(1898 - 1977)
Abogado y escritor. Brillante intelectual marxista y luchador social. Aportó valiosas obras como poeta, latinoamericanista y martiano. El Consejo Mundial de la Paz le otorgó las Medallas de Plata y de Oro Joliot Curie, en 1959 y 1966, respectivamente.
19th Century The Late Colonial Period
Page 1 2 3

In 1800 and 1804, the great German explorer and remarkable geographer and geologist Alexander von Humboldt stayed briefly in Cuba. He compiled information on the country and traveled over some of its regions, which resulted in the publication, in 1826 in French, of his Political Essay on the Island of Cuba (which was edited in Spanish next year). Humboldt provides, for the first time, a synthetic, though somewhat detailed and certainly documented overview of the Cuban society and nature. This work substantially influenced the Cuban intellectuality of the time and Humboldt came to be regarded by some as "the second discoverer of Cuba".

By that time, in 1802, the second bishop of Havana (Havana's diocese was created in 1789), Juan José Díaz de Espada y Fernández de Landa, better known just as "Bishop Espada", arrived in Cuba. In addition to the very necessary reforms he made in the clergy, Espada founded the first cemetery in Havana, promoted the tasks of the Economic Society, mostly what related to education, and supported the teaching reforms at the Royal Seminar of San Carlos and San Ambrosio that were undertook by some of its professors, like José Agustín Caballero, Justo Vélez, and - especially - Félix Varela. The bishop also supported the work of the already outstanding physician Tomás Romay concerning the introduction (in 1804) of the smallpox vaccine in Cuba and the vaccination campaigns led by Romay for decades. Romay had to overcome the strong opposition of several physicians who did not trust vaccination. Being a follower of the Spanish illustration and an advocate of the liberal constitution, Espada was a victim of the ambitions and envy of other prelates, who accused him of practicing heresy, masonry, and some other sins, which brought great bitterness to the last years of his life.

Outstanding from the professors of the Seminar (where many persons who did not intend to become priests used to study) was especially the presbyter Félix Varela Morales (1788-1853), who started a thinking tradition in Cuba , which influence remained all through the 19th century. Of special significance in Varela's work was science teaching and, above all, the way of thinking in scientific terms, which split from scholastic logics. So as to contribute to this, Varela organized (through experimental physics lessons and their respective texts) the teaching of modern physics (which followed the precepts established by the great English physicist Isaac Newton) as a battering ram to displace the scholastic education predominating at the University. Hundreds of students attended his lessons on philosophical and scientific matters and on the 1812 Spanish liberal constitution. Being elected a representative to the Spanish Parliament in 1821, he opposed the re-establishment of monarchical absolutism and, as he was under a death sentence, had to go into exile permanently. During his exile, Varela advocated the possibility of slavery abolition and independence in his homeland and was the first Cuban renowned intellectual to do so.

Varela's followers (like such distinguished figures as the historian and publicist José Antonio Saco and the educator and philosopher José de la Luz y Caballero) supported science (mainly physics and chemistry) teaching and the enforcement of political and economic reforms, slave trade abolition being one of such main reforms. Since 1817, this became a commitment of the Spanish government with England (which, a result of her industrial revolution, went from defending the slave trade to actively opposing it and slavery). However, most of the Cuban landowners, led by their representative, the powerful Treasury and Army Intendant Claudio Martínez de Pinillos, Count of Villanueva, were wholehearted advocates of the slave trade and of keeping slavery for an indefinite period. The aforementioned agreement with England was therefore not honored in Cuba , with the government of the colony being an almost permanent accomplice. By 1840 the political reformist trend (not its ideas) almost disappeared, though it was born - briefly - again by 1860.

In 1817, the Botanical Garden of Havana was created, its first director being the Cuban José Antonio de la Ossa. It was the first scientific-research institution created in Cuba , though it really had its heyday only after the Galician polygrapher Ramón de la Sagra (1798-1871) took on its direction in 1824, under the auspices of Count Villanueva. The Garden was located in the parcel of land currently encompassed by the National Capitol (today's headquarters of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment). Sagra delivered extensive botany courses, founded a scientific journal and collected plants and animals that were later described - mostly by French naturalists - in his monumental (12 huge volumes) Physical, Political and Natural History of the Island of Cuba , which was lavishly illustrated and published in French and Spanish in Paris, from 1837 to 1857. Sagra wrote the sections related to geography, policy, and economy, as well as the introduction to the natural history section.

In 1823, there was a re-establishment, encouraged by Tomás Romay, of practical teaching of medicine (with dissections), which had been discontinued for some years. This kind of teaching took place at the Royal Military Hospital of Havana, to which a Museum of Anatomy was attached, the museum being directed by the Spanish surgeon Franciso Alonso Fernández and later by his close collaborator, Havana-born Nicolás José Gutiérrez (1800-1890). From this year dates the first attempt of Gutiérrez to establish a medical society. Being renovated in 1826 as a proposed Academy of Medical Sciences , it came to be materialized only 35 years later. In 1836-37, Gutiérrez sojourned at Parisian hospitals to study, which resulted in his introducing the stethoscope in Cuba , as well as several techniques for major surgical operations. His example of "traveling to Paris " to study medicine (and other subjects too) was followed by many young Cubans in later years. In 1840 he founded the first Cuban medical journal, the Havana 's Medical Repertoire.