Cuba Before Independence Part I

By | December 16, 2021

The actual conquest of the island, as mentioned (see above, Explorations), took place only 19 years after Columbus had landed there, thanks to Diego Velázquez, who was sent by the governor of Santo Domingo, Diego Colombo, seized the island (1511). The resistance opposed to him by the few indigenous tribes was weak, except for the attempt of the cacique Hatuey, who paid for his audacity with his life. Subjugated the natives, the conquerors began the colonizing work. On the contrary, expeditions for the exploration and conquest of Central America departed from Cuba: in 1517 that of Juan de Grijalva, who discovered the Yucatán; at the end of 1518 that, more famous, of Cortés who moved to the conquest of Mexico.

The island was established as a governorate and had as its center, from 1550, Havana and Havana was also later, in 1580, established the general captaincy. In 1607 Cuba was administratively divided into two regions: one having Havana as capital and the other Santiago, both politically dependent on the Council of the Indies, judicially by the Audiencia of S. Domingo, while militarily the Santiago region depended on Havana..

The new Cuban citizens were administered on the model of the municipal system of the old Castile; therefore, the municipal officials were entrusted with the administration of the communities, while the fiscal ones were given the task of safeguarding the interests of the royal treasury and the crown. Although the king, in order to favor colonization, showed himself wide in granting lands to settlers and communities, the island, like the whole new continent conquered by Spanish arms, in fact belonged by full right to the patrimony of the crown. The ecclesiastical authorities enjoyed ample faculties and privileges. The judicial functions were exercised by the municipal officials themselves, under the control of the supreme bodies that represented the monarch: the Audiencia and the chancelleries.

Naturally, in that period, any political activity was lacking; but the struggles for the distribution of lands and encomiendas and the disputes between the various authorities were continuous. The fight against smuggling assumed particular importance for the island, against pirates, especially the French, very fearsome especially towards the middle of the century. XVII. Only in 1697, thanks to the treaty concluded in that year between Spain, France and England, they were definitively removed from the coasts of the island.

But during the Anglo-Spanish War (1762) an English squad was sent, under the orders of Admiral Lord Albemarle, to conquer the island. And in fact, on July 30, 1762, the English forces besieged Havana, which capitulated on August 13. Peace was concluded (February 10, 1763, in Versailles), the English left Cuba on July 6 of that year, having obtained in exchange the cession of Florida.

Thus we arrive at the beginning of the century. XIX, when Cuba also claims to be free. Because, although the events in Spain of 1802 had made the colonists renew their loyalty to the Spanish dynasty, and the authorities of the island had gathered on 17 July 1808 to protest against the usurpation of Joseph Bonaparte, it was already perceived as the dominion Spanish now encountered strong opposition. The negro José Antonio Aponte, who wanted to emancipate the natives, accused of conspiring against the monarchy, was executed together with eight other conspirators (1812) and meanwhile the antagonism between the Creoles and the Spaniards residing on the island intensified. Separatism, the aspiration of the Creoles, could not be averted either by the equality of rights granted by the constitution of 1812,

Patriots gathered in secret societies; one of them, founded on the island, Los soles y rayos de Bolivar, gathered the first followers and formulated the first program of freedom. In Mexico the Cuban emigrants constituted the Junta promotora de la libertad (1825); on March 16, 1826 the first martyrs fell in Cuba. F. de Aguero y Velasco and A. Manuel Sánchez, hanged by order of General Vives. Those agitations determined the promulgation of a royal order that invested the captain general with dictatorial faculties, thus opening the bloody period of Spanish military despotism, with the centralization in the hands of the captain general of administrative, military and judicial powers. Cuba, which had been represented up to then by four deputies in the Cortes, remained practically isolated from the mother country; and this isolation was further aggravated by the reform made to the Spanish constitution (1837), on the basis of which, having to govern the colonies of “Ultramar” by special laws for the future, that representation in the Cortes was abolished and a ministry was created instead, said precisely of “Ultramar”. Cuba remained in full control of the captains general, who, far from understanding the timing and promptly advising reforms, were concerned only with serving the tax authorities.

But events matured. In Matanzas (1844) the indigenous poet Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, known by the pseudonym of “Plácido”, was shot; at the same time Santiago Pinienta and Andrea Dodge were killed. In 1849 the Sociedad Libertadora was founded in Camagüey; and the following year the Venetian general Narciso López, disembarked with a handful of conspirators from the Créole steamer, besieged and conquered Cárdenas, on May 19, the day on which the flag of the solitary estrella flew for the first time. Caught and condemned (1851), Narciso López paid for his attempt with his life.

The struggle of the Cuban population to escape the Spanish domination was encouraged and supported more and more openly by the United States, which aspired to annex the island and which since 1825 had made a first attempt to buy the island. In 1848 the United States minister in Madrid was authorized to offer Spain 100 million dollars. In open contrast to precise statements by United States Secretary of State Everett, who in 1852 had stated that the United States would never contest Spain’s right to Cuba, the so-called Ostend Manifesto, signed in October 1854 by the ministers of the States United in London, Paris and Madrid, they declared that Cuba “due to its geographical situation and other considerations deriving from it, he asserted that the United States would fail in its duty by allowing Cuba to Africanize; he therefore recommended buying Cuba as soon as possible; he concluded that if Spain had refused the price offered (120 million dollars) and if Cuba, in possession of Spain, had threatened the internal peace of the “beloved Union”, the United States could with good reason be able to wrest it from Spain. The manifesto was harshly criticized in Europe and was not well received even in the United States. had threatened the internal peace of the “beloved Union”, the United States could rightly have snatched it from Spain. The manifesto was harshly criticized in Europe and was not well received even in the United States. had threatened the internal peace of the “beloved Union”, the United States could rightly have snatched it from Spain. The manifesto was harshly criticized in Europe and was not well received even in the United States. For Cuba military, please check

In the period between 1850 and 1868, there were continuous struggles in Cuba between the reformist party, especially recruited from among the Creoles, and the conservative party, which was composed mainly of Spaniards. The situation gradually worsened also due to the economic crisis and financial distress. In 1868 an insurrection broke out, known as the “Ten Years War”: the supporters of autonomy, those of independence and those of the union with the United States, led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Francisco Vicente, took up arms against the Spaniards. Aguilera and others. At one point it seemed that the United States was making up its mind to intervene; but then they merely offered to buy the island again. During the war he died in 1873, as a result of wounds, the leader of the insurgents, Ignacio Agramonte, called “the Cuban Washington”, who was replaced by Máximo Gómez. In January 1878 he arrived on the island as the new Spanish governor, General Martínez Campos, who managed to reach an agreement with the rebels: the pact of Zanjón was signed, which granted amnesty for the facts of war, promised the abolition of slavery, reforms in government and colonial autonomy. After the pacification there was a new revolt, the so-called “little war” of 1879-80, led by Calixto García which was repressed without much difficulty. The gradual abolition of slavery was decreed with the law of February 13, 1886; in 1893 the complete civil equality of Whites and Negroes was proclaimed by General Calleja. The import of coolies from China had ceased as early as 1871.

Cuba Before Independence Part I