Dominicans in Cuba
A brief history

On August 3, 1492 Christopher Columbus sails with three ships from Spain into the unknown. On October 12 the expedition lands in what Columbus calls 'San Salvador', and the natives call: 'Guanahani' (and may possibly be the Witling Island
). On October 14 Columbus continues his expedition, along the shores of Cuba,  thinKing that he 's found Asia's mainland. He lands in Cuba, October 29, and claims the island for Spain. In honour of the daughter of Ferdinand V and Isabella I of Spain, his benefactors, Columbus named it Juana. It eventually became known as Cuba, from its aboriginal name, Cubanascnan. It was inhabited by the Ciboney, a friendly tribe related to the Arawak.
The first Catholic mass in Havana takes places under a ceiba tree on 17 December 1492.  

Colonization by Spain.
Diego Columbus (son of Christo
pher) began the colonization of the island in 1511. He appointed Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (ca 1465-1524) governor of Cuba. His chaplains were Bartolomé de Las Casas (he was still not a Dominican),  and two Dominicans.
Velázquez established the town of Asunción de Baracoa (1512), San Salvador de Bayamo (1513), Santa Maria de Puerto Principe (1514, now Camagey), Santiago de Cuba (1514, in 1522 relocated), Villa de Santo Spiritus (1514), Villa de Trinidad (1514). On December 12. King Ferdinand of Spain thanks Diego Velásquez for the occupation of Cuba
, and his 'humane treatment of the natives'. The city San Cristóbal de la Habana (now Havana) is established by Pánfilo de Narváez on November 30, 1519, and is named after San Cristóbal de la Habana, a local chief. A Dominican was present at this celebration (stamp Peru 2004, Mi 4650), perhaps he serves the Holy Mass (stamp Peru 2004, Mi 4649).
The Spanish transformed Cuba into a supply base for their expeditions to Mexico and Florida. As a result of savage treatment and exploitation, the aborigines became, by the middle of the 16th century, nearly extinct, forcing the colonists to depend on imported black slaves for the operation of the mines and plantations.

The Dominicans in Asunción de Baracoa, 1512.
Probable the (two) chaplain-Dominicans founded a small priory in Asunción de Baracoa in 1512. The evangelization of the tribes in Cuba in 1515 begun with the arrival of  Pedro de Córdoba, Gutiere de Ampudia, Bernardo de Santo Domingo, Pedro de San Martin, and Diego de Alberga.

The Dominicans in San Cristóbal de Habana, 1575.
Diego de Carvajal, O.P, visited Cuba to found a priory in San Cristóbal de Habana in 1575. Andrés Denis, earlier Dominican and now diocesan priest want
ed to give his possessions in Villa de Habana and in Guatemala to the Dominicans. The council of Habana allowed him to do that on 29.02,.1575 and the Dominicans received ground to build a priory in Habana with the name 'Convento de San Juan Letrán' (1580). There was a Studium Generale (1650), upgraded to Real y Pontificia Universidad de San Gerónimo on 15.01.1728.
The Dominican Nuns are living in the 'Monasterio de Santa Catalina' since 29.04.1688 till 22.09.1984.

The first Holy Mass in San Cristóbal de la Habana 
in 1519 by a Dominican?  Painting.                                                

Cuba 2004, Mi 4649, Sc


The city San Cristóbal de la Habana (now Havana) is established by Pánfilo de Narváez on November 30, 1519, and is named after San Cristóbal de la Habana, a local chief. A Dominican was present at this celebration (stamp Cuba 2004, Mi 4650), standing in front of the trunk. (painting). Perhaps he serves the Holy Mass (stamp Cuba 2004, Mi 4649).

                            Cuba 2004, Mi 4650, Sc --.

The Dominicans in Santiago de Cuba, 1514.
Santiago de Cuba is of the utmost importance to Cuban history. Its founder Diego Velázquez Cuellar's body (ca 1465-1524) lies in the city's cathedral. During the first half of the 16th century it was the capital of the island, and at the time, had a population of 1.000 Spaniards, as well as the indigenous population - a figure quite remarkable for the time. Its Bishopric first, and later its ArchBishopric, made Santiago a centre of great religious importance. The Villa de Santiago de Cuba, founded towards the end of 1514, was a strategic centre of the island during the first years of the 'Conquista'. From the waters of its bay many expeditions departed: Grijalva, Narváez, De Soto and Hernán Cortés, who would become the city's first mayor.
The Dominican Juan de las Cabezas Altamirano was appointed Bishop of Santiago of Cuba in 1602. The French Army set the cathedral
to fire, - the first cathedral in Cuba, since 1522 -,  and destroyed her in 1604. The cathedral was later rebuilt. During Altamirano's term of office two Indians an one Nigerian found in the Bahia de Nipe a black statue of the 'Virgin de la Caridad'. It was placed in Cobre, 16 km from Santiago in 1609, and Bishop Altamirano, O.P. built there a Sanctuary. He died as Bishop of Arequipa ( Perú) in December 1615.

Foundation of Santiago de Cuba 1515.
Painting 'La jura de Hernan Cortes' by Juan Emilio Hernández Giro (1911). In the background three religiouses; in the middle a
Dominican. On the left the residence of Diego Vélázquez Cuéllar.
Cuba 2005, Mi --,Sc --.

Sources: Microsoft Encarta 97, and others.



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