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Dialogue with Magdalena Cantillo Frometa 
on Mariana Grajales Coello, “Mother of the Cuban Nation”, 17 April 2001
by Eugène Godfried


<== Magdalena Cantillo Frometa ‘Maday’ - Baracoesan, Guantanameran and a Daughter of the Caribbean  -  17 April 2001


EUGENE:

Welcome to our dialogue. Your name is?

MAGDALENA:

Magdalena Cantillo Frometa.

EUGENE:

Fine, Magdalena, I can say Maday, right?

MAGDALENA:

Maday, oh yes sure, that is how I like to be called, Maday.

EUGENE:

And what is your profession? 

MADAY:

I am a literature specialist, a researcher and writer.

EUGENE:

Perfect, and you work in Caimanera ?

MADAY:

Yes, I am working in Caimanera. Until two months ago I was the Director of the Mariana Grajales Revolution Square in Guantánamo, where I did research on the mother of Maceo.

EUGENE:

And, you are a Guantanameran? 

MADAY:

Yes, Baracoesan.

EUGENE:

Baracoa, beautiful land! It is very important to us and the whole world to know more of the life of Mariana Grajales and her children, most in particular, the illustrious Antonio Maceo y Grajales. Especially, since we Caribbean observers are interested in being closely connected with all that Antonio Maceo meant for the history of liberation of our Caribbean people. And for that matter also to Cuba, which is your country.

MADAY:

Yes.

EUGENE:

O.K. How did you become interested in carrying out work and study on the life of Mariana Grajales and her children?

MADAY:

Well, throughout history Mariana Grajales was a figure and personality studied by Cuban researchers and historians. Mariana Grajales’ family, her children, all her family, in general, have been very much studied throughout history. But, it always been said that Mariana Grajales was here in our region of Guantánamo, on the hills and mountains during the war. And it became more precise to me when I was a researcher and representative of such an important institution as the Mariana Grajales Coello Revolution Square, I was able to do much more research on the presence of that woman, a paradigm of the Cuban woman, the heroin of Cuba, Mariana Grajales. In this way I became better informed of her presence of the specific locations in our Guantanameran region.

MARIANA GRAJALES Y COELLO
“MOTHER OF THE CUBAN NATION” ==>

EUGENE:

It seems to me that you as a scholar as you are Maday, Magdalena Cantillo Frometa, that you also studied José Martí’s works. I think that he too made references to Mariana Grajales. Isn’t that so? 

MADAY:

No, in no way. You are not at all mistaken. I should have said that I came to study Mariana Grajales also through José Martí. Because for me the most beautiful chronic, the most beautiful words, the most complete image of this woman, were expressed by José Martí in his chronicle entitled: 
“Mariana Maceo”. Moreover, he went to Kingston, Jamaica to know Mariana Grajales in October of 1892. That encounter was determinant for Martí’s image of that woman he said admired him as a son and caressed him with the tenderness of a mother to a son. That was how he told it to General Antonio on the occasion of the death of Mariana Grajales. I have dedicated a good deal of my life in studying the works of José Martí, and in so doing I got a more complete image of Mariana Grajales. The title of the first work that I wrote is: “La visión martiana de Mariana Grajales” (“The Martian vision of Mariana Grajales”). Thereafter I continued to do more research of history in order to find other elements I needed to make new contributions. 

EUGENE:

What was so brilliant and impressed you more in that statement of Martí? 

MADAY:

The language and the form in which he made that statement and the image that Martí portrays of that woman of a special charisma, who was already an elder woman and made impression on him. When he states that that woman wore a scarf on the head that resembled a crown, that when she looked at him, he did not know what to do and he kissed her hand. She’s a woman who inspired respect, reverence, a woman who impressed him. For such a special man like Martí, besides what he would have known from the Ten Years War of the actions and role of Mariana Grajales, what made impression on him was her personality, her maternal instinct. Martí gave us the element which up until then was little dealt with. In general, it is said that Mariana was a virile, energetic, brave woman who animated combat, who told her sons: “Get up, Stand up!” To one of her sons she said, “You prepare and raise yourself, get ready and go to the camp”. That is an image which stays with us of that energy, of that character she possessed. But very few speak of her tenderness. Martí speaks of the tenderness of that woman, that elder, giving us moreover characteristics which are very Caribbean, That fact of the hospitality shown when one visits her and she will come and attend the visitor, converse with him and offering the guest something to take along when departing. So, he gives us the real characteristics of that person who  converses in a lively way and who attended him with love and that virtue of hospitality. Something which is properly Caribbean. That called itself to my attention a lot, that strong charisma which Martí spotted as through a lens, expressed in the form of poetry, that so durable image. To know of this personality one should inevitably read Martí. 

EUGENE:

O.K, You read José Martí, You read a series of comparisons based on literature, and more important then that, you went out to the battlefield to look for Mariana Grajales and to trace back all that she represented here in Guantánamo as well as other countries in the Caribbean area.

Maceo in the 80'

MADAY: 

Yes, I wanted to try and find the proper values of Mariana Grajales. Because, generally, Leonor Pérez, the mother of José Martí, receives all attention. But we have Manana the wife of [Máximo] Gómez, Mariana Grajales the mother of the Maceo. And also, Mariana had more children who were not Maceo. Her first four children were Regueyfero Grajales and were just as couragous as the Maceo.

EUGENE:

Do you know their names? 

MADAY:

Yes, Fermín, Manuel, Justo and another who died early. Presumably he died of cholera.

EUGENE:

So as I understand it, she had those four children before she joined the father of Antonio Maceo? 

MADAY:

Yes, that is right. She became a widow. Her husband Fermín Regueyfero died. And she remained with those four children in poverty. She received help from her family. After she met and united with Marcos Maceo with whom she had nine children. Two girls Dominga, Valdomeda and seven sons. Which means that she had thirteen children. Four Regueifero Grajales of her first marriage and nine Maceo Grajales with Marcos Maceo. So, I wanted to find the proper values of Mariana Grajales. I was a little influenced by that question of the gender, because I think that the first merit that we have to attribute to her is having forged a family with those characteristics. Such a heroic family. And I state that she and Marcos Maceo knew what they wanted together. They are an example of marital unity. And once knowing that there was a war going on, they knew in which direction to conduct their numerous offspring. And to see to it that all members of the family should have the same virtues, dignity, respect, honesty, family unity, loving care, and work. They were bound to forge life through work. The estates they possessed prospered, thanks to the efforts of those offsprings, not by paid work. And I continue to look for the proper merits of Mariana Grajales in Guantánamo. Because, as you know, Mariana Grajales left to go in exile from Guantánamo to Jamaica. 

EUGENE:

In what year was that, Maday?

MADAY

In May 1878, at the end of the Ten Years War. One the one hand, the Zanjón Pact was signed, and on the other hand the Protest of Baragua of General Antonio was put into effect and that determined when he was authorized to leave the country. When he was authorized to leave for Jamaica by the provisional government of the republic in arms. He then decided to take out his family with him to Kingston, Jamaica. There is the letter in which he gives guidelines to his brother in law, Captain Manuel Romero, husband of his sister Dominga, to take out the family, and that is where he says that the enemy knew that the family was in Toa. 

EUGENE:

The captain you just mention was captain of…? 

MADAY:

Of the Mambí Liberation Army, Captain Manuel Romero, husband of Dominga Maceo, who married him in the wood. The Mambí bushes. So, they left from the Toa river, that zone of Guantánamo where the family was hidden. From there they sailed to Santiago de Cuba and then on to Kingston in a wooden vessel under French flag. Some say it was an English flag. But, it is known that Antonio Maceo traveled on the vessel “Fernando el Católico”. 

I think that letter gave the impression that Antonio was in a hurry. He suggested which date the family should be in Baracoa so as to move on from there to Santiago de Cuba. He indicated that no later than the 9th or the 10th they should be in Santiago de Cuba. Because, as it seems to me, he wanted to take the whole family together with him at the same time on May 9th of that year 1878. Finally, the family did not succeed in leaving together with him. They arrived later after he had left. I am stating that the departure to Kingston took place from Guantánamo, from the mountains of Guantánamo. And there are testimonies on their journey while crossing through the zone of Yateras by Lieutenant Colonel Pedro Martínez Freyre. Testimonies appear in the book “La Luz de Yara”, in which he speaks of the ‘combate de la criolla’. He declared that he feared that it was the Maceo family who was behind him, assigned to take care of him in that zone. That was the last combat of the ’68 war.

EUGENE:

What was the name of the combat and where did it take place again?

MADAY:

‘Combate la criolla’, which took place here in the region of Yateras. And he said that he sent the explorers to review the area when he heard gunshots and they made sure that it was not the Maceo family who was assigned to take care of him in that zone. So there was a presence and it could possibly have been the family who at that point in time was leaving for Santiago de Cuba. Because Maceo wanted them to leave by boat and to make it the quickest possible through Baracoa to Santiago de Cuba. The fastest way was then to travel by sea. But, finally they did not leave together from Santiago de Cuba.

EUGENE:

Fine, they had to be looking for Antonio Maceo, I assume, who reached Jamaica before his mother, as you narrated to us very clearly. It then becomes interesting to know, what became of the life of the mother. Very interesting research Maday, Magdalena Cantillo Frometa. So you went to Kingston, Jamaica. A very bold and courageous step, without knowing the English language. But, you have seen that what unites us are other values which have nothing to do with idiomatic differences. Please, tell us about some of you experience in Kingston, Jamaica?

MADAY:

Yes, we went to look for Mariana Grajales and the Cuban emigration of the end of the 19th in Kingston. Because according to Gonzálo de Quesada, as well as Guillermo de Fendegui, nothing was left anymore of that Kingston which Martí knew. They stated in an absolute form that the Kingston which Martí and other Cubans of the last decade of the 19th century knew had changed a lot because of the earthquakes and hurricanes. When I read that, I became somewhat pessimistic and started to wonder what would have remained of Mariana Grajales' Kingston. When it became possible now to reach there I could observe that the architectural heritage was not that of the end of the 19th century, which was a British architecture: wooden houses, zinc roofs or other material. The earthquakes and the hurricanes eliminated this type of patrimony. 

Presently the architecture is of very modern buildings. But, I think that nature is there and the places are there. They are different, but they are the same and history is also there. There is nature, there are the tobacco estates, the zone where the Cubans used to work, Temple Hall, for example. Places have the same names: ‘Casava River’, “Mandrill”, ‘Barbican Square”. All the names that I took with me as references, all those places still keep the same names. Inclusively, there is a name which is historical i.e. ‘Cuban Ridge’, which is like some sort of a Cuban promontory, a promontory of hills, mountains where Cubans worked and had their dwellings on estates dedicated to the tobacco culture. But, out of that, there are many more important cultural elements, because the Cubans were the ones who introduced tobacco culture into Jamaica, an industry which prospered according to official reports known as “The Blue Books”. Those are Jamaican government reports in which the economic data of the Jamaican tobacco industry is recorded, which also speak about the Cubans. In that Jean Stubbs, an Englishwoman who lives in London, married to a Cuban, has written a very interesting work: “Cuba and Jamaica for the tobacco”, and made some very interesting analyses. And, we must say that one can still see the tobacco boxes with Cuban names. ‘Palomino’, ‘Duran’, for example, and that of ‘Pedro Machado’, who introduced the tobacco in Jamaica. That factory is still there, but with another name now. After Jamaica ceased to be a British colony, ironically, it is not known as Machado anymore. It became a big tobacco trust. So, that was the surrounding where those men used to cultivate tobacco and dedicated the week – ends to produce funds for the independence struggle of the Cuban fatherland. The Cubans used to hold their literary gatherings in a hotel on Church Street, coincidently near to where Mariana Grajales lived. They held conferences on historical and literary themes. Their religions was also present with them in Jamaica. The African religions, Yoruba, their ways of nurturing themselves and also their Catholic faith. I think that they did not find it hard to adapt themselves, because of that similarity of cultures at the end of the 19th century. Although living among other types of cultures, yet all were in the same area. It is noteworthy that the ‘machete’ continues to be called ‘machete’. Exactly so. The Casava River zone called my attention so much, because presumably in that place the Maceo brothers used to grow vegetables. Antonio Maceo also had a parcel and lived in the zone of Batican Square.

EUGENE:

What was the name of that zone over there in Jamaica?

MADAY:

Casava.

EUGENIO:

Casava, and is it outside of Kingston? 

MADAY:

Yes, in the Saint Andrews zone after Kingston. A very beautiful rural area with mountains and a precious landscape. From up there one can see the Blue Mountains - very virgin and deep green. There is Temple Hall. There is the Bunny Hill stream, the Ground water, where presumably Martí was and where they took a photograph of his whole body. The only one that exists of José Martí’s full body. The vegetation is the same as shown on the photo. It is similar to the present day one. Nature does not betray. That natural patrimony is there where the Cubans lived, interacting constantly with the Jamaican culture. So that means to say that there is still a cultural wealth of that Cuban emigration to be researched. There are descendents of that emigration over there. They even have those surnames. You look in a 
phone – book in Kingston and you will see surnames like Machado, Duran, Romero. I called some of those persons and they were indeed descendants, but they do not remember much. They are the third or the fourth generation. 
I was interviewed by the television and I spoke of Mariana Grajales and José Martí. There is a school named José Martí in Kingston, which is a gift by our Comandante Fidel Castro to the government of Michael Manley. And, after that interview people used to stop me on the roads to ask me if the Martí I spoke about on the television was the same one of the school. There were persons who called at the embassy asking about Mariana Grajales, who was Mariana Grajales and who did not know that for many years there existed a history of this type which was so well rooted there. And that gives us the measure to test the need for more research. Because, it is all there, it all is still living among the people. What we have to do is to take it all out from where it is and expose it a little more. Jamaica has got a marvelous cultural institution which is the National Library. A powerful and big one which posseses a lot of press information. Important intellectuals of that epoch wrote on and interviewed José Martí during his visit to Jamaica. They wrote poems, like Tom Rickton, for example, an important poet of Jamaica.

EUGENE:

Excuse me, Maday, in what year was Jose Marti in Jamaica?

MADAY:

In 1892. It is said that he was there twice. First in 1892 and afterwards for a short visit in 1894. But, the first time he was involved in uniting the Cubans in the clubs of the Revolutionary Cuban Party, (Partido Revolucionario Cubano), which existed in Jamaica among the Cubans of Temple Hall and Kingston. Marti went there to carry out that unifying labor to the party in preparation for the War of Independence. Jamaica resembles Cuba quite a lot. They possess a strong common patrimony. My attention was drawn by the articles on both Maceo and Martí which appear in the publications of the societies of historians of Kingston of the decade of the 40’s. There is a statue of Maceo of the year 1955, donated by the government of Cuba then as a sign of gratitude. That occurred during the Bustamante government in Jamaica. 

We came to a consensus among researchers with a statement by men like Dr. Patrick Bryan, who said that the research on Mariana Grajales in Jamaica is yet to be started.

EUGENE:

Who is Patrick Bryan? 

MADAY:

A researcher of the Spanish language faculty of the University of the West Indies at the Mona Campus. He is very well informed on issues related to immigration, speaks Spanish very well and gave me some points of reference where I should begin to find information on Mariana Grajales, who died in Kingston in 1893 and lived 15 years in Kingston. She was buried for 30 years in the cemetery of Saint Andrews. After 30 years her daughter Dominga Maceo together with a commission of cuban patriots transferred her remains to Santiago de Cuba.


That event had a wide press coverage. In the Jamaica Times and the Gleaner, there are a lot of writings on the process of exhumation and the transfer of the remains of Mariana Grajales. Just like when Martí visited Jamaica in 1892. The press also carried interviews, commentaries, and reports of all the meetings held by the Cubans. It could be stated that the Cuban presence in Jamaica had such a repercussion that it reached the media, the press. The intelligentsia was in support of Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain. That is reflected in the work of some writers like Al Roberts and the poet Tom Bretton. There are historical novels written around the theme. So, there is a big bibliographical resource and I will say cultural resource, in general, because I believe that around tobacco there is Caribbean culture. The Cubans were the chosen ones to cultivate and fabricate tobacco. There still is a legacy and the researchers and historians remind us to that presence. I believe that we have to benefit more from the circumstances and we have to study more. There are historical links in the Caribbean, The Jamaicans sympathize with the Cubans. The rhythms are the same. I believe in that epoch, inclusively, the foods were similar, therefore, it was not difficult for the Cubans to adapt themselves. The Caribbean is one and we have a common history. 

EUGENE:

Precisely, Maday, you are a researcher on the life of the Maceo family, of Mariana Grajales, and I believe that there is yet a lot more to say on the life of those great heroes and forerunners of the process of change that we are living in the Caribbean, where we are persisting in the struggle for the liberation of our region and our peoples. You mentioned at the beginning of our dialogue that a lot was said of Mariana Grajales, and I may add also of Antonio Maceo. But one had always focused on their great boldness in their persistence in war, as persons of war. Yet, little time was dedicated to speak about the tenderness of their personalities. And, I would also say of the intelligence which conducted their labor and ideas, as well as, the influences they excercised on the life of others. There does exist the discussion, on the one hand, of whether Mariana Grajales was born in the Dominicana Republic, yes or no and, on the other hand whether Marcos Maceo was born in Venezuela yes or no, But, it seems to me that at any rate they lived in very important moments when very important activities took place in the Caribbean. I am referring to, for example the Haitian Revolution, which lead that nation to independence. And also its influences afterwards in the region. In the same epoch also in 1791 another revolution took place in the island of Guadeloupe in the eastern Caribbean, which had its repercussions on the entire region. One does not talk much about that, but we have to speak about that historical manifestation too. That revolution was destroyed by a power as big as the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. He is a very cherished man in the world, but little is said about the fact that he was the man who severely agitated and acted against the Haitian and Guadeloupean Revolution. And that he was responsible for the destructions he did in that context. Firstly, of the Guadeloupean Revolution and his attempts to also destroy the Haitian Revolution. Jean Jeaques Dessalines after clearly seeing the Guadeloupe experience, proclaimed immediately the independence of his country, Haiti. Why not? Napoleon had already sent men to capture Toussaint L’Ouverture who was brought to le Jura and La Joux over there in France, where he died in the dungeons of that country. Well, that liberation process influenced our entire region. And people like Mariana Grajales and, especially, Antonio Maceo, had a clear vision and admiration for the gains of the Haitian Revolution. Also, while being in Jamaica since 1878 they were conscious of the fact that Jamaica had already abolished the system of enslavement of men, women and children of African descent since 1834. They knew exactly what they were looking for and where to find it, in order to receive the necessary inspirations to conduct their struggles here in Cuba. 
What could you tell me about this? Because that brought specific problems also in the liberation movement in those days here in Cuba.

MADAY:

Well, I believe yes, that that line of thinking you are pointing out must be taken into account, Those ideals were undoubtedly present in the thought and intelligence of José Maceo. The Maceo family had a habit, which was lead by the father to sit and read in the evenings all types of literature that could help them form their cultural life. They spoke, for example, of the literature of Alexander Dumas, of the revolution and independence of America. Eduardo Torres Cuevas, among others, wrote on those literary habits which give evidence of their cultural preparation. So, it was not a family academically formed, yet with a culture that allowed them to guide themselves and interact with intellectual circles of Santiago de Cuba. 

EUGENE:

It is quite understandable that they were not a family with academic formation, if we take into account how Cuba was then. Cuba was a slave society at that point in time. Therefore, it is understandable that persons with ethnographic conditions like the Maceo family, most probably, had no academic formation, because it was not freely accessible for those of their ethnic origin.

MADAY:

Yes, they were farmers and lived off the production of their estates. Then they interacted with intellectuals of Santiago de Cuba and I think that the masonry had a lot to do with the formation of those ideals of Antonio Maceo. But, it should be noted that the Maceo family was anti – slavery.

They themselves were “black” and since they were born they saw the horrors against the enslaved people, even though they were considered “pardos”. They were free. Inclusively, there is no question of slave labor on the estates of Marcos Maceo. There is no mention made of slave labor, but wage labor. The family prospered, fundamentally, through the sweat and toiling of the members of the family themselves. The rejection of slavery as an institution existed in the psychology of the individual members of the family and the entire family as a cohesive entity. That was an educational formation they all had. When the conspiracy against Spain later came into effect the entire family joined it with those concepts. But, they stood first and foremost for the abolition of slavery. In the Protest of Baraguá, Maceo states: “we cannot pact with Spain if Cuba is not independent and has not abolished slavery”. And that is when he tells Martínez Campos, the Spanish General: “we do not understand each other, we cannot understand each other and I do not understand the Cubans who came to a pact either.” A firm protest. 

As far as the Haitian Revolution is concerned, it is a fact that the historical formation of the Cuban thought of the epoch included people who were thinking on what was happening and what would become of their country after its independence from Spain, and also when slavery was abolished. Among those thinking people was Antonio Maceo, who was a leader of this war. The Haitian Revolution and its consequences was a unique phenomenon in that historical moment. The Spanish authorities in Cuba feared that the Haitian experienced would be repeated in Cuba. And any slave revolt had to be cruelly suppressed, because there was the so called “el miedo al negro”, “the fear of the negroes”. They used that concept to distort the objectives of the liberation struggle. Martí would clarify that afterwards. In the Monte Cristi Manifest, of ’95, Martí made clear what was the projection of the war of Cuba against Spain. The colonial forces wanted to state that the war of Cuba against Spain was a “guerra de razas”, a “race war”. They raised questions about Maceo, who was black, as he was the leader of the war in Cuba. They wanted to make believe that it was because of the color of his skin that he was at war, while the objectives lied much further ahead. It was a matter of the independence of the country and not a matter of race. And, that brought as you said conflicts in the thoughts, but there always was clarity in the leadership of the Cuban revolution, that the objective was the independence of the fatherland. Martí will clarify much more when the war of ’95 was organized. Martí was the one who organized that and Maceo also came to the war on the bases of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano. In the Montecristi Manifest Martí made it clear to the world which was the position of Cuba in “La Guerra Necesaria”, the “Necessary War”, in which he explains that it should be a short and necessary war, and that it entails a strategy between Cuba and the Spaniards and not of whites against black, it was not a war between races. That explained the necessity of the creation of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, so that there would be unity of thought around the strategy of war and the reason why war was necessary. So I believe that what took place in the Caribbean with slavery, as well as, the fact that Maceo was in Jamaica, Haiti, where he entered and left constantly with his eagerness to once again re-organize the war, until he went to Honduras and Costa Rica, must have had a great influence in the relations he established. And, in that, as you said the emphasis was strongly laid on one of the supreme objectives of the independence of Cuba: eliminate slavery.

EUGENE:

Fine, what Martí stated made me think a lot. You are making a very important contribution. It seems to me that what Martí said then in ’95, clarifying to the world on the position and strategy of the War of Independence which was under way, was a mere repetition of the thinking and words of Maceo. 

MADAY:

Of course yes. There was a unity of thought in the war.

EUGENE:

But, it made a difference for some sectors inside and outside of Cuba when it was said afterwards again by Martí. Don’t you think so? Besides, it was something that Maceo already said seventeen (17) years before in Baraguá.

MADAY:

Martí  signed the Montecristi Manifest together with Máximo Gómez in Montecristi, Dominican Republic, before leaving for Cuba and disembarking around here in Guantánamo on April 11, 1895. What Martí did then was to write a personal document which was first called ‘A Cuba’, ‘To Cuba’ and afterwards known as the Montecristi Manifest. Those leaders of course agreed on the strategies of the war. Maceo was already in Cuba. On 1st of April of ’95 he entered Cuba. Thereafter Martí and Máximo Gómez got in. The strategy was already made. Why they were going to war, what kind of republic did they want for the country? We know what happened afterwards. Martí perished, then did Maceo. All this is known. But when the strategy of war was conceived, as you said, there was a unity of thought which existed among the leaders of the war. Which means that the problem of race, Martí always said it: “There are no races. Race is man”. But, the Montecristi Manifest is the base of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano. I believe that it is indispensable to know this in order to be acquainted with this problem to the bottom. On what would become the strategy to follow in Cuba regarding the races. Nothing would be done to the Spaniard because he was white. The Spaniard could continue to live as normal in Cuba, provided he would not interfere with the independence. Nor the Chinese, and the Blacks. Martí made it clear in the Montecristi Manifesto. But, there was unity of thinking among the leaders of the war. No one would go to war diveded. You on one side and I on my own. So, I believe that it was indeed a continuity of what Antonio Maceo already thought since ’68. Marti was not there in ’68. He was sixteen (16) years of age then and deported to Spain. He was in the United States, studying profoundly the Ten Years War. He noticed that the lack of unity hampered the war and decided to take the responsibility to unite the Cubans. That is why he founded the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, but together with the old pines. He was the new pine. The old pines were Mázimo Gómez, Antonio Maceo and all those leaders who participated in the first war known as “La Guerra Grande”. “The Great War”. 

EUGENE:

We understand each other well. There was unity of thinking and we know that Maceo already said it all. When he spoke with the Spanish general Arsenio Martínez Campos what later on became known as the Protesta of Baraguá, he was absolutely clear as you said that there will be no independence without the total abolition of slavery. No agreement of any type without a solution of those two inseparable factors. He was convinced of that and I believe also that the people he represented in Cuba were always aware of that. There were some other sectors who needed to be convinced and it was Martí who was called upon to convince those sectors. It seems to me that such was the case. 

MADAY: 

Look, as I am busy thinking now, I remember that he was clear on which were the negative consequences of so many years of slavery in Cuba. And there’s a letter he wrote to a club of women. 

EUGENE:

We are talking about?

MADAY:

Of Maceo. The letter is entitled ‘A LAS HIJAS DE LA LIBERTAD’, a women’s club.

EUGENE:

What year was that? 

MADAY:

The letter has no date, but it was around the days of preparations of the war during his visit to New York. 

EUGENE:

After ’78? 

MADAY:

Around ‘92 and ‘95. In that letter he asked the women to step into the political arena, in support of the struggle for independence led by the Partido Revolucionario Cubano. He also told them that it was necessary to make the step towards the triumph of the revolution. He pointed out that their contribution was necessary in social labor, taking into account the amount of social ills, the after - effects left behind by so many years of slavery and colonialism in Cuba. Therefore, regarding the role of the women he said: “You are the ones who direct human spirit”. 

This was the only writing that I found where Maceo speaks about women, rather on the role of women. He said: “…What can a woman not achieve with just a smile? You have to be conducting the people and lift up those who fall…”. That means, that society is morally deteriorated, by the after - effects of slavery and colonialism, he assigned the women to get engaged in that social labor even after the triumph of the revolution. I am referring to this because he was conscious of all the ills and consequences that slavery left behind. And, that now without there being slaves, the racial stigma which is a strong stigma will last for a long time without people being slaves, it is a stigma which will continue to exist in the discriminatory fact. And he was aware of that and said that the women were the ones who should lead human spirit. They are the ones who could help those aftereffects to disappear. 

EUGENE:

Very important this contribution you are making Maday, because of all the things that Maceo said in his life and that are not being told now, look what you are telling us now. His opinion and ideas regarding the function and liberating role of women. Among things that I read about him, there are some individuals who want to entertain themselves by saying that he was a “machista”. They go on saying that he had an extraordinary appreciation for women. Something that we applaud! I am of the opinion that he is a son of 
our region and we perceive women as complete human beings. One has to be gentle with her, share with her and discover the brilliantness of her intelligence. Maceo knew how to do that. That makes me want to raise the next question, introducing again his stay in Jamaica. Over there he knew Mrs Amelia Marriat, and out of that intimate and precious relationship flourished a son also named Antonio. Could you please tell us some of your experience in that regard?

MUJERES GUANTANAMERAS PERSUADIDAS DEL EJEMPLO DE 
MARIANA GRAJALES Y COELLO.

MADAY:

There should be no prejudice on that. Because he was a man, a human being. In love and life anything could have occurred to him just like anybody else who was not General Antonio Maceo.

EUGENE:

And also just the same with Amelia Marriat. They were a unity.

MADAY:

They say she was a beautiful woman. The scholars from Santiago de Cuba are doing research on her. Researchers, historians from Santiago de Cuba are studying her personality. It seems that they are tracing her back in Santiago de Cuba. There is still no precision whether she was Jamaican or not. It is said that she was a Santiagueran and that they possibly met in Santiago de Cuba. There is nothing definite on that to enable us to say that it was so. All data up to now say that they met each other in Jamaica. In the case of Amelia Marriat it was a passion, a love, which bore a fruit, a son. In the same way that he eternally lived in love with his wife María Cabrales. He respected her and always secured her place. There are the letters of his epistolary to María Cabrales, which is something marvelous. The last moments of war and of all moments of his life. A marriage of many years tends to become a tradition. Even the letters reflect that tradition. But, there existed a love relation between him and Maria Cabrales, but there also was a passion with Amelia. And it gave him a son, and he came up for that child. There are letters showing that he supported him economically. He used to send money to his son. He talked about that in a letter to Doctor Eusebio Hernández, who knew well the inside story of that passion. At one point Maceo had to leave Jamaica urgently quiet shortly after the birth of the baby. When she knew about that she said she was going crazy, because he would go and not come back. She had to be calmed down and taken care of. That was something hat made Mariana Grajales suffer a lot. She loved María Cabrales as a daughter. That was one of the reasons why in Jamaica, Mariana could never live a quiet life. The hang-ups of her own children came up. At the same time she was active conspiring in the war. Valdomeda died in Montecristi. That means to say that she never had a peaceful old age. That was something that Mariana suffered a lot in Jamaica. That love affair of Antonio in Jamaica, the birth of a grandson. Antonio Maceo's only child. With María Cabrales he was not lucky to have one. And Mariana saw to it that he took care of the grandson. After her death it is said that Amelia disappeared. No one knows what have become of her life. The child stayed with the Maceo family who took responsibility of him until Maceo’s death. Afterwards he migrated to the United States and died there. I only saw a picture of his funeral. Dr. Nidia Sarabia in Havana has gotten documents on him. Through her I knew more of the personality of the son of Antonio Maceo. 

<== MARIANA GRAJALES Y COELLO
MADRE DE LOS MACEO
SÍMBOLO DE AMOR POR LA PAZ, IGUALDAD Y SOLIDARIDAD
JAMAICA Y EL CARIBE TE RECORDARÁN SIEMPRE

EUGENE:

Maday, Magdalena Cantillo Frometa, researcher, historian and specialist on the life of Antonio Maceo and especially Mariana Grajales, we want to thank you with lot of affection for your contribution and collaboration in this dialogue. 

MADAY:

Thank you for having interchange so much with me. I still have not done profound research on the personality of Antonio Maceo, but on Mariana Grajales yes, because I have a lot to do with her. But, I believe that Antonio Maceo will always be a promise and a challenge, because there still is a lot to research on the thinking of this big man of Cuba. Thank you.

EUGENE:

Thanks to you again with love. Please continue with this important work researching and clarifying the world on the life of these significant personalities like Antonio, José Maceo, Mariana Grajales and the entire Maceo y Grajales family. Thank you very much.

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FOTOREPORTERS:

1. Front page EUGENE GODFRIED: Aldo 

2. MADAY: Luis Bennett Robinson

3. MARIANA GRAJALES: Bibliotea Provincial Guantánamo


Eugène Godfried

Caribbean specialist/journalist

Radio Habana Cuba
Radio CMKS in Guantánamo

See also our page on Antonio Maceo

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Links/Enlaces

Dialogo con Magdalena Cantillo Frometa sobre Mariana Grajales Coello “Madre de la patría cubana”, 17 de abril 2001

Mariana Grajales Coello

Antonio Maceo


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