[Illustration: U.S. Battleship “Maine.”]
[Illustration: Morro Castle, Havana.]
No doubt the place seemed very attractive to the men on board the Maine that bright sunny morning. The new part of Havana is pretty, the old part is quaint and interesting. There are a number of famous buildings, one of which is the Cathedral, where the remains of Columbus were treasured at that time, but they have since been removed to Spain. All the buildings are low, for low buildings are the fashion in countries that are subject to earthquakes; they are built of stone, and generally adorned with bright colors. There are wide avenues, and large parks and gardens.
If you should visit Havana, you would see many curious sights. All the houses, hotels and stores have iron-barred windows, which gives one the impression that the inmates are confined there. Many houses have large gates which open into beautiful gardens and court yards. Some of the streets have very funny names, such as “Ladies’ Delight,” and “Fat Stick,” when the Spanish names are translated into our language; and they have bright-colored awnings stretched across, from side to side.
The fish market is one of the most noted buildings in the city. It has one long marble table running the entire length of the building, which has one end open to the harbor. Poultry and fruits are brought to the doors of the houses in baskets which are carried on donkeys or the little horses of the country. Often you can see what looks like a large bunch of grass, slowly moving over the pavements, but as it gets nearer you will see the head of a donkey sticking out of one side, while his tail alone is visible on the other side. This is the way that food for horses and mules is brought into the city; no hay is used, only green feed. The milkman does not call at the house, as with us, but instead drives his cow up to the door and supplies you direct from her with as much milk as you wish to buy. Charcoal is almost the only fuel used in cooking, and the ranges look like benches placed against the walls with holes in the tops of them. But we must return to the battleship Maine.
[Illustration: Columbus Chapel, Havana.]
There was no special work for the Maine to do; she was simply to stay in the harbor till further orders. The Spanish officers called on Captain Sigsbee, and he returned their visits, according to the rules that naval officers of all countries are bound to observe. Yet it was easy for the men of the Maine to see that they were not welcome guests. The Maine had twenty-six officers, and a crew of three hundred and twenty-eight men. With her guns, ammunition, and other valuable stores, she was worth $5,000,000. She had been three years in service, having left the Brooklyn navy-yard in November, 1895.