Friday, November 16, 2018

Local practices did not often follow royal orders

Our new article is out, published in the Cuban traditional journal Islas. This specialized magazine divulges studies in humanities and social sciences and has been in existence since 1958 when it was first edited and coordinated by Samuel Feijoo. Today, its base is located in the Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” of Las Villas, in central Cuba.

Main drawbridge to the Castillo de San Severino, Matanzas city, Cuba

The article deals with the earliest and lest known history of the Castillo de San Severino, the cities’ oldest building and the main reason for the city’s official foundation. Most especially, it drives home the point that many of the ordinances, related to the Castillo’s construction and the city’s foundation, although painstakingly designed and ordained in such manner by the crown, where not fully obeyed by the local officials. This likely mirrors the situation, not just in rural Cuba, but also in its major cities and throughout the New World, far from the Spanish Crown. This was likely the cause of differences in what the crown thought best for its subjects and colonies, and what the inhabitants of those colonies actually needed or felt it was to their best interest.

Here is a brief abstract

Castillo de San Severino in Matanzas had a construction standstill that lasted between 1694 and 1716. The historiography of the fort during these years pointed to the lack of funds to maintain a stable labor and materials for its construction as the main cause of the standstill. However, primary documents, including one by Juan de Síscara, assistant engineer to the viceroy of Mexico in 1696, points to other common factors for such delay of construction. In this way, our study provides new information and a new interpretation on one of the least known years of the construction of San Severino, plus insight into the political dynamics that influenced the construction and maintenance of Cuban military entities during the late 17th Century.

The article can be downloaded for free at Islas or here. On that note, I send out a happy birthday to all my friends from La Habana, a city that turns 499 years today.


Orihuela, J., O. Hernández de Lara & R. Viera Muñoz (2018). Órdenes reales y prácticas locales: el Castillo de San Severino de Matanzas y la dinámica colonial (1683-1698). Islas 60 (191): 39-68.


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