This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
It is for her very loyal subjects - the people of Cuba - that the Queen of Spain makes all this warlike show".
The means of education are limited in Cuba. There is Royal University, a medical and law school, and chairs on all the natural sciences; the Jesuits have a college of some pretensions, but everybody seems to feel Mat the policy of the government is opposed to real knowledge. There is a museum of natural history, only kept up by a few master spirits; the "Jarden" of Acclimation, fonnded under the auspices of De la Sagra, is now unfenced, and utterly given up to the pasturage of the cows.
It may be as well to warn those who take letters of introduction to banking merchants, not to expect the slightest attempt at hospitality. As it has been said before, a Spaniard's idea of this virtue is to dine with every one who asks him; your banker will receive the strongest recommendations from his correspondent with averted eyes, and hand you over to a clerk, whose only idea respecting you is, that you are entitled to draw so many doubloons. The customs are so different in many respects, that you enjoy to the full the feeling of being in a foreign land.
It strikes one very oddly that the rear basement of the palace is let out to shopkeepers; you may buy cigars under Madame Concha's drawing-room, or have your harness or shoes mended on your way up to an official's office. It is altogether a country of contradictions. The garden or square in front, is the resort of everybody in the evenings, and it is here the military bands discourse excellent music.
In connection with the palace, we may as well give the form of the invitations to the Governor-General's receptions, which are held every Wednesday evening, when that does not come upon a great saint's day, or the ever-recurring drawing of the lottery. Our invite is enveloped in a large square form, and reads thus: -
El Gobernador Capitan-General h la Marquesa de la Habana recibran los Miercoles.
Habana, 14 (month illegible), 1857.
A las 8½*.
Signor,,Don, etc. etc.
We must say it is a novelty once in one's life to be called a Don, and that the supreme ruler's evening receptions are amazingly stupid, unless you speak Spanish. The Governor-General puts on his best smile, Madame Concha ditto (and a most amiable lady she is, and fortunately speaking good French), the foreign diplomatists stand up, our own consul quite ignorant of the language, and unable, therefore, to talk to the natives, a few walk through the figure of a dance, simple refreshments are introduced, and you are very glad to get away.
The Governor-General's Palace forms our illustration in the present number,†
All whom we conversed with who had visited Trinidad, on the south side of the island (ninety miles from Havana), agreed in recommending its climate for the months of December, January, and February, especially. It is sheltered from northers, and since its accessibility by steam from Havana, has been much frequented, in the colder months, by Americans; the accommodations are about as good as those of Mr. Wolcott's, and about as unreasonably dear.
Numerous topics connected with this interesting country might be enlarged npon, but we have endeavored to keep the narrative within, or nearly so, the subjects for a work like the present. Visitors are of course attracted to the appearance of the firmament, and here enjoy most novel and beautiful starry scenes, which are unknown at the North. The constellations and stars to be seen, include the Southern Cross, which may be viewed from Havana and most parts of the island; Canopus will also attract attention, the astronomer no less than the botanist, here enjoying a fine opportunity for study, and to him, of novelty. The geologist, too, will find new forms of interest; coral and madrepores, the sink-holes formed in the coral formations, etc, may employ him advantageously. No species of natural history but here meets new illustrations; the birds, the insects, and the fish, especially, all present novel forms and features to the Northern eye.
It may be said that it is only since the application of steam to ocean navigation, that the eyes of North Americans have been so longingly set upon Cuba; that period in the history of our race is but a moment. The decadence of Spain, or, rather, her being left behind in the grand progress of civilization, is meantime a great fact testified to by her miserable government, her corrupt court, and her despotism at home and abroad; her progress is downward, and every day's declension, added to her moneyed wants, occasioned by the corruption of her rulers, is a step towards the necessity she will be under of making sale of her lands. A rich neighboring country stands ready to buy; sell she must, and buy we will. The opportunity is coming, and, meantime, every piece of information we can acquire, is so much knowledge stored up for fixing a value.
Oddly enough for this year of 1857, the paper is hand-made, with a water mark of Old Spain.
For the copy of the illustration of the Governor's Palace, and one or two others, we are indebted to Phillips,Sampson & Co., Boston, publishers of Ballou's History of Cuba, to which we refer readers desirous of pursuing the subject. It is entertaining and reliable. - Ed.