100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Bloody Race Riots in Cuba

Cuba’s first war of Independence took place in 1868 and ended 10 years later with the Pact of Zanjón. In 1880 Spain regained control of the island. Slavery was abolished in 1886. Under the leadership of the writer José Martí the revolution was resumed in 1895. Successful invasion campaigns along the length of the island by Cuban rebels took place in 1896 and the Spanish are essentially confined to coastal cities.

The US protested against Spanish controlled concentration camps and after the explosion of the battleship USS MAINE in Havana harbor and the commencement of the Spanish American War the US invaded Guantánamo Bay with rebel Cuban forces. The US installed a provisional government in 1899. By 1902 the Cuban republic is instituted under the presidency of Tomás Estrada Palma. An uprising against Palma brought US troops back to Cuba in 1906. Jose Miguel Gómez won the 1908 election as a candidate for the Liberal Party.

In 1908 the Partido Independiente de Color (PIC) was founded composed almost entirely of African former slaves who were war veterans of the Cuban War of Independence. The PIC took votes away from the ruling liberal party. President Gomez ordered the party disbanded under laws which outlawed political parties based on race. These laws favor white Cubans over Afro Cubans.

On May 20, 1912 General Jose de Jesus Monteagudo suspended constitutional rights and attacked black Afro Cubans. The PIC rebels were centered in Oriente where massacres started taking place. It is said that as high as 3000 people have been killed, many of those unarmed Afro Cubans who did not take part in the fighting and were lynched by mobs. Just having black skin color was reason enough to be under suspicion.

Lynching of a black Cuban by white Cuban militia – 1912

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