In the period after indenture ended the Chinese in Cuba had more freedom to express their cultural heritage. Having already begun to form associations under indenture, they could now do so openly. These association allowed the Chinese to maintain ties with China, keep up with their traditions, socialize, help the poor, and much more. Because most of the Chinese were men, you see Chinese marrying with Cuban and Afro-Cuban woman. A mixture of cultures began, that formed the future Cuban identity.
From the book Los Chinos en la Historia de Cuba 1847-1930, included in the James and Ana Melikian collection.background image
This period in Cuban history was filled with a great deal of ideas and ideologies. During the struggle for independence from Spain which began in 1868 and lasted till 1898 the Chinese played an important role. Beginning during indenture, thousands of Chinese, especially runaways, along with slaves, joined the first struggle for freedom from 1868 to 1878.
From the book Los Chinos en la Historia de Cuba 1847-1930, included in the James and Ana Melikian collection.above image
Because the Spanish government continually put pressure on the plantation owners by increasing the taxes, wealthy planters, like Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, began to organize a revolution against Spain. Beginning in 1868 “The Ten Years War” was fought with a call to all races to join the fight for freedom. Several battles were fought and up to 200,000 people died. During this period the rebels formed a new government with a constitutional assembly and chose Céspedes as its president. Although the rebels were not successful in gaining freedom from Spain, a constitutional government was established, slavery was abolished and the seeds were planted for the future.
“At the outset of the second independence war (1895–98), Cuban independence leader José Martí was killed. As a result of increasingly strained relations between Spain and the United States, the Americans entered the conflict in 1898. Already concerned about its economic interests on the island and its strategic interest in a future Panama Canal, the United States was aroused by an alarmist ‘yellow’ press after the USS Maine sank in Havana Harbor on February 15 as the result of an explosion of undetermined origin. In December 1898, with the Treaty of Paris, the United States emerged as the victorious power in the Spanish-American War, thereby ensuring the expulsion of Spain and U.S. tutelage over Cuban affairs.”
History of Cuba, nationsonline.org
The Storming of San Juan, Head of the Charge, Santiago de Cuba, July 1, 1898, Drawn by Frederic Remingtonbackground image
“Letter written by the Emperor of Qing dynasty. It was addressed to the President of Cuba during that time. It showed the friendship between both countries as the Qing’s emperor wrote that he hopes their diplomatic relations could last forever.” 1902
From the James and Ana Melikian Collection
Hope for the future in the hands of a little boy
Gonzalo de Quesada y Miranda was only 9 years old in 1909, when his father, Gonzalo de Quesada y Aróstegui was Chargé d’Affaires of the Republic of Cuba in Washington, DC. The father was Cuba’s first full-fledged Minister to the United States, until February 1909. Later in 1910 he accepted the post as Cuba’s Minister in Germany until his death in 1915.
The little boy, Gonzalito, met and mingled with many world leaders because of his father’s position. In 1909, the year that Cuba achieved Home Rule, he began keeping a signature scrap book which is now part of the James and Ana Melikian Collection. It is full of good wishes to himself and his father. On these pages you can see the many influential people that they knew: presidents, heads of state, diplomats and more.
Gonzalo de Quesada y Aróstegui is considered the official historian for his good friend and freedom fighter, José Martí. Martí, a prolific writer, left behind his works on the revolution, drama, poetry, and more. The Quesadas, both father and son, spent over 75 years writing and bringing together all of the works.