Nochebuena en Cuba, 1824

The Spaniard Francisco Dionisio Vives arrived to Cuba in 1823 and served as captain general of the island through 1832. Vives ruled Cuba in the wake of independence movements in the rest of the colonial Americas and in the midst of the explosion of sugar production and the slave trade in Cuba. As an agent of the restored absolutist reign of Spanish King Ferdinand VII, he was the first to govern Cuba with facultades omnímodas (akin to martial law).

In 1828, Vives enacted a Bando de buen gobierno, a decree that established regulations to order daily life, and included previous regulations issued under one of his predecessors, Juan Manuel Cajigal y Martínez. In general, Spanish urbanization in the colonies aimed to inculcate policía, an expression of civilized life. Vives’ Bando addressed a range of aspects of urban life that the colonial government aspired to order and control – from the proper veneration of the Holy Sacrament to the prohibition of brothels to the mandatory education of all children over the 10 years old to the appropriate treatment of enslaved men and women.

Vives added regulations to the Bando, after its initial creation, one of which concerned the celebration of Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) so as to “prevent the disorder that might be experienced.” The regulation, emitted on December 23, 1824, ordered the closure of all taverns, bars, bodegas, restaurants “and any other location that sells food or drinks” when prayers commenced for Christmas Eve. Further, the regulation stated, only citizens headed to church for Christmas mass were to be out in public. And, they should proceed with the “moderation required, without making a ruckus or playing music, or other instruments that that would disturb the public tranquility.”


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