Title of Course: Black History 301: The History of Cuba

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #10: The War For Independence, Part 1

Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.


(1) What was the Grito de Yara?
(2) Who was Antonio Maceo? What did he represent that made him so important?
(3) What led to the weakening of the independence forces?
(4) What was the Treaty of Zanjon? Did it satisfy the objectives of the independence forces in Cuba?

Class #10 Essay

In 1867 the Spanish government enacted new taxes on Cuba that broke the proverbial camel's back. Within a year, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes proclaimed Cuban independence in the historic "Grito de Yara" (Yara Declaration). Joined by 37 other planters, Céspedes liberated his slaves and made them part of a revolutionary army. Not long afterwards, at the battles of "El Cristo" and "El Cobre," Antonio Maceo demonstrated extraordinary military and leadership skills. He was quickly promoted to sergeant, and then to captain. Maceo, a free Black man, would soon be recognized as the most brilliant and feared freedom fighter in all of Cuba.


In 1869, the Revolutionary Assembly in Cuba declared that the institution of slavery must be extinguished. A constitution was then adopted that established a republican government and declared that all of Cuba's inhabitants were free. This declaration was short lived because Cuba's House of Representatives rejected the Constitution.


But by then the war was in full swing. Women like Mariana Grajales y Cuello played major roles in Cuba's war effort. Spain sent a powerful army and fleet to put down the rebellion, and Céspedes replied by ordering the destruction of all the cane fields on the island. For several years the war raged. Céspedes was prepared to burn every vestige of civilization if it took that to eliminate Spanish authority.


As is usually the case, internal problems halted the progress of the independence forces. In 1875, General Vicente García renounced allegiance to the revolutionary government and called for an assembly of everyone dissatisfied with the progress of the revolution. This led to a disruption of the independence movement and started steps that resulted in the revolutionary government calling for a discussion of peace terms in 1877.


In 1878, El Pacto de Zanjon (the Treaty of Zanjon) was signed. By its terms, slaves who fought would be freed, but slavery would not be abolished and Cuba would remain under Spanish rule. All of the major Cuban independence figures accepted those terms but Antonio Maceo. Maceo was such an outstanding figure that his opposition nullified the agreement. The war resumed and continued until both sides were tired of fighting. Maceo and other leading independence figures agreed to leave the country, and El Pacto de Zanjon went into effect. The first leg of the Cuban War for Independence had run its course.

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