Skip to main content



The term mambises refers to the Cuban guerrillas who fought against the Spanish during the Ten Years' War (1868–1878) and the War of Independence (1895–1898). The mambises are named after black Spanish officer Juan Ethninius Mamby, who joined the fight for Dominican independence in 1846 in Santo Domingo. The Spanish began to refer to the guerrillas as "the man of Mamby," or "mambies" as a derogatory term. When the Ten Years' War began many of the soldiers that fought in Santo Domingo were reassigned to Cuba where they applied the related term "mambises" to Cuban fighters; the Cuban fighters adopted the name with pride.

The mambises comprised of a mixture of indigenous, Afro Cuban, Asian Cuban, and Spanish descendants. They called on agricultural workers and freed slaves to join them. They were mainly poor men, who wore typical white and straw hats. They were poorly armed and outnumbered by the Spanish. Because the mambises had no access to conventional weaponry they had to use guerrillastyle tactics and were known for their use of the machete.

During the War of Independence they were led by General Máximo Gómez and General Antonio Maceo Grajales. Generals Maceo and Gómez led the forces west, to the greatest concentration of wealth and government. They traveled over a thousand miles in ninety-two days, fighting twenty-seven battles against numerically superior Spanish forces. Maceo was known as the "Bronze Titan" for being an outstanding leader. Despite Maceo's death in December 1896, the mambises continued the fight until U.S. intervention in 1898.

Another important figure was General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, who led the Spanish forces against the mambises. He became known for the "re-concentration" camps used to separate common people from fighters. Anyone caught outside the camp would be considered the enemy and be killed.

See alsoGómez y Báez, Máximo; Maceo, Antonio; Ten Years' War; Weyler y Nicolau, Valeriano.


Barnet, Miguel. Biography of a Runaway Slave. Translated by W. Nick Hill. Willimantic: Curbstone Press, 1994.

Foner, Philip S. A History of Cuba and its Relations with the United States (Volume II, 1845–1895). New York: International Publishers, 1963.

Moreno Fraginals, Manuel. Cuba-España, España-Cuba Historia Común. Barcelona: Grijalbo Mondadori, 1995.

Pando, Magdalen M. Cuba's Freedom Fighter: Antonio Maceo: 1845–1896. Gainesville: Felicity Press, 1980.

                                Alinne B. Oliveira

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mambises." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . 26 Jun. 2019 <>.

"Mambises." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . (June 26, 2019).

"Mambises." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved June 26, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.