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Maceo, Antonio (1845–1896)

Maceo, Antonio (1845–1896)

Antonio Maceo (b. 14 June 1845; d. 7 December 1896), second in command of Cuba's independence army. Maceo was one of the greatest guerrilla fighters of the nineteenth century and certainly the most daring soldier ever born on Cuban soil. Cubans familiarly refer to him as the Titan of Bronze, as he was dubbed by an admiring speaker at a patriotic rally in New York City in 1895.

Maceo was the son of a Venezuelan mulatto émigré and a free Cuban black, Mariana Grajales, the mother of thirteen children, all of whom swore at her behest to free their country from Spanish domination or die in the attempt. When Cuba's Ten Years' War began in 1868, Maceo enlisted in the rebel army as a private; five years later he achieved the rank of general. From the outset he showed a superior ability to outsmart and outmaneuver the Spanish commanders and occasionally inflicted heavy losses on them. He also displayed extraordinary leadership and determination. Throughout his military career, which spanned the Ten Years' War and the 1895–1898 war, it is estimated that he fought in more than 900 actions. Since he never sought the safety of the rear guard, he sustained twenty-six wounds. Perhaps his greatest military feat was to lead an invasion of western Cuba in 1895–1896, a brilliant operation during which he covered more than a thousand miles in 92 days while engaging the Spanish army in 27 battles or skirmishes and capturing more than 2,000 rifles and 80,000 rounds of ammunition. When Maceo was killed, in a scuffle of little consequence, he had risen to the rank of second in command of the Cuban liberating army.

Maceo's place in Cuban history is as a symbol of tenacity and unwavering patriotism. On 11 February 1878 most of the generals of the Cuban liberating army realized that it would be impossible to defeat the Spanish forces and thus accepted the Pact of Zanjón to end the Ten Years' War. At this juncture Maceo refused to capitulate. He held a historic meeting, known as the Protest of Baraguá, with Spanish marshal Arsenio Martínez Campos, at which he demanded independence for Cuba and the total abolition of slavery. When Martínez Campos rejected these conditions, Maceo resumed fighting. Since the situation of the liberators was truly hopeless, Maceo eventually had to desist and ultimately leave Cuba. But his gesture remained a source of inspiration for future combatants and earned him the acclaim of Cubans and foreigners alike. The American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was among the groups praising him warmly for his stand on slavery.

Maceo identified closely with the predicament of the men and women of his race. Although he himself suffered the attacks of racists within the Cuban liberating army, who accused him of attempting to create a black republic in Cuba, his defense of the rights of blacks was based on the theoretical notion of the rights of men rather than any ethnic affinity. "The revolution has no color" was his indignant rejoinder to his accusers. He trusted that "Now, tomorrow, and always there shall exist in Cuba men who will do justice to the people of my race." For this reason, he wrote, "I enjoin my own people not to ask for anything on the basis of the color of their skin."

This confidence in the ability of Cubans was probably the key to Maceo's attitude toward the United States. He favored the recognition of Cuban belligerency by the powerful republic to the north, but he did not think that American intervention was needed to defeat Spain. He believed that Cubans should depend on their own efforts, adding that it was better to rise or fall without help than to contract debts of gratitude with a neighbor as powerful as the United States. He wrote to the New York World: "I should not want our neighbor to shed their blood for our cause. We can do that for ourselves if, under the common law, we can get the necessary elements to overthrow the corrupted power of Spain in Cuba." And on another occasion he said: "Do you really want to cut the war down? Bring Cuba 25,000 to 35,000 rifles and a million bullets…. We Cubans do not need any other help."

See alsoCuba, War of Independencexml .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

José Luciano Franco, Maceo, apuntes para una historia de su vida, 3 vols. (1975).

José Miró Argenter, Crónicas de la guerra, las campañas de invasión y de occidente, 1895–1896, 3 vols. (1945).

Philip S. Foner, Antonio Maceo: The "Bronze Titan" of Cuba's Struggle for Independence (1977).

Additional Bibliography

Escalona Chádez, Israel. José Martí y Antonio Maceo: La pelea por la libertad. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba: Editorial Oriente, 2004.

Tone, John Lawrence. War and Genocide in Cuba, 1895–1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Vargas, Armando. Idearium Maceísta: Junto con hazañas del general Antonio Maceo y sus mambises en Costa Rica, 1891–1895. San José, Costa Rica: Editorial Juricentro, 2001.

                                      JosÉ M. HernÁndez

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