“Victims of Loyalty”: Spanish-American Loyalist Exiles in Cuba in the 1820s

Thursday, January 5, 2017: 1:50 PM
Room 402 (Colorado Convention Center)
Nicolás Alejandro Gonzalez Quintero, University of Texas at Austin
“Victims of Loyalty” studies the growing tension between the imperial government in Madrid and local authorities in Cuba during the 1820s. In the 1810s and especially during the 1820s, Cuba acquired a reputation throughout the Americas as a loyalist refuge. Under these circumstances, the Spanish Crown supported the migration of loyal vassals and offered them different alternatives to survive such as pensions and positions in the Cuban administration. During the late years of the 1810s, when the royal army was still fighting in several positions in the Spanish American mainland, exiles were welcome within the island. Nevertheless, since 1821 with the loss of great part of Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico, Cuban officers started to be aware of the rising political difficulties of being a spot for refugees. The constant arrival of numerous Spanish American exiles to the island illustrates that, despite Cuba’s new economic power, Cuban authorities experienced a lot of anxieties about their political fragility. This vulnerability is revealing in two significant aspects: first, they were afraid of the island's fiscal situation and the growing costs of maintaining a refugee population. Cuban cajas received a lot of pressure not only for exiles’ petitions but also for the continuing requests of them and other functionaries to receive the payment of their loans to the Crown during the War. Second, while several émigrés landed into Cuba seeking for imperial protection, the island’s authorities tried to stop them fearing the entrance of Colombian and Mexican spies. By increasing their control over exiles’ arrivals from the mainland, Cuban officials sought to maintain the island under Spanish control in a time of a growing political isolation in the Caribbean. Thus, Cuban authorities considered exiles not only as a threat to Cuba's fiscal situation but also as a menace to its political stability.