It was October 1793, and one of His Majesty’s front-line troops in the “war against the inhabitants of the suburbs,” royal rent collector Francisco Xavier de Quijano, believed that he was in serious trouble. His immediate superior had demanded that he produce his receipts and all the rent money he had collected from the 40 houses and 18 warehouses he was charged with supervising.1 Quijano trembled at the thought of an audit, which had the potential to end his career. Look at what happened to treasury official Juan Chrisóstomo de Acosta. When called in for an audit, Acosta could not produce the required receipts and was accused of embezzling more than one thousand pesos from the Real Hacienda. Even though his family and friends reimbursed the Treasury for the missing funds, Acosta was dismissed from his position in disgrace. His family now lived in poverty in the Barrio Jesús, María, y José with pardos, negros, and other persons of ill repute, a long way from the comfortable house and prestigious position they once had occupied in town.2

The inquiry into the conduct of Francisco de Quijano, who did produce the required receipts and was exonerated, provides a case study through which to investigate the changing attitudes of the Spanish crown toward land use and land tenure following the British occupation of Havana in 1762. Quijano’s stewardship in the 1790s typifies the change in royal policies from a casual attitude before 1763 to a steadily increasing interest in how land could and should be used to benefit the state. Through a deliberate program of confiscation and alienation, the crown came to possess large tracts of land in and around Havana. Examining the consequences of royal confiscation provides an opportunity to understand the interrelationships among reforms enacted after 1763, population increase, and spatial change.

Although defense had been the primary reason for Havana’s existence, not since the initial fortification projects of the sixteenth century did the city experience such an extensive expansion of its military establishment.3 The post-1763 militarization was contemporaneous with the spread of sugar cultivation. If it was not yet queen of Cuba’s economy, sugar soon would be the island’s reigning commercial product. Several recent historical studies maintain that military spending in Havana provided an economic boost for the expansion of sugar cultivation and slavery. These works correctly argue that the beneficiaries of the island’s militarization were the hyperelites; that is, the titled nobility, including planter families who would become the island’s sugar magnates; royal governors; and Cuban, British, and North American merchants and slave traders who profited from the sugar boom after 1792.4 Historians can neither ignore nor discount the consequences of the sugar boom, given impetus by the Haitian rebellion of 1791; and although they might quibble over the chronology, few scholars doubt that the economic transition to sugar represented a watershed in Cuban history.

While the chronology, enterprise, politics, and social consequences of sugar cultivation have occupied the scholarly efforts of several generations of historians, the issue is tangential to this study. Acknowledging that the spread of sugar would lead to important changes in the future, this research seeks an alternative yet complementary interpretation of the contemporary changes in eighteenth-century Cuba by exploring the extent to which militarization affected Havana society. As such, this study joins a growing body of literature that examines urbanization and militarization in Spanish America in the latter half of the eighteenth century.5

The militarization of the plaza affected land use and land tenancy in and around Havana, and the prosperity associated with such militarization affected considerably more than the city’s uppermost social ranks. The accompanying process of spatial change started at least one and perhaps two generations before the sugar boom that began in 1792. By demonstrating the links between these two processes, this essay will suggest how the changes in Havana had wider implications for other areas of Spanish America.

Reform and Fortification

After 1763, a shift in Bourbon policies in Cuba led to military, fiscal, and administrative reforms; economic prosperity; and a population increase. At the same time, the refortification of existing structures and the construction of new forts, designed to prevent a reoccurrence of the disaster of 1762, when Havana had been occupied by British troops, caused the crown to alienate land in and around the city. This project changed the spatial arrangement of people, agricultural enterprises, and commercial activities. Fortresses to withstand enemy attacks, barracks to house troops, and hospitals to care for the sick and potential wounded took many city lots out of private hands. Outside the city walls, the expansion of the military parade and practice ground, the Campo de Marte, and the construction of several new fortifications ringing the city required the confiscation of large tracts held by long-established families under varying tenancy arrangements.

In the long run, however, the beneficiaries of this change were Havana’s propertied ranks, both the planter elites and landholders of more modest means. Initially, landowning families were victims of the royal alienation of land; but ultimately, a combination of demographic pressure and a decline in available land worked to their advantage. Land became scarcer and therefore more valuable, and the ability to acquire land diminished. At the same time, population pressure outward from the city combined with similar population pressure inward from the countryside beyond the cinturón azucarero, creating a pincer effect on the strip of land available just outside the city walls, the arrabales, or suburbs.6 The disequilibrium between too many people and too little space led to a scramble for housing, increased the wealth of Havana’s propertied families, and contributed to the marginalization of the propertyless members of society.

Although the state claimed sovereignty over all land, landholders were granted “bundles of rights” regarding the physical possession of property, including the right to occupy and use the land in return for the fulfillment of certain obligations and the payment of certain fees.7 In protomodern states, sovereignty and the ultimate authority to determine land tenure rested with the monarch or his representatives. In the sixteenth century, the right to grant land in usufruct, or mercedes, had been assumed by Cuban ayuntamientos (city councils), operating in the monarch’s name. Over a century and three quarters, the ayuntamiento of Havana had awarded vast acres to the first settlers or their descendants in circular grants that predominated into the eighteenth century. The largely undesirable land between the circular grants remained royal lands, or realengos, the property of the monarch. In an effort to curb local power and as a rebuke for overstepping its authority, in 1729 the crown revoked the Havana ayuntamientos land-granting privilege in favor of a junta de venta y composición de tierras, which resided in Spain but sent a subdelegate to manage its affairs on the island.

The subdelegate of the junta had the authority to award new land grants, but if possession was challenged, the subsequent adjudication proceedings were heard by the audiencia in Santo Domingo. Over the years since the original mercedes were awarded, imprecise surveys, overlapping boundaries, ambiguous documentation, and bureaucratic vacillation had led to a confused and confusing system of landholding. Lengthy litigation stemming from the disorderly system was commonplace. In addition to the cumbersome mechanisms necessary to apply for legal title, most available lands were worth less than the costs involved in securing such title, which led to widespread violations of the law. In some cases, a proprietor who held title to adjacent land simply appropriated a realengo for his own use. In other instances, families of modest means squatted on vacant land. With no guarantee of continued possession, the required improvements were rarely made.8

Several serious attempts were made to promulgate regulations in an effort to resolve Cuba’s land tenure system. All met with little success. The Ordinances of Cáceres (1573) were one such attempt; the creation of the junta in the 1730s was another.9 For the purpose of this study, the relevant reform measures were those implemented in 1754, when authority to grant land was assigned to the audiencia and a comprehensive series of rules for land tenure was promulgated. The most significant provisions of the Royal Order of 1754 were that persons who had been in possession of their land in 1700 would retain unrestricted possession and would not be disturbed.

Families who had acquired land after 1700 had to present proper documentation verifying their proprietorship. If they could not produce such documentation within a reasonable time, the land would revert to royal control and be regranted to another applicant. Although composición, the procedure to secure legal title through the payment of certain fees and penalties, existed throughout Spanish America, with regard to Cuba a separate provision for “denouncing” land acquired between 1700 and 1754 and held under illegal means was enacted. If a tract of land was denounced, the property holder must appear with the appropriate papers; if the documentation could not be produced, the denouncer could secure legal title on payment of certain fees.10 The regulations of 1754 remained the standard by which land issues were judged. In addition, after 1764, the privilege of awarding land grants came to reside with the intendant.11

The casual attitude toward securing legal title and land possession reflected the lack of need for land. Until 1763, little competition existed to challenge the cattle and swine that grazed on the rural hatos and corrales encircling the city (see map 1).12 After the British occupation, new policies dictated that land would be used to further the colony’s defense strategy, and land that was not vital for the defense effort should bring maximum revenue to the Real Hacienda.

Had a less enlightened or less determined monarch occupied the Spanish throne after the British departure, Havana, ringed by estancias and huertas, might have remained simply an important port of call between the mainland settlements and Spain.13 Charles III and his ministers came of age in a climate of progress and order engendered by the French Enlightenment. That Enlightenment spirit combined with the shock and humiliation of the successful British invasion. The Bourbon monarch vowed that such humiliation would never happen again, and at the same time, plotted revenge on his enemy.14

Before ever setting foot on Cuban soil in 1763, Havana’s new governor, Ambrosio Funes de Villapando, the Conde de Ricla; Field Marshall Alejandro O’Reilly; head engineer Agustín Crame; and the director of engineers, Silvestre Abarca, had occupied the hours spent aboard ship mulling over plans to refortify the city.15 Although they gave immediate priority to the repair of military facilities, what emerged from their discussions was a comprehensive plan to revamp the defensive position of the city and its surrounding area. The first order of business was the rebuilding and expansion of El Morro, the primary fortress that guarded the city, and the Castillo de la Punta, its counterpart on the other side of the entrance to Havana harbor, both severely damaged during the British shelling.16 In addition, teams of craftsmen, criminals, and slaves were assigned the task of augmenting and reinforcing the original fortification in the city, La Fuerza; repairing the city wall; and refortifying the watchtowers of La Chorrera, San Lázaro, and Cojímar.17

The second order of business was to address the reasons for the defeat. Two centuries earlier, Spanish engineers had warned that whoever controlled the heights of the Cabañas hill to the east would be master of the city, an observation the British victory proved all too true.18 Enemy forces were able to encircle the city by blockading the harbor with their ships positioned to the north and by landing contingents of soldiers to the east and west. With the city surrounded, the British forces shelled El Morro into submission, and after El Morros surrender, the remaining defenses fell quickly.19

Acknowledging the vulnerability of the city that lay below the unguarded hill, on November 4, 1763, Ricla ordered work to begin on the San Carlos de la Cabaña fort, located directly south of El Morro. To guard the city’s southern flank and the important Real Arsenal (royal shipyard), the Castillo de Atarés, designed by Crame, was erected atop the Loma de Soto. The last potentially vulnerable position was the western approach to the city and particularly the Loma de Aróstegui, where a regiment of British troops had landed in 1762. It was provisionally fortified in 1771, and in 1774 ground was broken for a third massive fortification, the Castillo del Príncipe, atop that hill.20

Ringing the city with fortifications only partly addressed the problem of defense, however. Military engineers recognized that the attacking army had been able to approach the city with impunity and divert the vital water supply from the Zanja, the aqueduct that supplied the city, by taking shelter behind adjacent buildings—buildings that had been constructed in clear violation of the Laws of the Indies. To prevent a similar occurrence, Silvestre Abarca proposed extending—and this time, enforcing—prohibitions against such construction near forts, watchtowers, the north coast, the wall, or other strategic features, such as the swampy area that fed the Zanja, all of which were necessary for defense and provisioning.21

Thenceforth, all construction would be prohibited within a distance of 1,500 varas (about three-quarters of a mile) of designated structures. Houses, barns, and tobacco mills not in compliance with the new regulations would be demolished. No exceptions would be permitted. Because the city wall was included in the definition of a defensive structure, the building prohibition served to extend the Campo de Marte, which would be stripped of all existing buildings and most larger vegetation, to the requisite distance beyond the city gates. In times of war, the cleared ground would help defenders by depriving an approaching enemy of shelter. Withering fire could be directed toward any approaching force from a new battery in the wall, El Polvorín, erected to defend the western flank.22 In peacetime, the cleared area would be utilized for a variety of military exercises.23 By the late eighteenth century, Havana was “the most fortified city on earth.”24

Although the comprehensive plan was created to revamp the city’s defenses, ancillary structures also benefited from the renovation. The royal administration envisioned the creation of multifaceted complexes that combined military, administrative, and fiscal functions in one area. One such complex was planned in the southern end of the Campo de Marte. In 1762 this site had been occupied by the Real Arsenal and a dilapidated building that served as a warehouse for the Factoría de Tabacos. By 1767, the Real Arsenal had been rebuilt on its former site under watchful eyes in the Castillo de Atarés, and had launched the first of several ships, including two bearing 80 guns each, amid celebrations and much fanfare.25

The extensive construction benefited the general public through the enormous sums of money it pumped into Havana’s economy. Much to the chagrin of Mexican taxpayers, who “complained that their silver disappeared into Havana’s financial maze,” Habaneros enjoyed financial prosperity.26 The Mexican situado (subsidy) rose from 437,000 pesos in the 1750s to an annual average of about 1,485,000 pesos from 1763 to 1769. In 1783, near the end of the War of American Independence, the situado reached an all-time high of 10,610,785 pesos, in addition to revenues generated by taxation and the commerce of the island itself.27

The alienation of land from existing tenancy to further these military, administrative, and fiscal reforms worked to exacerbate Havana’s increasing population density. Alienation could be as small as the confiscation of an urban lot needed for a warehouse, or as vast as the cession of the entire province of Florida to Great Britain (to ransom Havana). Even if the population had remained static, such alienation would have changed land tenure and circulation patterns. In reality, however, the alienation coincided with a significant population increase.28 Population figures demonstrate that the area’s inhabitants doubled in one generation, from before 1763 through the 1780s, and quadrupled in the suburbs during the following generation, from the 1780s through 1810 (see table 1). Simply and obviously, land around Havana available for expansion was finite; population increase was (or appeared to be) infinite. Demographic statistics alone cannot convey the impact that the reordering of the spatial structure had on the people who lived through such changes.

The fortification projects affected virtually every stratum of Havana’s population. Property holders reaped the greatest benefits; but because of the demand for labor, in both government projects and subsidiary private industries that catered to the military establishment, ordinary families shared in the general prosperity. At least four thousand day workers (jornaleros) were needed for the refortification of El Morro and the Castillo de la Punta, completed in 1766.29 Construction on La Cabaña would take 9 years to complete (at a reputed cost of 14 million pesos fuertes), and work on the Castillo del Príncipe continued for 20 years, through the tenure of several royal governors, until it was finally completed to the engineers’ satisfaction in 1794.30

So acute was the shortage of free labor that in 1777 the intendant, Juan Ignacio Urriza, wrote to the Captain General, the Marqués de la Torre, complaining that competition from other sources of employment in the city made it difficult to recruit day workers for the various fortification projects.31 Urriza’s proposed solution was to allow soldiers to volunteer for the jobs available and to pay them the same daily wage (in addition to their regular military salary) that would be offered to regular day workers. Militarization and construction projects continued through the 1790s, so it is unlikely that the demand for free or unfree construction workers declined.

For Cuba’s elites, landholding had always been a risky venture, subject to the caprices of local and metropolitan officials. Bourbon despots were no more interested in the rights of property holders than their Hapsburg predecessors had been. When the city wall was being constructed during the late seventeenth century, for example, property was taken from Teresa Carillo, and in the 1740s, the Menéndez family relinquished a large tract of land for the construction of the Real Arsenal.32 Nothing, however, compared to the magnitude of the confiscations required to implement the defense plan of 1763, and nothing would stand in its way. In carrying out the program, royal engineers would brook neither complaints nor resistance; Bourbon administrators were equally implacable. In 1767, director of engineers Silvestre Abarca reminded landholders that the original grants had been in usufruct and not in absolute property. As the Carillo and Menéndez suits demonstrate, moreover, a precedent had been set for the appropriation of land for defense.

The construction of La Cabaña, the Castillo del Príncipe, and the Castillo de Atarés; the expansion of the Campo de Marte; and the enforcement of building prohibitions affected many individual property holders. The land for La Cabaña and the Castillo de Atarés was “donated” by Agustín de Sotolongo, whose reasons are unclear. Neither he nor his heirs received direct financial compensation for the large tracts of property he relinquished on either side of the bay.33 Another landowner relinquished 43 solares (lots) in January 1764 for the expansion of the Campo de Marte.34 Twenty-six more tracts, some cultivated as gardens but others subdivided into lots on which tenant houses had been constructed, fell into government hands.35 At least eight houses in the Barrio Jesús María were ordered demolished in March 1773 for the expansion of the royal tobacco factory.36 Tenants who occupied houses on the site of the Castillo del Príncipe would be allowed to reconstruct similar structures elsewhere if they relinquished all claims for compensation.37

No institution was sacrosanct, not even the church, the traditional handmaiden of the state. Besides the expulsion of the Jesuits from all Spanish dominions in 1767 and the corresponding seizure of their property, the Conde de Ricla persuaded the friars of San Isidro to give up a portion of their town buildings for a military hospital and barracks.38 The religious of the Hospital of San Juan de Dios lost several blocks of property outside of town, including a tobacco mill (for which they would successfully petition for restitution in 1779).39 The list of casualties included the Iglesia de Guadalupe, in 1762 a substantial structure occupying consecrated ground. On the orders of the primary architect of the land confiscation, head engineer Agustín Crame, the existing church building was demolished and the site of the parish church moved to the Hermita del Señor de Salud.40 The property owners would have to file a claim for compensation, and, as Abarca warned, “what will happen will always be at the convenience of His Majesty.”41

The Shift to Compensation

In late 1779, when it appeared that the process of militarization had been accomplished with relative ease, the death of Agustín Crame under mysterious circumstances electrified the community. It was not so much his death but the circumstances surrounding his death that caused the furor. Apparently, he had been thrown from his volante (carriage) while returning to the city from his estancia (which had survived the confiscations unscathed). The accident occurred in the Barrio de Guadalupe, the news spread like wildfire, and with each telling the tale was amplified. “Did you know,” Habaneros whispered, “that it happened on the exact spot where the old Iglesia de Guadalupe stood before he ordered its demolition?”42 Witnesses swore that as the carriage approached the site of the old church, the mules rose up in fright and bolted, throwing the engineer to the ground.43

A bit of imagination added spice to the gossip and was enough to convince the devout that a vengeful apparition had frightened the mules. Yet it mattered little whether happenstance, human agency, or heavenly retribution caused the engineer’s death. What did matter was that the Belgian had ridden roughshod over the property rights of many Habaneros, with the full cooperation of other royal officials. Most citizens thought he had simply gotten what he deserved.

Whether or not the apocryphal tale is true, its value lies in its utility in gauging the temper of the community. The word-of-mouth story probably sent a chill of apprehension through the hearts of local authorities. Few well-informed royal officials could fail to see the parallel between the lampooning of the engineer and the tales and jokes emanating from the British colonies, where similar dissatisfaction with the arbitrary nature of absolute monarchy had flared into open rebellion.44 The incident could not have come at a worse time, moreover, as the government of Charles III was poised to support the very colonies whose rhetoric of republicanism was anathema to the Bourbon despot.

Perhaps it was not the resentment evident in the rumor about Crame’s death that prompted the administration to reevaluate its policy of land seizure and compensation. Perhaps the monarchy intended all along to compensate families for land taken for military expansion. There may have been some truth in the undated postscript Silvestre Abarca scribbled in the margin of a letter originally written in 1773, averring that "there was no doubt [fué preciso] that His Majesty would pay for the land that was needed for the muralla” and that if an area was needed for military exercises “he would buy that also.”45 Royal representatives could point to the friars of the Convento de Santo Domingo and Antonio de Flores Quijano, who, as co-heirs of Francisco González del Alamo, had shared the 2,539 reales awarded in 1770; and to Ana Medrano, who had received compensation for two related claims in 1772.46

Still, one could hardly blame the Habaneros for being skeptical of His Majesty’s intentions, for such instances of compensation were few and far between. The Gonzélez del Alamo and Medrano cases had been pending for 30 years. A more extreme case was that of the Menéndez family, whose land was seized in 1694 but who did not receive a judgment in their favor until 1766.47 Although the resolution of such suits might reassure some families that the crown favored conciliation, the three families in these cases had the time, resources, and connections to pursue their claims through the jurisdictional maze that was the Spanish legal system, persevering through policy changes and interminable delays. Ordinary gente decente did not have a similar advantage; their financial resources quickly would be exhausted, and the land was not worth the time and trouble.

The evidence suggests, nevertheless, that after 1779, an astute monarchy heeded the warnings implicit in the rumor that followed Crame’s death. Still, the precise timing of the royal change of heart cannot be established. Whether the initiative lay with the monarch or was forced on him by creole landholders is unclear. The order mandating that Crame’s papers be sent to Spain for review was issued on May 10, 1780, but the results of the review were not apparent until the war’s end in 1783.48 Did the processing of compensation suits serve as a bribe to ensure the Habaneros’ loyalty, or was it a reward for their performance during the war, when they were entrusted with the defense of the island? In any case, a compensation program would certainly prove costly to the Real Hacienda.

The alternative, however, would have been even costlier in the long run. Facing another war with Great Britain, the monarch and his ministers needed the cooperation of Havana’s elite and upper social ranks. Certainly, Cuba’s titled nobility were closely allied with the Spanish administration, and they had a vested interest in perpetuating a regime that protected and promoted their agricultural enterprises.49 Yet the names of Cuba’s condes and marqueses are conspicuously absent from the lists of families that received compensation under the new initiative. Instead, many of the recipients came from the commercial ranks. Some were functionaries of the Real Compañía de Comercio de la Havana, but none could be considered members of the uppermost elite ranks. At this time, they can only be characterized as a midlevel group of commercial interests. For many, such as Bernabé Martínez de Pinillos, Francisco de Borja Lima, and Raymundo Gabriel de Azcárate, the land initiatives marked the beginning of their families’ rise to prominence in the following century. Martínez de Pinillos (who was compensated for three settlements) began his career as a merchant but ultimately became the Conde de Villanueva in 1825. Borja Lima became the Marqués de Santa Olalla in 1819.50

Should another invasion attempt occur, the defense of the plaza would fall to these families, many of whom had lost or risked losing considerable property and whose patience was growing thin with the endless delays in processing compensation suits initiated since 1763. Therefore, coinciding with Spain’s entry into the War of American Independence, the royal administration began new policies reflecting its new attitude toward land alienation, policies that embodied at least two major shifts in thinking. First, claims for compensation and restitution would be not only processed but also completed quickly (by the standards of the day). Second, more equitable acquisition practices, including outright payment, would begin.

Before 1779, only five suits for compensation, three pending since the 1740s and two initiated as a result of the comprehensive plan of 1763, were resolved in favor of the claimants. In addition to the González del Alamo, Menéndez, and Medrano claims, one of the verdicts went to José Antonio Montero, and the other to the friars of the Convento de San Juan de Dios, who had lost several solares and their tobacco mill. Montero, as heir to Gerónino del Rosario Sotomayor, was compensated for an extensive property containing 43 solares ready for development, valued at 9,080 pesos. His award included the value of the land and the 5 percent interest income Montero could have derived from its use.51 In 1774, the procurador of the convento, Fray Julián José Cabello, petitioned for restitution of two tracts divided into solares and a small piece of property near the quarry. Instead, in 1777 the religious order received six thousand pesos fuertes in compensation, about one-third less than the 9,370 pesos the padre had argued was the land’s original value.52

Within the 20 years after 1779, however, 34 separate suits were resolved in the creoles’ favor. In 1780, for example, Baltázar Ramos Pizarro received 1,695 pesos in compensation for a lot and building materials that defense forces had appropriated to build a battery atop the Loma del Angel during the 1762 invasion.53 In 1789, Juana de Diós Ximénes received a payment of 2,917 pesos for land taken from her family in 1774 on the glacis of the Castillo del Príncipe.54 The most extensive settlement involved a suit initiated by Bárbara Rodríguez Ortega y Sigler and 18 coplaintiffs, who sought compensation for several lots taken for the original construction of the Real Arsenal in 1740 and the expansion of the Campo de Marte in 1765. In 1787, Charles III issued a royal order in their favor, a decision that would cost his treasury more than 53,000 pesos fuertes when compensation was paid in 1793.55

For most Habaneros whose land was appropriated for fortifications, the only recourse was to apply for compensation and hope for a favorable outcome. The heir of Martín de Aróstegui, however, sought to recover property that had not been demolished. In 1764, Aróstegui had relinquished a building needed in the construction of the Hospital del Pilar in Tallapiedra, adjacent to the Real Arsenal. The structure had not been razed, but used to house work crews. In 1779, the heir, Vicente de Zéspedes, petitioned for return of the property. In an uncharacteristically prompt decision—possibly because returning the property cost the Royal Treasury nothing, or because the claimant was a colonel in His Majesty’s army and a relative of the Aróstegui family—a favorable verdict was returned in just five months.56

Along with the metropolitan initiative to resolve compensation suits, the royal representatives changed their methods of obtaining land from private citizens. In the past, land had been appropriated and the landholder obliged to petition for compensation. After the early 1780s, necessary properties were purchased outright. For example, in March 1784, when the troops housed in La Fuerza needed additional space for a warehouse, Nicolás de Calvo transferred the rights to a house he owned next door in return for 1,460 pesos.57 On April 14, 1791, Antonio Bret and his wife, María Josefa Villanueva, sold two houses to the state for the expansion of the Hospital del Pilar. In return, the government paid their creditors, the Condesa de Jaruco and the Capellanía de Monteverde, 400 and 300 pesos, respectively.58 Four months later, the administration purchased a house in the Barrio del Salud near the Cuartel de Dragones from José Antonio Bosque for 300 pesos.59

All totaled, the compensation initiative cost the king’s coffers 98,405 pesos, which left treasury officials with the conundrum of how to come up with the funds.60 The greatest portion probably came from the situado; local officials could rationalize property acquisition as contributing to Havana’s defense.61 The Bourbons, however, were not content to rely solely on Mexican silver to fund the militarization of Havana, and they mandated that other sources of income be found. In addition to its power to grant land, the intendancy became the watchdog agency of the Real Hacienda, charged with achieving the royal goal of streamlining and centralizing the fiscal system to make it yield more revenues. The intendants methods of increasing revenues included raising taxes, implementing a more efficient tax collection system, and reducing the opportunities for evasion, graft, and corruption inherent in the old system.

A negotiated compromise between the Habaneros and the crown reduced or eliminated taxes in some areas in return for an increased alcabala (sales tax).62 Under the jurisdiction of land transactions, however, the crown managed to make the alcabala compromise work in its favor. By extending the scope of the 6 percent tax to include both vendors and purchasers, the crown doubled the taxes it normally would have received.63 Along with increased taxation came more efficient methods of tax collection. The intendancy system brought the abolition of tax farming, taking tax collection away from local interests and putting it into the hands of professionals loyal to the crown.64

Efficiency and honesty were demanded of men directly in the royal employ, such as Francisco Xavier de Quijano, the nervous rent collector. Royal agents were required to turn over all receipts to treasury agents, and they received a commission based on the amount of money they collected. Yet they were always subject to royal scrutiny and could be called in for an audit at any time. Traditional methods of circumventing the system no longer worked; Quijano, for example, stalled for a year, pleading that he had a debilitating illness that prevented him from traveling the scant mile into town to present his accounts. The exasperated auditors finally sent a party of men to his house to collect the books. The delay did allow Quijano time to review his receipts to ensure that the outcome would not go against him. In the end, the accountants determined that his accounts were in order. Instead of owing a significant sum, he was credited with a surplus of 242 pesos, which was returned to him in 1796.65

In addition to reducing graft and corruption, more efficient tax collection included removing the opportunity for tax evasion. For example, in 1780, during the wartime tenure of Juan Ignacio Urriza, royal auditors discovered that property taxes (literally, quitrents) on realengos some distance from town were seriously in arrears. Summoned into town, Felipe de Acosta, proprietor of the estancias El Aguila and La Jagua, paid 549 pesos, 1 real and 310 pesos, respectively, to settle his accounts through 1779. Juan Rodriguez Morejón owed 682 pesos for his realengo outside the villa of Santiago de las Vegas; and the Marqués de Justiz and the Conde de Jibacoa, joint proprietors of 20 caballerías of land in Guanabana, paid 660 pesos, 4 reales to retain their property rights. An indication of how seriously some accounts were delinquent is the example of Miguel de Castro Palomino, who had not paid taxes for his gardens outside the city since December 22, 1750.66

While the owners of estancias might grumble about paying their long-overdue accounts, their alternatives were few. Failure to pay delinquent accounts would cause the land to default to the state, in which case it would be granted to another person. Those who might escape the scrutiny of the royal auditors always faced the danger of the “denouncers,” who, under the provisions of the Ordinances of 1754, could pay the fees and taxes and become the new proprietors.67

Land as Capital

By the latter decades of the eighteenth century, the disequilibrium of demographic pressure and scarce housing was felt by all. Reform, militarization, and the accompanying prosperity had fostered a population increase, primarily through immigration from other areas of Spain’s empire. The contemporaneous expansion of sugar cultivation resulted in the migration of displaced rural families toward the city. A healthy economy further exacerbated the problem by providing employment opportunities for day workers in construction projects and in the expanded Real Arsenal.

At the same time, by cutting a wide swath out of the available land around Havana for the Castillos de Atarés and Príncipe and the Campo de Marte, the crown worked to increase population density. Havana’s already dense population nearly doubled, from 22,828 in 1755 to 42,805 in 1810 (see table 1). The suburbs, however, experienced a population explosion. From 3,761 in 1755, the suburban population rose to 47,102 in 1810. More significant, the population density in the suburbs rose from only 941 inhabitants per square mile in 1755 to 13,854 in 1810 (see table 2).68

The new Bourbon land policies profited Havana’s creole landowners by causing property values to rise. In 1764, not long after the city was ransomed from British control, for example, businessman Francisco Juan Garcia bought a house on Calle Ricla for 4,070 pesos. By the time he needed to borrow against the value of his property, in 1783, the house had risen in worth to 7,173 pesos, 5 reales.69 The combined estimates of a master carpenter and a master mason allowed royal officials to determine that the house of María Benigna del Hoxorie (or Osorio) was worth 4,114 pesos, up from the 3,071 pesos estimated in a previous evaluation.70 Perhaps the most significant increase was recorded for the property belonging to Juan Francisco Barreiras, who purchased a lot in Barrio Guadalupe in 1764 for 200 pesos. By 1783, with the addition of various improvements, including a house, an office, and outbuildings, the value of his property had risen to 3,327 pesos.71 Rural properties exhibited a similar trend. In 1778, the average price of one caballería of land associated with a sitio de labor in outlying villages was 2,000 pesos; by 1783 it had risen to 3,000 pesos.72

The most obvious way to capitalize on this profitable land market was to sell property outright. The desire to make a profit on surplus property appears to have been a logical economic choice, for many families owned or controlled several properties in addition to their personal residence.73 In 1793, for example, the Señoras Eligios advertised for sale an ingenio of 26 caballerías, “superior for cane.”74 Pedro del Olmo, the ayudante of the Batallón de Pardos y Morenos, lived in the barracks, so he offered for sale his house on Calle San Isidro for its appraised value of 2,550 pesos.75 In an innovative scheme to dispose of a three-story house on Calle Aguiar, navy captain Andrés Valderrama sold raffle tickets for 30 pesos each.76

Yet what appears to be an unapologetic bourgeois desire to profit from land ownership was not the sole reason families sought to utilize their equity in real estate. Families arranging a military marriage regularly assigned the value of their property in a mortgage in favor of the montepío militar to establish the required three-thousand-peso dowry for their daughters, granddaughters, or other female relatives.77 Less favorable circumstances forced some families to pledge their holdings as security for friends and relatives who had run afoul of the law.78 If a family chose not to sell land, it could still be reasonably secure in the knowledge that the property value would continue to increase.

Metropolitan policies also contributed to a housing shortage by assigning large numbers of royal officials and military troops to the city. To shelter them, crown officials rented private lodgings from civilians. The house of the Conde de Buena Vista was leased to the Real Hacienda for 700 pesos annually, because it “absolutely was the only suitable” dwelling for the purpose.79 Three houses temporarily served as barracks for the Regimento Fixo de la Havana; two belonging to Antonio Claudio de la Luz and one to Manuel Carlos Garibalso. Bernardo Carrillo de Albornoz rented out one large house for 700 pesos to shelter two companies of artilleros, and another for 360 pesos annually for the Batallón de Voluntarios Blancos.80

By the 1790s, the properties had been returned to their owners. Laborers had put the finishing touches on a new Cuartel de las Milicias inside the city (conveniently located one street from the Calle de Mujeres Públicas), while outside the city walls, the Barrio de Guadalupe boasted that it was the home of a new Cuartel de Dragones.81

Families with land adjacent to the Campo de Marte or along the main roads also responded to the housing shortage by renting to civilian families. Map 2 demonstrates the growth of settlement along the roads leading from town. In the years between 1763 and 1793, blocks of solares sprang up on both sides of those paths.82 The López Barroso family, whose estancia adjoined the Real Arsenal and the tobacco factory in Barrio Jesús María, subdivided their property with the express intention of creating town lots.83 Bárbara Rodríguez Ortega y Sigler not only received compensation for the property she lost, but also allowed tenants to build houses on property she retained in the Barrio de Guadalupe.84 So, too, a religious cofradía, the Cabildo de Negros de la Nación Caravali, became a landlord by renting its surplus properties in town.85

For Havana’s propertied groups, becoming a landlord held little financial risk. Rather than erecting houses, owners more commonly allowed tenants to construct their own buildings on rented plots. Most of these additions were modest dwellings, but occasionally they could be substantial structures, such as the adobe-and-thatch house that morena libre María del Rosario Oquendo erected “at her own expense” on the Caravali property.86 The owners of such buildings could borrow against, sell, or pass on to their heirs the houses they had erected on land belonging to others. Sometimes the provisions of the tenancy would be specified in the mortgage, the contract for sale, or the testamentary proceedings.87

As a result, families who secured permission to construct private houses enjoyed a certain degree of security. Ownership of their own houses, if not the land, represented a method of capital acquisition. Ideologically, home ownership gave members of the middle strata a sense of permanence and a stake in the system. Not until 1815, moreover, could any of Havana’s property holders be assured of continued possession of their land in anything that resembled fee simple, or in perpetuity.88

The demand for housing is further evident in the royal authorities’ futile efforts to maintain the boundaries of the Campo de Marte against the squatter sovereignty of the most marginal members of Havana society. The integrity of the buffer zone and parade ground came under siege as early as 1772, when permission was granted for the construction of temporary houses in the Barrio de Tallapiedra. For the rest of that decade, occasional permits were issued, but during the 1780s the number of requests jumped significantly. From 1780 through 1785, 23 men were allowed to violate the law and construct “temporary” wattle-and-daub dwellings on prohibited ground. Most of the permits were issued for plots of land near the Puerta de la Tierra, which suggests that the tenants were employees of the Real Arsenal. The terms of the concession specified that the houses must be demolished on demand without compensation.89 For every house erected legally, the number that blossomed illegally can only be imagined. Many were built under cover of night, with material that had been prefabricated into walls.90

Reviewing the repeated orders against construction on prohibited ground conjures up the image of a comical tug of war between frustrated royal officials and persistent homeless families. The original ban, issued in 1764, enlarged the forbidden area from the 300 varas established in the Laws of the Indies to 1,500 varas under that year’s Ordinance of Engineers. Renewing the prohibition in 1773, Silvestre Abarca allowed displaced families to rebuild in another, unspecified location. While simultaneously granting permits close to the Real Arsenal, the engineers reiterated the prohibition in 1779; and a 1788 version included a fine of 25 ducats and a penalty of six months’ hard labor to “whosoever constructed, rented, or was caught bringing materials for the construction of illegal houses” into the Campo de Marte.91

After failing once again in 1793, royal officials thought they had remedied the problem in 1799 with the completion of the moat at the foot of the wall, which forced the demolition of houses approved between 1772 and 1785. Much to their chagrin, the occupants simply moved to a location on the south side of the Camino Real, where they erected their “miserable huts” once again.92

Eventually, the crown itself became both proprietor and property manager of residences on the fringes of the Campo de Marte. The precise legal mechanism that sanctioned this is unclear. Nevertheless, by 1793, Francisco Xavier de Quijano was charged with supervising many of these properties, which resembled modern-day public housing projects, clustered on the Calle de la Zanja, the Calle Real and three connecting streets between them. The occupants of the houses were predominantly common people, divided between paying tenants, who were charged between three and five pesos per month, and those granted occupancy without charge by royal grace. Several nonpaying tenants were current or former royal employees, such as three military retirees and an employee of the salt monopoly.93

Women heads of household were usually granted free rent, which suggests that they were widows of bureaucrats or military members for whom the royal administration bore responsibility under the montepío system.94 Some tenants rented several houses simultaneously, such as Manuel Calvo de Arroyo, the tenant of three units, and Francisco Cantero, who rented two.95 Perhaps these were comerciantes, who rented houses for the employees or servants who conducted their business or looked after their property in the adjacent warehouses. They could also have been the guardians of extended families, renting houses in their own name for other family members; or they might have sublet the properties to unrelated persons.

The occupancy history of several houses testifies to the demand for shelter and, at the same time, reveals the transient lives of ordinary folk. Although the occupancy rate remained consistently high, the turnover rate was also high; and when a house became vacant, it usually was reoccupied immediately. The house at number 3 Calle de las Cosinas was rented by Juan Ignacio Camejo, who relinquished occupancy directly to Adrián de Armas. The house next door, number 4, had five different tenants from September 1791 through February 1794 but was never vacant, not even for one day.96

As a rule, the dons and doñas of higher social status lived more permanently in one location, while for the majority of the lower ranks, transience seems to have been a way of life. The average tenancy was six months, although rental periods ranged from that of Antonio de Rojas, who occupied his house for ten days, to the aforementioned Francisco Cantero, a model tenant, who occupied both houses at number 6 Calle Real for three years.

Some tenants moved between the houses Quijano supervised. Juan José Pérez, for example, lived in one rental unit for 3 months; moved into a warehouse, where he remained for a year; then moved back into a house for another 15 months, where he was living when the royal auditors arrived in 1794. While waiting for permission for her rent-free occupancy, doña Isabel Carmona paid four pesos monthly for number 4 Calle Zanja until she moved next door into her permanent quarters. María Antonia Arboles lived in one house for 5 months, then another for 13 months. After that she disappears from Quijano’s record, perhaps to become a tenant in the squatter houses a few blocks south, beside the Real Arsenal.97

To what degree the militarization of the area contributed to the marginalization of Havana’s lower social strata is difficult to determine. The burgeoning homeless population clearly concerned royal officials. As early as 1769, at the urging of the intendant, Nicolás Rapun, a bounty system was established, providing 8 reales for the apprehension of “desertores . . . mal hechores, vagos, y viciosos” inside the city; 12 reales for such service in the suburbs; and 24 reales for captures beyond the limits of the arrabales and throughout the island.98 In 1777, the Marqués de la Torre formulated a comprehensive decree detailing the requirements for maintaining the public order.99

Thereafter, the specter of arbitrary conscription loomed continuously over the transient population as royal officials issued periodic orders to round up “todos los vagos y mal entretenidos” for service on royal works or aboard ship in times of war.100 One such unfortunate, Manuel José de Sosa, was sent to Havana by the subdelegado of Remedios, ultimately to be sentenced to work on the fortifications of Havana.101 To avoid being classified as a vago, or vagrant, newcomers or persons with little means sought to create permanent living arrangements with established citizens and property owners.102 Havana’s citizens who lodged such forasteros in their homes were required to inform royal officials of the lodgers’ identity and social standing.103

Although they railed against the squatter families, whose occupancy of the king’s lands benefited nobody, royal officials themselves had initiated the assault on the Campo de Marte. During the War of American Independence, while awaiting permanent quarters inside and outside the city, military officials had erected temporary barracones (barracks) along a boulevard, the Nuevo Prado, that the Marqués de la Torre had constructed through the center of the Campo de Marte.104 By 1793 the Cuartel de las Milicias and the Cuartel de Dragones were complete and the roughhewn barracks had outlived their original purpose, although they still were valuable to the royal purse. Now used as warehouses —although still called barracones — some of the buildings were occupied by government agencies, such as the postal system, the Real Hacienda, and the city guards.

Surplus space was leased to private citizens, most notably people engaged in the slave trade. British slave trader Felipe Allwood, representative of the British firm Baker and Dawson and Quijano’s most reliable tenant, rented two barracones and paid a total of 2,560 pesos to the Real Hacienda during Quijano’s term.105 Pedro Juan Erice, one of Cuba’s most prominent financiers of the slave trade and sugar mills, occupied three of Quijano’s buildings; and Juan Santa María, of the firm Santa María y Cuesta, occupied barracón 9, paying 120 pesos per month.106 David Nagle rented two warehouses, where he offered for sale the cargoes of his ships, which arrived regularly from the Gold Coast and the English colonies.107 Nagle’s stay in Havana evidently was profitable, for when he departed, he praised his time there and thanked those with whom he had dealt for their “punctualidad y trato honorable.”108

The demand for warehouse space mirrored that for housing, because when workers carried the furnishings from the warehouse Nagle had occupied, they probably passed employees of William Woodville, who moved in that same day.109 Yet by this time, the early 1790s, the royal administration saw no contradiction in utilizing the sacrosanct space of the Campo de Marte for commercial purposes if the activity brought much-needed revenue to the royal treasury.

The Spoils of Prosperity

The 35 years following the fall of Havana in 1762 were characterized by significant reforms, and by the 1790s, the spatial arrangement and the relationship of the city to its suburbs had changed dramatically. The population increase that resulted from the Bourbon policies was inextricably linked to spatial change, and the changing patterns of land use and land tenancy represent a visible culmination of those twin processes. In the face of Habanero opposition to its land confiscation policy, the Bourbon reaction can only be described as practical. Royal policy evolved from an autocratic dismissal of growing dissatisfaction to a pragmatic awareness of the need to placate colonial landowners and secure their support.

Along with spatial change, reform and renovation fostered prosperity. The population increase put a strain on existing forms of land usage, which was manifested in a demand for housing. While it is virtually unquestionable that the hyperelites profited from the island’s militarization, Havana’s propertied families below the elite ranks also stood to gain because of the changes in land usage. The new royal policy awarded compensation for confiscated properties and, after 1780, paid directly for properties needed for defense. Even if a property was unaffected by the royal renovation efforts, the growing population density led to a greater demand for land and a concomitant increase in its value.

Some families took advantage of this increase and disposed of surplus real estate; others capitalized on the housing shortage by dividing their land-holdings into blocks filled with rental units. Entry into the exclusive club of home ownership was not restricted to the upper strata. Families who could not acquire an actual interest in real estate could secure permission to build structures on property owned by others. Such practices gave the more ambitious members of the middle ranks of Havana’s free society a stake in the system.

The prevalence of squatter houses and the high occupancy rates in government-owned residences demonstrate the demand for housing close to the city. Prosperity fostered employment for those at the lower end of the social spectrum, the island’s marginal free people. Recognizing that the lower orders were necessary for their labor—while at the same time decrying their presence —royal officials acquiesced to the demand for housing and issued permits to occupy land even on the fringes of the supposedly prohibited Campo de Marte. Although these suburban immigrants managed to extract such concessions, however, their lives were characterized by uncertainty and transience.

Colonial authorities clearly saw no contradiction if they were the ones who violated the buffer zone. The construction of barracks, moreover, was actually in keeping with the Campo de Marte’s original function. When no longer needed to house troops, leasing these buildings as surplus warehouse space conformed to the Bourbon determination to maximize the profits from existing properties. Royal officials assisted slave traders by providing a place to house newly arrived Africans and to conduct slave auctions. By renting barracones to slavers, however, the crown, intentionally or unintentionally, contributed to the expansion of slavery and the sugar boom. Ironically, the word barracones would forever be linked with the slave quarters on Cuban plantations. Thousands of slaves passed through those very barracones after free trade in slaves was declared in 1789.

Important spatial, demographic, and economic changes, thus, were taking place on the island from 1763 on. The research for this study suggests wider implications of those changes, both for Cuban historiography and for scholarship beyond the Caribbean. Currently, few scholarly challenges question the primacy of sugar cultivation as the motor that drove Cuba’s economic expansion. Clearly, however, military spending, and its significant impact on the spatial arrangement of land surrounding the island’s primary city, brought economic benefits that began almost from the moment royal administrators disembarked in 1763. Equally important, royal policies benefited many levels of Havana’s society. Midlevel social aspirants took advantage of the prosperity to advance their interests, but even the area’s marginal inhabitants enjoyed the prosperity that a healthy economy provided.

From a broader imperial perspective, the renaissance of Havana represented change that elites on the mainland did not view as positive. Certainly, Mexican taxpayers resented being forced to support the prosperity engendered by Havana’s militarization. That Havana received so much royal attention could not help but create a rivalry between the two colonies. While the vecinos of Mexico City saw their star slipping from the heights of imperial prestige, Habaneros recognized that they were special in an empirewide perspective. Not surprisingly, they responded with unwavering loyalty to the crown.

Royal administrators-cum-warriors ultimately were unsuccessful in their struggle against the inhabitants of the arrabales. The documentary record of their efforts to preserve and control land against suburban encroachment reveals how the ordering of space in and around Havana changed from 1763 through 1800. The ordering of space, in turn, provides an understanding of the social and economic milieu. Havana’s propertied families benefited from the prosperity associated with militarization, but such beneficiaries can no longer be narrowly defined as members of the island’s uppermost ranks. That so many sectors of the population were given a tangible reason to support the status quo helps explain the colonial roots of the enigma of Cuba’s loyalty to Spain.

The research for this study was funded in part by a Florida International University Foundation/Provost’s Office Research Award; an Andrew P. Mellon Fellowship, Latin American and Caribbean Center, Florida International University; and an A. Curtis Wilgus Fellowship in Caribbean Studies, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida. The author thanks the readers, colleagues, and friends who commented on earlier versions of this work.

Abbreviations have been used for the following archives: Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Havana (ANC); Archivo General de Indias, Santo Domingo (AGI, SD), Papeles de Cuba (Cuba) and Indiferente General (IG); Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, Havana (BNJM); Levi Marrero Collection, Florida International University, Miami (LMC).


ANC, Realengos, Extramuros, legajo 73:33, 1793. Quotation from Alexander von Humboldt, Ensayo político sobre la isla de Cuba, reprint ed. (Havana: ANC, 1960), 102.


ANC, Fondo de Las Floridas, leg. 20:35, July 12, 1793; East Florida Papers, Escrituras, reel 170, bundle 371, July 22, 1797, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, microfilm copies in P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville.


Paul E. Hoffman, The Spanish Crown and the Defense of the Caribbean, 1535-1568: Precedent, Patrimonialism, and Royal Parsimony (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1980); Eugene Lyon, The Enterprise of Florida: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and the Spanish Conquest of 1565-1568 (Gainesville: Univ. Presses of Florida, 1976). For the eighteenth century, see Jaime Delgado, “El Conde de Ricla, capitán general de Cuba,” Revista de Historia de América 55-56 (1963), 1-75; Bibiano Torres Ramírez, “Alejandro O’Reilly en Cuba,” Anuario de Estudios Americanos 24 (1967), 1357-88; Allan J. Kuethe, Cuba, 1/53-1815: Crown, Military, and Society (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1986). Idem, “Guns, Subsidies, and Commercial Privilege: Some Historical Factors in the Emergence of the Cuban National Character, 1763-1815,” Cuban Studies/Estudios Cubanos 16 (1986), 123-38, is the first exploration of the significant influence of militarization on the ideology of Cuban society Its impact predated the invention of Cuban nationalism or cubanidad by at least a century.


The merchant-planter nexus is well established in the existing literature. See Manuel Moreno Fraginals, El ingenio: complejo económico social cubano del azúcar, 2d ed., 3 vols. (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1978), 65; Peter J. Lampros, “Merchant-Planter Co-operation and Conflict: The Havana Consulado, 1794-1832” (Ph.D. diss,, Tulane Univ., 1980); Franklin W. Knight, Slave Society in Cuba During the Nineteenth Century (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1970), 14-18; idem, “Origins of Wealth and the Sugar Revolution in Cuba, 1750-1850,” HAHR 57:2 (May 1977), 231-53. See also Linda K. Salvucci, “Anglo American Merchants and Strategems for Success in Spanish Imperial Markets, 1783-1807,” in The North American Role in the Spanish Imperial Economy, 1764-1819, ed. Jacques A. Barbier and Allan J. Kuethe (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1984), 127-33; Francisco Xavier de Santa Cruz y Mallén, Historia de familias cubanas, 9 vols. (Miami: Editorial Hércules, 1940-50, 1986-89).

Some historians argue that Spain's monopoly on the importation of slaves contributed to a labor shortage and retarded Cuba’s ability to grow sugar. That situation changed during the British occupation of 1762, when perhaps ten thousand slaves were introduced to the island. See Moreno Fraginals, El ingenio, 95-102; Julio Le Riverend Brusone, Historia económica de Cuba (Havana: Ministerio de Educación, 1974), 108-48; Ramiro Guerra y Sánchez, Manual de historia de Cuba (económica, social, y política), 2d ed. (Havana: Consejo Nacional de Cultura, 1962), 145-46; Hugh Thomas, Cuba; or, The Pursuit of Freedom (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), 49-52; David R. Murray, Odious Commerce: Britain, Spain, and the Abolition of the Cuban Slave Trade (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980), 1-21. Other interpretations argue that by midcentury, Cuba’s elites had diversified their economic holdings to include sugar, tobacco, and cattle production to spread the risk among many sources of income. Levi Marrero y Artiles, Cuba: economía y sociedad, 14 vols. (Madrid: Playor, 1972-88), 12:1-23; John Robert McNeill, Atlantic Empires of France and Spain: Louisbourg and Havana, 1700-1763 (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1985), 156-72.


Juan Marchena Fernández and Carmen Gómez Pérez, La vida de guarnición en las ciudades americanas de la Ilustración (Madrid: Ministerio de Defensa, 1992); Marchena Fernández, Ejército y milicias en el mundo colonial americano (Madrid: MAPFRE, 1992); Carmen Gómez Pérez, El sistema defensivo americano: siglo XVIII (Madrid: MAPFRE, 1992). On the expansion of urban space in Cuba, see Carlos Venegas Fornias, Dos etapas de colonización y expansión urbana (Havana: Editora Política, 1979); idem, La urbanización de las murallas: dependencia y modernidad (Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1990). On the state of historical geography dealing with Latin America in general, David J. Robinson maintains, “Our understanding of the spatial dimension of colonial Latin American development is at best opaque and at worst nonexistent.” “Introduction to Themes and Scales,” in Social Fabric and Spatial Structure in Colonial Latin America, ed. Robinson (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1979), 10. See also John V. Lombardi, “The Rise of Caracas as a Primate City,” ibid., 443-55.


Le Riverend Brusone, Historia económica, 13-18, 80; Knight, Slave Society, 15-18; Moreno Fraginals, El ingenio, 52-68, 157-63; M. Sherry Johnson, ‘“Honor is Life': Military Reform and the Transformation of Cuban Society, 1753-1796" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Florida, 1995). 96-122. The term for the ring of ingenios that circled the city was coined by Moreno Fraginals as cinturón azucarero, in El ingenio, 139.


Alvin Bertrand, “Land Tenure: Definition and Conceptual Frame of Reference,” in Rural Land Tenure in the United States: A Socio-Economic Approach to Problems and Trends (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1962), 7.


Duvon C. Corbitt, “Mercedes and Realengos: A Survey of the Public Land System in Cuba,” HAHR 19:3 (Aug. 1939), 263-69. The awarding of land in circular grants was a characteristic of Cuba’s land system. Such grants, based on the rights of first entry, were awarded to conquerors by city councils, which privilege was legitimated in the Ordinances of Cáceres, promulgated in 1574 and approved by royal order in 1640.


Ibid., 262-73.


ANC, Realengos, leg. 91:5, 1755.


Ibid., leg. 91:31, 1766.


Cuban land grants were classified as hatos (cattle ranches), corrales (hog ranches), potreros (horse farms), estancias or huertas (gardens, usually for produce), vegas (tobacco farms), or ingenios (sugar plantations). Proprietors were required to improve the land to maintain possession and to pay an annual sum to continue in possession. On transfer of the land through sale or inheritance, the municipality collected a fee of a half-year's income (media annata).


Marrero y Artiles describes the city's shipyard as the “orgullo de la Habana.” Cuba: economía y sociedad, 12:134-35, 8:15-22. See also Ovidio Ortega Pereyra, La construcción naval en la Habana bajo la dominación colonial española (Habana: Academia de Ciencias de Cuba, 1986); Antonio José Valdés, Historia de la isla de Cuba y en especial de la Habana (Havana: Oficina de la Cena, 1813; facsimile ed., Havana: Comisión Nacional Cubana de UNESCO, 1964), 281-89; Le Riverend Brusone, Historia económica, 65-68.


Marrero y Artiles, Cuba: economía y sociedad, 8:28-31; Kuethe, Cuba, 1753-1815, 78-112; Guerra y Sánchez, Manual de historia, 175-76.


Guerra y Sánchez, Manual de historia, 177. Crame, actually Cramer, signed his name without the final r. Crame, “Discurso sobre el fomento de la isla de Cuba,” AGI, SD, Dec. 9, 1768, photocopy in LMC. The correct spelling is followed in modern works such as Guerra y Sánchez, Manual de historia, 177; and Manuel Pérez Beato, Habana antigua, apuntes históricos, 2 vols. (Havana: Seoane, Fernández, 1936), 1:413. Crames contemporary, Valdés, Historia de la isla, 155-56, 336, from which most of the material in this essay is taken, refers to him as Cramer. See also José María de la Torre, Lo que fuimos y lo que somos, o la Habana antigua y moderna (Havana, 1857; facsimile ed., Santo Domingo: Ediciones Históricos Cubanas, 1986), 42-45, 101-2. Debate also exists over Crames origins; some historians maintain that he was German, others that he was Belgian.


De la Torre, Lo que fuimos.


ANC, Correspondencia del Capitán General, leg. 11:48, 1761-76; leg. 23:6, 1764-67. For an explanation of the component parts of the labor force on construction projects, see AGI, SD, leg. 1223, July, 30, Aug. 27, 1775, photocopy in LMC.


Thomas, Cuba, 6-7; Guerra y Sánchez, Manual de historia, 169-75; Kuethe, Cuba, 1753-1815, 18.


Francis Russell Hart, The Siege of Havana, 1762 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931); Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Papeles sobre la toma de la Habana por los ingleses en 1762 (Havana: ANC, 1948); Amalia A, Rodríguez, ed., Cinco diarios del sitio de la Habana (Havana: ANC, 1963); David Syrett, ed., The Siege and Capture of Havana (London: Navy Records Society, 1970).


Guerra y Sánchez, Manual de historia, 178; de la Torre, Lo que fuimos, 104, 108; Valdés, Historia de la isla, 155-56.


"Sobre la compra y pago de terrenos y solares extramuros de esta ciudad,” ANC, Tribunal de Cuentas (hereafter TC), expediente 1334, libro 6, foxas 224, 1773, in Boletín del Archivo Nacional (BAN) 10 (May-June 1911), 130-31.


Guerra y Sánchez, Manual de historia, 178; Valdés, Historia de la isla, 155-56.


Valdés, Historia de la isla, 164.


Manuel Moreno Fraginals, “Sugar in the Twentieth Century in Cuba” (Paper presented at the Center for Latin American Studies, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, Aug. 26, 1994).


Valdés, Historia de la isla, 286-89; Marrero y Artiles, Cuba: economía y sociedad, 8:15-22, 12:134-35; Ortega Pereyra, La construcción naval; Le Riverend Brusone, Historia económica, 65-68.


Allan J. Kuethe, “Havana in the Eighteenth Century,” in Atlantic Port Cities: Economy, Culture, and Society in the Atlantic World, 1650-1850, ed. Franklin W. Knight and Peggy Liss (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1991), 24.


The issue of just how much money arrived in Havana is the subject of a debate. See Carlos Marichal and Matilde Souto Mantecón, “Silver and Situados: New Spain and the Financing of the Spanish Empire in the Caribbean in the Eighteenth Century,” HAHR 74:4 (Nov. 1994), 604; Kuethe, “Guns, Subsidies, and Commercial Privilege,” 130; John J. TePaske, “La política española en el Caribe durante los siglos XVII y XVIII,” La influencia de España en el Caribe, La Florida, y la Luisiana, 1500-1800, eds. Antonio Acosta and Juan Marchena Fernández (Madrid: Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana, 1983), 79-87; Le Riverend Brusone, Historia económica, 143-44.


I have argued elsewhere that the primary cause of the population increase was the “invisible immigration” through the transfer of Spanish military forces to the Caribbean during the North American War of Independence. More important, a significant number of these troops voluntarily remained in Cuba, joined a growing permanent population, and had important effects on Cuban society. Johnson, “‘Honor is Life,’” 96-122. My findings contrast with those of John E. Kicza, “The Social and Political Position of Spanish Immigrants in Bourbon America and the Origins of the Independence Movements,” Colonial Latin American Review 4:1 (1995). 105-28.


Guerra y Sánchez, Manual de historia, 183.


Humboldt, Ensayo político, 223.


“Cuya escasez por el mucho de fábricas que hay en la Plaza.” Juan Ignacio de Urriza to Captain General Marqués de la Torre, AGI, Papeles de Cuba (hereafter Cuba), leg. 1153, Mar. 20, 1777. A precise demographic analysis of the free and unfree components of the labor force is beyond the scope of this article, but reasonable estimates suggest that in 1776, the unfree labor on La Cabaña and El Príncipe varied between 1,400 and 1,700 persons, leaving a conservative estimate of 2,300 free workers in the general population. ANC, Correspondencia del Capitán General, leg. 11:48, 1761-76; leg. 23:6, 1764-67; AGI, SD, leg. 1223, July 30, Aug. 27, 1776. By 1784 the number of unfree workers on La Cabaña and El Príncipe had declined to approximately 670, which suggests that the free component had increased. Juan Ignacio de Urriza to Bernardo de Gálvez, AGI, Cuba, leg. 1371, Jan. 30, 1785.


ANC, Realengos, leg. 22, 16; ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1766, in BAN, 143.


ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib, 6, foxas 224, n.d., in BAN, 142. Ordinarily, elite families expected some other form of compensation, such as an important government post or the favorable settlement of a lawsuit in the courts or the Council of the Indies.


Ibid., 1773, 144.


Ibid., 1793, 146-51.


María Sánchez Agustí, Edificios públicos de la Habana en el siglo XVIII (Valladolid: Univ, de Valladolid, 1984), 56.


ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1773, in BAN, 130-31.


Manuel Fernández Santalices, Las calles de la Habana intramuros: arte, historia y tradiciones en las calles y plazas de la Habana vieja (Miami: Saeta, 1985), 131.


ANC, Realengos, leg, 22:16, 1774-77; ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1777, in BAN, 158.


Valdés, Historia de la isla, 336; de la Torre, Lo que fuimos, 42-45.


ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1773, in BAN, 130-31.


Valdés, Historia de la isla, 336,


De la Torre, Lo que fuimos, 42-45, 97.


Light Townsend Cummins leaves no doubt that the officials in Havana were well aware of the political climate in the rebellious North American colonies, Spanish Observers and the American Revolution, 1775-1783 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1991), 115-67. See also Francisco Morales Padrón, ed., The Journal of Don Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis, 1780-1783, trans. Aileen Moore Topping (Gainesville: Univ, of Florida Press, 1989). The definitive statement on how political lampooning via printed sources (newspapers, broadsides, etc.) changed the colonial perception of the British monarchy is Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (New York: Belknap Press, Harvard Univ. Press, 1967).


ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1773, in BAN, 130.


Ibid., 1770, 157-58, 1772, in BAN, 143.


Ibid., 1766, in BAN, 143.


Ibid., 1780, in BAN, 129.


See, e.g., Kuethe, Cuba, 1753-1815; Moreno Fraginals, El ingenio; Lampros, “Merchant-Planter Cooperation”; Knight, Slave Society and “Origins of Wealth”; Thomas, Cuba, among many accounts.


Marrero y Artiles identifies the planter aristocracy as those having titles of Castile. Cuba: economía y sociedad, 8:39-41. On Martínez de Pinillos and Borja Lima, see ibid., 13:39-41. Azcárate and Francisco Xavier Bengochea have both been identified as slave traders. Moreno Fraginals, El ingenio, 115 n. 9, 269. Juan Francisco Olinden (two settlements) was a former employee of the Real Compañía de Comercio. In addition to these claimants and those identified in the text, the successful petitioners included Manuel de Torróntegui, representing the Franciscan friars; Cayetano Fonseca, representing Bárbara Rodríguez; Jacinto Vervias, José Rodríguez Crespo (three settlements), Antonio Español (two settlements), Bernardo Guillén, Pedro Francisco Marco, José Malifont, la Compañía de Balaguer y Alaguer (obviously a commercial enterprise), Esteban Ponzet, Bernardo Baldase, Manuel González Villaroel, Juan Santa Cruz, Sebastián Laza (two settlements), Juan Vicente Adott, and Antonio Mazán. ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1780, in BAN, 143-55.


ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1773, in BAN, 144.


ANC, Realengos, leg. 22:16, 1774-77.


ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1780, in BAN, 145.


Ibid., 1789.


Ibid., 1793, 146-51.


ANC, Realengos, leg. 25:3, 1779.


Ibid., leg. 27:6, 1784.


Ibid., leg. 32:8, 1791.


Ibid., leg. 32:9, 1791.


ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1818, in BAN, 154-55.


Marichal and Souto Mantecón, “Silver and Situados,” 600-605.


Allan J. Kuethe and G. Douglas Inglis, "Absolutism and Enlightened Reform: Charles III, the Establishment of the Alcabala, and Commercial Reorganization in Cuba,” Past and Present 109 (Nov. 1985), 118-43.


Le Riverend Brusone, Historia económica, 138.




ANC, Realengos, leg. 72:3, 1793.


Ibid., leg. 27:5, 1780.


Ibid., leg. 91:5, 1755. For denouncers, see ibid., leg. 21:1, 1771; leg. 24:3, 1778(?); leg. 34:16, 1794.


Diego José de Navarro, “Padrón general de la isla de Cuba formado a consequencia de Real Orden de 1 de noviembre de 1776,” AGI, Indiferente General (hereafter IG), leg. 1527, 1778, photocopies in LMC and in Revista de la Biblioteca Nacional José Martí 29 (Sept.-Dec. 1987), 25. See also McNeill, Atlantic Empires, 126-29; Humboldt, Ensayo político, 103-7. No contemporary approximation exists of the interior dimensions of the city or the barrios extramuros to determine population density. Therefore, the area was extrapolated using measurements of the circumference of the city walls and the distance from the Puerta de la Tierra to the Castillo del Príncipe, given in varas castellanas, in de la Torre, Lo que fuimos, 84-86. Although the area taken by the Campo de Marte was supposed to extend for 1,500 varas, the actual distance from the city was closer to 1,100 varas, approximated by using a map of El Horcón and the location of the Iglesia de Guadalupe in 1758. See Gabriel de Torres, “El Horcón (1758),” in Planos de ciudades iberoamericanas y filipinas existentes en el Archivo de Indias, 2 vols. (Madrid: Instituto de Estudios de Administración Local, 1981), 1:78. The approximation of the area of the Campo de Marte was then subtracted from the total area of the barrios extramuros. The measurement of the Castilian vara was accepted as 2.78 feet, or 33 inches, which was then converted to English measure. Corbitt, “Mercedes and Realengos,” 266.


ANC, Protocolos de Guerra, Oct. 15, 1783.


Ibid., Mar. 21, 1783.


Ibid., July 11, 1783.


ANC, Protocolos de Gobierno, Escribanía de Francisco de Castro, 1777-1778, Feb. 13, 1778; Protocolos de Guerra, May 31, June 14, 1783.


See, e.g., Protocolos de Guerra, Apr. 28, 1781, Nov. 29, 1793; Protocolos de Gobierno, Escribanía de Francisco de Castro, 1766-1777, May 21, 1766.


Papel Periódico de la Havana, Aug. 4, 1793.


Ibid., May 3, 1792.


Ibid., June 24, 1792.


See, e.g., ANC, Protocolos de Gobierno, Escribanía de Fernando de Castro, July 11, 1778; Protocolos de Guerra, June 25, 1782, Oct. 16, 1783.


Protocolos de Guerra, Aug. 4. 1785; Protocolos de Gobierno, Escribanía de Fernando de Castro, Mar. 31, 1767, Oct. 26, 1778.


Urriza to Marqués de la Torre, AGI, Cuba, leg. 1153, Mar. 17, 1776; Intendant Nicolás Rapun to Marqués de la Torre, ibid., June 9, 1773.


Rapun to Marqués de la Torre, ibid.


Rafael Rodríguez, Plano topográfico, histórico, y estadístico de la ciudad y puerta de la Habana (Havana: Real Sociedad Patriótica, 1841), Colección Cubana, BNJM. I am grateful to Leandro S. Romero for providing a copy for me. See also Sánchez Agustí, Edificios públicos, 66-71; Pérez Beato, Habana antigua, 85; AGI, IG, leg. 1527, May 1, 1788.


James Phelps, “A New and correct chart of the harbour of Havana on the island of Cuba with a plan of ye city ande, from an actual survey by Captain James Phelps, I Mynde, sc.” (London, 1758?), Library of Congress, American Maps, vol. 2, no. 52; “Plano de la ciudad y puerto de la Havana situada en 23 grs. 10 mins, de latitud y 291 grs. 10 mins. de longitud,” c. 1760, copy in Colección Cubana, BNJM; “A Plan of the Havana and its Environs, with the Several Posts and Attacks made by the British Forces; under the command of the Earl of Albemarle and Sir George Pocock, which was taken 13 Aug. 1762,” in Hart, Siege of Havana, facing back cover; Silvestre de Abarca, “Plano de la Habana (1776),” in Planos de ciudades iberoamericanas y filipinas, 1:67; Luis Huet(?), “Plano del puerto y ciudad de la Habana (1798)," ibid., 71; de Torres, “El Horcón (1758),” ibid., 78; José del Río, “Plano del puerto y ciudad de la Havana,” 1798, copy in Colección Cubana, BNJM.


ANC, Realengos, leg. 31:8, 1791; Pérez Beato, Habana antigua, 1:403.


ANC, Protocolos de Gobierno, Escribanía de Fernando de Castro, Mar. 17, 1767, Sept. 9, 1777.


Ibid., Mar. 30, 1767. See also Pedro Deschamps Chapeaux, El negro en la economía habanera del siglo XIX (Havana: Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, 1971), 36-38.


ANC, Protocolos de Gobierno, Escribanía de Fernando de Castro, Mar. 17, 30, 1767. The contract between morenas libres María del Rosario Oquendo and María de la Soledad Días reads, “casa de rafas, tapias y guano [que] construí a mi expensa en solar del cavildo de los negros de la nación caravali.” In Cuba, guano refers to palm leaves used for thatch. José de Rivera to Juan Ignacio de Urriza, Feb. 16, 1786, in BAN 53-54 (1954-55), 278; Diego José Navarro, "Bando sobre que se destechen las Casas de Guano, o Yaguas que estén dentro de la Ciudad,” BAN 28 (1929), 83-84.


Navarro, “Bando.” On home ownership in the Caribbean, see Jay Kinsbruner, “Caste and Capitalism in the Caribbean: Residential Patterns and House Ownership Among the Free People of Color of San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1823-46,” HAHR 70:3 (Aug. 1990), 433-61.


In 1815 the ability to own property outright was granted to the landowning sectors of the island. Moreno Fraginals, El ingenio, 1:159; Knight, Slave Society, 17.


ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1766-1799, in BAN, 155-56.


De la Torre, Lo que fuimos, 45.


ANC, TC, exp. 1334, lib. 6, foxas 224, 1766-1799, in BAN, 155-56.


“Se ha ido repoblando de una nueva linea de casuchas a la linea sur de la calzada.” Ibid. Emphasis added. On the additional destruction caused by tropical storms during this period, see AGI, Cuba, legs. 1090, 1097, 1154; "Socorro a los pobres de la inundación de 21 junio,” Papel Periódico, Oct. 6, 1791.


ANC, Realengos, leg. 72:33, 1793.


Ibid. For a description of the montepío system in Mexico, see D. S. Chandler, Social Assistance and Bureaucratic Politics: the montepíos of Colonial Mexico, 1767-1821 (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1991).


ANC, Realengos, leg. 72:33, 1793.






Rapun to Marqués de la Torre, AGI, Cuba, leg. 1153, June 14, 1772.


Diego José Navarro, “Bando de Buen Gobierno,” BAN 28 (1949), 83-84; “Instrucciones a justicias ordinarios y capitanes del partidos para la recolección de hombres vagos y mal entrenidos," Papel Periódico, July 10, 1794.


ANC, Correspondencia del Capitán General, leg. 30A:4g.


Urriza to Marqués de la Torre, AGI, Cuba, leg. 1153, Nov. 2, 1777.


“Un forastero de arreglada conducta y que entiende algo de azúcares desea acomodarse en algún ingenio,” Papel Periódico, Nov. 8, 1792.


“Sobre la prohibición del uso de armas y otras medidas para evitar la alteración del orden público,” Sept. 6, 1782, BAN 67 (1948), 163-64.


Guerra y Sánchez, Manual de historia, 183; Valdés, Historia de la isla, 165-68; ANC, Realengos, leg. 72:33, 1793.


ANC, Realengos, leg. 72:33, 1793. For a description of Felipe Allwood’s activities, see Papel Periódico, July 26, 1792, Apr. 20, 1794. See also Murray, Odious Commerce, 10, 14; Moreno Fraginals, El ingenio, 1:70-71.


Moreno Fraginals, El ingenio, 1:70-71; ANC, Realengos, leg. 72:33, 1793.


Realengos, leg. 72:33, 1793; Papel Periódico, Mar. 15, May 13, 1792.


Papel Periódico, May 3, 1792.


Ibid., Nov. 7, 1790; ANC, Realengos, leg. 72:33, 1793.