Wednesday, October 4, 2023

261 years after the British occupation of Havana

The appearance of a powerful English squadron off Havana on June 6, 1762 surprised the Spanish authorities, despite the fact that 14 warships, representing a fifth of Spain’s naval forces, were anchored in the harbor.
As the English squadron approached, the Spanish governor of the island, Juan del Prado Portocarrero, immediately fortified the San Carlos de la Cabaña fort, sent troops to Cozimar and put all the inhabitants on a war footing. But, he made a grave mistake that would later cost him a Spanish military court, which chained the entrance to the harbor and, instead of removing 14 warships from the bay, blocked their entry and exit. sank three boats. to fight against the British army
The capture of Havana by the English took place in August 1762 during the so-called Seven Years’ War, which pitted English forces and their allies against the Hispanic peoples due to an alliance between the Empire’s traditional enemy of Spain and France. Havana England.
The British Navy, commanded by Admiral George Pocock, brought together 27 ships of the line, 15 frigates, three other ships, 2,292 artillery pieces and 150 transports, for a total of 22,326 men, of whom 4,000 still had to be added. Troops from New York and Charlestown.
One of those new reinforcements was a young man with the rank of captain who responded to the name of George Washington, who would later be one of the leaders of the Thirteen Colonies’ independence movement and President of the United States.
The regular contingent occupying the square, when the British arrived, was composed of about 2,800 soldiers and over 5,000 men from militia companies and volunteer citizens, counting all the sailors and infantry of the naval squadron.
When several Hispanic officers and Creole politicians learned that English forces had landed on a beach near their territory, they began raising militia parties to confront the invader. One of the militia who became famous for his courage in the face of British occupation was the mayor of Guanabacoa, José Antonio Gómez, better known as Pepe Antonio, who led a force of 70 men to confront the invaders the day after landing. Organized a party. The confrontation became the first weapons charge carried out on Cuban soil, a century before the action became famous at the hands of Maximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo. From 7 to 13 June, Pepe Antonio fought several battles against the invaders, in which he took more than fifty prisoners.
Finally, on August 12, the Spanish defenders signed the surrender of the city to the British occupiers, ending the siege which, in the words of Havana historian Eusebio Leal Spengler, had been two months of resistance, with a shortage of water, of the city. fire up, and popular organization in defense of a land where Creoleism was already flourishing and where the concept of homeland still included, not only our islands and our archipelago, but also the Spanish homeland, which at that time was ours .
It is estimated that up to 3,070 bombs and grenades fell on the city and its defences, and thousands of lives were lost, including defenders and the civilian population.
The acquisition of Havana was a juicy victory for the British Army. In this an entire squadron was destroyed in Spain. This meant the loss of a port that commanded the Gulf of Mexico and the road to a wider region. In addition, the British seized over three million pounds sterling in artillery, small arms, ammunition, stores, silver, tobacco and other goods contained in Havana warehouses.
Once the English government was established in Havana, popular discontent was displayed in a number of ways. Residents settled in homes abandoned by Creole families fleeing the conflict, while others from families forced to leave or share their homes in the city with the soldiers occupied hospitals and destroyed churches. looted.
Mocking the English army, or red coats, the Cubans called them mamays because of the red color of their uniforms. Thus, when the curfew was given in the evening, or when the British broke down in any place, it was said that “the time has come for mamayas”, an expression that to this day many Cubans know about its origin. I have gone without knowing.
The condition of the slaves worsened during the English occupation, as they demanded the surrender of all the king’s slaves to them and increased trade with 10,700 imported African slaves. Some unscrupulous Havanas also imprisoned blacks and later sold them to individuals.
Sir Georges Keppel ruled Havana for 11 months until mid-1763, when the British returned it to the Spanish in exchange for Florida. Freedom of trade and worship predates this period, in this aspect the beginnings of Freemasonry come to the fore, a fraternity started by British soldiers.
Despite determined efforts by the Spanish metropolis to put an end to it, these ideas gained strength among Cuban Creoles, and when the Cuban War of Independence began in the late 19th century, there were many rebel Freemasons.
Although the city returned to being Spanish, things would never be the same. From July 6, 1763, a new Hispanic Havana was emerging, with greater autonomy than before, and a strong Iberian emigration.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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