Skip to main content

Nineteenth-Century Colonial Cuban Documents Collection

Identifier: MSS 0529

Scope and Content

The Nineteenth-Century Colonial Cuban Documents Collection dates from 1639 to 1896. The majority of the items were produced by the Spanish Crown and government, Catholic Church clergy, and the Spanish Army during the Colonial period in Cuba. The collection also contains documents written by Cubans to Spanish authorities. The items of this collection include manuscripts, official documents, decrees, letters, reports and two illustrations. The collection covers topics such as the administration of hospitals, construction of schools in Havana, public health concerns, military wars and conflicts, the railroad, declarations regarding Spanish royalty, genealogy, and documents related to slavery. The collection is useful to researchers interested in colonialism in the Caribbean and the bureaucracy of royal government, as well as those interested in the development of Cuban society during the nineteenth century.

The collection is arranged into eight series:

Series 1: "Education" contains petitions to open primary schools, teacher license requests and detailed budgets to repair a school in Havana.

Series 2: "Hospitals and Public Health" contains documents and reports regarding public health concerns such as cholera, diphtheria, smallpox outbreaks and vaccinations, the administration of hospitals, and two illustrated plans for the construction and repairs of San Francisco de Paula hospital.

Series 3: "Military" contains documents related to wars such as the Ten Year’s War (1868-1878), the Little War (1879–1880), the insurrection of Sancti Spíritus region (1869), Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898), and the British invasion (1762-1763). This series also contains a request for transferring Spanish troops from Mexico to Guatemala and orders for the execution of a prisoner. Three of the documents are from important Cuban pro-independence figures such as General Antonio Maceo Grajales, Calixto García Íñiguez, and José Silverio Jorrín.

Series 4: "Miscellaneous" contains topics about tobacco factories, baptisms, economic relations and foreign trade, an accounting method, clergy salaries, a plantation sale, legal documents regarding adultery and bigamy, migration, death, marriage and a diary of a Cuban traveler to Constantinople.

Series 5: "Railroads" contains reports about public roads and railway companies, legislations and policies for Cuban railroads, and the extension of railway lines. One of the documents discusses the construction of the first railway in Cuba, which connected Havana and Bejucal passing through important sugar plantations in the municipality of Güines.

Series 6: "Royalty of Spain" contains decrees regarding King Ferdinand VII of Spain, Spanish Queen Isabelle II, King Alfonso XII, Alfonso the Prince of Asturias, and inmates’ sentence pardons.

Series 7: "United States" contains genealogy documents from Cubans born in the southeast of the U.S., a signed document and a biography of Luis Peñalver y Cárdenas Bishop of Louisiana, of the two Floridas and Archbishop of Guatemala. One genealogy document is written in French.

Series 8: "Slavery" contains documents related to indentured servants and a dispute between enslavers.


  • Creation: 1639 - 1896


The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

This collection highlights different political, social, and economic events in Cuba through the nineteenth century. The 1812 Spanish Constitution limited the powers of the Spanish monarchy, it offered national sovereignty, freedom of the press and enterprise. As a result, most of the Spanish colonies in the Americas declared their independence, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, Cuba experienced important events: the first pro-independence uprising occurred in Bayamo, the tobacco monopoly was eliminated; Cuban merchants received the right to trade with other countries. There were also important technological developments, such as the use of steam engines in sugar plantations and the construction of railroads. One consequence was a diaspora of Cubans to Florida. During this period, there was also a growth in the education infrastructure with the construction of schools and public instruction.

The second half of the nineteenth century in Cuba was marked by the abolition of slavery (1886) and four major wars for independence: The Ten Years' War (1868-1878), the Little War (1879-1880), Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898) and the Spanish-American War (1898). The Ten Years’ War was led by Mayor General of “Ejército Libertador” Carlos Manuel Céspedes. The War ended with the Pact of Zanjón, which promised political reform and amnesty. In the following years the bad administration, repression and infectiveness of the Spanish government resulted in the Little War and the Cuban War of Independence, led by José Martí, Calixto García Íñiguez and Máximo Gómez. In 1898, the United States intervened in the war after the explosion of the USS Maine. The intervention of the United States in Cuba unleashed the Spanish-American War, in which Spain lost possession of all its territories. The United States continued to intervene in Cuba with the approval of the Platt Amendment in 1901. At the beginning of the twentieth century, after more than 400 years of Spanish domination and the United States’ invasion, Cuba (albeit with limitations) gained its independence.


1.16 Linear Feet (2 boxes; one oversize box)

Language of Materials

Spanish; Castilian


Manuscripts, official documents, decrees, letters, reports and two illustrations documenting the colonial period in Cuba from 1639 to 1896.


Items in this collection are arranged by topic and chronologically.


University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Finding Aid

This guide is available in Spanish at

Acquisition Information

Purchased with additional accruals ongoing.

Related Materials

Twentieth-Century Cuban Documents Collection, at the University of Florida.

Latin American Documents Collection, at the University of Florida.

Caribbean Documents Collection, at the University of Florida.

Haitiana Collection, at the University of Florida.

A Guide to the Nineteenth-Century Colonial Cuban Documents Collection
Finding aid created by Nelissa E. Caraballo-Ramos
March 2020 (Updated June 2022)
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America