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Narciso López

Narciso Lopez

Narciso López was a Venezuelan born Spanish general who led several filibustering expeditions into Cuba with the goal of liberating the island from Spain and preserving slavery.

Most of López' support came from the U.S. south, as were most of the paid soldiers who signed up with his expeditions, and it is widely believed that his main goal was the annexation of Cuba to the U.S.

The first of various filibustering expeditions took place in September 1849 and ended in failure. Less than a year later another expedition with paid soldiers from Kentucky and Louisiana took control of the town of Cárdenas, but Spanish forces defeated this effort on May 19, 1850. Historian Philip S. Foner writes; "of the entire force, only five men were Cubans; the rest came mainly from the Southern states."

In August of 1851 López tried again (with 435 men). They landed at Bahía Honda (about 40 miles from Havana). Within two days López' army was defeated in the village of Las Pozas by Spanish troops. The 51 remaining men from López' army were executed by a firing squad on August 16, 1851. López was executed publicly in Havana on September 1. Before his death, he shouted bravely, "My death will not change the destiny of Cuba!" López' followers on the island were sentenced to work in the quicksilver mines of Spain and later pardoned.

That same month, in New Orleans, former associates of López formed a secret society called the "Order of the Lone Star." The goal of the order was to incorporate Cuba into the U.S. The order had 50 chapters in 8 Southern states and an estimated membership of 15,000 to 20,000. They went on to develop a plan to invade Cuba, in the summer of 1852, to coincide with the "Conspiracy of Vuelta Abajo," a revolt organized in Vuelta Abajo (Pinar del Río) by Francisco de Frías, López's wealthy brother-in-law.

A year later, the Junta Cubana of New York called on General John A. Quitman (a former associate of Narciso López who had been military governor of Mexico City after its surrender in 1847) to lead an invasion of Cuba, and proposed to make him "exclusive chief of our revolution, not only in its military, but also in its civil sense." Quitman was on record as wanting the U.S. to absorb Mexico as well as Cuba.

On April 18 1853 Quitman signed a formal agreement with the Junta Cubana in which he was appointed "civil and military chief of the revolution, with all the powers and attributes of dictatorship as recognized by civilized nations, to be sued and exercised by him for the purpose of overthrowing the Spanish government in the island of Cuba and its dependencies, and substituting in the place thereof a free and independent government." Article II of the agreement stated that Quitman would preserve slavery in Cuba.

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