Tomas Estrada Palma

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:30

Before there was Fidel Castro, there was Tomas Estrada Palma. And before Estrada Palma was elected the first president of Cuba, he and his family stayed in the Central Valley home of the Cornell family, where he regained his health following seven years in a Spanish prison for fighting for freedom in Cuba. Estrada Palma and David Cornell operated a boy’s private school on Dunderberg Road (Estrada Road). When Estrada Palma was elected the first president of Cuba in 1902, the Cornell family traveled to Cuba to celebrate this historic event. On Feb. 16, 1903, Estrada Palma signed the Cuban-American Treaty, agreeing to lease the Guantanamo Bay area to the United States, in perpetuity, for use as a naval base and coaling station. This was a minor victory for the Estrada Palma administration for Washington had wanted five naval bases on the island. It is a testament to his diplomatic skills that Estada Palma was able to obtain the reduction even with America troops stationed on the island. His policies were also responsible for improvements in education, communications and public health which had suffered from the devastation created by the war of independence from Spain. A statue of Estrada Palma was erected in the “Avenida de los Presidentes” in Havana. It was pulled down by Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries, reportedly because they blamed Estrada Palma for starting the trend of U.S. intervention in Cuba. Estrada Road (Old U.S. Route 6) through Central Valley, a hamlet in the Town of Woodbury, in Orange County, New York is named after Tomas Estrada Palma. Palma spent many years of his exile in the United States in the Orange County town and, along the road bearing his name, ran a summer camp which has since been abandoned. Source: Wikipedia