Espada y Landa, Juan José Díaz de
ESPADA Y LANDA, JUAN JOSÉ DÍAZ DE
Reforming Spanish bishop of Havana; b. Arróyave, Alava, Spain, 1756; d. Havana, Aug. 13, 1832. He directed the Diocese of Havana for three decades (1802–32), and was able to ascertain the needs of his diocese with dispatch. To undertake his great work of reform, he requested and obtained the aid of the most outstanding men of merit in the Cuban capital. Because of his fervent apostolic zeal and his great social and intellectual accomplishments, his name was mentioned, primus inter pares, with the names of the great prelates of Cuba. Under his pastoral charge, and in large measure under his auspices, Cuban society was able to adapt to the culture and the progress of the period. In his diocese, Bishop Espada contributed a large sum of money and a large plot to establish the first cemetery of Havana. His first pastoral visit (1804–05) produced abundant spiritual fruit, and also permitted him to delineate more exactly the limits of the rural parishes; to allocate, with the greatest possible fairness, the distribution of Church revenue; and to assist impoverished and needy parishes. He was firm in correcting abuses and superstitions, and was a constant protector of charitable institutions and those that favored popular education. He founded schools, reorganized asylums, and directed the Economic Society of Friends of the country, giving it his own vigorous stamp and renewed impetus; he reorganized the seminary; and he encouraged and granted his protection to the famous Father Félix Varela, reformer of philosophical studies, and to Tomás Romay, who introduced and spread vaccination. Espada's outstanding work of reform during two constitutional periods caused him to make bitter and stubborn enemies, who denounced him and reviled him; but most of the people, even those who were in power, honored him. His death occasioned sincere, general manifestations of mourning among all the social classes of a people who loved and respected him.
Bibliography: c. garcÍa pons, El obispo Espada y su influencia en la cultura Cubana (Havana 1951).
[j. m. pÉrez cabrera]