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International Reflective Writing


Antonio Maceo

by Jerry A. Sierra

One of the most-loved figures in Cuban history is Antonio Maceo. He is fondly remembered as a braveleader who suffered 24 battle-wounds and fought two wars for Cuban independence. After his death in battle on December 7 1896, he was affectionately nicknamed The Bronze Titan.

Maceo was born on June 14 1845 in Santiago de Cuba, the son of a free black Venezuelan farmer and dealer in agricultural products. At age sixteen Maceo went to work for his father, delivering produce and supplies by mule back.

Young Maceo developed an active interest in the political issues of the time, and was encouraged by his parents to act on his feelings.

Weeks after Carlos Manuel de Céspedes' revolt against Spain on October 25 1868 (known as "El Grito de Yara") Maceo and his brothers joined the war for independence. Within five months, Maceo was promoted to commander, and within a matter of weeks after that he was again promoted to lieutenant colonel of the Liberating Army (1/16/1869). In what became the Ten Year War, Maceo participated in over 500 battles against the Spanish Empire.

Historian Philip Foner, from his book Antonio Maceo: "Maceo delighted in outsmarting the Spanish generals; again and again, he decoyed them into situations that were disastrous to them."

Maceo's Death

Fearing his sudden rise in fame and popularity, rebel conservatives launched an all-out slander campaign against Maceo. This is believed to be one of the main reasons for the failure of the Ten Year War.

In 1878 Maceo opposed the Pact of Zanjón, which ended the war in a stalemate and the Spanish promise of reform. The Pact offered a general amnesty to the rebels, but did not end slavery, although it did grant freedom to slaves who fought on either side.

When the war ended Maceo was forced into exile, surviving numerous assassination attempts planned and funded by the Spaniards up until the beginning of the 2nd War for Cuban Independence.

After years of organizing Cubans inside and outside the island, José Martí founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892, and sought Maceo's help in what would be Cuba's final war against Spain. During this war, Maceo led the Liberating Army into Havana in what's known as The Western Invasion. It is considered one of the great military feats of the century. José Martí

Like his father and brothers, Maceo died in battle, fighting for Cuban independence. His final moment came in the battle of Punta Brava, in Western Cuba.

In his military career, Maceo was known in the Spanish press as "the lion."


Martí's First Letter to Maceo

New York, July 20, 1882

General Antonio Maceo

Sir and friend:

The sudden departure of my friend Flor Crombet left me no time to explain to you, with the clarity and thoroughness I desire, the importance and present state of efforts recently undertaken to rebuild the revolutionary forces, to move in Cuba in a unanimous and certain manner the people's spirits into our ways of thinking, and to prepare abroad, with the affectionate unity and judicious conduct of the brave and good in whom Cuba still has faith, a swift and brilliant war which may ever be considered an honor and not a crime by those taking part in it. I do not know, General Maceo, a braver soldier or a more tenacious Cuban than yourself. Nor would I understand any attempt to make a serious effort in Cuban affairs-as I and so many others are now attempting to make-in which you did not figure in the special and prominent way to which your abilities entitle you. For lack of time I cannot begin, however much it displeases me, to explain to you how necessary it is, now that in spite of us there have arisen in Cuba after the war elements which are not ours, to skillfully win these elements to our side, since they are now showing a desire to come. We must avail ourselves of them, now that doing without them would not only be unjust, but impossible. I cannot begin to explain to you, since the country is once again restless and turning its eyes to those who are to be its saviors, how it is again seeking its constant defenders, who today go about with their lips sealed, but as great as they are silent, separated, isolated, and therefore impotent. As long as the country was not calling, it seemed to be a senseless and violent act to force it to shed blood it refused to shed. But now that the country is calling, it is necessary to respond to it on pain of its justly forgetting those who fail to respond, and of its calling upon others whom it considers better men. I do not have the time to explain to you how the repentant revolutionaries, and the new men of Cuba who believed they could dispense with the revolution, are now easily joining the active revolutionary group. Nor do I have time to tell you, General, why in my view the solution to the Cuban problem is not a political but a social one, and why this can be accomplished only by that mutual love and forgiveness on the part of both races, and by that ever worthy and ever generous wisdom with which I know your proud and noble heart is animated. For me the man who inspires hatred in Cuba, or avails himself of the hatred that already exists, is a criminal. And another criminal is he who tries to stifle the legitimate aspirations of life in a wise and good breed of men who have already been sufficiently unfortunate. You cannot imagine how extremely tenderly I think about these wrongs, and about how to eliminate them-not vociferously or professedly, but in a quiet, active, loving, and evangelical manner. You would be most keenly pleased, General Maceo, if instead of my writing you these cold facts we could talk about them. I esteem your extraordinary qualities and divine in you a man capable of achieving a truly durable, grandiose, and solid glory.

In my next letter I shall explain all we have done and intend to do concerning all I have told you. To this and to what Flor Crombet has charge of explaining to you I hope you will respond that you applaud and share these ideas and this serious and ordered reappearance of all the important and truly faithful men involved in our cause-men who are sincerely and passionately united-without the need of swearing blind obedience to any isolated group or any one man, in order to wisely and promptly avail themselves of the new seething, and daily more imposing, elements of war in Cuba. Much is already being done. This formal and public reappearance is much desired. But on my part I have begun refraining from all isolated and insignificant work not responsive to the grandiose work they expect of us. We must appear heroic since they want us to be heroic. If they look upon us as of a lesser stature than their expectations, this will be like striking us dead. But no matter how much they solicit and support it, I do not consider any revolutionary manifestation either legal or powerful unless it is agreed to, and counseled and directed by, the courageous and good men who have acquired this special right through their merits. Having to restrain the impatient and those who believe that by keeping quiet they will lose precious time, imagine how impatiently I await your reply regarding these thoughts I am pointing out to you. You can guess how eager I am for your opinion about this new form of our work that is today directed toward preparing actively and rationally, with all the firmness and skill required by so grave and extraordinary a problem, the way to create, by means of a prompt and possibly successful war, a country into which, in spite of being extremely strained by hatred, all of its diverse elements have been entering since its beginnings in order to enjoy their true rights under conditions for a long and peaceful life. I know you never tire of doing difficult things. And your clear judgment is not clouded like that of the common people; it comprises the entire magnitude of our task and our responsibility.

Perhaps, because of my hatred for useless publicity, you are not aware of who is writing this letter. Flor Crombet will tell you. And I tell you that it is written by a man who knows how much you are worth and esteems you highly.

He awaits your reply impatiently, and remains affectionately at your service.

Your friend and servant,

José Martí


Heberto Padilla

Heberto Padilla (20 January, 1932 – 24 September, 2000) was a Cuban poet. The Padilla Affair was named after him.  He was born in Puerta de Golpe, Pinar del Río, Cuba. His first book of poetry, Las rosas audaces(The Audacious Roses), was published in 1948. After a failed first marriage and three children, he married Belkis Cuza Malé in 1972. This marriage also ended in divorce.

Although Padilla initially supported the revolution led by Fidel Castro, by the late 1960s he began to criticize it openly. A worldwide controversy was sparked when Padilla was placed under house arrest for his award-winning 1968 anthology Fuera del Juego (Out Of the Game) that expressed dissatisfaction with the Castro regime. The book was then taken out of circulation. In 1971, Padilla was imprisoned by the regime. His son, Ernesto Padilla, was born in 1972.

In 1979, his wife was allowed to leave the country with their son. The reaction of the international intellectual and literary community to Padilla's incarceration and mock trial at the Writers Union led to his release from prison, but he was not allowed to leave the country until 1980. He lived in New York, Washington, D.C. and Madrid, until finally settling in Princeton, NJ. Padilla taught at several universities in the US and Madrid, and was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Farrar Straus & Giroux published several editions of his poetry, a novel, En mi jardín pastan los héroes', and a book of memoirs, La mala memoria'(Self-Portrait of the Other). He spent his last years lecturing and traveling, along with his companion, Cuban writer Lourdes Gil. He died on September 24, 2000 while teaching at Auburn University in Alabama, U.S.A



Don't forget it, poet.
In whatever place and time
you make
or endure History,
there will always be lying in wait
some dangerous poem.

Song of the Juggler

General, there’s a battle

between your orders and my songs.

It goes on all the time:

night, day.

It knows neither tiredness or sleep–

a battle that has gone on for many years,

so many that my eyes have never seen a sunrise

in which you, your orders, your arms, your trenches

did not figure.

A rich battle

in which, aesthetically speaking, my rags

and your uniform face off.

A theatrical battle–

it only lacks dazzling stage sets

where comedians might come on from anywhere

raising a rumpus as they do in carnivals,

each one showing off his loyalty and valor.

General, I can’t destroy your fleets or your tanks

and I don’t know how long this war will last

but every night one of your orders dies without

being followed,

and, undefeated, one of my songs survives.

From Legacies


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