Señor Polo de Bernabé to Mr. Day.

Dear Mr. Day: Inclosed you will find extracts from official reports about the situation of reconcentrados, for whom so much interest seems to be felt in Congress. You will see what has been done for them until now. I will send you more information in a day or two. I do not forward statistics, because they are not complete.

It is to be borne in mind that the sad situation of these people is mainly due to the devastation of the country and destruction of property by the insurgents, principally Maceo and Gomez, under the orders of the Cuban junta established in New York.

Yours, very truly,

Louis Polo de Bernabé.

Civil Government of the Province of Pinar del Rio.


The measures recently adopted, with philanthropic interest, by your excellency, if well interpreted and executed with fidelity, will immediately contribute to the amelioration of the wretched condition of these unfortunate people. Those who reside in this city, Luis Lazo, Artemisa, Guanjar, and some other localities are in a comparatively comfortable condition. The charity of those around them and the efforts of his excellency the general commander of the division, General Fernandez Bernal of the parish priest of this capital, and of the local authorities have succeeded in saving from death many of the miserable people. It is not to be denied that there is still much to be done, but when the work is systematized it will doubtless be followed by flattering results. Of the children that are now in the province there are many orphans for whom a form of protection must be arranged, to keep them from vice and make them useful members of society.

Reconstruction proceeds slowly in this municipality. In those of San Juan and Martinez, Luis Lazo, Duiras, Guernajoz, and Vinales the prospects for a tobacco crop are good, extensive tracts of land in the district having been planted. In other towns there are little signs of labor. Infections and malarial fevers, smallpox, and dysentery are epidemic in some localities, being at their worst in Alonso, Rojas, San Juan, Martinez, Candelaria, Artemisa, and Paso Real, and the smallpox being also in this capital. To improve the state of the public health I have ordered the proper steps to be taken, and have had the measures recommended by the health association of the province (to which I have twice applied) complied with. If your excellency deigns, remembering that there are twenty-five councils in this district, to grant the $25,000 that seems to be necessary to alleviate the wretched conditions existing in the towns of this province, it will be an easy task to ameliorate the situation of the reconcentrados, which question so justly occupies the attention of your excellency. As far as I am able to observe, the public spirit is reviving and confidence in better conditions is being awakened. There is a praiseworthy interest in the extension of agriculture, and the noble intentions of Her Majesty’s governor, loyally interpreted by your excellency, will, it is hoped, be stimulated by the welfare and flourishing conditions in the country, the pacification of which will be hastened by the salutary influence of the reforms which have been inaugurated.

Falio Freye,
Civil Governor of the Province of Pinar del Rio.

Civil Government of the Province of Santa Clara.


Economical kitchens have been established, on my recommendation, in most places, in which daily rations are prepared, and the latter have somewhat bettered the condition of the wretched reconcentrados. The economical kitchens are aided more or [Page 706] less, according to the various localities, by public charity, which has been awakened from its lethargy by the surrounding conditions of misery, and which now has the merit that the food given away every day is taken from that actually needed by the families donating it, such a state of poverty, your excellency, having been the result of this war, disastrous alike to human life and to the property acquired with so great effort.

As to measures that I have authorized in this matter, I can say to your excellency that I have visited many of the towns of the province, although I have had a number of other official duties, and that on account of the importance of this question I have deposed mayors and town councils, and in all places I have been I have endeavored to raise the spirits of the reconcentrados and arouse sentiments of charity in the neighborhood. Not only have charitable associations been organized, but benevolent societies, managed to a great extent by women, which solicit aid and distribute the same in different ways, whether through economical kitchens independent of those which your excellency has ordered established or by acting as auxiliaries to the said associations in various ways. This work is specially for the sick reconcentrados.

As to those who are able to work, I can assure your excellency that as soon as the sugar season opened a way of gaining money all those not occupied in the cultivation of tobacco were sent to the sugar plantations. I endeavored to obtain free passage from the railway companies, but for reasons to a certain extent valid they did not comply with my request; and thus, in many instances, the charitable associations had to support this additional expense.

At the present time we are busied in helping them construct cabins in the zones of cultivation, in order to allow them to be removed from this unhealthy atmosphere and from the uncomfortable conditions to which they are now subjected.

The Provincial Association thinks that by granting $10 to each family the object would be accomplished of constructing the cabins and of transporting them thereto.

Marcos Garcia,
Governor of Santa Maria.

Government of Santiago de Cuba.


It is beyond doubt that the extreme restriction imposed by the order of reconcentration issued on February 16, 1896, and applied to this province on the 16th of the same month in the following year, created conditions intolerable both for the inhabitants of the country and for the residents of the towns; and the reason is obvious, for the island of Cuba being an essentially agricultural country, in which dependence for food is placed almost entirely upon the cultivation of the earth, it is clear that when this industry is arrested, no arrangements having been previously made for the production of lesser fruits, the poorer classes must necessarily suffer.

The order of the 13th of last November being issued, authorizing the reconcentrados again to cultivate their property and dictating measures to ameliorate the condition of the country people now residing in towns, at once, as soon as the provisions of the same were published, I ordered the most efficient measures to be taken for its immediate accomplishment; and, in accordance with provision 6a, a provincial junta to furnish aid was organized, composed of competent representatives of commerce, agriculture, industry, and property.

In view of the scarcity of rations granted by the circular of the commandery general of May 29, 1896, the first act of the association above mentioned was to contract with the economical kitchen established in this city for 600 daily rations, which have since been distributed to an equal number of reconcentrados, especially to those which suffer most.

Each of these portions is valued at 6½ centavos, and, according to the amount presented by the said establishment, the sum of 2,772 pesos has been spent in this way from December 4 to the 15th of the present month, of which amount 600 pesos were generously donated, at the request of the provincial junta, by the patriotic society established here for the construction of army hospitals, and to pay the balance the 1,170 pesos granted monthly by his excellency the Governor-General of the island (charged to the special credit of 100,000 pesos allowed by the superior authority of the decree of November 23 of last year, already mentioned) were used.

At the same time it was arranged to make a sort of register, by districts, of the reconcentrados and of those assembled from the field of insurrection, in order to [Page 707] know the true number of the same in Santiago de Cuba. It was likewise determined to constitute a woman’s auxiliary to the provincial junta, which should have the duty of asking help from philanthropic persons for the reconcentrados; and this association, going farther than its actual duties, has not confined itself to theory, but, with practical and praiseworthy energy, asked and obtained from his excellency the Governor-General, during his visit to this city, the sum of 2,000 pesos, which was added to the amount collected by the various committees that have been soliciting public charity. The association also visits from house to house, carrying food and medicine for the sick, and has earned the gratitude and love of the wretched sufferers. In order to aid the benevolent action that is exerted in all directions, I ordered the provincial authorities to extend, as much as possible, the zones of cultivation, some of which are now in excellent condition. Those of San Luis Dongo and Canez are in an especially flourishing condition, and may be mentioned as among the best cultivated territories under my government.

It may thus be affirmed that the condition of the reconcentrados has been much improved. Those in the towns receive daily rations, although perhaps not in great quantity. Medicines are also furnished by the town by order of the government, and all the attention that it is the power of the latter to bestow is furnished.

Enrique Capriles, Governor.

Office of the Governor of the Province of Matanzas.


The insurrection of 1895 passed beyond the limits of Santiago de Cuba, then beyond those of Camaguey, then beyond those of Las Villas, and entered the fertile plains of Matanzas, where everything was put to fire and sword; thence it passed to the province of Havana and soon to that of Pinar del Rio, and the whole island became one vast conflagration.

The insurgents did not conceal their purpose to destroy the agricultural and industrial wealth of Cuba in order that the possession of the Antille might become so burdensome to the mother country that she would finally desist from every effort to maintain her indisputable right to govern these last remnants of the immense colonial empire which the efforts of our ancestors erected in America by their genius and valor, by their treasure and their blood.

The decree of reconcentration, which was issued in October, 1896, increased the evils, and the same result was effected by the order of January 9, 1897, relative to the establishment of zones of cultivation in this province. I can assure your excellency, however, that before the month of November was over, local mendicancy was partly remedied.

The situation of the reconcentrados in this province no longer possesses the grave character that it formerly did. Outside of the city of Matanzas I may say that, with the exception of the localities in which the smallpox has recently made its appearance, and of those in which malaria continues to claim some victims, the general health is good. There is wretchedness among the needy classes, and how could it be otherwise when human activity was paralyzed, rural economy dead, trade and industry extinguished, and the sources of production dried up? But the assistance of the Government, the powerful aid of private charity, and the earnings of the laborers, at first in zones of cultivation imperfectly constituted, and subsequently on the sugar estates, the owners of which, with surprising energy and gigantic efforts, undertook the grinding of their crops, have appeased hunger and furnished relief to all classes of society.

By communications which I have received at various times from my police, in pursuance of an order issued by me, I received satisfactory news concerning the condition of the reconcentrados in various communities. This information has been confirmed by several alcaldes of the province, and some of them have told me that even when the work of the present crop is done the hands will remain at work on the majority of the estates, cleaning up the cane fields, sowing and resowing, and making preparations for the next grinding.

I have urged all parties, however, not to abandon the zones of cultivation, to increase their work on them as far as possible, and to endeavor thus to secure the means necessary not only for the support and aid of the poor who still remain in the towns, and who must live on public and private charity, but also for the exportation and the sale, in some localities, of abundant means of subsistence.

I continue to assist the municipal districts as far as their needs require and as far [Page 708] as the means furnished to me by the generosity of the Government enable me to do so.

The city of Matanzas, however, requires a chapter apart.

A larger number of reconcentrados flocked hither than to other localities of the province, and public misery became the greater, since nothing was done in time like that which has been done by your excellency, adequate measures having been adopted by you to remedy these evils. Not even has it been possible thus far to establish a zone of cultivation that could remedy the pressing necessities of the case, notwithstanding the advantages offered by the fertility of the neighboring valley of the Yumuri. Consequently hunger caused greater ravages here than elsewhere, and the public health was thereby affected.

I have already said that this state of things has, fortunately, entirely changed. The hospitals and infirmaries furnish shelter, aid, and medicines to the suffering poor. Official as well as private charity relieves the indigent. The number of deaths in February presents a favorable contrast when compared to those which took place in October, November, and December. Many reconcentrados, availing themselves of the good offices of this protecting junta, have obtained free passage from the railway companies, and have gone to other localities to work on sugar estates. The public beggars are thus reduced to a certain number of women and children who have acquired the habit of begging.

With a part of the means which your excellency has seen fit to place at my disposal, and which will, I trust, be increased as far as possible, I shall assist in the establishment of zones of cultivation. On this subject I propose, within a few days, to communicate my views to your excellency at greater length, and also with regard to the ease with which, by a small increase of these means, the orphan children may be housed in charitable institutions, so that the boys may be taught trades whereby they may earn their livelihood, and the innocence of the girls may be protected; and that both boys and girls may be taught good habits and obedience to the precepts of religion, and regard for social requirements.

I thus conclude this report, offering your excellency the assurance of the gratitude of the people of Matanzas for the very great benefits which you have conferred upon them by furnishing them means for the relief of all these needs, in which I have had the satisfaction to be the instrument used in your excellency’s patriotic and beneficent work.

Francisco de Armas,
Governor of Matanzas.

Government of the Western Region and of the Province of Havana.


With the first means placed by your excellency at the disposal of the governors of provinces, and owing to the noble and lofty language in which you urged public opinion to aid in the relief of so much misery, the whole appearance of affairs has changed. This money, judiciously distributed, and employed by the mayors recently appointed, has restored to life, and with it, to the hope of better times, those who were looking with utter indifference for the approach of death. Those who have survived are now being fed and clothed, and have a roof over their heads, and the alcaldes (mayors) and inhabitants of the towns, encouraged by your excellency’s noble example, are vying with each other in aiding these unfortunate people.

There are municipal districts in this province, such as that of San Jose de la Sajas, in which the charity of the inhabitants suffices, without any external aid, to feed more than 4,000 reconcentrados of that and other localities. In Havana three asylums have been organized, in which lodging, food, clothing, and shoes are given to more than 800 persons, mostly women and orphan children; and the people have responded to the call of the junta of reconcentrados appointed by your excellency by furnishing money to aid the Government in its charitable undertaking. If these contributions are not large it is due to the fact that charity is necessarily limited by the means of those practicing it, and it must be remembered that this city maintains, without any assistance from the Government, numerous dispensaries, in which not less than 8,000 children are taken care of and fed. I would not be true to my duty if I failed to mention the abundant aid sent us by the people of the United States, and which, though at first confined to this city, is now beginning to reach the most distant towns of the province.

More than 12,000 persons are receiving assistance daily in Havana, and every week or fortnight in the interior of the province, and it has already put an end to the [Page 709] want and misery in many places. The result of these public efforts and of your excellency’s generous initiative is that, although the problem is not yet entirely solved, the frightful hunger, famine, and mortality have ceased. In some places it has returned to its normal state, and in those most heavily stricken it does not exceed 10 per cent or 15 per cent. But in spite of what has been done and of your excellency’s noble exertions, it must be confessed that the problem is not solved. Neither the chests of the treasury nor private charity are inexhaustible, and the fate of these unfortunate people now depends exclusively upon the two. The problem, I repeat, is a very serious one, and its solution claims your excellency’s most earnest attention.

Jose Bruzon,
Governor of the Western Region and of the Province of Havana.

Office of the Governor-General of the Island of Cuba.


In the midst of the painful impression which is caused by the situation of the reconcentrados, no less can be done than to recognize the improvement which is observable, comparing their present state with the situation of four or five months ago.

The General Government, seeking to respond and cooperate with the lively interest which the Government of the mother country showed in the matter, proposed from the outset to exert all possible efforts to diminish the burden of so much misery and misfortune. The cities, overflowing with men, women, and children without work and without means of subsistence, could not give to an abnormal excess of population which only consumed without producing. The destruction and burning by the insurgents of so many villages forced their unfortunate inhabitants to seek shelter in the cities in order to save their lives, the only thing they could save from such barbarous and needless destruction, which had reduced them to the most frightful misery. In Puerto Principe it may be said that all of the reconcentrados were of this class.

The diseases due to such herding of human beings in masses, and the inexorable belief that a sure and inevitable death awaited them, deprived many of them of the needful energy to struggle for existence and discouraged private charity, which deemed itself impotent without the positive aid of official charity. Other considerations of a more melancholy character may be adduced in explanation of a certain passive resistance among some classes, for whom every reconcentrado was a more or less disguised enemy, but they have nothing to do with the case, nor need we expatiate thereon. The result of all this was a positive hopeless problem, and the more so as the need of finding a solution for it appeared day by day more urgent.

The measures taken by the General Government were directed to combating the evil in its origin. By the executive order of the 14th of November last, all the reconcentrados were permitted to return to their farms, being authorized to bear arms for the defense of their property. In this way the cities were relieved of the excessive burden of an overflowing and unsupportable population, while the diseases necessarily caused by such an agglomeration were dispelled. Boards of relief were organized, lending their intervention to the clergy, to the physicians, and to all helpful and useful classes. Within a few days after the establishment of these boards official charity furnished resources, $100,000 being distributed on the 23d of November and $50,000 on the 2d of March. The zeal of the local governors and alcaldes was invoked, those authorities being invited to set an example, which they have done with a devotion worthy of all praise. In this manner private charity, being stimulated and with the confidence of official support, likewise took active measures, organizing productive boards, economical kitchens, and beneficent associations for the personal distribution of relief, thus contributing very greatly to the alleviation of the suffering.

By all this the public spirit was revived, confidence was restored, and therewithal the disposition to work. In Santa Clara there are at the present time a large number of these unfortunate people who are engaged in field work. To avoid their agglomeration in the cities, whither they took refuge for the night without shelter, huts were constructed in the zones of cultivation, with excellent results. In Pinar del Rio the construction of five villages was undertaken, and successful attempts are being made to increase agricultural labor. In Santiago de Cuba the zones of cultivation are in perfect condition, of which those of San Luis, Songo, and Caney may be taken as models. In Matanzas a gratuitous distribution was made of 10,000 railway tickets to [Page 710] the reconcentrados, who returned to their former homes. The gravity of the crisis is steadily diminishing, although the trouble lies so deep that it can not be speedily settled.

Setting aside all preconceived ideas, it is just to recognize that the relief which comes from the United States is also a powerful auxiliary under the actual circumstances. Forty thousand dollars, according to the estimates of the governor of this province of Habana, is the value of the food, clothing, medicine, etc., which has been distributed in this city during the month of February last, thus contributing greatly to the improvement of the general situation of the large number of reconcentrados here.

The decrease of the population is a melancholy fact. But it is likewise proper to examine the why and wherefore of this decrease, which is not at all due exclusively to destitution and abandonment. It may be said that emigration has, after a fashion, depopulated the cities. In Santiago de Cuba alone 12,000 passports have been issued. Neither do the statistics of mortality, with their elevated figures, show that the scarcity of nourishment has been the sole cause of so large a number of deaths, because it is observed that the greatest number of deaths have occurred precisely on the days following the coming to the camp of new bodies of reconcentrados, who, without heeding the counsel and watchfulness of the physicians, prevail by their importunities upon the soldiers and other thoughtlessly charitable persons to give them food and bread in abundance, which, in their condition of extreme debility, occasions their death.

The situation being thus summed up in a few words, it may be affirmed that it has considerably improved and that the sharpness of the crisis is passing; but nevertheless the problem has not been solved, because the majority of the persons who are to-day living under the shelter of public and private charity are children or women for whose future provision must be made. Warfare, which always leaves profound ravages, demands much time and assiduous labor to repair the evils which it causes in a single day.

Ramon Blanco.