Cuba’s Ten Years’ War, 1868-78

In 1868, Cubans and Puerto Ricans rose up against Spain, hoping to win their freedom from colonial rule. In Puerto Rico, Spain quashed the revolt known as the “Grito de Lares.” But in Cuba the “Grito de Yara” revolt marked the beginning of the ferocious Ten Years’ War.
 
New York City played an indispensable role in the rebellion. Cuban exiles—many of them now struggling for independence rather than annexation to the U.S.—organized to promote their cause and provision the insurgents. Spaniards in New York loyal to their government tried to counter the growing influence of the Cuban lobby. They hailed the benefits and glories of Spanish civilization, using the figures of Cervantes and Columbus as exemplary symbols. They also aided war refugees through a Spanish benevolent society ("La Nacional"), which still exists today at 239 W. 14th Street.
Spain eventually won the Ten Years’ War, but the loss of life and physical destruction nearly demolished the island’s economy and drove even more Cubans and Spaniards to New York.

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.

In Aid of Cuban Liberty Benefit Ticket, May 30, 1870. Emilio Cueto Collection, Washington D.C. Exiles escaping war and repression in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and revolutionaries from around the Spanish-speaking world found safe haven in New York. Here Puerto Ricans Ramón Emeterio Betances and Eugenio María de Hostos, Dominican Gregorio Luperón, Chilean Benjamin Vicuña McKenna, and Cubans José Morales Lemus and Emilia Casanova de Villaverde plotted and planned without fear of arrest.
 
One cause that gained ground was Antillean solidarity, later expressed by Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodríguez de Tió as “Cubay Puerto Rico son / de un pájaro las dos alas” (Cuba and Puerto Rico are the two wings of one bird).
 
Independence activists in New York printed newspapers and gave public lectures, fundraised and lobbied, and also ran guns and aided war victims. Among the many organizations that formed, the Sociedad Republicana de Cuba y Puerto Rico (Republican Society of Cuba and Puerto Rico, 1865) advocated against slavery and for independence, and La Liga de Hijas de Cuba (League of the Daughters of Cuba, 1869) mobilized women for the struggle.
In Aid of Cuban Liberty Benefit Ticket, May 30, 1870. Emilio Cueto Collection, Washington D.C.

“Emilia C. de Villaverde,” Apuntes biográficos de Emilia Casanova de Villaverde, escritos por un contemporáneo. Nueva York, 1874. General Research Division, The New York Public Library. One hotbed of militant activity was an old mansion in what is now the Hunts Point area of the Bronx. There, the activist Emilia Casanova and her husband, exiled author Cirilo Villaverde, worked in support of the Cuban rebels, and are said to have collected arms and ammunition for smuggling out to Long Island Sound and shipment south to Cuba. 
“Emilia C. de Villaverde,” Apuntes biográficos de Emilia Casanova de Villaverde, escritos por un contemporáneo. Nueva York, 1874. General Research Division, The New York Public Library.
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