Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 6, 1904
Mr. Sleeper to Mr. Hay.
Habana, October 22, 1904.
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith to the Department copy of a communication, with inclosures, received from the American [Page 248]consular agent at Matanzas, Mr. W. W. Handley, reporting on the sanitary condition of that city.
Mr. Handley’s letter contains valuable suggestions, and is sent to the Department for its information.
I have the honor, etc,
Mr. Handley to Mr. Squiers.
Matanzas, October 15, 1904.
Dear Mr. Squiers: Having in mind your verbal instructions to keep you informed on the general condition of affairs in this district, I have taken the privilege of personally addressing you on a subject which I am sure you are interested in.
There has been considerable comment among the populace of late as to what steps the General Government proposes to take in remedying the apparent evils of this city. The newspapers have now taken it up. This morning there appeared in one of the local papers here, La Nueva Aurora, an editorial, part of which I have translated and inclose, simply to give you an idea of the local feeling on the matter. Possible comparisons with previous years would serve to explain the situation better than any other way. Up to June 30, 1904, there was appropriated for the sanitary department of Matanzas $30,000 by the General Government. On July 1 all of this appropriation was cut off, and since that time only $18,000 of the local funds have been available to carry on a work which heretofore was maintained by twice the amount. With this shortage of funds there has been a consequent reduction in the public works and sanitary force. From January 1 to September 1 of this year there has been a decrease in the number of employees in the sanitary and street-cleaning department from 92 to 50, and only 22 of this number are street sweepers, who are supposed to cover a territory of over 700,000 square yards.
The refuse and garbage is carted to several dumping grounds outside of the city limits, but of late a dump heap has been allowed within the city on the banks of the Yumuri, which divides the city from the district of Versalles. This is considered by the American medical officer here as a menace to the public health. During the American intervention refuse of all classes was either burnt or towed out to sea, and many other precautions were taken to preserve the health of the city. Formerly there was a house-to-house inspection, but since July 1 of this year that also has been abolished. This I consider necessary, as there is an apparent neglect on the part of the doctors to report cases of contagious diseases. Only recently five cases of typhoid fever in the vicinity of this office were not reported to the health office, and consequently no sanitary precautions were taken to prevent its dissemination.
The department of municipal public works was supported by the General Government during the intervention, but since then no allowance has come from this source for the continuation of this most necessary work. An appropriation of the city funds to the amount of $10, 100 was made—$5, 100 devoted to paying the personnel of the office and the balance to public works. This was for the year ending June 30, 1904. Since then the budget has not been approved, and this service has been almost completely discontinued. With the exception of a few repairs to some of the streets, such as filling the holes with crushed stones, etc., no public work of any consequence has been accomplished since the island was turned over to the Cuban Government.
The prevailing opinion here is that a word from you to the proper authorities at Habana, pointing out the urgent need of immediate legislation to remedy the evils of this city, would have more weight and accomplish more good than the combined efforts of the local authorities.
I inclose a clipping of a telegram sent by the mayor to the president of the Senate urging the immediate payment of $15,000 for maintaining the sanitary department. This amount should have been appropriated by this session of Congress, and through fear Congress will adjourn without doing the needful, much anxiety is manifested.
With highest regards, etc.,
Extract from an editorial in La Nueva Aurora, of Matanzas, under heading of “Infected.”
This article has been suggested by the discouraging reality now in evidence in this beautiful but unfortunate city of Matanzas through the antihygienic and deleterious condition surrounding its inhabitants, in consequence of the lack of cleanliness and sanitation, which evil seems to have take a foothold in the principal cities of the Republic. Our higher authorities, whose duty is to look after public health, have tried to maintain a passive attitude toward the towns so injured, and the only results obtained by the three or four municipalities, by their efforts before the Executive of the nation, have been some promises more or less encouraging and remote. Instead of taking action in accordance with the urgent and inexcusable public necessity by applying an immediate remedy, or by compelling those at the head of the Government to take practical proceedings as demanded by a calamity, the dismal effects of which have commenced to be felt, with a tendency to become, before long, devastating and uncontrollable.
It is no longer possible to conceal the disgrace or to silence the cries of indignation arising from all classes of this community because of the suppression or the reduction of the important service of street cleaning and sanitation.
Most of the larger cities in Cuba are gradually retrograding to those uncivilized times when diseases of all kinds had a permanent and favorite prevalency among us by the nonobservance of modern hygiene as recommended by contemporary science.
Cuba was getting rid of the great foci of infection which during long years decimated its population, and hardly had we commenced to reap the benefits derived from the system of sanitation established by the American Government and until recently maintained by the Cuban Government, which was worthy of praise of every inhabitant in Cuba, since everybody was benefited by it, when suddenly this sanitary work has been interrupted through some futility of the administration. The situation has changed, the promising future has become gloomy and frightful, and diseases have reappeared among us. We are under the influence of infectious fevers, scarlet fever, and other diseases, the fatal influence of which conveys to our Cuban homes panic, tribulation, and mourning. And the present gloomy situation is but the outcome of that which will happen in the future, when the invasion of infectious diseases will find a favorable ground to develop into disastrous epidemics, which will not spare the child, the adult, the rich, or the poor.
The people have had many reasons for protest and indignation on this matter. Personal interest of each inhabitant, the spirit of preservation, and the danger to which we are all exposed completely justifies the unanimous protest against the indolence of the administration and against the inefficiency of the higher powers representing the state as regards cleanliness and sanitation, which is comparable to inflicting a rude and criminal blow against the health of the inhabitants of the Republic. The Government is spending enormous sums in other services of less importance and has accumulated many millions of dollars in excess in the public treasury without knowing what use to make of it or having any special object to apply it to, while in our cities are being developed, due to lack of cleanliness, the germs of typhoid fever, scarlet fever, diphtheria, dysentery, and other mortal diseases. We are infected, and it is very urgent that we have sanitation.
Mr. Ojeda to the president of the Senate.
[Republicano Conservador, October 15, 1904.]
Economic situation this province alarmingly grave, account failure to reappropriate $15,000 gold for sanitary service, as was done in the last budget. Cuban minister in Washington calls the attention this Government to complaints American medical inspector Matanzas bad sanitary condition of city. Urgent that Senate appropriate the sum for municipal sanitation, without which great danger to public health is foreseen.