Friday, May 18, 2007

May 19, 1850: Birth and Baptism in Fire of the Cuban Flag


On May 19, 1850, the Cuban tricolor was first flown on Cuban soil over the city of Cárdenas, Matanzas Province, by General Narciso López in the second of his three expeditions to Cuba. The capture and liberation of "La Ciudad Bandera" was the first victory obtained in Cuba's 75-year struggle for independence (1823-1898). Conceived by López, drawn by Cuban poet and patriot Miguel Teurbe Tolón and sewn by the latter's wife, the Cuban flag was displayed for months from The New York Sun building prior to its maiden battle.

The flag of Narciso López was first adopted as Cuba's official flag by its first Constitutional Convention, held at Guáimaro, on April 11, 1869, and its status confirmed in all subsequent constitutions of the Republic-in-Arms and the Republic of Cuba. The Constitution of 1940, Cuba's last democratic constitution, states in Title I, Article 5: "La bandera de la República es la de Narciso López. La República no reconocerá ni consagrará con carácter nacional otra bandera" [The flag of the Republic is Narciso López's. The Republic shall neither recognize nor consecrate any other flag as its national emblem].

The Cuban flag is one of the most distinctive and recognizable in the world, owing nothing to any other but serving as the model for those of many other countries.

Next to Bonifacio Byrne's immortal vindication of our flag (which is indirectly referenced in the above Constitutional Article), Agustin Acosta's decima is the best known tribute to our national ensign, which did indeed "surge from the sky" since the fortuitous juxtaposition of white and red clouds on an azure sky inspired it. Thus the Cuban flag, justly called by Byrne the "most beautiful of all flags," was drawn by the finger of God before it was traced by the hand of man.


To the Cuban Flag

Beautiful, gallant, victorious
And beyond the tyrant's hand,
Thou art the banner most glorious
And the emblem of my land...

When thy colors float on high,
Eternal dream of Martí,
Such pride do I feel in me,
I would have heaven reply
Whether thou prolong the sky
Or the sky surges from thee!


A la bandera cubana

Gallarda, hermosa, triunfal,
tras de múltiples afrentas,
de la patria representas
el romántico ideal...

Cuando agitas tu cendal
-sueño eterno de Martí-
tal emoción siento en mi,
que indago al celeste velo
si en ti se prolonga el cielo
o el cielo surge de ti...!


By Agustín Acosta (1886-1979)
Cuban National Poet
Translated by Manuel A. Tellechea

22 comments:

Agustin Farinas said...

Manuel,
in our home we have our beautiful flag always on display in our living room along with a picture frame of the island. It is the centerpiece of our living room if you want to call it that. Our Argentine friends when they visit always comment how we are so fiercely nationalistic that even though we have been many years outside of Cuba we do not seem to forget we are Cubans at every moment and always proudly show it. Our replies are: yes, we are because we are living in a foreign land in our bodies but our hearts are in Cuba no matter what country we happen to inhabit at the moment. Keep up the good work showing us these little pieces of Cuban history and culture. As Bob Hope would say: thanks for the memories!

Vana said...

Agustin

Same at my house La Bandera Cubana is proudly displayed, along with a small bust of the apostle, it also hangs proudly in my car's rear view mirror, I'm so proud of being Cuban it bursts forth from my heart and soul

Agustin Farinas said...

Vana,
we are the same. We are fanatic motorcycle riders and take different trips through Argentina on our bike. There in the windshield is proudly displayed our beautiful flag and a decal of the island. Only downside to this is most Argentinians are pro-Castro, so when they ask if we are from Cuba, we say yes but we are not pro-CAstro on the contrary, we are against all that he stands for. What follows is usually a discussion with them about the real Cuba and not what they believe it is. Is amazing the amount of disinformation that we have here about Cuba. My wife travels with her old ration card in her purse and she shows it to them and asks them if they could live like that and if they would support a government that for 48 years has had the people living like that. She is even more vociferous than I am in attacking the Revolution with them. I just simply watch and ocasionally lend a hand with her argument since she came from Cuba just a few years ago and knows first hand the real problems in Cuba. Sometimes our trip is delayed for 1 hour while we engage these idiots and try to counteract and tear apart their misinformation and propaganda. But is well worth it if we put a least a ray of doubt in their thick heads. My lovely wife calls it the little grain of sand in her struggle for the truth. Is a never ending battle to inform those who only believe the Cuban propaganda and bull---it.

Charlie Bravo said...

That's why I linked this blog as reading material for May 19 and May 20.....

Vana said...

Agustin

I too have had heated discussions with che lovers about the fu..ing shirt they are wearing, but some people just don't understand, it has gotten so that when my daughter sees someone with a che shirt she distracts my attention so I don't see it, she knows how much it upsets me, also when you say traveling in Argentina do you mean you live there? or travel there?

Vana said...

and Charlie thank's for linking to this site, I enjoy it so

Agustin Farinas said...

Vana,
Yes, we live here in the Sierras and this is where I met my wonderful wife,a Cuban lady from Oriente. Just by chance I visited some Cuban friends who alos live here and there she was. He became friends and then started to go out and finally got married. Now since I am retired, we often have the chance to travel throughout the country and have the chance to chat with the common folks about Cuba. Their interest in aroused when ever they see our beautiful flag in our vehicles. Immediately the conversation turns to Cuba and they start to ask questions about it. The answers they get from us ususllly are very different from the preconceived images they have about Cuba. Is amazing how much propaganda and misinformation one hears while traveling in this country. Is overwhelming. We try as best as we can to clarify the real facts about Cuba but is not easy. Believe me. My wife has taken to travel with her old ration book in her purse in order to dispell some of the stupid opinions we constantly hear.

Vana said...

it's a good thing we have you there Agustin, you can help disspel some of the myths about Cuba, and I know is not easy Agustin, I get the same ignorance here in the USA, were you would think people would be more understanding

Agustin Farinas said...

Vana,
just now we were watching TV and guess what? NatGeo of all channels is showing a program titled the "Travels of Che Guevara" a doucmentary about two idiots here who are retracing the same road Guevara rode with his friend in a motorcycle. I got on the Internet and went to the National Geographic page and wrote them an email asking when they were going to show the documentary about Adolf Hitler during his early period in Vienna when he was a watercolor artist. I wrote that he showed such promising future during this period that a he desrved a show on their channel about the poverty and loneliness he encountered during this period of his life prior to becoming Chancellor of the Third Reich. Let's see what they answer. Of course I was being facetious and sarcastic but I still want to read their answer. I said that since they were shoing this documentary about an assasin who killed people in Cuba, the Congo and Bolivia, why not one about Hitler.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

I have added the Spanish version of Hugo's poem, which I found many years ago in Leovigildo Ruiz's book Diario de una traición 1959 as a preface to a list of Cubans who had escaped Castro through foreign embassies.

Vana said...

Wow Agustin I bet you almost vomited when you saw that listing, here too they shot a movie The Motorcycle diaries, of course I did not go see it, I gag just to see his face, and of course I'm sure he's much more glorified in Argentina, since he was born there, am glad you wrote them and told them about doing a hitler movie..lol...since Argentina gave refuge to untold number of nazis during and after the war, I bet they may just go for your idea, let me know what they answer ok

Agustin Farinas said...

Vana,
the height of stupidity is what I saw on a truck during one of our travels in Argentina 3 months ago. This idiot truck driver had two decals on the back of his cab. One of Che Guevara and the other one of Bin Laden. My God, how could someone be such an idiot. But my wife said: "It makes sense Agus, they are both pretty much the same. Both are cold blooded killers." I guess looking at it from that angle, yes. It gives you an idea what we are up against.

Vana said...

Yes Agustin, that is the height of stupidity and your wife is right, they are both cold blooded killers, there are many idiots in the world Agustin, that's why we had a Jewish holocaust, and a Fidel.

You guys we need a chat room

Vana said...

Manuel thanks for the beautiful poems you publish in your blog, they move me to tears, I like the ones in spanish the most, I'm fiercely Martiana, since I was a little girl, and have read the life and dissapointments of the apostle, also I love Maceo, el Titan de Bronce, I know a beutiful poem about him, but the years have distorted some of the words, here is how it ends.

Y despues callo' el caudillo
cuando nadie lo esperaba
desplomoze del cabballo
dando gloria a Punta Brava
destrozado su amplio torax
por el plomo opositor
se vio al pueblo consternado
como el que no se cumplia
por el gran Titan de Bronze
que en el campo sucumbia
por brindar a Cuba esclava
honra, enseña, paz y honor

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Vana:

I am very grateful to you for your kind and encouraging words.

Although Martí died before becoming widely known to the American public, Maceo lived just long enough to capture the imaginations of all Americans. Thousands of American babies were named "Maceo" and for a time it rivalled the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Clevelands and Roosevelts. In the African-American community, of course, Maceo was idolized as the greatest black general since Hannibal. But whites also could not ignore or deprecate Maceo's stunning victories from one end of the island to the other.

Tomorrow, I will post, especially for you, the tribute of a popular 19th century American poet to Antonio Maceo. In fact, there are dozens of such paeans.

In the 19th century, the plight of Cubans was actually of interest to Americans, and although that fascination with Cuba would lead them to commit great historical wrongs, it was still preferable to the contemptuous silence with which the cause of Cuban freedom meets today.

Vana said...

Thank you Manuel I'll look forward to those postings, how proud it makes me to hear you say how well known Maceo was, I read somewhere that General Patton actually studied Maceo's strategies, He was a great General.

You are right Manuel, the way Cuba and our plight is ignored is a very sad thing indeed

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