National Geographic : 1931 Jan
SKYPATHS THROUGH LATIN AMERICA de Zapata. Long leagues of land and sea slipped under us. At Cienfuegos, while men gassed our ship, we sat out on top of it and ate lunch. Seven hours from Havana and we were over Santiago's historic harbor. Down there, more than 30 years ago, audacious Lieut. Richmond P. Hobson sank the Mcrrimac, seeking to bottle up Cervera's fleet. Offshore growled the guns of Rear Adm. William T. Sampson's armada; there, to this day, rests the rusting hulk of the Maria Teresa. Looking inland, we could see San Juan Hill, famous in the annals of the Rough Riders. On its now quiet green slopes stands the "Peace Tree," a giant ceiba, under whose grotesquely fat limbs Gen. W. R. Shafter made surrender terms with the Spaniards. Music and friendly chatter echoed about the hotel where we spent the night. Bar ring the American vice consul, a tobacco buyer, and the agent of a Chicago pack ing firm, we saw few fellow countrymen. Cuban cities are much Americanized, what with their adoption of our machines, dress, methods, and movies; but Americans here cannot compete with Cubans in the ordi nary walks of life, and the few here usu ally hold only the higher-paid managerial positions. Yet, between America and old Santiago de Cuba close ties abound. Some date far back. Here Hernando Cortez, once mayor of the city, recruited his fleet for the con quest of Mexico. Through four tempes tuous centuries of earthquakes, disease, piracy, and war, this was one of Spain's chief bases in the Western World. It was one of her last. That fateful July day in 1898 when the Spaniards yielded to Shaf ter, Roosevelt, and Wood. under the ceiba tree, marked the end of Spanish rule in the whole Western Hemisphere. San Juan Hill is a peaceful park now. with monuments to American, Cuban, and Spanish heroes who battled there. On bronze tablets you read the names of some Americans still living-young and unsung in 1898, but later well known in our mili tary annals (see page 14). It's 33 years since American youth ral lied to the cry of "Cuba Libre!" To-day Cuba is free. Its children are well schooled. And, but for that cycle of economic reces sion which now and then smites every busy country, Cuba is substantial and highly productive. Most of its world-famed ci gars go to Great Britain, the United States, and Spain. The United States and Spain buy much of its valuable tobacco leaf. And it is our largest sugar bowl.* Crowds waiting in line at movies prove it has money to spend. One house billed "Uncle Tom's Cabin." At another, a Wild West picture, with Hollywood cowboys in conventional cosmetics. Near our hotel was the Cathedral. "A priest there has a big book that tells you all about the pueblo," volunteered the ragged but bright-eyed street comedian who had shined my shoes twice in the hour simply because I couldn't refuse him. "If I give you fifty cents, will you buy a new shirt ?" I asked him. "I've got a shirt," he affirmed. "But I haven't seen that cowboy film at the Rialto." HOPPING OVER TO HAITI In swift flight, towns, islands, rivers, all burst on you suddenly. Mountains seem to move toward you more leisurely. I went to sleep in the plane when we quit Cuba; when I awoke, there was Haiti, with its capital, Port au Prince, turning around under us as we circled. You look down on green Haiti's glisten ing official palaces; on tree-fringed boule vards, flanked by fine homes, that run up the mountain slopes; on the common part of the city, whose flimsy, unpainted wooden houses sprawl along crooked water-front streets. You look and think. Islands dif fer, like people, in morals and manners. In general, all islands are alike physically just land surrounded by water. But how different the story of Haiti from-well, from that of Long Island! Reams of fact and fiction are woven about Haiti's tur bulent history. Toussaint L'Ouverture; mad Christophe, who died from a silver bullet; Leclerc, who married Napoleon's sister; and the serio-comic melodrama of black royalty in the days of the "Duke of Lemonade." Here, when the republic was in the making, was staged one of the starkest tragedies in the annals of the West Indies, as when old Dessalines gave the ghastly order, "Slay all whites." * See, also, "Cuba-The Sugar Mill of the Antilles," in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE for December, 1920.