Captaincy General of Cuba

The Captaincy General of Cuba (Spanish: Capitanía General de Cuba) was an administrative district of the Spanish Empire created in 1607 as part of Habsburg Spain's attempt to better defend the Caribbean against foreign powers, which also involved creating captaincies general in Puerto Rico, Guatemala and Yucatán. The restructuring of the Captaincy General in 1764 was the first example of the Bourbon Reforms in America. The changes included adding the provinces of Florida and Louisiana and granting more autonomy for these provinces. This later change was carried out by the Count of Floridablanca under Charles III to strengthen the Spanish position vis-a-vis the British in the Caribbean. A new governor-captain general based in Havana oversaw the administration of the new district. The local governors of the larger Captaincy General had previously been overseen in political and military matters by the president of the Audiencia of Santo Domingo. This audiencia retained oversight of judicial affairs until the establishment of new audiencias in Puerto Príncipe (1800) and Havana (1838). In 1825, as a result of the loss of the mainland possessions, the Spanish government granted the governors-captain generals of Cuba extraordinary powers in matters of administration, justice and the treasury and in the second half of the 19th century gave them the title of Governor General.

Captaincy General of Cuba

Capitanía General de Cuba
1814 Thomson Map of the West Indies ^ Central America - Geographicus - WestIndies-t-1814
StatusCaptaincy General
Common languagesSpanish
Roman Catholicism
• 1759–1788
Charles III
• 1886–1898
Alfonso XIII
Maria Christina of Austria (Regent)
Captain General 
• 1764–1779
Count of Ricla
• 1887–1898
Ramón Blanco y Erenas
Historical eraEarly modern Europe
• Administrative reorganisation
CurrencySpanish real, Peso
ISO 3166 codeCU
Preceded by
Succeeded by
New Spain
United States Protectorate over Cuba
Today part of Cuba
 United States



Since the 16th century the island of Cuba had been under the control of the governor-captain general of Santo Domingo, who was at the same time, president of the audiencia there. He oversaw the local governor and the Santo Domingo Audiencia heard appeals from the island.

The conquest of Cuba was organized in 1510 by the recently restored Viceroy of the Indies, Diego Colón, under the command of Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, who became Cuba's first governor until his death in 1524. The new settlers did not wish to be under the personal authority of Colón, so Velázquez founded the city of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa in 1511 and convoked a general cabildo (a local government council), which was duly authorized to deal directly with Spain. This legal move removed Velázquez and the settlers from under the authority of Colón, their nominal superior. It was a precedent that would come back to haunt Velázquez during Hernán Cortés's conquest of Mexico. Other cities were later founded under Velázquez: Bayamo in 1513; Santísima Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus and San Cristóbal de La Habana in 1514; Puerto Príncipe and Santiago de Cuba in 1515. After the conquest of Mexico, Cuba experienced an exodus of settlers, and its population remained small for the next two centuries.

In 1565 the Adelantado Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who was also Captain General of the Spanish treasure fleet which rendezvoused in Havana, established the first permanent Spanish settlement in Florida, San Agustín, initially bringing the province under the administrative control of Cuba, although due to distance and sea currents, Florida's government was granted the right to correspond directly with the Council of the Indies.

The Church played an important role in the Spanish settlement of the Americas. Furthermore, since governors, as representatives of the King, oversaw church administration due to the crown's right of patronage, the church and state were tightly intertwined in Spanish America. The first diocese was established in 1518 in Baracoa and was made suffragan to the Diocese of Seville. The seat of the Diocese was transferred to Santiago de Cuba in 1522. In 1520 Pope Leo X established the short-lived Diocese of Santiago de la Florida (or "Santiago de la Tierra Florida"). In 1546 the Diocese of Santo Domingo was elevated to an Archdiocese and the Diocese of Santiago de Cuba was made suffragan to it.


In 1607 Philip III created the Captaincy General of Cuba as part of larger plans to defend the Caribbean against foreign threats. The first captain general was Pedro Valdés. Around the same time other captaincies general were established in Puerto Rico (1580) and Central America (1609). Cuba was divided into two governorships with capitals in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The governor of Havana was Captain General of the island. In 1650 Cuba received a large influx of refugees when the British conquered Jamaica and expelled the Spanish residents there.

In 1756 the construction of ships for the Royal Navy began with the establishment of an Intendancy of the Navy was established in Havana, which functioned as a royal shipyard.

A Spanish frigate towing a British ship to Havana. Oil on canvas, c. 1770.

The British conquest of the island in 1762 during the Seven Years' War proved to be a turning point in the history of Cuba and Spanish America in general. The British captured Havana after a three-month siege and controlled the western part of the island for a year. Britain returned Cuba in exchange for Florida in the Treaty of Paris (1763). The events revealed not only the weaknesses of the region's defenses but also proved just how much the Cuban economy had been neglected by the Spanish. During the year they controlled Cuba, the British conducted an unprecedented amount of trade with the island.[1] A year earlier France had secretly ceded Louisiana to Spain in compensation for its losses as its ally during the war.

As a sign of the seriousness with which the government took the problems, the very year the Spanish retook control of Havana construction began on what would become the largest Spanish fort in the New World, San Carlos de la Cabaña on the eastern side of the entrance to harbor of Havana.

The Bourbon Reforms

Starting in 1764 the government apparatus of Cuba was completely reworked. A report on the island was created by Alejandro O'Reilly, which provided the basis for the changes. A new emphasis was placed on appointing military men to the governorship-captaincy general of Cuba, many of whom were later rewarded with the post of Viceroy of New Spain. To aid the captain general of Cuba, the governor of Santiago was made captain general of the province and given command of the military forces there. At the same time a new institution, which up until now had only been used in Spain, was introduced into Cuba: the intendancy. An intendencia de hacienda y guerra was set up in Havana to oversee government and military expenditures and to promote the local economy. The first Intendant, Miguel de Altarriba arrived on March 8, 1765. Other intendancies soon followed: Louisiana (1766), Puerto Príncipe (1786) and Santiago de Cuba (1786). In 1774 the first census of the island was carried out, revealing 171,670 inhabitants, and other measures were taken to improve the local economy.

These reforms, especially the institution of the intendancy, initiated a dramatic social and economic transformation of the island during the last half of the 18th century and early 19th. Cuba went from being a defensive post in the Caribbean sustained by a subsidy from New Spain, the situado, to becoming a self-sustaining and flourishing, sugar-, coffee- and tobacco-exporting colony, which also meant that large number of slaves were imported into Cuba. The agricultural economy was aided by the gradual opening of Cuban ports to foreign ships, especially after the loss of the mainland due to the independence wars.

Territorial gains and losses

During the American Revolutionary War Spain recaptured colonial Florida (which at that time included Gulf Coast lands extending all the way to the Mississippi River) from Great Britain, which was ratified in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. But, within about 35 years, all of this territory was incrementally obtained by the U.S.; this was due in part to boundary disputes.

The transfer of the Spanish part of Santo Domingo to France in 1795 in the Treaty of Basel, made Cuba the main Spanish possession in the Caribbean. The Audiencia of Santo Domingo was formally moved to Santa María del Puerto Príncipe (today, Camagüey) five years later, after temporarily residing in Santiago de Cuba. (It resided in Havana for a few years starting in 1808 before returning to Camagüey.)

The Church also experienced growth. In 1787 a Diocese of San Cristóbal de La Habana was established, which included Florida and Louisiana in its territory. In 1793 the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas was established. Both were suffragan to the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo, but after the Treaty of Basel, it disappeared, so Santiago de Cuba was elevated to an Archdiocese with the above-mentioned dioceses suffragan to it, as well as the Diocese of Puerto Rico.

The 19th century

The Spanish Constitution of 1812 enacted by the Cádiz Cortes declared the territory of the Captaincy General an integral part of the Spanish Monarchy and transformed it into a province with its own elected diputación provincial, a governing board with joint administrative and limited legislative powers. Municipalities were also granted locally elected cabildos. The provincial deputation and cabildos functioned while the Constitution was in force from 1812 to 1814 and 1820 to 1823. Ultimately the Constitution was abolished by Ferdinand VII.

The death of Ferdinand VII brought about new changes. Regent María Cristina reconvened the Cortes, in its traditional form with three estates. In 1836, Constitutional government was reestablished in Spain, except this time the government in Spain, despite its liberal tendencies, defined the overseas territories as colonies, which should be governed by special laws. The democratic institutions, such as the Diputación Provincial and the cabildos, established by the 1812 Constitution were removed. The new Constitution of 1837 ratified Cuba's demoted status. However, the "special laws" by which the overseas areas would be governed were not drafted until three decades later, when a special Junta Informativa de Reformas de Ultramar (Overseas Informative Reform Board), with representatives from Cuba and Puerto Rico, was convened in 1865. Even then its proposals were never made into laws.

On 24 August 1821 New Mexican republic under Emperor Don Agustin de Iturbide, gave back the Island of Cuba and its Captaincy to the Spanish crown in good faith.

In the 1830s, judicial affairs were restructured. An Audiencia of Havana was created in 1838, with the jurisdiction of the Puerto Príncipe Audiencia limited to the east and center of the island. (The latter was temporarily abolished from 1853 to 1868.)

By mid-century a definite pro-independence movement had coalesced, and Cuba experienced three civil wars in thirty years that culminated in a US intervention and the island's eventual independence: the Ten Years' War (1868–1878), the Little War (1879–1880) and the War of Independence, which became the Spanish–American War. During the last war the issue of autonomy came to a head. In 1895 the Overseas Minister, with approval from the Prime Minister, took the extra-constitutional step in 1897 of writing the Constitución Autonómica, which granted the Caribbean islands autonomy, technically bringing the Captaincy General to an end. Given the urgency of the movement, the government approved this unusual measure. The new government of the island was to consist of "an Island Parliament, divided into two chambers and one Governor-General, representative of the Metropolis, who will carry out his duties in its name, the supreme Authority."[2] The new government functioned only for a few months before the United States took control of the island.

See also


  1. ^ Thomas, Hugh (1998). Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom (2nd ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80827-7.
  2. ^ "Autonomic Constitution of 1897" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2012-06-29.


  • Kuethe, Allan J. (1986). Cuba, 1753–1815: Crown, Military, and Society. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 0-87049-487-2.

Coordinates: 23°07′N 82°21′W / 23.117°N 82.350°W

Cuban immigration to the United States

Cuban immigration to the United States, for the most part, occurred in two periods: the first series of immigration of Cuban Americans from Cuba to the United States resulted from Cubans establishing cigar factories in Tampa and from attempts to overthrow Spanish colonial rule by the movement led by José Martí, the second to escape from Communist rule under Fidel Castro following the Cuban Revolution. Massive Cuban migration to Miami during the second series led to major demographic and cultural changes in Miami. There was also economic emigration, particularly during the Great Depression in the 1930s. As of 2017, there were 1,311,803 Cubans in the United States.

The Louisiana Purchase and the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, Spanish Florida, including the present day state of Florida and, at times, Louisiana and adjoining territory, was a province of the Captaincy General of Cuba (Captain General being the Spanish title equivalent to the British colonial Governor). Consequently, Cuban immigration to the U.S. has a long history, beginning in the Spanish colonial period in 1565 when St. Augustine, Florida was established by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, and hundreds of Spanish-Cuban soldiers and their families moved from Cuba to St. Augustine to establish a new life.

Thousands of Cuban settlers also immigrated to Louisiana between 1778 and 1802 and Texas during the period of Spanish rule. Since 1820 the Cuban presence was more than 1000 people. In 1870 the number of Cuban immigrants increased to almost 12,000, of which 4,500 resided in New York City, 3,000 in New Orleans, and 2,000 in Key West. The causes of these movements were both economic and political, which intensified after 1860, when political factors played the predominant role in emigration, as a result of deteriorating relations with the Spanish metropolis.

The year 1869 marked the beginning of one of the most significant periods of emigration from Cuba to the United States, again centered on Key West. The exodus of hundreds of workers and businessmen was linked to the manufacture of tobacco. The reasons are many: the introduction of more modern techniques of elaboration of snuff, the most direct access to its main market, the United States, the uncertainty about the future of the island, which had suffered years of economic, political and social unrest during the beginning of the Ten Years' War against Spanish rule. It was an exodus of skilled workers, precisely the class in the island that had succeeded in establishing a free labor sector amid a slave economy.

The manufacture of snuff by the Cuban labor force, became the most important source of income for Key West between 1869 and 1900.

Tampa was added to such efforts, with a strong migration of Cubans, which went from 720 inhabitants in 1880 to 5,532 in 1890. However, the second half of the 1890s marked the decline of the Cuban immigrant population, as an important part of it returned to the island to fight for independence. The War accentuated Cuban immigrant integration into American society, whose numbers were significant: more than 12,000 people.

French immigration to Cuba

French immigration to Cuba began in Cuba already in the eighteenth century, to be strengthened significantly since the nineteenth century. The majority of French people settled in eastern Cuba.

List of Presidents of Cuba

This article lists the Presidents of Cuba from 1902 until the present day.

The current President of Cuba (officially called President of the Council of State, according to the 1976 Constitution) is Miguel Díaz-Canel, since 19 April 2018.

List of Prime Ministers of Cuba

This article lists the Prime Ministers of Cuba from 1940 until the present day.

The current Prime Minister of Cuba (officially called President of the Council of Ministers, according to the 1976 Constitution) is Miguel Díaz-Canel, since 19 April 2018. On February 24, 2019, however, the official title of Prime Minister, as well as its office, was restored in a different constitutional referendum.

List of colonial governors in 1797

This is a list of the governors of colonies, protectorates, or other dependencies in 1797. Where applicable, native rulers are also listed.

List of colonial governors in 1803

This is a list of the governors of colonies, protectorates, or other dependencies in 1803. Where applicable, native rulers are also listed.

List of colonial governors in 1808

This is a list of the governors of colonies, protectorates, or other dependencies in 1808. Where applicable, native rulers are also listed.

List of colonial governors in 1811

This is a list of the governors of colonies, protectorates, or other dependencies in 1811. Where applicable, native rulers are also listed.

List of colonial governors in 1820

This is a list of the governors of colonies, protectorates, or other dependencies in 1820. Where applicable, native rulers are also listed.

List of colonial governors in 1823

This is a list of the governors of colonies, protectorates, or other dependencies in 1823. Where applicable, native rulers are also listed.

List of colonial governors in 1824

This is a list of the governors of colonies, protectorates, or other dependencies in 1824. Where applicable, native rulers are also listed.

List of colonial governors in 1829

This is a list of the governors of colonies, protectorates, or other dependencies in 1829. Where applicable, native rulers are also listed.

Manuel del Socorro Rodríguez

Manuel del Socorro Rodríguez (Bayamo, Captaincy General of Cuba, April 3, 1758 - Bogotá, Viceroyalty of New Granada, June 2, 1819) was a Cuban journalist. He is considered to be the founder of journalism in Colombia. Five years before his arrival in the Viceroyalty of New Granada, the 1785 Viceroyalty of New Granada earthquake had happened, described in the Aviso del Terremoto and published the day of the earthquake. This sparked the birth of journalism in Colombia, when Del Socorro started to report in 1791.

New Spain

The Viceroyalty of New Spain (Spanish: Virreinato de Nueva España Spanish pronunciation: [birei̯ˈnato ðe ˈnweβa esˈpaɲa] (listen)) was an integral territorial entity of the Spanish Empire, established by Habsburg Spain during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. It covered a huge area that included territories in North America, South America, Asia and Oceania. It originated in 1521 after the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the main event of the Spanish conquest, which did not properly end until much later, as its territory continued to grow to the north. It was officially created on 8 March 1535 as a viceroyalty (Spanish: virreinato), the first of four viceroyalties Spain created in the Americas. Its first viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, and the capital of the viceroyalty was Mexico City, established on the ancient Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

It included what is now Mexico plus the current U.S. states of California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Florida and parts of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana; as well as the southwestern part of British Columbia of present-day Canada; plus the Captaincy General of Guatemala (which included the current countries of Guatemala, the Mexican state of Chiapas, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua); the Captaincy General of Cuba (current Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and Guadeloupe); and the Captaincy General of the Philippines (including the Philippines, Guam, the Caroline Islands, the Mariana Islands and the short lived Spanish Formosa in modern-day northern Taiwan).

The political organization divided the viceroyalty into kingdoms and captaincies general. The kingdoms were those of New Spain (different from the viceroyalty itself); Nueva Galicia (1530); Captaincy General of Guatemala (1540); Nueva Vizcaya (1562); New Kingdom of León (1569); Santa Fe de Nuevo México (1598); Nueva Extremadura (1674) and Nuevo Santander (1746). There were four captaincies: Captaincy General of the Philippines (1574), Captaincy General of Cuba, Captaincy General of Puerto Rico and Captaincy General of Santo Domingo. These territorial subdivisions had a governor and captain general (who in New Spain was the viceroy himself, who added this title to his other dignities). In Guatemala, Santo Domingo and Nueva Galicia, these officials were called presiding governors, since they were leading royal audiences. For this reason, these hearings were considered "praetorial."

There were two great estates. The most important was the Marquisate of the Valley of Oaxaca, property of Hernán Cortés and his descendants that included a set of vast territories where marquises had civil and criminal jurisdiction, and the right to grant land, water and forests and within which were their main possessions (cattle ranches, agricultural work, sugar mills, fulling houses and shipyards). The other estate was the Duchy of Atlixco, granted in 1708, by King Philip V to José Sarmiento de Valladares, former viceroy of New Spain and married to the Countess of Moctezuma, with civil and criminal jurisdiction over Atlixco, Tepeaca, Guachinango, Ixtepeji and Tula de Allende. King Charles III introduced reforms in the organization of the viceroyalty in 1786, known as Bourbon reforms, which created the intendencias, which allowed to limit, in some way, the viceroy's attributions.

New Spain developed highly regional divisions, reflecting the impact of climate, topography, indigenous populations, and mineral resources. The areas of central and southern Mexico had dense indigenous populations with complex social, political, and economic organization. The northern area of Mexico, a region of nomadic and semi-nomadic indigenous populations, was not generally conducive to dense settlements, but the discovery of silver in Zacatecas in the 1540s drew settlement there to exploit the mines. Silver mining not only became the engine of the economy of New Spain, but vastly enriched Spain and transformed the global economy. New Spain was the New World terminus of the Philippine trade, making the viceroyalty a vital link between Spain's New World empire and its Asian empire.

From the beginning of the 19th century, the viceroyalty fell into crisis, aggravated by the Peninsular War, and its direct consequence in the viceroyalty, the political crisis in Mexico in 1808, which ended with the government of viceroy José de Iturrigaray and, later, gave rise to the Conspiracy of Valladolid and the Conspiracy of Querétaro. This last one was the direct antecedent of the Mexican War of Independence, which, when concluding in 1821, disintegrated the viceroyalty and gave way to the Mexican Empire, in which finally Agustín de Iturbide would be crowned.

Timeline of Cienfuegos

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Timeline of Guantánamo

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Guantánamo, Cuba.

Timeline of Holguín

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Holguín, Cuba.

Timeline of Matanzas

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Matanzas, Cuba.

United States Military Government in Cuba

The United States Military Government in Cuba (Spanish: Gobierno militar estadounidense en Cuba or Gobierno militar americano en Cuba), was a provisional military government in Cuba that was established in the aftermath of the Spanish–American War in 1898 when Spain ceded Cuba to the United States.

This period was also referred to as the First Occupation of Cuba, to distinguish it from a second occupation from 1906 to 1909. United States Army forces involved in the garrisoning of the island during this time were honored with the Army of Cuban Occupation Medal after its establishment in 1915.

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