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Families that Founded and Populated the Island of Cuba



This task would not have been possible without the article “La Isla de Cuba” (the Island of Cuba) by the author Juán Bruno Zayas de la Portilla and the article by Dr. Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza y Pola, published in the magazine “Herencia” (Vol 10 No 3, Fall 2004), titled “Orígenes de la élite cubana - Siglos XVI al XXI" (Origins of the Cuban Elite - XVI to XXI Centuries), both great genealogists and friends.

The format that I proposed to use from the start was to put the most important surnames of the first inhabitants of the Island in alphabetic order, indicating the village or town where they settled, and the century, XVI or XVII when they arrived, taking into account that only those that arrived in the above mentioned centuries are considered founders. Families that arrived later can also be very ancient and important, but were not founders.

It's important to note that the seven villages founded by D. Diego Velázquez de Cuellar were, Baracoa, Bayamo, Sancti Spiritu, Trinidad, Puerto Principe, La Habana, Santiago de Cuba and the town of Remedios.

The surnames are spelled with the original orthography, and preceded by "de" (of) when it was thus indicated, although this custom, in the majority of cases, later disappeared. Also the compound surnames, very popular in those times, with the passage of time became simplified, although a few have remained unaltered, for the analysis of which we have numerous examples: de Varona, which many still use unchanged, while others use simply Varona. the de Cespedes who now use only Cespedes; this to name simple well known surnames, but more complex surnames such as Vázquez Valdés de Coronado, Calvo de la Puerta and Serrano de Padilla, which now have evolved to Vázquez, Calvo and Serrano, are presented in the same manner. I could cite many more cases such as Sánchez de Carmona of which now only Sánchez remains and Sánchez Griñan which are now Griñán, but this would make the narration interminable.

This matter of surnames is a very complex subject, complicated and sometimes even amusing. There are Torre, Torres and de la Torre, each one a totally different surname, the same happens with Cruz and de la Cruz which are also two different surnames.

I say that this matter of surnames is sometimes amusing, because nowadays the "de" is again being used or two surnames are combined because people believe this makes them more aristocratic. There are other more pragmatic reasons or due to north american influence, and I will relate some personal or family examples, which I do not like to do. My family in Santiago was called “Pacheco” not "Santa Cruz", however in the baptism records and in inscriptions, we were always entered as “Santa Cruz Pacheco”; and now in the United States, two of my sons use Santa-Cruz and eliminate Pacheco, because otherwise they would be referred to as Mr. Pacheco.

Another interesting detail is that, according to D. Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza, there are only three surnames which are strictly cuban, that is to say they exist only in Cuba, and they are Hidalgo-Gato, Pupo, derived from the Ponce de León surname, and finally Santa Cruz Pacheco.

I don't want to skip over the column of remarks that accompanies each family: in the case of families from the eastern villages, Puerto Principe, Bayamo, Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba they are all there, but in case of western families, with the exception La Habana, are mostly blank due to my lack of knowledge on these families, and I solicit the collaboration of those who do know of these families to provide their knowledge, which will of course be publicly recognized.

Leaving aside these explanations, which I believe are necessary, let us return to our subject of interest, which is the listing of the founders of the Island. I have compiled 567 families, of which the main ones we have been able to confirm in Jaruco, and from the start became interrelated by marriages in both directions, and when we study the originators of the revolutionary movements in the eastern zone (Camaguey and Oriente), we find that members of these families were the heads of said movements, which confirms the thesis that the feeling of nationality, "criollismo" or "cubanidad", which took form in those first two centuries (XVI and XVII), and took root in the next XVIII century and beginnings of the XIX century, was labor of these founding families.

I cannot with certainty affirm, of course, that these were all the founding families, there were others, not less distinguished, less important in the socio-economic formation of the Island, although there are many city mayors who I have not included in the listing, now we need to take into account that when the confusion of states was imposed, in the second half of the XIX century, we lost the custom or obligation to maintain, at least, the memory of three generations, for any official act (or document) that had to be performed. Thus, today the members of many families, even among the most important, do not know their origins. Fortunately, this involuntary exile that we are living has generated, among the Cubans, a resurgence of genealogical studies.

Thus, when in the references I state “muy relacionadas” (very related) , “relativamente relacionadas” (relatively related) or “extinguidas” (extingushed) , I mean that there are many, very little or almost no written relationship records.

I believe these details amply justify this study which must be seen not as a simple genealogical study, or maybe as a vain exposition with aristocratic pretentions, but rather as one of the driving forces which created the independence movements of the Island of Cuba.

José Santa Cruz Pacheco y Rivery




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Founding Families of Cuba - Updated 05-Apr-2009

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