A Homemade October 10th / Regina Coyula

Although October 10 marks the beginning of Cuban’s struggle for its colonial independence, and is a holiday, the celebration has been reduced to a few ads and billboards. The same is true for February 24, but no one mentions May 20 any more, it has gone from being our national day to the execrable beginning of the Republic. The important anniversaries are the assault on the Moncada barracks and the day Batista fled.

My son’s History textbook summarizes it like this: … the energy of the Manzanilleros, led by the attorney Carlos Manuel de Cespedes… determined the beginning of the Cuban Revolutionary process on October 10, 1868… Cespedes’ uprising from his La Demajagua refinery, inaugurated, in national history, the use of the path of armed struggle to achieve independence.

Besides being carelessly written, the book is full of generalizations that prevent young people from identifying with the events and characters they study. My son’s face became attentive when he learned that Cespedes was a notable chess player of this time, that he was in love and liked to write poems to the ladies of his affection, that La Demajagua refinery had a steam machine many years before the famous “Cry of Yara” for independence, and that the help of the slaves, rather than productive, was onerous.

He was amused, believing a joke, when I told him that the head of the uprising wasn’t Cespedes, but rather Francisco Vicente Aguilera, and that Cespedes had not resigned the command to him when he moved forward the date of the uprising to October 10, as the story goes, by a telegram intercepted by a sympathizer, where he let slip to the Spanish authorities about the imminent uprising. I’m sure my son won’t forget any of this detail that doesn’t show up in his book.

I clarified, before his rapid conclusion, that it’s not about a history of the good and the bad, that Cespedes was wrong many times, but he was great despite his flaws. In the patriotic plan I told him about La Bayamesa written Cespedes and Fornaris, of Aguilara whom I’d already talked about, the patrician who even gave a theater to Bayamo and died poor and in exile.

About Perucho Figueredo and his nervous verses that he wrote in the saddle and that today we sing as the national anthem. What can I do! I’m from before, from those who still get emotional about certain symbols; my son, on the other hand, belongs to his era of disbelief. At least I try to be less cynical. At least I try.

October 11 2012