BY RAUL RODRIGUEZ LA O | Special for Granma International
DURING the whole of his life Maximo Gomez Baez was one of the most important and faithful fighters for the independence of Cuba and subsequently against its invasion and occupation by the United States and that country’s interference in the island from 1898. He was particularly opposed to the imposition of the Platt Amendment, which curtailed Cubans’ sovereignty and independence and converted our country into a neocolony in the service of U.S. governors. For his thinking, combative merit, ethical principles, loyalty, bravery in the face of the enemy and military capacity he reached the rank of General in Chief of the Cuban Liberation Army in the third and last War of Independence (1895-1898), organized and initiated by Jose Marti.
He was born on November 18, 1836 in Bane, the current capital of Peravia province in the Dominican Republic. He arrived in Cuba from his native country in 1865, accompanied by his mother and two sisters. When the first War of Independence broke out in the eastern part of the island on October 10, 1868, he joined the Cuban Liberation Army and fought brilliantly within its ranks until it ended in 1878. He then went into exile with his children and wife, Bernarda Toro, who was born in Cuba, where he never lost sight of the Cuban cause.
With Jose Marti and four other patriots he landed at Playita de Cajobabo in Guantanamo (eastern Cuba) on April 11, 1895, with the aim of leading the last war initiated on the island on February 24 of that year, as General in Chief of the Liberation Army. After Marti, Cuba’s national independence hero, fell in combat on May 19 of that same year and Antonio Maceo lost his life on December 7, 1896, to be followed by the subsequent death of Calixto Garcia in the United States in December 1898, he became the principal and most legendary guardian of the revolution and Marti’s legacy until his death in the Vedado district of Havana on June 17, 1905.
He was also a war journalist and wrote memorable passages and essays that made him a writer of so-called war literature. He lived in Honduras with his family from 1879 to 1884. There he occupied the post of Divisional General in that country’s army, although he subsequently resigned. For their significance and contemporary validity below are some extracts from a letter he wrote to Jose Dolores Perez in San Pedro Sula, Honduras from New Orleans, on June 3, 1885, when he was leading the insurrectional plan of 1884-1886 with Antonio Maceo, which reveal his political and internationalist thinking related to his stay in that Central American nation and his love of and fidelity to the Cuban cause:
“No Cuban belongs to it while Cuba remains enslaved and any son of that land who does not think in that way is more worthy of compassion than anything else, because the worse thing for any man is the scorn of the world and this is the fruit awaiting those who are indifferent to the pains of their homeland, or those who speculate with them.
“I cannot be concerned with anything else that is not the total independence of the island of Cuba, and anyone who doubts that must have a very narrow brain, because apart from these considerations that should be those of any man of judgment or awareness there are others of a more elevated order that appeal to my noble ambitions, and I am not daunted by the fear of appearing boastful from expounding them.
“I proceed and speak according to the impulses of my heart and you can believe that beneath my rags and dragging my sandals through the dust, I consider myself greater. Higher than those who would have no doubts over spilling the blood of the peoples to attain the presidency� I do not wish to be even a shadow of the immortal hero Sucre; this is my only aspiration; not one of the many men who are ruling peoples or nations for personal gain, but do not release us from any servitude� “
Maximo Gomez stopped writing his campaign diary of more than 30 years on January 8, 1899. That day, referring to the U.S. imperialists who in three wars in 30 years never recognized the Cuban independence fighters and who invaded and occupied the national territory in 1898 in an opportunistic manner, he wrote some transcendental and prophetic words:
“The attitude of the American government towards the heroic Cuban people at this historic juncture, in my judgment reveals nothing less than a large business, apart from the dangers enveloping the country as a result of a situation that is mortifying the public spirit and making organization in all sectors more difficult and which should give from the beginning consistency to the establishment of the future Republic; where everything should be a work that is totally its own, of all the inhabitants of the island without distinction of nationalities.
There is nothing more rational or just that the owner of a house should be the person who is going to live there with his family, who can furnish and decorate it to their satisfaction and taste; and who are not obliged to follow, against their will and liking, the impositions of their neighbor.
“Given all those considerations it is my feeling that that cannot be any real moral peace in Cuba, which is what the people need for their happiness and fortune, during the existence of the government of transition imposed by the force of a foreign power and thus illegitimate and incompatible with the principles that the entire country has sustained for so long and in defense of which half of its sons have been sacrificed and all its wealth disappeared.
“They have sadly gone and we have been left sad, because a foreign power has replaced them� Thus the situation that has been created for this people, in a material and distressing manner, due to being restricted in all its acts of sovereignty, is more and more sorrowful every day, and the day that such a strange situation ends, it is more than likely that there will not be an ounce of sympathy left for the Americans here.”
RAUL RODRIGUEZ LA O is a Cuban historian, researcher and journalist.