Political Encounters: 1850-1930

Spain held onto its plantation colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico even as most of Spanish America won independence by 1825. But activists from the two islands fomented rebellion, and New York played an important role in the insurrectionary schemes and uprisings.

One of the first insurgents to arrive here was the Cuban priest Félix Varela, who started in the 1820s what others would continue from the 1850s on. New York became a haven for rebels from the Spanish colonies who met here and conspired in safety, often in alliance with influential locals who advocated North American involvement in the colonial rebellions.
In 1898 the U.S. entered the Cuban War for Independence, transforming it into the Spanish-Cuban-American war. Victory and its aftermath directly involved New York in the affairs of the Spanish-speaking Americas.

Theo. R. Davis, “Cuban Ladies in Council at the House of Señora R. Hourritiner, New York City,” Harper’s Weekly, April 17, 1869. Reproduction. New-York Historical Society. Gonzalo de Quesada y Arótegui, author of War in Cuba, was a longtime New Yorker with a law degree from New York University. His co-author, Henry Davenport Northrop, wrote popular history books. Together they made effective advocates for the cause of “Cuba Libre” (Free Cuba).
Gonzalo de Quesada and Henry Davenport Northrop, The War in Cuba: Being a Full Account of Her Great Struggle for Freedom. Chicago: Liberty Publishing Company, 1896. New-York Historical Society.