Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cuba is the largest of the islands that lie between North and South America; its size is about that of England, and its shape long and narrow and curved like an arch. By some prehistoric cataclysm it must have been severed from the continent with the other Antilles. Several mountainous groups rise on the land, but they are not of any great height, and there are many streams flowing to the northern or southern coasts, which are indented by numerous and excellent harbours. The fertility of the soil is marvellous for all sorts of tropical produce; and Cuba enjoys, indeed, some natural monopolies, e.g. its unrivalled tobacco, while the mineral wealth is equally immense. The sugar crop is now more than 800,000 tons a year ; the total exports are worth about £30,000,000, and the imports about £9,000,000. Only about a third of the island is under cultivation, and the population is about 1,600,000 inhabitants. No other country in the world with equal population produces so much. One-third of the population belongs to the African race; the other two-thirds are of Spanish descent. Travellers describe them as very hospitable and intelligent, and in science and literature many have been distinguished. Two seasons are known in the country: the rainy and the dry; the first season is hot, the other delightful; and if sanitary rules were properly enforced, all the island would be very healthy. Unhappily such is not at present the case. Havana, Matanzas, Cardenas, Cienfuegos, Sagua, and Santiago are the principal cities.

Columbus discovered this island in his first voyage. Velazquez occupied it in 1511, dividing all the land and its enslaved aboriginals, a peaceful delicate race, between his Spanish followers. The monk Las Casas has described the horrors of that epoch. The natives were soon extinguished by the cruelty of their masters, who afterwards imported negroes as substitutes. English and French-pirates frequently attacked the Spaniards of Cuba from the end of the 16th century to the middle of the 18th. In 1762 Sir George Pocock,, with 200 ships and 18,000 sailors, and the Earl of Albemarle, with 14,000 soldiers, conquered Havana, the capital of the island; nine months after it was given back to Spain in exchange for Florida. England did not understand the strategical and commercial value of her conquest. Spain turned her attention to Cuba after she lost all her other American colonies, but her rule was so despotic that in 1868 a war for freedom was commenced, which raged with great ferocity and destruction of life and property for ten years until it ended by a compact of the Government with the rebels. In 1895, however, the insurrection broke out afresh, and a harassing war was carried on ; the advantage being mainly with the Cubans. In 1897 there seemed possibilities of the interference of the United States on behalf of the insurgents.