Cuba: Then and Now
In the Treaty of Paris of 1898, Spain relinquished all sovereignty over Cuba. For a time, the policy of the United States toward Cuba was somewhat ambivalent. The Teller Amendment at the beginning of the Spanish-American War had pledged the restoration of Cuba to the Cubans. However, at the same time the United States was determined that it would not be placed after the war with Spain in a worse position in regard to its vital interests in Cuba than it had been when Cuba was a Spanish possession.
The two men most closely associated with the U.S. relationship and administration of Cuba were Elihu Root, Secretary of War, and Leonard Wood, Governor General of Cuba. At his Washington desk, Root spent considerable time keeping a sharp eye on the Cuban constitutional convention and directing the overall campaign.1
On the scene in Havana was Doctor Leonard Wood who had gone there as commander of the Rough Riders in 1898. His first major administrative task in Cuba after the war was in Santiago province where the death rate was two hundred a day, and the filth was terrible. After burning the dead bodies in town, he curtailed the inflation and cleaned up the refuse. In addition, Wood saw that jails were inspected and that schools were secularized. Because of his accomplishments in Santiago, he was appointed Governor General of Cuba on December 12, 1899. He kept the post until the formation of the Cuban Republic in 1902.
Wood did well as governor of the “Pearl of the Antilles.” On September 7, the Chicago Record-Herald reported that Cuba was on the high road to more prosperous times than it had ever experienced. There was no distress among the population of 1,572,797 other than what might be found under a normal regime. Poverty was common, as it had always been, but there was employment for all who desired work. The improvements made on the sugar plantations were exceptional. The output for the season just ending was 600,000 tons of sugar. The additional land planted during the year assured at least 900,000 tons in 1902. During the same season, 67,000,000 pounds of tobacco were produced, and quantities of pineapples and bananas were exported to the United States. The small farmers were beginning to raise oranges. Illustrative of the increasing mining industry were the four thousand men who worked on the hematite ores in Santiago de Cuba. In the realm of education, 3,313 schools were open with 172,273 students.2
As for health and sanitation, Major William C. Gorgas, chief sanitary officer of Havana, presented evidence to show that because of its cleanliness, Havana was a healthier city than New York, Washington, or Pittsburgh. Only one death from yellow fever was reported in July 1901, while there had been 168 deaths in the same month four years earlier.3 On August 30, 1901, Wood approved changes in specifications for letting the contract for the sewering and paving of Havana. Vitrified brick, granite blocks, and...