Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — This coming October, the Cuban Revolution will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its birth, when Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the Father of our Homeland, an educated, wealthy lawyer and owner of a sugar mill and slaves, put all of his fortune and life on the line for Cuba’s freedom, which had been colonized by Spain since the beginning of the 16th century.
On October 10, 1868, a long war ensued which lasted 10 years and wasn’t able to bring about independence and the abolition of slavery in the end, due to the lack of unity between rebel groups to some extent, where some leaders had differences of opinion.
The shameful Pact of Zanjon put an end to these hostilities, although the Baragua Protest, led by Antonio Maceo, salvaged the honor of Cuban forces when he rejected the pact and continued to fight (although he had to abandon this struggle later, as rebels were at a huge military disadvantage).
The main leaders of the independence movement left the country by sea and settled in different countries like Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.
A long time before the start of this first war, the United States had made several offers to Spain to buy the island of Cuba, however, Spain didn’t accept them.
In 1810, efforts were made to try and annex the island to the United States. When talking about the occupation of Western Florida, Governor William C. Claiborne said:
(…) As events unfold, there is nothing I want more than to see my flag waving above the Castillo del Morro. Cuba is the real mouth of the Mississippi River and the country who owns this, will possibly be able to dominate the western region in the future. However, let this island be ours and the American Union will never be open to change.
In 1825, Secretary of State Henry Clay expressed his interest in Cuba and Puerto Rico when talking to Spain and said:
“The United States are happy that the abovementioned islands belong to Spain, with their ports open to our trade, like they are today. Our government doesn’t want any political changes in them.”
In 1836, U.S. Consul Trist presented a plan to President Van Buren (1837-1841), where the crisis Spain was experiencing was taken into account and that an offer of 40 million USD could be made to purchase the island of Cuba.
During the wars that developed in Cuba in order to gain independence, the United States had never supported pro-independence groups at any time, instead it stood in the way of their actions in the US, the only country which could have supplied them with the arms they needed to fight the war in Cuba. Let’s remember Jose Marti’s failed attempt with his Fernandina Plan, as the weapons he had gone to great lengths to buy in that country were then seized.
In the end, after much sacrifice, and Jose Marti undertaking the difficult task of unifying groups, the war resumed again on February 24th 1895, which was about to win independence after almost four years of successful battles.
The United States waited until the very last moment to intervene in the war, when Spain had already been defeated by Cuban rebels, and they pretended to be benefactors who supported Cuba’s independence. However, they occupied the island and imposed conditions such as the Platt Ammendment, before leaving, which was political blackmail essentially, and something that the Cuban people will never be able to forget.
Then sell-out and corrupt governments came into power, who were friendly with the United States, none of which were concerned about the Cuban people’s poverty, unhealthy conditions and illiteracy. Even the bloodiest dictatorships, such as those of Gerardo Machado and Fulgencio Batista, always had the United States’s support.
That’s why we needed to pick up our arms again to get what we couldn’t before and which started to materialize after the Revolution triumphed on January 1st 1959.
After 150 years of fighting, during which thousands of thousands of Cubans perished, to win our real independence, the independence Jose Marti had dreamed of, don’t anyone go getting any funny ideas that the Cuban people are going to let others snatch away their achievements, or that they dream of capitalist siren songs, because what we have achieved continues to be a fantasy for many people in the world. With regard to the path the Revolution is taking, everything that needs to be tweaked is being tweaked, but within a socialist system always, which is the most just system humanity has ever known throughout its history.