Front Door to Cuba

Timetable History of Cuba

Struggle for Independence - 3

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January 29. With a guarantee of safe passage by the Spanish consul, Maceo leaves Port-au-Prince (on the "Manuelito y Maria") headed for Cuba. This is his first visit in 12 years.

February 5. At eleven o’clock in the morning, the “Manuelito y Maria” reaches Havana. A reporter from the daily newspaper La Lucha interviews Maceo, who stays at the Hotel Inglaterra, and receives many visits from former rebel leaders and others that wish to meet him.

July 29. At a banquet in Maceo’s honor, a young man named Jose J. Hernandez asks about Cuba being annexed to the U.S. to become “one more star in the great American constellation.” Maceo immediately replies, “Young man, I believe, although it seems impossible to me that this can be the only outcome, that in such a case I would be on the side of the Spaniards.”

August 24. Captain General Camilo García de Polavieja y Castillo arrives in Cuba. Within forty-eight hours, he orders the civil governor of Santiago de Cuba to arrange for Maceo’s immediate departure.

August 29. A police escort informs Maceo and his wife at their hotel that they must leave the following day on an American ship bound for New York.

August 30. The civil governor, Juan Antonio Vinont, escorts Maceo and his wife to the steam ship Cienfuegos. While saying farewell, the governor puts thirty ounces of gold in Maceo's hand. When asked about the source of the money, the governor replies that he's been instructed to do so by the government. Maceo refuses the money.

November. At a speech in Tampa, Martí states:
“To all Cubans, whether they come from the continent where the sun scorches the skin or from countries where the light is gentler, this will be the revolution in which all Cubans, regardless of color, will participate.”


May 16. From The Detroit Free Press: "Cuba would make one of the finest states in the Union, and if American wealth, enterprise and genius once invaded the superb island, it would become a veritable hive of industry in addition to being one of the most fertile gardens of the world. There is a strong party growing up in the island in favor of reciprocity with and annexation to the United States. We should act at once and make this possible."


January 5. After two years of organizing Cubans both inside and outside the island, José Martí founds the Cuban Revolutionary Party. This is a major accomplishment, since he is able to unify many traditionally conflicting interests behind the goal of Cuban independence.

March 4. José Martí launches Patria (Fatherland) a publication dedicated to the cause of Cuban independence. Tobacco workers in Florida donate most of the funds for the first issue. Patria is edited by Puerto Rican Negro Sotero Figueroa.

March 5. In Mexico City, the newspaper El Partido Liberal publishes Martí's Our America.

“In Cuba,” Martí writes, “ there is no fear of a racial war. Men are more than white, more than mulatto, more than black. They died for Cuba in the fields of battle; the souls of blacks and whites have risen together up to heaven. In daily life, in defense, in loyalty, in brotherhood, in study, at the side of every white there was always a black.”


January 3. Máximo Gómez is formally appointed military chief of all the men under arms.

February 1. Martí offers Maceo a leading place in the new revolutionary movement. Maceo does not immediately respond.

April. An insurrection, not authorized by the Cuban Revolutionary Party, breaks out in Holguín under the leadership of Manuel and Ricardo Sartorius. The revolt is quickly defeated by Spaniards, causing the revolutionary movement to lose face.

May. A serious economic crisis hits the U.S., causing thousands of shops and factories to shut down by the fall. The Tobacco industry of the South is severely affected, and many Cuban workers find it impossible to maintain their regular donations to the Revolutionary Party.

June. Marti and Maceo meet in San José, Costa Rica.

June 10. In San José, Martí supervises the establishment of a new revolutionary club.

October 6. In “Patria,” Martí publishes his insights about Antonio Maceo.

November 23. At 85 years of age, Maceo’s mother, Mariana Grajales, dies.

December 12. In Patria, Martí pays tribute to Mariana Grajales (Maceo's mother):
“[Cuba’s] entire people, rich and poor, arrogant and humble, masters and servants, followed this woman of eighty-five years to the grave in a strange land. Died in Jamaica, November 27, Mariana Maceo.

All Cubans attended the internment, because there is no heart in Cuba that does not feel all that is owed to this beloved old woman, who would always caress your hand with such tenderness. Her mind was already going from having lived so much, but from time to time that energetic face lit up, as though a ray of sun were shining within… I remember that when we were talking about the war at a time when it seemed as if we were not able to carry on the struggle, she got up brusquely, and turned aside to think, alone. And she, who was so good, looked at us as if with anger. Many times, if I had forgotten my duty as a man, I would have retained it because of the example of that woman. Her husband and sons died fighting for Cuba, and we all know that from her breasts, Antonio and Jose Maceo imbibed the qualities which propelled them into the vanguard of the defenders of our liberties.”

December 19. In La Igualdad, Juan Gualberto Gómez writes "To a Prejudiced Person." He asserts that racial discrimination is a learned behavior. "How could the color of black skin," he writes, "produce repulsion in you, when the black nanny was probably the person that your eyes contemplated with greatest affection when they began to see?" He adds that the concepts of superiority and inferiority are artificial.

According to Leland Hamilton Jenks in “Our Cuban Colony: A Study in Sugar,” Cuba exported 147,000,000 cigars and 38 million packages of cigarettes in 1893. The average before the war was 178,000,000 cigars.


By this time, less than 20% of sugar mill owners in Cuba are Cubans, and more than 95% of all Cuban sugar exports go to the U.S. This sets the stage for one of Cuba’s greatest tragedies: a single-crop economy with a single country to sell to.

September 30. Tired of waiting for the wealthy hacendados to provide the money already promised the revolution, Gómez writes to Maceo, asking that everything be ready by “November 15 at the latest,” to begin the new war for independence.

November 17. Maceo is the target of another assassination attempt after attending a theater performance ("Felipe Derblay," a comedy by Jorge Ohnet presented by the Company Paulino Delgado). Maceo is shot on the shoulder. It is his twenty-second wound. Also targeted is Enrique Loinás del Castillo, who saves Maceo's life. [Loinás is later deported from of Costa Rica.]


January 14. As the war of independence is about to begin, the U.S. government detains 3 ships (the Amadis, the Lagonda, and the Baracoa) full of arms and supplies for the rebels. This is a terrible blow to the revolutionary effort, at the cost of nearly three years of work and $58,000, and the first of a number of serious setbacks.

February 24. With the "Cry of Baire," (Grito de Baire) Revolution breaks out again. (Baire is a village about 50 miles from Santiago de Cuba.) Historian Philip S. Foner, in The Spanish-Cuban-American War, Vol. 1, writes: "According to all standard works by military analysts, the prospects for the insurgents did not appear bright. The Spanish army already in the island was superior in number, equipment, training, and in almost every essential of warfare. Moreover, a steady stream of reinforcements could be dispatched to Cuba, and the insurgents had no navy to prevent their reaching the scene of conflict."

March 25. In Santo Domingo, Martí and Gómez sign the Montecristi Manifesto, which outlines the policy of Cuba's war of independence.

March 25. Martí writes his mother.

March 30. Antonio and José Maceo land in eastern Cuba (from Santo Domingo). The ship is destroyed during the landing on the beach near Baracoa. The rebels are greeted with joy by the farmers cry “Maceo is here! Viva Cuba Libre!”

April 11. José Martí and Máximo Gómez land in eastern Cuba from Costa Rica.

April 21. Maceo orders all rebel officers “to hang every emissary of the Spanish government, Peninsular or Cuban, whatever may be his rank, who presents himself in our camps with propositions of peace. This order must be carried out without hesitation of any kind or without attention to any contrary indications. Our motto is to triumph or die.”

April 28. Gómez issues a circular, which announces that only the property of owners who have shown hostility to the Revolution will be destroyed. Properties from owners that support the revolution will be spared.

May 2. The New York Herald publishes an article by Martí in which he states; "Cuba wishes to be free in order that here Man may fully realize his destiny, that everyone may work here, and that her hidden riches may be sold in the natural markets of America… The Cubans ask no more of the world than the recognition of and respect for their sacrifices."

May 4. In La Mejorana, Martí, Gómez and Maceo meet to decide on the war strategy. Martí is elected as supreme leader of the revolution abroad and in nonmilitary matters. The issue of civil versus military control of the war remains unsettled; Maceo points out that dissension, petty rivalries and incompetence of the civil government during the Ten Year War had contributed to the ultimate collapse of the rebellion. He also makes it clear that he will not accept any position in the government.

May 18. In his last letter, José Martí writes that it is his duty “to prevent, by the independence of Cuba, the United States from spreading over the West Indies and falling, with that added weight, upon other lands of our America. All I have done up to now, and shall do hereafter, is to that end… I have lived inside the monster and know its insides.”

May 19. José Martí is killed in his first appearance on the battlefield at Dos Ríos in eastern Cuba. He is 42 years old. The rebels try to recover his body, but are unable to do so.

May 27. Spanish soldiers bury Martí’s body in Santiago de Cuba.

June 12. U.S. President Grover Cleveland proclaims "neutrality" in the conflict between Cuba and Spain. Foner: "Thus while Spain was freely buying from U.S. factories all the arms and munitions she needed in her effort to crush the Revolution, the government of the U.S. was doing all that was possible to prevent the Revolution from provisioning itself. This policy was a far cry from the strict neutrality proclaimed by President Cleveland…"

June 17. In Camagüey, Gómez destroys the town of Altagracia in a victory over Spanish forces. A few days later he defeats Martínez Campos at San Jerónimo.

June 30. Gómez instructs Maceo to begin preparing for an invasion of the Western segment of the island. It had been determined that lack of a Western invasion was one of the reasons for the failure of the Ten-Year War.

July. The Russian consul in Havana, De Truffin, reports:
“In spite of the tireless efforts of the famed commander (Martínez Campos) and reinforcements brought in from the metropolis (30,000 men) the uprising is still spreading. Another 10,000 men are due to arrive from Spain soon; it is asserted that the Marshal had asked for another 25,000 men in September.”

July 1. Gómez issues an official proclamation that "sugar plantations will stop their labors."

August. In Oriente, near Bayamo, the rebels celebrate another impressive victory. One account of the battle has it that Martínez Campos escapes alive by having himself slung in a hammock and carried on the shoulders of his men (as if wounded).

September 6. Salvador Cisneros Betancourt (the old and aristocratic revolutionist who was second president of the Republic of Cuba during the Ten Year War) writes to Maceo, hinting that he might offer the Negro General a high government post if Maceo supports him for President.

September 12. Maceo responds to the letter from Cisneros Betancourt; "Do not forget the nature of my temperament if it should again occur to you to speak to me of posts and destinies which I have never solicited. As you well know, I have the satisfaction of never having held a post through favor; on the contrary, I have exhibited manifest opposition to the slightest suggestion of such a thing. The humbleness of my birth kept me from placing myself at the beginning on the heights which others who were chieftains of the Revolution by birth."

September 13. In Jimaguayú, Camagüey, the Constituent Assembly, composed of delegates from Oriente, Camagüey and Las Villas, meet to organize the Republic of Cuba and its government.
The following officials are elected:
Salvador Cisneros Betancourt – President
Bartolomé Masó – Vice-President
Tomás Estrada Palma – Delegate Plenipotentiary and foreign representative
Maximo Gómez – General-in-chief of the Army
Antonio Maceo – Lieutenant-General

September 22. Maceo sends Estrada Palma a bank draft for more than $10,000 for arms and ammunitions.

October 10. In New York’s Chickering Hall, the anniversary of the Grito de Yara is celebrated. Manuel Sanguilly refers to Maceo as the “Bronze Titan.”

October 22. The invasion of the West begins.

October 27. Maceo’s column arrives in Pestán.

October 30. Maceo writes to Estrada Palma: "Please do your best to send us, as quickly as possible, the weapons and munitions ordered…"

November 6. Gómez issues a new order calling for “all plantations to be totally destroyed.”

November 21. Maceo writes to Manuel Sanguily in the U.S.: "We have not been very fortunate in the make-up of the new government." (You can see more of this letter in the Maceo Timeline).

November 30. In the town Lázaro López, in Camagüey, Gómez and Maceo (known to the Spaniards as the fox and the lion) combine their forces (totaling 2,600 men) and begin marching toward Las Villas and the west. On horseback, Gómez speaks to the assembled forces.

December. By the end of the year, 98,412 regular troops have arrived from Spain, and the volunteer forces on the island have increased to 63,000 men. These forces are steadily augmented by fresh troops from the Peninsula, and by the end of 1897 there are 240,000 regulars and 60,000 irregulars on the island fighting against the rebels.

December 3. The main rebel force crosses the Jatibonico River into Las Villas. Gómez learns that a Spanish column is escorting a well-supplied convoy not far from Iguará, and immediately plans a surprise attack. The ambush is discovered, and the battle of Iguará develops into the type of large-scale battle that Gómez wanted to avoid. The rebels are victorious, with heavy casualties on both sides.

December 8. Gómez writes Estrada Palma.

December 10. A fierce battle on the Manacal Heights lasts three days, with intervening nights of rest. As the rebels move westward, the Spaniards follow.

December 13. Under heavy artillery bombardment from Spanish General Oliver, the Cubans withdraw, leaving Maceo to fight a closely pursuing enemy. By late afternoon, the Spaniards have had enough and return to their base.

December. After the battles of Iguará and Manacal Heights practically exhaust the rebels' ammunition supplies, Gómez questions whether the western invasion can continue. Maceo refuses to consider abandoning the invasion. He tells his general that the invasion must continue, even if he has to clear his way with a machete.

In the second half of the month, the rebels cross the Hanabanilla River and advance into Matanzas. By this time, Gómez and Maceo have worked out a strategy of escape from larger forces in which several wide-ranging units are sent out from the main column to set fire to all the surrounding cane fields.

"The fires," writes Foner, "served a tactical as well as strategic purpose, since the billowing clouds of smoke created great uncertainty as to the positions of the insurgents. Invariably, the tactic was successful."

December 23. At Coliseo, several of Maceo's officers are killed in battle, and Maceo's horse is shot from under him. The rebels retreat.

December 27. During the famous "false retreat" in Las Villas, 4 of Maceo's soldiers invaded the home of the colonel of the Spanish volunteers. When one of the soldiers threatens one of the colonel's family members, he is killed. The colonel is brought before Maceo, expecting to be executed. Maceo, however, congratulates the man who had killed his soldier, and orders the three surviving soldiers to be shot. He makes it clear that the liberating army must respect family homes.

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