Thursday, May 25, 2023

Ireland and Cuba: Historical Links and the US Connection


The Intersection of Cuban and Irish Nationalism

in 19th Century New York


by John McAuliff  for presentation at the Latin American Studies Association, Vancouver, 5/25/23


When Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins visited Cuba in 2017, he spoke about the two countries special bond:

“Irish and Cuban people have in common a proud sense of their national identity, a passion for freedom… In the past, both of our people have shared an experience of living in the shadow of a powerful neighbor. We are two island nations who have been marked by colonization and that have had to wrestle their freedom from the grip of empires,”[i]

This is a theme memorialized in a plaque at the foot of Havana’s O’Reilly Street in Spanish, English and Gaelic, said to be placed in 1998 but it is not clear by whom or why.  “Two island peoples in the same sea of struggle and hope.  Cuba and Ireland”.

My purpose in this paper is to highlight some of the intersections between the two island countries’ parallel paths to independence during the 19th century via the Irish emigrant population in the US.   It seems a story not well known in any of the three countries and continues into the first part of the 20th century as both Cuba and Ireland achieved their incomplete and imperfect sovereignty.


The Early Colonial Period and US Independence

Manuel A. Tellechea, a Cuban American from New Jersey, summarized the important role of Irish who came to Cuba via Spain in a blog post on St. Patrick’s Day, 2005:

“The largest Irish migration prior to the Great Potato Famine of 1848 was to Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Irish, who were awarded Spanish citizenship on arriving in Spain as persecuted Catholics, joined the Spanish army's Hibernian regiments and became Spain's best soldiers and most famous generals. Many of these were posted in Cuba and married into the island's aristocracy, establishing our own great Irish-Cuban families (the O'Farrills, the O'Reillys, the Kindelans, the Madans, the Duanys, the O'Gabans, the Coppingers and the O'Naughtens).  Four Captains General of Cuba were of Irish origin (Nicolás Mahy; Sebastián Kindelán; Leopoldo O'Donnell and Luís Prendergast).”[ii]

Irish people served at high levels in government and in senior military positions.  The lighthouse at El Morro, the fort that guarded Havana Bay, had been known as "O'Donnell's Lighthouse", after the Spanish governor, a relative of Red Hugh O'Donnell.

The O'Farrill family came from Longford via Montserrat.  They rose to prominence as slave traders, importers and sugar plantation owners.  The family mansion has been restored as a beautiful boutique hotel.  

Returning to the street just cited,  the person honored, General Alejandro O’Reilly was born in 1723 in County Meath.[iii]  His family moved to Spain when he was a child, part of the flight of Wild Geese from English Protestant domination.  O’Reily arrived in Cuba on 3 July 1763 as British forces were withdrawing from their conquest of Havana.   In 1765 he was named governor general of Puerto Rico.  In both Cuba and Puerto Rico he created a local militia, including blacks and mulattoes, to supplement Spanish troops.  In Cuba’s case, in later generations they were a source of fighters for independence. 

Cubans played a little known part in the American revolution.  Spanish forces defeated British troops from 1779 to 1781, capturing forts on the Mississippi, Mobile and cities in west Florida.  The British were defeated by a Spanish force of 7,000 troops, 4,000 of whom came from Cuba.

 “A Cuban field marshal, Juan Manuel de Cagigal (who hailed from Santiago de Cuba), deployed troops to block the British escape both by sea and by land…The British saw no other alternative than to surrender to the Spanish, who once again secured western Florida with the aid of an army largely composed of Cuban men that included free slaves and mulattoes among their ranks.”[iv]

Am important Irish component was Spain’s Hibernia Regiment[v] commanded by Arturo O'Neill de Tyrone y O'Kelly, born in Dublin, who became governor of the reclaimed colony of West Florida from 1781 to 1792.

In 1781, the American revolution received desperately needed funds from Cuba, thanks to the same de Cagigal who had become governor.  The money came from both government and private sources, including by legend from women who pawned their jewelry.  Spain, like France, had its own strategic reasons to aid rebels against their English enemies.  Did Cuban enthusiasm also come from identification with the first hopefully precedent-setting struggle for independence in the Americas?


Venerable Felix Varela, A Hero of Two Nations

The strongest Cuban Irish American link begins in St. Augustine, in the East Florida colony, in 1790 when the orphaned Felix Varela’s maternal grandfather was named General of its military garrison.  The Irish priest and vicar of East Florida, Miguel O’ Reilly, was Varela’s inspiration and teacher, including of the Irish language.   Varela studied at San Carlos Seminary and the University of Havana, was ordained and taught philosophy.  Known for his advocacy of self-government, abolition of slavery and equal education of women, he was elected to the democratic Spanish Cortes in 1821.  Absolutist royal rule regained power in Spain in 1823.

“In his position as representative of Cuba in Spanish Court, he signed an invalidation of the Spanish king and was sentenced to death as a result.” [vi]  Varela found asylum in the United States, arriving in New York Harbor on December 15, 1823.  At first in Philadelphia, but largely in New York, as a Parish priest he became a compassionate advocate for the poor, especially for Irish immigrants in whose language he became fluent.  He wrote, “I work hard to help Irish families build schools for their children, and I tend cholera patients, and I defend Irish American boys and girls against insults from mobs who hate them just because their parents are immigrants.” [vii]

For a time Varela remained active in the intellectual and political life of his homeland, publishing a magazine, El Habanero, from 1824 to 1826 in which he explicitly advocated independence.  He rejected the arguments of Cubans who believed the country would fare best if annexed by a larger country like Mexico, Colombia or the US.  "I am the first to oppose the union of the island to any government. I should wish to see her as much of a political island as she is such in geographical terms."[viii]

Spain sent an assassin to eliminate him in 1825.  His Irish parishioners protected his location, but according to the New York Catholic publication, “One day, walking the streets of his parish, the priest encountered the man who had been sent to murder him. In a spirit of compassionate forgiveness, he approached the would-be assassin and counseled him against committing a grave sin. The man listened. Then he returned to Cuba, his mission unfulfilled”[ix]

Varela was an extraordinary public intellectual, challenging the most vicious anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant propaganda of his era, but also building ecumenical relationships with Protestant church leaders.  Having great administrative talents, he was named Vicar General of the New York diocese that covered all of New York State and the northern half of New Jersey.    He was also a prodigious fund-raiser, creating two churches and accompanying schools between 1827 and 1836.  While designed to meet the needs of the burgeoning Irish population, they were not ethnically exclusive.  The second, the Church of the Transfiguration, is still an immigrant but now mostly Chinese church at a new location on Mott Street, but with his statue by the entrance.  

The only reference I could find to his engagement with the issue of Ireland itself was his participation in New York City in a May 1, 1843 “Approbation meeting” of the Friends of Ireland and Universal Liberty in support of publication of Thomas Mooney's lectures on Irish history.[x]   Their statement can be found in the preface of “A History of Ireland: From Its First Settlement to the Present Time” by Thomas Mooney.  That they felt it necessary to collectively advocate publication of the book and the tone and content of their words are reminiscent of voices in our time pressing for publications that reflect African American history and perspectives.   

“It would make an excellent school book, which we much wanted, for it was a lamentable fact, that the youth of this country never saw a History of Ireland, simply because there is really no such work , complete, in existence . Even the children of Irish parents forget the blessed and revered land of their forefathers, or learn of it only through the vicious medium of English calumniators.”

Much to the dismay of friends and political supporters in Cuba, Varela’s intellectual focus shifted almost entirely to his responsibilities in New York and issues related to his Irish immigrant flock.  Because of illness, Varela retired to his boyhood home in St. Augustin in 1848, the height of famine caused Irish immigration to New York.  He tried to return to New York three times but his health did not permit and he died in 1853


 [A topic for more scholarly research is Varela’s long term reputation and impact with the Irish community in New York.  Among the New York Irish was there for one or more generations any special interest or affection for Cuba because of the role he played in their religious lives, economic survival and education?]


Streams of Integration

Irish emigrants and their descendents in Spain and in North America found their way to Cuba throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  Many are named in the pioneering research of Rafael Fernandez Moya, “The Irish Presence in the History and Place Names of Cuba”, published by the Society for Irish Latin American Studies (SILAS).[xi]


He tells contrasting stories of the Irish experience in the first half of the 19th century:

“Juan O’Bourke, who was born in Trinidad around 1826 and twenty-five years later took part in the armed uprising of July 1826 organised by Isidoro Armenteros, collaborator of the expansionist general Narciso López, lived in this city [Cienfuegos] from 1839. The young revolutionary Juan O’Bourke was arrested and later condemned to ten years in prison in Ceuta from whence he escaped and headed to the United States….

In June 1855 a boy named Juan Byrnes, whose father was Gregorio and his godmother Margarita Byrnes, was baptised in Havana. This surname became part of the heart of the intellectual community of Matanzas. Firstly, this happened through the educational work of Juana Byrnes de Clayton, the first headmistress of the school for poor girls. This school would later become the Casa de Beneficencia, founded in 1846”

He writes that the Irish who came to build Cuba’s first railroad in the 1830s did not have an easy experience:

“The Junta de Fomento brought the technicians, foremen, superintendents and a group of workers made up of 273 men and 8 women from the United States under contract, among whom were English, Irish, Scottish, North American, Dutch and German labourers. However, they were all identified as Irish, perhaps due to the greater numbers of those of that nationality.

While the work was being carried out, the so-called Irish workers and Canary Islanders were subjected to hard labour beyond their physical endurance, receiving insufficient food in return. Nor were they assured the pay and treatment previously agreed upon. After some weeks putting up with mistreatment and hunger the “Irish” workers and Canary Islanders decided to demand their rights from the administration of the railway works and when these were not adequately met, they launched the first workers’ strike recorded in the history of the island. The repression was bloody; the Spanish governors ordered the troops to act against the disgruntled workers, resulting in injury and death.”

Other Irish coming via the US to Cuba found a smoother path.

“It has been said that the introduction of the steam engine and other improvements in the sugar industry, Cuba’s main economic activity in that period, was mainly the work of North American growers who had settled on the island, particularly in the areas surrounding Matanzas and Cárdenas, north coast districts which, according to the opinion of the Irish writer Richard R. Madden, had more characteristics in common with North American towns than those of Spain.

One of the growers who had come from the United States named Juan D. Duggan was, according to the Cuban chemist and agronomist Alvaro Reynoso, one of the first farmers in the country to plant sugar cane over great distances…. The introduction of the steam engine on the sugar plantations resulted in the necessity to hire operators or machinists in the main from the United States and England. After the administrator, the most important job in a sugar plantation was without a doubt that of machinist, who had to work like an engineer because, besides being responsible for all repairs, sometimes they had to come up with real innovations in the machinery.”


Irish and Irish American Support for Cuban Independence

The democratic instincts of the American Irish confronted the colonial attitudes of the Spanish Irish in the Cuban aristocracy:

“Some of these foreign technicians living in the Matanzas region became involved in a legal trial, accused of complicity with the enslaved African people’s plans for a revolt, which were abandoned in 1844. Six of them were originally from England, Ireland and Scotland: Enrique Elkins, Daniel Downing, Fernando Klever, Robert Hiton, Samuel Hurrit and Thomas Betlin.

The number of people arrested later grew and all were treated violently during interrogation. In November 1844 the English consul Mr. Joseph Crawford informed the Governor and Captain General of the island, Leopoldo O’Donnell, that the British subjects Joseph Leaning and Pat O’Rourke had died after being released. The doctors who treated them indicated that the physical and moral suffering they had endured in the prison was the cause of death. One of the streets in Cienfuegos was given the name of the infamous Governor of the Island, Leopoldo O’Donnell, who embarked on a bloody campaign of repression against the Afro-Cuban population and against the white people who supported their cause.”

Charles Blakely from Charleston was Cuba’s first mulatto dentist (Black mother, Irish-American father).  He was arrested in 1844 by Capitán General Leopoldo O´Donnell as the Havana leader of the Escalera slave rebellion.   Notorious due to the brutality of his repression, O’Donnell was born in the Canary Islands but his grandfather emigrated to Spain from County Mayo. 


Another fatal path with a political agenda that brought Irish Americans to Cuba were two annexationist expeditions led by the Venezuelan Narciso López in 1849 and 1851.  Annexationism had both reactionary proslavery and progressive prodemocracy constituencies in each country.  But when López arrived with his multiethnic American expeditionary forces including Irishmen, they received very little support from Cubans and were easily defeated by the Spanish and executed or harshly imprisoned.  Ironically the failed landing by Lopez in Cardenas, despite its annexationist goal, brought Cuba its national flag.


Moya recounts the Irish role in Cuba’s unsuccessful Ten Year War of Independence against Spain (1868-1878):

“From the beginning, the Cuban Liberation Army had the support of patriots who had emigrated to or organized outside of Cuba, mainly in the United States where they raised funds, bought arms and munitions and recruited volunteers who enlisted to fight for the liberation of Cuba from the Spanish yoke. Among the foreign volunteers was the Canadian William O’Ryan.…Upon the US American general Thomas Jordan’s arrival, who was named Chief of the High Command and later Head of the Liberation Army in the Camagüey region, W. O’Ryan was named inspector and chief of cavalry, before attaining the rank of general. He was sent on a mission to the United States, from where he set out to return to Cuba at the end of October 1873. He sailed aboard the American steamship Virginius…. The Virginius was captured by the Spanish warship Tornado off Cuban waters and was towed into the bay of Santiago de Cuba on 1 December. Five days later, by order of the Spanish authorities, all the leaders of the revolutionary expedition were executed, O’Ryan among them. On 7 December the ship’s captain, Joseph Fry, and 36 members of the crew, were executed, causing a diplomatic and political conflict between Spain and the United States. In honour of the independence fighter O’Ryan a street of the Sagarra subdivision in Santiago de Cuba was given his name.”


The Fenians/Clan Na Gael sent James J O'Kelly to Cuba in 1873 to report on the Ten Years’ War for the New York Herald, owned by a Catholic Scottish nationalist.  His mission included potential alliance with the Cuban revolutionaries.  From research funded by the Society for Irish Latin American Studies and published in its 2019 collection “Ireland & Cuba, Entangled Histories”[xii] José Antonio Quintana writes

During the days he spent alongside Céspedes, they reached an agreement that would have had great mutual benefits for the causes of both colonies, and which illustrates the journalist’s sympathy and commitment to the island’s revolution. The Fenian’s idea was to make Ireland aware of the militancy of the Cubans, with the help of the Irish emigrants residing in the United States. The agreement stipulated that if he managed it successfully, then the Cuban revolutionary government, once in power, would give O’Kelly twenty thousand rifles and a ship to be used to carry out the subversion in Ireland (Céspedes, 1982: 185). This project never came to fruition.

O’Kelley’s articles and his book, The Mambi Land[xiii], were influential with Irish-Americans and a wider audience.  After returning to Ireland he became a Parnellite MP for Roscommon North and wrote on foreign affairs for The Independent.  The paper supported Cuba’s final independence struggle, characterizing it as “the Ireland of the West,” and applauded the US war with Spain as a “just and holy crusade”.  “It openly wished that America would intervene in Ireland as in Cuba”.   When William Astor Chanler, the millionaire US brother of a board member “fitted out a warship at his own expense; the Independent published glowing reports of his Cuban exploits.”[xiv]


Tammany Hall and Dynamite Johnny O’Brien

The institution through which immigrant Irish gained political power in New York was Tammany Hall, or more precisely the General Committee of the Democratic-Republican Party.  The Irish role in Tammany Hall emerged in 1817 and grew during Felix Varela’s time.   “In New York, the famine emigration of 1846-1850 established the basis of Irish domination. There were 133,730 Irish-born citizens by the mid-century, 26 percent of the total population.”[xv]   Most arrived with little or no resources and began their new lives in poverty. Tammany Hall provided employment, shelter, and even sometimes citizenship[xvi]  

On April 4, 1855, the New York Times reported that Chairman H.P. Carr submitted “spicey resolutions” on Cuba to the Young Men’s Democratic-Republican General Committee, meeting at Tammany Hall.  They incorporated concern about “interference of ‘a new Holy Alliance by the Monarchical Powers of Western Europe’] between a struggling and oppressed people and their oppressors to crush the one and lend new means of cruelty and oppression to the other.”  Citing the authority of the Monroe Doctrine, Carr “advocated the necessity of having a guarantee…that there would be no more insults to the American flag by the authorities of Spain.”  The Times reported, “The resolutions were adopted unanimously.” [xvii]

[Deeper digging could determine whether Mr. Carr or any others on the General Committee were interested in Cuba because they were involved with or benefited from the work of Father Varela.]

In the 1880s, Tammany Hall provided meeting spaces for Jose Marti and others to debate, organize and celebrate their struggle for Cuba’s independence.  Tammany also made the largest financial contribution from any American source in the fall of 1897.  Horatio S. Rubens who served as legal counsel for the revolutionaries, wrote in his memoir “Liberty, the Story of Cuba”

“William Astor Chanler [the brother of the board member of the Independent] had a preliminary conference with the then Sachem, Richard Croker, and subsequently, when I called on him, he asked me how much I wanted, adding that the recent election had left an unexpended sum in the treasury. I replied that whatever balance there was would do. Croker, an impassive man, just stared at me, doubtless because the sum, as I heard later, was nearly $80,000….

Croker having prepared for the [subsequent] meeting, a district leader quickly proposed that, out of the unexpended campaign funds, $30,000 be donated to “ the sick and wounded Cubans.”

In his memoir, "A Captain Unafraid"[xviii], Dynamite Johnny O’Brien has this additional observation:

In their three and a half active years the Cuban delegations in the United States expended approximately $1,500,000, practically all of which passed through the hands of Mr. Palma. Of this amount Americans gave less than $75,000.  The largest American offering was $20,000 from Tammany Hall in the fall of 1897, at which time we were badly in need of funds with which to purchase arms and ammunition.

Cuba Libre was being talked of with such encouraging enthusiasm that it threatened to become a political issue, and shrewd old Dick Croker, the boss of Tammany, concluded it would be the part of wisdom to extend substantial as well as sentimental aid. He sent word to the delegation, through one of our friends, that Tammany had a little balance" left over from the last election, and that if some of the Cuban chiefs would attend the next meeting of the executive committee it would be turned over to them. But for Heavens sake, was his parting message. don't let them do any talking. 

Accordingly Mr. Palma, Dr. Castillo, General Nuses, and one or two others put on their best black clothes and attended the following meeting of the committee. They sat around with long faces, but spoke never a word. Mr. Croker reported the unexpended balance, and on his motion it was donated to the Cubans for the aid of the sick and wounded, which was the stereotyped form for all such gifts.[xix]

Whether Rubens or Obrien had the correct figure, the amount was substantial, in current value the equivalent of $582,000 or $873,000.

Potentially is this also a legacy of Father Varela’s? Croker was born in County Cork in 1843 and was brought to the US two years later.  Could his parents have known Varela?  Did he go to one of Varela’s schools?


O’Brien may have the correct explanation but Terry Golway who wrote “Machine Made, Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics”, documents that both Coker and another leader, Congressman William Bourke Cockran were anti-imperialist based on their experience with the English.   Cockran who was born in County Sligo in 1854 was a mentor and inspiration of Winston Churchill and served as Grand Sachem of Tammany from 1905 to 1908.  In 1899, he, “protested American expansion in Cuba and the Philippines at an anti-imperialism rally in Manhattan’s Academy of Music.”[xx]

Harry Boland told an Irish reporter in 1921, “Between you and me, Tammany Hall has given more aid to the [rebel] cause than any other single body.”[xxi]

Dynamite Johnny O’Brien was born in New York in 1837.  His parents immigrated from County Longford in 1831 and lived on the lower east side [posing again the question of possible relationship to Father Varela].  He was a pilot in New York harbor before becoming a "filibuster", a smuggler of arms.  During the successful independence war, he made over a dozen deliveries of weapons and personnel in every quadrant of Cuba's coast.  O'Brien evaded efforts by Spain, the US and Pinkerton detectives to arrest, capture or kill him.  He successfully commanded what Granma[xxii] has described as the sole engagement of the Mambisi navy near Cienfuegos.  O'Brien's integrity and heroism were so appreciated that he became Havana's first port captain after Cuba achieved its independence through a special act of the legislature.  He was also forgiven his transgressions by the US government enough to symbolically command the resinking of the Maine outside of Cuban waters.  His role was reported in the New York Times but not acknowledged in US government documents.     Johnny’s story was documented by the Irish filmmaker Charlie O’Brien.  It can be seen here  and is accounted in Charlie’s essay “The Lure of Troubled Waters”.[xxiii]  


The Cuban Roots of Eamon De Valera

I will finish with the controversial report of an unintended but significant contribution of Cuba to Irish history.  The grandfather of Ireland’s independence leader and President Eamon de Valera was Cuban, active in the sugar trade in Matanzas Province.  Juan Manuel de Valera reportedly sent his son Juan Vivian, an aspiring sculptor and music teacher, to New York to avoid the Spanish draft.  Vivian married Katherine Coll from Bruree, County Limerick.  Their son Eamon de Valera was born in 1882 and sent to Ireland to live with his mother’s family after his father’s death from tuberculosis in 1885.  

Frank Connolly wrote the most definitive account in the Sunday Business Post in 1996[xxiv]

“The Long Fellow withheld the details of his father Vivian’s origins for most of his life but told his children and grandchildren some years before his death that his father, who died when Eamon was two years old, was from sugar farming stock near the Cuban capital, Havana.  The young Dev was told the story when he visited his mother Kathleen Coll for the first time during his famous fundraising trip to the US in 1919, and heard further details when he met her again in the States in 1927….It seems that after his father’s death the grandparents wanted the boy back in Cuba and that is why Kathleen sent him back to Ireland with her uncle who was visiting there, said O Cuiv…Eamon O Cuiv recalls that as a child his grandfather showed him a family bible in the Aras which in the flyleaf carried a note referring to his father’s Cuban origins.  Dev called his eldest son Vivian in memory of a man he hardly knew, and told his children and grandchildren of how his mother had recounted the sad tale of their separation.  ‘He never made a big deal of it, but he must have been very conscious of his father or he would not have called his own eldest son after him,’ said O Cuiv, who believed that Dev may not have made an issue of his Cuban origins for fear of being accused of trying to cash in on the wealth of his father’s family in pre-revolutionary Cuba.”

An alternative explanation of de Valera’s reticence to discuss his origins is that a marriage certificate between Vivian and Kathleen has not been found despite research in the New Jersey church where they were said to have wed.  Being born out of wedlock could have been a political burden in a very Catholic Ireland.

[A topic worthy of further research is locating the passenger list of arrivals in New York from Havana that includes Vivian de Valera.]



To sum up, I suspect that very few people in Ireland, Cuba and among Americans of Irish descent are conscious of how much of a conceptual and practical link existed between Cuba’s and Ireland’s struggles to achieve independence from colonial masters in the 19th century and how much involvement there was from a triangular relationship with the Irish population in the US.

As I suggested in the beginning there is a twentieth and twenty-first century chapter to the story with the US replacing Spain as an economically, culturally and politically dominant foreign power, neo-colonial in practice if not in theory.   As the price of achieving peace and independence Ireland had to accept the separation of the northeast portion of the nation, most of the traditional province of Ulster.  An ironic parallel is that Eamon de Valera who was forced to accept partition to achieve independence spoke positively about the example provided by the Platt Amendment, the precondition for Cuba’s independence that allowed to US to reintervene until repealed in 1934.

Mutual respect between England and a sovereign Ireland took decades.  The Irish Republic was only proclaimed in 1949, twenty-seven years after independence.   Irish friends identify as the symbolic moment of mutual respect the separate and equal entry into the European Community of both Ireland and the United Kingdom in 1973.  The problem of reintegration remains an obstacle to the fulfillment of Ireland’s national potential and identity although thanks to the Good Friday Agreement and the unintended consequences of Brexit, the border is a diminishing obstacle in practice if not in theory.

Cuba flourished as a client state of the US for the first half of the twentieth century, compromised by direct military US military intervention during the first years of independence from Spain and separated from an important part of its national territory by US occupation of the base and prison of Guantanamo.   Politically, culturally and economically the two countries became deeply integrated with the US as the dominant partner.   The Cuban revolution of 1959 achieved political independence but it has not been able to establish a deeper autonomy from the US as effectively as Ireland did from England. 

Confronted by virtually unabating hostility and regime change objectives from Washington and Miami, with the partial exception of President Obama’s second term, Cuban leaders have been constricted economically, politically and psychologically.  In the minds of revolutionary leaders, maintaining freedom from US dominance required radical transformation of their country’s economy, ideological rigidity, overdependence on a balancing superpower and oppressive state control/protection of a population inherently vulnerable to covert and overt subversion from the north.  The context created by the US, whether intentionally or by propinquity, meant the harder Cuba had to fight to maintain its independence the more it had to sacrifice of its fundamental revolutionary goal to advance the lives of its people.

Because of my own experience with Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia, it is hard to escape the underlying reality that the missing ingredient is the mutual respect that the US extended to its former enemies in Indochina, recognition of their right to full self-determination, with differences in governance and ideology, including human rights, that it has never extended to Cuba over more than two centuries.



[iii] Dictionary of Irish Biography

[iv] Carlyle House Docent Dispatch








[xii] Ireland & Cuba, Entangled Histories, edited by Margaret Brehony and Nuala Finnegan, Ediciones Bolona pp 222



[xv]  Christiane Köppe (Author), 2005, Irish Immigrants in New York City 1850, Munich, GRIN Verlag,



[xix] A Captain Unafraid by Captain Johnny Dynamite O’Brien, pp 279-80

[xx] “Machine Made” by Terry Golway, Liveright Publishing 2014  pp 171

[xxi] “Machine Made” by Terry Golway, Liveright Publishing 2014  pp 223



[xxiv] Sunday Business Post, 11th August 1996

editorial revisions 6/16/23

Conclusion revised 7/2/23 based on conversations at the Conference of the Society for Irish Latin American Studies at the University of Galway.

A revised version was presented in Havana in December 2023 with illustrations


Comments and questions very welcome   +1-917-859-9025  (phone and Whatsapp)


Irish Links to Cuba


A Walking Tour of Irish Old Havana


Cuba’s President visits Varela’s Church of the Transfiguration and meets Bishop Cisneros as reported in Granma


To share this paper on line

rev.  11/2/23