Front Door to Cuba

Timetable History of Cuba

Struggle for Independence - 1

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October 12. Havana's "Teatro Principal" is inaugurated.

November 5. A Royal order allows North American rebel vessels to purchase supplies in Cuban ports under their own flag. All transactions must be paid in cash, in bills of exchange, or in Negro slaves.


Cuba's government changes to an independent colonial administration under a captain general.


January. Spanish authorities end legal trade between Cuba and all countries other than Spain.


Fernando de Ayerbe (a mestizo priest) founds the first public school on the island.


May 31. King Charles III issues a new slave code. Aside from allowing only 270 work days per year, masters are to feed and clothe the slaves according to prescribed standards, to instruct them in the Catholic religion and to convince them to hear Mass regularly. The code also makes requirements on slaves, such as "obey and respect" their masters. [Evidence shows that obligations imposed on slave-masters were not enforced.]


Luis de las Casas is appointed Captain General. He serves in this capacity until 1796.

Don José Agustín Caballero, Tomás Romay, Manuel Zequeria and others publish the first Cuban newspaper, Papel Periódico. Profits go to a public school. [In 1793 the Sociedad Económica makes the paper a semi-weekly and by 1810 the paper appears daily.]


August. A slave revolt begins in the French-half of Haiti, and soon spreads over the entire island. [In 1790, Haiti's population includes 32,000 resident whites, 24,000 freedmen, and 480,000 slaves.]

November 24. A royal decree allows the free commerce of slaves for the next 6 years, and lowers taxes on various Cuban imports.

In Cuba, 1 out of 23 residents is a slave.

Between 1791 and 1805, 91,211 slaves enter the island through Havana.


February 23. Captain General las Casas allows limited Cuban trade with the U.S.

June. The French fleet and most of the white French population are driven out of Haiti.

Spain joins the monarchical allies against Republican France.


Led by ex-slave Toussaint L'Ouverture, the slaves drive out the Spanish from Haiti.


July 22. Spain signs the Treaty of Basel with the victorious French Republic.

Nicolás Morales, a free Negro, leads an uprising that starts in Bayamo and quickly spreads throughout the eastern part of Cuba before it is suppressed by the Spanish army.Philip Foner in A History of Cuba and its Relations with the United States, Vol. 1, 1492-1845: "…what especially disturbed the slave-owners about this uprising was that whites and Negroes joined together in the revolt and demanded, as in the Haitian Revolution, equality between black and white."


June 12. After peace is reestablished, Spain ends all commercial ventures between Cuba and the U.S.

October 6. Now a French ally, Spain declares war on Britain.


Narcisso López is born in Venezuela. He joins the Spanish army at an early age and operates against General Simón Bolívar.

November 18. A Royal Decree opens the Atlantic and Caribbean ports of the Spanish empire to neutral trade on a temporary basis. [This decree is revoked with the Royal Decree of April 18, 1799, which closes these ports to neutral trade.]


July 1. In Haiti, L'Ouverture announces a new constitution that abolishes slavery and declares the island's independence.

Set on recovering the French-portion of Haiti and restoring white supremacy, napoleon sends an army of 43,000 French veterans lead by his brother in law, Victor E. Leclerc. (L'Ouverture is tricked into sailing to France and treacherously imprisoned until his death.)


War breaks out again between France and England.

November 29. The 8,000 French soldiers remaining in Haiti surrender.

December. The Spanish colonies are again open to neutral trade.

December 31. Cuba's romantic poet José María Heredia is born in Santiago de Cuba.


The Negro Republic of Haiti (the first in history) is proclaimed.

Sugar production in Cuba increases to 34,000 tons. [In 1795 it was 14,000 tons.]


Venezuelan Creole leader Sebastián Francisco de Miranda launches the first serious independence movement against Spain in the Americas.


Napoleon invades Spain. England and Spain become allies.

May 6. Under pressure from Napoleon, King Ferdinand VII and Prince Ferdinand renounce the Spanish throne. In June, Napoleon installs his brother Joseph as the new King of the Spanish empire.


May. Cuba's Junta Superior is invited by the Caracas Junta to join the revolt against Spain, but Cuba remains faithful to the Crown.


July 5. The United Provinces of Venezuela declare their independence from Spain. From Buenos Aires and Caracas, José San Martín and Simón Bolívar set out to end Spanish dominance of the New World. [The Republic of Columbia is proclaimed on December 17, 1819.]


February. José Antonio Aponte, leader of Negro uprising, and eight of his collaborators are caught and imprisoned.

April 9. At 9:30 a.m., Aponte and the other collaborators are put to death on the gallows. The head of Aponte is placed in an iron cage and displayed in front of the house where he lived, and his hand is displayed in another street. The heads of various accomplices are also displayed.


The period of the Napoleonic Wars brings prosperity to Cuba despite restrictions and obstacles placed by the crown. Demand for sugar, tobacco and coffee increases, and more capital is injected into crop production. More slaves are introduced, and trade between the U.S. and Cuba increases.


July. José Cienfuegos replaces Juan Ruiz de Apodaca as Captain General.


A British-inspired agreement ends the slave trade, but after the agreement, slaves continue to be imported illegally in greater numbers.

June 23. The Cuban tobacco monopoly, known as Factoria, is abolished.

A new census illustrates the growth of the island: 552,000 inhabitants, 239,000 of them whites, and 331,000 nonwhite.

June 23. The Cuban tobacco monopoly, known as “Factoria,” is abolished after King Ferdinand VII allows the private sale of Cuban cigars and tobacco leaf.

December. Explaining the reason for the introduction of Negro slavery into Cuba, King Ferdinand VII of Spain writes, "the impossibility of finding Indians… to do the work of breaking and cultivating the land demanded that this work… be delivered to more robust arms." [Author J.S. Redding, in They Came in Chains, writes: “Nearly four times as many African slaves were transported in British bottoms as in all of the ships of all other nations combined,” including Dutch, French, Spanish or Portuguese.]


February 10. A Royal Decree allows Creoles the right to trade with vessels from other nations at the various Cuban ports.


A Royal Decree finally grants Creoles full legal rights to the lands they occupy (until this time, all property was considered royal property).

April 18. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes is born in Bayamo.


April 16. The Constitution of 1812 is reinstated after slight resistance from Captain General Juan Manuel Cajigal.


Nicolás de Mahy succeeds Cajigal as Captain General.

July 28. Peru issues a declaration of independence.

September 15. The United Provinces of Central America issues a declaration of independence. The new confederacy includes Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Between 1821 and 1831 more than three hundred expeditions bring an estimated sixty thousand slaves to Cuba.


Cuban poet José María Heredia and José Francisco Lemus organize a secret society known as “Suns and Rays of Bolívar.” The society plans a rebellion for independence and seeks union with the famed liberator.

U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams makes the policy of the U.S. perfectly clear, “These islands (Cuba and Puerto Rico) are natural appendages of the North American continent, and one of them (Cuba) almost within sight of our shores, from a multitude of considerations has become an object of transcendent importance to the commercial and political interests of our Union… These are laws of political as well as physical gravitation.”

December 2. In what becomes known as the Monroe Doctrine, President James Monroe stakes out the Western Hemisphere as a U.S. sphere of influence by warning Europe not to interfere in the affairs of any of the American nations that have recently become independent.

Between 1823 and 1836, clear practical and philosophical divisions develop and grow between Cubans and Spaniards.


December 9. With the battle of Ayacucho in Peru, Spanish forces are decisively defeated and thrown out of the American mainland—north, central and south. Spain still controls two islands in the West Indies: Cuba and Puerto Rico.


May 28. A Royal Decree expands the powers of the Captain General of Cuba.

Mexico and Venezuela plan an expedition to support the Cuban struggle for independence, but the United States, fearing an independent Cuba would lead to the end of slavery with repercussions in the Southern states, lets it be known through Secretary of State Henry Clay that it would block any move to liberate Cuba from Spain. The decision is based on the belief that in due time Cuba would come to be part of the U.S.


March 16. Francisco Agüero y Velazco and Andrés Manuel Sánchez are executed in Puerto Príncipe for opposing the Spanish empire's control over Cuba, becoming the first martyrs of the independence movement.


The census shows a population of 704,000, of whom 311,000 are white, 286,000 slaves, and 106,000 free Negroes or mixed bloods. It also lists 1,000 sugar mills, 30,090 ranches, 5,534 tobacco farms, and 2,067 coffee plantations.

Between 1827 and 1829, Cuban exiles in Colombia and Mexico form a secret society called the "Black Eagle" with the goal of starting another revolution, but the Spanish Government soon discovers them.


Spain increases taxation, imposes arbitrary rules for its own benefit and completely denies the Creoles (native born Cubans of mixed ancestry) any voice in the government.


The highly regarded magazine Revista bimestre de Cuba begins publication.


May. Mariano Ricafort becomes Captain General.

British colonies abolish slavery.


Child-queen Isabel II assumes the throne of Spain. | The Cuban Academy of Literature is founded.


March 21. The Spanish crown increases the authority of the Cuban Captain-General to dictatorial status.

June. General Miguel Tacón is appointed Captain-General of Cuba. Tacón's administration marks a new political direction for the island's government that lasts until the end Spanish rule over Cuba in 1898. Tacón is mistrustful of the Cubans and deals with them severely. In his eyes, Cubans are the enemy of Spain and must be kept from participating in public affairs.
[Until about this time, Cubans born to Spanish parents were considered Spanish like their parents. After Tacón's period, it was popular for Cubans born of Spanish parents to have a more "Cuban" identity. They were more likely to believe that Spanish laws were good for Spain, and that Cubans should be able to have a separate identity.]

July 15. A papal decree officially ends the Spanish Inquisition.

July 31. About 668,000 slaves are freed at sundown in the British West Indies.


July 9. Tomás Estrada Palma is born in Bayamo, Oriente. He becomes a noted Cuban revolutionary figure and the first President of the Republic of Cuba in 1902.


September 1. From exile in New York, José María Heredia writes to Cuba's Captain-General Tacón and requests permission to return to the island.


April 25. A new Royal Decree eliminates Cuban delegates from serving on the Cortes.


May 7. José María Heredia dies in Mexico.

In the 50-year period between 1790 to 1839, the number of sugar haciendas increases to about 800 from about 400.


Official Cuban census reports: 1,037,624 inhabitants: 448,291 white, 152,838 free blacks, 436,495 slaves. Twice as many American ships visit Havana. The value of Cuban exports to the U.S. is double that of sales to Spain.


June 14. Anonio Maceo is born in Majaguabo, San Luis, Oriente Province.


There are now about 1,442 sugar mills on the island.

January. U.S. citizens and "manifest destiny" advocates Moses Beach and John O'sullivan meet in Havana with members of the Club de la Habana, a group of wealthy Cubans seeking annexation to the U.S.


June 9. President Polk offers Spain $100 million for Cuba.

August 15. U.S. Minister Saunders meets with Spain's minister of foreign affairs Pedro J. Pidal in Madrid. Spain officially refuses to sell Cuba.


Yucatecan Indians from Mexico are imported for slave labor. At the same time, Chinese contract workers are entering the island in large numbers.

White persons enforce segregation in public places as a means of stressing their claim to superiority.

September - October. The first filibustering expedition by Narciso López (with the intention of invading Cuba) ends in failure.


Read a brief excerpt from the introduction to: Slaves, Sugar, & Colonial Society: Travel Accounts of Cuba, 1801-1899, by Louis A. Pérez, Jr.

April 25. The steamer Georgiana, with about 200 Kentucky filibusters on board, leaves new Orleans for Chagres, Panama (part of the Narciso López expedition). *

May 2. The steamer Susan Loud, with 150 Louisianan filibusters follows the Georgiana.

May 7. The steamer Creole, with Narciso López and about 650 men leave New Orleans, presumably heading for California by way of Chagres. *

* By going to Chagres, López hopes to evade the Neutrality Law of 1818, which forbids military expeditions against powers at peace with the U.S. from being launched from the U.S.

May 19. The second filibustering expedition, led by Narciso López, takes control of Cárdenas. After a brief battle with Spanish forces they are forced to the sea. Foner: "Of the entire force, only five men were Cubans; the rest came mainly from the Southern states."


August 11. The 3rd filibustering expedition (with 435 men) led by Narciso López lands at Bahía Honda (about 40 miles from Havana).

August 13. Spanish forces defeat López' army in the village of Las Pozas.

August 16. After capturing some of López' men at sea, they are taken to Havana, where the 51 remaining members of the regiment are placed before a firing squad.

September 1. Narciso López is executed publicly in Havana. Before his death, he shouts bravely, "My death will not change the destiny of Cuba!"

September. In New Orleans, former associates of Narciso López form a secret society called the "Order of the Lone Star." The goal of the order is to incorporate Cuba into the U.S. With 50 chapters in 8 Southern states and an estimated membership of 15,000 to 20,000, the order develops a plan to invade Cuba in the summer of 1852, in conjunction with the "Conspiracy of Vuelta Abajo," a revolt organized in Vuelta Abajo (Pinar del Río) by Francisco de Frías, Narciso's wealthy brother-in-law.

September 23. From an editorial in the New York Daily Times, "If the Cubans are really anxious for independence, why did they fight them (the invasion by Narcisso Lopez) with the utmost fierceness, from the time they first landed upon their shores? Why did they regard them as robbers and pirates, if they had bespoken their aid as allies and friends?"
"The people of the United States cannot be made to believe that any nation of Europe, except Spain, has any right to interfere with the destinies of Cuba."


August. Spaniards discover the "Conspiracy of Vuelta Abajo." Some of the conspirators escape to the U.S., but others are condemned to death. Frías is sent to prison.

October 22. After Spain refuses to sell Cuba to the U.S. a 2nd time, the New York Times declares, "The Cuban question is now the leading one of the time."


January 28. Don José Martí y Pérez is born in Havana.

April 29. The Junta Cubana of New York calls on General John A. Quitman (a former associate of Narciso López) to lead an invasion of Cuba, and proposes to make him "exclusive chief of our revolution, not only in its military, but also in its civil sense."

August 18. Quitman signs a formal agreement with the Junta Cubana which appoints him the "civil and military chief of the revolution, with all the powers and attributes of dictatorship as recognized by civilized nations, to be used and exercised by him for the purpose of overthrowing the Spanish government in the island of Cuba and its dependencies, and substituting in the place thereof a free and independent government." Article II of the agreement states that Quitman would protect slavery in Cuba.

September 23. Spain appoints the Marquis Juan de la Pezuela as Captain General of Cuba. He is well known as an enemy of slavery, and is assigned the task of suppressing the slave trade.

December 7. The Diario de la Marina, a newspaper operated by the government, begins a series of articles discussing slavery and slave trafficking. The articles stress the advantages of a free labor system.

December 23. Pezuela issues the first of several decrees: Negroes "known by the name of 'emancipados' are all free"; anyone caught importing Africans would be heavily fined and banished from the island for two years; all governors and lieutenant governors who fail to advice him of clandestine landings in their respective provinces will be removed from office. [A Negro bought in Africa for 40 "duros" can be sold in Cuba for 700 "duros." Since Cuba's long and broken coastline makes it difficult to prevent landings, slave traders readily risk the established British blockade.]


President Franklin Pierce offers Spain $130 million for Cuba. Spain refuses, again. (Attempts to buy or forcibly annex Cuba by invasion end with the American Civil War.)

February 28. In Havana, Spanish police board an American merchant ship, the Black Warrior, and imprison her crew under a charge of "violating customs regulations."

April. A number of influential slave owners meet in Havana with U.S. Consul William H. Robertson to urge that he persuade U.S. President Pierce to send American troops to Cuba to prevent slave emancipation.

May. All slave owners are instructed to make a full declaration of their slave property. This includes name, age and sex of each slave, and purchase information.

October 9, 10, 11. In Ostend, Belgium, 3 U.S. diplomats hold a meeting from which emerges "The Ostend Manifesto."

September. José de la Concha returns to Cuba as Captain General. (Pezuela is removed as a result of the Black Warrior incident.)


January 12. Captain General José de la Concha places Havana under martial law in anticipation of a filibustering expedition by General John A. Quitman.

March 9. General Quitman meets with U.S. President Pierce in Washington. After this meeting Quitman abandons attempts to annex Cuba through filibustering.

August 25. General Quitman officially resigns from efforts to annex Cuba through a filibustering expedition.


August 14. From the New Orleans Bee: "There is no earthly use in seeking to plant slavery in Northern territory; climactic influences are against us there, and slavery will not flourish where white labor can compete with it successfully. But southward we have almost a boundless field of enterprise lying before us. There is Cuba… Slave labor there already gives rich returns, and annexation to the Union would introduce superior American management in that island and raise the productivity of the individual slave laborers… Let the people of the South cease an unavailing effort to force slavery into ungenial climes, and strive to plant it where it would naturally tend."


Antonio Maceo joins the Masonic Lodge of Santiago de Cuba and enters the inner revolutionary circle.


March 25. An article in El Siglo by The Count of Pozos Dulces (who runs the paper) announces the formation of the Reform Party, adding that a number of slave and property owners have joined intellectuals in favoring the end of the slave traffic and the abolition of slavery.

November 25. A Royal Decree establishes a Colonial Reform Commission to discuss proposals to reform the island. A Junta de Información (Board of Information) is to discuss three particular issues: 1) special laws already promised and how they are to be founded, 2) how to regulate the work of Blacks and Asians and the encouragement of white immigration, 3) commercial treaties and related tax reforms.

By this time, Creole liberals are encouraged by the end of the Civil war in North America, the Spanish defeat in the revolution of Santo Domingo and the victory of Juárez in Mexico. Many Cubans are more willing to oppose the government, but most of the wealthy are still reluctant to risk their property in radical measures. The fear of the Negroes in a revolution is one of the main restraining factors.


February 16. Antonio Maceo marries María Magdalena Cabrales y Fernández.

March 25. José Antonio Saco is elected to represent the district of Santiago de Cuba in a commission that is to testify in Spain about needed reforms.

May 30. Captain-General Dulce is recalled, and replaced by Captain-General Lersundi, who stays until December of the same year. [Lersundi governs Cuba again from December 1867 until January 1869.]

October 30, 1866. The Junta de Información is inaugurated at a meeting presided by Don Alejandro Castro, Minister of Ultramar. Items 2 and 3 are discussed from the priorities identified on 11/25/1865, and some are disappointed by the small mention of item 1.

November. Maceo’s first daughter is born: María de la Caridad Maceo.

José Martí writes:
“The U.S. has never looked upon Cuba as anything but an appetizing possession with no drawback other than its quarrelsome, weak and unworthy population.” He warns Cubans that “to change masters is not to be free.”


Early in the year, the Spanish government imposes new taxes on the island ranging from 6 to 12 percent on real estate, incomes and all types of business. This is on top of the enormous customs duties about which Cubans have continuously complained.

April 27. In Madrid, the Spanish government dismisses the “Junta de Información,” a 22-member Cuban delegation asking for reforms.

April 30. The papers El Siglo and Diario de la Marina run articles about the reaction to the demise of the Junta de Información.

Read a brief excerpt from: Cuba: A Short History, about life before the war.

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