(1833 - 1889)
Médico y pedagogo. Miembro fundador de la Real Academia de Ciencias Médicas, Físicas y Naturales de la Habana, en 1861. Además fue miembro corresponsal de la Sociedad de Medicina Legal de Nueva York, Estados Unidos.
16th and 17th Centuries The Early Colonial Period
Though being "discovered" by Christopher Columbus on October 27, 1492, the Great Sailor always thought of Cuba as continental land ("mainland", as they said at that time), and it was only in 1509 that Cuba was circumnavigated, which demonstrated the insular nature of the Cuban territory.

The Spaniards who started to conquer and colonize Cuba in 1511 would have hardly survived without assimilating some techniques that were part of the most complex culture out of those existing in the country, that of Taino Indians. The main traits of that culture (language, beliefs, and social setup) disappeared together with the Indians, but some pieces of technical knowledge from Taino Indians have survived to date. Such is the case of cassava (Manihot esculenta) growing and processing, this veggie root being the fundamental plant in the diet of aborigines. From the Indians did Spanish settlers learn how to make casabe (big tarts made of cassava flour that substituted for wheat bread), which is still made in some places in Cuba. Spaniards also learned how to grow tobacco and smoke cigars, how to make canoes out of a single log, to fish in different ways, and to build houses with palm logs and leaves -- bohios - which, with a few modifications made in the course of centuries, still survive among farmers in some places in the island.

The techniques for cassava and tobacco growing used by the Cuban aborigines remained without any modifications up to the mid-18th century. There were several attempts to export somewhat processed tobacco (e.g., tobacco powder, which was called snuff and came to be in great demand in Europe), but until the early 19th century the metropolis chose to concentrate tobacco preparation in Seville and export it from Spain. Tobacco leave processing was authorized in Cuba only for domestic consumption purposes.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, military construction developed in Cuba (mostly in Havana, where governors resided since 1553). As a standard, Havana's harbor was the last stopover for Spanish vessels before their crossing the Atlantic, as part of the well known "fleets" or even after fleets ceased to be organized as such. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza (whose construction was finalized in 1577), the Castillo de San Salvador de La Punta (concluded in 1600), and the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (1630) protected Havana's harbor. The two latter castles were built by the Italian engineer Bautista Antonelli. The need for arm these fortresses accounted for ephemeral copper metallurgy in Cuba - thanks to the exploitation of the rich copper mines located near Santiago de Cuba (in eastern Cuba) - and development of a cannon-manufacturing factory in Havana. But in 1607 copper processing ceased in Cuba and, a few years later, copper mine exploitation was discontinued (practically until the 19th century). Cannons began to be manufactured only in Spain.

The need for supplying the harbor with water benefited Havana's residents, since an open canal stretching several kilometers from Almendares river to the place known as the "swamp small square" (currently the Cathedral Square) was built. This Royal Channel, which was finished in 1592, was the only aqueduct in Havana until 1835. Many residents obtained water from cisterns and wells.

Ship building, which was associated to the need of protecting navigation and repairing the ships of "fleets", began in Havana in mid-16th century and was somewhat important in the 17th century. Over these centuries, ships were built also in Matanzas and Cabañas harbors, as well as in Bayamo (the second important city as to population in the island at that time), which was by then connected to the Caribbean Sea through the Cauto river (in 1616 a big sandbank emerged and cut off Bayamo from the sea).

It seems the peak of Havana's harbor as a maritime transportation center encouraged the physician Lazaro de Flores, from Seville, to draft the first scientific book written in Cuba, Navigation Craft, which was published in Madrid in 1673 (there was no printing press in Cuba yet). Perhaps Flores could not see his book printed, since he passed away in Havana in February that year. The book was conceived as a supplement for sailors, it contains tables and explanations of several kinds (not all, by the way, are directly related to navigation). The author mentions Nicolaus Copernicus, not because of his heliocentric theory (which had been prohibited by the Church since 1616), but in relation to other calculations made by the great Polish astronomer.

One of the innovations introduced by the Spanish settlers in the 16th century, which were many (cattle, crops, fortresses, ship building, etc.) was the beginning of sugarcane farming. This plant was brought to Hispaniola by Christopher Columbus in his second voyage (1493) and was initially grown in Cuba in the first decades of the 16th century, possibly by families coming from Hispaniola. In that island were sugar refineries (powered by water) and sugar mills (powered by horses or slaves) that manufactured sugar; but in Cuba, in the 16th century, the process went as far as molasses production only. In the 17th century, several sugar refineries were built in the area of Havana. Except for the use of three-drop-hammered mills, technical procedures to obtain sugar were practically the same as those used since this industry was introduced in Spain by the Arabs in the 9th century.