National Geographic : 1947 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine "No, the houseowner is a member of the Wharton 1,000 Club," replied Dr. Massip. After the Spanish-American War, an Ameri can, Rev. Robert H. Wharton, came to Car denas to be minister of the Presbyterian church. He opened a school. It grew and expanded into a college, La Progresiva. The city government would not improve the muddy streets. Dr. Wharton persuaded a thousand friends to contribute a dollar a month to a street fund. He called them the "Mil" and acted as treasurer. With the money collected, Dr. Wharton surfaced the streets so that today Cardenas is one of the best-paved cities in Cuba. When Dr. Massip was a young man, ships anchored in the middle of the bay because of the shallow water. It cost nearly as much to lighter cargoes ashore as to haul them from Spain. Cardenas people raised the money to dredge the channel and build a pier. Now the city prospers; tankers, Liberty ships, and other vessels unload efficiently onto trucks and railway cars on the docks. A perfect rainbow greeted us when we reached Varadero, Cuba's famous beach re sort (Plate XIV). We stayed at the Club Kawama in the bridal bungalow, on the beach. Its thatched roof and red-tiled porch over looked the bright-blue sea. Lacy pines framed the view and gave shade. From our terrace we stepped onto the white sand, fine as powdered sugar. The sun set in a red ball on the horizon behind several yachts anchored offshore. After a supper on the club terrace, to the music of a rumba orchestra, Dr. Massip asked our waiter if he knew La Progresiva. His face lit up. "Why, I am a graduate! And two other boys are from the school, too. "Graduation is tonight, in 20 minutes," he said. "Dr. Wharton himself is delivering the baccalaureate sermon. Why don't you go in?" Along the road to town countryfolk were out for evening strolls. Farmers were graz ing their horses, each tenderly holding the bridle so Dobbin would not wander out onto the road. Land crabs by the dozen scuttled across under our headlights. The big fellows waved their giant claws as they ran. "Country people eat land crabs. The big claws are delicious," Dr. Massip explained. The Presbyterian church was packed with faculty, graduates, and their families. Black capped and gowned bachelors were in front; behind them sat white-garbed secretaries and graduates of the commercial school in gray. Each seforita wore a fine lace gown, an heir loom, which peeked out from beneath her scholarly robe. After Dr. Wharton's sermon in Spanish, lights were turned out for an old-fashioned candlelight ceremony. The pastor lit a candle and passed the light to the superintendent of the school. He passed it on to the faculty, who in turn lit the candles of the graduating class. It was an impressive ceremony. "The candles symbolize the giving of love and wisdom to the pupils," Dr. Wharton told me. "Marching out into the world, the grad uates spread knowledge far and wide." A month later I attended my daughter's baccalaureate at a New England college. The ceremony was similar, except for the candle light procession. Cuban "Rabble" Outsmarts Spanish Regulars At the crossroads town of Coliseo we stopped at a small restaurant to get gasoline. Surrounded by chattering farmers and cane workers, Dr. Massip told how the Cuban "rabble," as the Spaniards called the revolu tionaries, outwitted a Spanish army near by. To protect Havana the Spanish general drew up his army of 15,000 men along the railway from Matanzas to Uni6n de Reyes. Cuban generals, Maximo G6mez and An tonio Maceo, with only 2,000 men probed this strong Spanish line near its middle, then marched parallel to the south. The Spaniards, thinking the Cubans were running away, left their fortifications. The Cubans circled northward. Gradually they worked back to the thinly held railway. In a fierce battle they beat the enemy and broke through the impregnable line. G6mez then marched on to Havana, and he and his men watered their horses in the Al mendares River, in the Capital's outskirts (Plate V). Thus they reached a goal set when they began their invasion from Oriente. So humiliated was the Spanish general by this defeat of his 15,000 men by 2,000 Cubans that he resigned. Gen. Valeriano Weyler supplanted him. "The Butcher" began a reign of terror, trying to quash the revolution by exterminating and starving the Cubans. Many thousands were killed. The United States protested and even tually, after the sinking of the Maine, declared war on Spain. In central Matanzas we came to a vast low area of some 800 square miles, where no natural rivers drain the soil. In years of heavy rains the island was nearly divided by a sheet of water which stretched across this flat expanse. Near El Roque we crossed a deep, broad ditch, a dry canal. In the rainy season Canal del Roque becomes a temporary river and drains off this excess water.