally hesitated for a time over the question of appointing another man to the same place. He would have preferred that the Governor and Captain-General should{240} have continued to be one and the same man. But that seemed no longer practicable, unless indeed he should dismiss Luzan altogether, which he was not yet prepared to do. He therefore consulted with the Council for the Indies, and in conjunction with that body finally decided to make a new appointment. Luzan was to continue to bear the nominal title of Captain-General, so as to give him rank comparable with that of the military and naval commanders who might visit Havana with the fleets of Spain. But the same title with real authority over the fortifications and defenses of Havana, and indeed a measure of authority over the fortifications and defenses of the entire Island, was to be given to another man.

The man selected for the new Captain-Generalship was a practical soldier of experience named Diego Hernandez de Quiñones. He took office in July, 1582, and found La Fuerza substantially complete, save for the construction of a moat, and containing a garrison of 120 men, the majority of whom were always more or less sick because of the dampness and unsanitary conditions of the place. The fortress had been completed, however, in some respects in a highly unsatisfactory way. Thus there was no stairway inside the building connecting the lower and upper stories. There was a stairway on the outside of the building, constructed of wood and it was obvious that in case of attack that stairway might easily be destroyed by cannon shot and thus communications between the two stories of the fortress be cut off. The moat had not yet been constructed, and numerous wooden and even some masonry houses had been constructed close to the fort, which might give sheltered approach to an attacking party.

The King and the Council obviously apprehended some friction between the Governor and the newly appointed Captain-General, and they therefore prepared an elaborate code of rules and regulations intended to avert such trouble and to conduce to harmonious co-operation between the two officials. Thus it was provided that in{241} all matters of law relating exclusively to the soldiers, the Captain-General should have entire jurisdiction. In all matters relating entirely to civilians, the Governor should have jurisdiction. In cases in which both soldiers and civilians were concerned the two officials should act together with concurrent jurisdiction, and in case they could not agree the senior royal official at Havana should act as umpire between them.

This plan seemed fair enough and was expected to work well. But Luzan immediately protested against the whole scheme with much vigor and even violence of speech. In this he was heartily supported by the town council of Havana. When his protests were ignored by the Crown, or at least were not favorably heeded, he asked to be relieved from office as Governor and to be assigned to duty elsewhere. This request the King refused to grant, at the same time bidding Luzan to avoid any quarrel or disagreement with Quiñones. In spite of this admonition within a few weeks a bitter quarrel arose over the case of a soldier and a civilian who had had some strife over an alleged insult offered by the soldier to a young woman. From this there developed a bitter feud between the Governor and the Captain-General which soon became apparently irreconcilable. Each reviled the other, not only in his public capacity but in relation to his private life and morals. The partisans of each took up the strife and the entire city was soon involved in it.

Such was the deplorable state of affairs, when, as already related, Torquemada began his investigations. He found affairs in what seemed to him as bad a state as possible. The City of Havana, and indeed the entire Island of Cuba, were rent by faction. The Governor and the Captain-General each had a band of armed retainers in Havana, and these were at the point of open conflict which would amount practically to civil war. Regarding the emergency as critical, Torquemada acted promptly and strenuously. He ordered both the Governor and the Captain-General under arrest, commanding Luzan{242} to remain within his own dwelling and Quiñones to remain within La Fuerza. Then he literally read the riot act to them both. He reproved them scathingly for their lack of loyalty to the King in letting personal animosities and jealousies have sway over their sense of duty. He secured from each a full statement of his complaints and grievances against the other. Then he compelled them to submit their cases to a tribunal consisting of himself, the Captain of a Mexican fleet who happened to be visiting Havana, and two judges of the Supreme Court of Hispaniola. As a result of the deliberations of this tribunal the two men were compelled to shake hands and pledge friendship and co-operation. They were then released from arrest and told to attend to their respective duties without any more nonsense.

This did not halt Torquemada, however, in his investigation of the general conduct of Luzan's administration in other respects than the quarrel with Quiñones. The charges which were made against the Governor were of a very serious character. It was said that he had interfered with the administration of justice by preventing people who had grievances from communicating with the courts or with the royal government in Spain. He had defied the authority of the Supreme Court in Hispaniola and treated it with contempt. He had enriched himself by taking bribes. He had encouraged desertions of soldiers from the garrison of La Fuerza. He had interfered with the functions of the Royal Treasurer and other officials. In view of these accusations Torquemada ordered Luzan to relinquish the exercise of all official functions until the truth or falsity of the charges could be determined. Then he removed from Havana to Bayamo and summoned Luzan to follow him thither in order that the case might be tried in a place free from the local influence of Havana. Luzan obeyed the order but at the same time sent his sister to Spain to intercede with the King and the Council for the Indies, and also sent{243} her husband to Hispaniola to plead his cause before the Supreme Court.

The result was that in mid August of 1584 the Supreme Court reversed Torquemada's order and authorized Luzan to resume the full exercise of his powers and functions as Governor. Luzan at once did so and immediately the old quarrel with Quiñones was resumed. So furious did their strife become that within three months the Supreme Court reversed its own orders and restored that of Torquemada. At this Quiñones cast off all restraint and summarily ordered Luzan to leave Havana and to go to Santiago to protect that place against the hostile raiders who were hourly expected to descend upon the Cuban coast. Luzan demurred, whereupon Quiñones threatened him with arrest. Thereupon Luzan left Havana, but instead of going to Santiago went to Guanabacoa and thence by slow degrees to Bayamo, where he opportunely arrived, as we shall see, at the beginning of January, 1586.

In the interim the civil affairs of Havana were conducted by the Town Council until the end of 1585, when one of Menendez's soldiers, Pedro Guerra de la Vega, was sent by the Supreme Court of Hispaniola to serve as Mayor. He got on well enough with Quiñones, but not with Rojas, the Royal Treasurer, who frankly declared him unfit for office and charged him with possessing a too itching palm. His administration of affairs seems to have been confined to purely local matters and, as we shall see, in a very short time, before the spring of 1586, Luzan was again exercising his full civil authority as Governor, though still most of the time absent from Havana. Quiñones was also in full authority as Captain-General, and these two former enemies were acting together in complete accord.

This radical change in the aspect of affairs was due to an impending crisis, the most serious thus far in the history of the Island. A new enemy had arisen, far{244} more formidable than any the Island had yet known. For years Cuba had been harried by French privateers often little better than pirates, but now the English rovers of the sea began to infest the Spanish Main. In 1577 Sir Francis Drake entered upon his memorable voyage around the world, defiantly navigating that South Sea which Spain has regarded as exclusively her own, and ravaging the Peruvian treasure ships even more ruthlessly than the French had preyed upon those of Mexico. Early in Luzan's administration warnings were given that this bold adventurer was planning a descent upon the West Indies and probably, therefore, upon Cuba.

This menace naturally caused great alarm at Havana and throughout the Island, and urgent appeals were made to the royal government and also to the Viceroy in Mexico for aid. It was represented that galleys were needed to patrol and to defend the coast. Artillery was needed for La Fuerza and for other fortifications at Havana and elsewhere. A larger garrison was also needed for La Fuerza. To these and other like appeals the King made no satisfactory reply. He apparently had no galleys nor men to spare for the defense of the Island. The best he would do was to direct Luzan to utilize his own resources to the full. A military census of the Island was to be taken, the first in its history, and all available men including Indians and negroes, were to be mustered into service.

The result of this enrolment, which was made in the spring of 1582, was unsatisfactory. In Havana itself only 226 men fit for service could be found, and no other town on the Island could furnish more than a quarter as many. They were, moreover, chiefly men unused to arms and therefore of little prospective value against the formidable fighting men whom Drake was reported to have in his train. As for La Fuerza, sickness and desertion had so depleted its garrison that not a score of able-bodied men were left. Quiñones gathered in reinforcements of 60 or 70, chiefly young and inexperienced{245} men and thus raised the apparently effective strength to something less than 100, when more than 200 were considered necessary. Two small brass cannon and a supply of powder and small arms came from Spain, and Luzan either purchased or requisitioned from a visiting ship four more small cannon. The Governor also destroyed, by burning, all the houses which had been built close to La Fuerza so as to leave an open zone of considerable strength around that fortress.

Despite the conflict between Luzan and Quiñones already recorded, some substantial progress was made, especially by the latter, in strengthening the defenses of Havana to meet the coming storm. La Fuerza was improved in various respects, though it was impossible to get rid of the dampness which pervaded the place. On the Punta at the entrance to the harbor trenches were dug and a gun platform was built. The efficiency of these was unsparingly ridiculed by the Royal Treasurer, Rojas, and indeed Quiñones himself soon realized their unsatisfactory character. He therefore undertook the construction of the real fort, and by the end of 1583 had it sufficiently completed to permit the mounting of eight pieces of artillery. He then declared that if he were properly supplied with powder and shot he could defend Havana against all comers. He did not wish more soldiers, and indeed he strongly protested against the levies from Mexico for which Luzan had sent. During the spring of 1583 about 100 men did arrive from Mexico under a Captain who looked to Luzan and not to Quiñones for orders; a circumstance which naturally added to the confusion and conflict of authority. But after a few months Luzan himself agreed with Quiñones in regarding the men as practically worthless, and assented to their shipment back to Mexico.{246}


Such, then, was the state of affairs when in 1585 war began between Spain and England. English adventurers infested Spanish territory on the main land in the northern part of the vast region which the Spanish still called Florida. They planned an English colony at the Bay of Santa Maria and renamed that place "Roanoke" and they also renamed that part of Florida after the Queen of England; calling it "Virginia." The news of this invasion appears to have been known in Cuba, by the way of Southern Florida, before it was known in Spain, and a fleet vessel was accordingly sent from Havana to bear the tidings to the King and to ask for further protection from Cuba.

There was a period of hesitancy and uncertainty, and then the storm broke. On January 10th, 1586, Sir Francis Drake landed in Hispaniola and occupied the City of Santo Domingo, the nominal capital of all the Spanish West Indies. Some of the judges of the Supreme Court at that place escaped and fled to Cuba, where they arrived a week later with the startling news. Luzan, as already related, was then at Bayamo, and it was there that he received the news. He was startled and alarmed, but appears not to have been panic stricken. Indeed he acted with coolness and judgment and in a manner which must be regarded as going far toward redeeming his reputation from the reproaches which he had formerly incurred. Discreetly assuming that Drake's attack upon Cuba, whenever it was made, would be not at Bayamo but at the Capital and metropolis itself, his first thought was for Havana. Immediately upon receiving the news from Santo Domingo he dispatched horsemen across country from Bayamo to Havana to bear the tidings to{247} Quiñones, bidding them also to spread the news through all the country as they went and to command all towns to marshal all available men and send them on to Havana for the reinforcement of that place. As soon as possible he also sent two vessels from Bayamo to Havana laden with men and supplies. Ignoring their former quarrels in the face of the common danger he wrote to Quiñones outlining his plans for a defense of the Island and urging that an appeal should be sent to Mexico for aid, from which country it could be procured much more quickly than from Spain. Then he hastened to Santiago and from that port sent two vessels to Spain to tell the King what had happened at Santo Domingo and what was being done to avert, if possible, a like calamity at Havana.

The Governor's appeals to the various municipalities were not without effect. The people of Cuba seemed to be aroused by the imminence of danger to a better degree of public spirit than they had ever before manifested. Bayamo, Sancti Spiritus, Puerto Principe, and even poor little Trinidad, the smallest and weakest town of the Island, contributed men and arms to their full ability, and when at the beginning of May these levies were mustered in Havana they numbered more than 225 efficient men, tolerably well armed. Luzan himself remained at Bayamo, in the absence of orders or even permission to return to Havana, professing readiness and eagerness to serve the King there or elsewhere, wherever he could be of most use. At Havana Quiñones was in command, loyally supported by the Town Council, the royal officials and the entire community. Even the austere and censorious Rojas, the Royal Treasurer, who had been the bitter critic and opponent of Quiñones, forgot his animosity and hastened to offer his services in any capacity in which they might be utilized. It is related that Rojas, despite his years, his wealth and his social dignity, worked as a common laborer with pick-axe and shovel in digging trenches and throwing up breastworks for the fortification of the town, thus setting an example which left no other citizen{248} any excuse for shirking duty and indeed went far toward inspiring the whole community with patriotic fervor. A proclamation was also issued by the Mayor, Pedro de la Vega, addressed to all citizens who, because of debts, quarrels, crimes, or other causes, had sought sanctuary in the church or gone into hiding in the jungle, asking them to come forward and aid in the defense of Havana, and promising them immunity from arrest or prosecution and a period of a fortnight's grace in which to return to their asylums or their hiding places after the need of their services was ended. This extraordinary call was responded to by scores of fugitives.

There was no neglect, either, in preparation for the defense of the suburbs of Havana. Chorrera was generally regarded not only as a possible but as a very probable landing point for the invaders, from which a march could be made by land against Havana. It was not practicable to fortify the place strongly enough to prevent the landing of any considerable force, but a small camp was established there, occupied by a company of horsemen, who were to keep watch day and night for the approach of the enemy, and upon his first appearance were to ride post-haste to Havana with the news. The first horseman was to set out the moment the enemy was sighted in the distance. A second was to follow as soon as the fleet was near enough for the number of vessels and their approximate strength and men and guns to be determined. A third would set out the moment the enemy's intention, either of landing there or of proceeding on to Havana, was ascertained. A fourth would wait until the enemy was actually landing and his numbers could be determined, and would then hasten after the others with the news.

Nearer the city there were several other possible landing places at inlets of the coast and some of these were fortified with earth-works and artillery. Chief among these was the inlet of San Lazaro, where in addition to earth works an enclosed fort of timber, stone and earth{249} was constructed with several cannons mounted on a platform. At the entrance to the harbor of Havana itself the strongest preparations were made. At Punta a dozen guns were in readiness to make that the chief point of defense outside of La Fuerza itself. Much attention was given to all roads leading into the city for several miles around; particularly toward the west from which direction the attack was chiefly expected. Some of the roads were blocked altogether, others were mined and provided with pitfalls. Still others were screened and hidden with trees and brushwood so as to serve as secret means of passage for the Spaniards in advancing against or retreating from the enemy, and these were so mined that after having served their purpose to the Spaniards they could be readily destroyed. Elsewhere trees, underbrush and jungle were cleared away so that there would be no cover nor concealment for the invading force. Trenches and earth-works were constructed between La Fuerza and Punta, and the former fortress was provisioned and prepared for a siege. Special parapets of timber, stone and earth were constructed upon the top of the fort, and numerous houses and other buildings near it were destroyed in order that there might be no shelter for an attacking force.

Nor was the possibility of an attack from the eastward overlooked. On the Morro headland at the important entrance a battery of three guns was placed, well protected by breast-works of timber, stone and earth, and the coast from Morro to Matanzas was continually patrolled by horsemen on the lookout for the coming of strange vessels, and under orders similar to those which had been given to the watchmen at Chorrera. As for the harbor itself, a great chain was stretched across its entrance buoyed with logs and fastened with a huge padlock at the foot of the Morro headland.

Finally the few swift sailing vessels which could be mustered into the service were kept cruising off the shore to espy the approaching squadron. They were not suffi{250}ciently strong to give battle, but they could give warning to the city. Also they could bear to Spain or to Mexico tidings of what occurred. Thus one vessel lay in the estuary of the Puercos River, ready to flee to Mexico, while another cruised around Ycacos Point, to hasten to Spain to tell if Havana should fall into the hands of the foe.

Meanwhile in Havana itself all possible forces were mustered for defense. The volunteers from the other towns were drilled into an efficient state of discipline. Such was their zeal that they gladly served without pay while a considerable number of them in addition provided their own rations at their own cost. For the necessary expenses of their maintenance Rojas, the Royal Treasurer, used what royal funds were in hand regardless of the purpose for which they had been designed, and when these were insufficient he collected taxes without authority, on the principle that the safety of the city and Island was the supreme law. At the beginning of April some welcome aid arrived from Mexico, which even Quiñones was now glad to have. The Viceroy sent four vessels, bearing about 300 fighting men, with six months' supplies of food and with pay for eight months in advance. These increased the force under Quiñones to more than 900 well-trained soldiers. During the month of April Luzan arrived from Bayamo with nearly 100 more men, thus increasing the garrison of Havana to about 1,000. This was a force which the Captain-General confidently believed would be able to resist and to repulse any force which Drake might be able to land.

Luzan had meantime, in February, received from Spain orders to resume the governorship of the Island with full power, to return to Havana, and to consider his term of office indefinitely prolonged. He had been appointed in 1579 for a term of four years and had assumed office in 1580, so that his original term was by this time long since expired. Reckoning the four years from{251} his actual assumption of office in the summer of 1580 his term had ended in 1584. If his return to Havana was not altogether agreeable to Quiñones, and it is quite probable that it was not, at least a semblance of harmony was preserved between them, and there was certainly efficient if not cordial co-operation. To this auspicious state of affairs the Royal Treasurer contributed in no small degree.

In fact, in the face of the great peril which confronted it, all Cuba arose to the occasion with a unity of public spirit never before known in its history, and wholly admirable. All the officials, civil and military, insular and royal, were in accord, and all classes of the population, Spaniards, Indians and negro slaves were loyal and devoted in their support. In these circumstances it is of fascinating interest to speculate upon what might have happened had Drake made the expected descent upon Havana. It is well within the limit not only of possibility but of probability that he would have been decisively defeated. It is even possible that in the conflict with more than a thousand well-armed, well trained and resolute Spaniards, than whom there were then no braver or better fighting men in all the world, he would himself have been captured or slain. And such a disposition of Francis Drake in the summer of 1586, only two years before the descent of the Invincible Armada upon the shores of England, might well have changed the history of the world.

But this was not to be. Some say that Drake did not intend to attack Havana at that time, preferring to raid Carthagena, as he did. Some say that by means of spies he ascertained the strength of Havana's defenses and deemed it, therefore, prudent not to meddle with that place. Some say that there was an interposition of Providence to dissuade him from what might have been a disastrous fiasco. We have also, as we shall presently see, the testimony of some Spanish fugitives, which is en{252}tirely plausible, though not certainly correct. Conjecture is inconclusive. Only the fact remains that Drake passed by and left Cuba unassailed.

From the latter part of February until the beginning of May no word of his doings came to Havana; anxiety meanwhile prevailing and preparations for his anticipated arrival being unabated. At last word came, most ominous. A vessel from Spain, a heavily armed frigate, had been searching for Drake. It had tracked him from Santo Domingo to Carthagena, and had found him in full possession of the latter place. There apparently, after two months' occupancy, he was preparing for some fresh adventure. This information convinced the Cuban authorities that the great struggle was at hand, and that the approach of the enemy would be from the westward by way of Cape San Antonio. After despoiling Carthagena Drake's logical course would be to raid Havana, and preparations for defense were therefore redoubled. Nor were these anticipations soon to be dispelled. A few weeks later, on May 27th, a courier arrived from Cape San Antonio, the western extremity of the Island, with the news that five days before a powerful British armada, doubtless Drake's, had touched at that point for fresh water and other supplies. It was no mere raiding flotilla of privateers, such as those with which the French had long been troubling the Cuban coasts, but it was a fleet of thirty-sail, probably with two or three thousand soldiers aboard, and with artillery far superior both in number and range to all the defenses of Havana. The courier could not tell what the intentions of the fleet were or what was its destination. Possibly it was simply seeking to anticipate and capture the treasure ships of Spain coming from Mexico or from Darien with the silver, gold and gems of Peru and Golden Castile. More probably it was planning the conquest of Havana, as Santo Domingo and Carthagena had been conquered. This latter supposition seemed to be confirmed two days{253} later, when another messenger arrived from the west, telling that it was indeed Drake's fleet and that it had sailed from Cape San Antonio eastward toward Havana.

In a minor measure Havana and all Cuba now anticipated the feelings which England had two years later upon the approach of the Invincible Armada. Every man was summoned to his appointed place in the scheme of defense and insistent vigilance was maintained night and day. For this there was full need. Within an hour of the arrival of this second messenger from the west a Spanish ship from Mexico came flying into the port of Havana with half a dozen English ships in hot pursuit. She passed Punta and gained safety before they came up, the big chain being slackened to let her pass within and then tightened again to shut out her pursuers. They did not, however, attempt to enter the harbor. One came so near as to draw a few shots from the guns of the Morro Fort and then withdrew without returning fire. But an hour later eight more English sails appeared, making fourteen in all.

Evidently the crisis was at hand. Every available man in Havana was in his place. Every available cannon was double-shotted and trained upon the spot at which the English vessels would first come within range. There was, however, no panic, no confusion. All men were resolute, confident and in high spirits. All night long sentinels watched the English fleet expecting to see it send boat loads of men ashore; ready to signal the news with beacon fires and torches. But all night long the English fleet lay dark and silent in the offing.

The morning of May 30 dawned. It was clear and bright, the sea was smooth, the wind just sufficient to fill the sails. There could be no fitter day for a landing or for an approach to the harbor to bombard the forts and city. The sentinels on Morro counted all thirty of Drake's vessels, drawn up in line. Now and then one swept out in pursuit of some incautious or uninformed{254} coasting vessel, but did not go far. The whole fleet maintained order as if in preparation for some great concerted operation.

Hours passed and nothing was done. At mid-afternoon some boats were sent toward the shore near Chorrera, and the watchers on Morro signaled to La Fuerza that a landing was being made; only a little later to recall the tidings as those of a false alarm. Night came on, and again under cover of darkness it was imagined that Drake's men were seen approaching Chorrera. Every man in Havana remained awake with arms in hand, but the night waned and daylight showed the fleet still motionless and the shore at Chorrera still untouched. Thus for three days and nights the tension was maintained. The thirty English vessels lay off Havana, firing not a shot, sending not a man ashore, and making no sign of their commander's purpose.

Then the suspense was ended, to the relief of many but to the disappointment of some. On June 4th the English fleet spread all its canvas and sailed away, heading north and east, and vanished forever from the sight of the watchers at Havana. Not the Cuban capital but the chief city of Florida was to be its prey, and presently word came back that Drake had attacked and captured the town and fortress of St. Augustine, which Menendez had built and in the building of which he had drawn so sorely upon the scanty resources of Cuba. Quiñones regretted that Havana had not been attacked, confident that the result would have been disastrous to the assailants. He took, however, all possible precautions against a surprise by a possible return of the English fleet. The coast patrols to Matanzas and beyond were maintained and vessels were sent out as scouts to follow in Drake's track and watch for his turning.

But no more was seen of Drake or heard of him until the end of June. Then word came of his destruction of St. Augustine and of his departure thence to the northward, on some unknown errand. It was supposed that{255} he had gone straight home. In fact, he went first to Virginia to visit the English colony at Roanoke and to take back to England its few discouraged survivors. Thus relieved from fear of invasion Havana rejoiced and gave a most practical turn to its thanksgiving by sending a vessel or two richly laden with supplies to the relief of the hapless people of St. Augustine, many of whom had been former residents of Cuba.

Meantime some explanation, as we have already seen, came to Havana of the reason for Drake's failure to take that place. Several Spaniards whom Drake had captured at Carthagena, had contrived to make their escape from him when he touched at Cape San Antonio, and after much wandering found their way to Havana. They reported that on the way from Carthagena to Cuba the English fleet had been sorely afflicted with disease including scurvy and possibly also yellow fever, so that many persons died and many more were incapacitated. Moreover his vessels were crowded with captives and with plunder. In these circumstances he was obviously in no condition to attack so strong a place as Havana, and in a conference with his captains he practically decided to pass by that place and to seek cooler northern latitudes where his sick men might more speedily recover.

Havana's deliverance was Santiago's disaster. The preparations for the defense of the former city had drawn thither the fighting strength of the entire Island. Men, munitions, even artillery, had been stripped from all other places for Havana's sake. Even after the departure of Drake, and after it was known that he had at least for the time abandoned his designs against Havana, the forces were still retained at the capital. This, of course, was known to the foes of Cuba and of Spain, as well as to Havana itself, and there were those who were not slow to take advantage of it. French privateers were still hostile and were raiding Spanish ports wherever opportunity afforded, and the stripping of Santiago for Havana's defense gave such opportunity.{256}

So at the very time when Havana learned that Drake had taken Carthagena and was on his way to the Cuban capital, two French vessels appeared off Santiago with hostile intent. A demand was made for food, which the town authorities refused. Probably the demand was a mere pretext. At any rate the refusal of it was the signal for immediate attack. From noon to night of May 2nd the battle raged, the Spaniards, only a handful of men, displaying invincible valor in circumstances of desperate difficulty. The leader of the defense was a parish priest who was badly wounded by one of his own men. One other Spaniard was killed by the explosion of a wretched little cannon which had been pressed into service, all good guns having been taken to Havana. But these were the only Spanish losses. On the other hand, one of the French ships, going aground, was almost destroyed by the Spanish fire before her consort could pull her off. And the two riddled with shot were at last glad to make their escape in flight, throwing overboard as they sailed away more than a score of bodies of men killed by the Spanish musketeers. It was too much to hope, however, that this repulse of the French would prove final. It would almost certainly be followed with a stronger attack for vengeance, and Santiago made what scanty preparations it could to meet the coming storm.

Gomez de Rojas, a member of the illustrious family whose members played so great a part in early Cuban history, was at that time the deputy of the Governor in that part of the Island, making his headquarters at Bayamo. A few days before this attack on Santiago he and his men had killed seven Frenchmen and captured ten more under the lead of a notorious freebooter. The heads of the seven he displayed on pikes at Bayamo, and on the very day when the two French vessels reached Santiago he hanged eight of the ten prisoners. It is recorded that the trial of these men was not yet concluded. But Rojas grimly observed that the trial could be finished after the hanging just as well as before, as there could be no doubt{257} as to what the verdict and the sentence would be. For this ruthless proceeding the Bishop, Salcedo, reprimanded and indeed excommunicated Rojas, and there was danger that thus disastrous dissension would arise among the Spaniards. But Rojas, who seems to have been a diplomat as well as a soldier and administrator, contrived to make peace with the Bishop, and all was well.

Of such unity there was sore need. For a few days later a squadron of seven French ships, carrying 800 soldiers, appeared off Santiago. To meet them Santiago, with all possible aid from Bayamo and the country around could number less than 100 men, some say not more than 70, indifferently armed and with only a few pounds of gunpowder. For several days the French vessels lay off Santiago, frequently firing upon the town at a range at which their own cannon were effective but at which the Spaniards, with far inferior guns and little ammunition, were quite helpless. However, the French made no attempt at landing, a circumstance which for a time puzzled the Spaniards. Then came the explanation. While their fleet lay directly before Santiago the French had put 150 men ashore at Zuragua, and these were advancing upon Santiago over land. As soon as this was known a little force of 20 Spaniards and 10 Indians was sent out to meet them, with only two or three rounds of ammunition to each man. They met in unequal battle and the Spaniards lost five men. But they killed twenty Frenchmen before they were completely exhausted and were compelled to surrender. Another detachment of thirty Spaniards kept up a good fight at the landing place in Santiago until their ammunition was exhausted and then they retreated to the hills. The French fire from the ships destroyed more than half the town, and the troops who were then landed demolished most of the remaining buildings. Then a hasty retreat was made, presumably through fear of the rumored approach of the powerful Spanish fleet, which unfortunately did not materialize.{258}

Gomez de Rojas had been at Bayamo when this attack began. As soon as he heard of it he hastened on horseback to Santiago, but arrived in time only to see the last French sail vanish in the distance. Had he been there it is not certain that he could have saved the town. Indeed it is probable that he could not have done so. But it is certain that he saved it after the event. So completely had Santiago been demolished by the French that many of the people were determined not to attempt to rebuild but to abandon the place and go elsewhere. A council of war was held on May 25, at a country house a league inland from the ruined city, at which all the officials and most of the citizens of Santiago were present. Rojas was, fortunately, the presiding officer. The military commander, Captain Camacho, told of what had happened and what the condition of the place was. It had no military strength. There was not a pound of powder or shot left. The few pieces of artillery which had not been captured or destroyed were concealed in the woods, but were of course useless without ammunition. Fewer than a score of houses were standing. The cathedral and the monastery had been destroyed, though the hospital and a church had received little damage. There was, he believed, nothing left to serve as the nucleus of a rebuilt town.

Much discussion followed his report. Some were resolute for rebuilding the place, which they regarded rightly as the birthplace of the Spanish settlement of Cuba. Others were equally bent on abandoning it altogether and migrating to Havana or elsewhere. Opinions were so evenly divided that it was finally agreed to suspend decision until one other leading citizen, who was absent from the meeting, could be heard from, with the understanding that his vote should be decisive.

Then it was that Gomez de Rojas rose to the height of the occasion. He ascertained secretly that this missing citizen was in favor of abandoning Santiago and would so declare himself. Determined to forestall and to pre{259}vent such a decision and thus to save the town, Rojas immediately ordered the clergy to celebrate mass next morning. He ordered the town authorities to put all the remaining buildings in order for occupancy and to repair those which had been damaged. He ordered every man in town to appear at the church that morning, ready for any action which might be needed. He ordered the Town Council to meet as usual the next day. He ordered the market to be opened at once, and artisans to get to work and the Indians to burn the bodies of the Frenchmen who had been killed in battle, and in brief he ordered everybody in Santiago to get to work to rehabilitate the town. The sheer energy of this one strong man carried the day, and Santiago arose from its ruins larger and more important than ever before, though it was never again to be the capital of all Cuba. Havana had already for several years been practically, though without full authority, the capital of the Island. The formal and authoritative change was made a few years later, in 1589.

During the administration of Governor Luzan there was some renewed interest in copper mining in Cuba, although the wealth of the island in that metal was not yet appreciated. In 1580 what was supposed to be an immensely rich mine was discovered, but it proved to be a mere "pocket" of limited extent. That disappointment, together with the cost of transportation from the neighborhood of Santiago to Havana for shipment, discouraged further efforts for a time. But in May, 1587, after inspection of the Cobre mine, near Santiago, the Governor reported to the Spanish government: "There is so much metal, and the mines are so numerous, that they could supply the world with copper." Comparatively little was done, however, until 1599, when effective work was begun at El Cobre. The ore was conveyed to Havana for smelting and casting, and on the site of the present Maestranza Building there was established a foundry where copper was cast into both cannon and kettles.{260}


It is an interesting circumstance that what threatened to be a great disaster to Cuba proved in fact to be one of the greatest blessings that the Island had enjoyed since the Spanish settlement. We have already seen how great an alarm was caused at Havana and throughout Cuba by the threatened attack of the British under Sir Francis Drake and how fine a degree of public spirit and unity among all classes was thereby inspired. The threatened attack did not occur, and it was many years before an actual British conquest or even invasion of the Island was effected. But the lessons learned in that period of agitation and after were not speedily forgotten, either in Cuba or in Spain. Therefore, a much larger degree of public spirit and of unity prevailed in the Island, among the Government officers and among the people, while the Spanish crown was awakened to a fuller realization than ever before of the value of Cuba and the imperative necessity of defending the Island if the integrity of the Spanish Empire in the Western Hemisphere was to be maintained. It was then that Philip II began to appreciate Cuba as the bulwark of the West Indies and of the City of Havana, its capital, as the key to the New World. Hitherto Cuba had been nothing but a stepping stone between Spain on the one hand and Mexico, Darien and Florida on the other; and Havana was merely a convenient base of operations and a port of call. But now the immense strategical importance of Havana was realized, while the value of the Island, in its products of copper, wood, sugar, hides and other commodities, was appreciated.

Governor Luzan administered the affairs of Cuba until the end of March, 1589. On that day he was succeeded{261} by Juan de Tejada, a Field Marshal of the Spanish Army. He was selected by the King chiefly because of his military experience and knowledge, and he was the first of the line of governors of Cuba to be known as Captain-General. In him were merged both the civil and the military authority of the Island, so that there would no longer be any such friction as had prevailed between Luzan and Quiñones. Tejada was speedily commissioned by the King to make plans for the fortification of Cuba and also of the other important islands of the Spanish West Indies. He was accordingly accompanied on his coming to Cuba by one of the most distinguished Italian engineers of that age, Juan Bautista Antonelli. Together they surveyed the port of Havana, the port of San Juan in Porto Rico, and that of Carthagena in Colombia and planned powerful defenses for them all. There fortifications were in fact constructed under the direction of Antonelli and to this day bear impressive testimony to his skill.

His first attention was paid, most properly, to Havana. Already there had been constructed temporary fortifications at La Punta and El Morro, and also a camp more of observation than of defense at San Lazaro Cove, probably where the Queen's battery stood in later years. Both Captain-General Tejada and Antonelli were quick to see the importance of the Punta and Morro fortifications and to approve those headlands as the sites of the most powerful fortifications of Havana. Plans were accordingly made for extensive masonry forts at both those places, and these were approved and very prompt execution ordered by the King. Funds for the work were obtained from Mexico, from which source also appropriations were received for the maintenance of La Fuerza with its garrison of 300 men.

The work of Antonelli in Cuba was by no means confined, however, to military engineering. He laid out and constructed a number of roads, including some which are to this day principal streets of Havana and its suburbs.{262} He also constructed a dam across the Chorrera River and an aqueduct by means of which an ample water supply was conveyed to Havana and distributed through the city. For by this time it must be understood Havana was rapidly growing into a populous and prosperous community and was already the assured metropolis of the Island and indeed one of the three or four chief centres of Spanish civilization and authority in the western world. It was during the administration of Tejada that the technical legal title of "City" was conferred upon Havana, and the place received the grant of a coat-of-arms. Its escutcheon bore the emblems of a crown, underneath it in a blue field three silver fortresses, emblematic of La Fuerza, La Punta and El Morro, and finally a golden key symbolic of Havana's importance as the key of the western world. The administration of Tejada lasted a little more than five years and was marked with almost unbroken peace, prosperity and progress. The new fortifications of Havana were not all completed in that time, but they were carried far toward completion and the work upon them was marked with no such difficulties and complications as had been the bane of La Fuerza.

The one exception to the rule of peace and harmony which prevailed during the administration of Captain-General Tejada was a controversy with Bishop Salcedo, who was then in charge of the diocese. Because of some differences of policy concerning the finances of the colony and the church, Salcedo bitterly criticised Tejada and even cast unfavorable reflections upon his integrity, which we must regard as unwarranted. To these attacks, however, Tejada gave little or no attention, and the peace of Cuba was therefore not materially disturbed by the incident. It seems probable that the Bishop desired larger revenues than the straitened condition of Cuban affairs made possible. Tejada indeed almost exhausted the pecuniary resources of the island in the prosecution of the much-needed works of fortification, road building, and what not, and also drew heavily upon his own private{263} funds. He was saved from more serious embarrassment by the arrival of a treasure fleet from Vera Cruz, which enabled him to discharge all obligations and to place a fund of 120,000 ducats in the insular treasury for future needs.

At this period, it is interesting to recall, the salary of the Governor, or Captain-General, was only 2,000 pesos a year, that of the Alcalde of El Morro was 6,600 reales, that of the Alcalde of La Punta was 4,400 reales, and that of the Sergeant-Mayor was 2,700 reales. The total yearly budget of the island was about 100,000 pesos.

It is gratifying to know that Tejada's fine services were appreciated by the royal government. His insistent resignation was accepted in April, 1595, with sincere regret, and he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St. James and was placed in charge of the castle and district of La Barlete, at Naples.

Tejada's successor, the second Captain-General of Cuba, was Juan Maldonado Barrionuevo, who took office in July, 1594. This distinguished servant of the crown had been an equerry to the Queen of Spain and Treasurer of the Invincible Armada which had come to grief a few years before in the Narrow Seas. He was also a Knight of the Military Order of St. James. Having had, while with the Armada, a taste of Drake's quality, and learning that that formidable commander was meditating another descent upon Cuba he gave his first and best attention to hastening the completion of the fortifications of Havana. Drake was indeed at that very time in Spanish-American waters planning disaster to every seaport within reach, but disagreement between himself and other officers of the fleet made the entire expedition a failure and led, probably, to the death of Drake himself in 1595. Learning of Drake's death Maldonado sent out an expedition to attack the British fleet as it was returning from Darien and succeeded in capturing one of its vessels and putting the others to flight near the Isle of Pines. This triumph over the much feared British fleet caused great{264} rejoicing throughout Cuba and immensely encouraged the Government and the people in their hope of making a successful stand against British aggressions.

Despite the growth and importance of Havana it must be remembered that at this time that city was still in a very primitive condition. The great majority of the houses were still built of cedar or pine boards with thatched roofs. They were so scattered, even in the heart of the city, that it was possible to have gardens and orchards around them. There were some houses of substantial masonry two or three stories in height. And the rich cedar, mahogany and other woods native to Cuba made it possible to finish and furnish them in very rich style. The houses of the rich were lighted with lamps of bronze or other metal, generally fed with olive oil, and those of the poor with candles made of suet. The streets were unlighted save by an occasional lantern at the entrance to some house. And they were so infested not only with stray dogs but with vagabonds and ruffians that it was unsafe for citizens to go abroad after dark without an armed guard. Social and domestic customs, which had at first been kept after those of Spain itself, by this time began to have an individuality suited to the circumstances and conditions of life on the Island. It was the custom to have the chief meal of the day at noon and a lighter supper quite late in the evening, probably between eight and ten o'clock.

It is interesting to record that during the administration of Maldonado occurred the first theatrical performance in the history of Cuba. This was on the night of St. John, in the year 1599, and the performance took place in honor of the Captain-General in the great hall of the military barracks. It is recorded that on assembling the audience was so noisy that it was impossible to begin the performance until threats had been made of serious physical punishment. Despite this vexatious incident the people were so delighted with the performance that when it came to an end they unanimously clamored for its repe{265}tition although by this time it was one o'clock in the morning.

The sugar industry was now rising to great importance, especially in the vicinity of Havana and thence toward Matanzas. The largest of all the sugar mills in the Island was that founded by Anton Recia at Guaicanama, now known as Regla. In 1588 a royal decree was issued bestowing upon the sugar mills of Cuba the same favor that was formerly granted to those of Hispaniola, namely, the exemption of the buildings, machinery, negro slaves and in fact all other property from seizure or attachment for debt. The sugar plantations were somewhat hampered at this time by lack of labor, and on that account the importation of negro slaves was encouraged and hundreds were brought in every year.

In fact, negro slavery was by this time fully established as the principal reliance of the industries of the island. It was recognized that Cuba was a land of inestimable wealth, particularly in agriculture. Stock raising was the chief industry, but sugar growing was rising in importance, while the production of honey and wax was also a widespread and highly lucrative occupation. Of all industries sugar growing was the most laborious and called, therefore, for the greatest number of slaves. Each mill required from eighty to a hundred workmen.

Strangely enough, while the royal government strove in some ways to encourage and stimulate the sugar industry, it persisted in hampering it, at any rate in Cuba, in the matter of slave labor. As far back as 1556 a decree fixed the maximum price at which slaves might be sold in the island at one hundred ducats, or about seventy pesos. Yet at the same time the price fixed for slaves in Venezuela was one hundred and ten ducats, and in Mexico one hundred and twenty ducats. The result was inevitable. Slaves were sent to Venezuela and Mexico rather than to Cuba; or the best were sent thither and the poorest to the island. This was only one of a number of eccentricities of government, which suggested a persistent{266} and inexplicable tendency to discriminate against Cuba in favor of the other colonies.

Against such purblind policies the ablest administrators and the most enterprising planters and merchants struggled to little avail. It was a splendid achievement for the engineer Antonelli in 1586 to tap the Almendares River, west of Havana, with a system of canals and aqueducts, and thus bring an abundant supply of fresh water into Havana. In so doing he not merely provided the capital with one of the prime necessities of life, but he also made Havana the centre of the sugar industry. For it was along these artificial watercourses that the first sugar mills were erected and operated. But this availed little while there was persistent discrimination against Cuba to a degree that kept the island without a tithe of the labor which was needed for the development of its resources. We cannot, of course, approve the slave trade, or argue that it should have been followed to a greater extent than it was. But if it was to exist at all, and Spain was willing and indeed determined that it should, justice and economic reason required that it should exist as freely in Cuba as in the neighboring colonies.{267}


The character of the European nations whose navigators and explorers had sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and had opened to the bewildered gaze of the Old World a vista of unlimited possibilities in the New, underwent a great change during the seventeenth century. Acclaimed as national achievements, adding new lustre to national glory, these discoveries at first only stimulated patriotism and became an incentive to national effort. But as Spain and Portugal which had given to the world those men with the large vision and the undaunted courage, awakened to the importance of their exploits and began to see them from the angles of political and economic advantages, the desire to restrict those advantages to their own use became so powerful, that consideration for the interests of other nations was ignored. The spirit of imperialistic expansion was roused and demanded no less than a monopoly of the traffic and trade of the world.

With this end in view the two countries adopted a protectionist policy and imposed restrictions upon mariners and merchants of other nations that in time became intolerable. The government of Spain forbade its colonists in Spanish America to receive European merchandise from any but Spanish ports, which in turn enabled Spanish exporters to demand unreasonable prices. This was resented by many colonists, and they were willing to deal with smugglers who sold this merchandise at a lower price or exchanged it for the produce of the colonies, especially for hides and sugar. The governors of Santo Domingo were among the first in the colonies to take steps against this trade. They fitted out small vessels, which they called Guardacostas, coastguards, and had them{268} patrol all along the coast. If they succeeded in capturing the smugglers, they proceeded against them with little ceremony. They were either thrown overboard or hanged.

This summary process having stirred in the smugglers the spirit of vindictiveness, they organized for concerted action, determined to resist what they considered unwarranted severity and cruelty. They began to group into fleets, and openly invaded the coasts, burning, plundering, marauding and killing. They looked about for suitable places where to establish settlements of their own that could be used as bases of operation in the neighborhood. Hispaniola or Hayti, where the natives had been almost exterminated and which by misgovernment was nearly deserted, invited them. Herds of cattle and swine were running wild about the island and offered not only valuable provisions for themselves, but promised to become marketable commodities. Some French smugglers settled there, killed the cattle and swine, smoked the beef and salted the pork, and opened a remunerative trade with visiting sailors in these commodities as also in tallow and hides. The Indians of the island called smoked beef "boucan"; hence these traders were called boucaniers which was anglicized into buccaneers. In a similar way the English freebooter was by the French corrupted into flibustier and later came back to us as filibuster. At first the term boucanier was limited to the smugglers and traders in smoked beef living on land, while the flibustier was applied to the smuggler and trader living on board of a ship. But later these nice distinctions were ignored and the names applied indiscriminately to smugglers, freebooters and pirates.

Whatever term one chose to apply to them, these Brethren of the Coast and outlaws of the oceans became almost a recognized institution of the century when rival European powers were fighting for supremacy in the New World and were unanimously arrayed against Spain. There were among them recruits from almost all nations,{269} classes and professions. There were bankrupt shopkeepers, discharged soldiers, runaway convicts, thieves and murderers, vagabonds and adventurers and many a black sheep of good family under an assumed name. A large proportion was attracted by the possibility of getting hold of some of the unlimited treasures of gold and silver which the New World was said to hold. For the reports that had been spread by the participants in the early expeditions, not always limited to natives of Spain and Portugal, were so fairy-like that the classic tale of the Argonauts paled into insignificance beside them. It is reported that a noted French freebooter who had joined the pirates as a runaway debtor, hoped in this way to secure enough to pay off his debts. An equally large number consisted of men who in that period of adventure were seized with an insatiable desire for roving about the world, free from all fetters of conventional life.

The attitude of England, France and Holland against Spain was so hostile, that whenever one of these powers was at war with Spain, these outlaws were granted the rights of belligerents. Mariner-warriors, prepared to defend themselves and to attack by force, they became a mercenary navy at the service of any power that happened to be at war with Spain. At bottom of this united effort, which at the end resulted in ruining the overseas commerce of Spain, was the opposition against its restrictions of the navigation and commerce of other countries. Bancroft who is referred to by Pedro J. Guiteras in his "Historia de la isla de Cuba" says in the first volume of his "History of the United States" (p. 163)

"The moral sense of mariners revolted at the extravagance; since forfeiture, imprisonment, and the threat of eternal woe were to follow the attempt at the fair exchanges of trade; since the freebooter and the pirate could not suffer more than menaced against the merchant who should disregard the maritime monopoly, the seas became infested by reckless buccaneers, the natural offspring of colonial restrictions. Rich Spanish settlements in America were pillaged; fleets attacked and captured; predatory invasions were even made on land to intercept the loads of gold, as they came from{270} the mines, by men who might have acquired honor and wealth in commerce, if commerce had been permitted."

John Fiske, too, in the second volume of his "Historical Essays," dwells upon the causes of the enormous development of piracy in the seventeenth century. Speaking of the struggle of the Netherlands and England against the greatest military power of the world, he said that the former had to rely largely and the latter almost exclusively, upon naval operations, and continued:

"Dutch ships on the Indian Ocean and English ships off the American coasts effectually cut the Spaniard's sinews of war. Now in that age ocean navigation was still in its infancy, and the work of creating great and permanent navies was only beginning. Government was glad to have individuals join in the work of building and equipping ships of war, and it was accordingly natural that individuals should expect to reimburse themselves for the heavy risk and expense by taking a share in the spoils of victory. In this way privateering came into existence and it played a much more extensive part in maritime warfare than it now does. The navy was but incompletely nationalized. Into expeditions that were strictly military in purpose there entered some of the elements of a commercial speculation, and as we read them with our modern ideas we detect the smack of buccaneering."

England in dealing leniently with these buccaneers sailing under her flag, argued that since the gold and silver carried from America to Spain in Spanish ships was used to defray the expenses of a war which threatened her, English mariners were justified in capturing these vessels and seizing such treasures. But there is little doubt that by this interpretation the doors were opened wide to all sorts of trickery and outrage, carried on regardless whether the countries under whose flags both captors and captured sailed were at the time at war or at peace. Thus the naval and commercial restrictions, which Spain imposed upon other countries, proved at the end a boomerang, which did irreparable loss to Spain itself.

For the long war with England had greatly weakened{271} Spanish power and when the peace of 1604 was concluded, the once so powerful country was visibly entering upon its downward path. Philip II, called the Great, had left a son, Philip III, who had neither the personality nor the ability to continue his famous father's policy of imperialism. Before long it was found that the naval power had sunk from the proud Armada which had challenged England in the time of Queen Elizabeth to no more than thirteen galleys. Ship-building practically ceased. To bring the tobacco crop from Havana to Spain, French and British vessels had to be hired. Nothing was done to keep up the military strength of the kingdom which had once ranked as Europe's greatest military power and had as such been feared by other nations. The army was composed either of inexperienced youths or of nerveless old men. The magazines and arsenals stood empty. With no ships patrolling the seas and protecting the coasts, the predatory outlaws of the ocean, sailing under various flags, soon recognized in the Spanish overseas possessions a territory which upon slight effort promised to yield rich booty. Cuba, Santo Domingo, Jamaica and other West Indian Islands were repeatedly ravaged by them. They established settlements on St. Christopher's Island, called St. Kitts, and on one of the Bahamas, and from these bases carried on their destructive operations.

Notwithstanding the great progress which navigation had made during the previous century, news between the Eastern and the Western continent traveled slowly. This proved a serious drawback to an efficient management of the colonies which European powers had established in America. It was responsible for a great deal of confusion and for the dilatory policy which characterized the government of the Spanish West Indies. Communication between the mother country and Cuba was so irregular and unreliable that Philip III, the new king, was not proclaimed in Cuba until the spring of the year 1599. Yet at no time was the fate of the island more{272} closely linked with that of Spain, whose decline profoundly affected Cuba's political and economic conditions during the seventeenth century.

In that most critical period for Spain, when the fate of the Kingdom passed from the hands of Philip the Great into those of his incapable successor, Cuba had the good fortune of being under the administration of strong and able governors. D. Juan Maldonado Barrienuevo, who entered upon his office in the year 1596, did a great deal towards the improvement of the capital, starting the erection of a government house and a public prison. He recognized the great value of sugar as one of the staple products of the island and by every measure possible encouraged the cultivation of sugar cane. He obtained from the King special exemptions and privileges for the builders and owners of sugar mills. He was the first to construct that of Vicente Santa Maria in Fuente de Chaves. Sugar was at that time sold at fabulous prices. A cargo of sugar of inferior quality brought in Seville as much as twelve pesos per arroba (twenty-five pounds). The importation of and traffic in African negroes who were set to work on the sugar plantations was inseparable from this industry which henceforth became the chief source of Cuba's wealth. But Maldonado, too, had troubles with the pirates. As the two galleys in the port were known to be absolutely useless, the pirates approached almost within cannon-shot of the place.

The administration of D. Pedro de Valdes, Ensign (alfevez major) of the Order of Santiago and nephew of the famous admiral of that name, began most auspiciously. He was appointed successor of Maldonado in 1602. A worthy heir of his uncle's glory, he started for his post from San Lucas with a galleon and a galizabra (vessel used in the Levantine trade) on the seventeenth of April. On his voyage he captured an enemy vessel, sailed bravely through a Dutch squadron and sank three of their ships in the port of Santo Domingo. After putting to flight a horde of smugglers that swarmed about{273} the coasts of Cuba, he cast anchor in Havana on the nineteenth of July, 1602.

Valdes immediately set out to improve the artillery of the fortifications, and even to superintend the casting of the cannon. Within the short space of two years he succeeded in providing the port of Havana with eighty pieces of good quality and various calibre, most of which had been cast in the capital itself. Frequent changes of administration had not only hampered the initiative of minor functionaries and opened the door to official malpractice of miscellaneous nature, but had also perceptibly weakened authority. Valdes was determined to re-enforce it and by his energy and rectitude brought upon himself the hatred of those elements who had encouraged disorder. At the end his only loyal supporter was Friar Juan Cabezas de Altamirano, who had succeeded Salcedo in the bishopric of Santiago. But Valdes did not mind the hostility, which was more or less openly manifested towards his government, and continued his untiring efforts in defense of Spanish interests and policies.

The steadily increasing wealth of these colonies excited the covetousness of the pirates and buccaneers. Realizing the necessity of taking defensive action against them, Valdes armed a few vessels, which under the command of his son, D. Fernando, cruised about and succeeded in capturing several ships. In one of these encounters Valdes was wounded, but he pursued his policy undauntedly. He was also successful in his campaign against smuggling which had extensively developed, especially in Bayamo, whither he sent as his deputy the licentiate Melchior Suarez to inquire into the state of things.

The depredations committed by the pirates at this time were so serious that the safety of the inhabitants was imperilled. The population of Santiago seems to have been especially singled out to be harassed by the outlaws. They set fire to the cathedral and other churches of the town, robbed them of the precious vessels and vestments and committed other outrages. Terror-stricken,{274} the inhabitants fled to neighboring towns or hid in the country. The city faced gradual depopulation. Even the Bishop D. Friu Juan de las Cabezas and some of the government officials withdrew to Bayamo, which, for a time at least, offered safety.

But in the year 1604 even the roads in the vicinity of Bayamo were no longer safe for travelers. When the bishop was on a tour of visitation in the neighborhood, in company with the canons Francisco Pueblo and Diego Sanchez, a horde of pirates under the leadership of the notorious Giron surprised him at the stock farm of Yara. They tied him and took him barefoot to Mazanillo, where one of their bilanders (sloops) was anchored. They kept him on board their vessel for the period of eighty days, expecting the authorities of the town to present themselves and offer an enormous sum as ransom. The name of Gregorio Ramos is inscribed in the annals of the island as the bishop's deliverer. It was an undertaking calling for unusual cleverness and courage and Ramos acquitted himself most brilliantly. He bravely faced the redoubtable Giron and rescued the bishop by paying a ransom of two hundred ducats, one thousand skins and one hundred arrobas (twenty-five pounds of sixteen ounces each) of jerked beef. After having brought the prelate into security, he returned with a force of valiant men and attacked the pirates. He succeeded in destroying the whole horde and even in killing their leader Giron, whose head was triumphantly carried on the point of a lance to Bayamo, where it was exhibited in the market-place.

The growth of the island which then numbered from eighteen to twenty thousand inhabitants was greatly hampered by such invasions. Santiago offering so little safety, the bishop ventured to suggest the removal of the cathedral to Havana; but the plan was found impracticable and never carried out. In time, however, the prelates began to ignore the disapproval of the government and to install themselves in Havana. Other members of the ecclesiastical cabildo (chapter) followed their{275} example and also left Santiago. Governor Valdes, in accord with the ayuntamento, demonstrated to the king the pitiful state of the island and urged as an indispensable necessity the stationing of a permanent fleet in Cuban waters. Only in this way did it seem possible to check the increasing pirate menace which was paralyzing commerce and arresting the progress of the island.

But the royal government at Madrid, weak and helpless in the hands of an incapable sovereign, lacked stability and strength to cope with the unrest and confusion that gradually set in. The inadequate fortifications and insufficient garrison had left the coast of Cuba almost without defense. Knowledge of these conditions had spread among the corsairs prowling about and awaiting an opportunity to descend upon the unprotected population and made them more and more audacious. Philip III, a weak though humane ruler, had transferred the reigns of government to his favorite, the Duke of Lerma. But procrastination seems to have been one of the permanent features in the Spanish kingdom's management of her American possessions, and little was done to insure her safety.

At last the king heeded the clamorous appeals of the authorities representing his loyal but unfortunate subjects in Cuba and ordered some timely steps to be taken. Royal letters patent of October eighth, 1607, arrived from Madrid. In order to safeguard the interests of the inhabitants they decreed that the island be divided into two districts, an eastern and a western, with separate jurisdiction, and Havana and Santiago as their respective capitals. The governor of Havana retained the title of Captain-General of the island, but his general jurisdiction was reduced to the territory between Cape San Antonio and eighty leagues east of the capital. The governor of Santiago was named Capitan de Guerra (chief military authority) with a salary of one thousand eight hundred pesos and jurisdiction over the rest of the island including Puerto Principe. The governor and military{276} commander were to remain in Havana, this being the most important district. As governor of Santiago was appointed Juan de Villaverde, a Castilian from the Morro. He was charged with the defense of the place against pirates and other enemies disturbing the peace of the island and impeding its economic and social development.

This division caused innumerable difficulties and conflicts of authority and Valdes had reasons to object to it. He had established order in the Treasury and other branches of the administration, and he feared that the new order might bring new confusion. In the meantime his energy and rectitude caused the plots and intrigues spun by his enemies to multiply to such an extent that they succeeded in reaching the ear of the Spanish Audiencia. Valdes and his deputy Suarez were indicted, but on proving their innocence triumphed over their slanderers by being reinstated in authority. Then the Audiencia reversed the trial by order of the Court, and the calumniators were convicted and sentenced to various penalties. But Valdes once more manifested his noble character by joining the Bishop in an appeal to the King to pardon the convicted men. Soon after he retired from his office.

The court of Spain, represented by the Duke of Lerma, who towards the end of his career succeeded in adding to this title that of a cardinal, seemed at this period to be deeply concerned with the religious life of Cuba. This is apparent during the governorship of Don Gaspar Luis Pereda, Knight of the military order of Santiago, who was inaugurated on the sixteenth of June, 1608. Don Juan de Villaverde y Oceta was appointed to the governorship of Santiago. Monastic orders had acquired much land on the island and established their homes. There were at that time six convents in Cuba; three in Havana, of the order of San Franciscus, San Domingo and San Augustin, one of mercenarios, of the order of la Merced in Trinidad, and two others of the Franciscan order in Santiago and Bayamo. The government of Cuba was instructed by royal decree to inquire{277} into and superintend the establishment of the convent of St. Augustine, then in process of erection in Havana.

The excellent bishop Cabezas, who had so signally distinguished himself during the preceding administration, was in the year 1610 promoted to the bishopric of Guatemala. He was replaced by the Carmelite padre Don Alfonso Enriquez de Almendariz, who immediately made efforts to have the king remove his episcopal seat to Havana. This caused serious disputes between the bishop and Governor Pereda, who sent the king a report disapproving of this removal. The conflict between the two culminated in the excommunication of Pereda by the bishop. The administration of his successor, Don Sancho de Alquiza, former governor of Venezuela and Guyana, was brief. He was inaugurated on the seventh of September, 1616, and died on the sixth of June, 1619. He was much interested in the economic development of Cuba, promoted the development of sugar industry, encouraged the employment of negroes on the plantations. His efforts to exploit the mineral wealth of the island were also commendable. He placed the supervision of the copper mines under the direction of the military government and the work proceeded most promisingly. The copper extracted was of superior quality and two thousand quintals of the metal were annually exported to Spain.

The sudden death of Alquiza led to much agitation due to the violent spirit of rivalry between the auditor Don Diego Vallizo and the Castellan of the Morro, Geronimo del Quero, who aspired to the governorship. A great calamity occurred in Havana during this interim administration. On the twenty-second of April, 1620, a fire broke out and assumed such disastrous proportions, that two hundred homes were destroyed and the growth of the city was for a time seriously crippled.

The dangers that beset the development of Cuba were rapidly multiplying instead of diminishing. Frequent change of administration was not calculated to insure{278} efficiency and stability in the management of the island's affairs. Enterprises begun under one governor were interrupted under the next. Sometimes the original plan was essentially changed and entirely abandoned. A striking example of this sad state of affairs was furnished during the third decade of the seventeenth century. Don Francisco Venegas was inaugurated as governor on the fourteenth of August, 1620. He had been charged with the organization of a war fleet for the protection of the coast from invasions by pirates and freebooters. For that purpose he had brought with him some vessels. They came at an opportune moment for British and Dutch hookers had been roving in West Indian waters. The vessels of the Cuban armadilla under Vazquez de Montiel defeated these intruders at the Island of Tortuga, captured three of them and put their crews to the sword. But joy over this victory was offset by the epidemic of malignant fever which broke out and raged among the population. Another great loss to Spain was occasioned by the hurricane which in the following year sank on the reefs of Los Martires several vessels of the fleet that had been sent by Marquis de Cadreyta, D. Lope Diaz Armendiarez, and were returning to Spain with great riches.

Governor Venegas had in obedience to instructions from his government armed an esquadron, for the maintenance of which he had imposed upon the people a special tax. But on his death, on the eighteenth of April, 1624, it was found that the work on the fleet was far from complete, and in spite of the constant menace of invasion by pirates, nothing was heard of a resumption of the task during the governorship of his successors. The political governor who temporarily assumed the reigns of the administration was D. Damian Velasquez de Contreras, assisted by Juan Esquiro Saavedra as military governor. During their interimistic rule a prison was built and a new monastery established.

The successor nominated in the place of Venegas in the{279} year 1624 was the Governor of Cartagena, Don Garcia Giron, who, however, resigned on the twentieth of July of the same year. During the interim occasioned by his resignation the names of Esquival Aranda and de Riva-Martiz are mentioned in connection with the management of the island's affairs. There finally arrived from Spain D. Lorenzo de Cabrera, a native of Ubeda, corregido of Cadiz, field-marshal and Knight of the Order of Santiago. He was duly installed in his office on the sixteenth of September, 1626. In the command of the Morro Esquival was replaced by Captain Cristobal de Arranda and in the government of Santiago Rodrigo de Velasco was succeeded by Captain D. Pedro de Fonseca.

During the administration of Cabrera, Cuba was agitated by many exciting occurrences. Cabrera and the Marquis de Cadreyta, who commanded the fleet that had brought him to Havana, made a thorough inspection of the fortifications in order to report on their condition and propose improvements. Among the most urgent Cabrera considered the manufacture of a copper chain to shut off the entrance to the two forts; he also had an intrenchment constructed capable of sheltering two companies. The plan to block the entrance of the port with trunks of trees in order to prevent pirates from making an entry, seems, however, to have been somewhat quixotic. As Spain was then at war with the United Provinces, Cabrera provided for possible contingencies by furnishing the forts with large stores of provisions and took other measures to prepare for eventual attacks by the enemy.

These preparations proved to be only too justified. For the Dutch had fitted out an expedition against the Spanish possessions in America. In June of that year there appeared a fleet of more than thirty vessels with three thousand men, commanded by Pit Hein, one of the most famous mariners of his time. The Dutch had several encounters with the Spanish fleet and were compelled to retire from Havana, which they had tried to enter. They gained some advantages over the armada com{280}manded by Don Juan de Benavides, but in the following year the Spaniards inflicted great losses upon the Dutch fleet commanded by Cornelius Fels, driving him back from Havana and capturing one of his frigates.

A little pamphlet published or printed by Heinrich Mellort Jano in Amsterdam in 1628 gives the Dutch version of the expedition of Pit Hein. It is entitled "Ausführlicher Bericht wie es der Silber Flotille herganger wann (durch wen wie und wie viel) solcherin diesem 1628. Jahr Erobert fort und eingebracht." Therein is related with much detail how the West India Company, recognizing the rich booty which the capture of Spanish ships promised, had furnished and fitted out a fleet and manned it with a crew of brave and hearty sailors and soldiers, with the avowed purpose of intercepting a silver-laden fleet returning from the colonies to Spain. The Dutch set out on the twentieth of May, 1628, under the command of General Petri Peters Heyn and Admiral Heinrich Corneli Lang.

The Dutch reached San Antonio on the west end of Cuba on the fourth of August. Their arrival became known to the Spaniards and on the twenty-third of that month Governor Cabrera dispatched some vessels to warn the silver fleet. General Peters Heyn sailed close up to the fortifications of Havana and then turned three or four miles out to sea to meet the treasure-laden ships, which his informers had reported to be sailing in that neighborhood, but south winds drove him northeast. Finally on the eighth of September the famous fleet hove in sight, and the Dutch captured nine vessels, and seeing eight more, sailed briskly out to cut them off from the port of Havana. The Spaniards arrived at Matanzas Bay, hotly pursued by the Dutch, and immediately organized a defensive. But they were outnumbered in the combat which ensued and laid down their arms. The Dutch General and his staff offered thanks to the Almighty for this great victory. The next day the ships were all secured fast by chains, and the third day the{281} booty was unloaded from the Spanish and transferred to the Dutch ships. There were bars of silver, crosses, chalices, other vessels and art objects fashioned out of silver, in all weighing eighteen thousand four hundred pounds.

The Dutch started on their home voyage on the seventeenth of September and took with them four Spanish galleons, two laden with skins and two with iron and other ore. On the twenty-sixth they reached Bermuda and sent two couriers to Holland to report to the directors of the West India Company. The first reached Rotterdam on the fifteenth of November and received from the Prince of Orange as reward for the good news a jewelled gold chain. To the story of the expedition is added a detailed account of the goods carried by the individual ships, which shows that they also brought dye-stuffs, oil, wine, silks, furniture and other merchandise which with the silver, other ore and skins brought the total value up to thirty millions, presumably of Dutch gulden.

In the meantime there sailed from Cadiz an imposing squadron under the command of the Marquis de Valdueza and carrying as second in command the celebrated mariner D. Antonio de Oquendo. The object of the expedition was to clear the coasts of the islands of all the pirates which had begun to infest the Antilles. Off Nelson's Island, or Nevis, so called by Columbus in 1493 because the cloud-veiled summit of its highest peak reminded him of snow, they captured four Dutch corsairs in a violent combat from which the island suffered seriously. In September the Spanish fleet sailed for the island of San Cristobal, and obtained possession of the fortifications of Charles and Richelieu, compelling the French filibusters who were garrisoned there to surrender. These brilliant exploits had within the brief space of eight weeks placed the Spaniards in possession of two thousand three hundred prisoners, one hundred and seventy-three pieces of artillery, seven vessels and a great quantity of arms, powder and tobacco. Besides losing{282} the islands the pirates suffered a loss of property to the amount of fifty million pesos. For a time the Antilles and surrounding sea enjoyed freedom from the menace that had hung over them and disturbed their tranquillity for so many years.

But in spite of these successes Cabrera was unpopular. By permitting a cargo of negroes to be sold in Havana he had called forth heated discussion in official circles and among the people. Not a few voices were heard to question his honesty. Other charges, some of a grave nature, were raised against him and an investigation was demanded. In response to the island's urgent request the Court of Madrid sent Don Francisco de Praga, prosecutor of the Audiencia of Santo Domingo, to Cuba, with instructions to inquire into the state of things. The charges being proved, Cabrera was removed from office on the seventh of October, 1630, and taken to Spain for trial. He died in Seville in a dungeon. De Praga acted as provisional political governor, and the Alcalde of the Morro, Cristobal de Arranda, as military governor until the successor of Cabrera arrived from Spain.{283}


Spain was at this time gradually working her defection, political and economic. Philip III. had died in 1621 and, as he had thrown the responsibilities of the government upon the shoulders of the Duke of Lerma, so his successor, Philip IV., left them to his favorite Olivares. Olivares immediately renewed the war with the United Provinces, which were still a thorn in the flesh of Spain, for, on being freed from the Spanish yoke, they had plunged into feverish activity which portended their development into a maritime and mercantile power bound in due time to rival and surpass Spain.

The Dutch were by the nature of their country obliged to seek their means of subsistence upon the sea and in far-off regions. Their famous son, Hugo Grotius, had been the first to proclaim the freedom of the seas as an indispensable condition to the growth and progress of the world's civilization. Since Lisbon had closed her ports to the Netherlands and Spain was imposing a series of unreasonable restrictions upon the navigators of other countries, the Dutch had for some time past been determined to discover a passage by which their ships could penetrate the seas of Asia. Dutch mariners who had been in the employ of the Spaniards and Portuguese and had shared in their voyages of discovery, had brought home tales of the strange lands and stranger peoples, which stirred the imagination of the ambitious and capable nation. The unknown continents and islands stimulated the scholars' desire for investigation and research. Exaggerated reports about the mineral wealth and other treasures of the New World had roused the merchants' spirit of enterprise and acquisition. As visions of the riches that awaited development in those foreign climes,{284} and of territories they might once call their own, rose before the minds of these merchant princes and lords of the sea, the thirst of conquest quickened in this sturdy seafaring people.

Step by step the Dutch followed the discoveries and explorations of the Spaniards, and recorded and described them minutely. From the middle of the sixteenth century on the publishing houses of Amsterdam, Leyden and other centers of the printing trade of the country sent out books dealing with the new continent conquered by their enemy, and especially the West Indies. Stirred by this reading, the spirit of the people rose and demanded a share in the lands and the wealth which their mariners had helped to discover. There was an abundance of unemployed labor and capital in the country. Hence the government, knowing only too well that the future of the Dutch people lay on the seas, encouraged this spirit and deliberated upon numerous plans of exploration and colonization.

The first step towards a realization of these plans was taken when a charter was granted to the Dutch East India Company, which gave that organization the exclusive right to commerce beyond the Cape of Good Hope on the one side and the Straits of Magellan on the other side. As it recalled similarly privileged institutions in feudal times, when the rights of the classes engaged in trade and industry had to be protected against violation by noble lords, more properly called robber barons, the ideal this company represented appealed to the people. Statesmen of other countries realized its advantages and the Dutch East India Company became the model for the great trade corporations which eventually sprang up in France and England.

But the East alone could not engage all the forces of the active little country. The tales of the sailors and the books about the Western Hemisphere made the people look more and more longingly towards the continent and the islands across the Atlantic. There unlimited oppor{285}tunities beckoned; there was an outlet for their energies. But unfortunately the Spaniards had long before this established their claims in that continent and the men at the helm of the Dutch government were determined to keep peace with Spain. Although Holland's great pioneer of the "freedom of the seas," Hugo Grotius, refers in his writings to the great plans upon which the Dutch were deliberating at the time when Captain John Smith sailed for Virginia, no step was taken in that direction until two years after the founding of Jamestown. The voyage of Henry Hudson up the river that bears his name, and the eventual establishment of the colony called Nieuw Amsterdam, did not conflict with any Spanish interests and opened the eyes of the enterprising people to other possibilities in the vast new continent. Before long the ships of the little confederacy were found in many harbors all along the Atlantic coast. They discovered some little islands in the West Indies, which the Spaniards had not found worth while to colonize, because their rocky structure was prohibitive to cultivation. So they did not hesitate to anchor their ships in the inlets of these islands and finally made them a center of contraband traffic with the continent.

The States-General of Holland still hesitated to grant a charter to the long-projected West India Company. But they found means to open to private enterprise almost unrestricted facilities for operation. On the twenty-seventh of March, 1614, they enacted a measure giving private individuals an exclusive privilege for four successive voyages to any passage, harbor or country they should hereafter find. This gave a powerful impetus to the enterprise of Dutch mariners and merchants, and also to adventurers of divers nationality. Finally on the third of June, 1621, the Dutch West India Company received a charter for twenty-four years with privilege of renewal, which gave it the right to traffic and plant colonies on the coast of America from the Straits of Magellan to the extreme north. The ships of the company imme{286}diately adopted the policy of reprisals on Spanish commerce. In the expedition of Pit Hein in 1628, which has been narrated in the previous chapter, the privateers of the company secured booty eighty times more in value than all their own exports for the preceding four years had amounted to. Dutch buccaneers became as much of a menace to Cuban ports and to the ships plying between Cuba and other countries as the French and British had been.

The sixty years of Philip IV.'s reign proved a long series of failures for Spain. They would have resulted in serious disadvantage to the American possessions, and especially to Cuba, had not the immediate successors of Cabrera in the governorship of Cuba been able men who managed the affairs of the island with sagacity and foresight. D. Juan Bitrian de Viamonte, Caballero de Calatrave, a native of Navarre, was appointed head of the administration and entered upon his duties on the seventh of October, 1630. As auditor of the interior was appointed the Licentiate Pedro so who a few months later was succeeded by D. Francisco Rege Corbalan. One of the most famous religious institutions in the West Indies was founded about this time. A pious woman, known as Sister Magdalen de Jesus, opened a retreat for women devoting themselves to a religious life; it was at first called Beaterio, but subsequently became known far and wide as the convent of the nuns of Santa Clara.

Governor Bitrian de Viamonte was neither strong of physique nor of personality; yet he discharged the functions of his office most successfully. During his administration was projected the construction of two towers, one in Chorrera, the other in Cojimar. The garrison of the place was increased and Castellane was made a respectable stronghold. He also organized the militia, creating six companies in Havana, two in Santiago and two in Bayamo. He had, however, serious disagreements with the Marquis de Cadreyta, and being something of an invalid and considered unfit to defend the island against{287} the attacks of some powerful enemy, he was removed to the comparatively easier post of Captain-General of Santo Domingo. His successor was the Field-marshal D. Francisco Riano y Gamboa, a native of Burgos. He suffered shipwreck on the coast of Mariel while on his voyage from Spain and lost everything but his patents, but was duly inaugurated on the twenty-third of October, 1634.

The precautions taken by his successor to insure an effective defense of the island were by no means superfluous. For as the power of Spain was steadily declining, that of the Netherlands and of England was rising. The establishment of the Dutch along the Hudson, their founding of Nieuw Amsterdam and their settlements on some of the minor West Indies, had brought the danger of Dutch invasion nearer than ever before. The colonies founded by the British at Jamestown and Plymouth had brought within reach the eventuality of having to guard the Spanish possessions against the British as well. Dutch and British navigation on the Atlantic was vastly increasing and the future foreshadowed conflicts of the interests of Spain and Holland on the one, and Spain and England on the other side. The Cuban authorities, wrought up and kept in a perpetual state of tension by their experiences with the buccaneers, had become morbidly susceptible to danger of any kind. The appearance of a foreign ship in the neighborhood of Cuban waters sufficed to fill them with the gravest apprehension, lest the stranger might harbor hostile designs.

These apprehensions were justified, for the Dutch soon resumed their operations against Cuba. It was reported that Maurice of Nassau himself had set out with a powerful squadron, though no historian has any record of it. But in July, 1638, Cornelius Fels, who was by the Spaniards called Pie de Palo, appeared in the Bahama Channel, and from that point sailed for Havana at the head of a fleet of some twenty Dutch vessels enforced by some filibusters. Pie de Palo took his post at a convenient{288} place to intercept any message sent by Governor Riano to Mexico or Peru. Near the coast of Cabanas the fleet of the Spaniards, commanded by D. Carlos Ibarra and composed of seven badly armed galleons and hookers, came across the Dutch. Ibarra formed a battle line extending his vessels so as to flank the enemy. Pie de Palo with six of his galleons bravely attacked the Spanish ships Capitana and Almirante, being under the impression that they carried a great quantity of coined money and bars of gold and silver.

Relying on the experience and the valor of Ibarra and Pedro de Ursua, who commanded the two vessels so proudly attacked by Pie de Palo, the captains Sancho Urdambra, Jacinto Molendez, the Marquis de Cordenosa, Pablo Contreras and Juan de Campos endeavored in the mean time to check the other galleons of the enemy. The unequal combat between Ibarra and Ursua and the Dutch vessels lasted eight hours and the brave Spanish sailors issued from it as victors. Pie de Palo was seriously wounded, more than four hundred Dutchmen were killed and three of their vessels were destroyed. The enemy fled, pursued by Ibarra, who returned to Vera Cruz after saving the honor of the Spanish flag and the riches the fleet had carried. They sang a Te Deum in Mexico as thanksgiving for the victory and King Philip IV. rewarded Ibarra and his men by rich gifts. The success of this expedition awakened in Havana the old spirit of adventure and military prowess. Cuba had so far been the victim of piracy and privateering; now it decided to defend her rights by fitting out her own privateers and sending them against the enemy. The first encounter was with corsairs that had been lying in wait for a vessel coming from Vera Cruz; the Cuban who distinguished himself in the command of the expedition which frustrated the enemy's designs, was Andres Manso de Contreras.

The demand for ships suitable for undertakings of this kind was so great that the ship-builders Carera{289} and Perez of Oporto were kept busy building vessels for that purpose.

The administration of D. Francisco Riano y Gamboa was short, but some important measures were enacted in that period. The Exchequer Tribunal de Corientes was established with a single auditor for the royal chests of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Florida and other Spanish possessions. When it was subsequently found that the duties were too numerous for one man, a second official was appointed. It was then arranged that while one of the auditors was to remain in Cuba, the other was alternately to visit the other cajas (chests). In this way the government tried to avoid delays and complications which had caused considerable trouble. At this period, too, a commission of the Inquisition of Carthagena, elsewhere generally abolished, established its residence in Havana. Ecclesiastical life assumed greater proportions and a wider sphere of influence. Bishops who had previously looked upon Havana as an undesirable place of residence, no longer hesitated to accept a call to that city.

Work on the fortifications of the island was actively pursued during the administration of Gamboa. It was ordered that el Morro should have a garrison of two hundred, and that as soon as feasible, la Punta and la Fuerza were to be garrisoned by one hundred men each. The construction of the fort at the entrance to the port of Santiago de Cuba was an important improvement. It was called San Pedro de la Rocca, in honor of the governor of that city, D. Pedro de la Rocca, although it is generally known as the Morro. A garrison was installed, consisting of one hundred and fifty men sent from the Peninsula, and the ammunition destined for the defense came from New Spain. The power of the armadilla, which had theretofore been arbitrary, was also regulated at this time. Governor Gamboa, however, retired from office on the fifteenth of September, 1639, when he had barely inaugurated these improvements, and sailed for Spain.{290}

Gamboa's successor was D. Alvaro de Luna y Sarmiento, a knight of the Order of Alcantara. During his administration, which began on the fifteenth of September, 1639, and ended on the twenty-ninth of September, 1647, the work of constructing defenses was eagerly pushed. Two leagues leeward of Chorrera a fort was erected. At the mouths of the rivers Casiguagas and Cojimar were built the two towers that had been planned by Governor Viamonte; they were intended to protect those advanced points of the capital. The able engineer Bautista Antonelli superintended the construction of these works of fortification. As the cost of these structures was defrayed by the inhabitants of the city, the governor saw fit to entrust their defense to three companies of men recruited from the native population. It was the first regiment of the kind organized on the island. By January of the next year the fortifications of the Castillo del Morro were also completed.

With the insurrection of Portugal which occurred at this period the pirates became bolder and renewed their outrages. The Dutch, too, threatened Havana once more. A squadron commanded by Admiral Fels had approached close to the coast, but had been driven back by a violent hurricane. Four of the vessels had been left between Havana and Mariel. Governor Luna sent Major Lucas de Caravajal against them; three hundred Dutch were taken prisoners, and seventeen bronze cannon, forty-eight iron cannons, two pedreros (swivel guns) and a great stock of arms and ammunition were captured. The captured pieces served to reenforce the artillery of the forts of La Punta and Morro.

D. Diego de Villalba y Toledo, Knight of the Order of Alcantara, became the successor of Governor Luna on the twenty-eighth of September, 1647. His assistant deputy was the Licentiate Francisco de Molina. A great calamity befell the island in the second year of his administration. A terrible epidemic broke out in the spring of 1649; the documents and chronicles of the period give{291} hardly any details about the origin and the character of the disease, but it was most likely a putrid fever imported from the Indian population of Mexico and Cartagena by barges that had come from those places. The people who were attacked by it succumbed within three days, and it was estimated that in the course of five months one third of the population died.

Among those who died as victims of the scourge were the deputy auditor Molino and the three licentiates who succeeded him, Pedroso, Torar and Olivares, an Alcalde and many other functionaries, one third of the garrison and a great number of the passengers and crew of the fleet which its general, D. Juan Pujedas, had held ready to station in Havana. Governor Villalba himself was seriously ill and only saved by utmost care. The ravages of the epidemic seriously disturbed not only the ordinary activities of the population, but also the regular routine of the administration.

During this period of suffering and sorrow the conduct of the religious orders of both sexes was so admirable as to deserve special mention and warm recognition. The monks and nuns received the sick in their monasteries and convents, tenderly cared for them and when they did not succeed to nurse them back to health, escorted the victims to their graves. Among those who individually distinguished themselves by this true Christian spirit was Padre Antonio de Jesus. After the epidemic had spent itself and Governor Villalba had recovered, he organized a company of militia lancers under the command of Martin Calvido la Puerta, one of the wealthiest men of Havana. Like many other governors of Cuba, Villalba became at the end the victim of calumny and cabal. The government of Spain relieved him from his office and the Oidor of Santo Domingo, D. Francisco Pantoja de Ayala, was charged with an investigation of the complaints and accusations brought against him.

The victories of the Dutch fleets in India, Brazil and Peru and their conquest of some of the West Indian{292} Islands, as also England's expansion of her dominions and the growth of her naval power were cause for grave anxiety. Measures of defense and protection became the subject of interminable discussions in the official circles of Madrid and Havana. The governors sent over by the court were urged to multiply their effort to fortify Cuba and insure safety from attacks by covetous enemies. D. Francisco Gelder, Field-marshal and Knight of Calatravas, succeeded Villalba and was inaugurated on the twenty-eighth of March, 1653. One of his first official acts was to sever communication with Santiago and Bayamo, for these two towns were at that time ravaged by the same epidemic from which Havana had suffered. His preventative measure set an example which was soon after followed by the authorities of Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Puerto Principe, Baracoa and Remedios, and the spreading of the epidemic being checked, the island soon returned to normal conditions.

Like other governors before him, Gelder showed a deplorable leniency towards those elements of the population that carried on contraband traffic with negroes. But he displayed great energy in the persecution of pirates. During his administration Captain Rojas de Figuerosa captured the island of Tortuga, which had been a formidable base of corsair operations. The news of this exploit caused great rejoicing in Havana and was celebrated by a Te Deum under the direction of Bishop Torre. Gelder also devised a plan to protect Havana from invasion by land. He proposed to open a canal from the extreme interior bay running north and extending to the sea, which would have surrounded the town by water and make it practically safe. But the suggestion did not seem to meet with approval. Before any other plans could be drafted, he died of apoplexy, on the twenty-third of June, 1654, and in the interval between his death and the arrival of his successor from Spain, the government was administered by the Regidor D. Ambrosio de Soto and D. Pedro Garcia Montanes, commandant of Morro.{293}

The newly appointed governor, Field-marshal D. Juan Montano Velasquez, was inaugurated in June, 1655, but dying within a year, did not vitally influence the course of affairs in the island. His plan of fortifying Havana consisted in enclosing the city with walls from the landside, running a rampart with ten bastions and two half-bastions. For the execution of this plan the neighborhood of Havana offered to contribute nine thousand peons (day-laborers) and the town corporation imposed a tax on every pint of wine sold to assist in defraying the expenses of the construction. The king approved heartily of these offers and ordered that the treasury of Mexico should aid by an additional contribution of twenty-thousand pesos. But the historian Arrato reports that the whole scheme was soon after abandoned on account of the war in which Spain was about to be involved.

The British, their appetite for colonial possessions once being awakened, saw in the growing weakness of Spain an opportunity to get hold of some of her dominions. It was well known that Cromwell, although England was then at peace with Spain, tried hard to increase and strengthen its political and commercial power in America. The British had already conquered the islands Barbadoes and San Cristobal, and in the year 1655 a squadron of fifty-six vessels and a great number of transports sailed from England, determined to wrest from Spain more of her West Indian possessions. A force of nine thousand men was on these vessels, many of them filibusters who had joined the British.

The British command had primarily in view the conquest of Santo Domingo; but, being repelled, it concentrated its efforts upon Jamaica. The governor and his people stubbornly resisted the inroads of the enemy. In the desperate struggle with a superior and well-trained force two brave land-holders distinguished themselves by their heroism: D. Francisco Proenza and D. Cristobal de Isasi. But their small and poorly equipped forces were outnumbered by the numerous and well prepared{294} enemy; they were finally obliged to retire within the fortified camp and to surrender the place to the British invaders. Panic-stricken and unwilling to live under the rule of the enemy, thousands of Jamaicans left for Cuba. The population of this island having been recently decimated by the great epidemic, the refugees were warmly welcomed. They numbered about ten thousand and the population of Cuba increased, until it was estimated at forty thousand. This, however, did not compensate Cuba for the loss of Jamaica, which in time became as valuable to the British as it became ruinous to Spanish commerce.

The comparatively easy victory of the British was a heavy blow to Spanish pride and ranks high among the great disasters that marked the reign of Philip IV. Realizing that Cuba might at any time suffer the same fate as Jamaica, one hundred thousand soldiers were sent over from the Peninsula and some ammunition from Spain. The establishment of the British in colonies so near to Cuba was a constant menace to its security, and during his brief administration Governor Montano devoted himself with commendable perseverance to the improvement of the defenses of Havana, beginning with the most important and urgent work upon its walls. But before the realization of his plans Montano was taken ill and died during Easter week of the year 1656.

The conquest of Jamaica by the British had furnished the world such incontestable proof of Spain's military decline, that the lawless elements roving the sea under the black flag of the pirates once more set out upon their criminal expeditions. They extended their depredations to the whole coast of Spanish America and menaced the life and property of the inhabitants wherever the lack of forts or adequate garrisons facilitated their manœuvres. As the pirates were supposed to be either British or French, the government of Spain was suddenly roused to action and entered complaints at the courts of France and England. But they received little satisfaction beyond an exchange of polite diplomatic notes, which contained{295} nothing reassuring whatsoever. Both governments replied that the miscreants were private individuals and criminals for whose actions their government, however seriously it discountenanced them, was by no means responsible. Moreover, interference was out of the question, since the offenses were committed outside of the jurisdiction of the respective countries. Spain was thus left to her own resources in proceeding against those disturbers of the peace and safety of her American colonies.

But these colonies were thousands of miles away and Spain, under the weak rule of a weak sovereign, was too much absorbed by the futile effort to stay the decline of her European power. Roussillon and Artois had been ceded to France, the war with Portugal was dragging along hopelessly. Although the revenues of the crown had been materially increased under the king's favorite, Olivares, the profligate extravagance of the court was forever draining the coffers. The colonies had to get along as best they could and they had a troublesome time to fight the ever growing menace of pirate invasion with little or no aid from the mother country.

The death of Governor Montano made necessary another provisional government; it consisted of D. Diego Ranzel, as political and the Alcalde Jose Aguirera as military governor. When the duly appointed new governor, Captain General D. Juan de Salamanca, entered upon his office on the fifth of March, 1658, he soon found his hands full. Some years before, a number of Frenchmen, regardless of the Spanish claim of priority, had settled on the island of Tortuga. They were hunters, planters and laborers, with a fair sprinkling of adventurers. The settlement had grown into a real colony, before the Spaniards became aware of the fact that it constituted a grave danger. Several expeditions were sent against them, but failed to dislodge them. Encouraged by this triumph over the Spaniards, these intruders set about to extend their operations to the coast contiguous to Hayti. Sometimes these men were working by authority of the{296} French Company of the West Indies, and of the governor appointed to rule over them; at other times they undertook excursions quite independently. They fairly succeeded in making themselves masters of Cape France. Before long they seem to have reached some agreement with the British authorities of Jamaica, to combine for concerted action against Spain, and they began to terrorize the population of the Spanish possessions by sending out piratical expeditions that kept the people on the coasts in constant fear for their life and property.

The work entitled "Pirates of America" contains a wealth of facts concerning the corsairs sent out by these French and British settlements and the many other buccaneers and filibusters that harassed the people of the Spanish colonies. Among them is the story of the famous pirate Lolonois, also known as Francisco Nau and el Olones, whose descent upon Cuba during the administration of Governor Salamanca has all the elements of a thrilling though gruesome melodrama. Lolonois had been in Campeche and was supposed to have perished in one of his forays. But in reality he had made his escape and reached Tortuga, where he was able to arm himself anew. He reached the northern part of Cuba at a small trading town, los Cayo, which he intended to rob of its stores of tobacco, sugar and skins. Some fisherman recognized him and hurried to Havana with the news that Lolonois had arrived with two boats and was planning a raid. The governor doubted, having been assured of his death at Campeche, but urged by the entreaties of the men, he sent against him a vessel with ten pieces of artillery and ninety armed men. Their order was not to return until the pirate horde was annihilated; every one of them was to be hung, except Lolonois who was to be brought to Havana alive.

The pirates somehow were fully informed of the expedition against them and awaited the arrival of the vessel in the Riviera estera where it was to anchor. They terrorized some poor fisherfolk into showing them the en{297}trance to the port, hoping there to find better boats than their own canoes. They reached the war-ship at two o'clock in the morning and were asked by the sentinel whence they came and whether they had seen any pirates. They made a prisoner answer for them, that they had not seen any, and the sentinel saw no cause for alarm. At day-break the Cubans found out their mistake; for the pirates began to attack them from all sides with such violence that their artillery was soon of no avail. Sword in hand the outlaws forced the Spaniards to hide in the lower parts of the ship. Then Lolonois ordered them to be brought on deck, one by one, and had their heads cut off. Thus the whole force perished with the exception of one, who was sent as courier to the governor with the insolent message:

"I shall never give quarter to a Spaniard, I cherish the firm hope to execute on your own person what I did with those you sent with your vessel and what you intended to do with me and my companions."

Lolonois finally met with a tragical death in Nicaragua. But although the lack of preparedness on the part of the Cubans and the inefficiency of the commander and his crew make this story almost incredible, the exploit of the British pirate Juan or Henry Morgan in Puerto del Principe, is equally remarkable and vouched for not only in the book mentioned above, but also by the historian Urrutia. Morgan planned an attack upon Havana with twelve vessels, but yielding to the persuasion of his officers who feared its forts, he contented himself with descending upon the neighboring coast town. As the fleet approached, a Spanish prisoner dashed into the water, swam ashore and warned the people of the danger. They put into safety their most precious household goods and when they gathered about the alcalde numbered about eight hundred men. A detachment of cavalry was displayed in hope of intimidating the approaching pirates and attacking them from the rear.{298} But the enemy advanced in good order, and when the Alcalde and many of the leaders were killed, the people fled to the mountains. Morgan's forces entered the city, where they met with some resistance, but when the pirates threatened to set fire to the town, the people gave up to them. As soon as they saw themselves masters of the place, the pirates locked the inhabitants into the churches, plundered as much as they could find and so ill-treated their victims that many died. Then they demanded ransom, threatening to take them to Jamaica, if it were not paid in two weeks. Before the term expired some of the pirates captured a negro coming towards the town with a message from the governor of Cuba, promising the people quick help. Morgan then demanded five hundred bulls or cows with sufficient salt to salt them to be driven to the coast, took with him six hostages and fifty thousand pesos cash and jewels, and left his companions attending to the shipping of the cattle.

To fortify her coasts and strengthen the garrison of her forts became an urgent need for Cuba and brooked no delay. For while the government of Spain deliberated at leisure upon means to furnish the much-needed aid, the enemy was alive to the opportunity which inadequate defense offered. The invasion of Santiago de Cuba, which is the most important event of Salamanca's governorship, was a flagrant example of what could at any time happen at any point along the Spanish American coast. One October day in the year 1663, a British squadron, according to some authorities consisting of fifteen, according to others of eighteen ships of various sizes appeared at the entrance to the port, with unmistakably hostile intention. The commandant of the Morro immediately informed the governor, D. Pedro Morales, of this unwelcome arrival, but the governor did nothing except summon the troops to their respective quarters. Morro was garrisoned by only eighty men, under an inexperienced captain; some historians give the number as only twenty-five. It seems to have been an {299}unpardonable carelessness on the part of the governor not to have at once dispatched an enforcement to the garrison. The inhabitants volunteered to make a sortie to attack the enemy. But the governor did not seem to realize the seriousness of the situation and forbade them to take any action against them.


The oldest of the fortifications of the former capital of Cuba, erected in the sixteenth century to protect the place from French and English raiders. It occupies a commanding position on a headland overlooking the splendid harbor and the waters which were the scene of the destruction of the last Spanish fleet in Cuban waters.


The enemy's forces landed at a point called Aguadores, three quarters of a league from the city. They numbered eight hundred men and encountered no opposition whatever. But as it was then night, they decided to encamp on the little plain of Lagunas and wait until daybreak. The officials of the garrison, relying on their familiarity with the ground, urged the governor to let them make a sortie with three hundred picked men and take them by surprise. But Governor Morales still doubted that they would have the courage to attack the city and refused the proposal of the brave troops as he had the offer of the people. When the morning came, his amazing credulity must have received a stunning blow. For the enemy, fully armed, began to move towards the city. Disconcerted and confused, Morales hastily ordered the troops out and placed himself at their head. Without any order or strategic plan they moved towards the heights of Santa Anna, where as sole defense he had planted a cannon and had some trenches dug.

It was an easy task to get the better of a commander of such little foresight. Realizing the confusion of the Cuban forces the enemy separated into two columns and proceeded to surround Morales and his men. In the panic which broke out, the voice of Morales was heard to order a retreat. He himself escaped into the city. The British dispatched two hundred men to take Morro, which they found abandoned, the garrison having fled instead of making an attempt to save the fort and their honor. When the British commander entered Morro he was reported to have made the remark, that he alone with his dog and his sword could have defended the place. Morro and Santiago were captured and the enemy unhindered{300} indulged in plunder. The bells of the churches were taken, the artillery of the fort, three vessels lying in the harbor, and a number of negro slaves. Unable to get the furniture and jewels which had been hidden by the residents, the enemy vented their wrath on the Morro, which they blew up; they destroyed the cathedral and killed a few people.

For almost a month they lingered about the place and still the governor did nothing to force them to leave. When the governor of Cuba heard of the plight of Santiago, he immediately summoned an expeditionary corps of five hundred men and hurried to the relief of the sorely tried town; but when he arrived on the fifteenth of November, he learned that the British had on that very day evacuated the town. The historian Urrutia reports that the Audiencia of Santo Domingo entrusted the licentiate D. Nicolas Munez with the investigation of this disgraceful defeat and brought about the removal of Morales. By order of the king he was replaced by the Field Marshal D. Pedro de Bayoa, who was also given two hundred soldiers and war provisions for future eventualities of this kind.

The island had at that time a population of over three hundred thousand inhabitants. The number of negroes had increased and furnished the labor so much needed to work on the plantations. The cultivation of the land was carried on with greater efficiency and began to yield rich results. Governor Salamanca, in spite of his glorious military antecedents, devoted himself preferably to works of peace. He succeeded in promoting tobacco culture and was the author of the decree issued on the fifteenth of October, 1659, which authorized the extension of the fields into the uncultivated plains that were not used for any other purposes. He was profoundly concerned about the morals of Cuban society and attempted to combat the laxity and dissipation that characterized its life. But it seems that his moralizing had no great effect upon the people that were bent upon taking life easy{301} and plunged into pleasure with greater zest than they pursued their work.

But while the population of the island enjoyed comparative security and prosperity, that of the coast towns was steadily worried by danger of invasion. When Governor Salamanca retired from office, the menace was still far from removed. After a provisional government of ten months, Don Rodrigo de Flores y Aldama, Field Marshal and Caballero de Alcantara, entered upon his administration on the fifteenth of June, 1663. With him arrived also a new bishop, Don Juan Saenz de Manosca, a Mexican of immaculate purity and uncompromising severity. He took charge of the diocese on the sixth of August and continued with greater success than Governor Salamanca in the moralization of the community. Realizing the increasing danger of invasion Governor Aldama at once set about to push the work on the walls of Havana. The garrison was increased by two hundred men.

But Aldama was only a year later appointed Captain-General of Yucatan, and a new governor succeeded him, the Field Marshal Don Francisco Davila Crejon y Gaston, who had previously been governor of Gibraltar and Venezuela. He entered upon his office on the thirtieth of July, 1664, and immediately set to work with great energy and perseverance to hasten the construction of more fortifications. His predecessors had stored up an immense amount of building material and there was no reason why the work should not be carried on without delay. But Davila encountered serious difficulties and obstacles because his plans were opposed by the engineer Marcos Lucio and the viceroy la Espanola Marques de Muncere. The resources of the exchequer were at that time so scanty that Orejon ordered the provisory use of fagots in the construction of the fortifications of Havana.

However, El Morro of Santiago de Cuba which had been blown up by filibusters a few years before, was rebuilt under his orders. The batteries of La Punta, la{302} Estrella and Santa Clara were established. The governor of Santiago and D. Pedro Bayone finished these works and also walled up the convent of San Francisco making it equivalent to a fort. In the year 1665 the French pirate Pedro Legrand penetrated into Santo Espiritu with a force of filibusters. He set fire to thirty-three houses and demanded a ransom from every inhabitant. During that and the following year, the pirates plundered more than two hundred haciendas (farms) carrying off cattle and furniture. They committed unspeakable outrages, violating even the wives and daughters of the men whose homes they destroyed or robbed.

One of the most curious historical documents of this period is "De Americansche Zee Rovers," a narrative of piratical exploits on the coasts of Cuba and other Spanish possessions by a member of the redoubtable fraternity, Alexander Exquemeling, a Dutch pirate, whose talent for piracy was coupled with the gift of literary style and a pious disposition. The book was translated into many languages and was very popular at the time; it gives a vivid account of the life and habits of the buccaneers and of conditions in the colonies they visited. Exquemeling had come to Tortuga in one of the vessels of the Dutch West India Company and, as was frequently done then, was sold into servitude for three years. Being ill-treated by his masters, he made his escape and joined the Brothers of the Coast. He was with Morgan at the capture of Puerto del Principe in Cuba, at an attack upon Porto Bello on the Isthmus of Darien and at the dastardly sack of Panama, and indulges in no little moralizing about the monster Morgan and his associates.

In the year 1670 steps were finally taken by the British and the Spanish government to crush this outlaw power of the seas. As if in defiance of this act the expedition against Panama was made which Exquemeling describes with evident horror. He also reports that the new governor of Jamaica, who had been particularly instructed to enforce the treaty against piracy, which in the diplo{303}matic documents goes under the name "American treaty," ordered three hundred French corsairs who had been shipwrecked on the coast of Porto Rico to be slaughtered. But he does not forget to add that the same governor only a few years later secretly abetted the operations of the pirates and even shared in their booty. One ship alone carried such rich freight, that every member of the pirate crew received four hundred pounds and the governor himself a handsome sum of hush-money.

But the grim tragicomedy of Morgan's career reached its climax when the scoundrel, who had brought untold misery to homes in Cuba and other Spanish colonies, suddenly turned about, became respectable, married the daughter of one of the most prominent citizens of Jamaica, and was appointed Judge of the admiralty court. Nor was this all: Charles II knighted him and in 1682 the whilom buccaneer, as Sir Henry Morgan, became Deputy Governor of Jamaica. He held the office three years, during which he mercilessly sacrificed some of his former comrades. Then King James II came upon the throne, and Spain having gathered sufficient evidence to accuse "Sir Henry" of secret complicity with the pirates, he was discharged, sent to England and spent some years in prison. The "American Treaty," however, dealt a blow to piracy in the Western hemisphere; and in due time relieved the inhabitants of Cuba as of other Spanish possessions in America for the nightmare that had threatened them for over a century.{304}


In spite of the "American Treaty" which had for the moment bound Great Britain and Spain together for mutual protection against the pirates, the designs of land-hungry British courtiers and adventurers were by no means abandoned. Spain was not blind to the fact that she had all powers against her, that were playing an important part in the development of the New World. French, Dutch and British were stung with the desire to appropriate to themselves some of its wealth. For many years the British government had jealously watched the progress of Dutch navigation and commerce. Its settlements in North America had whetted the appetite for colonial expansion, which, once awakened, was bound to be satisfied by whatever means diplomacy or strategy offered. Though England and Spain were then nominally at peace, Cromwell was haunted by dreams of British world power and as soon as the Revolution gave him authority to act as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, pursued his visions of conquest.

The act of navigation which was issued in the year 1651 does not with a word mention British monopoly of the colonies; it only established the principle of exclusive maritime commerce by British vessels, equipped for the most part with British citizens, and prohibited foreigners from importing into the Commonwealth other products than those of her own soil or those the sale of which was established in the importing country. Cromwell's idea was without doubt to attack Dutch commerce and build upon its ruins a national British commerce. Holland opposed in vain the act intended to break the friendly relations between the two nations. Parliament was concerned only about British interests and refused to revoke{305} her laws to please her neighbor and ally. The war between England and Holland became inevitable. Cromwell's squadron triumphed and Dutch commerce had to give way to British.

This lesson was not lost upon France which was also haunted by visions of colonial empire and was therefore interested in defending the principle of monopoly. As early as the reign of Queen Isabella, French ambition and desire for colonial possessions had become manifest. As British vessels began to prey upon Spanish colonies, France followed their operations with keen interest and at opportune moments managed to acquire a slice of territory in the New World. In the year when the British had taken possession of Barbadoes, France took half of San Cristobal; when the British settled on the other half of that island, the French took possession of Martinique, Guadeloupe and other small islands. They founded a colony in Cayenne and assisted by corsairs got a hold on the western part of Santo Domingo.

But the greed for territory once awakened, was not easily appeased, and the courtiers of the Restoration, in need of new avenues of wealth to carry on their wonted extravagance, were among the most rapacious claimants of land in America. In the Spring of 1663, the province of Carolina was established, extending from the thirty-sixth degree of north latitude to the river San Matheo and some dissatisfied planters from Barbadoes founded a settlement in the fall of the same year. Having been included by the Spaniards within the limits of Florida, this arbitrary act was bound not to pass unchallenged by Spain. In defiance of the Spanish authorities at St. Augustine the Earl of Clarendon obtained from the King in June, 1665, a charter granting him and his partners all territory lying between the twenty-ninth and the thirty-sixth degree of north latitude from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Not satisfied with these acquisitions, the British turned covetous eyes upon Cuba. A letter written by a Major{306} Smith in the year 1665 and published in the Universal Museum of London in the year 1762, gives an account of the island which requires no comment. It reads:

"Cuba is a very good island and in it is generally, for so large a country, the best land I have seen in America, although I have traveled the main continent in several places and crossed from the north to the south seas as also the north side of Hispaniola, and most parts of Jamaica. This great island is easily to be conquered, and would make the best plantation, besides the prejudice it would be to the Spaniards and the great advantage to our nation. For instance had we the port and city of Havana, which might in all probability be reduced with two regiments of good soldiers from Jamaica, carrying with them two or three sloops or shallops for sending men, provided with good arms and other necessities for an assault. The descent is to be undertaken presently after their armada hath passed out of the Indies which is once in two years, towards the end of the summer. There is a good landing on the west side of the city where it lies open and you need fear no ambuscades, but not on the east side of the harbor, for there you will be galled by the Morro until the city be secured; but when once that is taken, you may easily reduce the castle also and there being no danger of retaking it until the next armada arrives, which will be almost two years, in which time you will have planters enough from other of your islands to manure the land and assist the soldiers in the defense of the island. This conquest being once effected, would utterly ruin the Spaniards and for these reasons; our ships lying both here and at Jamaica, would be at all times ready to gather up their straggling fleet which it is difficult to keep embodied without the help of that port of Havana, it being windward from the bay of Mexico or Puerto Bello, without separation and on the other hand, to pass the Gulf of Florida is impossible should they lose the Havana where they rendezvous victual water and provide all things necessary for their return to Spain. When{307} this is done, they wait for a convenient season of weather (being much observed from the changes of the moon) in order to pass the dangerous strait; for to say truly, the Spaniards are neither very fit for sea nor for land service, excepting some officers and soldiers bred in Flanders, for the latter and a few Biscaniers for sea affairs. They are so sensible of their weakness, and jealous of their riches in those parts that it is very difficult for any ingenious man, once taken by them, to get his liberty, fearing he might give such intelligence as would be the cause of their ruin, witness their blindfolding of all strangers, when they pass their cities and castles, for they much dread an old prophecy among them, that within a short time the English will as freely walk the streets of Havana as the Spaniards now do, which indeed had been easily performed with a third of the army sent to Jamaica and a far greater advantage to the nation; for I esteem that port and harbor of the Havana in the West Indies to be as great a check upon the Spaniards as Tangier in the straits of Gibraltar; and if we were once masters of both they would without doubt be so straightened as absolutely to admit us a free trade into their ports of America, where they import our commodities and sell them for ten times more than they first cost in Spain, by reason of the great plenty of silver, which trade would not only be of great advantage to us, but also prevent their future enslaving our nation in chains, as they now do; for being employed in their fortifications, they are worse used, all things considered, than if they were taken by the Turks. I have seen other parts of the West Indies, where the Spaniards might be fleeced of considerable quantity of riches; as at Panama, where there are silver bars piled up in heaps in the open street day and night, without guard, four, five or six months together, waiting the arrival of the armada, which when arriving in Puerto Bello, they transport it thither with so slender a guard for so great a treasure, that it would be easy prey for a thousand resolute men the expense of{308} whose expedition would be small in comparison to the prize. But there is no resting or long tarrying about the business, the Spaniards being numerous here as in all other places of the main land; a catch and away. This island of Cuba hath adjacent to it great conveniences of salt and fishing and in it is very great plenty of horses, meat, sheep and hogs, both wild and tame, of a far larger and better breed than in other parts of America. Which hath also many rich mines of copper already open and it is the only place which supplies all the West Indies with metal for the infinite number of ordnance they have in all their ports and castles, both in the north and south seas; but whether it hath any mines of silver or gold, I know not; but if there were any such they would venture their opening a discovery fearing the invasion of that island which is of so easy access by sea and of such great importance to their whole interest in America; for which reason also they refuse to work any mines in Florida that are near the north sea (although they have there very many) but would rather employ themselves about others farther in the country although with great labor and cost for conveyance of the produce by land to Mexico; lastly, this island (to complete its praise) hath very good ports and harbors of great advantage to ships for safe passing the gulf; and should the Spaniards keep two or three frigates always plying off there between the western end of Cuba and the Havana, it were impossible for any ships of ours that came from Jamaica to escape them. The scales turned would be their case to all America. Neither wants it great sugar-works, which have both water-mill and horse mills and very many large cocoa walks; the most and best tobacco; in short, it produces all other commodities that any of our American islands have knowledge of."

This letter shows plainly how preoccupied was the British mind with the acquisition of Cuba, and foreshadows the coming events, for which Cuba in spite of{309} all warning symptoms was little prepared. Clouds had gathered about the horizon of Spain and darkened its own outlook.

King Philip IV. had died on the seventeenth of September, 1665, and so inadequate was at that time the means of communication between Spain and her American dominions that it took seven months before news of the event reached the people of Cuba. The heir to the Spanish throne was the three-year-old Charles II. the queen, assisted by the junta, being named regent. If the reign of Philip IV. had been called the most disastrous in the history of the kingdom, that of Charles II. was hardly less so. It was the period when Louis XIV. of France had begun to cherish a dream of universal empire and although a brother-in-law of the Spanish infant-king, did not hesitate to do his share in weakening the power of Spain. In spite of the critical position of the mother-country, the proclamation of the new king was celebrated in Havana with great pomp on the ninth day of May in the following year. At the review held in San Francisco square of that city appeared two companies of mounted militia, four companies of veteran infantry and four others of free Pardos (a mixed race of blacks and whites) and Morenos, sent by the Major Jeronimo Luque Salazar.

The perfidy of the French king contributed seriously to the insecurity of Cuba at this period. There is little doubt that he aided and abetted the operations of French pirates in the West Indies. The island of Tortuga was once more in their hands. Barbadoes and Jamaica were the haunts of great numbers of these outlaws, who kept the Spanish ships sailing on these seas as well as Campeche, Tabasco, Honduras, Nicaragua, New Granada, Costa Rica, Santa Catalina, la Guayra and others of the rich Spanish colonies in the Western Hemisphere in a continual state of suspense. Governor Davila succeeded in several punitive expeditions against the pirates. The notorious Lolonois or El Olones, was executed in Nic{310}aragua and in Cuba itself more than three hundred were hanged in the different places where they had been caught. During Davila's administration some wealthy citizens made bequests for the public good. The most important was that of Martin Calvo, who left an income of five thousand pesos to be annually distributed as gifts among five poor orphan girls. Governor Davila Orejon y Gaston was in the military literature of his time known as the author of a work called "Escelencias del arte militare y variones illustres." He demonstrated in that work the importance of the port of Havana for the conservation of Spanish dominion in Mexico and Peru. He retired from the governorship on the sixth of May, 1670, and died in Venezuela.

The immediate successor of Davila was Field Marshal D. Francisco Rodriguez de Ledesma, Chevalier of the Order of Santiago. Determined to curb the brazen bullying in which the buccaneers were still indulging, he issued privateering patents to a number of valiant mariners and merchants, who were willing to face the foreign pirates in open fight and prevent further encroachments upon the coasts of Spanish America. The two men who especially distinguished themselves in these expeditions were Felipe Geraldini and Major Marcos de Alcala. Ledesma also carried on the work of fortification. During his administration was built a portion of the cathedral under the supervision of D. Juan Bernardo Alonso de Los Rios; but the imposing edifice was not finished until many years later.

Governor Ledesma was not to be spared an experience with the freebooters. In the year 1678 the governor of Guarico sent a certain Franquinay to Santiago with the evident intention of conquering the place. Franquinay, who was a French corsair well-known among the Brotherhood of the Coast landed with eight hundred men at Jaragua Grande in the eastern part of the island. There he engaged a half-witted native by the name of Juan Perdomo to act as guide and started with his forces to{311} march toward the city. It was a moonlit night and on arriving at a point where the road branched into two, the pirate divided his forces, each taking one of the roads. On meeting again at the place where the two branches continued as the highroad, the idiot Perdomo began to shout "Santiago, Spain!" The moon had set in the mean time and in the darkness enveloping them, the pirates did not recognize their own forces and thought this call a signal to the enemy lying in wait for them. They began to fire upon their own forces, in the belief that they were betrayed and surprised by the Spaniards, and killed a great number of their own people, before they became aware of their mistake. In this way was Franquinay's plan to take and ransack the city of Cuba frustrated by a mentally deficient native, one who in the language of the Latin people is called an "innocent." The corsair turned back to the shore with the intention of re-embarking and left Perdomo behind. The half-wit, although manacled, managed to reach Santiago and related his experience to the great delight of the governor and the residents. This was the last attempt of pirate forces upon the capital, the inhabitants of which had been kept in a state of constant alarm for a century and a half. But the smaller towns of the vicinity were for some time harassed by Franquinay who, unable to accomplish his ambitious purpose, vented his wrath upon their population by committing the most cruel outrages.

The expedition of buccaneers under the command of M. de Grammont in February, 1679, was another event that justified the fears of the Cubans and their steps to insure the safeguard of their ports. M. de Grammont landed with a force of six hundred men at Guanaja and succeeded in capturing Puerto del Principe. But the inhabitants valiantly organized and armed themselves to fight the invader. With a scanty reenforcement of soldiers from the garrison they managed to defeat the enemy's horde and pursued them as far as the port of Guanaja. There M. de Grammont, who was wounded{312} in the course of the combat, retired into a trench which was sufficiently fortified to offer some resistance. On the twenty-fifth of the month an engagement took place, which forced the pirates to take to their ships and hurriedly to leave for the open sea. They had not only accomplished nothing, but suffered the loss of seventy dead and many wounded.

Notwithstanding the two countries being at peace, the feeling between Great Britain and Spain was gradually becoming more and more hostile. During the pirate raids and other expeditions of British vessels off the Spanish-American coasts, British soldiers and sailors had been taken prisoners and were held in what was equivalent to bondage. The British government had repeatedly remonstrated against this procedure, but the Cuban authorities had not forgotten Jamaica and other operations of the British in Spanish America and were not inclined to parley. Ships had been sent to Havana to demand the release of the men, but even then the emissaries of the British government failed to obtain any satisfaction. Their demands were flatly refused. Finally the Earl of Clarence, who was then governor of Jamaica, dispatched the British ship Hunter under command of Captain John Tosier to Havana. A full account of this expedition is given in "A Letter from Captain John Tosier, Commander of His Majesty's ship the Hunter at Jamaica. With a narrative of his embassy to the governor of Havana to demand His Majesty's of Great Britain's Subjects kept prisoners there." The letter is dated Port Royal, Jamaica, March 28th, 1679, and was published in London in the same year.

Captain Tosier tells of previous efforts made to obtain the deliverance of these British prisoners, saying that even messengers backed by frigates of fifty guns had so far failed in their purpose. He sailed from Port Royal on the twenty-fifth of January and on the eleventh of February arrived off the coast of Havana. There he waited for two days for more settled weather before he{313} approached within two miles of Morro castle, "top-sails a-Trip, Jack, Ancient and Pendant flying." He sent a boat with Mr. Richard Bere, Governor Carlisle's "Gentleman of the Horse" as messenger and interpreter, and bearer of the list of British subjects kept prisoners in Havana. The guard of Morro castle ordered the boat ashore, put a sergeant and soldiers on board and escorted the messenger to Governor Ledesma. Another guard remained on the boat. Governor Ledesma read the letter and the sailing orders and replied that the British prisoners were pirates. According to Captain Tosier's narrative he refused the British emissaries the customary salute and more or less politely ordered them out of the house. They were escorted back to the boat and "were forced to sea at seven o'clock at night."

Early the next morning the answer was received by Captain Tosier. Within three hours he sent the boat ashore once more, telling the governor of Havana "His Majesty's Ship under my command is well Man'd, where he might be safe and welcome if he would vouchsafe to give her his company; and His Majesty of England never spared his powder to answer Civilities, nor received such indignities as waiters or guards on board of any of His Majesty's Ships of War, which will be a strange report, when His Majesty shall come to hear of it." Captain Tosier then demanded in the name of the King of England and "in obedience to the Catholic King" that forthwith all subjects of his "most Excellent Majesty" detained as prisoners in Havana be set at liberty and delivered to him to be transported to the Territories of the King of England. If pirates they were, they should have been sent to Old Spain to be tried. Great was the excitement at the government house in Havana, when this message reached there. But the Cuban authorities saw no other way out of the difficulty but to give up the captives. Captain Tosier reports that the governor ordered the prisoners to be called over in a back court near his house and examined some of them, one after another, and{314} before he had done said: "Though I have no order to deliver them to you and though I may be blamed, yet take them all with you, and if there be any more, let them come forth immediately and they shall be discharged."

Captain Tosier had cause to be proud of his success, as the Spanish authorities had never before been known to deliver any British prisoners. The announcement that they were free was received with wild cheers by the forty-six Englishmen who had spent from one to six years in Cuban captivity. The following day the Hunter sailed and at some distance out of Havana, Captain Tosier came across a long boat, containing one hundred and forty-four men with their commander, Captain John Graves who had sailed a month before for London and eight days before meeting the Hunter had been cast away thirty leagues east of Havana and expected to be utterly lost or to be made prisoners by the Cubans.

Though Governor Ledesma had in this instance yielded to the pressure exercised by the British, he was by no means convinced of the honesty and sincerity of the Governor of Jamaica. He had reasons to believe that in spite of peace between the two countries the governor of Jamaica was secretly in league with the pirates that had molested Cuba, and that while pretending to persecute the outlaws, he had really encouraged them in their raids upon the Spanish colonies. Governor Ledesma collected evidence to that effect and presented it at the court of Spain. But his appeal arrived at a time when Spain's European losses had alarmingly decreased her prestige and when even her national wealth showed a perceptible shrinkage. So the court at Madrid did nothing but deliberate at length upon the ever present problem of insuring the safety of the colonies and limited its practical assistance to the sending over of a few ships with instructions to organize an armada which was to patrol the coasts and force the outlaws to respect Spanish posses{315}sions. The island itself armed a few vessels and the garrisons were slightly increased.

The great earthquake of the year 1675 added to the sufferings of the people of Cuba and caused loss of life and property. Three years later a violent hurricane swept over the island and worked great havoc. It not only robbed great numbers of the inhabitants of their homes, and did serious damage to commerce and traffic, but it also destroyed the recently finished cathedral. Though such catastrophes were of no rare occurrence in that climate, they invariably left the people's spirits depressed and indirectly affected their initiative and enterprise. Thus the copper mines were abandoned about this time, because their production seemed out of proportion to the labor and expense of working them. But the real reason was probably the ignorance and inefficiency of the forces in charge of the work and the lack of energy and courage which frequently manifested itself in the wake of great disasters.

A change in the ecclesiastical affairs of Cuba caused considerable commotion during the administration of Governor Ledesma. Bishop Saenz de Manosca was promoted to the bishopric of Guatemala. The Trinitarian (in Mexico a member of a society hired to carry the corpse in the funeral procession) who had temporarily succeeded him was shortly after appointed Bishop of Ciudad Rodrigo. Thus the diocese came under the wise spiritual guidance of the Canon of Avila, D. Gabriel Diaz Vara Calderon, who was not only a learned theologian of great reputation, but a priest of uncompromising moral austerity. He devoted himself with great ardor to reforming the church in the West Indies. On a single visit to Florida he was reported to have made as many as four thousand converts. On his return to Cuba he inaugurated a reign of unwonted severity. He had been deeply shocked by the levity and frivolity of his diocesans; he had learned that even ordained priests and personages in{316} high official positions were in the habit of attending public balls and masquerades, the latter especially offering opportunity to indulge in polite intrigues and adventures of a dubious nature. He justly opined that men in clerical garb and those in responsible government offices lowered their dignity and abused the trust reposed in them by participating in such entertainments. He prohibited his diocesans under threat of excommunication to attend such amusements and by this rigorous restriction of the gayeties in which the people had been accustomed to indulge, made not a few enemies. When he died on the sixteenth of March, 1676, public rumor attributed his death to poison administered by some person in revenge for his interference with the social life of his diocese.

Spain was at this period at the lowest ebb of her power. Financially she was on the brink of bankruptcy. Her commerce was paralyzed by stupid laws. The scandalous conduct of her officials had sadly lowered her prestige. Nature herself seemed to conspire against the once so powerful empire. Storms and inundations had swept over the country and ravaged the land, until its very soil had become unproductive. Tempests along her shores had destroyed even the ships lying in port. The mentally and physically feeble monarch, Charles II., was a helpless puppet in the hands of his favorites. A believer in witchcraft, astrology and the black arts and devoted to superstitious practices, he left the affairs of state to his prime ministers who conducted them with varying ability.

When Ledesma's governorship terminated on the thirty-first of August, 1680, there was appointed in his place D. Alonso de Campos Espinosa. But as Valdes and other authorities on Cuban history have nothing to record about his official career, it must have been only provisional, and was certainly very brief. For in September of that year the Field Marshal D. Jose Fernandez de Cordova Ponce de Leon took charge of the office. Governor Cordova proved to be a very conscientious and energetic functionary and distinguished himself first by{317} the vigor and perseverance with which he pushed work on the fortifications of Havana. He also showed his ability in fighting the pirate scourge. The filibusters had begun to organize bases of operation on the islands of Signale and Lucayas, similar to those of Tortuga. He sent against them an expedition headed by the captains Acosta and Urubarru, who succeeded in destroying the outlaw colonies in the name of the king and took a great number of prisoners. The chief event of Governor Cordova's administration was an encounter which the coast guard Galliot of the port Virgen del Rosario y Santa Jose had with a host of French invaders. The governor and organized forces of patriotic citizens so ably seconded the guard in the defense of the place that the enemy was defeated.

Governor Cordova made many enemies by his vigorous persecution of the smugglers who had greatly increased in number and by their clandestine operations were interfering with and discrediting the legitimate trade of the island. They had become such a power that they had the audacity to bring denunciations and accusations against the governor before the court, which, however, set these charges aside and approved all of Cordova's measures directed against them. He also had grave difficulties with the commissary of the Santo Officio, D. Jose Garaondo. They were not yet settled, when Governor Cordova suddenly died on the second of June, 1685. There were rumors afloat that he, too, like Bishop Calderon, had been poisoned by his enemies. During the interim between his death and the arrival from Spain of his successor, the affairs of the island were administered by D. Antonio Manuel de Murgina y Meña and Captain D. Andres de Munive, who shared between them the political and military authority.

The newly appointed governor of Cuba was the general of artillery, D. Diego de Viana y Hinojosa. When he arrived in Havana in November, 1687, he brought with him the first copies of the "Codigo e Recopilacion{318} de India," as the statutes or laws of the West Indies were called. They were in force by royal decree, although they were in reality only a confirmation of the famous Ordinances of 1542. They were distinguished by a spirit of rectitude and impartiality and were particularly commendable for their justice towards the native Indians, who were exempted from all servitude and were accorded equal rights with the Spaniards. Unfortunately these laws suffered from one serious defect: they were framed so as to apply to all dominions of Spanish America and did not take into account the indisputable fact that laws applicable to and beneficent in Peru, might be prejudicial in Mexico and Cuba. This did not, however, diminish in the least the ethical significance and humanitarian value of this codex of some four hundred laws, decrees and mandates; they gave proof of the admirable sentiment of the mother country towards her colonies.

Among the functionaries who arrived from Spain at the same time as Governor Viana, were a new Auditor, D. Manuel de Roa, and a new bishop, D. Diego Evelino de Compostela. This noted ecclesiastic was famous in Spain not only for his sterling character as a man, but also for his extraordinary gifts as an orator. On his succession to the episcopate a spirit of altruism seemed to awaken in the population and find fruition in various works of charity. Bishop Compostela was conspicuous in these organizations and in every possible way encouraged his diocesans in contributing to and actively participating in such works. He founded many parishes and in Havana organized the seminary of San Ambrosio, the academy for young ladies called San Francisco de Sala, and the hospital for convalescents of Bolen. During the fifteen years of his episcopate Bishop Compostela accomplished what none of his predecessors had succeeded in doing. He really raised the moral standard of the diocese, and he attained that end more by his own noble example, than by his eloquent sermons on moral issues. He was a gentleman of distinguished manners,{319} who treated all that came in contact with him with the utmost courtesy. He lived very modestly and was known always to travel on foot. He devoted his income to alms freely dispensed to all the needy, and by his numerous works of beneficence built for himself an imperishable monument in the memory of the grateful population.

Governor Viana's administration was filled with what at first appeared a petty local squabble, but later developed into a serious conflict. Harassed by pirates, the town of San Juan de los Remedios del Cayo had in the year 1684 obtained permission to remove to another place, sufficiently distant from the coast to insure the safety of the inhabitants. The permission arrived at a time when conditions seemed to have improved and the majority of the population was satisfied to remain where they were. The parish priest, however, had favored and decided upon removal to a place called Cupey, and Governor Viana approved of this choice. When the residents began to discuss the problem of the new location, it was found that the greater number was of the opinion that the cattle farms known as Santa Clara offered a more convenient site, and the governor and bishop were won over to this view and agreed. As head of the town was appointed the Alcalde Manuel Rodriguez de Arziniega and as its spiritual adviser was chosen the Cura Gonzales. It so happened that neither of the two favored the place that had been selected. The Alcalde and his adherents wanted to settle at Sabana Largo, near the hacienda of Santa Clara. The priest preferred the place called El Guanal, in the body of that farm. To adjust the difference the governor and the bishop chose two men, D. Christobal de Fromesta, Cura and Vicar of Sancti Spiritu, and the Contador D. Diego de Penalver, who were both residents of that town. It is characteristic of the manner in which municipal and other public business of importance was then conducted, that the two men deliberated without result until the year 1689, when the administration of Governor Viana came to an end.{320}

Of Governor Viana's share in furthering the building of fortifications an inscription in the ravelin of the gate of Tierra bears proof. It reads:

Reynando La Magestad Catolica De Carlos II. Rey de Las Espanas Y Siendo Gobernador Y Capitan General De Esta Ciudad E Isla de Cuba D. Diego Antonio De Viana Hinojosa, Caballero del Orden De Santiago, Veinte Y Cuatro Perpetuo De La Ciudad de Granada, Y General De La Artilleria Del Reinado de Sevilla, Se Acabo Esta Puerta Con Su Puente Levandizo, y Su Media Luna, etc. Ano de 1688.

(In the reign of His Catholic Majesty Charles II. King of Spain, the resident governor and captain-general of this city and island of Cuba was D. Diego Antonio de Viana Hinojosa, Cavalier of the Order of Santiago, the twenty-fourth Perpetuo of the city of Granada, and the General of Artillery of the ruler of Sevilla, this gate with its drawbridge and its ravelins was finished. In the year 1688.)

The affair of El Cayo continued to absorb the attention of the government during the administration of D. Severino de Manzañeda y Salines. This new governor entered upon the functions of his office on the thirtieth of October, 1689, and remained until the second of October, 1695. According to the decision which the court rendered after endless discussion the inhabitants of El Cayo were to move to Santa Clara. From the oldest Alcaldes and Magistrates of both towns two men were chosen with orders to superintend the removal: the Cabilde Captain Luis Perez de Morales and Ensign Gaspar Rodriguez. They proceeded to el Cayo and issued a proclamation which ordered the residents to move within a fortnight. When the term expired, and the order had not been complied with, they went to the church, accompanied by forty men armed with machetes, lances, battle-axes and guns, and began to harangue the people. When this had no immediate visible effect, they started to destroy house upon house, applying either the torch or the sword. They spared only the church and the residence of the prefect of the new town.

After committing these unwarranted ruthless outrages{321} they forbade any one under severe penalty to attempt to rebuilt his house; nor was any one allowed to admit a homeless neighbor to his hacienda or offer him a roof. Exposed to the inclemency of the weather, left without shelter or provisions, the temper of the inhabitants was roused, but they were too bewildered by the cruel injustice to see their way to demand redress of their wrongs. A man from the pueblo San Jacinto de Royas, deeply resenting the heinous crime, resolved not to remain passive. He made his way to the bishop and the governor, gave them a vivid account of what had occurred, and lodged a complaint in the name of the poor victims. Both Bishop Compostela and Governor Manzañedas readily yielded to his arguments, but it does not appear from the records of the time that the men who had so flagrantly abused their power were punished. The governor, probably from fear of stirring up dissatisfaction with his administration and ultimately losing his position, contented himself by adjusting the differences between the two parties. He ordered the people of both towns to live together until the king had handed down his decision. When His Majesty finally approved of the action taken, the feelings of both parties were pacified and the new town thus founded became known as Villa Clara.

During the administration of Governor Manzañedas the city of Matanzas was founded. According to some authorities the name is derived from the Spanish matanza, which means slaughter or killing and it was supposed to refer to the extermination of the Indians who had been the native owners of that territory. Others derive the term from a corruption of the word martizaban, which the Indians had adopted from the Castilian when they wailed during the suffering inflicted upon them. Still others try to establish a certain connection between that name and the following story of Indian perfidy. It seems that some Spaniards had engaged a number of Indians to carry them in their canoes from one end of the bay to another. When they reached the middle of{322} the bay, the Indians left the boats, and hitting the Spaniards on the head with the oars, tried to drown them, while they took to the mountains. Seven of the victims succeeded in escaping from death by swimming to the shore; but there they were caught by other natives, taken to the nearest pueblo and hanged. One of them however, managed to get away and reach another pueblo, whose cacique gave him shelter until the arrival of a Spanish rescuing force under Narvaez. The cacique, preceded by three hundred men carrying gifts, went to receive the party from Havana, leading the prisoner by the hand. In addressing Narvaez and P. Casas, who were the leaders, he told them that he had treated the man as if he had been his own son, that he had guarded and protected him for three years and had refused the strenuous demand of the other caciques to deliver him to them, knowing that they would have killed him.

Whatever the origin of its name may be, Matanzas eventually lived down its sinister significance. The bay of Matanzas with the canal opening into it, had long been considered a point of great importance. For it was patent that, if the British set out to capture it and succeeded in establishing themselves there, the danger to Spanish commerce and especially to that of Havana would be very grave. A village had existed there from the time of the Spanish conquest; it had grown in population and the surrounding land was well cultivated. Governor Manzañedas decided at once to begin to fortify the bay. He re-organized the administration of the place and raised it to the rank of a city, which the authorities named after San Carlos Alcazar de Matanzas.

The solemn ceremonies of its foundation took place on the tenth of October, 1693, in the presence of Governor Manzañedas and many other prominent citizens and high officials of the island. After an examination of the previously drafted plan a Plaza des Armas, or military parade-ground was the first to be decided upon; then the{323} principal streets of the city were traced. Two days later an altar and a cross were raised on the square destined for the church, and Bishop D. Diego Evelino de Compostela blessed the spot, said mass over it and with the aid of Governor Manzañedas laid the first stone of the temple which was to have for its patron saint San Carlos Borromeo. On the following day the governor went to Punta Gorda on the north side of the bay and selected a place for the fort which was to be built. When the structure was completed it was in his honor given the name San Severino. The industry of the residents, the fertility of the soil and the unusually favorable location of the port made the small town grow within a few years into one of the most important cities of the island. Subsequently Matanzas developed to such size and prominence that it is to-day ranking next to Havana both in population and in commerce.

The administration of Manzañedas was toward the end disturbed by the scandalous dispute between the governor Villalobas and the Licentiate Roa, Lieutenant Auditor of the Royal Audiencia (a court of appeals in the West Indies). The affair created a great deal of sensation at the time, because it threatened to divide the population into hostile factions. Villalobas was charged with having allowed his adherents to call themselves Villalobistas, in opposition to those of Lieutenant Roa, who promptly assumed the name Roistas. Controversies and quarrels arose and grew to such alarming proportions that civil war seemed imminent. The two rivals fought each other mercilessly, until Roa fled to Madrid, where he died in exile. Villalobas justly feared that the report of these disturbances would damage his reputation at the court of Madrid and was taken dangerously sick. The Audiencia of Santo Domingo which had instituted an inquiry into the matter discharged Villalobas from his office. An Oidor (hearer or judge) of the Audiencia, D. Diego Antonio Oviedo y Banos was appointed to hear{324} the arguments of the case. But Villalobas, a broken old man, was so grieved by the disgrace that he survived the ordeal only a few days. The administration of Governor Manzañedas came to an end in the year 1695 when he was appointed to the presidency of Santo Domingo.{325}


With the death of King Charles II. in the year 1700 the Austrian dynasty upon the throne of Spain became extinct. One daughter of his predecessor, Philip IV., had married a Bavarian prince, another had become the wife of Louis XIV. of France. The offspring of these marriages and other candidates presented themselves for the succession and caused endless diplomatic parleys and plunged Spain into a most harassing state of uncertainty, even before the King expired. He had signed a will in favor of the Bourbon claimant, Philip of Anjou, who succeeded him as Philip V., but the Austrian archduke Charles contested this succession, until the death of his brother. Joseph called him to the throne of Austria and forced him to relinquish his claim to that of Spain. The interval, however, was spent in what is known as the War of the Austrian Succession which was far more than a war of succession to the Spanish throne, but one which involved a European problem.

The hostility between England and France was known to be acute; the designs of Austria upon Spain were also known to be the source of incipient conflicts. In order to curb the insatiable ambition of Louis XIV., England had entered into an alliance with Austria and Holland. The unexpected ascension of the archduke Charles to the throne of Austria suddenly changed the political aspect of the time for England. Louis XIV. and Philip V. had agreed that in order to secure the balance of European power the crowns of France and Spain should never be united. Spain, however, was bound in the future to follow the trend of French politics. It renounced her rights to the Netherlands, which were the only barrier against invasions of France on the continent, and left{326} England in possession of Gibraltar. As this was its most important fortress, Gibraltar was ever to be a thorn in the flesh of Spain.

The treaty of Utrecht, which was signed in the year 1713, seemed by its reapportionment of the countries and the readjustment of the map of Europe to have temporarily assured peace. But the price paid for this peace by Spain was hardly to be estimated in currency. As Guiteras justly remarks, Philip V. found Spain prostrate from the impudent efforts of the Austrian dynasty to preserve her predominance among the European nations. The wars waged during the reigns of his predecessors had drained the coffers of Spain and alarmingly decreased her population. The powerful kingdom which a century before had dared to threaten the independence of England and had enjoyed prosperity and opulence, had become almost tributary to France and England. The treaty of Utrecht reduced Spain to her peninsular provinces and her overseas colonies. Though united with them by the ties of racial origin, religion and tradition, it was not an easy task to defend them against the inimical designs of powers that planned to dominate the seas and usurp the place which Spain had won for herself.

Philip V. realized that the condition in which Spain had been left at the end of the wars that preceded his reign made it incumbent upon him to maintain peace and to further the country's recovery from a century and a half of constant warfare. He was inspired by the example of France under Colbert and Richelieu and his aim was by applying to Spain the lessons France had learned during the leadership of those men, to bring about a revival of Spain's previous greatness. He aspired to make Spain internally stronger than she had ever been, to enable her to humble England and to wrest from that great rival her ever increasing power in America. His task was extremely difficult, for it really meant a thorough reconstruction of the entire government. He found Spain in such a state of stagnation that it required{327} extraordinary efforts to rouse in the country only a spark of the old spirit. He was the first sovereign since Philip II. who had a strong will and a strong personality and made his absolute power felt in every branch of the government. He had to create a new navy; he had to organize and train a new army; he had to reform the legislation, the finances, even the police of the country. So poor was Spain at that time in men of strong character and executive power, that he was obliged to employ foreigners in some of the most important places in the army and navy as well as in the council chamber.

Although during the latter half of his reign of forty six years his initiative and energy were paralyzed and he lapsed into the passive indifference which had characterized the attitude of some of his predecessors, his innovations and reforms were the means of stimulating inquiry into some of the evils, political and social, that Spain had suffered from. He ushered in a new life, which slowly penetrated to every corner of the kingdom and brought it into closer contact with the outside world for which it had hitherto had a curious contempt. However slow was the work of regeneration which he had inaugurated, it was sure to benefit the next generation which could never return to the old order of things.

The influence of this new life in the mother country was, of course, still slower in manifesting itself in her colonies. Cuba had still to rely upon her own resources, both in inaugurating internal improvements and in combatting external dangers. As both Great Britain and France were eagerly pursuing their plans to extend their colonial power in America, conflicts between these powers and the Spanish possessions in America were inevitable. Towards the end of the seventeenth century attempts to establish direct maritime intercourse between France and the Mississippi, and to colonize the southwest of the continent; which was under the patronage of Louis XIV. created no little anxiety in the old Spanish settlements of Florida and eventually had to lead to armed conflicts in{328} which the West Indies, and especially Havana, as the metropolis of the Spanish island colonies, became involved.

As early as the year 1693 D. Andres de Pes had settled in Pensacola and three years later three hundred Spaniards from Vera Cruz and other parts had under the leadership of D. Andres d'Arriola taken formal possession of the harbor. Henceforth no foreign ship could enter without being challenged. This the valiant commander of the French expedition, d'Iberville, the pioneer founder of Louisiana, was to experience. He had sailed in October, 1698, with a company of Marines and some two hundred colonists, among them women and children. At Santo Domingo he took on board a seasoned veteran of the golden age of piracy, a man who in 1683 had made a fortune of eight million pesos by the capture of Vera Cruz, had been an associate of M. de Grammont, Lolonois, Morgan and other notables of the Brotherhood of the Coast, and as such was familiar with every spot along the Gulf of Mexico and the coasts of New Spain; it was Captain Laurent Grave or Graff, linguist, sailor and intrepid fighter. They arrived at the island St. Rose in January, 1699, cast anchor and applied for permission to enter the harbor of Pensacola. This being refused they sailed westward and settled in the country west of the Perdido River, which was later recognized by King Philip V., who was bent upon a conciliatory policy, as the boundary between Louisiana and Florida.

From that time, however, Pensacola was to know no peace, for the French cast ever a covetous eye upon that Spanish settlement. Nor did the authorities of Pensacola hesitate to harass the settlers to the west, resenting the appearance of any rival neighbor. Governor Ravolli made an expedition in 1700 against the French who had settled on Ship Island, but he himself was soon to experience that he was being surrounded by neighbors determined to show their hostility towards Spain by open or secret operations against the Spanish settlement in{329} Florida. Governor James Moore of South Carolina, which bordered on Spanish Florida, undertook in the year 1702 an expedition against the old Spanish town of St. Augustine, in the defense of which a Cuban force was eventually to take part. The British succeeded in making their entry into the town and ravaging it; but they could not reduce the fort, which the garrison defended with desperate determination. The British sent to Jamaica for some heavy artillery. But in the meantime the Spanish viceroy had been informed of the attack and sent two war ships for the relief of the town. The governor of Cuba, too, dispatched five vessels with troops of infantry and militia, which sailed from the port of Havana under the command of Captain D. Esteban de Beroa, a Havanese of great enterprise and valor. When the Spanish fleet arrived near the harbor, Moore with his South Carolinians made a hasty retreat by land, leaving behind his vessels and stores of ammunition. The help which D. Esteban had lent the garrison of St. Augustine in this critical moment was highly appreciated by the King of Spain, who took notice of this valuable service in a cedula addressed to the Captain General of the island in 1703, in which he especially lauded the exploits of D. Esteban.

The administration of D. Diego de Cordova Lazo de Vega, Knight of the military order of Santiago and General of the Galleons, was profoundly affected by the political unrest of Europe, due to the controversies about the succession and by the conflicts with the French and the British in the newly settled continent, which began to darken the future of the Spanish possessions. Cordova had entered upon his office on the third of October, 1695, and was reported to have bought the governorship for fourteen thousand dollars. Some very important internal improvements were made during his time of office. The territory from the gateway of la Punta to la Tanaza and the hospital of San Francisco de Paula was organized into districts. He was like some of his predecessors much{330} concerned with the religious life of the island and encouraged the building of churches and convents. One of the most important convents founded at this time was the third convent of the barefoot Carmelites, dedicated to Saint Teresa.

Realizing the need of greater garrisons for the protection of the people of Cuba from invasions, whether by foreign powers or by corsairs, the Spanish government sent over twelve companies of militia. So impressed was the governor with their general condition and their discipline, that he sent the king a special message referring to them. But he was too prudent to rest satisfied with this help from the government overseas; he raised and organized four more companies of infantry and cavalry, recruited from the population of Cuba itself, and this placed the island in a better state of defense than it had ever been before. He also granted a number of merchant mariners privateering privileges, which enabled them to cruise about and hunt down foreign pirates and smugglers. These men, among whom the Regidor of Trinidad, Juan Vasquez, distinguished himself by his valor, made numerous excursions in the neighborhood, retaliating upon the French colonies for the outrages of French corsairs, by invading them and capturing some of their vessels, not excepting the crew, and by carrying off their cattle. Cordova was also instrumental in promoting the tobacco culture of the island, by encouraging the employment of new mechanical contrivances.

When on the thirtieth of November, 1700, King Charles II. expired in Madrid, and was followed by Philip V., the first Spanish sovereign of the house of Bourbon, the Spanish Colonies in America paid no heed to the war of the succession which was carried on between King Philip and the Archduke of Austria. Without hesitation they recognized the former as their ruler and thanks to the wholesome influence exerted upon the population by Governor Cordova and the estimable Bishop Compostela, King Philip was formally and peace{331}fully proclaimed in Cuba. Cordova's governorship was so highly appreciated by the royal government in Spain that he received for his services the title of Marquis de Valdo and was soon after promoted to the presidency of Panama. But he later returned to Spain and died in Madrid as Counsellor of State in the year 1720.

After the departure of Cordova in September, 1702, the government of the island was for a number of years once more of a rather interimistic nature, which greatly hampered the efforts of the government to insure the safety of the coasts against invaders. The British, being since the accession of Philip V. to the Spanish throne no longer the allies of Spain as they had been during the validity of the "American Treaty," were now her enemies, and once more began to harass the Spanish colonies by encouraging the pirates to interfere with their traffic. The squadron of three vessels which France sent over to patrol the ocean in the vicinity of the Antilles, did not seem to intimidate the lawless elements working more or less directly under orders of and agreements with the British.

The administration of Cordova's successor, D. Pedro Benitez de Lugo, Maestro de Campo and former Counsellor to the Elector of Bavaria, began on the twentieth of September, 1702, and ended with his death only three months later, on the fourth of December. But in that brief period occurred the invasion of the island of Trinidad by the British pirate Grant, who had under him a force of three hundred men and succeeded in thoroughly terrorizing the people.

After the death of D. Benitez, the provisional government was entrusted to two Habaneros, D. Luis Chacon, Castellan of the Morro, and D. Nicolas Chirmo Vandeval. They seem to have governed with commendable prudence. Determined to defend the island against the corsairs which renewed their activity, the Cuban authorities retaliated by sending out corsairs of their own. Thus D. Juan Baton de Chavez, governor of Santiago de{332} Cuba, started from that city in 1704 with a force of two hundred and fifty men and invaded the islands of New Providence and Siguatey. He destroyed their fortifications, sacked the houses, took one hundred prisoners and returned with twenty-two cannon and a large quantity of ammunition and arms. The town of Santiago having generously contributed to the success of this enterprise both with volunteers and with material resources, the king rewarded the city with the title "muy noble y muy leal" (very noble and very loyal). In the same year there died in Havana the venerable and much beloved Bishop, D. Diego Evelino de Compostela. In fifteen years of faithful service he had succeeded in stimulating the religious life of the diocese by the building of churches, especially those in the plains, where tobacco was raised and thousands of laborers lived with their families, and in raising the moral standard of Cuban society.

The spirit of animosity between France and England on the one hand, and Spain and England on the other, gave birth to two schemes to attack Charleston in the year 1706. The valiant Canadian pioneer d'Iberville was on the way with a respectable force. He reached Santo Domingo, where he was reenforced by Spanish troops, and set sail for the coast of South Carolina. He was stricken with yellow fever and the undertaking had to be abandoned. At the same time the Spanish authorities in the West Indies, having decided upon an aggressive policy towards the British in America, planned retaliation for some of the wrongs suffered in recent years. The unwarranted attack of Governor James Morgan of South Carolina upon the old Spanish town of St. Augustine, only four years before, was not forgotten and offered a welcome pretext to launch an offensive movement. Accordingly an expedition was fitted out in Havana, mostly of French privateers, but also some Cuban forces and on the way was joined by more from St. Augustine. The squadron arrived at Sullivan's Island off Charleston on Saturday afternoon in August of{333} that year. The militia of the city was rapidly mobilized but open combat did not begin until the following Wednesday, when the French commander demanded the surrender of the city in the name of Louis XIV. The South Carolinians replied by a violent attack, which drove a large number of the French that had landed into the water. The fight was renewed when more ships of the expedition came up, and though the attack was repulsed and there was considerable loss of life, the Cuban force that had participated, returned with considerable booty.

The new governor who entered upon his office May 13, 1706, was Field Marshal D. Pedro Alvarez de Villarin, a native of Asturia, gentilhombre (a nobleman-attendant of the young princes of Spain and counsellor of the Elector of Bavaria). But his reign was one of the shortest in Cuban history. He died on the eighth of July, and the former provisional governors, D. Luis Chacon and D. Nicolas Chirmo Vandeval, once more administered their duties, political and military. British warships were haunting the coasts of the island and kept the authorities and the residents in a perpetual state of suspense. But the French were now the allies of the Spaniards and their able admiral Chavagnac came to the rescue of Cuba. The unrest due to the disputed Spanish succession encouraged the defiant attitude of the British. In the year 1707 a British armada appeared on the coast for the purpose of engaging in propaganda against Philip V. and winning over the population to the support of the Austrian Archduke's claims. They flooded the island with grandiloquent proclamations and tried to bribe the people by making the most alluring promises. But D. Luis Chacon was not the man to betray the king to whom the island had sworn allegiance at his accession in 1700. He so effectively replied with cannons that the conspirators withdrew.

The next duly appointed governor of Cuba and the{334} thirty-second in order was Colonel D. Laureano de Torres Ayala, a native of Havana, Knight of the Order of Santiago and former Governor of Florida. He entered upon his office on the eighteenth of January, 1708. His attention was at once directed to an economic problem of great importance. The landowner Orri, an official in the service of Spain, had conceived the project to sell the tobacco on the island for the government. This measure was opposed by the speculators in tobacco, who sold it without custom duties to the Peninsula and other parts of America. But Governor Torres was so impressed with the advantage which would accrue from the new arrangement to the government of Spain, that he did not rest until the measure was carried and enforced. The Exchequer of Spain was henceforth enabled to purchase almost the entire tobacco crop and to make enormous profits thereby, which the coffers of the kingdom, depleted by the many wars of the past century, sorely needed. For the successful negotiation of this matter, which created the government's tobacco monopoly, the governor was rewarded with the title Marquis de Casa-Torres.

Governor Torres like his predecessors was much concerned with the safety of the island, and accordingly resumed work on the Havana forts. He added to the fortifications by having the bulwark halfway between la Punta and la Fuerza built; it was considered of great importance at that time, but was later demolished, when Governor Don Dionisos Martinez proceeded with the wall of la Punta in the same direction. The Marquis de Casa-Torres had grave disputes with the Lieutenant-Auditor Don Jose Fernandez de Cordova, which caused endless discussion, not only among the officials of the island, but also in the population. The Court was finally compelled to submit the controversy to the Oidor D. Pablo Cavera, who came over from Spain to begin an investigation. Governor Torres was temporarily suspended. But the Oidor Cavera died while the inquiry into the dif{335}ferences between the two men was in progress. Hence Torres and the lieutenant-auditor were obliged to sail for Spain and explain their grievances.

The administration of Governor Torres was a period of comparative peace. The enemies of Spain that were ever waiting for an opportunity to do something that might weaken her power in America and deprive her of some of her American possessions had not molested Cuba and the governor was able to devote his energies to internal improvements and even to aid the new bishop in his many works for the welfare of the diocese. This worthy successor of the unforgettable Bishop Compostela was D. Jeronimo Valdes, formerly Bishop of Porto Rico, provincial of the order of St. Basil and professor of Alcala. He had entered upon his duties on the thirteenth of May, 1706, and at once proved that he, too, was imbued with that noble disinterestedness which characterized his predecessor. He insisted upon strict observance of the doctrines and customs of the church and founded many new parishes. He enlarged the Belen convent by adding to the building a wing which was to be used as hospital for convalescents. He also founded the Casa de Beneficiencia, a Foundlings' Home, investing in it eleven thousand pesos of his private fortune. Another charitable institution which he called into being was a home for the poor that were reduced to beggary. He also succeeded in having a building finished, which was destined to be a hospital for lepers. In all these enterprises for the public welfare he was seconded by the Marquis de Casa-Torres. The island increased in population during this time and among the towns founded was Bejucal.

The year 1709 is also memorable for an important measure which was to safeguard the public health of the island. As early as the year 1634 a so-called Protomedicato had been created by a certain Nuñez, a graduate of the university of Seville. It was an institution intended to check the unlawful practice of medicine by ignorant{336} and inexperienced persons or by downright quacks. For some years Dr. Don Francisco Teneza, assisted by a duly appointed clerk, who performed the functions of a notary, embodied in his person the authority of a Protomedico, examining surgeons, druggists and barbers, who at that time were performing dental and minor surgical operations. But not until the beginning of the eighteenth century was the Protomedicato completely organized for efficient work. It was a college or tribunal composed of physicians duly licensed by royal patent, who were charged with examining and issuing licenses to students of medicine. In this way the government hoped to combat the evil of unlawful medical practice by unknown and incapable individuals, which had long been a grave menace to the public health. The king endowed the Protomedicato of Cuba with the same prerogatives and the same jurisdiction as were enjoyed by the corresponding institutions of Lima and Mexico.

Upon the departure of the Marquis de Casa-Torres the affairs of the island were once more in the hands of a provisional government. The ayuntamento (municipal government) entrusted D. Luis Chacon with the military governorship and in default of an auditor the political was given to two alcaldes, D. Augustin de Arriola and D. Pedro Hobruitinier. But by royal order of the year 1712 D. Luis Chacon resumed the superior authority, both civil and military. At the end of the year, when the re-election of the alcaldes took place, violent disputes arose, which necessitated the intervention of Chacon and the Bishop Valdes. The court was called to inquire into the matter and settled the quarrel which had threatened to disturb the peace of the community.

In the year 1712 the official circles of Cuba were greatly agitated by a sensational occurrence. It was the affair between the acting governor of Cuba, Don Luis Sanudo, and the royal Ensign, who was also Alcalde of Bayamo. The governor had ordered the Ensign to imprison two Indian chiefs who were accused of theft, but{337} the Ensign, interpreting differently a certain royal decree and the municipal ordinances, made no move to obey the command. Governor Sanudo accordingly betook himself to Bayamo, and as the Ensign failed to present himself, went to his house. There he upbraided him, and as was reported by some at the time, slapped his face. Boiling with wrath at this insult and outrage, the Ensign killed him on the spot. The court before which he was tried condemned him to death and ordered his home to be razed. The office was for the time abolished, but later re-established.

The Casa-Torres affair had been in the meantime thoroughly aired before the Court of Spain and the king had found the charges against the Marquis unfounded. So he restored him to office on the fifth of July, 1712, and in February of the following year he re-entered upon his duties as Captain-General of Cuba. During the three years of this his second term, Governor Torres actively promoted the armament of corsairs which were sent out to counteract the manœuvres of the enemy pirates cruising along the Spanish-American coasts. Among the men entrusted with this venturesome task one especially distinguished himself by his prowess: Don Juan del Hoye Solorzano. He was later appointed governor of Santiago de Cuba. About the same time Spain suffered the loss of a rich fleet, which, sailing from Vera Cruz under command of General Ubilla, with port at Habana, was on its way to the mother country. It was wrecked at el Palmar de Aiz, the place where the New Canal of Bahama was located. To the energetic efforts of the Marquis de Casa-Torres, who at once ordered divers to go to work, was due the recovery of more than four million pesos and some valuable merchandise.

The thirty-third governor duly appointed by decree of the Spanish court, dated December 15, 1715, was the Field-marshal Don Vicente Raja. He was inaugurated May 26, 1716, and although in office little more than a year succeeded in completely reorganizing the tobacco in{338}dustry of the island. He was accompanied on his arrival from Spain by a commission of financial and industrial experts; the director of the bank of Spain, D. Salvador Olivares, the Visitador, a judge charged with conducting inquiries, D. Diego Daza, and the licentiate D. Pedro Morales, the chief of the revenue department. The historian Alcazar gives a clear account of the proceeding of this commission and the disturbances they created. He relates that the success of the first tobacco sales in the Peninsula had suggested the establishment of a factory in Seville. But Orri, the great landowner and planter, knew that the three million pounds of tobacco produced by Cuba would not suffice for consumption, and not wanting to have recourse to the inferior leaf produced in Brazil and Venezuela, decided to monopolize the tobacco industry of Spain. To realize this plan he proposed to increase the production of tobacco in Cuba by extending its cultivation over the whole island and guaranteeing the laborers full value of their harvest, but insisting that the product be submitted for examination to the committee presided over by Olivares.

This proposition, however just it seemed, produced serious disturbances. The commission favoring the government monopoly had ordered by decree on April 17, 1717, that there should be established in Havana a general agency for the purchase of tobacco with branch offices in Trinidad, Santiago and Bayamo. This decree in reality was of great advantage to the laborers who were thus certain of selling their crops and with advance payments could extend and improve their sembrados (tobacco fields). On the other hand it was opposed by the speculators, who had up to this time lived on the fat commissions which their operations had brought them. These men spread all sorts of rumors detrimental to the newly appointed commission and its work among the producers of tobacco. Deluded by this insidious propaganda, the men rebelled. Five hundred vegueros or stewards of the tobacco fields armed themselves and captured Jesus del{339} Monte. Even in the capital there were public demonstrations against the commission and the municipal authorities so weakly supported the governor in his defense of the employees of the estance (monopoly) established by the royal government, that he resigned his office in favor of the royal tenente Maraveo (according to the historian Valdes he was expelled) and sailed for Spain in company of D. Olivares. The earnest exhortations of Bishop Valdes and the archbishop of Santo Domingo induced the rebels to cease their hostile activities and to withdraw to their homes and temporarily quiet was restored.

So much confusion had been created by frequent changes of governorship and the interim rule of provisional authorities, that the royal government at Madrid took steps to establish greater stability and insure an uninterrupted function of the administrative machine of Cuba. After the affair of Casa-Torres it became imperative to provide for the cases of absence or suspension from office. A royal decree dated December, 1715, ordered that in future, whenever the office of the Governor and Captain-General should become vacant, by default, absence or sickness, the political and military power should be held by the Tenente-Rey (or Royal Lieutenant), or in his default by the Castellan (warden or governor) of el Morro.

Upon the return of Vicente de Raja to Spain, Lieutenant-Colonel D. Gomez de Maraveo Ponce de Leon temporarily exercised the functions of governorship. Cuba was at that time in a peculiar state of political and social unrest. There were still some demonstrations of the tobacco-planters going on in different parts of the island. Maraveo, instead of being upheld in his authority, soon discovered that he was at the mercy of the magistrates and some of the wealthy citizens who seemed to back the rebellious elements. In the eastern part of the island the miners had joined the tobacco-planters in disturbances, intended to convey to the government their disapproval of{340} its measures. It required all the persuasive power of Bishop Valdes and other spiritual leaders of the colony to pacify the turbulent agitation fermenting among the people.

The court of Spain realized the seriousness of the situation and was particularly circumspect in the choice of the new governor. A man was needed, firm of will, yet possessed of a sense of justice and of tact in the handling of the two hostile factions. After long and serious deliberation D. Gregorio Guazo Calderon Fernandez de la Vega, a native of Ossuna, Brigadier-General and Knight of the Order of Santiago was selected. D. Guazo had in his previous official activities proved his energy and bravery and soon after entering upon his office relieved the Spanish authorities of their worries concerning the state of affairs in Cuba. He took charge of his duties on the twenty-third of June, 1718, and immediately called a meeting of the Ayuntamento, the bishop and leading prelates. The men who by their participation in the recent disturbances compromised their reputation were filled with anxious apprehension. But the king wished to avoid internal unrest and discontent and had recommended a policy of reconciliation.

It was an auspicious beginning of D. Guazo's administration when he announced at this meeting that the King in his clemency would forget the past occurrences, if the mischief-makers would in future show loyal obedience to his orders. A proclamation which Governor Guazo issued the next day informed the people of the whole island that royal pardon had been granted to the chiefs of the recent mutiny, and quiet and order were soon restored. The tumultuous manifestations which a few greedy speculators had deliberately stirred up among the people associated with tobacco culture, ceased for the time being. He reorganized the tobacco-factory and reinstalled the former employees. The factory advanced funds to the vegueros, who, having no other creditors, could now fix the price and sell the crop themselves.{341}

But in the year 1721 the vegueros once more revolted; they resented the dictatorial manner in which the Visitador D. Manuel Leon exercised his functions as inspector and supervisor. The Bishop and D. Jose Bayona Chacon who filled the office of provisor (a sort of ecclesiastical judiciary), managed by earnest exhortations and promise of watching over their welfare to pacify the insurgents and prevent blood-shed, a service for which Bayona was later rewarded by the rank and title of a count. But the arguments of the two prelates had no effect upon the Visitador who continued his unwarranted severity. The result was a revolt in 1723 of the vegueros of San Miguel, Guanabacoa and Jesus del Monte, who numbered five hundred men with arms and horses. They proceeded to destroy the tobacco fields of the cultivators of Santiago and Bejucal who had agreed to sell their tobacco at the price proposed by the Visitador. Governor Guazo was obliged to send a company of mounted soldiers under the command of D. Ignacio Barrutia to parley with the rebels. But at the suggestion of submission they replied with musket-shot and Barrutia was forced to fire upon them. Several were killed and wounded, and twelve were taken prisoners. These unfortunates were hanged at Jesus del Monte on that same day.

As soon as this matter was disposed of, Governor Guazo directed his attention to the military affairs of the island. Florida had at this time been annexed to the government of Cuba and Guazo reorganized the army of both colonies, and called into being a number of new militia companies in different parts of the island. He replaced the old pike or lance and the antiquated musket or blunderbus by the bayonet and rifle. The garrison of the capital was raised to eight hundred and sixty-five men, all properly armed and equipped. At the same time the salaries in the army were increased. The soldiers received eleven pesos a month, the salaries of the Teniente de Rey—the King's Lieutenant—and of the governors of el Morro and la Punta were raised and the Captain-Gen{342}eral was paid ten thousand pesos a year. An important measure for the promotion of West Indian commerce was inaugurated by Patino, the Minister of the Treasury, who, in order to increase the imports of goods from Spain, conceded to the merchants the same rights as those given to the merchants of Seville and Cadiz.

Guazo had warned British privateers to desist from raids upon the Spanish possessions and in the year 1719 had to address the same warning to the French. For the rupture of diplomatic relations between France and Spain had once more increased the insecurity of the Spanish-American coasts. The privateers fitted out by the Cuban government and authorized to retaliate upon the French and British vessels they would meet, were under the command of men of tried valor, like Gonzalez, Mendreta, Cornego and others. They succeeded in capturing a number of bilanders (small one-mast vessels), which carried cargoes of over one hundred thousand pesos in value. On one of these expeditions the soldiers and sailors attempted to revolt against the customary discipline, but Count Bayona suppressed the incipient mutiny before it had the time to develop.

As soon as war had been declared between France and Spain the promoters of the French colonization schemes that had modestly begun to materialize along southern coast of the American continent, embraced this opportunity to attack the Spanish settlements in Florida. On the fourteenth of May, 1718, Bienville, the brother and successor of the famous d'Iberville, arrived at Pensacola and in the name of the French king demanded the capitulation of the town. Unprepared for such an eventuality and unable to resist superior forces, D. Juan Pedro Metamores, the governor of Pensacola, surrendered and the garrison left with all honors of war. They were transported in French vessels to Havana. But already on this involuntary voyage Metamores was considering measures of retaliation. When the French vessels Toulouse and Mareschal de Villars reached Cuba and landed the{343} prisoners, they were seized by the Governor of Havana, who on learning of the disaster at Pensacola decided upon its recapture. A fleet consisting of one Spanish warship, nine brigantines and the two French vessels was quickly made ready and Metamores with his captured troops embarked for Pensacola. On the sixth of August he entered the harbor with the French vessels flying the French colors as decoys. The French commander refused to surrender and a cannonade began. Then the French demanded an armistice which was followed by the exchange of more shots and finally the garrison of one hundred men marched out, also with honors of war, under the command of Chateaugue. They were sent to Havana and were to be transported to Spain, but in the meantime were imprisoned in Morro castle. Metamores resumed his governorship of Pensacola.

But in September Bienville, the brother of Chateaugue, assisted by a French fleet under Champmeslin, with a large force of Canadians and Indians, attacked Pensacola once more. Metamores was defeated and with some of his Spanish troops sent to Havana to be exchanged for the French prisoners held there since August. The remaining Spaniards were sent to France as prisoners of war. It seems from the records of the historian Blanchet that Governor Guazo in the following year made an attempt to reconquer Pensacola. He sent an expedition of fourteen ships and nine hundred men under the command of D. Esteban de Berroa, who succeeded in taking the place. But in the further course of the engagement between the two forces, the French regained possession and defeated the Cubans, many of whom were made prisoners and sent to Spain.

Of Governor Guazo's efforts to improve the fortifications of Havana, an inscription on the inner side of the gate of Tierra bears witness. It reads:

Reynando La Majesdad Catolica del Senor Felipe V. Rey de las Espanas y Siendo Gobernador de Esta Ciudad, E Isla de Cuba El{344} Brigadier de los Reales Exercitos D. Gregorio Guazo Calderon Fernandez de la Vega, Caballero del Orden de Santiago. Ano De 1721.

In the reign of His Catholic Majesty Philip V. King of the Spains, and when the Governor of this town and island of Cuba was the Brigadier of the royal armies D. Gregorio Guazo Calderon Fernandez de la Vega, Knight of the Order of Saint James. In the year 1721.



The wonderful impetus which the discoverers and explorers of Spain gave to the spirit of adventure by opening to the world the gates of a new and strange world, promptly began to bear fruit among those nations who had always been daring navigators. Young men with no ties, either of family or profession, to hold them, were suddenly fired with the desire to see the new continent which the genius of Columbus and his associates had brought within their reach, and set out in quest of what promised to be a precious new experience. Most of these men were fairly well educated and sensed the importance of all these enterprises. They set out as eager observers and they did not fail to record their observations and impressions in the frank and unadorned manner of unsophisticated onlookers. Some kept a daily record of their experiences, others jotted down what seemed to them the most striking incidents; still others embodied their reflections on what they had seen and heard in letters that were sent home whenever an occasion presented itself.

Out of this great mass of personal records of travel in the New World a number stand out as deserving of more than passing notice, and though a careful perusal of these books shows a tendency on the part of some authors to repeat what they had heard or read in the reports of their predecessors, there is something worth noting in every individual volume. Among the writers who were evidently the source from which many authors drew to corroborate and complete their personal observations is Tordesillas Herrera, his Spanish Majesty's Chief Chronicler, traces of whose "Description of the West Indies," which was translated into Dutch, English, French and other languages are found in many books. The writings{346} of that worthy prelate and Champion of the Indians, Bartolomeo de Las Casas, have also been drawn upon by many writers. Almost amusing in the light of later day events, is a copiously illustrated little book in which a pious German translator dwells with unctuous self-righteousness on the cruelties practised by the Spaniards upon the natives of the islands.

Herrera thus relates the story of the first settlement of Cuba in the second volume of "A Description of the West Indies," which was translated into Dutch, English, French and other languages and appeared in English in the year 1625:

"This same year 1511, the Admiral Don James Columbus, resolved to make settlements in Cuba, knowing it to be an island, the soil good, populous and abounding in provisions. To this purpose he made use of James Velasquez, being the wealthiest and best belov'd of all the first Spanish inhabitants in Hispaniola. Besides he was a Man of Experience, of a mild and affable Temper, tho' he knew how to maintain his authority; of Body well-shap'd, of Complexion fair, and very discreet. As soon as it was known in Hispaniola that James Velasquez was going to make settlements in Cuba, Abundance of People resolv'd to bear him Company, some because, as has been said, he was belov'd and others because they were ruin'd and in Debt. All these, being about three hundred Men, rendezvous'd in the Town of Salvatiena de la Zavana to embark aboard four ships, this Place being at the Extremity of Hispaniola. Before we proceed any further, it is fit to observe that the Province of Guahaba lying next to Cuba, the Distance between the two Points being but eighteen Leagues, many Indians went over to Cuba in their Canoes and among them pass'd over, with as many of his Men as could, a Cazique of the said Province of Guahaba, call'd Hatuey, a brave and discreet Man. He settled on the nearest Country known by the name of Mazci, and possessing himself of that Part kept the People as Subjects, but not as Slaves; for it was never found in the Indies that any Difference was made between a free people or even their own Children and Slaves, unless it were in New Spain, and the other Provinces, where they us'd to sacrifice Prisoners to their Idols which was not practis'd in these Islands. This Cazique Hatuey, fearing that the Spaniards would at some Time pass over into Cuba, always kept Spies to know what was doing in Hispaniola and being inform'd of the Admiral's design, he assembled{347} his People who it is likely were of the most martial, and putting them in Mind of their many sufferings under the Spaniards told them: 'They did all that for a great Lord they were very fond of, which he would show them' and then taking some Gold out of a little Palm Tree Basket, added 'This is the Lord whom they serve, him they follow, and as you have already heard, they are about passing over hither, only to seek this Lord, therefore let us make a Festival, and dance to him, to the End that when they come, he may order them not to do us harm.' Accordingly they all began to sing and dance till they were quite tir'd, for it was their Custom to dance as long as they could stand, from nightfall till break of Day, and these Dances were as in Hispaniola, to the Musick of their Songs, and tho' fifty thousand Men and Women were assembled, no one differ'd in the least from the rest in the Motions of their Hands, Feet and Bodies; but those of Cuba far exceeded the natives of Hispaniola, their Songs being more agreeable. When they were Spent with Singing and Dancing before the little Basket of Gold, Hatuey bid them not to Keep the Lord of the Christians in any Place whatsoever, for if he were in their Bowels, they would fetch him out, and therefore they should cast him in the River under Water, where they would not find him, and so they did."

Following is a description of the natives of Cuba, quoted from the same work:

"The first inhabitants of this Island were the same as those of the Lucayos, a good sort of People and well temper'd. They had Caziques and Towns of two or three hundred houses with several Families in each of them as was usual in Hispaniola. They had no Religion as having no Temples or Idols or Sacrifices; but they had the physicians or conjuring Priests as in Hispaniola, who it was thought had Communication with the Devil and their questions answered by him. They fasted three or four months to obtain this Favour, eating nothing but the juice of Herbs, and when reduced to extreme weakness they were worthy of that hellish Apparition, and to be inform'd whether the Season of the Year would be favorable or otherwise, what Children would be born, whether those born would live, and such like questions. These were their Oracles, and these Conjurers they call'd Behiques, who led the People in so many Superstitions and Fopperies, during the Sick by blowing on them, and such other exterior actions, mumbling some Word between their Teeth. These People of Cuba knew that Heaven, the Earth and other Things had been created, and said that they had much Information concerning the Flood, and the world had been destroy'd by water from three Persons that came{348} three several ways. Men of above seventy years of age said that an old Man knowing the Deluge was to come, built a great Ship and went into it with his Family and Abundance of Animals, then he sent out a Crow which did not return, staying to feed on the dead Bodies, and afterward return'd with a green Branch; in the other Particulars, as far as Noah's Sons covering him when drunk, and then they scoffing at it; adding that the Indians descended from the latter, and therefore had no Coats nor Cloaks; but that the Spaniards, descending from the other that cover'd him, were therefore cloath'd and had Horses. What has been here said, was told by an Indian of above seventy years of age to Gabriel de Cabrera who one Day quarreling with him called him Dog, whereupon he call'd, Why he abus'd and call'd him Dog, since they were Brethren, as descending from the Sons of him that made the great Ship, with all the rest that has been said before."

Herrera's description of the island may have inspired many writers coming after him; it had, however, the advantage of giving one of the earliest and therefore most spontaneous impressions on record. Here is a sample of his descriptive power:

"This Island is very much wooded, for Man may travel along it almost two hundred and thirty leagues, always under Trees of several Sorts, and particularly sweet scented and red Cedars, as thick as an Ox, of which they made such large Canoes that they would contain fifty or sixty Persons, and of this Sort there were once great numbers in Cuba. There are Storax Trees, and if a Man in the Morning gets upon a high Place the Vapors that rise from the Earth perfectly smell of Storax coming from the fire the Indians make at night, and drawn up when the Sun rises. Another Sort of Trees produce a Fruit call'd Xaguas, as big as veal kidneys, which being beaten and laid by four or five days, tho' not gather'd ripe, are full of Liquor like Honey, and better tasted than the sweetest Pears. There are abundance of wild Vines that run up high, bearing grapes, and Wine has been made of them, but somewhat aigre, and there being an infinite Quantity of them throughout all the Island, the Spaniards were wont to say they had seen a Vineyard that extended two hundred and thirty Leagues. Some of the Trunks of these Vines are as thick as a Man's Body, which proceeded from extraordinary Moisture and Fertility of the Soil. All the Island is very pleasant and more temperate than Hispaniola, very healthy, has safer Harbors for many Ships than if they had been made by Art, as is that of Santiago on the Southern Coast being in the shape of a Cross, that of Xagua is scarce to be matched in the World, the Ships pass into it through a narrow{349} Mouth, not above a Cross bow Shot over and then turned into the open Part of it, which is about ten Leagues in Compass with three little islands so posited, that they may make fast their Ships to Stakes on them, and they will never budge, all the Compass being shelter'd by Mountains, as if they were in a House, and there the Indians had Pens to shut up the Fish. On the north Side there are good Harbours, the best being that which was call'd de Carenas, and now the Havana, so large that few can compare to it; and twenty Leagues to the Eastward of it is that of Matanzas, which is not very safe. About the middle of the Island is another good Port, call'd del Principe, and almost at the End that of Baracoa, where much good Ebony is cut; between which there are other good anchoring places, tho' not large."

In a volume entitled "Voyages and Travels" and edited by Raymond Beazley, there is a record of travels in Mexico 1568-1585 by one John Chilton, which says on the title-page: "A Notable Discourse of Master John Chilton, touching the people, manners, mines, metals, riches, forces and other memorable things of the West Indies seen and noted by himself in the time of his travels continued in those parts the space of seventeen or eighteen years." He writes of Havana:

"Merchants after travelling from Nicaragua, Honduras, Porto Rico, Santo Domingo, Jamaica and all other places in the Indies arrive there, on their return to Spain; for that in this port they take in victuals and water and the most part of their landing. Here they meet from all the foresaid places, always in the beginning of May by the King's commandment. At the entrance of this port, it is so narrow that there can scarce come in two ships together, although it be above six fathoms deep in the narrowest place of it.

"In the north side of the coming in, there standeth a tower in which there watcheth every day a man to descry the call of ships which he can see on the sea; and as many as he discovereth so many banners he setteth upon the tower, that the people of the town (which standeth within the port about a mile from the tower) may understand thereof.

"Under this tower there lieth a sandy shore, where men may easily go aland; and by the tower there runneth a hill along by the water's side, which easily with small store of ordnance, subdueth the town and port. The port within is so large that there{350} may easily ride a thousand sail of ships, without anchor or cable; for no wind is able to hurt them.

"There inhabit within the town of Havana about three hundred Spaniards and about sixty soldiers; which the King maintaineth there, for the keeping of a certain castle which he hath of late erected, which hath planted in it about twelve pieces of small ordnance. It is compassed round with a small ditch, where through at their pleasure, they may let in the sea.

"About two leagues from Havana there lieth another town called Guanabacoa, in which there are dwelling about one hundred Indians; and from this place sixty Leagues there lieth another town named Bahama, situated on the north side of the island. The chiefest city of the island of Cuba which is above two hundred miles in length, is also called Cuba (Santiago de Cuba); where dwelleth a Bishop and about 200 Spaniards; which town standeth on the south side of the island about a hundred leagues from Havana.

"All the trade of this island is cattle; which they kill only for the hides that are brought thence into Spain. For which end the Spaniards maintain there many negroes to kill the cattle, and foster a great number of hogs, which being killed are cut into small pieces that dry in the sun; and so make provisions for the ships which come for Spain."

Many books of West Indian travel are by French writers, among them an anonymous "Relation des voyages et des decouvertes que las Espagnols on fait," Jean de Laët's "Histoire du Nouveau Monde," Jean Baptiste Labat's "Nouveau Voyage aux îles de l'Amérique," François Coréal's "Relation des Voyages aux Indes Occidentales" and that interesting work entitled "Relation de ce qui s'est passé dans les îles et Terra Firma de l'Amérique," which does not give the name of the author, but bears on its title-page the name of the printer, "Gervais Clouzier au Palais, à la seconde Boutique sur les degrés en montant pour aller à la Ste. Chapelle au Voyageur MDCLXXI" and is dedicated to the Duc de Luynes, a peer of France. There is also the work of a Dutchman, Linschoten: "Histoire de la Navigation de Jean Hugues de Linschoten," which has been translated into English, French and other languages.{351}

Jan Huygens van Linschoten was a born traveler. His favorite reading had always been books of travel and as the news of the exploits of foreign mariners in the New World came pouring into Holland, this young Dutchman was seized with an irresistible longing to see those far-off worlds. He frankly speaks in his book of travel of the difficulties he encountered in trying to persuade his family to approve of his venture, and whether they did or not, he set out for Lisbon as the place where he would be most likely to obtain passage. He arrived there just after the death of Alba. He found the Peninsula in great commotion which even interrupted the regular routine of overseas traffic. But a man of daring puts his trust in chance, and chance favored the venturesome youth by an extraordinary opportunity.

There was at that time a noble Dominican monk in Lisbon, Fra Vincente Fonseca, scion of a distinguished family. He had been a preacher to King Sebastian of Portugal, had done missionary work in Africa and been later attached to the court of Madrid as confessor of Philip II. The archbishopric of the West Indies having become vacant, Fonseca was appointed, but he was unwilling to accept this position, dreading the long voyage and a repetition of some unpleasant experiences which he had had in Africa. The king, however, insisted, promised to recall him in four or five years and held out to him the lure of rich revenues. So Fra Fonseca finally accepted, and Jan Huygens van Linschoten succeeded in obtaining a position in the retinue of the prelate. Linschoten's brother, who was secretary to the king, being tired of court life, had also asked to be sent overseas and was about to sail as scribe on board a vessel going to the Levant. But on learning of his brother's luck, he decided also to go to the West Indies and joined the fleet waiting to embark in some professional capacity. There were five vessels; the Admiral ship called San Felipe, the Vice-Admiral San Diego, the third was San Laurente,{352} the fourth San Francisco and the fifth San Salvador. The two brothers boarded the latter, and set sail on Good Friday, the eighth of April, 1583.

Jan Huygens van Linschoten has this to say of Cuba:

"Cuba is a very large island belonging to the Antille group, first discovered by Christopher Colomb in 1492, and called by him Jeanne et Ferdinande and also Alpha and Omega. It has also by others been called Island of Santiago, after the name of the principal town, so considered on account of the great harbor and big trade. To the east it has the island of San Domingo, to the west Yucatan, to the north the extremity of Florida and the Lucaya islands, to the South the island of Jamaica. The island of Cuba is greater in length than in width; it measures from one end to the other three hundred leagues, from North to South seventy and in width it is only fifteen and in some places nineteen leagues. The center of the island is at 91 degrees longitude and twenty latitude. The island has long been considered part of the continent on account of its size, of which one ought not to be surprised, for the inhabitants themselves seem not to know its limits and since the arrival of the Spaniards they know no better, being a people, naked and simple and contented with their government and bothering about no other. The ground is rough and hilly. The sea makes inlets in various places; there are small rivers, the good waters of which carry gold and copper. The air is moderately warm, sometimes a little cold. You find there dye-stuffs for linen and furs. The island is full of shady woods, ponds and beautiful fresh water rivers; you also find plenty of ponds the waters of which are naturally salt. The forests contain wild boars. The rivers frequently yield gold.

"In this island are six cities, inhabited by Spaniards, the first and principal of which is San Jago, which is the seat of the archbishop; but Havana is the principal mercantile center of the island and there they build ships. Two notable things were remarked on this island by Gonsalo Onetano. One is a valley between two mountains, of the length of two or three Spanish leagues, where you find boulders by nature so round that they could not be rounded better, and in such quantity that they could serve as ballast for several ships, that use cannon balls instead of lead or iron. The other is a mountain, not far from the coast, from which there is a constant flow of pitch to the coast and wherever the wind may divert it. The residents and Spaniards use this pitch to tar their vessels.

"The inhabitants of this island are like those of the island of{353} Spain (Hispaniola) though a little different in language. Both men and women go about naked. In their marriage a strange custom prevails; the husband is not the first to approach his wife. If he is a gentleman, he invites all gentlemen to precede him; if he is a merchant, he invites the merchants, if he is a peasant, he asks the gentlemen and the priests. The men can for the slightest cause abandon the women; but the wives cannot desert their husband for any reason whatsoever. The men are very inconstant and lead a bad life. The soil produces big worms and serpents or snakes that are not poisonous so the people eat them without danger. And these snakes feed on certain little animals called Guabiniquinazes, of which sometimes seven or eight are found in their stomach, although they are as big as hares, resembling a fox, the head of a weasel, the tail of a fox, the hair long like a deer's, color somewhat reddish, and the flesh tender and wholesome. This island should be well populated; but it is not so at present, unless it be by some Spaniards, who have exterminated the greater number of natives, of which many died of starvation."

The Sieur Jean de Laët d'Anners, whose History of the New World bears the imprint of Bonaventure and Elzevir, Printers of the University of Leyden, also gives a description of Cuba as it was in the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century. He says:

"There are few towns in proportion to the size of the island; Santiago ranks first, both for its age and name; it was built by Diego Velasco. At the south coast of the island about 20 degrees North Latitude, opposite Hispaniola, almost two miles from the sea, in the depth of a harbor which one may well pronounce the first among the large and safe harbors of the New World. For the ocean enters through a narrow inlet and is received by a large bay, like a gulf, with several little islands; it is so safe a port that one does not need to cast anchor. This city was once well populated, but now the population is reduced to a very small number. It has a cathedral church and a bishop Suffragans of the archbishopric of San Domingo and a monastery of the Minorite brothers. It is owned by the Lieutenant-Governor of the island. The chief articles of trade are ox-skins and sugar. Three miles from the town are rich mines of copper, which is now extracted from high mountains, called for that reason by the Spaniards Sierras de Cobre.

"Near this town to the East about thirty miles is the town of{354} Baracoa, built by the same Velasco on the North Coast The forests near this town yield very good ebony and according to other reports Brazilian redwood.

"The third city is San Salvador or Bayamo from the name of the province, built by the same Velasco, thirty miles from Santiago, which surpasses all other towns of the island by good air, fertile soil and beautiful plains; it is in the center of the island, but merchandise is brought from the sea by the river Caute, which is opposite. Among the treasures of this island are certain stones of divers size, but all perfectly round, so they could serve as cannon balls; they are said to be so numerous on the shores of the river bearing the name of the town, that they seem to have rained from the sky. Oniedo says they are found in a marshy valley almost midway between this city and Santiago.

"Puerto de Principe ranks fourth; town and harbor, much esteemed by mariners, are to the north of the island, forty leagues from Santiago northwest. Not far are springs of bitumen, which Monardes mentions (and which the Indians use as remedy for chills). I believe they are the naptha of the ancients.

"Santi Spiritus of forty to fifty houses is more a village than a town and its harbor is good only for barges and sloops. But vessels stop there on their way from Santiago, Bayamo and Puerto Principe to Havana.

"Trinite-Trinidad—once populated by Indians, now almost deserted, has an inconvenient harbor and was the scene of some shipwrecks.

"Havana receives the sea by a narrow but deep inlet, enlarging into a wide bay, with coasts at first diverging and then meeting, capable of holding a thousand vessels as if in a safe bosom. All the Spanish fleets coming from the meridional continent, New Spain and the islands, loaded with a variety of merchandise and an abundance of gold and silver, stop there to take on water and necessary victuals, and when a sufficient number has collected, in September or later, they go out together or in two fleets through the straits of Bahama towards Spain: The city has besides the garrison (the number of which is uncertain, although the king sends the pay for a thousand soldiers and more) three hundred Spanish families, some Portuguese and a large number of slaves. The governor of the island and the other royal officers reside there. It surpasses not only the other cities of the island, but almost all of America by the size and safety of her port, her wealth and her commerce. The neighboring forests furnish a great abundance of excellent woods, which they use to build their ships, which is a very great convenience. They have also tried to work some copper mines not far from the town; but without success, either be{355}cause the veins failed, or the laborers were too ignorant or the expense was greater than the profit."

Many of the writers of these books of travel dwell at length upon the wealth of precious woods found on the island. One of them makes a list which contains the following: l'acana, called vegetable iron, cedar, majagna (mahogany) frijolillo, a wood with shaded veins, granadillo, a wood light purple in color, ebony, yew and many others. Wood was so plentiful that it was even used instead of metal in machinery. Foreigners visiting the first sugar refinery in Cuba, which was in 1532 founded by Brigadier Gonzales de Velosa, associated with the veedor Cristobal de Tapia and his brother, found the machines made of hard wood. The variety of fruits is also commented upon by the travelers that visited Cuba in the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century. They mention among the fruit trees abundant in Cuba the cocoa trees of Los Remedios, the ubiquitous banana, the orange, the West India chestnut, the fruit-bearing palms, guesima, garoubier, yaya and others.

François Coréal's "Relation des Voyages aux Indes Occidentales" also contains some interesting data and goes into the causes of the decline of Spanish power in the West Indies. Coréal, who seems to be of Spanish origin or at least citizenship, says among other things:

"There grows in Porto Rico a guiac tree, the wood of which was considered a sovereign remedy against small-pox. Indians sometimes told me, were it but for that wood, one should be glad that America was discovered. These Indians often asked me whether there are any drugs against small pox growing in Europe; and when I told them that many excellent antivenereal remedies came from the West Indies, they remarked with some common sense and not without a touch of irony, that God had much kindness for the Castellanos, having given them their gold, their wives and even their guiac."

In another part of the very readable work he says:{356}

"It is certain the Spaniards owe the rapidity of their conquest of America to the sudden (and almost miraculous) fear with which the Indians were seized at the approach of the new enemy. It seems that without it we would have had much more trouble; but artillery was unknown to these Americans, so was military discipline, which we understood better than they, so they with extraordinary rapidity cleared for us the roads to the South Sea and on to Chili and the Straits of Magellan. This facility of our conquest made for carelessness, which from that time through the luxury and idleness of our people increased, until it became almost inconceivable. As our people rather scorned the Indians and considered them almost a sort of intermediary creature between man and beast, it was believed that lands so easily conquered could not be as easily lost; and there was some reason for this belief, for at that time Spain had no rival on the sea, there was nothing to fear from the Indians themselves, who could not hold out against us conquerors. Later we had even less fear, for the Spanish monarchy became a formidable power to all Europe and when it ceased to be so, interests and politics had so changed that one was obliged to leave us in peaceful ownership of a possession which could have been taken from us as easily as we had conquered it.

"This is according to my opinion the main cause of the decline of Spanish power in America. There are others which are no less real. As soon as one has set foot in the New World, you are confronted with an endless lot of plunderers and marauders, who call themselves soldiers, ravage the beautiful country, pillage the treasures of the Indians, torture the inhabitants and rob them of their property and freedom, under a thousand pretences unworthy of Christianity and of Spanish generosity. So that several of these nations which at the beginning favored the Spaniards, became in time their most mortal enemies. These plunderers, I cannot call them anything else, ruined at the outset the authority of the King and by{357} their wickedness hindered all the good that one could have expected from the friendship of native residents. Royal authority being poorly upheld by these bad subjects of the King, and the facile abundance which they had found, having plunged them into all sorts of vice, their pride made them look upon the Indians as their slaves and even as property acquired by the sword, which succeeded in spoiling our position with the natives. It is quite certain that these people would not wish for more than to throw off the yoke of servitude under which they sigh to-day as did their ancestors before them."

The author of the book printed by Gervais Glouzier, "Relation de ce qui s'est passé dans les îles et la Terra Firma de l'Amérique pendant la dernière guerre avec l'Angleterre, etc." also dwells upon the policy pursued by certain Spanish adventurers and officials towards the natives of the islands:

"The Spaniards pretended to have recognized the natives of these islands as being anthropophagous, and asked the king of Castile permission to capture them, i.e., to take and make them slaves (which they did elsewhere without permission), so they did not approach the Antilles except armed, and in the character of enemies; and the Indians who inhabited them prepared to make upon them the most cruel war, as soon as they saw vessels off their coasts, be it openly or from ambush in the woods, or by surprise attacks, when the strangers wanted to take water or leave the vessels, which irritated these people and many a Spaniard regretted having obliged them to go to such extremities.

"Things of this kind happened in the Antilles during the fifteenth century when the Spaniards were busy making other discoveries, wherever gold or silver attracted them and for the conservation of which and the exploitation of mines they could not furnish a sufficient number of men. They had no idea of settling down to cultivate the soil of these lands, and waiting only to procure the convenience of taking on water or leaving their{358} invalids to recuperate on St. Christopher island, they made peace with the Indians who inhabited this island, and continued to treat as enemies all those of other islands.

"When at the end of this century and the beginning of the sixteenth, the English and French sailed on the seas of America, the first with more considerable forces like those conducted by Drake, Walter Raleigh, Kenits and others, and the French with less armaments, the voyages of the ones and the others in those little frequented climates made some other compatriots conceive the idea of establishing themselves on American soil and found colonies, which would furnish subsistence to a considerable number of their nation and serve as retreat to those vessels where they could renew their supplies. In this way in 1625 two adventurers, the one French, named d'Enemène 'de la maison de Duil en Normandie,' the other also a gentleman, an Englishman named V. Varnard, moved by the same desire landed on the same day on St. Christopher's, which they had chosen for their purpose and from there all the French and British settlements in the Antilles radiated."

These records of visits to the West Indies by Dutch, English, French and other travellers following in the wake of the great discoverers and explorers, rise almost to the importance of documentary evidence, when they attempt to deal with such questions as the attitude of the Spaniards towards the natives of the New World. But mainly they are narratives, setting down simply and unpretentiously the impressions made upon European visitors by the bigness of dimensions and proportions and the abundance of natural products of all sorts. There is a spirit of wonderment at the riches so profusely bestowed upon this Western world; but there is not yet a trace of the jealousy so apparent in later writings, when commercial rivalry had divided the nations of Europe into hostile camps and finally arrayed all of them against Spain. Though not always written by men who had{359} set out in pursuit of adventure, they convey to the reader a breath of the oldtime romance of travel in countries the plants and animals and native residents of which are so many objects of curious interest. But viewed as a whole, these books are full of information, at times strangely quickened by an individual human touch, and read at leisure in a certain order, reconstruct the panorama of West Indian life in a period which had no parallel in the history of the world.{360}


It was the inscrutable irony of fate that Cuba should remain so negligible a quantity during one of the most momentous and progressive periods of human history. No other era since man began his career had been on the whole so marked with greatness. Discovery and exploration had doubled the known area of the globe, and the intellectual achievements of the race had even more than kept pace with the material. The era of which we have been writing in this volume saw the completion of Columbus's work in his fourth voyage, the exploits of Magellan, Balboa and Cabot, the enterprises of Cortez and Pizarro, of Cartier and Raleigh. It saw the rise of religious liberty, and of modern philosophy and science. It saw the art of printing, invented in the preceding century, developed into world-wide significance.

This was the era of genius. Its annals were adorned with the names of Shakespeare and Cervantes, of Rafael and Titian and Michael Angelo, of Holbein and Durer, of Luther and Erasmus, of Ariosto and Rabelais, of Tyndale and Knox, of Calvin, Loyola and Xavier, of Copernicus and Vesalius, of Montaigne and Camoens, of Tycho Brahe and Kepler, of Tasso and Spenser, of Bacon and Jonson, of Sidney and Lope de Vega. It was a wondrous company that passed along the world's highway while Cuba was struggling in obscurity to lay the foundations of a future state.

Nor did Spain herself lag behind her neighbor nations. The sixteenth century saw her swift rise to the greatest estate she has ever known, and her development of many of the greatest names in her history. She began the century a newly-formed kingdom uncertain of herself and timorously essaying an ambitious career; and she reached{361} its close one of the most extensive and most powerful empires in the world. We commonly think of her chiefly as a conquering power. But in fact that century of her marvellous conquests of empire was also her golden age in intellect. We may imagine that the swiftness of her rise to primacy among the nations, and the dazzling splendor of her conquests, stimulated and inspired the minds of her people to comparable achievements in the intellectual world. The sixteenth century was indeed to Spain what the Augustan Age was to Rome, and what the Elizabethan and Victorian ages were to England, and for some of the same reasons.

It was then that three great universities were founded: Salamanca, Alcala for science, Valladolid for law; and a noteworthy school of navigation at Seville. There flourished the philosopher Luis Vives, the tutor of Mary Stuart. In jurisprudence there were Victoria and Vazquez, from whom Grotius received his inspiration; and Solorzano, with his monumental work of the Government of the Indies. The drama was adorned by Lope de Rueda, Lope de Vega, Gabriel Tellez, and Juan del Enzina. The greatest name of all in literature was that of Miguel Cervantes y Saavedra. There were the poets Garcilaso de Vega, and Luis de Argote y Gongora. There were the painters Ribera, and Domenico Theotocopuli, who inspired Velazquez.

Above all, there was one of the most remarkable groups of historians of any land or age. Paez de Castro was more than any other man the founder of history as a philosophical study as distinguished from mere polite letters; the forerunner of Voltaire and Hume. There were Florian de Ocampo, Jeronimo Zurita, Ambrosio de Morales, and the famous Jesuit Mariana. Then there was a remarkable company of historians inspired by the American conquests of Spain, who gave their attention to writing of the lands thus added to her empire: Oviedo, Gomara, Bernal Diaz, Lopez de Velasco, Las Casas, and many more. Cortez, Pizarro, Velasquez and{362} others might conquer lands for Spain. These others would see to it that their deeds were fittingly chronicled.

There was something more, still more significant. There arose distinguished writers, producing notable works, in the countries of Spanish America; some born there, some travelling thither from the peninsula. It was in 1558 that the University of Santo Domingo was founded, which for a time served all the Spanish Indies and was a great centre of learning. How many poets and dramatists, not to mention historians and other writers, there were in America in that century, we are reminded in Cervantes's "Viaje de Parnaso" and Lope de Vega's "Laurel de Apolo." These writers were chiefly in Mexico and Peru, for obvious reasons. Those were Spain's chief colonies, and they were those which had themselves the most noteworthy past, a past marked with a high degree of civilization. The first book ever printed in the Western Hemisphere was the "Breve y Compendiosa Doctrina Cristiana," published by Juan de Zumarraga, the first Bishop of Mexico, in Mexico in 1539.

It was about the middle of the century that there appeared the first American book of real literary merit. This was "La Araucana," a Chilean epic poem, by Alonso de Ercilla y Zuñiga. Another epic, with Hernando Cortez for its hero, was "Cortez Valeroso," by Gabriel Lasso de la Vega, in 1588. The next year saw Juan de Castellanos's prodigious historical and biographical poem of 150,000 lines, "Elegias de Varones Ilustres de Indias." Another epic of Cortez was Antonio de Saavedra Guzman's "Peregrino Indiano," in 1599.

In all these things Cuba had no part. In later centuries that island could boast of poets and other writers worthy to rank with their best contemporaries of other lands. But in that marvellous sixteenth century she seems to have produced not a single name worthy of remembrance. In the rich productivity of Spanish intellect Cuba remained unrepresented. In Oriente, in{363} Camaguey and in Havana there may be found legends and ballads of unknown but ancient origin, which are assumed to have been composed perhaps in the days of Velasquez, and to have been passed down orally from generation to generation. Quien sabe? It is quite probable that such was their origin; but it is quite certain that their authors are unknown.

For this lack of intellectual productivity in the first century of Cuba's history, and indeed the lack of any noteworthy achievements, the reason is not difficult to perceive. As we observed at the beginning of this volume, Cuba, at the advent of Europeans, was a country without a civilization and without a past. Mexico, Yucatan and Peru had enjoyed civilizations not unworthy of comparison with those of Europe and Asia, the remains of which attracted thither the intellects of Spain, and inspired them. But Cuba had nothing of the sort. Again, the vast wealth of Mexico and Peru attracted to those countries many more explorers, conquerors and colonists than Cuba could draw to herself. And there was also the partiality which was shown to them by royal favor and in royal interest. We shall have reviewed the annals of the first Cuban century to little purpose if we do not perceive that during the greater part of that time the "Queen of the Antilles," the "Pearl of the West Indies," as she was even then occasionally and afterward habitually called, was the Cinderella of the Spanish Empire; a Cinderella destined, however, one day to meet her Fairy Prince and thus to be wakened into splendor not surpassed by the finest of her sisters.

The close of the sixteenth century marked, then, approximately a great turning point in Cuban history. Thitherto she had been exclusively identified with Spain. She had developed no individuality and had exercised no influence upon other lands and their relationships, or indeed upon the empire of which she was a part. It was left for later years to make her an important factor in in{364}ternational affairs and to develop in her an individuality worthy of an independent sovereign among the nations of the world.

Yet in these very circumstances which we have recounted, and which upon the face of them appeared to be and indeed were for the time so unfavorable, there were developed the influences which unerringly led to the subsequent greatness of the island. The earliest settlers were not only of Spanish origin but also of Spanish sympathies. They could not be expected to have any affection for or any pride in the land to which they had come as to a mere "Tom Tiddler's ground," on which to pick up silver and gold. They valued Cuba for only what they could get out of her; many of them glad, after thus gaining wealth, to return to Spain, or to go to Mexico, Venezuela or Peru, there the better to enjoy it and to mingle in social pleasures which the primitive life of Cuba did not yet afford.

There were, however, some even in the first generation who were exceptions to this rule, who loved Cuba for her own sake, who wished to identify themselves permanently with her, and who wished to see her developed to the greatness and the splendor for which her natural endowments seemed to them to have designed her. In the second generation the number of such was of course greatly multiplied, and in succeeding generations their increase proceeded at a constantly increasing ratio. Thus by the end of the first century of Cuban history the great majority of residents of the island regarded themselves as Cubans rather than as Spaniards. They were Spaniards in race and tongue, and they were ready to stand with the peninsular kingdom and the rest of its world-circling empire against any of other tongues and races. But while thus to the outside world they were Spaniards, to Spain itself and to the people of the peninsula they were Cubans; differentiated from Spain much more than the Catalonian was from the Castilian, or the Andalusian from the Navarrais.{365}

This sentiment of differentiation, and of insular individuality, was naturally strengthened by the treatment which the peninsular government accorded to the island. The Cubans were made to feel that Spain regarded them as apart from her, just as much as they themselves so regarded her. They felt, too, that she was treating them with injustice and with neglect; that instead of nourishing her young plantation and giving it the support of her wealth and strength she was drawing upon it for her own nourishment and support. They would have been either far more or far less than human if they had not thus been incited to a certain degree of resentment and to an assertion of independence.

In brief, it was with the Cubans even at that early day as it was with the British colonists in North America a century and a half later; though indeed the Cubans determined upon separation from the mother country at a comparatively earlier date than the people of the Thirteen Colonies, or certainly much longer before their achievement of that independence. We know that the British colonists were dissatisfied and protesting for nearly a score of years before their Declaration of Independence, but that down to within a few months of the latter transcendent event scarcely any of them thought of separation from England. Lexington and Concord, and even Bunker Hill, were fought not for independence but for the securing of the same rights for the colonists that their fellow subjects in the British Isles enjoyed. But the Cubans resolved upon separation from Spain not only years but at least two full generations before they were able to achieve it.

This spirit belongs to a much later date in Cuban history than that of which we are now writing, and to refer to it here is an act of anticipation. But it is desirable to some extent to scan the end from the beginning; to see from the outset to what end we shall come as well as to see at the end from what beginning we have come. Moreover, it cannot be too well remembered that even as{366} soon as the latter part of the sixteenth century the people of Cuba regarded themselves as Cubans, and so called themselves, and had begun the cultivation of a social order and a sentiment of patriotism quite distinct from though not yet necessarily antagonistic to that of Spain.

The transition from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century was marked, then, with a significant change in the temper and character of Cuba, especially by a great accession of the spirit of insular integrity and independence. While Spain was great and apparently growing greater, there was a gratifying pride in identification with her. But when her decline began, and showed signs of being as rapid as her rise had been, that pride waned, and there began to arise in its place a pride in Cuba, or perhaps we might say at that early date a determination to develop in Cuba cause for pride. From that time forward Cuba was destined to be more American than European; and though for nearly three centuries she might continue to be a European possession, yet her lot was decided. Unconsciously, perhaps, but not the less surely she was drawn into the irresistible current which was drawing all the American settlements away from the European planters of them. It was one of the interesting eccentricities of history that the first important land acquired by Spain in the western hemisphere should be the last to leave her sway; and that the first European colonists in America to have cause for complaint against their overlords should be the longest to suffer and the last to secure abatement of their wrongs. Such is the reflection caused by consideration of this first era in the history of the Queen of the Antilles.



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