Una identità in movimento

Cuba's Freedom Fighter, Antonio Maceo (Part 2)

Magdalen M. Pando

The Entrepreneur (1880-1892)

For the next several years the inactive revolutionary barely functioned in a vacuum of poverty; he pawned possessions in exchange for term loans which he needed to take care of his family's needs. He worked at the odd jobs available to Cuban refugees living in Jamaica; he wrote drafts of letters presenting his side of the wrongs he believed he had suffered. Complaints sent to the Spanish authorities accused them of being unfair in their constant harrying of his person; in the past he had acted towards them in good faith, he reminded his correspondents, adding that Cuba could not be deprived of her right to independence.

In this period of enforced leisure, he socialized. He also read extensively; reading was a lifetime habit. Documents relating to the South American wars of independence appealed to him and his dedication to his Patria appears to be modeled on that of Simon Bolivar.

In October of 1882, he entrusted a delicate mission to a proven friend. To Don José Pérez, owner of a cigar factory in Kingston, he wrote:

My dear friend: For various reasons I give myself the pleasure of writing these lines to you. First, because I have always considered you worthy of the esteem of honorable men. Secondly, because I need you; thirdly, I would like to offer you my services here as far as I am able. I am employed earning 300 pesos a month. From a money draft going to Don Juan Palma, you will receive twenty pounds sterling which please deliver to Miss Amalia Marryatt, mother of a child I have in Kingston, to whom I am writing today. This is a mission not especially suited to your high moral standards, but knowing that you, better than anyone else can appreciate my situation with respect to my son, I have not hesitated to make the request, for even though you may make an unfavorable judgement of me, you will make another which in a measure will mitigate my conduct.

In June of that year, 1882, he had received a letter from José Martí — the first from the future liberator of Cuba — exploring Maceo's sentiments and interest in cooperating in preparations for a plan of revolt being formulated in New York by emigres who were of the opinion that the political climate was favorable to a new effort.

Maceo, occupied with the duties of his double post in Honduras, did not reply until November 29th, five months later. He returned the compliment in addressing his correspondent as "friend", and agreed that the time was propitious. "My sword and my last breath are at the service of Cuba", he wrote. His country could call him at any time; but in the long reply he spelled out what experience had taught him:

I believe that for the new struggle we need unity of action, organization and money; none of these have been made available to me in my efforts to see my Patria free and fulfilled. . . . Moral and political unity are indispensable for combating Spain's power in Cuba...

He made clear that he did not aspire to be the leader of the revolution, an expression Martí sought from him; he would want the most competent man available to be given that post. Assurances were given that the military segment of the revolution would be ready when needed.

Although José Martí and Antonio Maceo receive praise in unison, a fervor welding their two patriotic lives into one, they were strikingly dissimilar. Martí's talents were diffused in many directions; as a revolutionary organizer he was most effective in oratory. Maceo consistently gave every thought and followed that thought with practical effective action to the end that Cuba should be free and independent.

General Luis Bogran, elected President of Honduras in November, 1883, communicated with Maceo, the commander of his ports of Omoa and Cortes. Maceo's reply is dated November 28th and in it he expresses his dream for Cuba:

I have before me your esteemed letter of the 26th instant... I rejoice because the popular vote of the nation has given you the direction of the Government of the Republic. Such is the fruit of free suffrage. Liberty is so beautiful! May God bless her and make her available to all men...

He elaborated in letters to friends and sympathizers that the principles of freedom and the rights of citizenship should, when the revolution was won, apply to all, with no division between Cubans and Spaniards then living on the Island; honorable men, members of the same family, should unite in ties of humanity, of common origin, casting out the contemptible antagonisms of class distinctions. "Humanism is a whole concept… " he wrote in a May 6, 1884, letter which also contained the theme of his life dedication:

The sovereignty and freedom of my native land is my only desire; I have no other aspirations; as a sovereign nation we shall secure our rightful privileges, we shall have dignity, and the recognition due a free and independent people.

In the communications outlining the preparations for the new invasion, Maceo emphasized that the military leadership belonged to Máximo Gómez. The two leaders prepared a directive listing military commands assigned to their former officers. They then made preparations for a tour for the collection of funds.

Each hero gave his life for Cuba's freedom, but the two tragedies differed greatly in their respective patriotic values. Martí's death caused only ripples of concern among the insurgents and the Spaniards; his death did not alter the course of the revolution. Maceo's caused unrestrained grief to the peoples of Cuba and brought unrestrained joy to the government in Spain and to the Spanish colonials on the Island; his death changed the character of the rebellion; it lost strength — fighting strength. The two men are linked as complementing each other through erroneous assumption of historians that they enjoyed mutual understanding.

Contractor in Panama

Maceo, late in November, 1886, transferred to Panama and there contracted to build houses for the canal development, then being undertaken by the Lessep Company of France. By New Year's Eve he was able to send through a friend the sum of 100 pesos; 75 of this amount he directed for his wife; the balance of 25 pesos to another lady, Lucila Rizo, with no explanation as to why she was due the sum. At his time, he wrote that he had negotiated contracts for the building of houses and that he felt he was now involved in a successful venture.

He remained in Panama until the work projects slackened. Political activity during the Panamanian years, 1887-1888, ceased. His correspondencee during this period was meager, and in it he mainly complained of the health hazards of the hot, humid country. During those years of Maceo's disengagement from revolutionary activities, José Martí in New York City became the central force of rebel enthusiasm.

Maceo in his correspondence with Martí stated his political philosophy:

Unshakeable respect for the Law, and a decided preference for a republican form [of government] are the principles of my political thought; they are now, have been, and will always be my ideals — for these I fought yesterday, under that aegis I shall perform tomorrow if Providence and Patria again call me to complete my obligation.

Sojourn in Cuba

The following year, when the Panama Canal housebuilding project was completed, Maceo worked out a scheme which gave him permission to return to Cuba with his wife after an absence of twelve years. The wll-meaning, kindly Manuel Salamanca, Governor of the Island, agreed to allow the petitioner to re-enter the country in order to clear up "some matters of bonds and family estate". Maceo's purpose was to get first-hand information on the climate for revolutionary action, aside from satisfying an understandable homesickness. Maceo traversed the Island from Havana to Oriente, the latter the center of all his past glories. The people in the areas he toured welcomed him with tumultuous celebrations, and acclaimed him their hero. He is described by a Spanish historian of that epoch as "an elegant visitor, dressed in sack suit, homburg hat, entertained and made much over wherever he went".

La Mansion in Nicoya, Costa Rica

Dedication to Patria had come to a halt by early 1891. One had to make a living. He sought the return of funds apparently due him, with no success. Mid-1892, Maceo, after many negotiations, completed a contract with the Costa Rican government, permitting him to establish a farm colony in the virgin land of Nicoya, on the Pacific side. From 1892 through mid-1893, Maceo remained close to the La Mansion enterprise. The state of his affairs, as they had developed in the previous nine months, were related in a June 9, 1893, letter to his good friend in Kingston, Don Alejandro González. Besides being overwhelmed by his many tasks and inconveniences in the development of the colony, his participation in activities of the development of the colony, his participation in activities of the Cuban revolutionaries had brought him to the brink of disfavor with the Costa Rican government; in a state of uncertainty, he felt that he neglected one cause for the other — his contrary obligations, devotion to the project or devotion to the cause of Cuba's freedom. This letter of crises ended with the optimistic note that the colony was progressing, had been praised by many; more colonos were added and there was enough to eat and many crops; the mill was being installed, and buildings for a school and housing for employees were under construction. By mid-1894, Maceo had been completely wooed away from the Nicoya project to become involved in Martí's elaborate preparations for the next great thrust against Spanish domination of the Patria.

Return to Cuba (1893-1896)

Maceo proposed unification of all patriots — emigres and islanders — to present a determined front for indpendence that would attract the sympathy of other nations; that these nations be persuaded to come to the assistance of the oppressed colony. Still in Costa Rica, he worked to this end, sending letters to stimulate the patriotism of friends and to attract potential sympathizers. During this period, he found time to defend Martí against a critic. His good friend, Enrique Trujillo, editor of El Porvenir, a Key West newspaper, received a reply to his letter of June 12, 1894, critical of Martí. Maceo suggested that his correspondent's war against the New York delegate was a crime of lesa patria. And he went on to question Trujillo's accusation that Martí consumed the donations of the cigar workers, pointing out that he, Trujillo, also profited from these same cigar workers' earnings, since he sold his newspaper to them, and concluded with the suggestion that Trujillo "love and admire Martí as much as you did in 1887".

Appreciation of Martí diminished early in the next year. Martí's preparations for the uprising and invasion of the Island by coordinated leaders, among these Maceo, suffered irreplaceable loss when the United States Government, at the insistence of informed Spanish authorities, confiscated on January 10, 1895, at Boston and Fernandina Beach, three vessels loaded with arms making their way to Cuban shores under false declarations of commercial cargo. This blow was followed by yet another. Martí did not meet Maceo's request for funds the latter had advised he needed to finance his participation in the planned invasion.

On February 24, 1895, an uprising took place in Cuba, which though abortive, marks the beginning of the second war of independence. Many patriots were involved in this movement, launched from New York by Martí in his "Order of Uprising" dated January 29th, and directed to the patriot, Juan Gualberto Gómez in Havana.

While these momentous events were being activated by Martí first from New York and later from Santo Domingo, Maceo was bogged down and frustrated in San José, Costa Rica. On February 22, two days before the uprising, Maceo wrote to Martí lamenting that the needed money had not been provided. Neither had his suggestion been followed that the services of the captain of the Adirondack, a US vessel, be bought to allow the loading of arms under a manifest of merchandise. "I only need 50 rifles, 50 machetes and 50 revolvers with corresponding ammunition to undertake the voyage. And what I need mostly is money and possibly I can make this move with $3,500 gold", he wrote, and concluded that it was not convenient to procrastinate; that the perils ahead should be faced and when faced, the machete would take care of opening the way and establishing liberty in Cuba.

Martí and Máximo Gómez in Santo Domingo were busy preparing their long literary "Manifesto of Montecristi" issued March 25, 1895, which presented in a detailed, verbose, passionate document all the reasons the Island sought freedom.

Maceo, joined with fourteen others, including his brother, José, in making arrangements to return to Cuba. What arms they had been able to purchase were hidden in boxes, which with hatchets they carried were registered as laborers' equipment.

A sympathetic American, a Mr. Farrington, U.S. representative on the island, provided them with a small thirteen-ton schooner, the Honor, and a crew. The voyage ended on a black stormy night, March 31, when they came close to a desolate area of the Cuban coast and the crew was forced to land them and their supplies in two small boats. The reluctant sailors did not want to attempt landing in the dark among the rocky spires lining the beach. When forced to do so, the schooner was wrecked and one of the sailors lost his life.

On land, later recognized as the outlet of the Duaba River, near Baracoa, Maceo and other men broke open the boxes of arms, a small cache of Remingtons, distributed the rifles and wooded area they wandered on foot for many days, hungry and tired. Finally, they came upon friendly country people who fed them and gave them the location of Spanish forces in pursuit. When the Spaniards came close to them, and were about to find them, they broke up into three sections and separated, Maceo led the men with him to safety. Flor Crombet was not so fortunate; he was killed in ambush, though the men with him were not. José Maceo, the third leader, survived the ordeal, and escaped entrapment.

One month later, after successfully eluding Spanish columns in pursuit of the invaders, Maceo had brought under his command the insurgents in the area by independently imposing his authority. He issued and distributed proclamations during late April, warning his patriotic readers to recall their sacrifices in the Ten Years' War and not to succumb to the blandishments of Martínez Campos who would again be offering shamefully false promises. Appointed captain — general and chief of the Spanish army in Cuba, Martínez Campos had arrived to take up his new post a few days after Maceo landed on the shores of Cuba.

Máximo Gómez and Martí, who had moved out of Santo Domingo and slipped successfully into Cuba the previous month sent word to Maceo to attend a meeting. The invitation was ignored. Maceo wanted to be in control of the insurgent troops of Oriente, which he considered his own, before submitting to anyone else's direction. The meeting finally took place on May 5th in Maceo's camp in Bocucy, where he had summoned the offended conspirators. Martí entered the day's encounter in his personal diary:

Suddenly some horsemen. Maceo, in a grey uniform, on a chestnut horse; there is silver on the saddle, he is resplendent and starred.

Maceo told them he was on the march, and not remaining in camp.

In this meeting held in the La Mejorana sugarmill complex, near Santiago de Cuba, the three men, Martí, Gómez and Maceo, briefly discussed the formation of the government of the republic. The first wanted a civil organization in control of the military; Maceo maintained that a strong military command was indicated until such time as they had conquered the land to be in a position to implant civil government. Until the insurgents in arms dislodged Spain from the Island, there were no assurances they could give the civilian population.

Maceo cut short the meeting. He had things to do: establishing prefectures to provide centers of leadership to the underground patriots and making the insurgent bands scattered in the jungle into effective military divisions.

On June 30, he found time to address a short letter to his wife who remained in San José:

My always adored wife: The progressions of the Revolution do not allow for considerations of family duties. Tranquility is not for me; I live on horseback, riding in all directions as I organize forces and prefectures; 2,200 men form eighteen regiments. . . .

A bank draft was included in this letter with instructions that she cash it and attend to her needs. The final phrase read:

And you receive the heart of your husband who adores you and yearns for you.

He did not here relate that on May 12th the enemy suffered great losses in battle, including the death of Lieut. Colonel Bosch, a Spanish officer from the Regiment of Simancas, nor did he comment on José Martí's death on May 19th, when posing as a soldier, Martí had perished in the action carried out by Máximo Gómez against the Spanish forces in the area of Dos Rios.

Spain's military command on the Island admitted to the success of the insurrection in the eastern sector where Maceo fought along with Máximo Gómez and other rebel leaders. Martínez Campos, in charge of the defense of Spanish interests on the Island since mid-April, sent a confidential report to Canovas, chief of government in Madrid, stating in part:

Although after being here a month I realized the seriousness of the situation, I did not want to accept it; my visits to Cuba [city of], Principe and Holguín began to frighten me, but fearful that I was turning pessimistic, decided not to confine my tours to the coastal cities but to enter the interior towns . . . and I have now come to these sad conclusions. The few Spaniards on the Island who dare to proclaim themselves as such can do so only in the cities. the rest of the inhabitants hate Spain, the effect of the propaganda in the press and of the clubs, and the state of abandonment of the Island after Polavieja left; they have assumed appeasement and permissiveness not for what they are — error and weakness — but manifestations of fear, and have become arrogant. Even the timid ones are quick to follow the orders of insurrectionary chiefs. When one goes by the huts in the countryside the men are not to be seen, and the women, when asked the whereabouts of their husbands or their sons, reply with terrifying naturalness "In the backwoods with 'so and so!" Not even an offer of 500 to 1,000 pesos will get a message through. It is true that if caught, the messenger would be hanged; on the other hand they keep the enemy informed spontaneously and with frightening speed of the numbers and passage of our columns.

Martínez Campos' evaluation of conditions in Cuba clearly showed that the people were willing to help in the ouster of Spain. Because the strength of the revolution was maintained in the eastern provinces, insurrectionary leaders considered mobilizing all sympathizers throughout the length of the island. While these plans of invasion were being considered as an extension of the campaign, Maceo gave battle and made appeals.

A major battle which Maceo had been provoking finally took place in Peralejo, near Manzanillo, on the 12th of July. Maceo and Martínez Campos faced each other on the battleground of an open pasture of coarse grass, surrounded by vegetation-enmeshed barbed wire fence. Maceo gave the order to attack the marching Spanish column of four hundred men, as they came into view inside the enclosure. Among the mingled shouts of "Viva Cuba!", "Viva Maceo", "Viva Espana!", "Viva Isabel la Catolica!" the face-to-face combat took place in the pasture, beyond which rose the Peralejo heights lapped by the River Mabay. The battle screams of the charging attackers increased and rose above gun shots, and were more intimidating than the fire itself to the Spaanish foot soldiers fighting in battle formation. Both the Cuban leader and the Spanish general received aid from their respective sides: Bartolomé Masó dispatched a troop to Maceo, when he learned of the magnitude of the battle. General Santolcides with 1,000 men came to the aid of his captain-general and lost his life in the five-hour hard fought encounter.

When the Spaniards appeared defeated and retreated to the river's edge, Maceo ordered infantry troops under Rabi to stop their flight. The order could not be carried out as the men had run out of ammunition. Martínez Campos managed to cross the river, proceeding to the safety of the fortified town of Bayamo.

This encounter, considered one of Maceo's major accomplishments in the field of battle, left him frustrated: he had so narrowly missed capturing Martínez Campos. Several days later, on July 16, he wrote to the captain-general offering to return the injured "which you left on the battlefield" and giving assurances that the men sent to take back the wounded would have safe conduct.

Though Maceo had originally rejected Martí's projection of a plan for the organization of the government of the "Republic of Cuba", by the end of July he was promoting its establishment. To Máximo Gómez he announced on July 26th that with great difficulty he had organized twenty-one regiments and that they would be listed in the forthcoming issue of El Cubano Libre, the newspaper launched by Maceo after taking possession of a printing press. In another letter with the same date, he gave Gómez a list of five names "corresponding to the 25,000 men in arms in the Oriente province" of the persons who would act as their representatives at the forthcoming assembly which would constitute the government.

Preparation for the creation of a government body for the "Republic of Cuba" began with the appointment early in July, 1895, of Tomas Estrada Palma as Delegate of the New York City-based Cuban Revolutionary Party which, under Martí, had launched the revolution. Estrada Palma exchanged the poet's battered shoes for his own sturdier ones and strode a firmer path for the solicitation of funds and for their use in the acquisition of military supplies. In the middle of August, Estrada Palma issued a directive which confirmed a previous order circulated by Máximo Gómez to the effect that all people on the Island were obligated to contribute to the movement for freedom, with their properties or their persons, under penalty of losing the former; property-less persons would be expelled from the Island if they did not join in the rebellion.

Martínez Campos, regretting that he had not requested a greater number of troops, accepted the 26,835 men the Queen Regent and the young King had sent off at the pier in Vitoria in an elaborate ceremony of sentimental farewell attended by the populace and featuring music and oratory. The contingent brought the total of Spanish soldiers on the Island to some 37,000. Soon after arrival, the total would be reduced by the usual twenty percent claimed by fever, the change of climate, and diet. Fighting methods, as practiced by the Spaniards, caused unnecessary losses, for the men were not taught how to combat the surprise machete attacks of the Cubans. The collective opinion of Spanish veterans was that four Spanish soldiers on the Island equalled one able combatant.

The entire month of August was given over to skirmishes and battles, in a munition-short situation. On the 30th he received an urgent summons from his brother José to come to his aid as the Spaniards, aware that he was incapacitated with sciatica, were about to overwhelm him. Maceo went forward and engaged the Spaniards in a nine-hour bloody battle in the craggy area of Sao del Indio. As the battle progressed, he issued an order allowing the Spaniards to move on. He had had bombs placed in the path of the enemy; on explosion the column was expected to retreat in panic into the waiting rebel lines. Instead they continued forward, leaving the injured on the field, and moving away from the murderous rebel attack.

The Maceo brothers renewed the battle, which continued for thirty-six hours, mustering what men they could since they too had suffered great losses and were short of ammunition. Incidents of great valor were recorded by the insurrectionists, and in due course Madrid acknowledged that they had been beaten in Sao del Indio. Though the count of casualties differed in various reports to the Peninsula, in the final reckoning the figures were given at eight officers and one hundred soldiers killed in action; forty seven wounded. The rebels admitted to eighty-nine casualties out of a total of six hundred men. The Spaniards claimed there were 3,500 insurrectionists in this action, which is a considerable difference and attests to the punishment they received. In this instance, it can be assumed that the rebels' claim to a force of six hundred represented their total men in battle.

Drafting a constitution for the "Republic of Cuba" was discussed by the rebels early in September; by the 16th, this task was accomplished. On the 18th, the government council was voted upon, resulting in the appointment of Salvador de Cisneros Betancourt as president; Bartolomé Masó, vice president; Carlos Roloff, secretary of war. A week before their election, Maceo had expressed in a letter to Cisneros Betancourt as favoring Masó for the presidency, unaware that his correspondent's ambition was attainment of the highest post. Cisneros's letter suggested an expression from Maceo declaring the position he aspired to fill in the new government, which, possibly, would be available to him under certain conditions. Maceo rejected the suggestion, reminding Cisneros that at no time had he found it necessary to solicit favors, stating emphatically that he knew his humble birth did not permit him to reach the heights due others who were born to be leaders of the revolution.

After the government was established, preparations were begun for the projected for the invasion of the Island, a central crossing from Oriente to the other end of the country, to Havana and Pinar del Río provinces. These areas had been at peace with Spain. Plans for an "army of invasion" had been discussed during the previous war; now the time had come in Máximo Gómez's and Maceo's estimation to reduce Spain's prestige further by boldly ridiculing its military power, executing a passage through the center of the Island across its defense lines to reach its seat of government in Havana and to continue on into Pinar del Río, where the populace's adherence to colonialrule was a source of pride to the Mother Country.

Maceo, designated by Gómez and the government to recruit an army for the invasion, sent a series of invitations to known rebel leaders. Because the plan of invasion did not have the approval of all chiefs, he encountered considerable resistance to his demand for allotment of soldiers. Through sheer perserverance he succeeded in convincing reluctant leaders to bring their followers to designated centers; from thse groups he obtained volunteers to man the invasion. The bold adventure of a spectacular cross-country march appealed to many.

The composition of the army of invasion was not what Maceo had visualized. There were men properly uniformed and armed, carrying Winchesters, Remingtons, Mausers, Colts, or Smiths, among them, depending upon whose leadership they had been recruited. But the greatest number carried machetes; other recruits, in the interest of carrying something, brandished heavy sticks and poles, and were the ragged and barefooted guajiros who formed a segment of the rather bizarre column. Nevertheless, he began the march October 22, leading the column towards Las Villas where Máximo Gómez was to address the invaders.

Keeping up with his correspondence while on the march, he wrote Máximo Gómez what was taking place on letterhead bearing the imprint "Republic of Cuba. Headquarters of the Invading Army". It was marked "confidential", bor a file number, and read in part:

The arrival of the Citizen President and other members of the government had a surprising effect on the Orientals [residents of Oriente province]; they were indescribably enthusiastic. The official reception took place in the savannah of Baraguá on the 9th of this month and there the Constitution was read and our guests acclaimed. The venerable President addressed the troops who were in correct formation; his words inspired by patriotism were felicitous and opportune. Under the mango trees where I held my conference with Martínez Campos in 1878, I linked arms with ex-Marquis and led him to a rustic kiosk, artistically arranged. Fiery speeches were given and a formal banquet served, while our military band played. In other words, I did what I could to host them in the best possible manner as required when dealing with the Representatives of the Republic.

Marching under heavy rains and through mud-bound roads, pursued by forces under Martínez Campos, he avoided encounters. The invasion plans projected a trek across the Island with no stops for battle action, if circumstances permitted. On the 8th of November, the rebel column forded the Jodabo river, the dividing line between Oriente and Camagüey provinces, and soon entered that beautiful open cattle country of extensive meadows, undamaged by the devastation of war. Two days after the crossing, Maceo had the pleasure of receiving into the column 300 well-equipped and mounted troopers under the command of José Maria Rodríguez who had decided to join the invading army.

On the night of November 29th, Maceo and an estimated 1,500 men crossed the Jucaro to Moron trocha militar, the fortified line which was supposed to shut off the rebels in the east from the rest of the country. The barrier crossing was effected at night amid surrounding enemy forces which had been previously distracted by a mock attack on nearby Moron. Scouts fanned out and as their approach was announced by barking dogs, the invaders were warned that they were in inhabited areas. Slipping through the line of fortifications, the men and their mule train made it to the other side of Las Villas, reaching San Juan where Maceo and Máximo Gómez rendezvoused.

At a remote spot in Havana province, Máximo Gómez and Maceo held a fifteen-minute interview on January 7th, 1896, which resulted in a plan of action: the former would continue skirmishing against the concentration of Spanish troops in the province while Maceo would continue his advance into the province of Pinar del Río, goal of the invading army. Gómez noted in his diary of operations why they had arrived in good condition at the immediate surroundings of Havana:

Our cavalry has improved greatly; as we crossed the province of Matanzas we took possession of all the good and useful horses we found, using them as replacements for ours which were tired or useless.

With the sense of reporting a debacle, Martínez Campos cabled Madrid on the 14th of January:

Maceo continues his invasion of Pinar del Río, entering through Cabanas, then to Bahia Honda and other towns, burning and pillaging... Have four columns in pursuit. Received information from General García Navarro, out of Bahia Honda, that one hundred armed voluntarios deserted; in that area more than one thousand men have joined rebel forces... I judge that there are more than 40,000 armed insurgents.

Four days before his cabled message, on January 10th, Martínez Campos learned that Maceo had entered the supposedly impenetrable, rich and loyal province of Pinar del Río, and there had found an alarming number of men willing to follow rebel leadership. On January 22, 1896, he reached Mantua, the largest town in the far end of the province, four hundred twenty-four leagues from the departure point. The townspeople, informed of the nature of the march, extended a welcome to Maceo and his men. On the 23rd, representatives of the rebel force were invited to the municipal building where a resolution was read before the audience of townspeople:

That General Maceo with his force has taken this town and county, while respecting the lives and properties, and maintaining public order, allowing the continuation of the services of the authorities and employees placed in their positions by the Spanish government... not only to benefit this community empoverished by the multiple burdens placed upon it, but also [for the benefit] for the entire country suffering from the same mistreatment...

Martínez campos, under a cloud because he had not succeeded in containing the revolution, left Havana the 24th of January, two days after Maceo's triumphant conclusion of the invasion march in the town of Mantua. On the 22nd, Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau had been named in Madrid Captain-General of Cuba. Weyler's well-known military and political history assured a harsh and determined war. He was clearly indicated to carry out the government's mandate expressed in Chief of State Canovas del Castillo's position of no transactions with the enemy until they lay down their arms.

At an unnamed headquarters site, established after leaving Mantua, Maceo again attended to his correspondence. In a long letter, dated January 27th, addressed to the director of The Star, a Washington, D.C., newspaper, he denied there was dissension between Máximo Gómez and himself. On the contrary, he and his men considered the "Chief of the Armed Forces" their supreme authority in all military matters. He touched on their being short of war materials and stated that it would be useless to say that they did not urgently need supplies.

Our soldiers — he wrote — are not properly armed from any point of view. Were this not the case, today there would not be a single Spanish column in action other than in the cities of La Habana, Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba".

His final words touched chords of patriotism:

In spite of this, we have made great strides in our concept and we are constantly attaining improved conditions as we go into battle. The Cuban army is full of enthusiasm. The thought of liberty inflames the hearts and feeds the hope and the wishes of the great majority of the people of Cuba.

Maceo concluded:

Cuba should be free. The oppressed people have consecrated their lives to attain emancipation and God in heaven will strengthen their arms.

While flames continued to consume the wealth of Matanzas and Máximo Gómez devastated without entering into battle, Maceo crossed back into Pinar del Río, prepared to fight against the greater number of troops the Spaniards announced would be assigned to that province. He early came to the conclusion that it was absolutely necessary to lock Maceo in Pinar del Río, and then to pacify that sector.

Maceo back in Pinar del Río showed his determination to meet the Spaniards head-on. There were many engagements, some more serious than others. On March 15th he led his men after the battle of Neptune, which resulted in losses to his men, to the nearby municipality of Artemisa where a hospital was established to take care of the wounded. Nearby he set up the headquarters camp, and there summoned insurrectionists leaders under his command to give them a plan of strategy. The plan was outlined in a report to the Delegate in New York, Tomas Estrada Palma, under date of March 21. It was necessary, he pointed out, to shatter Weyler's dream of conquest. For that reason, the rebel command was taking dramatic measures and spreading terror, a necessary expedient which would inhibit millowners from attempting to salvage their crops.

Through March he continued battling the converging Spanish forces, as he gave protection to threatened property owners on payment of assessments. He formed camp headquarters among the mountains of the province of Pinar del Río, as needed. Weyler, who had been provided with additional manpower, headed an army of 21,460 men. To this total of men from Spain he attached voluntario corps recruited on the Island.

Maceo's campaign in March included a dramatic encounter in which the contenders battled from the 16th through the 18th. At two o'clock in the afternoon he halted a march begun at seven that first morning. Because there was a great downpour, the halt was extended to allow for the unsaddling of horses and the forming of a shelter. Suddenly, above the sound of rain, artillery and rifle fire reverberated over the camp. The soldiers assumed the camp had been discovered and went into a disorderly scramble for safety. Maceo jumped on his horse and galloped into the milling men, forcing them to answer the attack. He blamed the cowardice of the men on the officers. After the battle he read a directive to the assembled men to the effect that any soldier who saw an officer turn his back in battle was authorized to shoot the coward. He then dismissed Brigadier Quintin Banderas, the black veteran of the revolutionary wars, and ordered the arrest of three other officers. The directive was ultimately cancelled and the men restored to the force.

The United States Senate sessions that spring were concerned with the merits of going to the aid of the belligerents of Cuba. The greater number of pronouncements favored this step. Maceo's reaction to the debate was to give his opinion and to ask for clarification of the stand being taken on the Senate floor. His opinion was that United States intervention was unnecessary to triumph now or later. As of now, all that was necessary was to deliver to Cuba twenty or thirty thousand rifles and a million rounds of ammunition, in one or at the most, two expeditions. The Government of the United States's contribution would be to protect the shipment and aid in its unloading; in this manner the United States would not be exposed and compromised vis-a-vis Spain, nor would the Cubans require any other assistance.

The rainy season made contest between the two enemies difficult, yet Maceo managed to descend from the mountainous territories to harass Spanish columns patrolling the highways. The Pinar del Río terrain in many ways was similar to that of Santiago de Cuba, he reported to Máximo Gómez late in April, in an optimistic account of the state of the morale of the men under his command, both military and civil. He was seeing action and confirmed that General Suarez Inclan had been injured in an encounter with his forces. Elated at the success of a propaganda circular he had addressed to townspeople, he advised how many neighboring residents had come to join him from enemy territory. Every day he had reports of more new recruits. There was a lull in military activity late that spring while Weyler prepared for the all-out winter campaign he had previously presented to the government.

Part 1 — Part 2 — Part 3

Per gentile concessione di Free Cuba Foundation (WEB: Copyright 1980 by Magdalen M. Pando. All rights reserved. Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 79-93001, ISBN 0-9603846

Cuba. Una identità in movimento

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