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QUAKERISM IN CUBA5 QUAKERISM IN CUBA By May Mather Jones* BANANAS, sugarcane, "Remember the Maine", the United Fruit Company, the Spanish-American war—one can begin with any one of these and easily arrive at Cuba Yearly Meeting of Friends. It is said that Gurney and other Friends visited the island of Cuba in early days, but the interest of Friends in the United States for the people of Cuba in modern times dates from soon after the Spanish-American war, which naturally brought Cuba strongly to the attention both of financial interests which quickened their already fairly rapid pace of entrance into the island to exploit her rich natural resources, and of religious bodies, which hastened to her shores with a message of Christian love, stirred by tales of spiritual destitution and material need. Friends had already for a number of years been working in the neighboring island of Jamaica, of which Zenas L. Martin, of Iowa Yearly Meeting was superintendent. There, Captain Baker, head of the United Fruit Company, was a loyal supporter of Friends' missions. Seated together on the deck one day during a return voyage from Jamaica, Captain Baker and Zenas Martin could sight the green palm groves of Cuba in the distance. The Captain described the spiritual destitution and ignorance of the people and urged that Friends should start meetings in Cuba near the banana plantations he was planning to set out in Cuba in the near future, promising financial aid such as he had given in Jamaica. Several Yearly Meetings immediately became interested and in November, 1900, only two years after the close of the war with Spain, a group of Friends sailed for Cuba, and began work in Oriente province. This was the first mission administered by the newly organized American Friends Board of Foreign Missions as such. About the same time another group of Friends started work in the western end of Cuba, later becoming affiliated with the Board. * This article forms a continuation of the series of articles on Quakerism in different countries of the world, which has been running through the last few numbers of the Bulletin. 6 BULLETIN OF FRIENDS' HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION The meetings, which later were to form Cuba Yearly Meeting of Friends, developed in a period which inherited tremendous religious, social, economic, and political problems. At the close of the Spanish-American war, the incidence of illiteracy was near 75% ; of illegitimacy 49% ; there was no public school system ; a decadent state Catholic church, with a sad record of spiritual neglect by mercenary foreign priesthood, was in complete control ; the Bible was prohibited by law ; marriage and burial were a legal Catholic monopoly ; gambling, government lotteries, prostitution , cock-fights, etc., were an index of prevalent immorality. Political domination and exploitation by Spain was replaced to a large degree by that of the United States, aided and abetted by a group of Cuban politicians, those of better sentiments being too timid and inexperienced to take the lead in national affairs. As the financial penetration by foreign capital proceeded apace, sugarcane replaced bananas in the United Fruit Company's estates and thousands of acres of adjacent land have been acquired by corporations. Two of the largest sugar mills of the world were erected in the immediate vicinity of Friends. All this involved the evils of absentee landlordism, as the displacement of small farmers by immense plantations owned by foreign capital and the importation of cheap labor from Haiti and Jamaica. The new central railroad diverted coastwise trade from port towns, bearing stagnation and consequent unemployment in its wake in towns where Friends were located, except Holguin, which on the whole benefited commercially. The fields of public utilities, banking , railways, shipping, etc., were also invaded by foreign capital, which in many industries was able to sap the economic lifeblood of the nation. Under the American Intervention, a public school system was inaugurated, church and state separated, civil marriage and burial made legal, freedom of worship declared, limited by the Piatt Amendment. But centuries of inexperience and forced non-participation in civil affairs under Spain, made progress feeble and slow and continued exploitation easy. T N SUCH a situation, Friends who...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 5-9
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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