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Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

Francisco de Miranda & Macho Politics

October 27, 2009 | Print Print |

Sketch of Francisco de Miranda, Wikipedia Commons

Sketch of Francisco de Miranda, Wikimedia Commons

Dmitri Prieto

Not very long ago, Havana was graced with a monument to a forefather of Spanish American independence, Venezuelan military leader Francisco de Miranda (l750-l8l6).  I like the statue, situated at the entrance of Havana bay.  It’s not very big; Miranda appears to be walking, as if advancing on the city, his sword dangling from his belt, and with an intense look in his eye.  The sea is his backdrop.

I’m greatly drawn to this eminent individual of the history of “Our America.”  I’m attracted because he was an incredible man for what was able to do, for his tragic destiny, and also – from what I’ve read of his Russian diaries – for his explicit masculinity.

The family of Miranda had a lot to do with Cuba, and he was very familiar with the island.  But his conspiratorial work in support of a “Great Homeland” that would embrace all of Spanish America required that he also travel to Europe a great deal.

His escapades are those of a great 18th century adventurer.  It is extremely interesting to study his relations with the European courts and politicians, to follow his thought, his political dealings and his work as a truly great diplomat.

His was a diplomat with the particularity of not representing any existing country; he was a true ambassador of a future nation. Once he appeared in the Russian court of Catherine the Great (1729-1796) wearing the uniform of a Spanish colonel. The Spanish ambassador protested to the empress alleging that Miranda was the enemy of his king, but Catherine magnanimously riposted saying that from that moment on Miranda would be the colonel of Her Majesty’s army of all Russia.

And Russia didn’t fail Miranda, except during the period of the war against France (Miranda was a partisan of France); there were always monies available for his projects in all the legations of the Eurasian empire (and also in America at that time, because Russia controlled Alaska). Miranda made generous use of those resources in his adventures.  But he was always a man of Latin American blood.

So I was surprised when reading his diaries from Moscow and St. Petersburg (which I read specifically to find out what Miranda thought about Russia, where he was obligated to travel), that as the “Forerunner” he took careful notes not only of the operation of educational and governmental institutions, industries, the army and police of Catherine’s empire, but also of his nocturnal encounters with young Russian women.

Miranda communicated to us how through his associates he located women to share his bed after his daytime activities. The special abilities of some of the women received high evaluations by the Forerunner.

There also appear the monetary expenses that he had to make to finance those exploits.  But from what he writes, at least, he was not a Casanova or Marquis de Sade; we find no further details about those affairs.  In short, as an expert diplomat, Miranda hid the particulars of his characteristic ways of involving himself in the exercise of power.

It was the epoch of “divine reason,” and Miranda fought resolutely under its flag.

Some say that Catherine II (who was also kind of a goddess for Miranda, who equally shared her flag with him), an energetic woman of German ancestry who arrived to power through a type of conspiracy, didn’t scorn his masculine favors.

It must have been fascinating for the empress to share her bed with this Spanish subject who was an elusive and fervent republican (although, to be frank, it was a time when distinctions between the republic and the monarchy were not as clear as they are today, and probably nor were they that way in bed).

Miranda doesn’t speak of Catalina in his dairies beyond her official functions as a ruling Russian autocrat.

I’m attracted by the idea that the founders of our republics were also human beings, endowed with their respective gender roles.  I take note of the changes that have occurred since their time; changes that I find fascinating.

I’m glad that today politics are not conducted like they were in the 18th century.

I wish that we had more people of the talent of Miranda.  But it is no longer the age of political chicanery.  And the roles of women are now breaking away from the patterns of autocracy and the bedroom.

Cubans know that “macho” is a concept that includes but transcends what is strictly sexual activity.  Therefore, I ask: How “macho” is our politics? If women speak more and all of us listen to their voices, maybe we will find the answer that is sought.


What's your opinion?

  • don simon

    There was much more to this man, Francisco de Miranda, than what this short biographic tells us . He was the precursor of american independence. In fact his life was dedicated to this cause. He suffered bitterly throughtout his life to acomplish this goal. he was a great admirer of the early revolutionary struggle of The United States,and he fougth under spanish commnad as an infantry captain, later on with the rank of lietenant colonel against english forces , to keep the english from colonizing Florida, and other regions of the caribbean. Later on an a trip thru the United States, during his visit to Boston he was to meet general George Washingron, with whom he had lots of bonding and become a very close friend, he also had the aquientences of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and many other american patriots. During his travel in Europe, he was well known by the political aristocracy of England, prime ministers and other cabinet officials of that historic period. He traveled to Russia with an american friend, (were he befriended Katherine The Great, and it was rumored that they became lovers, she gave him the rank of colonel in the russian army).Colonel james smith, who was later to become son in law of President John Quincy Adams. During his times in France, at the begining of the french revolution he became a partisan and was given the title of general of the french revolucionary armies by the revolucionary council, and fougth against the prusian hungarian invasion coming from the north of France. Upon his return to Paris He was promoted to the rank of Lieutanent General, by the revolutionary french council. Later on he was arrested under the orders of the odious Robespierre, who thru envy could not accept that a foreigner was to be given such honors and military tittles. Was acused of treason, a charge which was easily dismissed by the french courts.

    But his life pasion was the independance of the spanish colonies from the spanish empire. He usually asked his friend the question: If the United States of North America, was able to achieve this great feat, why is it that we can not do same in south America.? He eventually returned to venezuela with an invading force, supported by british interest, but it was defeated not by arms, but the historic events that were taken place in Europe: the invasion of Napoleon of Spain, the imprisoment of King Ferdinant the Vll, which was a great offence to the people of the colonies, thereby destroying any chance of succes for his invading force when most of the colonies were completely behind the spanish king. He withdrew and sailed back to England once again to try to obtain more support for his quest, but he failed for years, due to the reapprochment of English, Spanish relations in response to france’s Napoleaon and his intent to destroy the monarchies of Europe.Meanwhile he kept strong contacts with south american patriots, the chilean O’higgins, the colombian Antonio Narino, who would pay a steep price ( ten years in the Caldalzo prison the most horrific of Europe)for daring to translate into spanish, Jean Russo’s essay, The Rights of Men.

    It was some years later , when some venezuelan patriots traveled to Europe, to search and gain support for the cause of independance, when these men were referred to Don Francisco de Miranda, by the military attached of the american embassy. One of this men was a young and idealistic Simon Bolivar, whom upon meeting Miranda was so impressed with his life story and achievements, that he expressed to Mranda, that he was the man that South America needed to carry such an endeavor. Miranda accepted Bolivar;s invitation, and upon his return to Caracas, he was welcome by the people, as the lider of the country with enormous demosnstrations of love and afection for his cause. the Council of caracas had welcome him, and removed from the records all the previous accusations against him, for his role in the previous invasion. But two of the mayor cities of Venezuela rebelled against the central government, Maracaibo and Puerto Valencia, and the Council of Caracas quickly put under Miranda’s command an army to destroy the revolt. He was quite succesful usng his former military tactics, and soon enough these cities rose the flags of surrenderer.
    Upon his return to Caracas, he become a delegate from one of the provincies of venezuela, the aim was to create the new constitution of the independent Venezuela, but neither Miranda or Bolivar were satisfy with the outcome of certain articles of this document.

    They argued with reason, that there was not enough independence and freedom for the masive population of african decends and the mulattos that populated venezuela. Later on in his history this fact prove to be quite right.

    Soon after the defeat of french forces took place in spain, the newly seated king don ferdinando Vii, sent military expeditions for the reconquest of the lost colonies. Admiral Valverde a highly entrusted man of the king, came with an expedition to Curazao, and soon the invasion was launched into venezuelan territory, thru puerto Cabezas, a military plaza assigned by Miranda to Bolivar for his command. but it turned out the a second liutenat, commander of the prison at that port arose against the independent venezuelan forces in the name of the king, and Bolivar being a young and an inexperience commander could not controlled such rebellion, having to abandoned the plaza, giving an unexpected impetus to the invading spanish forces. Such action, allowed many pro royalist venezuelans to joint the spanish expedition , therefore threatening the enbrionic venezuelan republic. Upon this facts, the council of caracas gave Miranda complete command of the creole forces giving him the rank of generalissmo of the armies.But unfortunately by this time, the venezuelan army consisted of barefooted almost naked soldiers carrying only machetes spears, with hardly any rifles at all.
    And then to top it all, one of the most dramatic events took place during that period in venezuela it was a devastating erthquake that shook up the city of Caracas, destroying about 90 per cent of the whole city. This motivated the clergy , to claim that such event was send by the divine providence, because of the rebelion thaty was takenn place against his majesty the king. All these factors and the huge army that was arrayed against miranda’s forces, did not look to miranda as a good omen. Therefore he went before the venezuelan assembly, to explain the reasons for the military outlook, and to negociate a capitulation with the spanish comander, in order to gain time for him to get help from England and other european countries, top re-estart the struggle for independance.

    He signed the capitulation, and left his forces to go to Curazao, were he could sail a ship to england and continue his efforts in pro of the independence movement. This was approved wholly by the assembly. And authorization for this approach was given fully by all the members. His military idea for the next invasion, was to enter south america thru the port of Cartagena, Nueva Granada, today modern Colombia, , and from there launch an expedition towards Caracas.

    Unfortunately people like Bolivar, Cacerez and other high ranking men of miranda’s army did not believed him, and felt that he was commiting treason, leaving with monies and other things that belong to venezuela.

    His destiny had already being cast. One night before he was ready to leave, the captain of his ship asked him to stay aboard, since there were rumors that some of his officers were loking for him with bad intentions, But he refused, decided to stay in land at the garrison headquarters. Late that nigth, Bolivar and other oficers came looking for him and capture him with some of his men, and then hey were turned over to spanish authorities. Miranda was taken to Spain where he spent ten years at The Carraca prision a horrible spanish prison built next to the ocean for convicted traitors, there he died ten years later, writing letters to request to the spanish authorities a final clemency for his life.