BECK index

Cuba 1850-1935

by Sanderson Beck

   Cuba, Filibusters & Reformers 1850-67
   Cuba & Civil War 1868-78
   Cuba, Martí & Revolution 1879-94
   Cuba & War for Independence 1895-97
   Cuba & United States Intervention 1898-1909
   Cuba of Gómez, Menocal & Zayas 1909-24
   Cuba under Machado 1925-35

Cuba, Filibusters & Reformers 1850-67

Cuba 1744-1850

      On 17 March 1850 the Venezuelan Narciso López, who as a youth had been forced to fight for the Spanish, and the Cuban revolutionary Ambrosio José Gonzales, who had joined the Havana Club in 1848 to work for Cuban independence, met with Mississippi’s Gov. John A. Quitman at Jackson. Quitman had led filibusters in the Texas Republic, and he defended the interests of slaveowners. They planned how they could help annex Cuba. The first attempt by López was stopped by federal agents. Then he directed 600 American filibusters who landed at Cardenas on May 19, but they were forced to depart after a few hours. López and Gonzales were tried in New Orleans for violating the Neutrality Act, and juries would not convict them. López recruited veterans of the Mexican War.
      On 7 May 1851 he and Gonzales left New Orleans on the Creole in another expedition that joined other ships off the coast of Yucatan. They went to Cuba and landed in Pinar del Río province in August. López led 300 men, and Col. W. H. Crittenden stayed with 120 men to guard supplies. Crittenden and his men eventually were captured and after a short trial were shot on August 6. General José de la Concha decided not to shoot 160 men captured with López, and they were sent to Spain to work in quicksilver mines. López was excepted, and before he was strangled on September 1 by a gorote vil he said, “It was not my wish to injure anyone. My object was your freedom and happiness.”1
      On July 4 Joaquín de Agüero led 44 men demanding Cuban independence. Their revolt lasted only a few days, and he and three others were executed on August 12. Some politicians in the United States wanted to annex Cuba as a slave state, but they could not get it passed.
      After he was governor, Quitman worked with the Junta Cubana of New York. On 18 August 1853 they appointed him the civil and military chief of the revolution, and he promised to protect slavery.
      On September 23 Spain made Juan de la Pezuela the Captain-General of Cuba, and he was ordered to suppress the slave trade. He arrived in Cuba on December 3 and organized a militia for free Africans that included whites. In March 1854 the United States Secretary of State William Marcy sent a secret agent to see if Spain was considering the Africanization of Cuba. On May 3 Pezuela decreed that officials could enter plantations to find suspected contraband. He organized the annual registration of slaves after the August harvest, and those convicted of smuggling slaves were sent into exile for two years. His decree concluded,

Now the spectacle of an impotent authority
and the impunity of a few capitalists must come to an end.
Avaricious interests that place private gain
above the national interest can no longer be tolerated.2

      Quitman prepared for an expedition to Cuba, and by early 1855 he had raised $1 million and recruited 10,000 volunteers. José de la Concha was Captain-General of Cuba three times 1850-52, 1854-59 and 1874-75, and he discovered Ramón Pintó’s uprising and had him seized and garroted. Quitman’s conspiracy was planning to shoot Cuba’s officials on 12 February 1855. Concha declared a state of siege. Quitman abandoned the plan on April 30, and the filibustering units were dismissed in the southern cities. Spain refused to allow the Cuban government to decree exile for those suspected of being involved in a slave expedition, and Concha resigned and left Cuba in December 1859.
      The sugar industry by 1850 produced 223,145 tons of sugar which accounted for 83% of Cuba’s exports. Coffee was Cuba’s second major crop. In 1855 Brazil produced nearly thirteen times as much coffee as Cuba and Puerto Rico combined. In 1856 Cuba produced more than 13% of the world’s sugar (including from beets in Europe) and nearly three times as much as the United States which ranked second among nations. The 1,365 mills in Cuba had 55 modern machines that produced one-fifth of its sugar in 1860. Cuba in 1859 produced about 536,000 tons of sugar which was 29% of world production.
      Between 1856 and 1860 Cuba imported about 90,000 African slaves. In the 1860-61 census Cuba counted 1,396,530 people with about 716,000 whites and 643,000 blacks of which 370,553 were slaves. Chinese had begun immigrating in 1844, and between 1853 and 1874 about 130,000 Chinese laborers arrived in Cuba. The United States Civil War with the Union blockade of southern ports followed by emancipation drastically reduced Cuba’s participation in the slave trade in the 1860s.
      On 6 December 1858 United States President James Buchanan asked for money to annex Cuba, and Louisiana’s Senator John Slidell introduced a bill on 10 January 1859. The US Senate debated a bill to appropriate $30 million, and Slidell admitted its defeat on May 30.
      In 1857 Adolfo Ramos and free Negro workers began organizing in parishes Mutual Aid Societies that would lead to a labor movement. Some prominent Creoles organized the Havana Reform Club to work for political improvement. They tried to work with Captain-General Francisco Serrano y Dominguez (1859-62) and Captain-General Domingo Dulce (1862-66) even though the martial laws did not permit political parties. Serrano countered that with the Unconditional Spanish Party. Cuba formally ended the slave trade in 1862. El Siglo (The Century) began publishing in May 1863, and they supported the reforming siglistas. Their program was to charter Cuba, curtail the power of the Captain General, allow petitions, stop arbitrary arrests and illegal confiscation of property, give Cubans representation in the Cortes, revise civil, commercial, and criminal codes, suppress the slave trade, and let whites immigrate. In the 1860s more reformers advocated the abolition of slavery.
      In 1863 Captain-General Dulce expelled slave merchants and imprisoned local governors including the political governor of the Havana province. When slaves were landed near Matanzas, Colón’s Lt. Governor Col. Argüelles received $15,000 and sold 141 of the slaves for at least $700 each. He then tried to buy the newspaper La Cronica in New York. Spain extradited him and sent him to the galleys. The last authenticated slave voyage to the western hemisphere came to Cuba and sold slaves for about $750 in 1865. That year Dulce authorized the reformers to send a letter with 24,000 signatures to General Serrano in Madrid. The reformers defied the laws banning political parties.
      In 1865-66 slaves on Miguel Aldama’s plantation went on the first strike in Cuba demanding pay for work and claiming they were free having arrived after 1820. Troops were sent and forced them to work. In October 1865 the poet Saturnino Martínez began publishing La Aurora mostly for tobacco workers. In 1864 Antonio Leal had started reading aloud to tobacco workers who contributed from their wages to the reader. In January 1866 the tobacco factory El Fígao approved readers. They read from La Aurora, El Siglo, and from books such as Political Economy by Nuñez y Estrada, Galeano’s 6-volume History of Spain, and Key to the World by Fernández y González.
      In November 1865 Spain’s government agreed to the election of a commission to discuss a constitution for Cuba. Only white men with property were allowed to vote in the March 1866 elections. Slave strikes and readings were spreading. On 14 May 1866 the Political Governor Cipriano del Mazo prohibited readings in workshops because they led to “political clubs.” On July 9 Spain’s Cortes passed a law to promote the end of slavery with heavy penalties for violators. This caused the dismissal of Cuba’s Captain-General Leopoldo O’Donnell and the suspension of the Cortes for six months. Even Serrano was exiled to the Canaries, and liberal professors were expelled.
      On 12 February 1867 Spain imposed a 6% tax on income from real and industrial property, and a colonial government could raise taxes up to 12%. General Narváez allowed liberals from Cuba and Puerto Rico to meet the Colonies Minister Alejandro de Castro. At a meeting the Puerto Ricans proposed abolishing slavery. Cubans worked on a plan of gradual emancipation, and the commission adjourned in April 1867. In 1868 Cuba’s sugar production reached a peak of 749,000 tons which until 1892 would only be surpassed by 775,000 in 1873. Exiles in New York organized the Republican Society of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and their Voice of America called for liberty for whites and blacks.
      Carlos Manuel de Céspedes was born in Bayamo, Cuba on 18 April 1819. He studied at the University of Barcelona and became a revolutionary in Madrid. He was banished to France, and imprisoned when he returned to Spain. He returned to Cuba and led the independence movement. In 1868 he met with rebels on the San Miguel de Rompe farm, and he said,

The power of Spain is decrepit and worm eaten.
If it still appears strong and great,
it is because for over three centuries
we have regarded it from our knees.
Let us rise!3

In October the Cubans learned that General Francisco Serrano had led a revolution in Spain and become regent with General Juan Prim as Minister of War, and there was a revolution in Puerto Rico on September 23. Captain-General Francisco Lersundi was maintaining strong control in Cuba and had reduced La Aurora to a literary weekly.

Cuba & Civil War 1868-78

      In early October 1868 farmers in eastern Cuba rose against Spain, and more rebels were refusing to pay taxes. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes became the commander in Bayamo, and on October 10 he freed the thirty slaves on his plantation and enrolled them in his army of 147 men. He announced that they wanted all mankind to be free and equal. By the end of a month his army of 12,000 had taken Bayamo and Holguín. On October 24 the wealthy Julian de Zulueto and forty businessmen met with Captain-General Lersundi who denounced the rebels. When he refused to let the Cubans discuss their problems, José Manuel Mestre and others supported the rebellion.
      In November the cattle farmer Ignacio Agramonte and General Manuel de Quesada led a revolt in Puerto Principe. By the end of the year Céspedes and the rebels in the east had formed a republic and nominated a parliament. Lersundi had about 7,000 troops and did not attack. Serrano in December sent his friend Dulce to replace Lersundi as captain-general. On December 27 Céspedes announced that all slaves owned by the enemy would be freed without compensation for the owners. By 1 January 1869 the Cuban government gathered 12,000 infantry and 13,500 cavalry as volunteers. Zulueta financed the volunteers in Havana. All together Lersundi raised at least 40,000 volunteers to fight for the Spanish, and he bought 90,000 Remington rifles from the United States.
       Captain-General Dulce arrived on January 4 and began his liberal policies by proclaiming an amnesty for all rebels who would surrender within forty days. He sent peace commissioners to talk to Céspedes. He ended censorship, and journalism revived. In late January the generals Valmaseda and Weyler led a force that in Bayamo defeated about 4,000 rebels who lost half their men as many fled. An assembly of rebel leaders in late February criticized the slavery policy of Céspedes, and they abolished slavery where they commanded. In April delegates at a constitutional convention in Guámairo approved a democratic constitution with a House of Representatives. They chose Céspedes as president and Manuel de Quesada as commander-in-chief. Article 24 declared, “All the inhabitants of the Republic are absolutely free.” Later the House of Representatives passed a Rule of the Freed that obliged the master to pay, feed, and clothe former slaves who stayed on. Those who left could not return.
      The convention also accepted the idea of being annexed by the United States. Mexico’s President Juarez and other Latin American republics recognized the new republic. The US Secretary of State Hamilton Fish suggested buying Cuba with $100 million that Spain would loan to Cuba. Dulce wanted to negotiate an end to the civil war, and in late May a group of militant volunteers insisted that he resign. Since Dulce had no authority, he left Havana on June 5. Several weeks went by before General Caballero de Rodas arrived to be Captain-General.
      By late in the year 1869 Spain had 40,000 trained troops in Cuba as well as volunteers in the cities and guerrillas in the country. President Céspedes agreed in November that they should encourage slaves to rise up. Some volunteers shot the rebels they caught with arms.
      On 28 May 1870 the new Minister of Colonies Segismundo Moret proposed a law to abolish slavery for children and those over the age of 60. On June 14 US President Ulysses Grant declined to recognize a Cuban government because he noted atrocities on both sides. Many brave rebel leaders had been shot, and discontent spread. At least 1,500 rebels fled to Jamaica, and only about 11,000 rebels remained. In October 1873 President Céspedes asked for more power, and on the 27th those still in the House of Representatives removed him from office. On 4 February 1874 the black Dominican Máximo Gómez raised 500 soldiers in the Oriente and Las Villas with Antonio Maceo as their general. Six days later they defeated 2,000 Spanish troops who had artillery. In March 1874 Spaniards killed Céspedes in an ambush. The cattle farmer Salvador Cisneros Betancourt became president and relied on planters. Concha returned as Captain-General in 1874.
      On 6 January 1875 Máximo Gómez moving west crossed the fortified trocha line Spaniards had erected. In six weeks he burned 83 mills on plantations of Las Villas and the region of Sancta Spiritus including Julián de Zulueta’s advanced mill Zaza, and he freed their slaves. On April 27 Gómez held a council at Lagunas de Varona to demand reforms in the revolutionary government. General Vicente García brought followers to this meeting, and Maceo criticized him for abandoning the war. Gómez withdrew his men from Las Villas, and most military action ceased.
      In the winter of 1876 General Joaquín Jovellar became Captain-General at Havana for the third time, and General Arsenio Martínez Campos arrived with 25,000 soldiers. In Cuba he organized a Spanish army of 70,000 into eight commands. Rebel morale was low, and officers retreated or deserted. On March 29 the House of Representatives elected Tomás Estrada Palma the President of the Republic. Rich Cuban exiles had deposited millions in New York banks while the revolution needed money. On May 16 the black General Maceo wrote to the Republic’s President,

I belong to the colored race, without considering myself worth more or less than other men….
Since I form a not inappreciable part
of this democratic republic, which has for its base
the fundamental principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity,
I must protest energetically with all my strength that
neither now nor at any time am I to be regarded
as an advocate of a Negro Republic or anything of that sort.
This concept is a deadly thing to this democratic Republic
which is founded on the basis of liberty and fraternity.
I do not recognize any hierarchy.4

      Spain’s General Martínez Campos in March and April 1877 began an offensive. He also made peace overtures and requested meetings with revolutionaries. On May 5 he rescinded all banishments made “for political motives.” President Estrada in November was captured, and Eduardo Machado, the president of the rebel legislature, was killed. After Gómez declined, General Vicente García replaced Estrada and suggested negotiation.
      On 5 February 1878 revolutionary leaders and Spanish generals met, and the rebels formed a committee. On February 9 the Comité del Centro asked General Martínez Campos for terms to end the fighting. He offered a general pardon and freedom for slaves and Chinese who had fought with the rebels and for leaders who left Cuba. Two days later the Commissioners of the Cuban Republic and Martínez Campos signed the Pact of Zanjón which also promised freedom of the press and assembly. The Pact promised Cuba the same administration and laws as Puerto Rico.
      General Antonio Maceo and General Calvar led some revolutionaries who rejected those terms because they did not abolish slavery nor did they grant independence. The Ten Years’ War had cost Cuba about $300 million. An estimated 208,000 Spaniards died along with some 50,000 Cubans. Planters had lost the labor of the slaves who ran off to fight with the rebels. On March 16 Maceo led a conference near Santiago with 1,500 men from Oriente. Martínez Campos said the Cortes would decide the slavery issue, and they agreed to an 8-day truce before resuming fighting. General Vicente García became commander-in-chief as General Jésus Galván was made president. García and General Polavieja had their men shout, “Don’t shoot; we are brothers!” That did not work, and they capitulated in May. Maceo declined a bribe to surrender, and on May 10 he was allowed to leave Santiago on a Spanish cruiser. Martínez Campos became captain-general.
      Spain’s Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas del Castillo liberalized Cuba’s government and allowed them to elect forty deputies to the Cortes. Municipal elections would choose local councils, but civil governors selected the mayors. Only those who paid at least $25 a year in taxes could vote, and that excluded blacks and the poor. In Havana on August 3 Martínez Campos founded the Liberal Party based on civil rights and freedom of speech, the press, and assembly, economic redistribution and commercial treaties, and abolishing slavery. On August 16 conservative Spaniards formed the Constitutional Union Party. They opposed autonomy and wanted commercial treaties. General Vicente García in October 1878 issued a manifesto calling on all Cubans to unite against Spanish despotism in order to achieve independence.

Cuba, Martí & Revolution 1879-94

      José Martí was born in Havana on 28 January 1853. His parents were Spanish, and in 1857 they moved to Valencia Spain, and two years later they came back to Cuba and enrolled José in a public school where he was taught by the poet Rafael Mendive who favored independence. In April 1868 José published a poem dedicated to Mendive’s wife. In 1869 José Martí began publishing political writing. That year he was sentenced to forced labor for six months for having accused another student of walking in a Spanish parade. He was sentenced to six years in prison and worked in a rock quarry. In 1871 he was sent to Spain, and he was set free to go anywhere except Cuba. He published “Political Imprisonment in Cuba” in July, and he studied law at the Central University of Madrid. He wrote articles defending the innocent eight medical students who had been executed in Havana on November 27. He began flying a Cuban flag from his window in Madrid in February 1873. That month he wrote the essay “The Spanish Republic and the Cuban Revolution,” and he sent a copy to Prime Minister Estanislao Figueras.
      Martí sent articles to the Central Revolutionary Junta in New York. In May he and Fermín Valdés moved to Zaragosa, and Martí earned a law degree in June 1874. He joined his parents in Paris where he met Victor Hugo. In December he left to move to Mexico City. In March 1875 he began writing articles for Revista Universal which serialized his translation of Hugo’s Mes Fils. In 1876 Martí began cooperating with the El Socialista newspaper and the Great Labor Circle, and in June he became a delegate to the Labor Congress. In December he denounced the Porfiristas and left Mexico. In 1877 Martí returned to Cuba using a false name. Unhappy in Havana he soon moved to Guatemala City. He wrote on a new code of laws for El Progreso. The National University made him the head of a department on literature, philosophy, and history. He lectured to the Sociedad Literaria El Porvenir, and they made him vice president. He also taught composition at an academy for women, and he fell in love with the daughter of Guatemala’s current president. He went back to Mexico and met Carmen Zayas Bazán. In 1878 he revisited Guatemala and published Guatemala. On September 3 José Martí returned from exile in Mexico and Guatemala, and in October he wrote his poem “October 10” in response to the La Demajagua uprising. Martí returned to Cuba, signed the Pact of Zanjón, and married Carmen Zayas Bazán. Martí was deported to Spain again on 25 September 1879.
      José Martí arrived in New York on 3 January 1880, and he joined the Revolutionary Committee. In 1881 he moved to Caracas and founded the Venezuelan Review. After criticizing the dictator Antonio Guzmán Blanco he fled back to New York. Martí worked with General Calixto García on the Cuban Revolutionary Committee, and he became its president and coordinator for ten years. In 1884 Uruguay made him their Vice Consul in New York. In essays he shared the wisdom of Whitman, Emerson, Whittier, Longfellow, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, George Bancroft, Washington Irving, and Wendell Philips.
      A Little War broke out in Santiago on 26 August 1879 when Antonio Maceo’s two brothers José and Rafael and two others led a revolt. Others joined and responded in Las Villas. Antonio Maceo sent a manifesto Kingston urging slaves to join the liberating army. Revolutionary clubs in Havana mobilized to give aid, and a Central Committee was organized. The Spanish government began arresting people including 350 Negroes in Santiago.
      Martínez Campos had left Cuba, and he became Spain’s Prime Minister on 7 March 1879 for nine months. In November he abolished slavery in Cuba without compensation, but they would have to work as apprentices for eight years until 1888. Cuba had about 200,000 slaves and 270,000 free blacks and mulattos in 1880. On January 30 The Cortes approved the abolition law. That year a new mortgage law allowed creditors to seize land as well as produce, and a Board of Education was set up in each of the six provinces. On 7 April 1881 Spain’s 1876 Constitution was promulgated in Cuba granting the same rights and liberties as Spaniards to Cubans. Also in 1881 the Cuban doctor Carlos Juan Finley learned that mosquitos caused disease. In 1898 the US Army doctor William Crawford Gargas proved that Finley’s theory was correct, and he reduced malaria cases by more than 80% in Havana.
      In 1883 Cuba had 535 public schools and in 1895 there were 904. Cuba had 184 private schools in 1883 and 740 in 1895. In March 1884 Máximo Gómez sent Col. Manuel Aguilera to the United States with a message for the Revolutionary Centers to raise $200,000 to finance the revolution. José Martí felt that Gómez was arrogant, and on October 20 he sent him a letter explaining why he was withdrawing. He wrote,

   One does not found a nation, General,
with commands as issued in a military coup….
The nation belongs to no one, but if it did,
it belongs to the one who serves it with the greatest
disinterestedness and intelligence—and this only in spirit.
How, General, could I utilize the friends which I have,
attract new ones, undertake missions,
convince eminent men, and melt frozen wills
with these fears and doubts in my soul?
Consequently, I resign from all the active tasks
which you have begun to place on my shoulder.5

      In 1886 the apprentice program was abolished for the remaining 25,381 former slaves, and Spain’s government began paying the passage for workers who promised to stay in Cuba for one year. A royal decree finally abolished slavery in Cuba on October 7. In the fall of 1887 Cubans in New York working for independence were guided by José Martí in describing a program for united actions with five essential points.

1. To achieve a revolutionary solution
which will win support in the country,
it must be based on democratic procedures.
2. To proceed without delay to organize the military leaders
outside the country and co-ordinate this work
with that which is to be done within the country.
3. To unite the émigré centers
in one magnificent democratic enterprise.
4. To prevent revolutionary sympathies in Cuba from
being twisted and enslaved by the interests of one group,
by the preponderance of one social class
or by the unlimited authority of a military or a civil group,
or of one race over another.
5. To prevent annexationist propaganda
from weakening the revolutionary solution.6

      In 1887 syndicalist Enrique Roig y San Martín founded the daily newspaper El Productor, and it became the official organ of the Circulo de Trabajadores (Workers’ Club) that his associates had begun in 1885. In 1890 they issued a May Day Manifesto urging Cubans to support the Paris Congress of International Socialists who had proclaimed May 1 to demonstrate for the 8-hour day. The directors were arrested, but a jury acquitted them. In response the First National Workers’ Congress was held in Havana on 16 January 1892 and was attended by a thousand delegates.
      In 1888 Cuba banned excluding anyone from public service. In 1889 theatres could not discriminate nor could cafés or bars exclude blacks of mulattoes in 1890.
      In January 1890 José Martí founded La Liga de Instrucción as a school in New York for revolutionaries. Camilo García de Polavieja became Governor of Cuba in August 1890, and he resigned in 1992 because of corruption he could not control. At a meeting of the International American Monetary Commission on 3 April 1991 Martí said,

It is not the province of the American continent
to disturb the world with new factors of rivalry and discord,
nor to re-establish, with new methods and names,
the imperial system through which
republics come to corruption and death.7

He was concerned about economic submission and wrote,

Whoever says economic union, says political union.
The people that buys, commands.
The people that sells, obeys.
Trade must be balanced
if our freedom is to be safeguarded.
The nation that wants to die sells to a single nation;
the nation that wants to live sells to more than one.
Too much influence by one country in the trade of another
turns into political influence….
The first thing a nation does to dominate another
is to separate it from the rest of the nations.8

On November 26 and 27 Martí spoke to the tobacco workers in Tampa, Florida, and on the 27th he concluded,

Let us rise so that liberty does not run any risk
in its hour of triumph through disorder or indolence
or impatience in its preparation.
Let us rise for the true Republic and with our passion
for right and our habits of work,
we will know how to maintain it.
Let us place around the star in the new flag this formula
of triumphant love: With all, for the good of all.9

      On 5 January 1992 José Martí in Key West organized the Cuban Revolutionary Party, and in New York on March 4 he founded the newspaper Patria that was edited by the black Puerto Rican Sotero Figueredo. Martí in August visited General Máximo Gómez in Santo Domingo and offered him a military command which Gómez accepted. Then Martí visited General Maceo in Costa Rica, and he eventually agreed to fight also after recovering from an assassination attempt by a Spaniard in 1894. By March 1893 Martí had raised $12,000. In the United States the financial panic in May 1893 began and made it difficult to raise money. In 1894 the United States received 87% of Cuba’s exports and provided 38% of Cuba’s imports.

Cuba & War for Independence 1895-97

      On 14 January 1895 the United States captured three groups of Cuban freedom fighters and their weapons gathered at Fernandina, Florida for an expedition. On January 29 José Martí and Mayía Rodríguez from the Cuban interior approved a new rebellion to start on February 24, and the message was sent to Juan Gualberto Gómez in Havana. The insurrection began on that day at Baire about 50 miles from Santiago. On March 24 Martí met with General Máximo Gómez near the Haitian border, and they issued a manifesto from the Cuban Revolutionary Party to Cubans promising a “civilized war” that would respect private property and nonviolent Spaniards, and blacks were welcome to participate. They envisioned a new republic with “civic responsibility” and a new economic system with work for all. Because of the Ten Years’ War Cuba had to pay $10.5 million in annual interest on the debt while only $2.5 million could be spent on public works and education. On March 28 Spain’s Prime Minister Cánovas appointed Martínez Campos the next Captain-General of Cuba, and he would arrive with 7,000 men armed with Remington rifles.
      On March 29 General Antonio Maceo and a band of followers from Costa Rica arrived in eastern Cuba. On April 1 General Máximo Gómez, Martí, and four officers left Santo Domingo, and they reached Cuba on April 11. At the beginning of May the three leaders Martí, Gómez, and Maceo met as a central council to discuss civilian or military control. Maceo argued that a military junta should be in control until victory is achieved. Martí opposed that, and they could not agree. Estrada Palma was the agent in New York, and in December a United States envoy complained about the burning of property. Estrada responded that until the US recognized the Cubans as belligerents, the burning would continue. About 80% of the rebels were Negroes. The revolution was getting much support in eastern Cuba, and the rebels avoided pitched battles. In a letter on May 18 Martí wrote,

   It is my duty—inasmuch as I realize it
and have the spirit to fulfill it—
to prevent, by the independence of Cuba,
the United States from spreading over the West Indies,
and falling, with that added weight,
upon other lands of our America.
All I have done up to now, and shall do hereafter,
is to that end.10

On May 19 the Spaniards attacked the rebels at Dos Rios, and José Martí, ordered to stay with the rear-guard, was riding a white horse when he was killed in an ambush.
      Some 7,000 revolutionaries were fighting against 52,000 Spanish troops by June. In December about 29,850 rebels were fighting under 30 officers.
      Rebel forces burned crops or collected money from owners who would pay 2% of their value. In 1896 the total damage in Cuba was estimated at $40 million. Sugar production fell sharply to 225,000 tons for the year. Spain’s commanding General Valeriano Weyler going eastward tried but failed to isolate Maceo’s army. William Randolph Hearst’s Journal in February called Weyler a “fiendish despot” and “an exterminator of men.” On April 15 General Máximo Gómez threatened to hang mill proprietors who continued to grind sugar cane. General Maceo avoided large battles, but on April 30 he lost about 200 of his 1,500 men at Cacarajícara. He also had 39 of his men killed in May at Las Lajas. General Weyler in Havana wrote,

   Many germs of separatism, conspiring to aid the rebels
by all means, the tobacco factories being the official centres,
since there readers read separatist books and articles,
together with the news, false or exaggerated,
of the war and the revolution,
thus fomenting among the workers hatred of Spain.11

He noted that on weekly paydays they collected money for the rebels. On May 5 the New York Sun wrote,

Spain must abandon Cuba if either is to be saved.
If she does not act, a power greater than Spain
should give notice that the war must come to an end.12

      General Weyler banned the export of tobacco from Pinar del Río, and in June he prohibited banana exports by closing Northern Oriente ports. In August coffee and sugar exports were forbidden unless authorized. Spanish commanders demanded payment from owners for guarding their plantations. A judge in Manzanillo made money by arresting citizens, making them pay a fine and then imprisoning them. On October 21 Weyler issued his first concentration orders requiring people of Pinar del Río to move into fortified towns within eight days. Those outside the towns would be treated like rebels. Unauthorized food distribution was forbidden. The strategy of the commander Máximo Gómez was to win by destroying Spanish commerce in Cuba. On December 7 while going to meet with General Gómez, the General Antonio Maceo and Lt. Francisco Gómez Toro, son of General Gómez, were killed by Spaniards. US President Grover Cleveland was neutral on the Cuban war, and on that day he presented his annual message to Congress which said,

If Spain should offer to Cuba genuine autonomy—
a measure of home rule which,
while preserving the sovereignty of Spain,
would satisfy all rational requirements
of her Spanish subjects—
there should be no just reason why
the pacification of the island might not be effected.13

      The Spanish General Arsenio Linares on 19 February 1897 attacked Maceo’s force of 6,000 men who were moving westward in a successful guerrilla campaign. That month General Weyler stopped allowing reporters to accompany his troops. In 1897 Pulitzer’s newspapers had a circulation of 800,000 per day while Hearst’s had 700,000. The Sun had 80,000. The four newspapers (Herald, Tribune, Post, and Times) that opposed the war had a combined circulation of only 225,000.
      On February 3 the 73-year-old General Máximo Gómez had written to General Monteagudo,

Don’t waste men … or horses
and make use of the night.
In these circumstances
twenty men can easily conquer 1,000.14

On February 26 General Weyler wrote to the War Ministry that Pinar del Río, Havana, and Matanzas were pacified. Many men on both sides were dying from yellow fever. Spain’s Prime Minister Cánovas in February proposed constitutional reforms for Cuba to strengthen local governors and mayors, elect members of the legislature, reduce residence for voting to two years, provide fiscal independence, and let native Cubans be administrators, though not the captain-general. Spain had sent its largest army of 200,000 soldiers to Cuba.
      The Cuban Junta’s agent Estrada Palma in New York was working on raising money. In August a syndicate of US bankers promised the Cuban Junta that they would pay off Cuba’s debt to Spain with a 50-year lien on Cuban customs duties. On August 31 General Calixto García in a letter to Estrada Palma wrote,

Americans have no reason
for interfering in our political affairs,
and, on the other hand,
we are not fighting to become a yankee factory.15

      On August 8 the Italian anarchist Michele Angiolillo assassinated Prime Minister Cánovas to revenge the execution of José Rizal, and on the 19th Angiolillo was executed. On October 5 the liberal Práxedes Mateo Sagasta became Prime Minister, and Segismundo Moret returned as Minister of the Colonies. Sagasta did not like Weyler or his policy.
      General Calixto García with 5,000 men and five cannons attacked Puerto Príncipe, and they captured Victoria de la Tunas. In September the Cubans elected a new revolutionary government with Bartolomé Masó as president. Práxedes Sagasta replaced Weyler with General Ramón Blanco who announced that he came to bring self-government to Cuba. On September 13 the new US envoy General Stewart L. Woodford informed Spain’s government that they had until October 31 to make peace in Cuba, or the United States would do so. On November 6 Moret announced amnesty for all political prisoners in Cuba and Puerto Rico. General Máximo Gómez responded by threatening to prosecute any Cuban officer who accepted that. Spain had only 53,000 soldiers remaining on the front line. On November 22 Moret informed the Cortes about the reformed constitution that would bring equal rights to Spaniards and Cubans. On December 6 the US President William McKinley in his first annual message to the Congress asked them to give the Sagasta administration a chance to fulfill their promises.

Cuba & United States Intervention 1898-1909

      On 1 January 1898 in Havana the first home-rule government in Cuba was installed with Autonomist José Gálvez as the Prime Minister. On January 12 riots broke out led by conservative Spaniards and others who opposed autonomy. On January 24 the United States sent the battleship Maine to Havana’s harbor. On February 15 an explosion caused the Maine to sink, and 260 American sailors died. The cause of the explosion was not clear, and on March 31 Spaniards agreed to submit the Maine issue to arbitration. On April 20 the US Congress approved the Teller Amendment that banned the United States from annexing Cuba, and on that day President McKinley demanded that Spain’s government relinquish authority over Cuba. This message was not even delivered because Spain’s Prime Minister Práxedes Sagasta interpreted the Congressional resolution as a declaration of war.
      On April 23 President McKinley called for 125,000 volunteers, and the United States Congress declared war on April 25. McKinley on May 8 agreed that 70,000 troops should be prepared in Florida to invade Cuba. They left Tampa on June 8, and the first major battle was on San Juan heights on July 1. About 3,000 Americans attacked the city. The US suffered 223 killed, 1,243 wounded, and 79 missing while the Spanish had only 102 dead and 552 wounded. On July 4 a naval battle at Santiago was a US victory as 350 Spaniards were killed out of 2,225 with 1,670 becoming prisoners while the US fleet had only one dead and two wounded. On July 17 the Spaniards surrendered the city of Santiago.
      The US General Henry Ware Lawton was appointed governor of the Oriente province, and on July 20 acting General Leonard Wood became governor of Santiago. The Cuban General Calixto García demanded that Cubans direct civil administration, and the US Brigadier-General Rufus Shafter chose the Liberal General Demetrio Castillo to be mayor of Santiago; but a few days later he was dismissed. President McKinley agreed that Spanish officials should remain for a while. Calixto García felt insulted and took his troops to Holguín and Gibara where the Spaniards surrendered. He turned these over to the Cuban government. Malaria was killing more people than had been dying in battles. Theodore Roosevelt advised removing men to the north coast of the US to prevent disabling the Army by malarial fever and an epidemic of yellow fever. They began transporting troops back to the US on August 7.
      On August 11 the Spanish cabinet agreed to the peace terms of the United States, and the protocol was signed the next day. Spain began evacuating Cuba on 1 January 1899, leaving the disorder to the Americans. Spain’s government had spent $400 million in Cuba. Spain had 8,869 soldiers and 81 officials killed from combat while about 13,000 died from yellow fever and 40,000 from other diseases. People had to hunt for food in west Cuba, and Havana depended on the United States. Cuban guerillas had not been paid for six months. Some Spaniards left behind dead cattle and manure in cisterns.
      General Leonard Wood by September was governing all of the Oriente without consulting Cubans. He had the water system restored and garbage collected. He reduced municipal salaries and cut down the archbishop’s pay by two-thirds. The Texan Major McCleary spoke Spanish and became mayor. General Calixto García in October asked Wood to provide work and rations for his men. Some Cubans refused to give up their arms and became brigands, and Col. Francisco Valiente organized them into a rural guard. Wood appointed 50 Cubans to a committee to find honest and efficient public servants urging “self-sacrifice.” He imposed a tax on trade licenses in all gainful occupations. Wood financed many public works projects, and he banned bullfighting and gambling in public, registered livestock, prepared of code of Cuban laws, hired engineers to plan a water system, and later ended free rations except for the destitute.
      The shadow Cuban government was dissolved, and General Máximo Gómez remained commander-in-chief. General Calixto García led a committee that went to New York to raise money so that the Cuban army could be paid and disbanded. He met President McKinley at a dinner, and García died of pneumonia in Washington on December 11. A leading Negro spokesman Juan Gualberto Gómez was more concerned about US racism than he was of annexation.
      Cuba’s population in 1887 was 1,631,687 and was probably increasing until 1895, and in 1899 it fell to 1,572,845. The 1899 census found there were 234,738 Negroes, 270,805 mulattoes, 14,812 Chinese, and 1,052,490 white people. The number of farms in Cuba was 90,960 in 1895 and 60,711 in 1899. In 1894 Cuba had 584,725 horses, and this fell drastically to 88,001 in 1899. There were 2,485,766 cattle in 1894 and only 376,650 in 1899. The number of pigs fell by less than half while sheep had been reduced from 78,494 to only 9,982. About 60% of the Cubans were illiterate, and of the literate only one percent had any higher education. School attendance was less than 90,000 in 1899.
      In January 1899 General John Rutter Brooke arrived as the US Military Governor of Cuba. This marked the end of Spain’s American Empire that had begun in 1492. The 48,000 men in the Cuban army who had property or jobs disbanded while others served as police. They were not allowed to participate in the celebration as the Spanish forces left. On February 24 they welcomed General Máximo Gómez as he entered Havana. US General William Ludlow was military governor of the city, and US General Fitzhugh Lee governed the province of Havana and Pinar del Río. Cubans were allowed to be the secretaries of the interior, finance, justice and education, and agriculture, industry, commerce and public works. They distributed 6,500,000 complete rations by the end of August. The Supreme Court had a president and six associate justices.
      The United States military governed Cuba from the beginning of 1899 until May 1902. The US Senator Joseph Foraker offered an amendment to the Army Bill so that the military government would not grant any commercial concessions, and the Senate passed this 47-11 in March 1899. Henry Adams noted that Brooke and Ludlow and ten other generals were “pulling different ways on totally different lines.” Col. Theodore Roosevelt and US Senator Henry Cabot Lodge helped General Leonard Wood get appointed to replace General Brooke on December 13. Later in a speech Wood said that President McKinley told him,

I want you to go down there to get the people ready
for a Republican form of government.
I leave the details of procedure to you.
Give them a good school system,
try to straighten out their courts,
put them on their feet as best you can.
We want to do all we can for them and
to get out of the island as soon as we safely can.16

      General Leonard Wood became the military governor of Cuba on December 20, and he retained Brook’s staff and appointed a new cabinet of Cubans. He went on a tour of the island and continued to believe that Cubans would ask to be annexed. He ordered the schools to be organized like the public school system in the United States. Textbooks from the US were translated into Spanish. School boards would be elected locally, and most schools divided the sexes. Children between 6 and 14 must go to school for at least 20 weeks each year, and no child under 14 was to be employed. By June they would have 3,000 public schools with 3,500 teachers and 130,000 students.
      General Wood argued for suffrage limited by property, and he opposed universal suffrage. His election law was promulgated in April 1900. Only literate Cuban males over the age of 20, who were worth $250 or more, could vote. The Cuban General Ríus Rivera demanded independence. When Wood rejected the idea, Rivera resigned. On May 5 Wood wrote to Secretary of War Elihu Root that Charles Neely, who was in charge of the Post Office finances, probably had taken $100,000, and later Neely and Estes Rathbone would be convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison for embezzlement.
      On June 15 Cuba held local elections, and the three competing parties were the Republicans in Santa Clara, Nationalists of Havana, and the conservative Unión Democrática that included Autonomists. On July 25 Governor Wood scheduled an election of delegates to draft a constitution, and they were elected on September 15. They met on November 5 and decided on universal suffrage for men that included Negroes and the illiterate.
      On 25 February 1901 Senator Orville Platt proposed an amendment that stipulated seven conditions for the US withdrawal from Cuba, and Cubans were required to accept those conditions. The Senate passed this after only two hours debate, and by March 4 the Congress had approved it as part of the Army Appropriations Bill. At first the Cuban convention rejected the Platt Amendment 24-2, and Juan Gualberto Gómez criticized it on March 26 in the convention saying,

To reserve to the U.S. the faculty of deciding for themselves
when independence is menaced and when therefore
they ought to intervene to preserve it is equivalent of
delivering up the key of our house so that they can enter it
at all hours when the desire takes them, day or night.17

On June 12 the Convention voted 16-11 to accept the Platt Amendment, and they included it in Cuba’s 1901 Constitution.
      After the assassination of William McKinley, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became President on September 14. On October 28 Wood wrote to Roosevelt that Cuba had no real independence under the Platt Amendment, and he complained that the US had not acted to support Cuba’s two largest industries—sugar and tobacco. In a speech on April 9 Roosevelt said, “We must give to Cuba a different, that is, a better position economically in her relations with us than we give to other powers.”18
      The 65-year-old General Máximo Gómez declined to run for president, and he endorsed Tomás Estrada Palma who was supported by several prominent Cubans. He was the only candidate and was elected President of Cuba on December 31. In March 1902 Estrada Palma and Wood met with War Secretary Root in Washington to discuss transferring power. Wood convened the Cuban Congress on May 2, and on May 20 General Wood handed power over to President Estrada.
      From 1902 to 1905 President Tomás Estrada Palma added 328 kilometers of roads in Cuba. The first elections in liberated Cuba were held in February 1904 with the Conservative Republicans competing against the National Liberals. Both sides attempted win by fraud. Juan Gualberto Gómez received more votes than were cast. The Republicans seemed to have won. The Liberals did not concede, and they prevented the legislature from getting the two-thirds needed for a quorum.
      In the presidential elections of 1905 the Liberal General José Miguel Gómez was a leading candidate. Moderates asked the 73-year-old Estrada to run for re-election, and he was concerned that Gómez and his corrupt running mate Alfredo Zayas would spend the surplus he had built up in the Treasury. In March the Interior Secretary General Freyre de Andrade began dismissing government employees even including schoolmasters if they were not Moderates, and he used police and rural guards to help Estrada. On the day before the election on September 23 the police chief broke up a meeting in a hotel looking for weapons. In the brawl the police chief and Santa Clara’s Liberal leader Enrique Villuendas were killed. The Liberals withdrew their candidates and abstained. Moderates registered 432,000 voters, and about 150,000 of them were questionable. Estrada Palma had no opponent and was re-elected President on December 1. He reduced the US bases from four to Guantánamo and Bahía Honda and declared them rented, not ceded. Cuba’s sugar production increased from 283,651 tons in 1900 to 1,183,347 tons in 1905.
      In April 1906 some Liberal veterans led by General Pino Guerra began discussing how to get justice, and on August 16 he began a revolt. They had a force of 24,000, and there was no army except for 600 artillerymen and 3,000 dispersed rural guards. Juan Gualberto and José Miguel Gómez were arrested along with the generals Monteaguado and Castillo Duany. General Mario García Menocal, came to Havana and urged President Estrada to compromise and have honest elections. Estrada replied that the rebels must lay down their arms. A civil war broke out. The US Consul-General Frank Steinhart wired Washington asking President Roosevelt for two ships to protect property, and he added that Congress would ask for intervention. Roosevelt did not want to intervene.
      On September 12 Estrada asked the US President Theodore Roosevelt to send 2,000-3,000 men secretly and quickly to keep rebels from burning cities. Roosevelt sent Secretary of War Taft and Assistant Secretary of State Robert Bacon to Havana, and they arrived by September 19. The next day Taft wrote Roosevelt advising him to let Estrada resign and to appoint an impartial Cuban. He warned that $200 million of American property may be burned. Taft also noted that no Liberals were fit to be president. Roosevelt through Taft urged Estrada to remain as president until a new government was inaugurated. Nonetheless on September 28 Estrada went to the Cuban Congress and resigned along with Vice President Méndez Capote. Moderates left Congress, leaving Cuba without a government. The next day 2,000 US Marines landed in Cuba. Their numbers would increase to 5,000, and they were spread around Cuba. Taft proclaimed a provisional government to maintain order and hold elections. On October 2 Estrada left Havana for Matanzas and never returned.
      That month President Roosevelt chose the civilian judge Charles Magoon to be the Provisional Governor of Cuba. He was criticized for spending the $12 million in the Treasury, and he filled vacancies by appointing Liberals. He increased the number of rural guards to 5,200, and he appointed General Pino Guerra commander. Magoon had 5,000 US troops commanded by General Bell. In his annual message to the US Congress in December 1906 Roosevelt stated that he wanted nothing from Cuba except for it to “prosper morally and materially.”
      The Cuban lawyer Francisco Carrera Justiz developed provincial and municipal laws. Col. Enoch Crowder drafted an electoral law. He studied proportional representation as it was used in Belgium and Switzerland that allowed voters to rank their preferences on the ballot. The Cuban Congress rescinded the dreadful quorum law. A new electoral law was used in local elections on 1 August 1908 as about 270,000 people voted. Liberal Miguelistas gained 35 mayors, and Liberal Zayistas got 18 mayors. Conservatives elected 28 mayors and three of the six provincial governors. Liberals nominated José Miguel Gómez for president and Alfredo Zayas for vice president, and on November 14 they received about 200,000 votes to some 130,000 for the Conservatives Mario Menocal and Rafael Montoro. More than 70% of those eligible voted. By November Cuba had 200,000 students in public schools and about 15,000 in private schools.
      On 11 January 1909 Governor Magoon promulgated the civil service law. At the end of his administration he founded the Cuban Army, and he left behind a public debt of $12 million. The last US Marines withdrew on February 6.

Cuba of Gómez, Menocal & Zayas 1909-24

      On 28 January 1909 the elected President José Miguel Gómez was inaugurated. On September 9 he established by decree the Cuban Telephone Company that was controlled by a US company. Some Cuban veterans of their War for Independence began agitating for reforms, and the Taft administration sent a message to President Gómez on 17 January 1911 that they were concerned. That year the US Consul noted that Americans had invested $205 million in Cuba. In March 1912 veterans in a compromise agreed to stop challenging Spanish office holders and to become a benevolent association.
      In May the Liberals nominated Alfredo Zayas as their candidate for president. Friends of President Gómez felt betrayed and turned toward Menocal and the Conservatives. Gómez had General Monteagudo in the Oriente and General Asbert in Havana to get those provinces to support Menocal. In other places the election was more fair. General Vicente Miret in July called the government tyrannical, and he fled to the hills. President Gómez revived the popular cockfighting and the national lottery which had been banned, and he commissioned two new ships for the Cuban Navy. On November 1 Menocal of the Conservative Conjunción Patriótica Party with 195,504 votes defeated the Liberal candidate Zayas who had 180,640 votes. In December the United States gave up its base at Bahía Honda as useless, and Cuba agreed to rent Guantánamo for only $2,000 a year.
      Mario García Menocal was born in Cuba and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in engineering in 1888. He supported the Cuban revolution. He was inaugurated as President of Cuba on 20 May 1913, and he served for eight years. Menocal supported Cuban businesses and shared in their profits. During his presidency his wealth increased from $1 million to about $40 million. He allowed the United Fruit Company to bring in workers from Haiti, and he encouraged white immigration.
      In the election on 1 November 1916 the Liberals had 800,000 votes while only 500,000 men were eligible to vote. The massive fraud was challenged, and after much effort to lose some votes and invent others Menocal was found to be the winner. Liberals prepared for another revolution, and José Miguel Gómez was ready in Santa Clara to march on Havana. From there he went on his yacht to the south coast of Cuba where he called for a revolt. Zayas did that in Santa Clara, and he was supported by Machado, Mendieta, and other liberal leaders. They hoped that the US President Woodrow Wilson would see that they were cheated and would order another US intervention.
      On 14 February 1917 the United States announced that they would oppose any government that came to power fraudulently. Yet five days later the US condemned the Liberals’ uprising and stated that they supported Menocal. They sold him 10,000 rifles and 2 million cartridges. On February 26 government troops defeated Col. Eduardo Pujol and took over Camagüey from the Liberal Gustavo Caballero who had been elected to the Senate.
      On March 8 the Oriente’s Liberal governor García Muñoz asked US Commodore Belknep to land men from ships off Santiago, and that night 500 US Marines landed. On May 8 Menocal was proclaimed the President with his Vice President Emilio Núñez. After his inauguration on May 20 Menocal let it be known that he would maintain the extraordinary powers granted to him during the recent rebellion. They censored the press, telegraphs, and mail. Cuba would also be influenced by the US Alien Property Act and the US Espionage Act. The Marines stayed to train Cubans. José Miguel Gómez was released from prison in September, and in March 1918 all those imprisoned in the rebellion were granted amnesty. In late 1920 students at the University of Havana demonstrated aggressively to protest the incompetent and corrupt professors, and by the end of 1923 more than a hundred had been removed.
      Alfredo Zayas was elected president in November 1920 and served 1921-25. In April 1923 protest groups organized the Cuban Committee of National and Civil Renovation to denounce corrupt government, and the anthropologist Fernando Ortiz wrote their manifesto. That month the historian Carlos Manuel Trelles published a pamphlet criticizing the decay of Cuban society. On August 12 the Veterans’ and Patriots’ Association formed to oppose the bad government. Prominent Cubans who supported them by October included Col. Mendieta and Enrique Varona, and they accused President Zayas of many things. Zayas continued to acquire wealth and bribe the legislature as Menocal had. In June the House of Representatives met in secret and passed 29 bills which benefited themselves.
      President Zayas managed in a secret session to get a $2.7 million contract to dredge Cardenas Bay, and he implied that he received $300,000. Zayas also decreed that a statue of himself be erected costing $36,000. In the next election the Conservative Party rejected Zayas and nominated Menocal again.

Cuba under Machado 1925-35

      Gerardo Machado was born on 28 September 1869 and grew up on a cattle ranch. He became a tobacco farmer and fought in the Independence War that began in 1895, and he rose to become a Brigadier General. In 1902 he was elected the Mayor of Santa Clara. President José Miguel Gómez appointed him an Army Inspector and then Interior Secretary. He fought for the Liberals with Gómez and Alfredo Zayas in February 1917, and he surrendered on March 8. Machado had managed an electric light company, and he became vice president of the Electric Bond and Share Company which by 1924 controlled most of the electric supply in Havana. In the election that year his opponents said that Machado had received $500,000 from the company for his electoral expenses.
      The honest Liberal Col. Carlos Mendieta was popular, and he expected to be nominated for president. Machado campaigned more aggressively. The Matanzas Mayor Carlos de la Rosa supported Machado and became his running mate. President Zayas backed Machado and expected his party to get good positions. Machado traveled around Cuba on a “victory train” promising roads, water, and schools. Menocal’s train was shot at near Esmeralda and was derailed at Florida. Liberals at Camagüey accused Menocal of brutal suppression during the 1917 revolt. In the election on November 1 Machado received 200,840 votes to 134,154 for Menocal who complained of illegalities but conceded. The Liberals also won a majority of seats in both houses of the Congress.
      The National City Bank president gave a banquet, and Machado offered “absolute guarantees for all businesses” and that there would be no more strikes. Machado hoped that his Minister of Education would make Cuba into “the Athens of America,” and the Minister of the Interior Rogerio Zayas Bazán worked to eliminate various evils such as gambling, bars, dancing schools, fortune-tellers, and street vendors, and he created a film censorship board. The Secretary of Justice aimed to curtail bribed amnesties, and he revived the death penalty.
      In 1925 some Cuban anarchists organized the Confederación Nacional Obrera Cubana (CNOC). They were also socialists and Communists, and on August 15 they founded a Communist Party in Havana. Five days later a conservative newspaper owner was murdered by a bomb. An article had implied that Machado’s daughter was a lesbian, and police were suspected. Machado promised jobs with graft, and he was buying control of the legislature. A series of strikes occurred in the fall, and a large one by textile workers was ended by shooting. Bullets also killed other labor leaders. In an interview President Machado said that all anarchists, socialists, and Communists were “bad patriots.” Agitators were arrested, and Spanish anarchists were deported with several hundred expelled in one month.
      President Machado did not allow other political parties. The graft of his administration was estimated at $10 million which was 20% of the budget. Machado wanted a good road connecting all the provincial capitals, and the Chase National Bank arranged a $10 million loan. The Central Highway opened in February 1927. In Washington the editor Chester Wright of the International Labour News reported in early 1927 that Machado had killed 147 people. He employed the military in various places in society including the schools. The army ran the meat and milk monopolies. In 1832-33, the last year of his rule, the army budget was $10 million.
      In April 1928 Machado planned a constitutional convention with his friend Sánchez Bustamente as its president. They began by abolishing the Vice President and by extending his presidency for six years without re-election after his first term ended on 20 May 1929. Several political murders occurred in the spring and summer. In June the Chase Bank provided a loan of $60 million. In the fall Machado defended the Platt Amendment and then was re-elected.
      In April 1929 the US Under-Secretary of State J. Reuben Clark advised correcting conditions in Cuba because not doing so would support Machado. In July a National City Bank executive told Assistant Secretary of State Francis White that Machado had become dictatorial and corrupt and that the US Ambassador Judah had little influence over him. In September the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee debated whether the US should intervene and “clean up Cuba.” American businessmen reacted by lobbying for Machado. The Senate appointed the wealthy businessman Henry Guggenheim to be the new US Ambassador in Havana.
      In February 1930 Chase Bank loaned Cuba $20 million more making the debt $80 million. In March about 200,000 workers supported a general strike. In August the editor of La Voz del Pueblo was assassinated after he had asked for US intervention in Cuba. Col. Mendieta made a series of speeches. At a big rally in September a corporal tried to arrest him, and in the brawl Lt. Silva was killed. Col. Collazo led officers and civilians who supported a pronunciamiento against the dictatorship. When it became known, the backers fled into exile.
      On September 30 at a demonstration honoring José Varona a policeman killed the prominent student Rafael Trejo who became a martyr for the left. A history professor called for the resignation of Machado. The University of Havana was closed, and 52 members of the staff were fired. Then 300 teachers met in solidarity with the students. They were arrested and had no pay. On October 2 the United States Secretary of State Henry Stimson admitted that the Cuba situation was serious, though he opposed intervention. Students continued demonstrating into December, and there were protests in theatres and some minor bomb attacks.
      In 1931 the Central Highway was finally completed, and Cuba was near bankruptcy. In August the former President Menocal and Col. Mendieta tried to overthrow Machado. About 40 volunteers landed at Gibara and took over the police station, the telephone exchange, and the town hall where they gave out weapons. Machado sent an elite unit by rail while a cruiser blockaded the harbor. The air force dropped many bombs on the town. Menocal and Mendieta were arrested without any violence. A secret society called “ABC” aimed to destroy Machado and proposed 17 points. They organized members into cells and did not know each other’s names. Ambassador Guggenheim agreed that Machado would have to go.
      At the end of March in 1932 the Supreme Court Chief Justice Juan Gutiérrez resigned. After a while ABC used bombs every night. On 20 May 1932 the student Ignacio Mendoza led a group that killed Artemisa’s Chief of Police Díaz. Machado had anarchist leaders murdered. By October murders were occurring every day, and many police were killed.
      Cubans were suffering from the world depression. Their imports from the United States had been worth $191 million in 1923, and in 1932 they fell to $22 million. Cuban exports to the United States were $362 million in 1923 and were reduced to $57 million in 1932.
      On 3 April 1933 the Cuban government decreed a moratorium on all mortgage interest and payments. That month the new US President Franklin Roosevelt appointed his friend Sumner Welles the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, and he sent him as a special envoy to Cuba. Secretary of State Cordell Hull reminded Welles that “relations between the US and Cuba are those of sovereign independent powers.”19 Welles arrived in Cuba on May 8, and one week later there was a small revolt in Santa Clara. Welles began meeting with President Machado on May 25. On June 2 Welles offered to help write a better election code for Cuba. Machado agreed and said he would resign after a Vice President was elected.
      In early August there were many strikes in Havana. Newspapers, shops, bars, and cafés were shut down. In Cienfuegos mobs paraded in the streets and broke windows. On August 6 Welles presented Machado with a 5-point plan to appoint a Secretary of State, get the President a leave of absence, permit the Secretary of State to reorganize the cabinet, have Congress pass the Mixed Commission’s election reforms, and revive the vice presidency. Machado agreed to most of it, and Franklin Roosevelt backed the plan. On August 9 Machado decided to resign. Two days later Machado said that the entire cabinet would resign except General Herrera. Later Welles urged Herrera to appoint Carlos M. Céspedes as Secretary of State and then resign. Welles then recognized Céspedes as President. On August 12 Machado flew to Nassau, and his family went by ship later. During Machado’s presidency since 1925 the general standard of living had fallen by 20%.
      Fulgencio Batista was born on 16 January 1901 in Cuba of mixed parentage. He attended a public school and an American Quaker school at night. When his mother died, he was 14 and left home. He worked at many different jobs. In 1921 he enlisted in the army and learned shorthand and typing and later taught stenography. As a corporal he was secretary to a colonel. In September 1933 he was secretary for a group of officers planning to change the government.
      The United States Proconsul Sumner Welles had wired on August 13 that there was better control, though looting and burning houses was still extensive. A thousand people had been killed, and 300 houses were plundered. On the 14th President Carlos M. Céspedes selected his cabinet that included three ABC leaders. Proconsul Welles advised Céspedes to hold those guilty of crimes to account, and he agreed to do so.
      On August 18 the sergeant stenographer Fulgencio Batista spoke at the funeral of the soldier Alpízar who had been killed by Machado. Menocal returned to Cuba on the 20th, and Col. Carlos Mendieta came back from exile on the 22nd. On August 24 President Céspedes revived the Constitution of 1902, and then he dissolved the old Congress of Machado. Elections were set for February. Students and radicals were being disruptive. The Enlisted Men’s president Sergeant Pablo Rodríguez led a sergeants’ revolt by the Junta de Defensa in September. Batista had a battalion assembled and reprimanded officers for not preventing the disorders. His friend Sergio Carbo wrote the “Proclamation of the Revolutionaries” that called for reorganizing Cuba’s economics and politics by a constituent assembly and by punishing the guilty. The 19 signing it included Batista, Ramón Grau San Martín, and 15 students and professors. They formed a 5-man committee with Grau, Carbo, bank manager Porfirio Franca, the lawyer Irisarri, and the law professor Guillermo Portela.
      Welles asked for at least three warships, and US Secretary of State Cordell Hull questioned that. US President Franklin Roosevelt told Hull that no marines should go ashore unless Welles and his staff were in danger. US Navy ships surrounded Cuba within a week. The old cabinet resigned, and Céspedes replaced them with the five members of the committee. The Directorio Estudiantil issued a statement urging the people to help the revolution and maintain order. Many wanted Col. Mendieta to head the government.
      Officers gathered in the Hotel Nacional, and on September 7 Batista ordered the army to encircle the hotel. Carbo proposed reorganizing the army, and Batista raised his own rank to colonel. When Batista was appointed chief of staff, Porfirio Franca resigned. The next night sergeants began searching for arms in the hotel where 250 officers had gathered. Three more times Roosevelt told Welles not to intervene. The Directorio elected Dr. Grau the President of Cuba on September 10, and Céspedes found asylum in Brazil’s embassy. Grau chose a new cabinet that included the socialist Antonio Guiteras as Interior Minister. Grau rejected the 1902 Constitution because it contained the Platt Amendment.
      Dr. Martínez Sáenz became dictator of the ABC Party, and they opposed Batista and Grau. On September 15 Grau met with Mendieta, Menocal, Miguel Mariano Gómez, and ABC leaders. On September 29 Communists attempted to bury the ashes of Julio Antonio Mella. The government had banned red flags and such a burial. In the riot six people were killed, and 27 were wounded. At dawn on October 2 artillery began shelling the hotel where 300 officers had gathered. By the end of the day 80 officers and soldiers had been killed, and 200 were wounded. A disorderly Student Assembly was held on October 30, and the Directorio asked Grau to change the government by November 4. Every newspaper called for Mendieta to be President, and on November 2 many bombs exploded in Havana. Two days later students at the University of Havana in a referendum voted against the Directorio which Guiteras also opposed. Aircraft were used in the revolt on November 8-9. At least 250 soldiers died including those with a white flag who were shot down by machine-guns. Sumner Welles left Cuba in December.
      On 15 January 1934 Fulgencio Batista, having organized para-military units, had enough political support to demand that President Ramón Grau San Martín resign. A compromise made the Secretary of Agriculture Carlos Hevia the President. On January 17 Batista decided to declare Carlos Mendieta the President of Cuba. Hevia left the palace the next morning, and Mendieta became President at noon. Grau, Antonio Guiteras, and several student leaders went into exile. The United States recognized Mendieta’s government on January 23.
      Carlos Mendieta was born on 14 November 1873, and he served in Cuba’s House of Representatives for 20 years. He criticized the autocratic behavior of President Machado and spent time in prison. Batista and many of his officers were from the working class, and he had the power. Mendieta was Interim President of Cuba for 22 months.
      On 9 March 1834 the United States created an Export-Import Bank to loan money to Cuba with capital of $2.75 million. Cuba made a treaty with the US on May 29 that canceled the Platt Amendment, though the Guantánamo provisions were retained. In an agreement on sugar on August 24 Cuba made several concessions to the United States. In February 1935 frustration over the delay in establishing a new constitution motivated a series of bombings and then strikes in March by students, government employees, and railway workers. Women gained the right to vote. Mendieta tried to reconcile the political parties, and he resigned on December 11. Then José Agripino Barnet served as an Interim President for five months.


1. Cuba: A New History by Richard Gott, p. 69.
2. A History of Cuba and its relations with the United States. Volume 2 1845-1895 by Philip S. Foner, p. 78.
3. Cuba or The Pursuit of Freedom by Hugh Thomas, p. 243.
4. A History of Cuba and its relations with the United States. Volume 2 1845-1895 by Philip S. Foner, p. 259-260.
5. Ibid., p. 307.
6. Ibid., p. 312.
7. Cuba or The Pursuit of Freedom by Hugh Thomas, p. 301.
8. A History of Cuba and its relations with the United States. Volume 2 1845-1895 by Philip S. Foner, p. 342.
9. Ibid., p. 321.
10. Ibid., p. 359.
11. Cuba or The Pursuit of Freedom by Hugh Thomas, p. 334.
12. Ibid., p. 337.
13. Ibid., p. 340.
14. Ibid., p. 345.
15. Cambridge History of Latin America, The, Volume V c. 1870 to 1930 ed. Leslie Bethell, p. 242.
16. Cuba or The Pursuit of Freedom by Hugh Thomas, p. 443.
17. Ibid., p. 454.
18. Ibid., p. 459.
19. Ibid., p. 608.

Copyright © 2023 by Sanderson Beck

Latin America & Canada 1850-1935 has been published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

Latin America & Canada to 1850

Brazil 1850-1935
Uruguay 1850-1935
Argentina 1850-1935
Paraguay 1850-1935 
Bolivia 1850-1935
Chile 1850-1935
Peru 1850-1935
Ecuador 1850-1935
Colombia 1850-1935
Venezuela & Guianas 1850-1935
Haiti & Dominican Republic 1850-1935
Cuba 1850-1935
Puerto Rico 1850-1935
Panama 1850-1935
Costa Rica 1850-1935
Nicaragua 1850-1935
El Salvador 1850-1935
Honduras 1850-1935
Guatemala 1850-1935
Mexico 1850-1935
Canada 1850-1935

Chronology of Latin America to 1935
Chronology of Canada to 1935
Chronology of North & South America to 1786
Chronology of North & South America 1787-1844
Chronology of North & South America 1845-1896
Chronology of United States to 1896
World Chronology to 1830


BECK index