Part 8 (1/2)

among them!” To the Colonel it was a novel and astonis.h.i.+ng experience, and is of course deeply resented by all his kind in Cuba, where African blood may be found, in greater or less degree, in some of the richest and most influential families of the island.


In Havana you need not be surprised to see Creole belles on the fas.h.i.+onable Prado--perhaps Cuban-Spanish. Cuban-English or Cuban-German blondes--promenading with Negro officers in gorgeous uniforms; or octoroon beauties with hair in natural crimp, riding in carriages beside white husbands or lighting up an opera box with the splendor of their diamonds. There was a wedding in the old cathedral the other day, attended by the elite of the city, the bride being the lovely young daughter of a Cuban planter, the groom a burly Negro.

n.o.body to the manor born has ever dreamed of objecting to this mingling of colors; therefore when some newly arrived foreigner declares that n.o.body but those of his own complexion shall eat in a public dining room, there is likely to be trouble.


When the war began the population of Cuba was a little more than one-third black; now the proportion is officially reckoned as 525,684 colored, against 1,631,600 white. In 1898 two Negroes were serving as secretaries in the Autonomist Cabinet. The last regiment that Blanco formed was of Negro volunteers, to whom he paid--or, rather, promised to pay, which is quite another matter, considering Blanco's habit--the unusual hire of $20 a month, showing his appreciation of the colored man as a soldier. If General Weyler evinced any partiality in Cuba, it was for the black Creole. During the ten years' war, his cavalry escort was composed entirely of colored men. Throughout his latest reign in the island he kept black soldiers constantly on guard at the gates of the government palace. While the ill.u.s.trated papers of Spain were caricaturing: the insurgents as coal-black demons with horns and forked toe nails, burning canefields and butchering innocent Spaniards, the Spanish General chose them for his bodyguards.

[Ill.u.s.tration: CUBAN WOMAN CAVALRY.]


One of the greatest Generals of the day, considering the environment, was Antonio Maceo, the Cuban mulatto hero, who, for two years, kept the Spanish army at bay or led them a lively quickstep through the western provinces to the very gates of Havana. As swift on the march as Sheridan or Stonewall Jackson, as wary and prudent as Grant himself, he had inspirations of military genius whenever a crisis arose. It is not generally known that Martinez Campos, who owed his final defeat at Colisea to Maceo, was a second cousin of this black man. Maceo's mother, whose family name was Grinan, came from the town of Mayari where all the people have Indian blood in their veins. Col.

Martinez del Campos, father of General Martinez Campos, was once Military Governor of Mayari. While there he loved a beautiful girl of Indian and Negro blood, who belonged to the Grinan family, and was first cousin to Maceo's mother. Martinez Campos, Jr., the future General and child of the Indian girl was born in Mayari. The Governor could not marry his sweetheart, having a wife and children in Spain, but when he returned to the mother country he took the boy along.

According to Spanish law, the town in which one is baptized is recognized as his legal birthplace, so it was easy enough to legitimatize the infant Campos. He grew up in Spain, and when sent to Cuba as Captain-General, to his everlasting credit be it said, that one of his first acts was to hunt up his mother. Having found her, old and poor, he bought a fine house in Campo Florida, the aristocratic suburb of Havana, established her there and cared for her tenderly till she died. The cousins, though on opposite sides of the war, befriended each other in many instances, and it is said that more than once Captain-General Campos owed his life to his unacknowledged relative.


The latter's half brother, Jose Maceo, was captured early in the war and sent to the African prison, Centa; whence he escaped later on with Quintin Bandera and others of his staff. The last named Negro Colonel is to-day a prominent figure. ”Quintin Bandera” means ”fifteen flags,”

and the appellation was bestowed upon him by his grateful countrymen after he had captured fifteen Spanish ensigns. Everybody seems to have forgotten his real name, and Quintin Bandera he will remain in history. While in the African penal settlement the daughter of a Spanish officer fell in love with him. She a.s.sisted in his escape and fled with him to Gibraltar. There he married his rescuer. She is of Spanish and Moorish descent, and is said to be a lady of education and refinement. She taught her husband to read and write and feels unbounded pride in his achievements.

The noted General Jesus Rabi, of the Cuban Army, is of the same mixed blood as the Maceos. Another well-known Negro commander is General Flor Crombet, whose patriotic deeds have been dimmed by his atrocious cruelties. Among all the officers now swarming Havana none attracts more admiring attention than General, a tall, fine-looking mulatto, who was educated at the fine military school of St. Cyr. He is of extremely polished manners and undeniable force of character, can make a brilliant address and has great influence among the

To eject such a man as he from a third rate foreign restaurant in his own land would be ridiculous. His equally celebrated brother, Col.

Juan, was killed last year in the Pinar del Rio insurrection.


Besides these sons of Mars, Cuba has considered her history enriched by the achievements of colored men in peaceful walks of life. The memory of Gabriel Concepcion de la Valdez the mulatto poet, is cherished as that of a saint. He was accused by the Spanish government of complicity in the slave insurrection of 1844 and condemned to be shot in his native town, Matanzas. One bright morning in May he stood by the old statue of Ferdinand VII. in the Plaza d'Armas, calmly facing a row of muskets, along whose s.h.i.+ning barrels the sun glinted.

The first volley failed to touch a vital spot. Bleeding from several wounds, he still stood erect, and, pointing to his heart, said in a clear voice, ”Aim here!” Another mulatto author, educator and profound thinker was Antonio Medina, a priest and professor of San Basilio the Greater. He acquired wide reputation as a poet, novelist and ecclesiastic, both in Spain and Cuba, and was selected by the Spanish Academy to deliver the oration on the anniversary of Cerantes' death in Madrid. His favorite Cuban pupil was Juan Gaulberto Gomez, the mulatto journalist, who has been imprisoned time and again for offences against the Spanish press laws. Senor Gomez, whose home is in Matanzas, is now on the shady side of 40, a spectacled and scholarly looking man. After the peace of Zanjon he collaborated in the periodicals published by the Marquis of Sterling. In '79 he founded in Havana, the newspaper La Fraternidad, devoted to the interest of the colored race. For a certain fiery editorial he was deported to Centa and kept there two years. Then he went to Madrid and a.s.sumed the management of La Tribuna and in 1890 returned to Havana and resumed the publication of La Fraternidad.


Another beloved exile from the land of his birth is Senor Jose White.

His mother was a colored woman of Matanzas. At the age of 16 Jose wrote a ma.s.s for the Matanzas orchestra and gave his first concert.

With the proceeds he entered the Conservatory of Paris, and in the following year won the first prize as violinist among thirty-nine contestants. He soon gained an enviable reputation among the most celebrated European violinists, and, covered with honors, returned to Havana in January of '75. But his songs were sometimes of liberty, and in June of the same year the Spanish government drove him out of the country. Then he went to Brazil, and is now President of the Conservatory of Music of Rio Janeiro.

One might go on multiplying similar incidents. Some of the most eminent doctors, lawyers and college professors in Cuba are more or less darkly ”colored.” In the humble walks of life one finds them everywhere, as carpenters, masons, shoemakers and plumbers. In the few manufacturies of Cuba a large proportion of the workmen are Negroes especially in the cigar factories. In the tanneries of Pinar del Rio most of the workmen are colored, also in the saddle factories of Havana, Guanabacoa, Cardenas and other places. Although the insurgent army is not yet disbanded, the sugar-planters get plenty of help from their ranks by offering fair wages.--New York Sun.


Porto Rico, the beautiful island which General Miles is taking under the American flag, has an area of 3,530 square miles. It is 107 miles in length and 37 miles across. It has a good telegraph line and a railroad only partially completed.

The population, which is not made up of so many Negroes and mulattoes as that of the neighboring islands, is about 900,000. Almost all of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics.