"I am now and I will always be on the side of liberty as my principles and sense of duty dictate. You say that we are confronted by insurmountable obstacles, but what was impossible yesterday may prove possible today. It is easy and fashionable for the defeatists among us to claim the gift of prophecy and condemn an entire people to perpetual degradation when even death by the tyrant's sword is preferable to living like debased savages under his heel. Given Cuba's present situation, what could be worse than to have our rights trampled by rapacious foreigners; our people exploited by befouled henchmen and political intriguers and submitted to hellish tortures and executions without end? Prison, chains, gallows, all this is still to be preferred to the shame of never having fought without respite for our liberties." — Antonio Maceo
Today marks the 111th anniversary of the death in battle of General Antonio Maceo, which was commemorated in Cuba as our Memorial Day. Half a million Cubans died besides Maceo in our wars of independence. Maceo exemplified for Cubans that vast legion of heroes who shed their blood more generously for freedom's cause than any other people in the history of this hemisphere. To appreciate the magnitude of that sacrifice, it is enough to point out that 4000 Americans died in Washington's Revolution and 10,000 South Americans in Bolívar's. Maceo was the greatest soldier and the greatest loss that the cause of Cuban arms ever sustained. No date is more fitting to remember all who have laid down their lives for our country, then and in all times, than the anniversary of Maceo's death.
José Martí said of Maceo that his mind was just as powerful as his arm. His letters, both personal and public, show him to have been a profound student of history who synthesized its lessons in sculpted sentences worthy of Caesar. Yet he is known, and has always been known, not as one of the political architects of our country — though he certainly was that — but as the intrepid soldier; the tireless fighter for his country's freedom; a veteran of three wars and more than 1000 battles; the man who bore on his body the scars of 22 combat wounds; and, of course, the peerless general — in sum, the arm of the Revolution. His military genius has always been acknowledged even by his enemies, who rejoiced at his death as at no else's because they believed, wrongly, that it would mean the end of the war so sure were they that no one could replace him (and, indeed, no one man could; but many men did). As a leader of men, it is enough to say his general staff included white men from Cuba's first families and that their loyalty and obedience to him were absolute and transcended race and all other superficial differences which then were less superficial than today. In him the general stood no higher than the citizen. His commitment to republicanism and the Rule of Law, his abhorrence of anarchy and barbarism, his fundamental sense of justice, and, above all, his noble intransigence, made him an exemplar of not only military but civic virtues.
Some day his tomb, desecrated hundreds of times by the Communists, who not only buried Blas Roca beside him but paraded troops destined for mercenary wars before it, will again become the altar of patriotism which it always represented to our people before history was buried in our country.
nonee moose said...
MAT, pregunta tecnica: I am aware that the revolution which began in 1868 is referred to as the War of Independence. Yet I have seen history books which mark 1895 as some starting point for the independence movement. Though it is easy to reconcile the two as part of a continuum, what is the correct way to mark the progression, historically?
Sorry to go off-topic...
12/07/2008 7:42 PM
There were intermittent uprisings in Cuba before 1868, including three successive invasions launched from the United States by Narciso López.
But it is the Ten Years War (1868-78), also known as Cuba's Great War, initiated by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, which spread from one end of the island to the other, cost hundreds of thousands of lives and laid waste to the island. All for naught because the U.S. refused to recognize the rebels' belligerency rights much less do for Cuba what France had done for it because it did not want to alienate Britain, whose financiers were underwriting Spain's war effort.
The U.S. had just fought a civil war to end slavery, and Britain had abolished slavery in its dominions 30 years earlier, but neither could see its way to support Cuban revolutionaries whose first act in fact had been to emancipate Cuba's slaves.
The U.S. proposed to the Cubans that they buy the island from Spain with a loan secured from American bankers. If they defaulted, however, the U.S. could intervene to collect the debt. The Cubans wisely declined to purchase their freedom on credit and with such a guarantor.
The first War of Cuban Independence ended in an armistice in 1878 and resumed briefly in 1879 (the "Little War") before the Spaniards finally "pacified" Cuba.
Alone the Cubans had held out for 10 years against the Spanish-British-American axis. No doubt they would succeeded in securing Cuba's independence without he interference of the greatest power in Europe and the greatest power in the Americas.
In 1895, José Martí organized a new uprising, known as Martí's Revolution or Cuba's second War of Independence, which was indeed a continuation of the first war after a 16-year hiatus (which allowed a new generation of Cubans to be born to replace that decimated in the Ten Years War).
The military leaders of the 1895 Revolution were the most prominent generals of the previous war, Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo.
The U.S., once again, refused to recognize the Cubans' belligerency rights, enforcing its Neutrality Laws against the rebels while its arms manufacturers were allowed to sell armaments on credit to Spain.
Desperate by what it recognized as its impending defeat, Spain established the world's first concentration camps in Cuba, where it interned the families of the rebels, killing more of them than it did rebels on the battlefield.
When the "apple was ripe," that is, when nearly a quarter of Cuba's population had been exterminated and the rebels were in effective control of 90% of the island, the U.S. finally decided that it would intervene "on the side of humanity and Christianity."
Martí and Maceo were already dead, but had they been living would have aggressively opposed U.S. intervention; but there was nothing that the Cubans could do to stop the advance of their newfound sunshine allies.
The Spanish-American War, as the Americans renamed Cuba's War of Independence -- the French, to their credit, did not call the American Revolution the "French-English War," though they had more reason to do so -- lasted only a few months with only 400 casualties on the American side, most of whom died of chronic diarrhea.
This was Theodore Roosevelt's "Splendid Little War" and the beginning of American imperialism. Cubans were its first victims. Our country was occupied, our independence curtailed and a chunk of our territory (Guantánamo Bay) stolen by the Americans. (Again, imagine if the French had seized Chesapeake Bay and established a naval base there!)
Cuba's War of Independence will not be concluded till the Americans quit Guantánamo and their last overlord Fidel Castro, installed by them in 1959, is driven from power.