National Geographic : 1906 Oct
536 THE NATIONAL GE north, east, south, and west respectively. Habana is distant from Tampa, Florida, 306 miles; from New Orleans, 597 miles; from New York City, 1,227 miles; from Plymouth, England, 3,527 miles, and from Gibraltar, 4,323 miles. The island is divided into six provinces, each extending entirely across the width of the island. Beginning at the west and proceeding in order toward the east, these provinces are named as follows: Pinar del Rio, Habana, Matanzas, Santa Clara, Camaguey (known as Puerto Prin cipe until recently changed by vote of the people), and Oriente (formerly known as Santiago de Cuba). The "backbone" of the island consists of a range of hills or mountains, attaining an elevation of 2,500 feet in Pinar del Rio, and 5,000 feet, with an extreme instance of about 8,300 feet, in Oriente, but much lower altitudes in the other four provinces. Except in Oriente, these hills or mountains are in no case formidable or unavailable for culti vation, and the greater part of the island consists of broad, rolling plains or gently undulating hills, interspersed with stream drained valleys, and already proved to be susceptible of a high degree of cultiva tion. The soil in the main, and except in the most marshy and most mountainous re gions, is rich and easily cultivable. It is principally of the best varieties of the Tertiary and Secondary geological for mations and adapted to the production of bountiful crops of many valuable staples. Certain sections of the land that are not particularly suitable for arable purposes are nevertheless admirably adapted for grazing uses, and the more elevated tracts, if in some localities unfitted for either cultivation or grazing, are still rich in mineral wealth, so that it may be said with truth that practically the whole island is overflowing with natural riches. Furthermore, most of the higher lands are covered with a virgin forest contain ing immense quantities of valuable tim ber. The list of the native flora of the island includes more than 3,350 plants, including many of the best and most use- OGRAPHIC MAGAZINE ful species of wood known to mankind. Game is abundant, such as deer, rabbits, wild boars, wild turkeys, pheasants, snipe, etc., and there are more than 200 species of native birds, many of them wearing gorgeous plumage. As usual in tropical countries, there are some unwelcome in habitants, such as crocodiles, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, and various annoy ing insects, but none of the snakes are venomous and there are no dangerous wild beasts. The rivers are short, small, and mainly unnavigable, but they are quite numerous and all-sufficient for the purposes of drainage and irrigation, and in some cases for water power. So richly endowed with natural advan tages, Cuba, not without reason, has been entitled the "Pearl of the Antilles' and the "Gem of the Seas." The original Indian inative race of Cuba has entirely disappeared. The exact number of inhabitants at the time of the appropriation of the island by Spain is of course not known, even ap proximately; they may have numbered several hundred thousand; but they met the usual fate of the weaker race in the onward march of the stronger. In the course of a century or there about the place of the natives had been, filled by imported negro slaves. The present colored inhabitants of Cuba are, in general, the descendants of these, slaves. They are now free, slavery hav ing been abolished in 188o. The white Cubans, or Cubans proper,. are mainly the descendants of the original Spanish settlers from Spain, Haiti, Flor ida, and Louisiana, and of the French settlers who fled to Cuba from Haiti dur ing the race wars in that island a century ago. The Spanish Cubans remained de votedly loyal to Spain during many dec ades of oppressive misrule, enduring all' their injuries and sacrifices with a noble patience which has become proverbial' and which won for Cuba the sobriquet of "the ever-faithful isle." At last the time came when even this patience was. exhausted, and the isle was lost to Spain.