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Posted March 03, 2005 by Dana Garrett in Cuban History

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By Rolando Rensoli Medina | Cubanow.net

The facts are almost unknown: Cuban Creole officers, NCOs and soldiers, members of the Mulatto and Black battalions, organized in Havana, fought under the Spanish flag in the War of Independence of the so-called Thirteen Colonies.

This epic deed is considered part of the momentous events in the history of humanity: the struggle for the independence of the colonial territories established by England on the Atlantic Coast of North America.

The struggle, which started in 1775 after the Boston Tea Party against the “Intolerance Laws” dictated by the British Crown, had the support of the governments established in many European nations: France, Holland, and Spain.

These units or militias were organized near the Castle of Atares, enlisting free “colored” men who took part in important battles in American territory and in Florida �a peninsula conquered by Spain during the war.

Prominent among the black Creoles who fought along with the defenders of the former Thirteen Colonies was Jose Antonio Aponte y Ulabarra, a carpenter from Havana who barely three decades later led an anti-slavery uprising in Cuba. It was considered the first national conspiracy in the island’s history.

The Cuban contribution to the end of British control over the United States of America �so proclaimed on July 4, 1776- also included valuable gems donated by the women of Havana’s Creole aristocracy to finance for rebel American troops.

The Colon neighborhood in the capital �where Centro Habana currently stands- also owes its origin to the inclusion of fellowmen in the troops sent to contribute to the emancipation of the Thirteen Colonies �a true national liberation war, according to many authors.

Until 1779, that neighborhood’s current location was deserted but -when the British Crown decided to take part in the war- 40 large shacks similar to the ones used to house slaves, field workers and soldiers were built there.

These collective dwellings, a neighborhood of shacks, sheltered 12 thousand men who had enlisted to fight in the British colonies, Florida and the Bahamas.

When the war ended, the shacks were no longer used for military purposes and were employed for other needs until they gradually disappeared, while the neighborhood’s housing development grew.

The disappearance of the last shack was recorded in 1836. At that time, the new housing project was already known as the New Jail Neighborhood; a name that would give way to that of Colon Neighborhood, still in use today.

During the first half of the Cuban 20th Century, Colon continued to be linked to the United States by becoming one of the capital’s most visited places by American marines and tourists �especially for its proximity to the harbor.

The participation in the fight against British colonial rule in North America encouraged, in turn, relationships among enlisted Cubans with their similar from Dominican Republic, who fought under orders of French officers.

Some of these men became heroes in the first Latin American anti-slavery and pro-independence revolution in the former French colony, which on January 1804, became the Republic of Haiti.

Perhaps that explains in part the expansion of the ideas of freedom and independence defended by the Anglo-American patriots, who along with those raised by the French bourgeoisie, decades later, fostered emancipation in the Spanish possessions.

When, in 1783, the British were forced to acknowledge the independence of their former colonies and to return Florida to Spain during the Versailles negotiations, the value of the Cuban fighters who took part in the war was recognized.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on December 28, 2005 by jago

    I am writing a book which will include the story of Cuban assistance in the American War of Independence 1776-83.  I know that undercover Cuban military took provisions, money and ammunition to Washington’ army. But I don’t have details. If anyone - including Havana Journal editorial can assist I will be most absolutely grateful.

    Thank you

    Jill Jago

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