Tomás Estrada Palma

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Tomás Estrada Palma
Portrait of Tomas Estrada Palma.jpg
1st President of Cuba
In office
20 May 1902 28 September 1906
Vice President Luis Estévez Romero and Domingo Méndez Capote
Succeeded by William Howard Taft
(as United States Provisional Governor)
José Miguel Gómez (as President of Cuba)
Personal details
Tomás Estrada Palma

c. (1835-07-09)July 9, 1835
Bayamo, Spanish Cuba
DiedNovember 4, 1908(1908-11-04) (aged 73)
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Nationality Cuban
Political party Cuban Revolutionary Party
Republican Party of Havana
Spouse(s) Genoveva Guardiola Arbizú
Children Jose M. Estrada-Palma Guardiola

Tomás Estrada Palma (c. July 9, 1835 November 4, 1908) was a Cuban politician and the first President of Cuba. Initially he was the President of the Cuban Republic in Arms during the Ten Years' War and again between May 20, 1902 and September 28, 1906. His collateral career as a New York City Area Educator and writer enabled Estrada Palma to create Pro-Cuban literature aimed at gaining sympathy, assistance and publicity. He was eventually successful in garnering the attention of influential Americans. He was an early and persistent voice calling for the United States to intervene in Cuba on humanitarian grounds. He was the first President of Cuba, between May 20, 1902 and September 28, 1906. During his presidency his major accomplishments include improving Cuba's infrastructure, communication, and public health.

Cubans or Cuban people, are the inhabitants, citizens of Cuba and people born in Cuba. Cuba is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds. As a result, some Cubans do not treat their nationality as an ethnicity but as a citizenship with various ethnicities and national origins comprising the "Cuban people." The majority of Cubans descend from Spaniards. Despite its multi-ethnic composition, the culture held in common by most Cubans is referred to as mainstream Cuban culture, a Western culture largely derived from the traditions of Western European migrants, beginning with the early Spanish settlers, along with other Europeans arriving later but in much smaller numbers, such as the English, French and Italians. There is a West African cultural component which has been somewhat influential, with many Afro-Cubans also being of Jamaican or other Afro-Caribbean origin.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

President of Cuba head of state of Cuba

The president of the Republic of Cuba, officially called president of the Council of State between 1976 and 2019, is the head of the Council of State of Cuba. The office in its current form was established under the Constitution of 2019. The president is the second most powerful position, after the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.


He is remembered in Cuba for allowing the Platt Amendment to be enacted, which ensured American political and economic dominance over Cuba.

Platt Amendment

On March 2, 1901, the Platt Amendment was passed as part of the 1901 Army Appropriations Bill. It stipulated seven conditions for the withdrawal of United States troops remaining in Cuba at the end of the Spanish–American War, and an eighth condition that Cuba sign a treaty accepting these seven conditions. It defined the terms of Cuban–U.S. relations to essentially be an unequal one of U.S. dominance over Cuba.

Early life

He was born in Bayamo, Spanish Cuba, around July 9, 1835 to Andrés María Estrada y Oduardo and María Candelaria Palma Tamayo. His exact birth date is not known because of a fire in Bayamo Town Hall on January 19, 1869 that destroyed his birth records. [1] What is known about his early life is his schooling in the private school of Toribio Hernández, Havana, and his attendance in the University of Havana in which he received a philosophy degree on July 19, 1854. He was taken out of the roster in the University of Seville on January 29 in 1857 for excessive absences. He withdrew on June 29, 1857, of the same year for personal reasons. [1]

Bayamo Municipality in Granma, Cuba

Bayamo is the capital city of the Granma Province of Cuba and one of the largest cities in the Oriente region.

Captaincy General of Cuba Spanish 1607–1898 possession in the Caribbean

The Captaincy General of Cuba was an administrative district of the Spanish Empire created in 1607 as part of Habsburg Spain's attempt to better defend the Caribbean against foreign powers, which also involved creating captaincies general in Puerto Rico, Guatemala and Yucatán. The restructuring of the Captaincy General in 1764 was the first example of the Bourbon Reforms in America. The changes included adding the provinces of Florida and Louisiana and granting more autonomy for these provinces. This later change was carried out by the Count of Floridablanca under Charles III to strengthen the Spanish position vis-a-vis the British in the Caribbean. A new governor-captain general based in Havana oversaw the administration of the new district. The local governors of the larger Captaincy General had previously been overseen in political and military matters by the president of the Audiencia of Santo Domingo. This audiencia retained oversight of judicial affairs until the establishment of new audiencias in Puerto Príncipe (1800) and Havana (1838). In 1825, as a result of the loss of the mainland possessions, the Spanish government granted the governors-captain generals of Cuba extraordinary powers in matters of administration, justice and the treasury and in the second half of the 19th century gave them the title of Governor General.

University of Havana university located in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba

The University of Havana or UH is a university located in the Vedado district of Havana, the capital of the Republic of Cuba. Founded on January 5, 1728, the university is the oldest in Cuba, and one of the first to be founded in the Americas. Originally a religious institution, today the University of Havana has 15 faculties (colleges) at its Havana campus and distance learning centers throughout Cuba.

Early career

From 1857 to 1868, he returned to Bayamo and became an administrator and a local teacher. [1] He continued to teach in Honduras and Orange County, New York.

Honduras republic in Central America

Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.

Orange County, New York County in the United States

Orange County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 372,813. The county seat is Goshen. This county was first created in 1683 and reorganized with its present boundaries in 1798.

War for independence

Estrada Palma became the President of the Cuban Republic in Arms during the Ten Years' War.

Ten Years War armed conflict in Cuba between 1868 and 1878

The Ten Years' War (1868–1878), also known as the Great War and the War of '68, was part of Cuba's fight for independence from Spain. The uprising was led by Cuban-born planters and other wealthy natives. On October 10, 1868 sugar mill owner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and his followers proclaimed independence, beginning the conflict. This was the first of three liberation wars that Cuba fought against Spain, the other two being the Little War (1879–1880) and the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). The final three months of the last conflict escalated with United States involvement, leading to the Spanish–American War.

Estrada Palma was captured by Spanish troops and sent into exile. While in exile, he traveled to New York City, where he worked with José Martí to gather political support for a political revolution in Cuba.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located in Europe. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

José Martí Cuban poet, writer, and nationalist leader

José Julián Martí Pérez was a Cuban poet, essayist, journalist, translator, professor, and publisher, who is considered a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. He was very politically active, and is considered an important revolutionary philosopher and political theorist. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol of Cuba's bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence." From adolescence, he dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual independence for all Spanish Americans; his death was used as a cry for Cuban independence from Spain by both the Cuban revolutionaries and those Cubans previously reluctant to start a revolt.

After Martí's death, Estrada Palma became the new leader of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. His role in the party was to be its chief representative. With that authorization, he was able to have diplomatic relations with other countries, including the US. [2]

After the Government in Arms was established, it sent Estrada Palma to Washington, DC, as its diplomat. He was largely successful. Estrada Palma received assistance from various individuals including an American banker who attempted to offer Spain $150 million to give up the island.

Estrada Palma was also assisted by William Randolph Hearst's newspapers to spread the cause of the Cuban Revolutionary Party by posting articles sympathetic to the Cuban revolutionaries. The newspapers assisted the revolutionaries in gaining materials, support, and popularity for the movement. [3]

In a move that showed some real statesmanship and an ability to use media, Estrada Palma got the US Congress to pass a joint resolution on April 19, 1898. The resolution disavowed the Spanish colonization of Cuba and supported the independence of the Republic of Cuba. It also highlighted that the United States had no intention of occupying or annexing the island. [1] (see Spanish–American War).

After the Spanish–American War, Estrada Palma dissolved one of the leading factions of the Cuban revolutionary armies: the Liberation Army, mostly black and rural. He gave more political power to the Assembly of Representatives, the allegedly more pragmatic white urban dwellers, neo-annexationists, and elitists. [4]

He had effectively given power a chosen few of the former revolutionaries to achieve political dominance within Cuban politics. At the same time, he would attract US assistance in Cuba to rebuild the country.

First term

After a few years of General Leonard Wood's rule in Cuba, elections were to be held on December 31, 1901. [5] There were two political parties, the Republicans, who were conservative and wanted national autonomy, headed by José Miguel Gómez, and the National Liberals, who were a popular party that wanted Cuba to go toward local autonomy, headed by Alfredo Zayas. Voth supported Estrada Palma. [5] However, he did not campaign but instead remained in the United States, where he was a citizen.

Estrada Palma's opponent, General Bartolomé Masó, withdrew his candidacy in protest against favoritism by the occupational government and the manipulation of the political machine by Estrada Palma's followers. Thus, Estrada Palma was left as the only candidate. [6] On December 31, 1901, Estrada Palma was elected president.

To his credit, Estrada Palma did not want to have a presidency based on racial barriers. Like many other Cuban revolutionaries, he had seen the new nation as a nonracial republic in which Afro-Cubans would be equal to whites in society. [7] Before his presidency, Estrada Palma assured that he would bring 100 public service jobs to Afro-Cubans and repeal American regulations that supported segregation in Cuba. [8]

The Platt Amendment was signed in March 2, 1902. The amendment allowed the United States to interfere in the domestic policies of Cuba and to lease land for naval bases or coal stations. [1]

American troops left after the Cuban government signed a bill lowering tariffs on American products and incorporated the Platt Amendment into its constitution. Many American companies came to do business in Cuba.

On February 16, 1903, Estrada Palma signed the Cuban-American Treaty of Relations, agreeing to lease the Guantanamo Bay area to the United States in perpetuity for use as a naval base and coaling station. That was a minor victory for the Estrada Palma administration for Washington had wanted five naval bases on the island. It is a testament to his diplomatic skills that Estrada Palma was able to obtain the reduction, even with American troops stationed in the island. His policies were also responsible for improvements in education, communications, and public health, which had suffered from the devastation created by the war. [1] As an example, land prices between 1902 and 1905 went up and he built over 328 km of road in Cuba. [9]

Second term

Estrada Palma was re-elected unopposed in 1905. This time, there was violent opposition by the liberals. Each side claimed electoral fraud had affected the outcome. One story being that The National Labor Party used el copo, fraud to prevent minority victory in the first election. [9]

The main issue in the second election was the equal representation of the Cuban provinces. Critics of Estrada Palma such as General Faustino Guerra Puente accused him of ignoring the constitution. Still, other politicians and generals, possibly even including Guerra Puente himself, recognized Estrada Palma as the only person able to lead Cuba. [10]

The response to the opponents Alfredo Zayas was to have the force of the police and the rural guard to allow Estrada Palma to claim victory. Estrada Palma and the moderate camp appealed to the US for intervention, and in 1906, the US began the Second Occupation of Cuba and installed a provisional occupation government, which lasted from 1906 to 1909. Another pro-American government was established in Cuba under Charles Magoon. [11] Finally, on September 28, 1906, Estrada Palma, by then 71 years old, resigned along with the rest of the executive branch, leaving Cuba without a successor president. This choice of action allowed the United States to take control under the Platt Amendment. [12]

Personal life

Born in Bayamo, Cuba, Estrada Palma was the son of Andrés Duque de Estrada y Palma and wife and cousin María Candelaria de Palma y Tamayo. On May 15, 1881, he married Genoveva Guardiola Arbizú (1854–1926), daughter of General José Santos Guardiola, President of Honduras, Estrada Palma and his wife had six children.

Estrada Palma, an attorney, died in Santiago de Cuba.



Estrada Palma is known less for his accomplishments in education, revolution, and infrastructure than for being a part of the annexation agenda of and his subservience to the United States. [13]


In 1903, a statue of Estrada Palma was erected in the Avenida de los Presidentes, in Havana. His statue was pulled down by Fidel Castro's revolutionaries, reportedly because they blamed Estrada Palma for starting the trend of US interventions in Cuba. [13] The plinth, with a pair of shoes, remains.

Estrada Palma spent many years of his US exile in the town of Woodbury in Orange County, New York. Along a road that now bears his name (Estrada Road, in the hamlet of Central Valley), he ran a summer camp, which has since been abandoned. During his presidency, Estrada Palma kept an "T. Estrada Palma Fund" to buy prizes for academic achievements in Orange County. [1]

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Political offices
Preceded by
President of Cuba
Succeeded by
José Miguel Gómez