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The Baragua Protest
Baragua, Cuba February 23, 1878
Maceo made clear that he rejected the Pact of Zanjon, and served notice to that effect on February 21st. He informed Martinez Campos that he and the rebels he represented were not accepting the terms of the pact, and requested a four-months period of suspension of hostilities while the protesting members would decide a course of action. Maceo demanded, a clear statement of what benefits the Patria could expect without independence was requested. A meeting for the purpose of discussing these points was put together.
Maceo could not accept defeat because he did not feel defeated . He had been winning his battles; he had a good military organization. Strongly objecting to the terms of the peace agreement, he brushed aside its promised concessions as insulting. The third article of the pact, which gave freedom to the Asiatic sharecroppers and to the slaves who had participated in the rebellion, he considered particularly obnoxious. Why should not all the slaves be set free? Why should those who had remained loyal to their masters be continued in thralldom? The proclamation of October 10, 1868, El Grito de Yara,` had been his lighthouse; its brightest beacon the resolve to end slavery on the Island.

Martinez Campos tried to persuade, using the words of a diplomat skilled in the art of convincing speech. Maceo spoke deliberately, only with care could he avoid a stutter, but his soft delivery did not weaken the force of his demands. He asked for the independence of the people of Cuba, some form of representation that granted self- government; he wanted all slaves set free. Martinez Campos was not disposed to give in to these demands, neither did he have the authority to turn Cuba over to the Cubans. History calls this conference the Protesta de Baragua.

The two conferees did come to one agreement: hostilities would be renewed on the 23rd of the month--that is, eight days later. During that eight-day period Maceo frantically directed appeals to other leaders who were inclined to continue to give battle, made proclamations to the people, in an all-out effort to again set the revolution in motion. One of the circulars assured readers that `Washington, Lafayette and Bolivar, liberators of the oppressed are with us.`

The years that followed the February, 1878, pacification of the Island did not relieve the indifference and oppression suffered by the Cuban colonials at the hands of the Spanish Crown. For this reason, the Protesta de Baragua grew in significance in the patriotic conscience of the Cuban people. Maceo rejected the treaty because his demands were refused and he was convinced that the much- touted reforms offered to the islanders would never materialize. Maceo was proved right by the Spaniards.

After the interview at Baragua, Maceo renewed hostilities against the enemy, in an unsupported effort with the remnants of the forces he had been able to retain. The Spaniards concentrated on disposing of their principal dissenter; their pursuit of this remaining fighter was relentless.

The Acting President of the quickly reorganized government of the `Republic of Cuba,` Manuel J. Calvar, persuaded Maceo, after the conference with the Captain-General, to accept the assignment all members had agreed was indicated at the most valuable contribution he could then make to the cause of Cuba`s freedom. Maceo was appointed `Collecter of Funds Abroad.` A collector of funds Maceo was not; nevertheless he accepted the assignment in good faith and with enthusiasm started to communicate with contacts abroad.

by Magdalen M. Pando
Article ID 147
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