One of the joys of working at an old and well-preserved university are the little traces of the past that sometimes manage to survive the fires, renovations, new paint schemes and other hazards of time. A few of the buildings at UVA are almost two hundred years old, and some of their previous occupants have left their mark. The above pencil inscription is one of those traces, recalling a moment, the Spanish-American War of 1898 to be precise, when Cuba was a friend to the United States, and Spain a hated enemy (my, how times change). While this little remnant doesn’t necessarily add anything to our understanding of that time, it does remind us that history was lived by real people, with real emotional investment in the events of their time. Someone (probably a white man, UVA was all-male and segregated at the time) was invested enough in this war to take the time and trouble to write this note, and a hundred and twelve years later I can still read it. That’s pretty cool.
I’ve been asked to keep the precise location of this particular graffito secret, but if you’re walking around UVA, or anywhere else for that matter, keep your eyes open, and see what you find.