Gómez y Báez, Máximo (1836–1905)

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Gómez y Báez, Máximo (1836–1905)

Máximo Gómez y Báez (b. 18 November 1836; d. 17 June 1905), major military leader in the wars for Cuban independence (1868–1878, 1895–1898). Born in Baní, Santo Domingo, into a middle-class family, he attended a local elementary school and a religious seminary. He began his military career at age sixteen, in the war against the Haitians and later served as a lieutenant in the Dominican army. After the 1866 civil war in Santo Domingo resulted in the loss of all his property, Gómez fled to Cuba. Settling in Bayamó, he became a fervent advocate of independence. When Carlos Manuel de Céspedes's El Grito de Yara (The Shout of Yara) inaugurated the Ten Years' War (1868–1878), he joined Céspedes, quickly proving himself to be an invaluable military strategist and leader. With his promotion to the rank of general, he began a close association with the rebel leaders Antonio Maceo and Calixto García.

Gómez and Maceo came to believe that success in the war was unlikely without an expansion into the prosperous western provinces. They advocated the mass disruption of sugar production and the liberation of slaves, hoping that the damage to Cuba's economic base would bring a quick rebel victory. The revolution's civilian leaders opposed the plan, but in 1872 fear of defeat made them consent to a modified version of it. Gómez and Maceo marched west, burning sugar plantations and freeing slaves. After several months, heavy casualties and low provisions necessitated their return, but changes in the political climate made a renewal of the campaign impossible. Disillusioned and frustrated with the lack of progress, Gómez pressed for a truce with the Spanish. In 1878 the Pact of Zanjón ended the Ten Years' War, and the rebel leaders who were unwilling to accept the truce went into exile.

During his years in exile, Gómez joined Maceo and the poet José Martí and began preparations for a second revolution against Spain. Gómez and Martí had frequent disputes over strategy, resulting in a brief break in 1884; nevertheless, by 1893 their differences had been put aside and Martí named Gómez military commander of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. On 25 March 1895, he and Maceo issued the Manifesto of Monte Christi, renewing the Cuban Revolution.

When Martí died in a skirmish on 19 May 1895, Gómez assumed the mantle of leadership, becoming the commander in chief of the movement. Under his leadership, the war was immediately extended into the western provinces. He issued a moratorium on sugar production, promising death and destruction of property to anyone in violation of his decree. Although these tactics seriously endangered Cuba's economic future, they proved effective in the war. By 1897 the rebels had moved into Matanzas and Havana.

A year later, a Spanish counteroffensive left the rebels struggling to maintain their positions, but U.S. entry into the war (1898) put an end to Spanish resistance. Following a four-year occupation, during which time the rebel leaders were all but totally ignored, the United States withdrew. As the Republic of Cuba was being established (20 May 1902), Gómez was urged to run for president, but he declined to do so, saying, "Men of war for war, and those of peace for peace."

See alsoMaceo, Antonio; Spanish-American War; Sugar Industry; Ten Years' War.


Charles E. Chapman, A History of the Cuban Republic (1969).

Hugh Thomas, Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom (1971) and Mayor General Máximo Gómez Báez: Sus campañas militares, 2 vols. (1986).

Tomás Báez Díaz, Máximo Gómez: El Libertador (1986).

Juan Bosch, Máximo Gómez: De Monte Christi a la Gloria, tres años de guerra en Cuba (1986).

General Máximo Gómez y Báez, Revoluciones … Cuba y hogar, edited by Bernardo Gómez Toro (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Báez Díaz, Tómas. Máximo Gómez: Episodios heroicos y sentimentales. Santo Domingo, República Dominicana: Editora de Colores, 2001.

Helg, Aline. Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886–1912. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

                                          Sara Fleming

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