The battle of the milk punch

The battle of the milk punch

Heritage & Traditions

By Gabriela Santiesteban

With the curious name of The Battle of Milk Punch, the story picks up a tragicomic event that occurred in a Havana café during the carnivals of 1844, which confronted young Cubans and Spanish authorities.

The carnival festivities and dances were very popular in the capital city at that time and among them the luxurious Tacón Theater (now the Alicia Alonso Great Theater of Havana), on the Paseo del Prado, stood out. Its owner, Spanish businessman Pancho Marty, obtained a special permit to celebrate the dances exclusively for five years in those surroundings and other establishments were forced to close their doors at eleven o'clock at night.

In front of the colisseum was the always lively Escauriza café, whose patrons had refused to abide by the measure, until Captain General Leopoldo O'Donnell decided to take action on the matter. To prevent the disobedience from continuing, on February 20, he sent Deputy Mayor Fernando de O'Reilly along with the public force to vacate the premises at the stipulated time.

The protest against these intentions was generalized and intensified when one of the young people present there poured the hot milk punch he was drinking on the official's head.

The Captain General himself, on horseback and heavily escorted, went to the place to finish what was already a whole battle, that of the milk punch, which ended with broken dishes, overturned or destroyed tables and chairs, customers and curious people run over ... The Escauriza cafe was closed down and five Cubans were arrested, two of whom were deported to Spain on conspiracy charges.

According to historians, the establishment was frequented by young people of the time, who already harbored a libertarian feeling and point out that this reported event was the first direct confrontation between Cubans and Spaniards, 24 years before the start of the independence wars.