An Earthquake Played Havoc with Santiago de Cuba 82 Years Ago
On Wednesday, February 3, 1932, at 1:12 am, Santiago de Cuba endured one of the worst catastrophes of its history. An earthquake left the city, according to official records, with around 80 percent of its buildings in ruins.
Nevertheless, the chronicles of February 3 and the following days go back several weeks before that fatal day.
On Sunday, January 24 after the Sunday Mass in a church in the Palma Soriano city, father Cresencio Pajares, from the Mary’s Immaculate Heart Order of Missionaries told his parishioners:
“I am extremely sorry, but it is my duty as a priest, to tell you for the third and last time to get strength from the sacraments and do not forget to pray. We have an ordeal to face here in Palma and in Santiago, and it is an immense one. I do not know what it is, but our Father is never wrong, and this is the last time I warn you. We are almost dealing with it.”
During Mass on January 10 and 17, Father Callejas, guided by a strange inspiration, had also made similar predictions about an ordeal for Santiago de Cuba and its surroundings. On Sunday, January 24, after the last of his predictions, Father Pajares fell sick. On February 3, Santiago de Cuba woke up under the shakes of a quake.
What happened during the 1932 quake could have been told in each of the thousands stories narrated by the Santiago de Cuba inhabitants during that night. Such stories were collected with a certain degree of accuracy in the press of those days. Also there is a book edited by the Arroyo Publishing House then, whose title is “Historic Memory of the February 3, 1932 Earthquake”. It contains some of those chronicles told by the people who witnessed the events:
“Those were terrible moments of anguish for us Santiago de Cuba people since 1:12 am on February 3 up to the present (…) Around that time we felt a thunder coming for the depth of the earth (…)The first tremor, which was weak, was like a warning (…) Such an intense commotion made us think it was the end of the world. Cracks everywhere, a deafening noise of walls collapsing around us, smashed glass; everything turned around us; the stars in the sky shone brighter; we could not think straight; we were only led by a salvation instinct; we took shelter with the children under wood panels (…)”
Many people believe that the timing of the quake, and the weak warning tremor before it contributed to diminish the number of victims, alongside the experience acquired by the population in dealing with such phenomena since the foundation of the villa times. All this allowed the people to have time to abandon their homes and see them tumbling down before their eyes.
Aid came almost immediately to relieve the situation of the city and its inhabitants, Cruslleas and Bacardi companies outstood in this sense, though Bacardi suffered a lot of damages during the natural phenomenon. However, such help was not considered enough when you compare it to the amount of losses.