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

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #11: The War For Independence, Part 2

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


(1) What was the Guerra Chiquita and what did it indicate?
(2) What did people like José Marti and Antonio Maceo do after the first leg of the War for Independence had been run?
(3) Did the independence forces prefer to fight, or had they concluded that was what they had to do?
(4) In the war for Haitian independence, the revolutionary fighters decided that there were only two possible solutions: triumph or die. Those who fought in the Cuban War for Independence came to the same conclusion: they must triumph or die. Both the Haitians and Cubans succeeded. What message can that hold for other people who want to govern themselves?

Class #11 Essay

As early as 1879, the independence forces had started planning for a resumption of the war. The so-called Guerra Chiquita (the Little War), composed of a high percentage of people of color like Guillermon Moncada, was short lived but memorable. Yet it would be 15 years before the final resumption would take off. In the meantime, three men stood out; Antonio Maceo, Jose Marti and Maximo Gomez.


In 1880, as La Habana (Havana) was becoming the slave trading capital of the new world, these men and many other Cubans planned military strategy, collected monies, bought arms and armaments, spoke, wrote, recruited and prepared the Cuban mentality for a resumption of hostilities. Freedom from Spain and a Cuban solution to the problems that beset the island were necessary. Antonio Maceo traveled throughout the Caribbean and parts of the United States, and José Marti, now living in the United States, articulated the ideology of independence like no one else had been able to do. Marti also fought against malicious propaganda, declaring that slaves and Blacks were not using the insurrection to attack whites, as Spanish propaganda charged. "The sins of the slave," Marti proclaimed, "fall wholly and exclusively on the master." To be Cuban "means more than white, mulatto or black men," he stated. "The souls of white men and Negroes have arisen together from the battlefields where they fought and died for Cuba."


In 1892, José Martí founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party and a publication called Patria (Fatherland), which was dedicated to accomplishing Cuban independence. Marti's movement was not the only one in the making. In 1893, an insurrection under the leadership of Manuel and Ricardo Sartorius broke out, but was easily defeated. Still, it was obvious that the end of Spain's dominance of Cuba was just a matter of time.


In 1895, the second leg of the Cuban War for Independence began. The odds seemed to be against the freedom fighters. The Spanish army in Cuba was superior in nearly every way, and reinforcements were ready to enter the fray. But this did not discourage Cuba's warriors, who knew very well that odds do not determine who wins or loses. Antonio Maceo ordered the officers of the nationalist army to hang every representative of the Spanish government who came with propositions of peace. He continued, "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."


For three years the war raged. In the beginning there were only 4000 independence warriors against more than 250,000 Spanish fighters, but as time passed it was the Spanish forces that began to lose the will to continue the fight. The fighters for Cuban independence, supported by the Cuban people, had considered all of the probabilities and recognized that war was the only way to resolve their situation. They fought to either triumph or die, and by the end of 1897, they had triumphed and Spain was a defeated country. At last, Cuba was on the verge of becoming a free and independent nation.

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