cuba heritage .com - Cuban History, Architecture & Culture
Final Defiance, Part 2
Cuba 1896
The long letter contains the statement of his philosophy as a Cuban patriot, which has been construed as his rejection of the United States. In it he reacted to the concept that the United States should be the protector of the Cuban people. He rejected the idea of protection from any source. He said:
`I have never anticipated any benefit from Spain; she has always despised us, and it would be unworthy to believe otherwise. Liberty is conquered with the edge of the machete, it is not asked for; to beg for one`s rights is a device of cowards, incapable of exercising such rights. Nor do I expect any benefit from the Americans; everything must be accomplished through our own efforts; `tis best to rise or fall without assistance than to contract debts of gratitude with so powerful a neighbor.`

These words have been construed to convey his hatred of the United States, while they were actually a warning to his fellow countrymen to avoid involvement if they wanted to form an independent nation.
Although Maceo`s letters during the last days of July and early August begged for definite word on his brother`s whereabouts, confirmation of Jose`s death did not reach him until late in August. Besides being distressed by lack of news regarding his brother, Maceo was burdened by the neglect of the government leaders; they had not sent the auxiliary troops he had asked for and needed to crush the concentration of Spanish forces in the western province.
Jose Maceo had been killed July 5, 1896, nine days before his brother requested information from their New York friend. the battle in which Jose lost his life was reported in the regular military message of that day to Madrid, but it was not known then that he had perished in the action.

From another camp, that in Manantial, on August 12th he directed a form letter to six generals and a colonel in the eastern areas asking that they make every effort to clarify rumors regarding his brother and to advise him of the truth. Also in the letter he stated he wished to know something of the political situation in the insurgents` government, for he could not obtain unbiased information from the Spanish newspapers available to him in Pinar del Rio. He wanted to know whether the rebels` problems existed as they were publicized in recent days, presenting dissensions and threatened resignations. Hopefully his inclination, he stated , was toward the belief that the Revolution was not experiencing such difficulties, but the belief was not enough. He wanted confirmation of this faith from his correspondents. He assured them that he was continuing the job of the Invasion, with excellent success, and that circumstances which appeared to be adverse had been turned into favorable accomplishments. To these men he gave a warning, concluding his missives with the admonition that if they did not pull together `. . . a worse enemy than the Spanish tyrants would be our own unpardonable discords. Let us hope that we`ll have a smooth road to the end, embracing in peace after having been brothers in the struggle against our common enemy.

In the rough headquarters of Puerta de la Muralla, he organized protection forces along designated routes for the successful movement of the announced expedition under the supervision of Brigadier Juan Rius Rivera. Rebel leaders were given definite instructions; commands were changed as the General considered expedient. He headed out of headquarters on August 25th for the purpose of personally escorting the men and material through enemy fortified towns and through the countryside where it was known from spying activity that many of the inhabitants had not quite decided upon their loyalties. The possibility that Spanish authorities would be advised of every rebel move was a constant consideration.
The staff accompanying him and three hundred troopmen included Sotomayor, Leyte Vidal, who had brought the previous expedition, Nunez, and the disgraced former brigadier Bermudez. Relieved of his `brigadier` status for undertaking unauthorized executions of captured enemies, his defense that his procedure was in the best interests of the revolution rejected, Bermudez meekly accepted Maceo`s order breaking his rank and became a part of the rescue brigade. Although his chastisement had taken place several weeks earlier, his continued acceptance of it could be attributed to his admiration for his commander, or, to the conviction that Maceo would not hesitate to have a subordinate hanged if that subordinate`s actions did not reflect his, General Maceo`s, standards of conduct.

The above was soon tested by a group of mounted bandits who in the name of the Revolution attacked Las Nieves sugar-mill grounds in Santa Lucia. They shot up the buildings, took possession of the general store-tavern, drank up the liquor, destroyed the premises, and roaring drunk remounted and raced away, threatening to return to kill mill personnel and dislodge families. Maceo`s discipline was established when he ordered pursuit and capture of the culprits, their prompt trial, and punishment by being hanged from limbs of trees off the mill road.

by Magdalen M. Pando
Article ID 169
First Article 162 of 815 Last
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