Caroline L Wallace.

Santiago de Cuba before the war; online

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SANTIAGO DE CUBA

BEFORE THE WAR;



lit^^^^m




SANTIAGO DE CUBA



BEFORE THE WAR;



OR.



RECUERDOS DE SANTIAGO,



BY

CAROLINE L WALLACE.



Ueely's Booklet Library, No. 4. Jan. sj, iSqq. Issued WeekJVy $5 per
year. Entered as second-cUiss ?natter at N. V. Post Ojfice.




F. TENNYSON NEELY,

PUBLISHER,



LCr^CN.



NEW YORK.



Copyright, 1898,

by

F. Tennyson Keelt

in

United States

and
Great Britain.

All lUghts Reserved.



^3 W3



PREFACE.

Hayeng passed several happj years in this
"Siempre Fiel Isla" before the unfortunate
animosity between the people inhabiting it
had developed into savageness ; ere the pomp
and pride of Spain had been humbled, and its
fruitful lands devastated by the vengeance of
its native born inhabitants ; v/hen all was fair
and quaint and fascinating, with a glamour all
its own, I found that this "Pearl of the An-
tilles, " cradled upon the calm waters of the
Caribbean, clothed in the gorgeous verdure of
the tropics, and fanned by soft southern
breezes, extended a hospitable hand of greet-
ing to the stranger attracted hither, in search
of new and foreign scenes.

With charming memories of the gracious
hospitality of the Cubans, as well as of the
stately courtesy of the Spaniards with whom I
was thrown, I am tempted to embodj a few



PREFACE.

recollections of those happy days, that uavx.
impressed themselves upon my memory in
never fading pictures, whose glowing lights
and brilliant colors shine out undimmed
among the many scenes that time has hung
around this gallery of gems.

Now that Cuba can no longer be considered
the "fairest gem in the crown of Spain," and
the Stars and Stripes float where the red and
gold of Spain long proudly waved, I can but
waft one sigh of regret to those departed days
on that once tranquil island, which will so
soon take on the work and hurry and onward
march of improvement that kills out all pic-
turesqueness, all romance, with its metallic
nineteenth century advancement.

C. L. W.

August, 1898.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER. PAGE

1. Akbival in Santiago 7

II. Manneus and Customs 15

III. Sunday in Santiago 24

IV. El. COBRE AND THE ^MIRACULOUS ViKGIN 31

V. Cuban Women 36

VI. A Day in a Cuban Home 44

711. Streets of Santiago 49

VIII. A Visit to the Hacienda op Santa Anita. 56

IX. Saints in Santiago 64

X. Insects and Moonlight 70

XI. The Spanish Lion and the Blue Fak 75



SANTIAGO DE CUBA

BEFORE THE WAR.



I.

AERIYAL AT SANTIAGO DE CUBA.

On Sunday, the Gtb of October, 18 — ■, in the
early morning, "we came in sight of Morro
Castle, which crowns the heights on the right,
at the narrow entrance of the tortuous way,
that, with many windings and turnings, leads
up to the bay of Santiago de Cuba.

Its yellow walls, embrowned turrets and time-
stained battlements surmount the abrupt height
which rises from the sea, its threatening air
dominating with ancient imperiousness the
narrow entrance.

The rocky base, deep moat, and huge draw-
bridge, of the fifteenth century, form a frown-
ing, though most pictuesque object against
the blue background of a cloudless sky ; with



8 SANTIAGO DE CUBA

the green waters of the sea curling around its
base, and the red and yellow colors of the
Spanish flag waving from its apex, while its
black-mouthed guns, rusty with the moisture
of ages, point savagely at the bold intruder,
who would dare to brave their anger.

Excavated oat of solid rock upon which this
ancient fortress stands, were the cells, offices,
and torture chambers of the inquisition, used
in the times when the "Holy Office" assumed
to be arbiter of all Spanish America.

Diagonally across the outer entrance of the
harbor, to the west of "Morro, " and opposite
.to the fortress of Santa Catalina, stands the
Castle of La Zocapa, on Canones Point.

As we pass close beneath the walls, it seems
as though there was hardly room for another
vessel to enter, a distance of not more than one
hundred and twenty yards lying between the
opposing shores.

Any hostile vessel essaying to enter the har-
bor of Santiago would not only be subjected
to the fire of "Morro, " and the water battery
below and behind, to the east of this castle,
but would also run the gauntlet of La Estrella,
Santa Catalina and Zocapa, and in addition, v



BEFORE THE WAR. 9

Thus, Santiago is eminently fitted by nature
to be a western Gibraltar; and, next to that of
Eio de Janeiro, the bay of Santiago de Cuba
is decidedly the most picturesque on the west-
ern hemisphere.

The hills that rise on either side are crowned
with palms and cocoa trees, the yellow blos-
som of the century plant making a perpetual
golden glow. Cacti, prickly pear, mangoes,
bamboo, the cotton plant, with flowering vines
innumerable, riot luxuriously in all the se-
curity of perpetual summer that knows no
change, fears no decay, nor winter blasts.

The faint trace of the early morning mist,
still hanging around these verdure clad shores,
was fast melting away beneath the ardent kiss
of the fiery god whose warm embrace misses no
spot nor blossom in his morning salutation.

As we approach the city, the wide waters of
the bay spread out before us, calm as a mirror.
The wharves and custom-house buildings — •
from the moment she had well passed Morillo
Point, be subjected to an enfilading fire from
Punta Gorda, and, as soon as the narrowest
point was reached, to another from Isla de
I Smith.



10 SANTIAGO DE CUBA

large, low structures, with wide sheds, and red
tiled roofs — the blue and white coated Cara-
bineros, with their wide somberos and red
rosettes — badge of their authority, are the first
objects of our attention.

After much deliberation, for hurry is a thing
unknown in Spanish countries, we disembark.
Several stalwart negroes, clothed in the fashion
of Paradise, with the addition only of scant
garments about the loins, their dark skins
shining, and smooth as ebonj, their great
muscles standing out, strong and vigorous as
Hercules, seize upon our trunks, bags and im-
pedimenta, and, regardless of size or weight,
hoist them up on to their heads, and start oflf
up the steep and stony street that leads to our
hotel.

There are no hacks, cabs or carriages of any
description awaiting the traveler as he steps
upon terra firma; and your choice of getting
your luggage carried lies between the negro
who takes it on his head and a small caretta,
or two-wheeled cart, harnessed to a mule that
looks as though he might succumb even to its
diminutive proportions, that squeak and rattle
as it ie jolted over the rough stones, in spite



BEFORE THE WAR. 11

of the numerous ropes with which it is bound
together.

"Walking up the narrow street, creeping
along on the shady side, as we regard the one-
story houses and strange aspect of things in
general we feel as though we had been landed
back a century or two in the past.

Apartments had been engaged for us at the
Hotel del Oommercio, and we were glad to find
ourselves within the shelter of its thick walls
and substantial floors after so many days of
discomfort on board the small Spanish
steamer that had brought us from Plavana.

Our first breakfast in Santiago was a gas-
tronomic delight, the variety and service of
the dishes leaving nothing to be desired;
"Monsieur Jean, " the head waiter, with true
Erench tact helping us so daintily and deftly
that it was a pleasure to have him moving
about.

At the head of the table we fouud Colonel

, whose nine years' residence there had

so imbued him with the spirit of the place that
he seemed a part of it ; his genial atmosphere
giving an added charm to these quaint and
unique surroundings. Here, also, we mot the



13 SANTIAGO DE CUBA

handsome Spanish oflScer whose grave and
dignified demeanor had so impressed us on
board the steamer. Over whom and what he
might be I had myself inwardly much specu-
lated. With true Spanish courtesy he recog-
nized us as his companions de voyage, making
a graceful salutation as we took our places at
the table.

Although the foreign element was in prepon-
derance, there were several English-speaking
gentlemen among them, who, with the ease of
manner and social instincts of the Latin races,
did not fail to make everything as agreeable as
possible to the newcomers.

Our breakfast consisted of almost as many
courses as a dinner, and every one smoked
cigarettes between them, finishing with black
coffee and cigars, sitting over them, and pro-
longing the conversation until nearly noon.

Breakfast over, we went out into the cor-
ridor in front, which seemed to take the place
of a parlor or reception room, as a point of re-
union. Here, whoever came to call waited for
his friend to come out, in case he should still
be at table. To my surprise, several small
Cuban horses, all saddled and bridled, were



BEFORE THE WAR. 13

tied to the railing, patiently awaiting their
owners, who had been breakfasting within.

A commingling of tongues strikes the ear
like the music of varied instruments, as this
gathering from many lauds join in animated
conversation ; and though but an hour or two
ago we were all strangers, one to another, a
sympathetic chord, the result of kindly feeling
and courteous speech, vibrates through the
whole company.

A spacious, lofty apartment on the ground
floor, had been assigned to us, with windows
looking out upon the theater opposite; the
first story of which was a deep brownish red,
and the second a bright blue, with much white
decoration on fagade, doors and cornices. The
broad flight of wide stone stairs and terrace
leading up to it appeared to be the rendezvous
for many colored nurses with their charges,
from the baby at the breast to the three and
five year old tots, who enjoyed unrestrained
possession of their playground, their little
chemises twisted up into a narrow wisp about
their waists with a knot behind, which the
nurse's outstretched hand held tightly, and
kept them from falling or straying away into
danger.



14 SANTIAGO DE CUBA

Onr other windows, and also doors, opened
upon the patio, around which wo had to pass
in going to the dining room, which was upon
another street at a different altitude, so that
we were obliged to ascend a flight of stairs to
reach the corridor that led to it.

The visitors from the haciendas who could
not reach town bj^ railway (there being only
one in any direction) were obliged to come in
on horseback; around this lower patio their
animals were tied, and patiently awaited their
owners; an occasional donkey adding his sono-
rous voice to the neighing and stamping of
the horses.

The loud voices of the drivers and attendants
in Creole-French and Spanish, the numerous
passers-in-and-out of all sorts, formed a curi-
ous conglomeration of sounds and sights that
kept one on the qui vive of expectation, won-
deriug what would come next in the strange
panorama that was constantly changing before
our astonished gaze.



BEFORE THE WAR. 16



II.

MANNERS AND HABITS.

The long day in Santiago begins early, for
with the first sunrise all business and working
people are astir ; and although in this indolent
atmosphere nobody hurries, everything be-
gins at an hour that to an American seems un-
earthl3%

By three or four o'clock in the morning one
is awakened by the patter of the small hoofs
of mules that come in long strings of perhaps
thirty or forty, each tied to the tail of the one
in front of him, and laden almost out of sight
with fruits, vegetables and produce from the
neighboring haciendas or estates, which are
sent into supply the market, from which all
the city buys its daily rations of food and pro-
visions for man and beast.

The colored servants of every shade, from
darkest mahogany up to palest yellow, with
blue eyes and crinkly, light hair, erect, and



16 SANTIAGO DE CUBA

with stately grace, are moving about in the
early morning; the crowning bit of bright
color in the inevitable bandanna (which be-
comes a part of their costume even in tender
years) making a gorgeous setting for their
dark skins. Their long trailing skirts of
bright-hued cotton, well starched, rustle over
the pavements to the accompanying sluff-sluff
of shoes down at the heel, that clatter along, as
laden with trays and baskets they go to bring
from the market the day's provisions.

After a cup of coflfee and a roll the mer-
chant, banker, or commissioner, in lightest of
clothing, neatly and elegantly dressed, sets out
for his place of business downtown, the ladies
and children taking their coffee or chocolate
in flowing and loosest of dishabille, in most
unceremonious fashion, for the real breakfast
is not before ten or perhaps later, when the
gentlemen of the house, having had three or
four hours devoted to business, are ready to
return and breakfast at leisure with the family.

A Creole breakfast consists usually of five or
six courses, beginning with rice and eggs,
fried plantains, delicious fish, beefsteak,
buniata (a vegetable similar to sweet potatoes)



BEFORE THE WAR. 17

salad, fruits, and some sweet dish, with red
wine, ending with excellent coffee ; the smok-
ing of cigarettes always accompanying every
meal.

In the middle of the day comes the siesta,
indispensable to the early riser who has been
up and at work, before the heat came on, as
also to the languorous senora who has rocked
all day in her easy chair and been fanned by
her servant, or perchance done a little fancy
work, or studied her music lesson, and played
with the half naked baby that its black nurse
brings her to admire.

Heavy curtains hang before the wide, iron
barred windows which project outward into
the street, and admitting of conversation with
the passer-by, are the scene of many inter-
views, filled with telling glances and fervid ex-
pressions that, later on, develop into attach-
ments which, with the ardent Creole tempera-
ment, expand like flowers beneath the sun
into the full bloom of maturity with tropical
rapidity.

As the Creole senorita is not supposed to re-
ceive or converse with young men, except in
the presence of some older member of the



18 SANTIAGO DE CUBA

family, etiquette not even permitting her to sit
beside, but always opposite, her visitor, she
does not fail to avail herself of the opportunity
of the friendly window, with its half-drawn
curtain and wide-apart bars, which allow of so
near an approach to the one who has been
walking up and dov»'n, waiting for the happy
moment when his inamorata shall appear in
response to his desires.

A gracious hospitality characterizes Creole
manners. Even though the first salutation :
"A los pies de Usted," to which you reply:
"Beso Usted la raano, " seems a somewhat ex-
aggerated expression, much cordiality and evi-
dent amiability make you feel at home within
their borders, and a simplicity of manner and
freedom of conversation contribute to a feeling
of well-being most grateful to one in a strange
land.

At the entrance of a house one is apt to
encounter lolling about the door negroes of
all ages and sizes, and in the hall you pass
the elegant volante, with its immense wheels
and long shafts, glittering lanterns and rich
upholstery, which is always driven directly
into the house after it has given the senoritas



BEFORE THE WAR. 19

an outing, and there stands a gorgeous -witness
to its owner's financial status.

One peculiarity of Cuban houses is the
single entrance, for, being built with a patio
or court, on to which all the rooms open, the
great door upon the street, which swings open
wide enough to admit the volante and pair of
mules, affords entrance and exit for all that
pertains to housekeeping as well as for all
visitors from the highest to the lowest degree.

I frequentl}' saw the elegant Doctor de L ,

on his return from his morning round of visits,
dismount on the sidewalk, and, throwing the
bridle upon his horse's neck, pass up the steps
into his house, followed by his gentle horse,
who walked up after his master as tamely as a
dog.

A Cuban menage is simplicity itself com-
pared with American life, and in passing one
may look in through the great windows and
open doors, screened during the middle of the
day by heavy curtains of striped linen that
keep out the sun but flap in the wind and
show glimpses of the whole picture of domes-
tic life as you pass along the street.

Evening descends early after the red Bun



20 SANTIAGO DE CUBA

lias hidden behind the hills across the bay,
leaving his crimson glow npon the placid
waters; no long twilight lingers here, but
night, with dusky wings, swoops down, mak-
ing a quick transition from the tropic day.

"With darkness comes the refreshing land
breeze; and the social nature of the Creole in-
cites to visit with his neighbors and the "ter-
tulias, " or gathering together of near friends,
fill the streets with cheerful voices and merry
laughter. Often whole families and their visi-
tors are seated out on the sidewalk in front of
their houses, from the grandmother down to
the five-year-old, all chatting and smoking, the
senoras as well as the men, including the little
boys.

The shops are open, and much of the buying
is done at evening; the merchant, in most
familiar fashion, addressing you by your first
name and inquiring after your family as in a
social visit; and, if purchases are made, some
little thing is offered as a "nape" or present,
thrown in to bind the bargain. If it is not
offered, the shopper does not hesitate to ask
for his little gift, which it would look small to
refuse. The merchant accompanies you to the



BEFORE THE WAR. 21

cloor, and bows you out, with the compliments
of leave taking and good wishes.

The name of the owner does not appear upon
the sign above the door, but the name of the
store, as "La Puerta del Sol," "La Caridad,"
"Le Monte de Oro," "El Paradiso," etc.

The Plaza de Armas, in front of the palace,
on certain evenings is filled with promenadeis,
who go to listen to the music of the military
bands. Here one meets all one's acquaint-
ances, and enjoys what is called the "opera
economique, " for the Cubans are a music-lov-
ing people, and the Spanish regimental bands
give a programme that is a delight to listen to.

The ladies, with true Creole dolce far mente,
remain seated until the last number, which is
usually a Cuban danza; even not hesitating in
passing before a gentleman occupying a seat
they may desire, to stop before him, and, with
a movement of the head, indicate that she would
like his seat. He is in duty bound to rise
and offer it, and she accepts as a matter of
course. But when the "danza" strikes up
all the ladies arise, and in twos and threes,
begin to promenade around the plaza; the gen-
tlemen taking their vacated seats, and enjoying



22 SANTIAGO DE CUBA

in tbeir turn the pleasure of looking at and,
perchance, criticizing the ladies. Those not
fortunate enough to secure seats form in a line
opposite their more favored brothers, and be-
tween this phalanx of admiring eyes all the
promenaders have to pass. Although a Cuban
lady seldom walks, there is a remarkable un-
dulating grace of movement, rythmic and sway-
ing, harmonizing with the languorous air and
peculiar passion of the Cuban "danza. "

With the "Dauza, " the Ketrata closes.
The band marches through the streets to the
barracks, playing to the end. The plashing
fountains and fragrant jasmines remain sole
possessors of the now empty Plaza.

Ten o'clock is the usual hour for the closing
of houses, and all visitors expect to leave at
that time. Indeed, all down the street one
hears the banging of the heavy doors as reg-
ularly as the striking of the clock.

Then sally forth the "serenos, " or watch-
men, picturesque in the white uniforms, with
long pikes and lanterns, calling out, in musical
tones, the hours and quarters, and at the same
time the state of the weather as "Las dies, y
ser-e-no!" "Las nueve, y nu-bla-do!" "Las



BEFORE THE WAR. 23

doce, y estrell-a-da esta lano-che!" so that,
at whatever hour during the night one chances
to be awake, one can know with certainty the
time and the conditions that prevail. They
have a way of singing out the hours that
leaves a long echo behind as they pass down
the street that lingers lovingly on the soft night
air, till it dies out upon your ear as you fall
back into the land of drearos with a feeling of
securit}^ that without, as well as within, "Eista
la noche serena. ' '



24 SANTIAGO DE CUBA



III.

SUNDAY IN SANTIAGO.

Sunday is a fete day in Santiago. Very
early in the morning the bells ring out with a
joyous clamor, calling the devout to prayers.
The ringing is not done by pulling a bell rope,
but by striking with a metal rod upon the bell
itself — a repetition of rapid uneven strokes,
producing a singular effect, which seems to
say, "Hurry up, hurry up, and come to
church."

After attending mass it is not unusual for
visits to be paid and received. In fact, even
the religious functions at the cathedral and at
the Misa de Tropa, which is celebrated at the
San Francisco, have more the air of social
gatherings than of religious services.

The center of the church is filled with ladies
in fine attire; a black lace mantilla, which
falls partially over the face like a veil, taking



BEFORE THE WAR. 25

the place of a bonnet, which is not considered
appropriate in church here.

Servants carrying low chairs and rugs ac-
company their mistresses, and after spreading
the rugs and placing the chairs upon them,
they with careful hands draw out the folds of
flowing skirts, so that no effect shall be lost
upon the critical observer wlio may be seated
behind or at the side.

Here the matronly sencra, in all the beauty
of full-blown maturity, with dark flashing eyes,
now half concealed behind the lowered veil,
with jeweled fingers parts the sacred beads as
she repeats her "Padre Nuestro," while her
young daughter, just blossoming into girlhood
at her side, looks out with shy but ardent
glances at the young lieutenant, fresh from
Spain, trim and erect in his gold bands and
bright buttons, that have not yet been tarnished
in his country's service, who, leaning against
a column not far awaj', is not insensible to the
language of her eyes, and answers back flash
for flash. All around the sides of the church
stand the military, while a few pews or seats
in front only are reserved for the high func-
tionaries and foreign consuls. The dark and



26 SANTIAGO DE CUBA

■wrinkled duenna, whose flashing eyes alone re-
call her departed youth, does not fail to fulfill
her accustomed part in the general devotions.
Numerous colored servants in Sunday garb,
and bright bandana turbaned heads, stand
piously behind their mistresses. All around
the entrance and massed between the arches
stand the troops, resplendent in gay uniforms.

As this is the Misa deTropa, the regimental
bands take a prominent part in the music, and
in addition to organ and choir give a gorgeous


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Online LibraryCaroline L WallaceSantiago de Cuba before the war; → online text (page 1 of 6)