National Geographic : 1898 May
CUBA vast horde of subordinate officials, all Spaniards, who collect the customs and attend to other minor executive duties. The lower classes of the Habana male population-porters, draymen, and clerks-are organized into a dangerous and often times uncontrollable military force, known as the volunteers, who, while never having been known to take the field, are a serious menace to the peace of the city, being feared equally by the authorities, over whose heads they wave the threat of mutiny, especially upon any indication of granting reforms, and by the resident and unarmed Cubans, over whom they hold the threat of massacre. Up to date the record of this organized mob has been a series of horrible crimes, such as shooting down a crowd of peaceable citizens as they emerged from the theater, firing into the office and dining-room of a hotel, assaulting the residences of Cuban gentlemen, and in 1871 forcing the authorities to exe cute 43 medical students, all boys under twenty, because one of them had been accused of scratching the glass plate on a vault containing the remains of a volunteer. Fifteen thousand volun teers witnessed with exultation this ignoble execution. While the primary functions of the government have been to attend to the prerogatives of the Crown and the collection of rev enues, its attention has been largely devoted to the personal en richment of the officials through misfeasance and the prevention of the secession of the island. It has practically ignored the other functions of government, such as the collection of statistics, the promotion of education,and the establishment of public works and proper public sanitation. Few, if any, educational institu tions have been erected at public expense; no public highways have been constructed, nor have any improvements of a public character been made outside of the city of Habana. Even when the Cubans have undertaken such improvements, they have been heavily taxed for the benefit of the Spanish officials. The ad ministration of Cuba is and has been since the settlement of the island an absolute military despotism on the part of the mother country. At periods, dependent upon the personality of the eap tain-general, there have been epochs of peace and prosperity, but since the middle of the present century the island has been in a state of insurrection, dormant or eruptive, accompanied by a growing hatred between the governing and the governed classes, with constantly increasing restrictions upon the latter. At times the revolting people were reduced to subjection by promises of local self-government, which have invariably been broken.