Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Antonio Maceo




Major General Maceo

He was born in the province of Oriente, Cuba.
His blood flowed from Africa, and Latin America.
Young Antonio grew up witnessing
his brothers and sisters shackled in slavery.

He knew how they felt the sting of the lash.
He knew how they broke their backs cutting the cane.
He knew how they yearned to be free,
and this shook his entire family to its core.

Bolívar, O’Higgens, Moreno,
San Martín and Sucre all lead the movement
to end Spanish rule of their homeland.
And the fire spread to Oriente.

The Maceo family embraced the struggle.
Antonio was always the first to charge into battle.
His forces freed all the slaves they encountered,
and this won him the love and admiration of fighters for freedom.

While his friends loved him,
the Spanish were terrified of his forces.
He attacked the enemy even when outnumbered,
knowing they feared those who fought for liberation.

Antonio’s leadership won him the title Major General Maceo.
But some of the revolutionaries resented him for being black.
The Major General declared that in the future Republic,
“There should be no domination of one race over another.”[1]

After ten years of war,
most of the revolutionaries were prepared to surrender.
At Baraguá, they asked Maceo to surrender,
to accept slavery and Spanish rule.

The Major General asked the question,
“Do you think that a man, who is fighting for a principal,
and has a high regard for his honor and reputation,
can sell himself, while there is at least a chance of saving his principals?”[2]

Thus, Antonio Maceo was the one
who allowed the Cuban people to say,
that they never
surrendered to the tyranny of Spain.

The General retreated to New York.
It was said that he took care of the horses at West Point,
where he diligently read books on the art of warfare,
never missing an opportunity to advance the cause.

Understanding that there was a lull in the struggle,
Maceo became a prosperous farmer in Costa Rica.
He could have continued to live in comfort,
but his heart remained with the people.

The General said, “Liberty is not begged for; it is conquered.
I swore to free you, or to perish with you,
fighting for your rights;
I am coming to fulfill that oath.”[3]

The Cuban tobacco workers in Key West gave him their hearts.
Women gave their rings, earrings, and watches.
They even gave the lockets holding photos of their lovers.
All for Maceo and La Revolución.

Landing in Cuba, most of his party was killed or captured.
When the people learned that Maceo had returned,
5,000 joined the struggle.
The Spanish were concerned.

They sent 200,000 heavily armed soldiers to Cuba.
They built La Trocha, a heavily fortified wall,
that split the island in half.
All this could not stop the Major General.

The forces of Goméz and Maceo
crossed La Trocha as if it wasn’t even there.
They defeated the Spanish in every battle, and for 800 miles
they marched where none thought it possible.

One expert called the campaign,
“the most audacious military feat of the century.”[4]
And the revolution gained support
from every corner of the island.

But the Spanish loved the sweetness of the cane,
more than the blood of the people,
so they used Weyler
to organize the war of extermination.

Weyler ordered all his forces to defeat
the liberators under the command of Maceo.
For a while, it appeared there weren’t
enough forces in the world to do the job.

Antonio Maceo lost a father,
a mother, and four brothers in the war.
He survived twenty-six wounds in battle.
The twenty-seventh wound was fatal.

When the Spanish were on the verge of defeat,
the army of the United States entered the conflict.
Before they would leave,
they demanded control of the island in an amendment called Platt.

But the blood of Maceo and Martí
was planted in the soil of Cuba,
and bloomed into the names Castro, Cienfuegos,
Espín, Guevara, País, and Santamaría.

When the liberators marched into Havana, Castro said,
“With our feet planted firmly on the ground,
we are beginning to labor,
and produce our first revolutionary works.”[5]

Ernesto Che Guevara understood the role
played by the first independence fighters and said,
“The spirit of Antonio Maceo
is the spirit of Cuba.”[6]

Today, they use an insidious weapon
against the Cuban people called Helms-Burton.
They need to recall Maceo’s question at Baraguá.
“Do you think, that a man who is fighting for a principal,
and has a high regard for his honor and reputation,
can sell himself, while there is at least a chance of saving his principals?”

Yes, the Cuban people know how to defend their rights,
and we, working people living in the world
will continue to support their struggle.
Because “Liberty is not begged for; it is conquered.”

[1]Foner, Philip S. Antonio Maceo the “Bronze Titan” of Cuba’s Struggle for Independence, P. 61
[2]Ibid. P. 84
[3]Ibid. P. 126
[4]Ibid. P. 221
[5]Guevara, Ernesto Che. Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War 1956-58, P. 339
[6]Foner, Philip S. Antonio Maceo the “Bronze Titan” of Cuba’s Struggle for Independence, P. 269

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