There are six provinces in Cuba, each, with the
exception of Matanzas, extending the whole width
of the island, and having about an equal sea front
on the north and south borders. Matanzas touches
the Caribbean Sea only at its south-west corner,
being separated from it elsewhere by a narrow peninsula
of Santa Clara Province. The provinces are named,
beginning at the west, Pinar del Rio, Havana, Matanzas,
Santa Clara, Puerto Principe and Santiago de Cuba.
My observations were confined to the four western
provinces, which constitute about one-half the island.
The two eastern ones are practically in the hands
of the insurgents, except a few fortified towns.
These two large provinces are spoken of today as
"Cuba Libre." Havana, the great city and
capital of the island, is, in the eyes of the Spaniards
and many Cubans, all Cuba, as much as Paris in France.
But having visited it in more peaceful times and
seen its sights, the tomb of Columbus, the forts
of Cabanas and Morro Castle, etc., I did not care
to repeat this, preferring trips in the country.
Everything seems to go on much as usual in Havana.
Quiet prevails and except for the frequent squads
of soldiers marching to guard and police duty and
their abounding presence in all public places, one
sees little signs of war.
Outside Havana all is changed. It is not peace,
nor is it war. It is desolation and distress, misery
and starvation. Every town and village is surrounded
by a trocha [i] a sort of rifle pit, but constructed
on a plan new to me, the dirt being thrown up on
the inside and a barbed wire fence on the outer
side of the trench. [ii]
These trochas have at every corner, and at frequent
intervals along the sides, what are there called
forts, but which are really small block-houses,
many of them more like a large sentry box, loop-holed
for musketry, and with a guard of from two to ten
soldiers in each. The purpose of these trochas is
to keep reconcentrados in as well as to keep the
From all the surrounding country the people have
been driven into these fortified towns and held
there to subsist as they can. They are virtually
prison yards and not unlike one in general appearance,
except that the walls are not so-high and strong,
but they suffice, where every point is in range
of a soldier's rifle, to keep in the poor reconcentrado
women and children.
Every railroad station is within one of these trochas
and has an armed guard. Every train has an armored
freight car, loop-holed for musketry, and filled
with soldiers and with, as I observed usually, and
was informed is always the case, a pilot engine
a mile or so in advance. There are frequent block-houses
enclosed by a trocha and with a guard along the
railroad track. With this exception there is no
human life or habitation between these fortified
towns and villages throughout the whole of the four
western provinces, except to a very limited extent
among the hills, where the Spaniards have not been
able to go and drive the people to the towns and
burn their dwellings. [iii]
I saw no house or hut in the 400 miles of railroad
rides from Pinar del Rio Province in the west across
the full width of Havana and Matanzas Provinces,
and to Sagua La Grando [iv] on the north shore and
to Cienfuegos on the south shore of Santa Clara,
except within the Spanish trochas. There are no
domestic animals or crops on the rich fields and
pastures except such as are under guard in the immediate
vicinity of the towns.
In other words, the Spaniards hold in these four
western provinces just what their army sits on.
Every man, woman and child and every domestic animal,
wherever their columns have reached, is under guard
and within their so-called fortifications. To describe
one place is to describe all. To repeat, it is neither
peace nor war.
It is concentration and desolation. This is the
"pacified" condition of the four western
All the country people in the four western provinces,
about 400,000 [v] in number, remaining outside the
fortified towns when Weyler's [vi] order was made,
were driven into these towns, and these are the
reconcentrados. They were the peasantry [vii] ,
many of them farmers, some land-owners, others renting
lands and owning more or less stock, others working
on estates and cultivating small patches, and even
a small patch in that fruitful clime will support
a family. [viii]
It is but fair to say that the normal condition
of these people was very different from that which
prevails in this country. Their standard of comfort
and prosperity was not high, measured by our own,
but according to their standards and requirements,
their conditions of life were satisfactory.
They lived mostly in cabins [ix] made of palm or
in wooden houses. Some of them had houses of stone,
the blackened walls of which are all that remains
to show that the country was ever inhabited. The
first clause of Weyler's order reads as follows:
"I order and command: "First-All the
inhabitants of the country now outside of the line
of fortifications of the towns shall within the
period of eight days concentrate [x] themselves
in the town so occupied by the troops. Any individual
who after the expiration of this period is found
in the uninhabited parts will be considered a rebel
and tried as such. [xi] The other three sections
forbid the transportation of provisions from one
town to another without permission of the military
authority, direct the owners of cattle to bring
them into the towns, prescribe that the eight days
shall be counted from the publication of the proclamation
to the head town of the municipal districts, and
state that if news is furnished of the enemy which
can be made use of it will serve as a recommendation."
Many doubtless did not learn of this order. Others
failed to grasp its terrible meaning. Its execution
was left largely to the guerillas [xii] to drive
in all that had not obeyed, and I was informed that
in many cases a torch was applied to their homes
with no notice, and the inmates fled with such clothing
as they might have on, their stock and their belongings
being appropriated by the guerillas. [xiii]
When they reached the town they were allowed to
build huts of palm leaves in the suburbs and vacant
places within the trochas, and were left to live
if they could. Their huts [xiv] are about ten by
fifteen feet in size; and for want of space are
usually crowded together very closely. They have
no floor but the ground, and no furniture, and after
a year's wear but little clothing, except such stray
substitutes as they can extemporize.
With large families or with more than one in this
little space, the commonest sanitary provisions
are impossible. Conditions are unmentionable in
Torn from their homes, with foul earth, foul air,
foul water and foul food, or none, what wonder that
one-half have died and that one-quarter of the living
are so diseased that they cannot be saved. A form
of dropsy is a common disorder resulting from these
conditions. Little children are still walking about
with arms and chests terribly emaciated, eyes swollen
and abdomen bloated to three times the natural size.
The physicians say these cases are hopeless.
Deaths in the streets have not been uncommon. I
was told by one of our consuls that people have
been found dead about the markets in the morning
where they had crawled hoping to get some stray
bits of food from the early hucksters, and that
there had been cases where they had dropped dead
inside the market, surrounded by food. [xv]
These people were independent and self-supporting
before Weyer's order. They are not beggars even
now. There are plenty of professional beggars in
every town among the regular residents, but these
country people, the reconcentrados, have not learned
the art. Rarely is a hand held out to you for alms
when going among their huts, but the sight of them
makes an appeal stronger than words. The hospitals-of
these I need not speak; others have described their
condition far better than I can.
It is not within the narrow limits of my vocabulary
to portray it. I went to Cuba with a strong conviction
that the picture had been overdrawn; that a few
cases of starvation and suffering had inspired and
stimulated the press correspondents, and that they
had given free play to a strong, natural and highly
I could not believe that out of a population of
one million six hundred thousand, 200,000 had died
within these Spanish forts, practically prison walls,
within a few months past, from actual starvation
and disease caused by insufficient and improper
?My inquiries were entirely outside of sensational
sources. They were made by our medical officers,
of our consuls, of city alcaldes, [xviii] of relief
committees, of leading merchants and bankers, physicians
and lawyers. Several of my informants were Spanish
born, but every time came the answer that the case
had not been overstated.
What I saw I cannot tell so that others can see
it. It must be seen with one's own eyes to be realized.
The Los Posos Hospital, in Havana, has been recently
described by one of my colleagues, Senator Gallinger,
and I cannot say that his picture was overdrawn,
for even his fertile pen could not do more. He visited
it after Dr. Lesser, one of Miss Barton's very able
and efficient assistants, had renovated it and put
in cots. I saw it when 400 women and children were
lying on the stone floors in an indescribable state
of emaciation and disease, many with the scantiest
covering of rags, and such rags! And sick children,
naked as they came into the world. And the conditions
in the other cities are even worse.
Miss Barton and her work need no endorsement from
me. I had known and esteemed her for many years,
but had not half appreciated her capability and
devotion to her work. I especially looked into her
business methods, fearing there would be the greatest
danger of mistake, that there might be want of system,
waste and extravagance, but found she could teach
me on these points.
In short, I saw nothing to criticize, but everything
to commend. The American people may be assured that
the bounty will reach the sufferers with the least
possible cost and in the best manner, in every respect.
And if our people could see a small fraction of
the need, they would pour more "freely from
their liberal store" than ever before for any
When will the need for this help end? Not until
peace comes and the reconcentrados can go back to
their country, rebuild their homes, reclaim their
tillage plots, which quickly run up to brush in
that wonderful soil and clime, and until they can
be free from danger of molestation in so doing.
Until then the American people must, in the meantime,
care for them. It is true that the alcaldes, other
authorities and relief committees are now trying
to do something, and desire, I believe, to do the
best they can. But the problem is beyond their means
and capacity and the work is one to which they are
General Blanco's [xix] order of November 13 last
somewhat modifies the Weyler order, but it is of
little or no practical benefit. Its application
is limited to farms "properly defended,"
and the owners are obliged to build "centres
Scan copied and comments by Larry Daley 12/17/1989
Speech of Senator Redfield Proctor March 17, 1898
taken from Clara Barton's 1899, The Red Cross (
Washington DC: American National Red Cross, 1899)
[i] A trench
[ii] Cuba 1895-1898 was one of the first places
where modern trench warfare began, L.D.
[iii] This seems to be a reference to residues
of Antonio Maceo's forces still fighting in the
Sierra of the ?rganos of Pinar del Rio, the most
western province on the Island L.D.
[iv] La Grande L.D
[v] At least 50% or 200,000 see below would die
of starvation and disease L.D.
[vi] Valeriano Weyler, the brutal Capitan General
of the Spanish Government of Cuba, who replaced
Martinez Campos. Martinez Campos who is supposed
to have said that the only way to stop the Cuban
insurgent's, the Mambi, rebellion was through such
a re-concentration. Since this would cause so terrible
a death-toll, he was not prepared to do it and resigned.
Weyler, apparantly, was. Weyler was also an officer
in the forces of the brutal Count of Valmaseda in
the 1868-1878 Ten Year War. L.D. and J.S.
[vii] really Guajiros will a strong presence of
Taino blood line L.D.
[viii] For those interested in parallels to more
recent history, it is logical to conclude that Castro's
suppression of the small farmers especially in Las
Villas provinces where the 1960s risings against
him were most intense, and the collective farming
practices of the present Cuban government have much
to do with the present (1990s) situation of hunger
in Cuba. L.D.
[ix] ?Taino bohios,? or "caneys")
[x] Here is the word "concentrate" that
will perpetuate itself in chapters of death first
in South Africa and then through out the world in
the horrors of Nazi Holocaust, the Gulags of Stalin,
the Killing fields of Cambodia, and the Sudan etc.
It is sadly interesting that the slaughter of the
Armenians -of whom Hitler is supposed to have said
"who remembers the Armenians" as he planned
his own crimes- occupies a large section of this
book by Clara Barton.
[xi] That is to say, hung. It seems that hanging
men and adolescent males found in areas where there
was a Mambi Cuban insurgent presence was a standard
practice by Spanish troops even before this proclamation.
Family tradition maintains that Grandfather Calixto
(Garcia-I?iguez) Enamorado was caught and was about
to be hung, when a Spanish Officer seeing that he
was so young let him go. This has to be before Weyler
was Capitan General, since Grandfather was among
Maceo's troops who defeated and nearly killed Mart?nez
Campos the previous "Capit?n General"
at the battle of Peralejo. For reference on this
battle (July 13 th 1895) from a Spanish point of
view see Severo G?mez Nu?ez "La Acci?n de Peralejo"
Published by Lit. & Imp. de Ruis, Amistad 410
Havana ? August 10, 1895. A winners first hand version
of the battle can be found in Jos? Miro Argenter
"Cronicas de la Guerra" reprinted by Editorial
Letras Cubanas,. Havana 1981.
[xii] Not the Cuban Mambi but Spanish Government
irregular troops L.D.
[xiii] In Grandfather's book "Persecucion"
Calixto Enamorado La Ramba Press Havana 1917) states
that many of the guerillas were common criminals
recruited from the jails by the Spanish administration
[xiv] From the illustrations these are much degraded
forms of the Taino Bohios which other wise than
this instance can be a relatively comfortable dwellings
[xv] US Military reports state that in late 1898
Havana even after the Spanish were defeated at Santiago,
reconcentrados continued to die ignored by the Spanish
until US troops were able to reach them. (from Gen.
Ludlow's report sorry reference in bindary) . I
would seen that the Spanish had a massive repopulation
program in which "loyal" Spanish immigrants
were brought in to replace dying Cubans. This circumstance
leads less informed authors --e.g. James W. Hammond
Jr. Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute. August
1998 pp 60-65-- to erroneously confuse recently
imported Spanish immigrants with Cubans and greatly
over estimate popular support for Spain in Cuba
[xvi] The senator continues to emphasis that these
horrors are not, as many historians not familiar
with Cuban history believe, even today, an exaggeration
[xvii] In my opinion, this resulted in yet another
destruction of the Taino blood line. This is because
these unfortunates were mostly Guajiros many of
whom had ancestry going back to the time of the
Spanish Conquest of Cuba. At the time of the Spanish
Conquest Spanish immigration was almost all male
and thus most of those born at that time descended
from Taino women L.D.
[xix] General Blanco replaced Weyler after the
worldwide outcry forced the Spanish Government to
replace the "Butcher" as Weyler was called