Its History, Products And Possibilities.
BY A. D. HALL,
Author of "Cuba" and "The Philippines."
STREET & SMITH, PUBLISHERS
81 FULTON STREET
STREET & SMITH.
I—The Aborigines of Porto Rico 7
II—Struggles of the Past 18
III—Topography and Climate 27
IV—Population and Towns 36
VI—Manners and Customs 53
VII—The Dawn of Freedom 69
VIII—Naval Lessons Taught by the War 77
IX—What Our Army Achieved 88
X—How the Porto Ricans Received Us 104
XI—Our Claim to Porto Rico 128
XII—What the Possession of Porto Rico Will Mean 143
THE ABORIGINES OF PORTO RICO.
Porto Rico, or Puerto Rico, as it is sometimes called, has lately become of the first importance in the eyes of the world. To Americans it has assumed special interest, as it is now practically in the possession of the United States, and sooner or later will be represented by a new star in our beautiful flag, that flag which recently, by the magnificent exploits of our navy and army, has assumed a greater importance than ever among the standards of the universe.
Uncle Sam will certainly find this beautiful and fertile island a most valuable possession, every foot of which he could sell at a large substantial price, if he chose to do so.
Until recently there has been an impression in the United States that Porto Rico did not amount to much, that Cuba was the only island in the West Indies which was of any especial value. But this is the most grievous error, as we shall endeavor to show in the course of this little book.
The island, without much exaggeration, can really be called the garden spot of the world, and there is no doubt but that when the Stars and Stripes wave permanently over it, and there is an influx of American enterprise and wealth, there will be a marvelous increase in values of all kinds.
Like all Spanish colonies, Porto Rico has been wofully mismanaged. The Spaniards have looked upon it in the light of a more or less valuable cow from which every drop of milk must be squeezed. But now, under more fortuitous circumstances, under a more beneficent rule, the charming little island will undoubtedly "blossom as a rose"; for those who have looked into the subject have declared that more can be raised on an acre of land in Porto Rico than in any other portion of the globe. Later on we shall examine in detail the truth or falsehood of this statement.
Porto Rico is older than the United States, for it was discovered by Columbus on November 16, 1493, during his second voyage to America. The great discoverer remained there only two days in the port of Aquadilla, but he did not come in contact with any of the ingenuous natives, for they fled in terror when they saw his ship.
During their subsequent conquests in the West Indies, the Spaniards paid no attention to Porto Rico until 1509. At this time Ponce de Leon, then governor of Hispaniola, afterward known as Hayti, determined to extend his dominion. With the idea of obtaining fresh supplies of gold, he went to Porto Rico and made a long visit to the chief of the natives, by whom he was received and entertained with the greatest kindness and hospitality. The chief willingly pointed out to his Spanish guests all the great resources of the island, and when, with the greed which has ever distinguished the men of their country, they asked for gold, he took them to streams where the sands were loaded with the precious metal.
Ponce de Leon was so delighted with the beauty and fertility of the island that he imagined he could find there the fountain of perpetual youth for which he so long sought in vain. In this chimerical idea, however, as in Florida, he was doomed to disappointment.
The original name of the island is said to have been Borinquen, and the population of the natives, who were of the same race as the inhabitants of the other islands of the Greater Antilles, has been estimated at six hundred thousand.
Dr. C. T. Bedwell, recently British consul at Porto Rico, has published a most interesting report in regard to the aborigines, and from this report we have obtained considerable of the information which follows.
Among the Sibaros, or sallow people of to-day, one rarely sees a physical trace of Indian descent, although in their mode of living much of Indian character exists. Fray Inigo Abbad, who wrote a work on Porto Rico, published in Madrid in 1878, says that when the Spaniards first came to Porto Rico "it was as thickly populated as a beehive, and so beautiful that it resembled a garden." Fray Inigo says that the color of the Indians of Porto Rico was the copper color known to the aborigines of America, though they were of a sallow and somewhat darker complexion. They were shorter in stature than the Spaniards, stout and well-proportioned. They had flat noses with wide nostrils, bad teeth and narrow foreheads. Their heads were flat, both in front and at the back, "because," says the author, "they were pressed into this shape at the time of their birth." They had long, thin, coarse hair, and, according to Fray Inigo, they were without hair on their face or on other parts of their body. This, however, is disputed by some writers.
The small quantity and little substance of the food they used, the facility with which they supplied material wants without labor, the excessive heat of the climate, and the absence of quadrupeds for the exercise of hunting, caused them, he says, to be weak and indolent, and averse to labor of all kinds. Anything that was not necessary to satisfy the pangs of hunger, or that did not afford amusement, such as hunting or fishing, was regarded with indifference. Neither the hope of reward nor the fear of punishment would tempt them to seek the one or to avoid the other.
Fray Inigo admits, however, that there were some exceptions among them, and says that some of the Indians displayed much bravery and strength in the contests with the Spanish soldiers.
Their forms were light and free, and there were no cripples among them.
They were governed by Caciques, whose eldest sons inherited the succession. In the absence of a son the chief was succeeded by the eldest son of his sister, that there might be no doubt as to true descent.
The tutelary deity was Cerni, who was made to speak by the Buhitis or medicine men, who were at the same time the priests. The Buhites hid themselves behind the statue of Cerni and declared war or peace, arranged the seasons, granted sunshine or rain, or whatever was required, according to the will of the Cacique. When announcements were not fulfilled the Buhites declared that the Cerni had changed his mind for wise reasons of his own, "without on this account," says Fray Inigo, "the power or credit of the pretended deity, or his mendacious ministers being doubted, such being the simplicity and ignorance of the Indians."
The chiefdoms were divided into small provinces, which for the most part only comprised the inhabitants of a valley; but all were subject to the head Cacique, who at the time of the conquest was Aqueynoba. He was actually governor-in-chief, the others being his lieutenants, who carried out his orders in their respective districts.
Men and unmarried women wore no clothing, but painted their bodies abundantly, and with much skill, drawing upon them many varieties of figures with the ores, gums and resins which they extracted from trees and plants. In this uniform they presented themselves in their military expeditious, public balls, and other assemblies. To be well painted was to be well dressed, and they learned from experience besides that the resinous matter and vegetable oils with which they painted their bodies served to preserve them from excessive heat and superabundant perspiration. The paint also served to protect them from the changes of atmosphere, the dampness of climate, and the plague of the numerous varieties of mosquitoes and other insects, which, without this precaution, constantly annoyed them. They wore headdresses made of feathers with exquisite colors. They put small plates of gold on their cheeks, and hung shells, precious stones and relics from their ears and noses, and the image of their god Cerni was never forgotten. The chiefs used as a distinctive emblem a large golden plate worn on their breasts. Married women wore an apron which descended to about half their leg; but no clothing was worn on the rest of the body. The wives of the Caciques wore their aprons to their ankles except at the national game of ball, when they also wore short ones.
The men took two, three or more wives, according to their ability to support them. The chiefs possessed a larger number of wives than their subjects, but one of them was generally preferred over all others. The women, besides their domestic duties, had charge of the agricultural pursuits and worked in the fields. Those best loved were buried alive with their husband on his demise. The men did not intermarry with relatives of the first degree, from a belief that such marriages resulted in a bad death.
Their huts were similar in structure and in character to those of the North American Indians.
The hammock was the chief article of furniture of the aborigines, and the calabash shell their only cooking utensil.
Their arms were a bow and arrow, in the use of which they were very skilful. They had canoes both for fishing and sea voyages. These were hewn out of the timber of enormous trees, the like of which, owing to fires and seasons of drouth, no longer exist upon the island. Some of the canoes were large enough to hold forty or fifty men.
When the Indians saw that the sick were near to death they suffocated them. Even the chiefs did not escape.
After death they opened and dried the body by fire, and buried it in a large cave, in which were interred also some live women, the arms of the deceased and provisions for the journey to the other world. Sticks and branches of trees were then placed on the top, and the whole was covered with earth, which was thus kept from the bodies of those interred.
They were accustomed to perform a national dance which was called the areito. At the conclusion of this dance, all became intoxicated with drinks made by the women of fruit, maize and other ingredients, and with the smoke of tobacco which they inhaled in their nostrils.
As has been said, at the time of the conquest the name of the native chief was Aqueynoba. He was friendly to the Spaniards at first and lived peaceably with them for some time.
There is no doubt but that the aborigines were confiding, generous and peaceful. But, like all savages, they were very superstitious. They worshipped a vast quantity of idols, but believed in one superior deity. With the exception of the Caribs, who occupied the eastern part of the island, they were not cannibals. They were in the habit of practicing quite a large number of domestic arts, such as the cultivation of the soil, the carving in wood and stone, and the manufacture of pottery and furniture.
The Spaniards have ever been treacherous, selfish and a nation of money-grubbers.
Now followed an instance which is only one of many to prove the truth of this statement.
After Ponce de Leon had won the confidence and had been the recipient of boundless hospitality from the islanders, he returned to Hayti and at once commenced to fit out an expedition for the invasion and subjugation of Porto Rico. From a purely selfish point of view, this was a most senseless proceeding on his part. He could have done much better without having any recourse to force, for at first the natives regarded the Spaniards as immortal visitors from Heaven, as superior beings whom they could not kill.
But they speedily recognized their mistake and discovered the abominable character of the invaders.
De Leon killed off all the natives that he could and made the rest slaves to work in the gold mines of Hayti.
When any one resisted he was killed, and if he attempted to escape he was hunted down by bloodhounds.
It is related that Ponce de Leon had a dog which became noted as a slave catcher. So valuable was he in this respect that his name was actually carried on the army payroll for the benefit of his master.
When the natives found that they were being slain or deprived of their liberty they naturally became exasperated and turned against their dastardly oppressors. But from their point of view it was absolutely necessary to find out if the Spaniards were mortal. If they were not, it would be an act of impiety to resist them.
This vital question must be settled, and therefore one of the native chiefs was detailed to try if he could kill a Spaniard. The trial was eminently successful. A young man named Salzedo was found alone and was drowned by the natives.
The action is thus related in the words of a competent authority:
"The guides conducted Salzedo to the bank of a small river through which they must pass, and to prevent his being exposed to the water one of the Indians kindly offered to take him on his shoulders and carry him over. Salzedo mounted to his high seat and was borne into the middle of the stream, when the Indian and his burden fell into the water. The other Indians immediately rushed into the river with the apparent purpose of rescuing their guest, but contrived, while professing to offer him assistance, to keep his head continually under water. The result of this practical biological experiment, so adroitly conducted, brought hope and joy to the despairing natives. The body was kept immersed until long after every sign of life had gone, but they still feared animation might return. Carrying the body to the bank, a new farce was acted; they lamented over him, they begged his pardon for the accident, and they protested their innocence of any design. In every way they provided themselves with a plausible defense in case he should recover or they should be suspected. After several days, putrefaction happily settled all their doubts about the mortality of their conquerors, and the glad news was communicated to their people."
The natives then at once commenced to massacre the Spaniards. But this did not last long. Ponce de Leon immediately sent for reinforcements, and the Indians believed that these newcomers were the resurrected bodies of those they had killed. This idea caused them to lose all hope and courage, and they fell an easy prey to their enemies. It was not many years before the aboriginal population, large as it was originally, was completely exterminated.
The Spaniards now began to colonize the island and the town of Capana was the first one settled by them. Its site was found, however, to be too high and inaccessible. It was therefore abandoned and in 1511 the present city of San Juan was founded.
In this city Ponce de Leon built the governor's palace called Casa Blanca, a structure which is still in use.
After de Leon's unsuccessful expedition to Florida, where he received a mortal wound at the hands of the Indians, his remains were brought to Porto Rico and interred in the Dominican church.
The inscription upon his monument reads as follows:
Mole sub hac fortis requiescunt ossa Leonis Qui vicit factis nomina magna suis.
These words may be translated into English as follows:
"This narrow grave contains the remains of a man who was a Lion by name, and much more so by his deeds."
His cruel treatment of the gentle natives, inspired though it may have been and probably was by the home government, by no means causes him to deserve so flattering an epitaph.
STRUGGLES OF THE PAST.
Ever since the days of Ponce de Leon, Porto Rico has been a Spanish possession. It has never been captured, although many attempts have been made to take it both by external and internal forces.
None of these attacks seriously affected Spanish authority on the island.
But although the island has never been taken, it has been sacked. It may be said that it was pirates who did this, for while the commanders of several of the expeditions against the island bore great names, they were really little more or less than pirates.
The first to attack was no less than the famous English commander, Sir Francis Drake, who had Elizabeth behind him. This was in 1595, and Drake then scored his first failure, in spite of the fact that when he left his ballast consisted of ducatoons, and the shops of San Juan were in ruins.
It is rather a strange coincidence that Drake's failure was due to the fact that the Spaniards had recourse to the same scheme that was so daringly and successfully carried out by Lieutenant Hobson in the harbor of Santiago.
They sunk a ship in the neck of San Juan harbor, thereby preventing Drake's fleet from obtaining an entrance.
Dr. Griffin, the accomplished assistant librarian of the Congressional Library in Washington, has recently been making a study of Porto Rican literature which has been pregnant with interesting results.
Dr. Griffin discovered the following in an old English chronicle:
"Confession of John Austin, mariner of London, of the late company of Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins.
"Directions were given that if any of the fleet lost company they should make for Guadaloupe in the Indies; his ship did so, but having lost her rudder failed, and was taken by five Spanish frigates and the crew imprisoned in the Isle of St. John de Porto Rico. Sir Francis, who lost company of Sir John Hawkins, was told of this by a bark which saw the fight. The prisoners were examined and threatened with torture to tell what the English forces were. The Spaniards sunk ships in the harbor to hinder their entrance. Sir Francis summoned the town, and on their refusing to yield sent fifteen vessels to burn the frigates in the harbor. Two were fired, but the light thus made enabled the Spaniards to fire on the English ships and drive them away. The English attacked the fort, but Sir John Hawkins was killed. Sir Francis sent back to the governor five prisoners whom he had taken, and begged that the English might be well treated and sent home, in which there was an improvement in their diet, etc. Sir Francis then went to the south of the island, got provisions and water and went to Carthagena. This was reported by two frigates that watched him, and then the treasure ships in Porto Rico with $4,000,000 on board sailed for Spain, and reached St. Lucas, bringing the English prisoners, who still remain in prison, but the examinante escaped. Two fleets, each of twenty-five ships, and 5,000 men, are said to be sent out to follow Sir Francis Drake, March 25, 1599."
In Barrow's "Life of Drake," there are further particulars given of this unsuccessful attack on San Juan, which was under the command of Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins, the two greatest British naval commanders then living. Barrow says:
"The fitting out and equipment of this grand expedition were not surpassed by that of 1585 to the West Indies under Sir Francis Drake, Vice Admiral Forbesher and Rear Admiral Knolles. Its destination, in the first place, was intended for Porto Rico, where the queen had received information that a vast treasure had been brought, and intended to be sent home from thence for the use of the King of Spain in completing the third grand armament (the second having been destroyed by Drake) which he had in contemplation for the invasion of England. The object of the present fleet was to intercept the treasure and thereby cut off the main supply of his navy and army destined for that purpose.
"Their first intention, however, had been to land at Nombre de Dios and proceed direct from thence over the Isthmus of Panama in order to seize the treasure generally brought thither from the mines of Mexico and Peru; but in a few days before their departure from Plymouth they received letters sent by order of the queen informing them that advices had been received from Spain announcing the arrival of the West Indian or Plata fleet, but that one of them, a very valuable ship, had lost her mast and put into the Island of Puerto Rico, and it was therefore her majesty's recommendation that they should proceed direct to that island to secure the ship and treasure which was on her."
The expedition left Plymouth, August 28, 1595. Before going to Porto Rico, Drake, against the protest of Hawkins, tried to take the Canaries and failed. The voyage was then continued.
"On the 30th of September," the historian continues, "Captain Wegnot, on the Francis, a bark of thirty-five tons, being the sternmost of Sir John Hawkins' division, was chased by five of the king's frigates, or zobras, being ships of two hundred tons, which came with three other zobras for the treasure at San Juan de Puerto Rico. The Francis, mistaking them for companions, was taken in sight of our caraval. The Spaniards, indifferent to human suffering, left the Francis driving in the sea with three or four hurt and sick men, and took the rest of her people into their ships and returned to Porto Rico.
"The squadron now intended to pass through the Virgin Islands, but 'here,' says Hakluyt, 'Sir John Hawkins was extreme sick, which his sickness began upon neues of the taking of the Francis.' Remaining here two days, they tarried two days more in a sound, which Drake, in his barge had discovered. They then stood for the eastern end of Porto Rico, where Sir John Hawkins breathed his last.
"Sir Thomas Baskerville now took possession of the Garland as second in command. The fleet came to anchor at a distance of two miles, or less, at the eastern side of the town of San Juan de Porto Rico, where, says Hakluyt, 'we received from their forts and places, where they planted ordnance, some twenty-eight great shot, the last of which stroke the admiral's ship through the misen, and the last but one stroke through her quarter into the steerage, the general being there at supper, and stroke the stool from under him, but hurt him not, but hurt at the same table Sir Nicholas Clifford, Mr. Browne, Captain Stratford, with one or two more. Sir Nicholas Clifford, and Master Browne died of their hurts.'
"Drake," continues Barrow, "was certainly imprudent in suffering the squadron to take up anchorage so near to the means of annoyance; but his former visit had no doubt taught the enemy the prudence of being better prepared for any future occasion, and it is somewhat remarkable that Drake should not have observed his usual caution. Browne was an old and particular favorite of Drake.
"The following morning the whole fleet came to anchor before the point of the harbor without the town, a little to the westward, where they remained till nightfall, and then twenty-five pinnaces, boats and shallops, well manned, and furnished with fireworks and small shot, entered the road. The great castle, or galleon the object of the present enterprise, had been completely repaired, and was on the point of sailing, when certain intelligence of the intended attack by Drake reached the island. Every preparation had been made for the defense of the harbor and the town; the whole of the treasure had been landed; the galleon was sunk in the mouth of the harbor; a floating barrier of masts and spars was laid on each side of her, near to the forts and castles, so as to render the entrance impassable; within this breakwater were the five zabras, moored, their treasure also taken out; all the women and children and infirm people were moved to the interior, and those only left in the town who were able to aid in its defense. A heavy fire was opened on the English ships, but the adventurers persisted in their desperate attempt, until they had lost, by their own account, some forty or fifty men killed, and as many wounded; but there was consolation in thinking that by burning, drowning and killing, the loss of the Spaniards could not be less; in fact, a great deal more; for the five zabras and a large ship of 400 tons were burned, and their several cargoes of silk, oil and wine destroyed."
After thus being defeated in his main object, Drake did not return to San Juan. He contented himself with laying tribute upon Porto Rico, and burning the towns on the Caribbean side of the island.
He then sailed for Wombee de Dios, and, when the fleet was off the South American coast, he died on the 28th of January and was buried at sea. Drake was succeeded in command by Sir Thomas Baskerville.
When the latter was on his way back to England he encountered a Spanish fleet and engaged in battle off the Isle of Pines. The victory was decidedly with the English, but the Spaniards were apparently the same then as they are to-day. Everybody remembers Blanco's famous dispatches, famous for their absurd falseness. So then the Spanish admiral issued a bulletin in which he claimed a magnificent triumph. Baskerville was so angry that he publicly declared the admiral to be a liar and challenged him to a duel. Nothing, however, ever resulted from this challenge.
Three years later the Duke of Cumberland, who might also he called a corsair, but a private one, as he acted on his own hook, attacked San Juan, and after three days' fighting, laid the city in ruins. He was unable to follow up his victory, however, as the fever killed his men by the hundreds.
The English tried to take it in 1615, and again in 1678.
Once more in 1795, seeing the great advantage of owning the harbor of San Juan, the English attempted to capture it, but they were repulsed with great slaughter.
Spain has never given as much attention to Porto Rico as she has to her other colonies, and therefore the government, while practically of the same character, has not been so intolerable as in Cuba and the Philippines.
For nearly three hundred years the island was neglected. During all that time it was used chiefly as a watering station for ships and as a penal colony. In 1815 it was thrown open to colonization, and land was given free to all Spaniards who went there to settle. As a consequence a host of adventurers hastened to Porto Rico, as well as a number of Spanish loyalists, belonging to the better classes, who had been expelled by the decrees of other and rebellious colonies.
About this time there was a large importation of negro slaves to work on the sugar plantations. For these reasons the wealth and population rapidly increased.
Nevertheless there has been a large number of revolutions against the home government.
As early as 1820, long before Cuba had made any attempt to throw off the Spanish yoke, the Porto Ricans made an effort to obtain their independence. After a short guerilla war, this first rebellion was suppressed, as were also several other abortive attempts.
In 1868, the year of the great uprising in Cuba, the most formidable outbreak occurred in Porto Rico.
After two mouths of severe fighting the Spanish regulars were victorious, and the leader of the rebels, Dr. Ramon E. Bentances, who has since resided most of the time in Paris, was captured, as was also J. J. Henna, afterward a New York physician. All the prisoners were sentenced to be shot, November 4, 1868.
On the very day preceding that date news came to the island that Queen Isabella had been deposed, and in consequence the political prisoners were released.
But they were afterward banished, and in their exile they have ever since been active in devising measures for the freedom of the island.
There is no reason whatever to think that there will be any discontent in the future under the liberal and beneficent government of the United States.
TOPOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE.
Now that there is no doubt of the acquisition of Porto Rico by the United States, many of our people will be going there, and it is therefore of great interest to note how its general features will please and its climate be adapted to Americans.
The island is most eastern of the Greater Antilles, and it is the fourth in size and importance of all the islands of the West Indies. In fact, in point of density of population and general prosperity, it takes the first place. On the east, the Lesser Antilles extend in a curve toward Trinidad, on the South American coast, inclosing on the westward the Caribbean sea. A strait of seventy miles separates Porto Rico from Hayti on the west, and the distances from San Juan, the capital, to other points are 2,100 miles to the Cape Verde Islands, 1,050 miles to Key West and 1,420 miles to Hampton Roads.
Porto Rico lies near enough to the Gulf of Mexico to receive the benefit of the soft Gulf breezes and the very best and most desirable of the trade winds.
The island is almost a rectangle in shape. Its length from east to west is 108 miles and its breadth from north to south about 37 miles. Its area, including its dependencies, the isles of Vieques, Culebra and Mona is 3,530 square miles.
The coasts are generally regular, but there are a large number of bays and inlets, and the north coast is full of navigable lagoons.
The principal capes are San Juan, Mala Pascua, Rojo and Bruquen.
Generally speaking, the conformation of the island is slightly undulating, with the exception of a mountain range which traverses it from east to west, running through nearly its whole length in a zig-zag course, and on the average about twenty-five miles distant from the north coast.
This range divides the island into two unequal portions. The largest is on the north, and the rivers flowing through that section are much the longer. A part of the main range is called Sierra Grande or Barros. The northeast spur is known as the Sierra de Luquillo and the northwest as the Sierra Larea. The general height of these mountains is about 1,500 feet above the sea, but there is one peak, Yunque, which reaches a height of 3,678 feet. This can be seen seventy miles at sea, and would be a magnificent place for a shore signal for the benefit of the ships that sail the South Atlantic seas.
It is noticeable that there are no extensive lakes in the highlands of the interior, but there are many interesting caves in the mountains, the principal ones being those of Aguas Buenos and Ciales.
The elevated ridge which crosses the island intercepts the northeast trade winds which blow from the Atlantic and deprives them of their moisture. The consequence of this is that the rainfall in the northern portion of the island is very copious. It also has the effect of reducing the rain south of the mountains, so that there is a prevalence of droughts in that section and agriculture can be advantageously carried on by irrigation. Up to the present, however, this work of irrigation has been very imperfect and unsystematic, and the results on the whole have not been satisfactory.
The Luquillo range ends ten miles from San Juan. The capital is, therefore, to a certain degree sheltered by a mountain wall from the rain-bearing winds, which, in the warmest months blow mainly from easterly points. Still all the northern adjacent shores and lowlands are subject to flooding by torrents of rain.
Taking it as a whole, the island is approximately roof-shaped, so that the rainfall is rapidly drained off.
In the interior are extensive plains and there are level tracts from five to ten miles wide on the coast.
The soil of Porto Rico is exceedingly fertile. In the mountains it is a red clay, colored with peroxide of iron, in the valleys it is black and less compact, and on the coasts it is sandy, but capable of some culture.
The pasture lands in the northern and eastern parts of the island are superior to any others in the West Indies.
Porto Rico is essentially a land of rivers and streams. Of course none of them are of any great length, but of the entire number, some thirteen hundred, forty are navigable for more or less distances for commercial purposes.
Mr. John Beggs, a former planter of Porto Rico, says that the island is perfectly adapted for commerce. Sugar, coffee, cotton, corn and potatoes are constantly shipped down the navigable rivers, and were Porto Rico to be fully cultivated, many more streams could be opened and communication made between others by means of canals, so that the entire island would present a system of water ways which would make it an ideal place for the shipping of useful articles to the United States.
The water of the rivers and brooks and lakes is remarkably pure, and there is quite an industry in its shipment for sale to other West India islands. It is stated that more than twenty of these islands send to Porto Rico for water. Little boats sail up the harbor of San Juan, fill their tanks with water and sail away again, Havana's chief scourge is the lack of fresh water, but Porto Rico has all the water it can use and enough to supply islands hundreds of miles away.
The anchorages can not be said to be the best in the world, although a few of them are excellent, and most of them sufficiently deep for ordinary craft.
Mayaguez Bay on the west coast admits vessels of any size and is the best anchorage on the island. Guanica is the best on the south coast, of which it is the most western port. It was here that the American troops first landed. Still Guanica is not visited by much shipping. The district immediately surrounding it is low and swampy, and the roads leading from it are not good. Guanica has been the outlet for the produce of San German Sabana Grande and, to some extent, of Yanco, which is on the railroad. The western and southwestern parts of the island have been particularly over-run by the Porto Rican rebels, and this has undoubtedly done much to injure its commerce. But with the advent of the Americans all this will be changed.
The eastern coast is fairly indented and washed by a sea which is usually smooth.
On the rugged north side, where the ocean currents set to southward, there are no good anchorages between Arecibo and San Juan. The port of San Juan, however, affords good shelter and will be an important centre for merchant shipping as well as an attractive rendezvous for yachts on a pleasure cruise. The harbor is deep enough to admit large vessels, but its channel communicating with the sea is winding and difficult, and can be navigated safely only with the aid of a pilot.
One of the leading seaports of the island is Aquadilla on the west coast. This has the advantage of a spacious bay, which is sheltered from the trade winds. From this place are shipped the sugar and coffee produced in the northwest part of the island.
There are seven or eight other ports of minor importance.
The main highway of central Porto Rico runs from Ponce to San Juan, in a northeasterly direction, through Juana Diaz, Coamo and Abonito. From the latter place it proceeds almost eastward to Cayey, and there it takes a winding course to the north as far as Caquas. Thence it turns west to Aquas Buenos, and then goes straight north through Guaynola and Rio Piedras to San Juan. The entire length of this highway is about eighty-five miles.
The distance from Ponce to San Juan, as the bird flies, is only forty-five miles.
And now to take up a most important point—the climate. Of this much can be said in favor.
On the whole, it may be stated that Porto Rico, for a tropical region, is very healthful; in fact, by far the most so of any of the West India islands.
There have been no climatic observations which cover the whole of the Porto Rican territory, but the Spanish Weather Bureau has published certain observations which show the general conditions prevailing in San Juan and the vicinity.
The climate, though hot, is agreeably tempered by the prevailing northeast winds. At night there is always a pleasant breeze which carries sweet fragrance along the northern coast. A temperature as high as 117 degrees has been recorded, but this is most unusual. At San Juan, the average temperature in August is about 81 degrees Fahrenheit; in September, 80.5 degrees, and in October, 79.3 degrees. At night it sinks to 68 or 69 degrees, which is more than it frequently does in New York or Chicago during heated spells. The most marked feature of the climate is that the summer's heat and rainfall keep up until late autumn. In the hottest months the calm days average not far from ten a month, and these have a very relaxing effect. For this reason it is advisable for residents of temperate climes not to visit Porto Rico until November, when the weather becomes beautifully fine and settled, and almost always continues good during the winter and early spring.
The rainfall in San Juan, which can be taken as a fair index of that along the northeastern coast, averages about 6.65 inches during August, 5.30 during September and 7.10 during October. But in some years the heaviest fall was in September. Not infrequently the cultivated fields and plantations are inundated, and swamps are formed. As has been intimated, the southern part of the island is relatively much drier than the northern, though the former is apt to experience excessive rains during the passage of a hurricane.
It is fortunate for Porto Rico that it does not lie directly in the track of West Indian cyclones. It has been visited, however, at long intervals by devastating hurricanes, notably those of 1742 and 1825, which destroyed a vast deal of property, and during the passage of which many lives were lost. The terrible tornadoes of the tropics are very erratic in their course, and are so apt to be deviated from their accustomed paths that it is unsafe to assume that danger has passed for Porto Rico until late in the autumn. Captains of all vessels during the summer mouths should therefore exercise extraordinary vigilance to avoid being caught in a hurricane.
The prevailing diseases of the island are yellow fever, elephantiasis, tetanus, March fever and dysentery. There is no question but that a lack of proper sanitary measures is responsible for much of the illness. Even the most to be dreaded of these diseases, yellow fever, could in all probability be rooted out if proper precautions were taken and every available means employed to prevent its recurrence. As it is, yellow fever never scourges Porto Rico as it does parts of Cuba.
In the winter and early spring Porto Rico is less subject than Cuba to those chilling winds that blow from the freezing anticyclones moving east from the American coast toward Bermuda. Under American auspices and enlightened systems of sanitation, there will doubtless spring up a number of attractive winter resorts, which will prove formidable rivals to those of Florida, especially if, as is not unlikely, San Juan Bay becomes the headquarters of the North Atlantic naval station from November until April.
In this regard, the manager of a prominent life insurance company has spoken as follows:
"Let me raise my voice in prophecy and then wait and see if events do not bear me out. I want to prophesy right now that five years from date that island will be a great popular winter resort. No one can appreciate its natural attractions unless he has been there, and when to them have been added a few good American hotels it is bound to become a popular resort.
"I was in Porto Rico several years ago, and I then expressed surprise that it was not boomed as a winter resort. The Porto Ricans to whom I spoke shrugged their shoulders and smiled. The ground is high, the climate is fine, and the place is healthful.
"It has many attractions of its own that are lacking in the other West Indies.
"Close on the heels of the army will march some enterprising American hotel man, and then look out for results."
POPULATION AND TOWNS.
According to the latest statistics, the entire population of the island of Porto Rico is estimated at 900,000. Of these about 140,000 are peninsulares, as the natives of Spain have been termed throughout her former colonies. From 12,000 to 14,000 are foreigners, mostly Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Englishmen and Americans. Other nationalities have little or no representation. The so-called native population is composed of two-thirds whites who are descendants of Spaniards and people of other European countries, and one-third negroes and mulattoes or those of mixed blood, half castes, as they are denominated.
It is valuable to note the large proportion of whites, which is very unusual for a tropical country.
The census, which was taken December 31, 1887, states that the women outnumbered the men by about one thousand. As the immigrants from Spain are mostly men, however, the actual ratio between the two sexes, as far as the native population is concerned, would be greatly in favor of the feminine.
The area of Cuba is thirteen times larger than that of Porto Rico, and yet even before the butcher Weyler exterminated a third of the native Cubans, it contained not quite double as many people as the smaller island.
This will give some idea of the density of the population of Porto Rico.
Thirty per cent. of the whites and seventy-five per cent. of the negroes were classed in the census of 1887 as laborers.
The western part of the island is far more densely populated than the eastern. The reason for this probably lies in the fact that the east coast is on the windward side, and offers less protection for shipping. Consequently it is not so conveniently situated for trade. All the larger towns of the east are situated inland, or, at least, some distance from the coast. They are in the hilly portion of the island and surrounded by rich coffee plantations and grazing lands of large extent.
The inhabitants of Porto Rico are scattered all over the country, and the land is greatly subdivided. The Spanish authorities have made many efforts to collect the people into villages, but the people themselves have frequently resisted a change which they considered would not suit the conditions of their lives or tend to improve their finances.
Still, in the last fifty years more than half of the population has gravitated to and around the towns, especially those which are situated on the seashore. Most of these people live in comfortable houses, and have the means to provide themselves with all the necessities and many of the luxuries of life.
The population, by the way, has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the present century.
Ponce, named after Ponce de Leon, is the largest city and the one of the most commercial importance upon the island. It is beautifully situated about three miles north of the port of Ponce, in a fertile plain, and is surrounded by plantations and gardens. It is the terminus of one of the three short railroads which have been constructed, and along the beach in front of the port are large warehouses, where the produce, forwarded through Ponce, which is the trading centre, is stored for shipment. The population of Ponce has been estimated at 44,500 inhabitants, and this is probably not far from the actual truth.
Ponce has quite a number of fine buildings, including the town hall, the theatre, two churches, the charity and the woman's asylums, the barracks, the Cuban House and the market. Between the city and the seashore is an excellent road which forms a beautiful promenade.
Near Ponce are hot springs which are quite famous and held in high estimation by invalids.
The capital of Porto Rico is San Juan, which in many respects has always been the most important city. It is on the north coast, and as has already been stated, was founded by Ponce de Leon in 1510. It now has a population of 31,250 inhabitants, which includes the town and its suburbs.
The situation of San Juan is somewhat peculiar, as it is built on a high and narrow peninsula, which is separated from the mainland by shallow water spanned by a bridge known as the San Antonio.
The town is about half a mile wide, inclosed by high walls of masonry, which are very picturesque, and with their portcullis gates and battlements recall vividly to one's mind the description of mediaeval times.
The bluff is crowned by Morro Castle, rendered familiar to Americans in the recent war.
San Juan is really quite a beautiful place with straight and narrow streets and many imposing buildings. It has a number of public institutions and colleges, several churches, and seven small parks. Among the latter may be mentioned the Plazuela de Santiago, in which is an excellent statue of Columbus.
It was on the western end of the island that Ponce de Leon built the governor's palace, which is enclosed within the Santa Catalina fortifications, where are also the cathedral, town house and theatre. This portion of the city is now known as Pueblo Viego, and is the seat of an Episcopal see, which is subordinate to the bishop of Santiago de Cuba.
The city is lighted by gas, which is controlled by an English company, and it also has an electric plant under local management.
There is a local telephone company.
There are eleven newspapers of various descriptions, the chief one being La Correspondencia, a local political paper, which has a circulation of seven thousand copies, more than that of all the other papers put together.
The water is obtained entirely from cisterns. About fifty years ago a project was formed to build a reservoir, and the plans were approved by the government. But, with that spirit of procrastination so characteristic of the Spanish, in all public and private walks of life, and which is known as manana, the reservoir has never been completed.
The harbor of San Juan is in almost all respects a very fine one. On the east and south it is surrounded by swamps, and on the west it is protected by the islands of Cabra and Cabrita, which are practically connected to the mainland by sandbars. There are strong fortifications which guard the entrance to the outer harbor.
The inner harbor is spacious and landlocked. It has been dredged to a uniform depth of twenty-nine feet from the docks to the anchorage.
The old city is divided into four wards, three of which are outside of the fortifications. The houses are of stone, or brick, and from the roofs beautiful sea views may be obtained. In the patio or court of almost every house there is a garden.
Besides Ponce and San Juan, the largest towns on the island are Arecibo (30,000 inhabitants), Utuado (31,000), Mauaguez (28,000), San German (20,000) Yanco (25,000), and Juana Diaz (21,000). There are also about a dozen other towns with a population of 15,000 or over.
These figures are only approximate, as no regular census has been taken in ten years, and even then the Spanish officials were none too correct.
Railways on the island can as yet be said to be only in their infancy. There is only about 150 miles of railroad, with about as much more in construction. It is intended to have stretches of railroad parallel with the coast, which shall make the entire circuit of the island. From these there will be short branches to all the seaports and inland markets.
The cart roads are very primitive, some of them being little better than cattle tracks. There is, however, be it remembered, one fine road, which extends across the island from San Juan to Ponce.
The telegraph system is also in a very incomplete state and is poorly managed.
There is one line of cable which runs to Cuba, Mexico, Panama and the coasts of the South American continent, and another which connects the island with St. Thomas, Jamaica, and thus the rest of the world.
It is somewhat difficult to tell exactly what is the commercial value of the new colonial possessions which the Spanish-American war has placed at the disposal of the United States. The figures are naturally based upon the conditions which prevailed under Spanish rule.
But, all for all, it may be said that Porto Rico, taking into consideration its area, has been the most valuable of all Spain's colonial possessions.
For some reason, which seems to be inscrutable, Spain has given the inhabitants of Porto Rico far better treatment than she accorded to the natives of Cuba. She dealt with the island more as if it were a Spanish province than a colony to be bled to the fullest extent possible for the financial benefit of Spanish officials and the mother country. Quite the contrary has been the case in Cuba and the Philippines.
It may be stated that, as a matter of fact, Porto Rico has been, in a political sense, a province of Spain for the past twenty years.
Spain has paid but little attention to internal improvements, but this has been an advantage. For with her heavy hand relaxed, the people have had a certain opportunity to develop such spirit of enterprise as they possessed.
Porto Rico, in proportion to its size, is immensely wealthy. It is very doubtful if the Philippines can equal it in richness, square foot for square foot.
With the island in the possession of the United States and with the abolishment of the differential duties in favor of the Spanish government, its geographical position will undoubtedly cause most of its commerce to flow to and from the ports of the United States.
There will be a market furnished for great quantities of food products, textile fabrics, iron, steel and coal. From the island the United States will chiefly receive coffee, tobacco and sugar. Indeed it may be said that in the line of coffee cultivation, the greatest development of Porto Rico may be expected in the near future.
Mr. John Beggs, whom we have quoted before, says that Porto Rico is one of the finest pieces of property on the earth's surface. May it prove so in the hands of the United States!
The soil of Porto Rico is of remarkable fertility. Its dominant industries may be said to be agriculture and lumbering.
In the elevated regions, most of the vegetable productions of the temperate zone can be grown.
More than five hundred varieties of trees can be found in the forests of the island, many of which are very valuable, and the plains are full of palms, oranges and other fruit-bearing trees. There are several very interesting trees, especially a beautiful Talauma, with immense white odorous flowers and silvery leaves. This tree is exceedingly ornamental. It is used for lumber and called Sabiuo. A Kirtella with crimson flowers is also rather common. A tree which is called Ortegon by the natives is found at high altitudes, but chiefly near the coast. It has immense purple spikes, more than a yard long, and is very striking. It seems to be confined to Porto Rico and Hayti. There are many varieties of cabinet and dye woods, including mahogany, ebony, lignum vitae, cedar and logwood. Plants valuable in the arts and pharmacy abound. Tropical fruits grow everywhere to perfection.
The chief products of Porto Rico, outside of lumber, may be said to be sugar, coffee, tobacco, rice, honey and wax, and these have greatly enriched the island, making many of the people well-to-do.
Sugarcane is cultivated on the fertile plains, yielding three hogsheads on an average per acre without any manure.
An excellent grade of coffee is produced, and it does not appear that as yet any blight has perceptibly affected the shrubs.
Rice is very commonly cultivated on the hills in the Sierra. It must be a kind of mountain variety, as no inundation or other kind of watering is used.
Rice and plaintain are in fact the staple food of the natives.
Cotton and maize are also raised to a certain extent.
There should in the future be an industry from the manufacture of tannin extracts from the bark of Coccolala, Rhizophora and the pods of various acacias, the latter of which are a great nuisance on account of their rapid growth.
There are a long number of fruits on the island, such as cherries, guava plums, juicy mangoes and bell apples.
Edwin Emerson, Jr., a war correspondent, speaks of some of the fruits as follows:
"The most astonishing and the best of all was a fruit called pulmo—in our language, sour-sap. It is about as large as a quart bowl, and so nourishing and full that a single fruit was enough for a good meal, although that did not deter my horse from eating four. Later I found that they are also relished by dogs. Of springs and streams there were so many that I had no fear of dying of thirst. If water was not handy, I could always climb a cocoanut tree and throw down the green nuts, which were filled with an abundance of watery milk, more than I could drink at one time. Other nuts there were in plenty; but many were more curious than edible, even to my willing appetite. One had a delicious odor. I tasted a little, and thought it ideal for flavoring candy. But it soon dissolved in my mouth in a fine dust, absorbing all the moisture, so that I had to blow it out like flour. Nothing ever made me so thirsty in my life, and even after rinsing out my mouth I felt for a long time as if I were chewing punk or cotton. The fruit of the tamarind only added to my torments by setting all my teeth on edge. When we reached the next spring I fell off my horse for fear he would get all the water. Only after I had satisfied my thirst would I let him drink."
The poverty of the fauna and flora is remarkable, there being scarcely any wild animals, birds or flowers.
There is a great deficiency of what may be called native animals of any sort.
The most troublesome quadruped is the wild dog, which chiefly attack pigs and other small domestic animals. Mice are probably the greatest pest of the island, but they are considerably kept down by their natural enemies, the snakes. The latter not infrequently reach a length of from six to nine feet. There are a good many mosquitoes, but they are no worse than they are in New Jersey. Numerous species of ants and bees exist as well as fireflies. The latter occasionally fly in great masses, producing beautiful effects in the tropical nights.
It may be stated that, on the whole, Porto Rico is singularly free from those noxious reptiles and insects which seem to inherit the rest of the West Indies as their peculiar possession.
Immense pastures occupy a part of the lowland, and feed large herds of cattle of an excellent quality. St. Thomas and the French islands all obtain their butcher's meat from Porto Rico. Even Barbadoes comes there for cattle. Sheep always thrive in a hot country, and they grow big and fat in Porto Rico. Fresh lamb and mutton are constantly shipped from there. A very numerous class of the people are shepherds, and these live upon mutton and the kind of highland rice, already alluded to, which is very easily prepared for food.
Poultry is most abundant, and the seas and rivers are full of the finest fish.
Agriculture has hitherto been almost exclusively in the hands of the natives, but most of the business and commerce have been controlled by foreigners and Spaniards from the Peninsula.
Although the island is certainly well developed agriculturally, it certainly admits of considerable expansion in this direction. Under a different political system, and when it is freed from the oppressive and vexatious taxation, Porto Rico will certainly become far more productive and prosperous even than it is now.
There is no question but that the island, richly endowed as it is by Nature, has been miserably governed.
But agriculture in the near future will certainly not be the main industry of the island. For there are known to be gold, copper, iron, zinc and coal mines, which have never been developed. In fact, strange as it may appear, none of these valuable mines is worked at all. The vegetable productions have been considered so valuable that in order to cultivate them the minerals have been neglected. There are also extensive sponge fields, which are very valuable, but which have not been touched, owing to several causes, chiefly the lack of capital. The same can also be said of the quarries of white stone, granite and marble.
Then there is the question of salt, which is sure to be of importance. There are large quantities of salt obtained from the lakes. Salt works have been established at Guanica and Salinas, on the south coast, and at Cape Rojo, on the west. This constitutes the principal mineral industry of Porto Rico.
Hot springs and mineral waters are found at Juan Diaz, San Sebastian, San Lorenzo and Ponce, but the most famous are at Coamo, near the town of Santa Isabella.
It is now interesting to see what the trade of Porto Rico has been with other countries, and especially the United States during recent years.
A very large part of the island's trade has been carried on with the United States, where corn, flour, salt-meat, fish and lumber have been imported in return for sugar, molasses and coffee.
The natives are not a sea faring people, and care little or nothing for ships of their own. Therefore, by far the larger part of their trade with other countries has been carried on by the means of foreign ships.
Porto Rico has paid into the Spanish treasury about 4,000,000 pesos annually, which is equivalent to about $800,000.
In normal years, that is, when no war was going on, the total value of imports into the island amounted to about $8,000,000, and the exports to about $16,000,000.
The latest Spanish statistics, that is, during 1896, give the importations into Porto Rico as amounting to $18,945,793, and the exports to $17,295,535.
The average entrances of ships into the ports have been 1919 vessels of an aggregate of 327,941 tons, of which 544 of 81,966 tons were British. Articles of import have been distributed by countries as follows:
From Spain come wines, rice, oils, flour and textiles; from England, machinery, textiles, salted provisions, rice and coal; from France, a small amount of textiles, some jewelry and perfumery, and some fine wines and liquors; from Italy, wines, vermicelli and rice; from Germany, glass and porcelain wares, textiles, paper, cheese, candied fruits, beer and liquors; from Holland, cheese; from Cuba, rum, sugar and tobacco; from the United States, petroleum, ironware, glassware, chemicals, textiles, paper, lumber, barrels, machinery, carriages, dried and salted meats, butter, grease, codfish, flour, coal, fruits, vermicelli and cheese.
A commercial arrangement was entered into between the United States and Spain in 1895, in consequence of which the following proclamation was issued by the Spanish Government:
The executive is authorized to apply to the products and manufactures of the United States which coming from the ports of the United States be admitted into the ports of Cuba and Porto Rico, the benefits of the second column of the tariffs in said islands; provided that the United States, in their turn apply their lowest rates of duty to the products of the soil and of the industry of Cuba and Porto Rico.
This modus vivendi shall be in force until a permanent commercial treaty between the two parties concerned is concluded, or until one of them gives notice to the other, three months in advance of the day on which it wishes to put an end of it.
Therefore, I command all the courts, justices, chiefs, governors and other authorities, civil, military and ecclesiastical, of all classes and dignities, to observe and cause to be observed, obeyed and executed this present law in all its parts. Given in the palace, February 4, 1895.
I, the Queen Regent.
Alejandro Groizard, Secretary of State.
The above is translated from the Gaceta de Madrid of February 6, 1895.
This agreement, if so it can be called, is of course now at an end. Hereafter Porto Rico will enjoy all the privileges of a colony of the United States.
But still it is interesting to note the duty on the leading articles of export from the United States to Porto Rico, as expressed in the second column of the Spanish tariff.
This was as follows:
Wheat flour, rice flour, buckwheat flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, barleymeal, ryemeal, per 100 kilograms, gross, $4 00 Pork, per 100 kilograms, net 9 90 Beef and all other meats, per 100 kilograms, net 6 50 Sausage, per 100 kilograms, gross 20 Hay, per 100 kilograms, gross 80 Pig iron, per 100 kilograms, net 50 Bar iron, per 100 kilograms, net 2 15 Barb wire (for fencing), per 100 kilograms, net 40 Coal, per 100 kilograms, net 60 Patent medicines, including weight of container and wrapper 35
One hundred kilograms amounts to something over two hundred pounds.
The people on the island are rather luxurious, so much so that in one year five million dollars worth of goods were carried there. These goods consisted principally of manufactured products, such as clothing and household wares.
The principal exports from the United States have been flour, pork, lard, lumber and shooks.
But, of course, all this will be largely increased now that Porto Rico is practically a portion of the United States, and the increased commerce will be to the advantage of both.
During the five years from 1893 to 1897, the trade of Porto Rico with the United States has been as follows:
Imports Exports to from United United States: States:
1893 $4,008,623 $2,510,007 1894 3,135,634 2,720,508 1895 1,506,512 1,833,544 1896 2,296,653 2,102,094 1897 2,181,024 1,988,888
Whatever disadvantages Porto Rico may possess, and when all is said and done, they are beyond question few, it is certainly lovely enough and prolific enough to make one forget them all.
A writer in Ainslee's Magazine concludes his very clever article as follows, and undoubtedly every word he says is true:
"Unfortunately for the development of Spanish countries the mental activity of the people is principally manifested in an exuberant imagination which finds expression in superlative and poetical language. If there were any corresponding creative genius and executive ability in material affairs such a fertile and well-watered land as Puerto Rico would be the home of one of the richest communities on the globe. By her situation she is adapted to become the centre of a flourishing commerce whose goods might be carried down dozens of navigable rivers from the interior of the island. Under a good government, with enterprising colonists, the natural resources of the island, some of which have been scarcely touched, would bring comfort and wealth to a large population."
MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.
Let us examine briefly in the first place what has been the management of Porto Rico under Spanish rule, or, rather, perhaps we should call it mismanagement, for no one of Spain's colonies has ever been properly directed.
Porto Rico has been governed under a constitution voted by the Spanish Cortes in 1869. The government has been administered by a captain-general, assisted by an administrative council appointed at Madrid.
The revenue has been about four millions of dollars a year, considerably more than half of which has been derived from customs, and the rest from taxation, direct and indirect.
The captain-general was president of the superior tribunals of justice and of the superior juntas of the capital; but the fiscal administration had a special chief called intendant. The supreme judicial power lay in a royal audience. Justice was administered in the cities and in the country by judges of the first instance and by alcaldes. There were nine special tribunals: civil, ecclesiastical, war, marine, artillery, engineers, administration, probate and commerce.
Ecclesiastical affairs were presided over by a bishop chosen by the crown and approved by the pope.
For administrative purposes the island and its dependencies were divided into nine districts: Porto Rico, Bayamon, Arecibo, Aquadilla, Mayaguez, Ponce, Humacoa, Guayama and Vieques.
The Spanish administration in Porto Rico, although not so bad as in other colonies, has, nevertheless, been one of cruelty and oppression. The Spaniards, as will be remembered, began by exterminating the native Indian population in less than a century.
There was not a branch of the administration which was not conducted under a system of corruption. The law was constantly violated by the Spaniards, and the natives deprived of their rights.
When elections took place the Spanish or Conservative party always won, and this in spite of the fact that this party was in a large minority. No more corrupt and farcical elections have even been known to take place.
Such a thing as liberty of the press was utterly unknown. Articles that had been printed in the Madrid or other Spanish papers attacking the government could not be reproduced in any Porto Rican papers, without the editors being arrested and punished. And this occurred even if the article in question had not been considered as offering ground for the prosecution by the authorities in Spain.
The papers, by the way, were ridiculously inadequate in every sense of the word. Only one attempt was ever made to establish a magazine. This was about eleven years ago. It was called the Revista Puertorriquena and was intended "to carry the highest expression of our intellectual culture to all the people of Europe and America where the magnificent Castilian language is spoken."
The magazine was conducted by a committee composed of a director, two editors, "and other illustrious persons" elected by the subscribers. The founder of the magazine lamented that the "race of artists" who first settled in Puerto Rico "were so overwhelmed by the exuberant and pompous beauty of the tropics that the natural means of artistic expression were exaggerated to the detriment of ideas," and that the crying evil of the periodical press of the island was "the abundance of sonorous and high-sounding articles having nothing to say to the understanding."
The founder of the magazine was Don Manuel Juncos, who is the author of several books of travel. He speaks of the Brooklyn bridge as "a magic vision of the Thousand and One Nights," while the smoke that rose from myriads of New York chimneys "formed the holy and blessed incense of a mighty and busy population, rising directly up to God from the fecund altar of labor." In the streets he was amazed at the "incessant avalanche of men, all having the purpose of certain or probable utility."
No more than nineteen persons, under the old regime, were allowed to meet in any place of the island, without special permission from the government, and the mayor of the town was obliged to attend the meetings to see that nothing was said or done against "the integrity of the nation."
Licenses were required for everything, even for an ordinary dancing party.
The manner of life in the large towns of Porto Rico is not dissimilar from that of European countries, with the exception of some slight differences due to the heat of the climate. The fashions for men and women alike are imported, especially from Paris and London. Those who are in comfortable circumstances dress just like people in European countries. The men wear woolen clothes all the year round. The young women dress very elaborately and all wear hats, the Spanish mantilla being adopted by elderly women only.
In the small towns, men dress after the fashion of the cities, except that their clothes are made of linen. Woolen fabrics are uncomfortable, and they are considered a luxury to be donned only on Sundays and holidays.
Laborers and farm hands wear neither coats nor shoes. They do not care to do so, in the first place, and, in the second, they could not afford to, as their earnings are very small.
In San Juan the streets are rectangular and are closely built with brick houses usually two or three stories, stuccoed on the outside, and painted in different colors. In one house live several families, and the degree of rent, as well as of social position, rises with the height of the floor above the ground.
The lower floors, as a rule, are very dirty, and are crowded in a most unhealthful way by negroes and the servants of those who live above.
Sanitary conditions, by the way, as in all Spanish possessions, are the very worst possible, and much will have to be done in this respect when the United States takes permanent possession.
There is one feature which strikes every foreigner, and that is the roof gardens. In many parts of the island, especially in the smaller towns, the whole population enjoys itself at night on the housetops. The houses are built a little off the ground, and they look not unlike castles in the air which have been built for pleasure rather than for living purposes.
In all tropical countries people have the habit of sleeping in the daytime, and do their shopping and attend to their social duties in the evening. In Porto Rico this custom is almost universal.
Every man of any means is the possessor of two houses, a town house and a country house. At carnival times, or when any special celebration is going on, he takes his family to town and brings them back again when the sport is over.
Poverty is almost unknown in Porto Rico, for almost every man owns his horse and every woman is the possessor of chickens. Horseback riding is an almost universal pastime. There are many fine horses on the island, and they are used daily by men and women.
The inhabitants have but few wants which are not satisfied by Nature without any effort on their part. They lead a dolce far niente existence, swinging to and fro in their hammocks all day long, smoking cigarettes and strumming guitars.
Life at San Juan and the other principal towns is more or less monotonous, amusements being few. There is a retreta or concert by the military bands twice a week and theatrical performances three or four evenings a week. Matinees are very seldom given. The theatres are owned by the cities and rented to European and American companies traveling through the island at so much an evening.
Unlike Cuba, there are no bull fights, but cock fighting may be called the national sport, and is universally indulged in. Game cocks are the greatest attraction of the markets. Every Sunday there are public fights in the cockpit, and these are invariably accompanied by betting, often very large amounts being involved.
Gambling, by the way, may be said to be universal. Every one, from the rich planter down to the lowest laborer and beggar, is given up to this vice, and will squander away every dollar if the mood takes him.
There is nothing but hospitality on the island. The people are exceedingly polite to strangers, and the traveler who offers money deeply offends his host.
A curious feature of the streets is the milk delivery, which is not unlike that prevailing in Cuba.
This takes place before and during the noon, or breakfast, hour, breakfast being taken here between 12 and 2 o'clock. Sometimes the milk is still being sold at 4 or 5 o'clock. The milkman drives from door to door from one to four or five cows, each branded with a number and usually one or more of them accompanied by a calf. The driver cries his approach, and the customer fetches sends out a pan, pail, bottle, or cup, which he hands to the milkman. The milkman puts into the receptacle the quantity of milk paid for, which he induces the cow to yield after the usual manner.
Mr. W. G. Morrisey gives an interesting description of how funerals are conducted in Porto Rico. He says that when a native dies preparations are immediately made for the burial.
No women are allowed to attend the funeral and the casket is carried on the shoulders of four natives. The cemetery being reached, the remains are deposited in one of the many vaults in the place, provided the sum of four pesos per year is paid to the authorities. If this sum is not forthcoming the corpse is placed in a corner of the graveyard and left there to decay. Mr. Morrisey said it was a common occurrence to see seven or eight funerals pass by every day.
Another thing that struck Mr. Morrisey was the railroad that runs from Ponce to Playo. The train is made up of an old-fashioned engine and three cars. There are first, second and third class coaches, the only difference between the first and second class being the seats in the first class coach, which are cushioned. It is first class in name only, and very few of the visitors and the better class of natives use it, because of the fact that the cushions are full of vermin. Everything seems to be filthy, from the Hotel Ingleterra, which is considered the best house in Ponce, to the most miserable of huts on the outskirts of the city.
Mr. Morrisey said that it is not a question of one place being cleaner than the other, but one place not being as filthy as another.
The facilities for lighting the city at night were investigated, and it was found that very little light is used. The stores are lighted with one or two incandescent lights, which are put in by the managers of a small electric light plant that has been in operation for some time. Kerosene oil cannot be bought for less than forty cents a pint, and consequently is not used to any great extent. An ice plant has also been established in Ponce, where they manufacture ice in small cakes about the size of a brick. This sells at $1.50 per hundred-weight.
There is no public school system, and a large number of even the white population can neither read nor write. The daughters of the well-to-do are sent to convents on the island, while the sons go abroad to be educated. Among this latter class there is considerable culture and refinement, and most of them speak English.
The women are of medium size, but exquisitely formed. They have all the coquetry which is typical of the women of the tropics, and no one who visits Porto Rico can fail to be impressed with their beauty, delicacy and grace.
It has been affirmed that Porto Rico has been in the past a perfect Mecca for fugitives from justice. At one time no less than one hundred of this description were traced there.
It is really possible to live on very little money there, and lives are prolonged to an incredible period. Fugitives therefore find it a haven in which to turn over a new leaf and begin a better life.
The Porto Ricans are naturally Roman Catholics and are very devout.
The manner of keeping Sunday would be apt to shock our New Englanders of Puritan descent.
A correspondent of the New York Sun, who was with the army in Porto Rico speaks of this as follows:
"Sunday at Ponce, if it continues as at present, will add still further variety to the somewhat different observances of the day which now characterize the territory of the United States.
"'To-morrow,' said a native last Saturday, 'to-morrow I shall go to the theatre.'
"'It's Sunday,' said his American soldier companion. 'You should be going to church.'
"An elevation of the shoulders.
"'The same thing,' said the native.
"The show at the theatre that day, by the way, was given by an American troupe that has been touring the Indies.
"There is, of course, nothing new in the custom in Catholic countries of giving Sunday mornings to church and Sunday afternoons to pleasure. In Ponce the merchants are not willing to close their stores for the religious observances of the day, but hold that it would be wholly wrong to mar the hours of pleasure by business attentions. The stores are all open Sunday mornings as on other days, but shut tight Sunday afternoons. Vesper services are all but unknown. There may be a change regarding services presently. The priests have not been paid since the arrival of the American army. It was the Spanish custom to pay them from the customs receipts. Colonel Hill has refused to give them any money since he has been in charge of the custom-house, and has told them that hereafter their people will have to support them voluntarily. What the people will say to this at the start it is hard to guess. They may not wholly understand it. Under existing laws they are taxed for the support of the church. What their voluntary support of it will be remains to be seen. Protestants have almost a clear field for mission work here. The only Protestant church on the island is at Ponce, and that was opened on the Sunday after the Americans' arrival, for the first time, it is said, in ten years.
"The chief service at the cathedral is held at 9 o'clock Sunday mornings, mass being said hourly from 5 o'clock until then. At the 9 o'clock service many Americans drift in. Even the Catholics among the soldiers who have attended have appeared to drift in rather than go with the purpose of doing their devotions. It may be that there seemed something inconsistent in kneeling before the altar with a row of cartridges girded around the body. One man crept into the nave behind the seats, took off his cartridge belt and laid it beside him, and, kneeling, bowed his head very low, while he joined in the prayers. When the service was over he carried the war belt in his hand to the door and there stopped and buckled it on. Fifty yards from the door a company of the Nineteenth Infantry was encamped on guard duty in the principal public square, on one end of which the cathedral stands.
"While the services were going on late comers of the native congregation edged their way in at the rear doors, and, passing round the screen beneath the choir loft, dropped to their knees on the marble floor, there remaining until the close. Noticeable among these worshippers were the old and widowed and the very poor. The last recked little or not at all of the filthy floor, trailed with dirt and spotted with tobacco juice. Some of the others brought with them prayer rugs, even though they were but ragged strips of carpeting."
The same correspondent has also this to say about the shops, which is interesting:
"One of the things revealed by a shopping tour is the absence from the shops of anything distinctly characteristic of Porto Rico. The tourist has not made the island a favorite stopping place, and the people seem to prefer when buying anything not edible to buy foreign-made articles. The only things that even bore a stamp indicative of Porto Rico found by several hunters after curios were fit relics of a Spanish city—case knives inscribed "Viva Ponce." Fortunate seekers after mementoes secured a few of the peculiar native musical instruments called guiros. It is straining courtesy as well as language to call them musical instruments, but they are used by the natives to make what to the natives is music, and one of them is included in each group of street or cafe musicians. The instrument is a gourd shaped like some of our long-necked squashes, hollowed out through two vents cut in one side, and the surface over half the perimeter slashed or furrowed so as to offer a file-like resistance to a metal trident, which is scraped over it in time to the music made by the guitar, or whatever other instrument or instruments make up the orchestra. There are times when the result is suggestive of the couchee-couchee music and scratching."
For nearly three centuries slavery existed in Porto Rico, but it was finally abolished by the Spanish Cortes in March 1873.
The New York Herald in its special correspondence has much to say about the inhabitants that is of undoubted interest, and from this article we have culled considerable that follows. The article in question was written after the virtual surrender of Porto Rico.
These people have been accustomed to military rule all their lives, and to withdraw it in toto and tell them to go in and govern themselves is an experience which many regard as dangerous. Of a race excitable, with blood that courses quickly and with wrongs of many years' standing, the natives are intoxicated with their freedom. Their delirium has but one course—revenge—and when the entire population is fully awake to the opportunity offered there may come a break from all restraint, and then it may be shown that the depletion of our army was a blunder.
Without the menace of the Spanish soldiery, without the fear of the Church, and without the guiding hand of a good American officer and wisely-located American army of occupation, there may be trouble ahead.
With the going of the soldiers comes the influx of the mercantile classes. Salesmen are arriving in large numbers and promoters and speculators abound. Everything is being boosted from its former lethargic tropical calm. Prices of commodities are rising. Land has quadrupled in value in the owners' minds, and even the street gamins now demand twenty-five cents American money for a single button alleged to be cut from the coat of a Spanish soldier, which they formerly had trouble at disposing of at the rate of twelve and one-half cents per dozen.
These commercial avant couriers are bright, active 'hustlers,' who make the native nabobs gasp at their breezy ways, but, all the same, these nabobs are pretty shrewd persons and know how to buy closely.
There is one thing the native merchants have to learn, and that is to display their goods and wares. Not a single show window exists, and if some enterprising Yankee will just tear out the forbidding front of one of these business houses, replace it with one on the showcase style and set forth a dazzling array of merchandize, arranged by the deft hand of the artistic window decorator, there will be a revolution in trade in this place.
Another portion of the business life to be renovated is the sugar industry. The crudest system exists for the transformation of the juice of the cane into the saccharine crystals of commerce. Machinery so ponderous that it requires a volume of steam all out of proportion to the energy actually needed, and wasteful methods in the extraction of the syrup residue after crystallization, obtain. Yankee machinery, coupled with Yankee push, will cause a wonderful difference in the cost of the finished product.
"At the same time the manner of herding the hangs on these huge plantations must surely be changed. Such conditions exist in the quarters that a mere recital would be unprintable, and from an examination I made of the quarters of a very large estate I came away ill mentally and physically."
Members of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have a great field before them in this island. The inhabitants are the most cruel in their handling of beasts of burden and, in fact, of all living creatures below the grade of mankind that could be imagined.
Oxen and bulls furnish the principal means of merchandise transportation. They are yoked together with a huge horn rising upon the neck just back of the horns and held in place by bandages around the forehead. The driver carries a goad about five feet in length, in the end of which is inserted a sharp steel point about one inch long. This is used so freely that it is common to see streams of blood running down the sides of the poor maltreated beasts. Not satisfied with using the sharp end, the inhuman drivers frequently deliver terrific blows with the butt across the tender noses of their charges.
Many an American soldier has knocked down these cruel drivers for their abuse of the patient beasts, but the drivers do not improve with the thrashing. The American military authorities have imported several American yokes and an effort is to be made to compel their use instead of the timber of torture which now obtains.
An author of the last century has this to say about the Porto Ricans:
"They are well proportioned and delicately organized; at the same time they lack vigor, are slow and indolent, possess vivid imaginations, are vain and inconstant, though hospitable to strangers, and ardent lovers of liberty."
Referring to the mixture of races, the same author continues:
"From this variety of mixture has resulted a character equivocal and ambiguous, but peculiarly Porto Rican. The heat of the climate has made them lazy, to which end also the fertility of the soil has conduced; the solitary life of the country residents has rendered them morose and disputatious."
A writer of more recent times declares that they are "affable, generous, hospitable to a fault, loyal to their sovereign, and will to the last gasp defend their island from invasion. The fair sex are sweet and amiable, faithful as wives, loving as sisters, sweethearts and daughters, ornaments to any society, tasteful in dress, graceful in deportment, and elegant in carriage. In fact, visitors from old Spain have frequently remarked their resemblance to the doncellas of Cadiz, who are world-renowned for their grace and loveliness."
"The truth is that they all have the Spanish cortesia," says Frederick A. Ober, in the Century Magazine, when commenting upon the above opinions, "and are more like the polite Andalusians of the south of Spain than the boorish Catalans of the northeast. Even the lowliest laborer, unless he be one of the four hundred thousand illiterates, signs his name with a rubrica, or elaborate flourish and styles himself 'Don,' after the manner of the Spanish grandees, and the humblest innkeeper, when receipting a bill, will admit he 'avails himself with intense pleasure of this occasion for offering to such a distinguished gentleman the assurance of his most distinguished consideration!'
"This need not imply affectation, nor even insincerity, but merely a different conception of the social amenities from that of the all-conquering American, who, it is to be hoped, will not treat this foible with the contempt which, in his superior wisdom, he may think it merits."
THE DAWN OF FREEDOM.
When the United States declared war against Spain for the purpose of freeing Cuba from Spanish misrule under which she had suffered for so long, and also with the desire to avenge the dastardly blowing up of the Maine, but little or no thought was given to Porto Rico. That island was an unknown quantity, but still one which was destined to play a considerable part in the near future.
This was in the natural sequence of events. After the terrible havoc wrought by our navy at Manila and at Santiago de Cuba, attention was turned toward Porto Rico.
The feeling became widespread throughout the United States that the war would fail in its object if Spain were not driven from the possession of all her colonies in the West Indies. Even those who in the beginning thought that the war was unnecessary, gradually came round to this point of view. It was quite sure that the expulsion of Spain from the western hemisphere would prevent the provoking of another war of the same character, and this desirable result could not be achieved so long as Spanish rule was maintained in any part of the West Indies.
The demand for the freeing of Cuba, the possession of Porto Rico, as well as a protectorate over the Philippines, was just, and the nation demanded it.
The Boston Herald aptly remarked:
"This may well stand in the place of any exaction of money. The United States is much too rich to desire to compel money payment from an exhausted and practically beggared nationality. Such a course would be belittling the war in the eyes of the nations of the world, and it is not at all in accordance with ideas of our own national dignity. Here is the substantial concession of Spain, and it involves all and more than all for which the war was declared."
The invasion of Porto Rico was not commenced until after the result of the war had been definitely decided.
But the Spaniards with that unfailing belief in "manana" (to-morrow) behaved like true Orientals, as they are in part, and acted as if time gained was half-way toward victory. With scarcely an exception, they are all indolent and fatalists.
The prime minister, Senor Sagasta, put off everything with that word which has proved so fatal to Spain, which undoubtedly precipitated the war, and which was at the bottom of all Senor Sagasta's policy—"manana."
It is related that one day in the Cortes, a deputy criticized the idleness and indolence of Senor Sagasta, and the latter replied:
"A nadie le ha sucedido nado por no hacer nada."
A free translation of this is: "Nothing happens to him who does nothing."
Both Sagasta and the Spaniards have doubtless found out by this time the falsity of the saying. To show the feeling prevailing in Spain, it may be well to quote a Madrid corresponded of the London Times:
"Though peace is regarded as assured, it may not be attained so quickly as is generally expected. Senor Sagasta objects to be hustled, and insists upon everything being done in a quiet, orderly and dignified manner. He considers it necessary to have full and satisfactory explanations as to all doubtful points, in order to enable him best to protect the national interests against the aggressive tendencies of the Washington Cabinet.
"He has also to examine very minutely the exigencies of the internal situation and home politics, so as to avoid popular dissatisfaction and political unrest. The Spanish people, though sincerely desirous of peace, are disposed to admire this hesitancy and tenacious holding out till the last, although aware that it implies greater sacrifices.
"As an illustration of this feeling, while General Toral is blamed for capitulating at Santiago, Captain-General Augustin, in continuing a hopeless resistance at Manila, bids fair to be a popular hero."
About this time, before any attack by the Americans, Macias, captain-general of Porto Rico, discovered a conspiracy, which if it had not been quickly checked would have placed the island in a state of insurrection.
Eduardo Baselge and Danian Castillo, both prominent Porto Ricans, were active leaders in the incipient insurrection.
The Spanish postal authorities discovered the conspiracy through a letter written by Castillo to Baselga. General Macias was informed of this discovery, and a quiet investigation disclosed the fact that there were involved in it all of the most prominent residents of the city of San Juan, both native and foreign.
The headquarters of the conspirators were located and a quantity of dynamite, arms and provisions was found.
It was the intention of the leaders, after their plans had been perfected, to give wide publication to a proclamation calling upon all native and patriotic Porto Ricans who hold liberty dearer than life, to join them and accomplish the overthrow of the Spanish government and the death of the governor and his officials. The plans of the conspirators were so carefully laid that had it not been for the accidental discovery of Castillo's letter, they would unquestionably have been carried out.
The discovery of the conspiracy occurred about the time of the visit to Washington of Dr. J. J. Henna and Ramon Todd, both prominent Porto Ricans, of whom we have had occasion to speak before, and whose purpose in going there was to hold a conference with President McKinley relative to the establishment of a provisional United States government in the island after the Spaniards had been driven out.
Within twenty-four hours after the arrest the two leaders, Baselga and Castillo, were shot.
The residents became very much excited over the affair, and feeling against the Spanish officials ran high.
From the very beginning the real Porto Ricans, as we shall see hereafter, were in favor of the Americans. The Spaniards, however, were most bitter, and as had been the case in Havana and Manila, kept up an absurd show of superior strength. This is well manifested by a proclamation which, signed by Jose Reyes, Celestins Dominguez and Genara Cautino, was issued to the people of Guayama on May 20, 1898. As one of the curiosities of the war, it can only be compared to the celebrated and laughable manifesto which Captain-General Augustin issued at Manila just before the appearance of Admiral Dewey's fleet.
The Porto Rican proclamation ran as follows:
"To the people of Guayama. Hurra for Spain!
"A nation that is our enemy, by its history, by its race, and because she is the principal cause of our misfortunes in Cuba, having fomented in this island that is our sister a war in which she supplied all kinds of resources, taking away at last the mask with which she concealed her fictitious friendship, has excited us to-day to vowed war.
"There is a deep abyss between the manner of being of that people and ours, which established antagonism that we should never be able to remove. Our sonorous language, our habits, the religion of our ancestors, and our necessities are conditions of our life so different from those of that race, so opposite to those of that people, that we are frightened in thinking that we should be constrained to accept a manner of being that is repugnant to our origin, our heart and our feelings. We are a people entirely Spanish, and we were born to a civilized life under a flag that was, and we hope ever will be, that of our wives and children. For four hundred years the warmth of the mother of our native country has given life to our organisms, ideas to our brains, majestic thoughts to our souls, and generous undertakings to our hearts, and in those four centuries the glories of the Spanish house have been our glories, her gayeties our gayeties, and her misfortunes our own misfortunes.
"We have been full of haughtiness when, being considered as the Conqueror's sons, we know that we had participation in the heroic actions of our brothers, and that the laurels with which they crowned their hero's front were also our laurels. When in tranquil hours we heard in our hearths our predecessors' epopee, describing as superfluously exact their achievements; giving them lively color that always inspires our tropical fancy, our nerves felt the thrill produced by enthusiasm; at those moments, our being all affected, our breast with its strong aspirations and our fiery tears rolling down the cheeks reminded us, obliging the cords of patriotism to vibrate, that we were Spaniards, and we neither could nor would like any other thing than to remain Spaniards.