Seaside Spectres:North Carolinas Haunted Hundred, Volume 1

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Foul as the harbor may be with city drainage it seems a silvery lake encircled with the charms of Paradise and over-arched with indescribable glories of celestial forms and hues and ever-changing witcheries wrought by the frolicsome sun in his ecstasy of morning release. Strange that where nature most lavishes her wealth of charms and favors, the listlessness of perverse man responds in ungrateful contrasts rather than in harmonies. Havana has the interest of age, with the drawbacks incident to hereditary indifference to progressive change. As in all important cities there are sharp contrasts in its quarters.

With long avenues of stately mansions, marble-like and colonnaded, and exquisitely designed courtyards, there are unpaved thoroughfares with an open sewer in the mid-roadway, flanked by tenement houses with a family in each room. The older streets are mere alleys, about twenty feet wide, of which the sidewalks take up seven. Light and ample ventilation are obtained by grated window-openings without frames or glass. The dwellings and public buildings throughout Cuba are planned to give free passage to every zephyr that wafts relief from the oppressive heat.

This is not because the thermometer mounts much higher than it does in the United States, for it never touches the records of our great cities, where a hundred in the shade is not [Pg 11] unknown. In the better districts of Havana the driveways are twenty-three feet and the sidewalks about ten feet wide. Politeness keeps native and foreign men hopping up and down the foot deep curb to allow ladies a fair share of elbow-room on the pavements.

Your guest-chamber in a well-to-do family residence has probably a window twenty by eight feet, sashless, but with several lace curtains and shutters to suit the weather. House-rent is high, owing to the heavy taxation, which will doubtless be modified after American administration has put the city in a sanitary condition. Flour used to cost the poorer classes from two to three times its price in the United States. The gloomy Morro Castle is familiar in the chronicles of the war. It stands guard at the water-gate of the city, a grim-visaged dungeon that echoes with the despairing groans of more victims of cruel oppression than can ever be counted.

A more cheerful landmark is the old Cathedral, looking as if it dates further back than , cooped up in its crowded quarter.

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Here rest the ashes of Columbus, say the faithful, and they are probably right. He died in Spain May 20, In , his bones were brought to San Domingo and from there were transferred in January, , to this Cathedral, where they rest in the wall behind the bust and tablet to his memory. The [Pg 12] elaborate monument under the dome is a splendid work of art. Four life-size sculptured ecclesiastics bear a sarcophagus on their shoulders.

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There is also a supposed portrait bust on a mural tablet. The Spanish element in the city is popularly said to be an exaggeration of the old country quality.

The Tacon theatre holds three thousand people. Some day Havana may be transformed into a nearer Paris, with a larger American colony than haunts the dearer city across the sea. Cuba has nearly the same area as England. The Province of Havana has a population of ,, of whom , are black. Large tracts of the island have not yet been explored. The long years of intermittent battling between the Cubans and Spaniards have grievously hindered progress in all directions. Nature is bountiful beyond belief, yet her overtures have been scorned, partly because of native inertia, but mainly through dread of loss.

Both sides have been guilty of laying waste vast areas of cultivated land, ruining its husbandmen, capitalists and laborers alike. The millennium bids fair to come before long. Peace is restoring confidence. The reign of justice will bring capital and labor back to the soil and tempt American migration to the cities and towns, where life can be lived so enjoyably by those who bring modern methods and ideas to bear in the task of converting a man-made wilderness into an alluring paradise.

He made it a banana orchard. Its suburbs and nearby towns afford all the allurements the modern city-man seeks in country life. The rural charms of Marianao are unsurpassed in any land. Ornately simple architecture marks the columned houses of its best street. Around it are the cosy cottages in their luxuriant gardens, and beyond these the open country, a veritable Eden of foliage, flowers and fruit.

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In one spot a famous old banyan tree has thrown out its limbs, thrusting them deep into the soil till they have sprouted and spread over a five-acre field. As we traverse the garden landscape in any settled part of the island, and in Porto Rico, we note the habits of the rustic native in his interesting simplicity. He is by no means a drunkard, and if he lacks book-learning he excels in some civic virtues of the homelier kind, and is not extravagant in his tailor-bills.

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Cock-fighting is the favorite native sport. It is encountered at any hour, anywhere. There are other sports, such as boar hunts, spearing fish, not to mention that of killing tarantulas, sand-flies, land-crabs, and the gentle crocodile. The thousand miles of steam railway in Cuba are unevenly distributed. From Havana the trip through Pinar del Rio gives an astounding revelation of the wealth of forest and soil and mines.

Devastated as so much of this country was during the long years of dragging war, [Pg 14] its charms of scenery and possibilities of development will work its speedy salvation. Two crops of corn and two of strawberries grow each year, vegetables and many fruits are superabundant, yet wheat and flour are imported, and cotton, besides other important staples, can be successfully cultivated.

Journeying to the charming Isle of Pines, and then south and east through Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Puerto Principe to Santiago, there is the same invitation of Nature to come and enjoy all that makes earth lovely. The island is dotted with towns large and small having much the same characteristics as Havana.

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  4. Her virgin forests have some of the richest woods known to commerce. Her hills hold stores of iron, copper, coal and other minerals. Her soil is ready to yield many-fold to the courageous cultivator. When the swords have been turned into plough-shares and the spears to pruning-hooks, there will come a new day for the native Cuban. He will feel himself liberated from the hindering rancors and jealousies, inevitable in the light of recent history, which alone now stand between his beautiful island and the prosperity that hovers, waiting his encouragement to alight.

    Its population of about , has had a sorry time for three hundred years. Yet their island is an earthly paradise, [Pg 15] save for its rain-storms and occasional droughts. It is rich in undeveloped mineral deposits and splendid forests. Nature has helped to discourage native effort by providing the means of sustenance over-lavishly, in one sense. The people scattered through the interior find everything ready grown to hand.

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    Spain has left its mark upon the island, a mark representing a civilization not to be sneered at, though not of the modern stamp. With all its faults, this local haven of peace and good cheer has tempered the lot of generations that never fully realized the hopelessness of their fate.

    A venerable church peeping out of a leafy glade gives a touch of poetic grace to the landscape. It is something, perhaps, though not very much, that sectarian animosities do not embitter the easy minds of these peasants, who dwell together in enviable fraternity. Porto Rico is only one of some thirteen hundred islands in the West Indies that are now in the American fold. It has several large towns that will intensely interest the traveller.

    San Juan, with twenty-five thousand inhabitants, is the principal city. A fine old military road runs from it across the mountains to Ponce, on the south shore. It is twenty feet wide, hard and dustless, winds along through eighty miles of scenery unsurpassed in any country, though the island is only forty miles directly across. That at Sabana Grande was built in Some of them have gorgeous altars and precious paintings.

    In one little church the figure of the Blessed Virgin is of pure gold. Another has an altar of silver.

    The retail stores in the cities make little or no front display. The store is virtually a sample room, with extensive warehouses in the rear. Town life is, in its way, Parisian.

    Seaside Spectres:North Carolinas Haunted Hundred, Volume 1
    Seaside Spectres:North Carolinas Haunted Hundred, Volume 1
    Seaside Spectres:North Carolinas Haunted Hundred, Volume 1
    Seaside Spectres:North Carolinas Haunted Hundred, Volume 1
    Seaside Spectres:North Carolinas Haunted Hundred, Volume 1
    Seaside Spectres:North Carolinas Haunted Hundred, Volume 1

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