Cuba Politics


Posted October 27, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

This article was scanned from National Geographic February 1909


IN the autumn of 1907 a census of the population of Cuba was taken. The primary purpose of this census was to obtain, by means of non-partisan machinery, a list of the persons. qualified to vote, to serve as a basis for the then approaching municipal and national elections. Because
such was the primary purpose, the census was not extended to include the industries of the island, but related solely to the population. The questions asked differed but little from those employed in the Cuban census of 1899 and in the census of the Philippines.

The results of this census were tabulated by the United States Census Office and a report, printed in Spanish only, is about to be issued. From the results I have brought together a few of the more striking facts.

The civil organization of Cuba is as follows:
The island is divided into 6 provinces, and these provinces into 82 municipalities. These municipalities are in turn divided into 1,069 barrios, the “barrio” being the smallest political subdivision of the island. There are no cities, towns, villages, or boroughs, as we understand
those terms. The urban parts of the municipalities are not separated from the adjoining rural parts. It is possible. however, in the case of most centers of population, to make an approximate separation by means of the barrios, certain of the barrios of a municipality being composed mainly, if not entirely, of urban or of rural inhabitants.


The population of Cuba on September 30, 1907, was 2,048,980: at the census next preceding, taken under American administration, in 1899, at the close of the Spanish-American War, the population was 1,572,797.

The rate of increase in these eight years is not less than 30 per cent, or at the rate of 39 per cent per decade. This is a very rapid rate of increaseógreater than that of any country with which I am acquainted.

This increase has not been brought about by immigration, for in the eight years the net immigration (that is, the excess of arrivals over departures) numbered only 75,000, and the element of foreign birth increased from 11 per cent to 11.2 per cent only, but it has been brought about almost entirely by the excess of births over deaths. During the years of revolution, when a large part of the men were away from their homes fighting for freedom, marriages and births were very few, and at the close of the war there were great arrears to be made up. The natural result followedóan astonishing birth rate, which is shown in the fact that by the last census the number of children under five years of age, who, of course, have been born since the war, accounts for three-fourths of the increase in population.

One peculiar phenomenon of this in-crease is that the rural population has gained much more rapidly than has the urbanóa condition which rarely exists, as in nearly every country in the world the drift of population is toward the cities.

The urban population, including all places of 1,000 inhabitants and over, was 43.9 per cent of the total population. In 1899 it was 47.1 per cent. If the urban population be limited to towns of 8,000 inhabitants, the proportion was 30.3 per cent. The chief cities are .Habana, with
297,159 inhabitants, or about one-seventh of the population of Cuba ; Santiago de Cuba, 45,470; igatanzas, 36,009; Cienfuegos, 30,100; an: Camaguey, 29,616. The number of inhabitants per square mile in the island as a whole was 46.5, or about the same as in Missouri, Virginia, or South Carolina.

The foreign-born population formed 11.2 per cent of the total. Of this element, four-fifths were born in Spain and less than 3 per cent in the United States ; Chinese and Africans were more numerous than United States people. The slave trade was officially abolished early in the
present century, but that it continued as a contraband traffic until comparatively recent years is shown by the fact that nearly 8,000 negroes on the island re-ported themselves as having been born in Africa.

Among the people born in Cuba the sexes were very nearly equally divided, while among the foreign-born more than four-fifths were males.


As to color, about seven-tenths of the population were white, the remaining three-tenths being colored, including negroes, mixed, and a few thousand Chinese. As in the United States, the colored element is increasing less rapidly than is the white population, owing here both to a smaller birth rate and a larger death rate. The native whites formed nearly three-fifths of the entire population.

Some of the features of the distribution by age are of interest. The proportion of young children, as has already been noted, was very large, those under T year forming 3.2 per cent of the whole population, while in the United States they formed only 2.5 per cent. Those under 5 years of age were 16.8 per cent, contrasting with 9.5 per cent in the United States. On the other hand, the proportion of people of advanced age was small: those over 5o years of age formed only To per cent, while in the United States the percentage was 13.2 per cent.

The children of school age, 5 to 17 years, present a curious phenomenon, the number being actually 11,500 less in this census than in that of 1899. The war and the accompanying reconcentration caused the death of vast numbers of young children, most of whom were under the school age. The survivors are now 8 years older and constitute a large proportion
of the school-age class, while the numerous children born since the war have hardly reached the school age. At the recent census the children of school age formed only 26.4 per cent of the population, while the same class in 1899 was not less than 35.1 per cent, and in the United States was 33.8 per cent.

Among the aged there is apparently the same tendency to exaggerate ages as exists in this country and elsewhere, and this tendency is of course more marked among the ignorant classes. In Cuba 0.2 per cent of the whites reported them-selves as 8o years of age or more, while of the colored not less than 1.2 per cent were so reported. Of the white population
who reported themselves to be over Too years, the number was too small to be expressed in a percentage, but of the colored o.1 per cent reported themselves as centenarians.

The average age of the Cuban was 23.4 years, which is strongly contrasted with that of the United States-26.3 yearsóa difference of almost 3 years in average age. The males of voting age formed 27 per cent of the population, or very nearly that of the United States, which is 28 per cent. The native-born males of voting age, who practically constitute the voting strength of the people, formed 21 per cent of the population.


The conjugal condition of the Cubans presents some points of interest. There are practically no divorced persons, since the Roman Catholic Church does not tolerate that condition. There is a class, however, which is not recognized in this country, to which the name of “consensnal
union” or “consensual marriage” has been applied, referring to man and woman living together, having waived the marriage ceremony. The reason for this condition is the large
fee demanded by the church for performing the marriage ceremony, which the poorer class is unable to pay. This class of consensually married persons is found in most Spanish-speaking countries, but it is probably larger in Cuba than elsewhere, being 8.8 per cent of the population, while the proportion of legally married was 20.7 per cent. This proportion, whether we consider only the legally married, 20.7 per cent, or both kinds of marriages together, 29.5 per cent, was much smaller than in most countries, and contrasts strongly with the proportion in the United States, 36.5 per cent. Consensual marriages were vastly more common among the colored than among the white inhabitants. Of the whites, 25.6 per cent of the total were legally married and but 4.8 per cent were con-sensually married, while among the colored people less than lo per cent were lawfully married, while 17.4 were con-sensually married.

It is popularly supposed that Cubans, like all Latin races, marry young, but as far as the figures show they marry but little, if any, younger than the people of the United States. The single persons comprised 66.8 per cent, or about two-thirds of the total, and the widowed 3.9 per
cent. In classifying the single per-sons by age it appears that the proportion reaches a minimum in middle life and then increases. This is a result of con-sensual marriage, for as one partner of such a union dies the survivor enters the ranks of the single instead of the widowed.


The public-school system, organized under the first intervention in Cuba, is producing excellent results. Of the population io years of age and over, 56.6 per cent could read, showing a decided gain in that respect since 1899. Of the native whites, 58.6 per cent could read, and of
the colored 45 per cent were similarly educated. The proportion of literates was naturally much greater in the cities than in the country, and highest of all in Habana.

Of the whole population, 37.7 per cent were wage-earnersóa proportion but slightly less than in the United States, where it was 39 per cent. Of all males, 65 per cent were wage-earners, and of females, only 7.5 per cent. Child labor was prevalent; of boys between lo and 14 years of age, 27.8 per cent were wage-earners, and of those between 15 and 19 years, not less than 87.1 per cent, or about seven-eighths.

By distributing wage-earners among certain great groups of avocations, one gets an idea of the relative importance of the industries which they represent. Thus, farming, fishing, and mining, collectively, employed 48.5 per cent, or nearly one-half of the wage-earners; domestic and personal service claimed 16 per cent; manufacturing and the mechanic arts, 16.3 per cent; trade and transportation, 17.6 per cent, or about one-sixth each ; and the professions claimed 1.6 per cent. It appears tha trade and transportation, manufacturing, and domestic and personal
service employed about equal numbers, and collectively they claimed about the
same number as farming, fishing, and mining.

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