Sunday, May 13, 2007
Mariana Grajales de Maceo
Martí, who met her in Jamaica shortly before her death, said that she was "the woman who has most moved my heart." The poet of our flag, Bonifacio Byrne, dubbed her "the mother of titans and colossi." If she had done nothing more than give birth to Antonio Maceo or José Maceo her place in our history would have been secure. But she, of course, did much more: she gave her husband and seven sons for our country's redemption. Mariana Grajales does not depend on her sons' reflected glory for her own fame, though it is the only fame she ever wanted. Her own exemplary patriotism, rather, and her sacrifices equal to her sons' because it was her sons that she sacrificed, have earned her a place in our history that is surpassed by no other woman and few men. It is unnecessary to repeat the stations of her life or her immortal phrases, which are engraved in the conscience of every Cuban. More than a symbol she is an emotion that lives in all Cubans, the desire to abandon all and sacrifice all for the freedom of our country and the dignity of man.
As we look at her tomb, in Santiago de Cuba's historic Santa Efigenia Cemetery, where her remains were transferred in 1923 after lying for 3o years in a Jamaican grave, we also remember our own parents, who have languished for 30 years or more in untended graves in Cuba, or whose remains like hers await the day when they too can be returned to Cuban soil to nurture the land that nurtured us.
On this Mother's Day, we pay homage to the greatest of all Cuban mothers.
We need more women like Mariana Grajales. I admire "Las Damas de Blanco", but they can't hold a candle to her. Your post brings tears to my eyes. I live with the constant fear of having to bury my parents in exile.
13/5/07 11:49 AM
Manuel A.Tellechea said...
Of all Castro's crimes the worst are those that can never be redressed. Over the last 48 years several generations of Cubans have died in exile without ever having realized their fondest wish, a simple and unambitious wish, the right of every man to breathe one's last breath where one breathed the first. Perhaps it will be our unhappy fate also to cherish that dream all our lives and never see it consummated, and perhaps some day our children too will cry at the prospect that they may have to bury us in a foreign land, strangers there in death as in life.
The 19th-century Cuban poet Juan Clemente Zenea, though still young, believed that he too would die in exile and wrote a poem lamenting that terrible fate entitled "In Greenwood Cemetary (New York)." Fortune, however, spared him that fate and let him die a martyr's death in Cuba.
The Zenea poem speaks to the dilemma which you are confronting and which we all have confronted at some time or must confront in the future unless, as the poet writes, a new sun rises over our country that will shine for all Cubans:
At Greenwood Cemetery (New York)
Beside the waters of the silent brook,
Amid the marble forest, in this refuge,
Beneath the green grass and among rose bushes
Is where I want to rest when my time comes.
That time is nigh: my days have lost their luster
And faded uniformly as life's snows
Begin to fall and gather on my head,
Announcing future happiness elsewhere.
But what shall happen if on quiet nights
I go wandering as shadows sometimes do,
And instead of finding my native palms,
The weeping willows alone should mourn me?
Oh! what if racked by the deepest of sorrows,
I sit to medidate upon my tomb,
And yearning still for my homeland in bondage,
In vain I look for Cuba's beauteous sky?
What torment that would be! But if at some time,
The sun is born that I've long wished would shine,
Then make me a grave beside the family lake
And take me to rest among my grandsires.
There where my cradle in a bitter hour
Recklessly rocked me to a fickle fate,
Let me at last lay down this heavy burden
And in the bosom of death sleep serenely!
JUAN CLEMENTE ZENEA (1832-1871)
Translated by Manuel A. Tellechea
From Herencia: The Anthology of Hispanic Literature of the United States (Oxford University Press, 2002).