A Little History / Fernando Dámaso

We Cubans, with regards to our history, are quite chauvinistic. We believe, and even are convinced of it, that since we appeared on this earth, we have been fighting for freedom. It goes back to chief Hatuey (who incidentally was neither Cuban nor Spanish) and his death at the stake. Since then we have always been warriors, through rebellions, conspiracies, wars and revolutions. There’s even a person who has said we have accumulated over five hundred years of struggle. This is only one side of the coin.

On the flip side, of which very little is spoken and less written, it appears that since 1492 (the date of discovery) to 1848 (the date of disembarkation of Narciso Lopez en Cardenas, who by the way also was not Cuban but a Venezuela married to Cuban), a period covering three hundred fifty-six years (three and a half centuries), liberation actions were conspicuous by their absence and we lived peacefully and quietly, without major hot flashes, Spanish, African, Chinese and Creole, born of the mixtures of one with the others. Neither should we forget that we were the last colony to become independent of Spain, when all Latin American nations had achieved it years earlier.

It can be argued that Spain held onto the island so as not to lose it, as the most precious jewel in her crown, and there is some truth in it, hence the bloody wars of 1868 and 1895, but it is also true that independence, despite all the sacrifices of the Cubans, was provided by U.S. intervention in 1898, when both contending parties were quite exhausted, even though its strategic objectives were at the tip of their fingers. It is also known that at the end of the war caudillismo and disagreements between different military chiefs and the Government-in-Arms, undermined the Mambi Army (José Maceo never obeyed the command of the Eastern Department, first from, General Mayia Rodriguez, who had quit to avoid complicating the situation, nor from General Calixto Garcia, who replaced him. General Maximo Gomez had offered his resignation as Commander-in-Chief, and only remained in office, retired to Las Villas, before the death of Antonio Maceo and his son Panchito Gómez Toro).

With regards to the intervention it’s necessary to recall some figures. Maximo Gomez was in Las Villas with about five thousand men under arms, many of them ill-equipped, and because of the distance, he had no direct involvement in the events that would occur around Santiago de Cuba. Calixto Garcia was the one who was in the east, also with about five thousand men under similar circumstances. It is true that in previous months they occupied villages, but they abandoned them after a few hours, unable to maintain them at the onset of the Spanish forces. In Santiago de Cuba, which decided the war, the Spanish had about twelve thousand soldiers, well armed and equipped. The U.S. Army landed, to defeat this opponent, about twenty thousand troops, armed and superbly equipped who, along with the troops assembled by Calixto García, put paid to the Spanish defense, obtaining their surrender.

Sooner or later, Cuba and the United States will regularize their relationship and we will live together as good neighbors. This happened between the U.S. and Russia, China and Vietnam, countries that are more geographically and culturally distant. Our case is not going to be the exception. To achieve this, among other things, we must begin to remove the many layers of ideological and political paint that have covered the events and characters of our common history. This is the only purpose of these lines. By a twist of fate, we may be called to be the last country to abandon socialism (if North Korea does not take that honor from us). History likes to make fun of statements of eternity: According to its creators, the Nazi regime would last a thousand years and yet it didn’t last twelve, and the monolithic, strong as steel and irreversible Soviet regime, today is just a sad memory. Words, fortunately, are only words and, when not carried away by the wind, they are taken by time.

April 26 2011