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Independencias (3) – Coord. Federica Morelli y Jordana Dym
Guadalupe García

‘Nuestra patria La Habana’: Reading the 1762 British Occupation of the City

[31/03/2011]

Résumés

This essay explores the 1762 British occupation of Havana. It argues that the military crisis served as a catalyst for the emergence of a discursive space where racial hierarchies were momentarily suspended as residents attempted to make sense of the unfolding events. 1762 thus functions as a window into the military transformations that the city experienced and their effect on race relations in colonial Havana. The descriptions of events and heroes can be understood within the larger process of collective identity-formation that was part of the racially inclusive independista discourses of the nineteenth century.

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  • 1 Much has been made of the difference between American and European cities with respect to enclosure (...)

1For colonial cities situated on the maritime trade routes that connected global empires, revolution did not always pose the principal threat to colonial hegemony. The porous nature of port cities presented a plethora of possibilities that monarchs and their American representatives had to contend with: ideas, people and the competing interests of European monarchs, colonial administrators, and the local population all circulated within a sometimes enclosed urban space1. Port city roles as the warehouses (and increasingly as the sources) of vast economic wealth and intense economic competition were responsible for propelling many of the political upheavals that residents and administrators faced. Eighteenth-century Havana was no exception.

  • 2 Francisco Bedoya Pereda, La Habana desaparecida (Havana: Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad), 200 (...)
  • 3 Alejandro de la Fuente, Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century (Chapel Hill: The Universi (...)
  • 4 See Sherry S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba (Gainesville: Universit (...)

2The importance of the city’s strategic location between the port of Veracruz and the mouth of the Caribbean Sea had been established early in the history of the city. Havana’s location had made it – and its residents – a vulnerable target of attack by pirates, corsairs, and competing European powers. Following the 1585 attack of the city by the French corsair Jacques de Sorés the cabildo successfully requested that the crown increase the fortification of Havana and thus ensure the survival of the city. By the end of the sixteenth century a new system of forts that included the Castillo de la Real Fuerza (La Fuerza), Castillo de los Tres Reyes de el Morro (El Morro) and the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta (La Punta) stood as protection for the transatlantic shipping empire that was emerging from Havana2. The city’s economic importance and the crown’s ability to protect it were instrumental factors in binding the interests of the Spanish empire with those of the city and its residents, and its protection became the daily concern of colonial administrators3. The city became a natural stopping ground for the galeones and flotas of the Spanish empire and a desirable destination for ships looking to replenish their supplies or await the end of the hurricane season before once again setting sail. The maritime traffic – and the gold, silver, sailors, and adventurers –that passed through the city’s port provided residents with an abundance of economic and commercial opportunities. It was not surprising then that by the latter half of the century Havana had developed a prominent and diversified economy well beyond what its port provided, making it the third largest city in the Spanish empire and a space of singular importance to the Spanish crown4.

  • 5 Cristóbal de Roda, “Plan de Roda, 1603,” in Cien planos de La Habana en los archivos españoles (Mad (...)

3Construction of the earlier fort system, however, was not enough to ensure the safety of the city, as plans for amurallamiento centuries earlier clearly evidence.5 After several decades of forestalling the idea in February of 1674 Governor Francisco Rodríguez de Ledesma initiated the first attempt to wall the city. Under the direction of engineer Juan de Síscara the initial stretch of the muralla was completed in 1680 and extended from the fort at La Fuerza to La Punta. Entry into the city Havana was placed center-south of the city and would be the only entryway from the extramuro neighborhoods until the end of the seventeenth century, preventing access to the city from the bay except for the area connecting the Customs House to the Plaza de San Francisco. At their most complete in 1740, the walls stood as a visible symbol that recalled the purpose of amurallamiento in Europe: they displayed both the city’s economic importance and its physical vulnerability to outside invaders.

  • 6 From their earliest origins cities in the Americas were used by conquistadors and colonizers as bas (...)
  • 7 Angel Rama, The Lettered City, trans. John Charles Chasteen (Chapel Hill: The University of North C (...)
  • 8 Julio Le Riverend, La Habana: Espacio y vida (Havana: Editorial MAPFRE, 1992), p. 47-50. For a neig (...)
  • 9 This is not to imply that colonial measures neatly defined everyday life in Havana. Free people of (...)

4Walls in the colonial world, however, also served another purpose altogether. From 1603 onwards when Roda’s sketch of Havana as a walled space first appears, the walls delineate a space of Spanish civilization that contrasts the city with the empty spaces of the extramuros6. Royal cartographers and engineers endowed Havana with a grid pattern reflective of Angel Rama’s notion that urban space should “reproduce and confirm the desired social order”7, which in Havana, with the constantly shifting population that a port city ensured, had reason to translate into a spatialization of the city’s residents. Ethnic and racial hierarchies thus defined urban planning and reinforced Iberian notions of pureza de sangre for the indigenous, black, and European inhabitants of the city. As early as 1557, for example, legislation expelled free people of African descent from the official city of Havana and by 1589 proposed that indigenous and mixed-race persons reside across the bay in Guanabacoa.8 The emerging picture of Havana as a racially exclusive space evolved from colonial measures that, like construction of the walls a century later, restricted access to the city to and excluded non-white subjects from an official urban body9.

  • 10  De la Fuente, Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century.
  • 11  Sherry Johnson, "'La Guerra Contra los Habitantes de los Arrabales': Changing Patterns of Land Use (...)
  • 12 Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Historia de La Habana: desde sus primeros dias hasta 1565 (Havana: Mun (...)

5The careful attention to space that came about as a result of fortification was thus a significant factor in Havana’s transformation into a walled and exclusive space and did more than just alter its physical layout. As Alejandro de la Fuente has noted previously, the city that emerged from the ashes of the Sorés attack and went on to become an integral component of the Atlantic economy was built specifically by African slaves, foreshadowing one of the key directions of demographic growth.10 Subsequent measures also ensured the continual growth of the city in other ways: the Cáceres Ordinances of 1574 provided for the possibility of a growing population by allowing an informal method of awarding land based on right-of-first-entry and dependent only upon the cabildo’s approval.11Solares were also made available for agricultural production and used to increase the number of vecinos in and around the city, a fact that was not lost on Havana’s black residents, who were also able to partake in the official designation provided that they did not threaten urban space in the intramuros12.

6The early colonial era established that protection of the city would define the trajectory of urban growth as well as provide the sometimes contradictory terms under which its nonwhite residents could participate in urban life. Race relations in Havana were formed in the context of the fortification and militarization efforts that the city experienced almost from its initial founding and certainly from the time it was recognized as an important asset of the crown’s Atlantic empire. The British military attack of 1762 and the occupation of the city that followed served to expose the inefficiency of the colonial measures in place and highlight alternative possibilities for the urban body beyond those prescribed by the military orientation of the city. The events surrounding 1762 illuminate an emerging, racially inclusive notion of “patria” facilitated by the habaneros’ who defended the city and the spaces in which the defense was mounted. Havana became the rallying point behind an inclusive alliance of “naturales” that allowed habaneros to question the efficiency of the colonial administration and the hierarchies it imposed. To be sure, the experience was momentary and hegemonic. The restoration of Spanish rule and the wide-scale militarization projects that followed the British occupation meant to prevent another political crisis quickly and profoundly altered the possibilities embedded in the discursive rupture of 1762. The economy of the island after 1762 (and some would argue even before it), for example, was one increasingly dependent on sugar and, by extension, slave labor. The island, however, not only counted a growing number of slaves but a growing number of free men and women of African descent based in Havana, and it was a contradiction that Cubans were not ready to address immediately following the restoration of Spanish power. The experience of 1762 nonetheless remained to provide a powerful model of possibilities. It served as a catalyst for criollos – free people of African descent included – to renegotiate the terms of colonial control and provided the basis of an inclusive “patria” decades before independence became a serious consideration in Cuba. This essay is therefore not only an attempt to document a momentary break with the colonial hierarchies that organized urban life, but also a first step in understanding the larger importance of the men and women who participated in the events of 1762.

7The British Attack and Occupation of Havana. On the eve of June 6, 1762, the thoughts of habaneros were undoubtedly focused on the uncertainties that would follow the impending assault on the city by British forces. Those uncertainties were put to rest two months later when Spain finally surrendered the city to the British and residents were faced with a choice: they could evacuate the city at once or become subjects of the British crown. The events leading up to that fateful moment unfolded thus:

  • 13 See Guillermo Calleja Leal, 1762, La Habana Inglesa: La toma de La Habana por los ingleses (Madrid: (...)
  • 14 Patrick Mackeller, Journal of the Landing His Majesty’s Forces on the Island of Cuba (London, Green (...)

8Early on June 6, 1762, over two hundred ships carrying somewhere between 16,000 and 20,000 men were sighted sailing off the coast of Cuba. Rather than immediately alarm colonial officials the sighting of the naval expedition was mistakenly dismissed as a harmless call and the ships were allowed to disembark near the eastern town of Cojímar, where the hostile intentions of those onboard quickly became apparent to the surrounding population.13 One of the men aboard the ships was the British engineer Patrick Mackellar. Mackellar noted that instead of the colonial militia a group of mixed-race guajiros met the crew and had attempted to defend the town against their attack. He specifically referenced a “considerable number of peasants and negroes in arms” who volunteered for the privilege of fighting the British and saving the city of Havana14. It was a telling sign of events to come.

  • 15 See Parcero Torre.
  • 16 Allan J. Kuethe, Cuba, 1753-1815: Crown, Military, and Society (Knoxville:University of Tennessee P (...)

9The Spanish monarchy housed two peninsular battalions of infantry regiments in Havana (Aragón and España) that augmented the existing forces of the Fixed Infantry Battalion and the Cuban militias. At sea, a naval squadron consisting of ten ships of the line, frigates, and support vessels made up the rest of its armed forces. All together, about 11,000 could be mobilized for military action.15 Their visible absence during the days and months that followed was due in part due to the colonial government’s earlier delay in responding to the invasion, but their absence also foreshadowed one of the problems that the colonial administration faced in attempting to repel the British forces. The “limited contribution of native Americans to defense,” as Allan Kuethe notes, was the primary reason behind the relative ease with which the city fell to British forces16. The lack of a well-orchestrated response left the defense of the city to the 40,000 plus inhabitants of Havana, most of whom fled the city as soon as the attack began to take cover in the surrounding countryside.

  • 17 On the strategies used to access colonial services, see David Sartorius, “My Vassals: Free-Colored (...)

10Perhaps not surprisingly some of the few and most noticeable individuals who participated in the defense of the city were also those most visibly excluded from colonial life in Havana. They included (but were not limited to) the African-descended men who fought as part as part of the Cuban militias, the partidario forces, and slaves squadrons. Various and complex factors compelled these men these to join the struggle to defend Spanish colonial rule. Black milicianos, for their part, were partaking in the colonial tradition of using military service as a way to increase their status and participate in colonial life. Milicias de color, introduced in Cuba in the early 1600s, extended social and economic benefits to African-descended men and their families. For colonial administrators, the moreno and pardo regiments were an important if uneasy component of incorporating the interests of black elite families into the colonial structure. The strategy was also beneficial to milicianos who used their status as “vassals” of the Crown to position their claims for colonial inclusion17. As expected, the black militias performed in an exemplary manner during the events of 1762 and received commendations for their loyalty and service. Slaves, too, played an important role in outfitting the city before, during, and after the British attack. They also engaged in combat at the behest of their masters and, criollos later claimed, of their own “free” will.

  • 18 See Juan Florencio García, Pepe Antonio: Biografía del héroe popular cubano Don José Antonio Gómez (...)
  • 19 García, 83. At the height of battle, Gómez’ forces never surpassed three hundred men, a small force (...)
  • 20 García, p. 102-104.

11Criollos outside of military structures also rallied to the defense of the city. Most notable among the insurgent fighters were the forces composed of criollos, guajiros, and men of mixed and African descent who participated in guerilla-style attacks as part of partidario forces. The most famous of these was the criollo leader fondly remembered in chronicles of the event as “Pepe Antonio”18. Born José Antonio Gómes, “Pepe Antonio” was the alcalde of Guanabacoa and the de facto representative of the individuals relegated to the area outside of Havana’s walled space. When colonial administrators failed to respond to the British vessels on June 6, 1762, Gómes organized several dozen men into military groups and made his way towards Cojímar to meet the British troops19. On June 12, 1762, he was credited with an ambush of British soldiers. After the partidarios captured the surprised soldiers, they proceeded to march the group into the middle of the plaza in mockery of what Spanish colonial forces had been unable to accomplish20. The victory was a minor one, but for habaneros served to underscore the gross inefficiency of the Spanish-controlled forces.

  • 21 “Gaceta de Hollanda, Viernes 26 de nov. de 1762,” reprinted in Documentos ineditos sobre la toma de (...)

12The June 12 confrontation was only one in a small number of military exceptions. Most attempts to ward off the British fared little better than the confrontation with the Cuban contingent originally described by McKellar. Yet the participation of partidarios, slaves, and black and pardo milicianos helped define the meaning of the 1762 experience and contributed to habaneros’ process of creating a local identity.Evidence of this is encapsulated in the term that habaneros used to describe the local resistance. That they were referred to as “partidarios” rhetorically distinguishes the men from the colonial militias and highlights their allegiance to the city of Havana. The events signal the emergence of a habanero identity forged along lines more specific than the term “criollo” could denote. Just as resistance fighters in Gómez’ army were not milicianos but partidarios, they were also not “criollos,” but “naturales” of the city of Havana and of its surrounding areas. The difference in terminology is a small but significant reflection of the transformations affecting the city that the 1762 assault highlights. By that time an elite of approximately fifty families had emerged in the city of Havana with strong and localized interests. The presence of a strong local elite produced a newfound autonomy predicated on the growth of local institutions. Their interest in the city not only underlined the social and political differences between criollos and peninsulares but also served to differentiate habaneros from the people that constant flow of people that a port city produces. Local forces thus nurtured a local identity at the same time that Spanish policies gave habaneros compelling reasons to distance themselves from the administration. It was not an action that went unnoticed by colonial administrators or their colonial masters. Despite administrators’ attempts to highlight the large number of British forces as the primary reason for the failure behind the defense, the Holland Gazette reported that had political conditions in Havana been more favorable to Cuban participation, habaneros might likely have succeeded in fending off the British assault21.

  • 22 García, p. 95.

13White and elite criollos were not the only ones who stood to benefit from political alliances organized around a local identity. Only three days after the assault on Havana began, rumors that the colonial administration was ready to surrender spread like wildfire among city residents. In a desperate attempt to ward off British forces and maintain its legitimacy among habaneros, the colonial administration ordered that all residents who remained in the city but could not contribute to its defense immediately evacuate. The order caused long lines of desperate people to extend from the city gates and towards the rural hinterland. A separate edict was then issued ordering that the three extramuro neighborhoods of Guadalupe, La Salud, and Jesus María be set aflame in order to prevent British soldiers from hiding in neighborhood structures. Next, parts of the city were flooded with water from the city’s zanja real, causing outbreaks of yellow fever among British soldiers and habaneros alike22. The drastic measures had little effect on the direction of the war but destroyed the living spaces of hundreds of Havana residents, particularly those outside of the intramuro city of Havana. The actions of the administration exposed the historical expendability of the city’s marginal population (and their living areas) along the same racial hierarchies that had organized colonial life in Havana since the early days of colonialism. The measures also provided black and African-descended habaneros with an incentive to “join” the local alliance of naturales.

  • 23 Las señoras de La Habana, “Memorial dirigido á Carlos III por las señoras de La Habana en 25 de Ago (...)
  • 24 Las señoras de La Habana, p. 103.

14For most criollos theshambles of the defense effort and the forced dislocation of habaneros into the rural hinterlands further underlined divisions between naturales and “forasteros” and called into question the efficiency of colonial rule. Women, too, used the inefficiency of colonial administrators to question the government and the hierarchies that organized their lives in the city. An elite group of criollo women who signed their name as “las señoras de La Habana” bypassed the colonial administration and wrote directly to Carlos III23. They made a clear case against colonial officials by aligning their interests as habaneras with those of the monarchy and then pointing to the various instances when colonial administrators acted against these mutual interests. They began by bringing to the monarchy’s attention what habaneros already knew: the appearance of the British expedition off the coast of Havana had not caught the administration by complete surprise. Months earlier, a colonial subject who learned of the British plot while in Jamaica had traveled back to Havana to relate the news to Governor Juan de Prado. Prado reportedly dismissed the warning in one of several actions that contributed to the fall of the city. They further noted that talk of capitulation had circulated among members of the administration almost as soon as the attack commenced and against the express wishes of Havana residents. The women insinuated that the remaining city residents might have been able to repel the attack had colonial officials been more proactive against the British, thus relieving habaneros of the responsibility for the lackluster defense and blaming colonial officials instead. The women went to great lengths to establish a discursive space where habaneros’ need to defend the city erased the distinctions created by colonial rule. This is best represented in their description of how milicianos (pardos and morenos included) compared to the troops of veteranos. The women write that the former’s desire to defend Havana made them the equals of their better trained counterparts24.

  • 25 De la Fuente, Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century.
  • 26 Las señoras de La Habana, p. 100.

15Frustration with the colonial administration was not simply caused by the poor decisions of an administration in peril. The women were careful to represent the actions of colonial officials as part of a long tradition of poor administration over the city and its residents, which implicated as well the colonial organization of city space and the fortification of the city. The monarchy had long made defense a priority of the colonial government, yet the authors asserted that a sum of 60,000 pesos set aside from the Real Hacienda could not have been used for construction projects as administrators claimed. They noted that only a small number of pardo milicianos had labored on the city projects and they were paid with food and lodging. Attempts to discredit colonial administrators can be understood as part of the same tradition that repeatedly drove colonial subjects to bypass the colonial government and appeal directly to the monarchy for reform: habaneros had participated in a similar process centuries earlier when the Sorés attack had also made defense of the city a crucial issue to its continued survival.25 Habaneros remained aware of Havana’s strategic importance and of the value of their own loyalty. In the letter sent to the Spanish monarchy by las señoras de la Habana, they describe their sadness at the sight of such powerful monarch “desposeído de una plaza tan importante a su corona.” They close their letter by claiming that whether in peace or war, they remain the “fidelísimas vasallas de V.M.” and await the city’s speedy recovery.26

  • 27 Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, La dominación inglesa en la Habana: Libro de cabildos, 1762-1763 (Hava (...)

16The performance of loyalty was an early theme of habanero writing. During the final meeting of the Havana city council, local representatives and the men involved in the capitulation of the city petitioned Governor Prado for letters confirming their allegiance to the Spanish Crown. Should the city return to Spanish hands, the documents would be useful tools in lobbing the monarchy to acquiesce to habanero demands27. The language of allegiance and the use of loyalty as a political strategy reveals more than habaneros’ belief that Spanish intervention was imminent. The discursive space allowed habaneros to remain loyal vassals of the Spanish Crown while still creating possibilities for organizing around a common, local habanero identity without regard to race. “La Habana nuestra patria” as the women referred to the city, momentarily transcended the hierarchies that had existed since the city was first imagined.

17The reorganization of power that occurred in Havana during the British occupation recalls Angel Rama’s notion that the exclusivity of the city is predicated only upon the colonial elite’s ability to manipulate colonial symbols. According to Rama, as new relationships to state power emerge, the network of elites and the terms of urban inclusion and exclusion must be revised. In the moment of political crisis that followed the assault, habaneros renegotiated the terms of urban inclusion but safeguarded their interests in case Havana returned to Spanish control. Part of this process entailed taking the necessary steps to ensure that if and when Havana returned to Spanish control, their loyalty, and their position as the colonial elite, would not be questioned. The more difficult task facing elite habaneros was how to go about maintaining their position in the wake of a new and foreign administration and a drastically altered political context. The answer lay in habaneros’ ability to reconceptualize colonial hierarchies and allow habaneros of African descent into the exclusive network of urban power. Including the growing numbers of Havana’s free black population in an inclusive patria of habaneros, however, directly contradicted centuries of colonial beliefs. To include black populations in a criollo patria would signify a radical break with the racial hierarchies that had hereto organized urban life and defined social order. How, then, would habaneros assuage racial fears and maintain Havana as an inclusive space of naturales?

  • 28 Conde de Ricla, “Sobre la libertad de los negros escalvos que se distinguieron durante el sitio de (...)
  • 29 Las señoras de La Habana, p. 102.
  • 30 Conde de Ricla, 181.
  • 31  Las señoras de La Habana, p. 101.

18The answer might lie in the same tales and stories that celebrated the heroic feats of habaneros but constructed their participation in specifically non-threatening ways. Despite the large numbers of men connected to the black and mulatto militias, for example, the African descended men who were most often praised in the defense of the city were those who served in bondage. In one particular account of “voluntary” heroism, a squadron of the royal slaves was credited for arming the entire city in only five days time after residents received news of the British attack. The slaves worked diligently to repair the damaged parts of the city, build trenches, move and mount artillery, and otherwise prepare the offensive. In another example, twenty laboring slaves voluntarily came to the defense of the fort at La Cabaña. Until then, the fort was protected by Colonel Luis Vicente Velasco, one of the few peninsulares praised for his heroic defense of the city. Velasco himself offered twelve slaves their freedom in exchange for military service, but so many more volunteered without the added incentive that he lost count of who or how many there were28. With only machetes to defend themselves, the slaves threw themselves at a contingent of thirty British soldiers, managing to kill a few and injure several, and capturing seven prisoners29. So moving was this tale of heroism that after the restoration of Havana the monarchy promptly made arrangements to grant the slaves their freedom30. In these representations and others like them, the slaves’ participation in the resistance serves to reinforce the leadership of the criollo elite and minimize the participation of black naturales. For example, in the account of the community of slaves who fortified the city, the slaves were loaned by vecinos of Havana, thus making both their availability and, by extension, the fortification of the city dependent on the criollo elite and thereby minimizing the contribution of the men31. In this same vein, the praise extended to local militias composed of blacks and mulattos was surpassed only by the praise extended to their criollo leaders, “Pepe Antonio” included. White criollos, such as Juan Andres Ximenes, even received commendations for so efficiently leading the milicianos.

  • 32 Conde de Ricla, p. 181.

19Stories of white criollo leaders and the slaves who served beneath them helped assuage criollo fears brought about by the social transformations of eighteenth century Cuba. One of the greatest changes to affect Havana in the years prior to 1762 was the shift from tobacco to sugar, a lucrative move that made sugar production a labor of singular importance. The tales of the local resistance reveal the growing importance of the sugar economy and the increasing values of the slaves’ position within it. As commodities in a sugar economy, slaves had lived up to their newfound importance during the events of 1762. First and foremost, they remained “loyal” to criollo interests by “volunteering” to fight the British. Second, in the stories of defense, slaves did not question their enslaved position, but were rather granted their freedom by men like Velasco, thus ensuring the continual success of the Cuban economy and the central role of blacks within it. Slaves could thus be commended for their loyal performance while colonial hierarchies continued when necessary for the economic growth of the island. So valuable were the slaves as commodities in Havana that a company of 100 men was formed and led by whites to fight against the British32.

  • 33  Carlos Venegas Fornias, Cuba y sus pueblos: censos y mapas de los siglos XVIII y XIX (La Habana: C (...)
  • 34 Sartorius, p. 4.

20While slave participation was easily reconciled within the context of eighteenth-century Havana, the participation of the black and pardo militias and the partidarios was another matter altogether, especially in the post 1762 period. The colonial administration and the criollo elite both had reason to view armed and allied contingents as possible threats to social order in Havana. The loyal militias came under scrutiny as the free black population grew and slavery expanded into a central component of the economy, thus closing many of the available spaces for free blacks in Havana. The privilege of the moreno and pardo militias to carry arms in the city, for example, was curtailed in the post 1762 era. The changes were reflected in the administration of Havana’s physical landscape. The cabildo, for example, saw it ability to make decisions over land grants curtailed by the crown as the extramuros became more valuable. Soon after, the census after 1810 proclaimed intramuros and extramuros part of one legal urban body, but not before new measures were instituted that ensured the survival of colonial order33. By 1844, fears over anti-colonial rebellions, slave conspiracies, and a growing anxiety over the place of free blacks culminated in the momentary ban on the milicias de color34. The changing social demographics of the city, as well as the restoration of Spanish power in Havana and a newfound security in militarization, reduced the appeal of a racially inclusive patria of habaneros and relegated black heroes to the discursive realm.

  • 35 Allan J. Kuethe, “The Development of the Cuban Military as a Sociopolitical Elite,1763-83” Hispanic (...)
  • 36 Sherry S. Johnson, “‘Señoras en sus clases no ordinarias:’ Enemy Collaborators or Courageous Defend (...)

21Once officials signed the Treaty of Paris in February of 1763, the Spanish monarchy pursued a course of action that ensured the future safety of the city and restored administrative order. Anew Captain General and Governor of Havana arrived in the city with plans on how to best proceed. The Conde de Ricla advocated expanding militarization and “arming the colonials”35 as the only method by which Spain might resist another British attack. Creating a colonial militia with privileges such as the fuero militar, Ricla reasoned, would effectively prevent another embarrassing military display by co-opting the interests of colonial subjects and also ensuring the legitimacy of colonial rule. Not surprisingly, by 1763, the number of men mobilized in Havana was tantamount to the number of civilian men residing within it, dramatically altering the city’s dynamics, and with it, race relations in the city36.

  • 37 Kuethe, The Development of the Cuban Military as a Sociopolitical Elite, 1763-83,” p. 698.
  • 38 Kuethe, “The Development of the Cuban Military as a Sociopolitical Elite, 1763-83,” p. 701.

22The responsibility for securing funds to oversee rebuilding and fortification efforts fell heavily on Ricla, who passed the cost on to habaneros. When residents were unable to meet the financial demands of defense, the colonial administration found alternative ways to fund security, not the least of which included raiding the coffers of New Spain, much to the chagrin and outrage of Mexico City residents who complained that the gold and silver extracted from their economies went to finance the fortification of Havana. As colonial subjects elsewhere in the Americas complained about new taxes and colonial oversight, taxes in Havana ultimately strengthened the position of the criollo elite. Ricla offered local families commercial privileges and military titles in return for their compliance with increased taxes and colonial oversight37. As part of these incentives new ports were opened for commerce and taxes and fees imposed on sugar replaced by flat rates. The earlier taxes on the importation of slaves were also eliminated and it was generally accepted that colonial administrators could turn a blind eye to illegal slave imports. As a result, sugar exports increased five-fold by the 1770s and slave numbers dramatically increased between 1763 and 1789.38 The concessions granted to habaneros, however, did more than just secure the sugar and slave society of late eighteenth and nineteenth century Cuba. The importance of the sugar economy in the post 1762 period effectively continued the colonial hierarchies that organized the city of Havana. The result, as we shall see, worked in tandem with militarization to eclipse the necessity of a new and inclusive patria.

  • 39 Sherry S. Johnson “’La Guerra Contra los Habitantes de los Arrabales:’ Changing Patterns of Land Us (...)

23Riclas’ directive to oversee the new administration of the city relied heavily on the new inspector general of the army, Alejandro O’Reilly. As O’Reilly went about ensuring a larger and better equipped military force in Havana, Ricla secured funding for the city as well as reorganized it according to the needs of militarization. This included enacting land confiscations to implement and finance the expansion of the city walls and more closely regulating the use of urban space. Under the city’s new military plan, the area next to defense structures where residents were prohibited from building was increased from 300 to 1,500 varas. The result was the diminishing availability of land, a factor that contributed to the curtailing of the cabildo’s power and the nineteenth-century incorporation of the once undesirable extramuros into the city of Havana39.

  • 40 Sartorius, p. 30.
  • 41 Quoted in Sartorius, p. 30.
  • 42 Robert Freeman Smith, “Twentieth-Century Cuban Historiography,” Hispanic American Historical Review (...)
  • 43 Juan Francisco Manzano, Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated, trans. R.R. Mad (...)

24Despite a changing landscape, the experience of 1762 and the local alliance of naturals was not lost on criollos. The next occasion in which Cubans would experience the need for a unified front would arrive decades later with the beginning of the independence struggles. By this time, as David Sartorius asserts, “a proliferation of war memoirs published in Cuba and abroad… told stories that were not predicated on [black] subordination or a well-defined place in the traditional colonial hierarchy”40. The independence movements would revive the need for an inclusive patria in which, as Ada Ferrer notes, a black insurgent was “more than just safe or unthreatening; he was also a Cuban hero and patriot”41. Criollos in the early nineteenth century would heed this call, and the events of 1762 would provide a tangible model of successful alliances predicated on a singular identity. Pedro J. Guiteras, Antonio Bachiller y Morales, and Jacobo de la Pezuela, to name the most notable nineteenth-century authors of the events of 1762, all made strategic use of the tales and stories of the local habanero resistance. Decades before the first armed struggle erupted in Cuba, nineteenth century historians put forth a distinctly Cuban perspective of events that highlighted racial inclusivity as a theme of 1762 and reflected unfolding events in Cuba42. African-descended men would also use this strategy to claim rights to the emerging patria. Even as a slave, the black writer Juan Francisco Manzano remembers himself a “criollo” in his master’s house, and thus entitled to the privileges that native birth provided43. While nineteenth-century Cuba has long captured the imagination of scholars for the revolutionary impetus that the century provided, the port-city conflicts of the eighteenth century offer us a window into momentary ruptures with hegemonic rule in the Americas.

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Notes

1 Much has been made of the difference between American and European cities with respect to enclosure. While European cities were walled in order to offer protection and highlight the town’s importance, American cities by and large remained open models of urban planning. Financial considerations and pre-existing urban plans were key factors in discouraging amurallamiento. Port cities, however, are an important exception and as such merit further study of where within the nexus of empire they fit. See Richard L. Kagan, Urban Images of the Hispanic World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000) and “A World Without Walls: City and Town in Colonial Spanish America,” in City Walls: The Urban Enceinte in Global Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

2 Francisco Bedoya Pereda, La Habana desaparecida (Havana: Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad), 2008.

3 Alejandro de la Fuente, Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

4 See Sherry S. Johnson, The Social Transformation of Eighteenth-Century Cuba (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001).

5 Cristóbal de Roda, “Plan de Roda, 1603,” in Cien planos de La Habana en los archivos españoles (Madrid: Dirección General de Arquitectura y Vivienda, Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Urbanismo, EPES Industrias Gráfica, S.L., 1985), p. 99.

6 From their earliest origins cities in the Americas were used by conquistadors and colonizers as bases for recreating Hispanic civilization. Their role as seats of empire, however, also made them hotbeds of revolution and social unrest. See Jorge E. Hardoy, ‘Theory and Practice of Urban Planning in Europe, 1850-1930: Its Transfer to Latin America’, in Richard M. Morse and Jorge E. Hardoy (eds.), Rethinking the Latin American City (Johns Hopkins 1992), p. 20-49.

7 Angel Rama, The Lettered City, trans. John Charles Chasteen (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996), p. 5.

8 Julio Le Riverend, La Habana: Espacio y vida (Havana: Editorial MAPFRE, 1992), p. 47-50. For a neighborhood breakdown of the racial, economic, and social characteristics of colonial Havana, see Manuel Pérez Beato, Habana Antigua (Havana: Imprenta Seone y Fernández, 1937).

9 This is not to imply that colonial measures neatly defined everyday life in Havana. Free people of African descent formed an integral part of the city’s economy and made everyday use of its spaces, a fact evidenced by their designation as “vecinos” when the term applied. My purpose here is to explore the symbolic ways in which colonial ideology evolved to exclude black subjects from a formal urban community and the ways in which the militarization of the city both challenged and reinforced their exclusion.

10  De la Fuente, Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century.

11  Sherry Johnson, "'La Guerra Contra los Habitantes de los Arrabales': Changing Patterns of Land Use and Land Tenancy in and around Havana, 1763-1800," Hispanic American Historical Review 77, no. 2 (1997).

12 Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Historia de La Habana: desde sus primeros dias hasta 1565 (Havana: Municipio de La Habana, 1938), p. 128.

13 See Guillermo Calleja Leal, 1762, La Habana Inglesa: La toma de La Habana por los ingleses (Madrid: Agencia Española de Cooperacíon Internacional, 1999) and Celia María Parcero Torre, La pérdida de La Habana y las reformas borbónicas en Cuba, 1760-1773 (Valladolid, Spain: Junta de Castilla y León, 1998).

14 Patrick Mackeller, Journal of the Landing His Majesty’s Forces on the Island of Cuba (London, Green and Russell, 1762). Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans Readex Digital Collections.

15 See Parcero Torre.

16 Allan J. Kuethe, Cuba, 1753-1815: Crown, Military, and Society (Knoxville:University of Tennessee Press, 1986), p. 3.

17 On the strategies used to access colonial services, see David Sartorius, “My Vassals: Free-Colored Militias in Cuba and the Ends of Spanish Empire,” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 5:2, 2004 and Ben Vinson, III, Bearing Arms for his Majesty: The Free-Colored Militia in Colonial Mexico (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001) and “Free Colored Voices: Issues of Representation and Racial Identity in the Colonial Mexican Militia,” The Journal of Negro History 80:4, 1995.

18 See Juan Florencio García, Pepe Antonio: Biografía del héroe popular cubano Don José Antonio Gómez de Bullones (Havana: Cultural, 1928) and Alvaro de la Iglesia, Pepe Antonio (Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1979).

19 García, 83. At the height of battle, Gómez’ forces never surpassed three hundred men, a small force when compared to the militiamen and troops stationed in Havana.

20 García, p. 102-104.

21 “Gaceta de Hollanda, Viernes 26 de nov. de 1762,” reprinted in Documentos ineditos sobre la toma de La Habana por los ingleses en 1762 (Havana, Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, 1963), p. 268.

22 García, p. 95.

23 Las señoras de La Habana, “Memorial dirigido á Carlos III por las señoras de La Habana en 25 de Agosto 1762,” reprinted in Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, La dominación inglesa en la Habana: Libro de cabildos, 1762-1763 (Havana: Imprenta Molina y Cia, 1929), p. 100-104.

24 Las señoras de La Habana, p. 103.

25 De la Fuente, Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century.

26 Las señoras de La Habana, p. 100.

27 Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, La dominación inglesa en la Habana: Libro de cabildos, 1762-1763 (Havana: Imprenta Molina y Cia, 1929), p. 14.

28 Conde de Ricla, “Sobre la libertad de los negros escalvos que se distinguieron durante el sitio de la Habana por los ingleses en 1762,” reprinted in Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Papeles sobre la toma de La Habna por los ingleses en 1762, (Havana, Archivo Nacional de Cuba 1948), p. 181.

29 Las señoras de La Habana, p. 102.

30 Conde de Ricla, 181.

31  Las señoras de La Habana, p. 101.

32 Conde de Ricla, p. 181.

33  Carlos Venegas Fornias, Cuba y sus pueblos: censos y mapas de los siglos XVIII y XIX (La Habana: Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Cultura Cubana Juan Marinello, 2002).

34 Sartorius, p. 4.

35 Allan J. Kuethe, “The Development of the Cuban Military as a Sociopolitical Elite,1763-83” Hispanic American Historical Review, 61:4, 1981, p. 696.

36 Sherry S. Johnson, “‘Señoras en sus clases no ordinarias:’ Enemy Collaborators or Courageous Defenders of the Family?” Project Muse, http://muse.jhu.edu, 14.

37 Kuethe, The Development of the Cuban Military as a Sociopolitical Elite, 1763-83,” p. 698.

38 Kuethe, “The Development of the Cuban Military as a Sociopolitical Elite, 1763-83,” p. 701.

39 Sherry S. Johnson “’La Guerra Contra los Habitantes de los Arrabales:’ Changing Patterns of Land Use and Land Tenancy in and Around Havana, 1763-1800,” Hispanic American Historical Review 77:2, 1997, 181-209.

40 Sartorius, p. 30.

41 Quoted in Sartorius, p. 30.

42 Robert Freeman Smith, “Twentieth-Century Cuban Historiography,” Hispanic American Historical Review 44:1, 1964, p. 45.

43 Juan Francisco Manzano, Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated, trans. R.R. Madden, M.D., With the History of the Early Life of the Negro Poet, Written by Himself, to Which Are Prefixed Two Pieces Descriptive of Cuban Slavery and t Slave Traffic, 56, electronic edition (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina), digitizing project Documenting the American South.

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Guadalupe García, « ‘Nuestra patria La Habana’: Reading the 1762 British Occupation of the City », Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [En ligne], Débats, mis en ligne le 31 mars 2011, consulté le 24 août 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/nuevomundo/61119 ; DOI : 10.4000/nuevomundo.61119

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Guadalupe García

Tulane University, New Orleans, US. ggarcia4@tulane.edu

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