As white southerners, Robert E. Lee and Fitzhugh Lee didn’t speak out against slavery. As Confederate Army veterans, they also didn't speak out against the violence perpetrated by white supremacists during Reconstruction.
That wasn't forgotten in Charlottesville, where a defender of white supremacy killed Heather D. Heyer Saturday and injured several other protesters who wanted a monument to Robert E. Lee removed. After the tragedy, the statues and street names honoring the memory of Confederate leaders have been coming down.
There is pertinence in the name of a street in Havana, but there is no heated debate. General Lee Street begins at Via Blanca, Spanish for White Road, and it ends at Heredia. The street crosses a section of the Diez de Octubre municipality’s Santo Suarez neighborhood.
Marta La Madriz, who lives in the General Lee Street area, was confused about the origin of the name.
"Those are the names of, how should I say this, from the days of the Spaniards," said La Madriz in Spanish. "They placed the names of those who fought during the war of independence."
Few know the street is named after Fitzhugh "Fitz" Lee, one of Gen. Lee’s nephews, who lived in Havana. After serving as a Confederate cavalry general during the Civil War and becoming the 40th Governor of Virginia, he was named consul general in Havana in 1896.
Fitzhugh Lee was among those who believed the annexation of Cuba to the U.S. would be indispensable.
"Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only toward the North American Union, which by the same law of nature, cannot cast her off from her bosom," Fitzhugh Lee wrote.
The West Point graduate later served as a U.S. Army general during the Spanish-American War. In his book, the "Cuba’s Struggle Against Spain," published in 1899, he described the crisis that led up to the war.
Sugar was the staple product of Cuba. The manufacture of beet sugar in Europe and a tariff in America caused the complete stagnation of the industry. The abolition of slavery made matters worse in an economic way.
"The reckless extravagance of the government piled up the debt upon the people of Cuba until it became unbearable ... There was no personal safety, no freedom of speech nor of the press," he wrote.
After the war, Fitzhugh Lee didn't go back to Virginia. He remained in Cuba to help to reinstate order as the military governor of Havana and Pinar del Rio. The U.S. Library of Congress archived a Jan. 20, 1899 film of a procession where Lee is leading a troop down the street in Havana.