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En español


Joel Nicolas Mourlot Mercaderes

Dialogue in Santiago de Cuba 
with Joel Mourlot Mercaderes 
on Antonio Maceo y Grajales “Freedom Worker”  
Eugene Godfried 

Joel Mourlot Mercaderes
Journalist, Historian And Researcher
Santiago De Cuba


EUGENE: 
  
It is a pleasure for us to share our microphones with a friend and colleague, Joel Mourlot Mercaderes. Joel is a journalist and researcher of the history of his country Cuba and above all Santiago de Cuba, with a clear projection to the Caribbean. Joel, welcome to this dialogue with our audience and readers. 
  
JOEL: 
  
Thank you, Eugène, for me it is an occasion for great pleasure and an honor to be in a position to talk with our friends and readers around the world. 
  
EUGENE: 
  
Joel, the objective of our dialogue is to talk about some historical events, which were the guidelines in the formation of the national physiognomy of Cuba in a cultural sense. When speaking about that, we have to look at what happened during the War of Independence, the independence period itself and how that transcended beyond the times that followed. 
  
JOEL: 
  
The question is very interesting, but one cannot outline a response in an absolute way. There is quite a clear differentiation among the various regions of Cuba, Western Cuba is not the same as Eastern Cuba. Pérez de la Riva already made a study in which he spoke of a Cuba ‘B’ and Cuba ‘A’. By that, he wanted to point out the differences in the economic sphere, and maybe also socio-economic, of the western and the oriental zones of Cuba. But, the truth of the matter is that the eastern zone was not homogeneous either. There is a region like Camagüey, Tunas and a part of Bayamo with certain characteristics and other regions like the south-eastern part with different specific characteristics. Therefore one has to say that the Cuban identity also developed in the same way and at the same time all over Cuba. Some traits came into being in the west and others in the east. Only this permanent and constant interchange causes us to reach the stage of generalization of these traits in all the regions. But, maintaining this distinction. I would say that in the eastern zone, the Cuban identity gained major strength and from the first moments manifested a confrontation with the Spanish element. With the same pace that the Cuban identity was created, the phenomenon of confrontation was developing. It is not a coincidence, therefore, that since early on around 1820, there were already signs of independent leanings in Santiago de Cuba. There was the case of Salvador Duany, for example, who published or circulated the Mexican Independence Act here in Santiago and other nearby villages. It is also seen when conspiracy delegations were around like those of Soles y Rayos of Bolívar, like the ‘Aguila Negra’, or like that of Ramon Pintó. Also with the movements of Armenteros, of Narciso López, which were groups of national conspiracy. They responded to particular characteristics of the region, because they not only aspired for independence, but in some cases also aspired for the abolition of slavery. But, I will say that in a general sense in the whole of Cuba there was a process that conjugated, which complemented itself towards elevation to the Cuban identity, as well as to liberality on the political scene, abolition on the social scene, and aspirations of independence on the higher political level. All this was achieved very slowly, in a very progressive form and not without opposition, even from among Cubans themselves. Together with all these aspirations, Cubans were developing a sentiment of the evolution of the Spanish colonial system without abandoning that Spanish colonial system. That means without abandoning the Spanish metropolis!   

EUGENE: 
  
Are we understanding you well Joel, that there were sectors within the Cuban society that aspired for independence of Cuba, without a rupture in the cultural sense with the metropolis? 
  
JOEL: 
  
Logically, although there are many people, many scholars who deny that possibility. There are cases of peoples who became independent through autonomy. Whether in Cuba that was feasible, that is to be discussed. That polemic could be discussed, but it is certain that Cubans with such sentiments aspired to get independence through evolution. By means of evolution and not though armed confrontation. What happened? Spain always played with those sentiments. Every time that there was a rise of the independence movement, Spain flattered the reformist movement, the autonomy movement. 
  
Every time that the independence movement enervated itself, it opened up the way to failure, let us say, as was the case with the Ten Years War, and as was the failure of the Small War. Spain then abandoned all autonomist sentiments. It even went on characterizing it as a form of independence and therefore unjustifiable, inadmissible. In the eyes of Spanish politics, autonomy and independence were equal. The Cubans, the men with clearer vision, knew at one point how to make distinctions, especially in the eastern zone, because autonomy in the eastern zone was not the same as that in the western zone. The autonomists of the eastern zone called themselves reformists in that period. In the year 1867, after the failure of the Information Council, they converted themselves into ‘indepentistas’. They went to war in quite high numbers. Afterwards many of these “autonomist” became “independentistas”. These elements slowed down the development of the war, because, they were the ‘zanjoneros’ of the end of the Ten Years War. Men who were tired of fighting without seeing the victory nearby, who did not see the possibility of achieving the desired independence by means of arms. They were the ones who then believed in the offers of Martinez Campos. And they were, precisely, the elements on which the politics of attraction of Captain General Jovellar and of Commander in Chief of the Spanish Army Martínez Campos rested between 76 and 78. And they finally succeeded in imposing the Zanjón Pact.   

EUGENE: 
  
Taking into account this contradiction, on the one hand, between reformist and autonomist, those who wished to get to a negotiated agreement with the Spaniards, with the Spanish colonial regime without major transformations, and, on the other hand, those who wanted absolute independence from Spain, including complete and immediate abolition of enslaved African human beings in Cuba, since Cuba was still a slave society, which was different from the rest of the Caribbean. I believe that it is in this context that we must talk of Antonio Maceo. 
  

  
ANTONIO MACEO Y GRAJALES, 
HOMBRE DE CEREBRO Y VOLUNTAD 
HONRADO EN SU TIERRA NATAL SANTIAGO DE CUBA. 

JOEL: 
  
Yes, in all this phenomenon we should say one thing. Not only did they aspire to the abolition of slavery because of a social problem, but also for economic benefits. Slavery was already obsolete. For sugar production, in many places experiments were made using free labor with more success than slave labor The plantation owners could not get rid of their slaves immediately. They demanded indemnification. 
  
EUGENE: 
  
Indemnification! 
  

General Antonio Maceo y Grajales

JOEL: 
  
Indemnification! And they pushed for it. Abolition with indemnification! Spain made mockery of the Cubans with a whole tax – system. According to Le Riverend there were nine types of tributes that the planters had to pay to the Spanish fiscal authorities and they asked to resume a group of taxes in only one tax of 10 % on the revenue. In fact, what Spain did was to create a new tax without abolishing those the Cubans wanted to eliminate. And, that is why they went to war. But, it is interesting to see how, while the Ten Years War was going on, a popular leadership came up amidst the bushes. It is true that the war was begun then by, let us say, the wealthy elements, the plantation owners, creoles, already turned Cuban, but it is also certain that since the middle and especially the end of the war the leadership was passing on to more popular classes. One of the men of that leadership was Antonio Maceo. He went to war on October 22nd of 1868. Truly speaking we cannot determine exactly which day Maceo entered war. I believe that the entry of Maceo to the Ten Years War must have been October 14th, because that was when the first uprisings took place in Santiago de Cuba. The first uprising by groups of Nicolás Pacheco, Polanco, Velazquez and groups of rebels who responded to Donato Mármol and to his brothers Raymundo Mármol, Fransisco Javier del Mármol, Justo del Mármol, who were based here in Santiago de Cuba, while he himself lived in the zone of Santa Rita. María Cabrales [Antonio Maceo’s wife] mentioned in September in a letter to Fransisco de Paula Coronado that Marcos Maceo [Antonio Maceo’s father] came to Santiago de Cuba and got to know of the conspiracy hustles. Since then, rather since September 1868, they started to conspire in Majaguabo. They constituted a revolutionary council that met on the estate known as ‘La Esperanza’, others call it ‘Granada’, located a little further away from ‘El Camino’, and therefore more distant from the sight of the Spaniards. In such a way that this group of men was prepared for whatever contingence, for whatever revolutionary eventuality. That is why it is probable that when the first uprisings broke out in the zone, this group also rebelled or could have revolted without having to wait until the 22nd.   
What happened was that on that date, approximately October 22nd , the forces of Juan Bautista Rondón arrived at that zone. Rondón was a Captain of the rebel army, really Lieutenant Colonel of the Liberation Army, who headed the forces lead by Antonio Maceo. Maceo revolted together with a group of about one hundred men which they called ‘The Section of Majaguabo’. A section mainly comprised of neighbors, families and friends. His friends, cousins, inclusively, uncles on his mother’s side integrated that section. Also his brothers-in-law were part of this section, which became really memorable. Maceo lead this section during some months. His participation in the combat of El Saladillo reveals that Maceo was a man with a tremendous capacity for combat, ‘guerilla combat’ in Cuba. It is told that in the Valenzuela combat, precisely, after Tío Rosado informed Donato Mármol of the impossibility of containing the enemy, as the forces of Valdameda were advancing and that for that reason they retreated, yet Maceo remained firmly with his section and defeated the Spaniards. Since then, I repeat, a history begins which is really surprising of his military career which moved him upward from second lieutenant to General of the Mambí Army.  
 
EUGENE: 
  
Precisely, his great ability and capacity of being a man of war, excellent military and what else can we say. In order to conduct so many men under so difficult conditions like those in which Maceo had to wage struggles as a leader, requires a great spiritual and mental preparation I think. Isn’t that so? What can we say of this aspect of Maceo? Antonio Maceo as an intellectual of social transformations.   
JOEL: 
  
I would rather say Antonio Maceo as a thinker. Unfortunately, the military career of Antonio Maceo, which was so brilliant, overshadowed other sides, other edges of his personality. 
  
EUGENE: 
  
Or is it that those who wrote history emphasized that more? 
  
JOEL: 
  
Yes, of course, I would say the two things. One, there is no doubt that the stardom and brightness of that military career overshadowed other aspects of his life. Because, it is unquestionable that during so many years of his life there were people who only wanted to see this aspect of his life. It is unquestionable that during so many years of publication of books like ‘IDEOLOGÍA POLITICA’ and ‘PAPELES DE MACEO’, which reveal his extraordinary thinking, also the famous work by Gonzalo Cabrales, ‘EPISTOLARIO DEL HEROE’, which reveals, I repeat, a Maceo with a very profound political thinking, then I consider it to be impossible that during such a long time of publication of these works, they have remained practically orphaned of interpretation. They have not caused, I would say, the echo to the national historiography, meaning the consequence they should have caused. They could have promoted a revolution to mainly the biography of Antonio Maceo. A lot could have been clarified with regards to interpretations of many historical occurrences, redundant to say. For example, I am emphasizing, Eugène, what you said. What are the factors that developed in Maceo that extraordinary capacity. Well, I would say as I stated in my essay ‘Maceo heroísmo y sinderesis’, that the history of Maceo is the history of will. It is will, perseverance and patience. He stammered. It is said that all of the Maceos stammered. Now, how could this man overcome stammering? How could he do that to the point that he spoke almost perfectly? Only someone with an iron will could succeed in doing that. Someone with tremendous perseverance, with undisputed patience. The Spanish colonial society designed man to be inferior all the time. Yes, the black man. It was a design to create an inferior and submissive man. At their birth they were inscribed in a separate book. Yes, the blacks were identified in those registration books as ‘negros’, ‘morenos’ y ‘pardos’. When they married they were inscribed in a book other than the whites. When they died they were also registered separately from the whites. The blacks could only follow elementary education. Nowadays that would be equivalent to a fourth grade. A certain Queypo once said that the black man was made by God, of course, to serve white man. In the year 1849 Tomás Pío Betancourt who was the ideologist of Spanish integrismo said the same thing. But, more than that was said by [José Antonio] Saco. We all know well that Saco was an extraordinary man in favor of Cuban autonomy and liberalism. But he was a staunch racist who proposed ‘whitening’ the island. He was an enemy of slave trade, but not in the human sense of it, but because it would “blacken” the island. Or, because it would deteriorate the intelligence of the people of the island. He also upheld the idea that the black person was essentially inferior to the white person. Moreover, Saco said in one of his pronouncements: “the danger of Cuba does not come so much of the crowds of ‘negroes’, but from the ‘pardos’, because they pretend to be equal to the whites”. These racial theories which are plainly racist, which are also the ground of apartheid, were undoubtedly the dominant ideology. It was so significantly bad that Ferrer de Cauto went that far to make a brochure explaining why and how to give manumission to the blacks in the 60’s. This Mister Ferrer de Cauto, we consider him to be a staunch reactionary. We Cubans say he looked for bread with ants, because he was still rejected by all the plantation owners. The Spanish government also dictated a circular around 60’s. They foresaw the influence of the success of the war in Cuba and its influence on the blacks, who would become more rebellious. That made them dictate that circular to remind the blacks they were subordinated to the whites, inferior to the whites and also owed all respect to the whites.   

EUGENE: 
  
That was a black code! 

 
 
  
ANTONIO MACEO: “APOSTLE OF CARIBBEAN UNITY”
   
PROFESSOR TONY VAN DER MEER UMASS BOSTON AND PROUD MACEÍSTA,  RAFAELA SAVIGNON, SHOW RESPECT WITH JOY 


JOEL: 
  
That was a code!! So, in that type of society emerged Antonio Maceo. Therefore, Antonio Maceo was bound to be an inferior man. A ‘pardito’, ‘darkie’. Well, there was more than that. I remember also that there was a Captain General, who was practically expelled from Cuba because he dared call ‘niño’ ‘child’ to the ‘negritos’, ‘blackies’. That means to say that since he did not employ the term ‘negritos’, ‘blackies’ and on the contrary said ‘niños negros ’ ‘black kids’ or ‘niños de color’, ‘kids of color’, he was practically torpedoed by the fundamentalist elements, racist plantation owners, and had to abandon the position of Captain General of Cuba.   

Yet, Maceo succeeded through autodidactism, which is also a sign of will, that is also a sign of perseverance, that is also a sign of extraordinary patience to achieve a very high culture. He reached that by studying different works. He achieved that through constant reading of the press. He achieved that through his relations with very cultured men with whom he always tended to relate to. And that culture which he learned in the best sense of the word, that wealth of thinking of the most noted men, of the bush, inclusively, of those noted men with whom he came in contact with through books, converted him quickly into a cultured man. And, I say quickly, because he acquired that culture, but he always perfected it, broadened it and augmented it. Maceo, therefore, already in the Ten Years War was a man, pay attention to this, who was brilliant, outright brave and really impressive in the military camp. But, this is also a man of high culture. A man of profound and balanced thinking. The natural capacity which Maceo shows to judge things in life and to adopt a conduct which matches with that appreciation of the world surrounding him, that is what we call ‘synthesis’. That means the natural capacity of a human being to make straight judgments, to be able to make judgments in accordance with morals. Because, Maceo is also a man with education, in the sense of possessing very elevated human virtues. Whoever wants to review the workf Maceo, his life, his correspondence, his thinking, will notice that there is always a constant invocation to virtues. There is always an invocation to honor, to honesty. There is always a constant invocation to glory. There is always an invocation to the detachment from personal interest in favor of collective interest. There is invocation to the fatherland and to humanity.   
    
EUGENE: 
  
Maceo, a man of human courage, who also shall I say had the intelligence to invite General Arsenio Martinez Campos toet with him in Baraguá. To show him that the Zanjón Pact could never be the case. Because, there is no independent Cuba without the total and absolute abolition of slavery. It seems to me that when Martí spoke about “more than blacks, more than whites, we are Cubans…”, I sincerely think that he did not speak addressing himself to Antonio.   

JOEL: 
  
Of course not! You made allusion to the Protest of Baraguá. That is a chapter that is not really studied at all in Cuba. 
  
EUGENE: 
  
Precisely, I totally agree. I really agree with you Joel, that is why it is so important to know your opinion on this theme, so that our friends from all over the world could participate in this process of thinking. 
  
JOEL: 
  
Fine, what do we see in the Protest of Baraguá, Eugène? Many in the world tend to believe that this was a suicide act or a manifestation of a group Cubans who were dreamers of an extremely romantic idealism and who decided to sacrifice themselves just to preserve the idea of a cause. There was something like that in it. The Protest of Baraguá was highly altruistic. But, I want to say that above all it was an act of a supreme statesmanship. It was a well thought out movement, very well calculated. Whoever wishes to read the letters of Carlos Bardell Castillo, excuse me, of Martínez Campos to Carlos Bardell Castillo, will notice the really unbearable situation that the Spanish army was having in Cuba. It was totally exhausted. 
  
EUGENE: 
  
The men of the Spanish army were exhausted? 
  
JOEL: 
  
Yes, the finances exhausted, and the soldiers exhausted. It was lacking means of clothing. Martinez Campos confessed to Bardell Castillo that for them to find sweet potatoes, was like finding a needle in the dust. As far as the Cubans were concerned, they were used to this world in which they grew up and found abundant food in the woods of Cuba of that epoch. Spain could not afford the war. Every time of war meant a defeat to them, even without waging one battle, without having one death, without having one casualty. Every day the war lingered on, was really an unbearable burden to the Spanish army and for the metropolitan government in Cuba. Who understood that with tremendous profundity, with tremendous perception? Antonio Maceo! The effort of Maceo was to sustain the war. Directed towards maintaining the war the longest time possible, knowing that Spain could not keep itself standing in Cuba if the war was extended for another six months. The labor he deployed was extraordinary. Still, up to now this labor Maceo deployed is not revealed, neither what he had to do to convince a lot of his followers. There are reports reflecting how he had to convince his escort. How he made himself a victim in front of the escort and said that if they were not in the disposition to following him they should abandon the camp. He would not feel it! The escort responded unanimously, filled with emotions and at the same time outraged by this consideration of Maceo. And they reiterated their fidelity. How he had to convince Pedro Martinez Freyre, who thought like many that the time has come not to make useless efforts and to take refuge in the Zanjón Pact. In honor to the truth it should be also said that Pedro Martinez Freyre was among the last ones who accepted the ‘Peladero Agreement’ which accepted the capitulation after the Protest of Baraguá. How he succeeded in convincing Vicente García, who according to Martinez Campos, already came to terms on peace with the Spanish government in Cuba. Still Maceo attracted him to the protest. He did a similar labor with Gómez, Rafael Rodriguez y Collazo when they came as commissioners to Camagüey. The reason why he did not obtain the same results with them was because they already committed themselves to embracing the Agreement as an outcome of the meeting with the military of the center. Well, what Maceo achieved with that was sufficient to prolong the war. But, thinking always and Maceo himself said it, in convincing a lot of Cubans to return to the battle field, convincing many Cubans in the cities to incorporate themselves into the Liberation Army. He convinced them as he expresses in his letter of 18th of March 1878 to Sanguily and to other leaders in the emigration, that the emigration could give all support in arms, money, expeditions to the group of veteran Mambises, who decided to continue the struggle. That is why we have to consider that the Protest of Baraguá, inclusively, the act on itself of the interview with Martínez Campos, in which the latter discovered which were the real intentions of Maceo, that was to gain time.   

EUGENE: 
  
And he accepted to speak with Maceo. Something he was not obliged to do. 
  
JOEL: 
  
He was not obliged, but more than convincing Maceo he wanted, anyhow, to weaken the men who followed Maceo by offering certain promises to break the monolithic unity of the leaders who followed Maceo. He was not successful in that, apparently. So, this was one of the most extraordinary facts of the history of Cuba. Not only for what is said, but because it threw a bridge between the Ten Years War and later efforts for independence. Not only to save the dignity of the Cubans, who in fact could clean their image before history, since they continued to fight for independence and abolition of slavery, but also for other reasons. For it was a calculation made by a statesman who is a real genius and who could truly materialize his plan to continue the war and obtain victory only by prolonging the war against Spain. This brilliance of Maceo is also part of what we called synthesis. How he can make quick judgments in such a natural manner and in the most correct way. Well, the history of Maceo is full of decisions and appreciations like these. And we can see that during the period of his emigration too. 
  
EUGENE: 
  
Exactly, exactly, what we are understanding is that he was absolutely conscious of the fact that the unity of all Cubans was needed. He thought of Cuba as an independent country, with accomplishment of all principles of social well – being for both descendents of Spaniards and descendents of Africans, as well as, peoples of others ascendancies in Cuba.   

JOEL: 
  
Clearly. 
  
  
EUGENE: 
  
That is why I made that reference to Martí, when he said: “more than blacks, more than whites, we are Cubans”, I insist that he did not address himself to a Maceo. 
  
JOEL: 
  
It was not for Maceo! Look it is really extraordinary. Maceo was a man who stood very high above the races. Strange for that epoch! Because, I want to tell you that men, for example, like, Felix Figueredo, to whom is attributed to be a political instructor or the political tutor of Antonio Maceo, wrote in a letter to his cousin Fernando Figueredo in which he says: “I agree that the negroes be free, but beware of elevating them to the category of ‘masters’, because then inconveniences will follow”. Mind you we are talking of the years 1882 - 1883. If this man in that period, this man who was the intimate friend of Antonio Maceo, in the period after the Ten Years War could have had those racist concepts, what would be of others? And we will encounter the same manifestation in confrontations of Maceo with many cases alike. I recently addressed a conference at the Aula Ernesto Bouche on who, when and why they spoke and made bad judgements of Maceo. The study of this theme resulted to be very interesting. Because, when you face those who had a bad opinion of Maceo, it happens to be that 95 %, not to be absolute, of all that lay to the bottom was sheer racial prejudice. When you read the letters of José de Jesús Pérez, of Matías Vega Alemán to Vicente García, first in the year ’75 on the occasion of the oath taking of Varona you notice that they simply argue racial problems. And, that famous letter of Maceo to the President of the Republic in which he says that he believed that some rumors which were being spread [against him] originated from the side of the enemy and unfortunately he noticed with pain that no, they were coming from his own comrades. He is referring to this phenomenon. These letters and rumors pretended to dismiss him, including as Head of the Division, just for the fact that Maceo was black and they did not admit to have a black chief. Maceo, however, presented himself on June 30th at the camp of Esportono and Tomás Estrada Palma denouncing a conspiracy of black officers of his Division, who wanted to separate and eliminate white officers. This attitude of Maceo, inclusively vindicating Guillermón Moncada as head of this black racist movement, allow us to measure Maceo to be standing totally above racial visions. For Maceo human justice is more essential. This man is surprisingly just. This man is the image of virtue. This man believes in human virtues.   

EUGENE: 
  
We are convinced and persuaded by the greatness of Antonio Maceo. Joel, we have to fight now against time. Let us have a quick look at some questions. I wish to talk on Maceo in relation with the Caribean. We are so proud that when forced to exile he was received by and lived with the peoples of Jamaica, Haití, the Dominican Republic. He even reached Saint Thomas, the Virgin Islands, and other countries like Costa Rica, Panamá, Honduras, etc. What can you tell us of that? 
  
JOEL: 
  
We could say that Maceo is most likely one of the biggest Caribbean leaders of Cuba. That means provided by Cuba. Wherever he visited and lived in the Caribbean he left a trail of admiration. He left an emporium of friendship, and he also left a sign of his great progress. When he settled in Haiti he procured with President Salomon and others, as well as with General José Lamothe. What did he procure? Unity of this country with other republics of similar origin. To prone what? Well – being! Some say to create black republics in opposition to white republics. No!! He was looking for the origin of those republics.   

EUGENE: 
  
It is interesting. They did not say the same things of Simón Bolívar when he went to Haití. He was in Haiti and met with Alexandre Pétion, and Alexandre Pétion helped him a lot, but they never talk about this. 
  
JOEL: 
  
It is certain, entirely certain. I agree with you Eugène. Always when someone like Antonio Maceo, promotes an idea, similar to that promoted by another element not belonging to the so called ‘race of color’, let us call it this way, very badly said...   

EUGENE: 
  
Just go ahead, we have to speak clear! 
  
JOEL: 
  
Clear! Then he is judged more. But, as I told you he was the man who struggled most for the elevation of the black man, without any harm for the other races. There is more, he was the one who most struggled for racial unity in Cuba. Because, one only talks of the unifying merits of Martí. Undoubtedly, Martí was one of the men who stood above the races. Another of these men who stood above pettiness and limitations of human thought. But, Antonio Maceo was also one of these men. He was an ‘Apostle of the unity of the Cuban people.’ 

EUGENE: 
  
Long before Martí, because with the Protest of Baraguá, Martí was not around. 
  
JOEL: 
  
That’s right! Much longer before Martí he also formulated the idea of creating a party to conduct the struggle. On 1st of November of the year 1886 he wrote a letter to José A. Rodriguez, director then of the “Imparcial” of New York. In that letter Maceo not only gives the idea of forming a party, but he also say how that party should be formed, how to structure that party and which should be the principal goals of that party. So, it was not only the sketch of an idea, but it was a delineation of how the party should be that will conduct the struggle of the Cubans. Also in memorable letters to Martí and to a group of revolutionaries who wrote him on December 16th of 1887, he wrote them back two letters of response. Because of illness he did not deal profoundly with the first one. But, in both letter written on January 5th of 1888 and January 15th of 1888 he shows that he is a firm defender of the black element. The first thing he stresses is unity, cordial unity among all Cubans. He also says that there should be no question of one race being subordinated to the other. What happens? At that time they used to say ‘class” and in that epoch ‘class’ meant ‘race’.   

EUGENE: 
  
It seems to me that they used to interconnect the two concepts both in an economic perspective and a cultural, thus, racial perspective. 
  
JOEL: 
  
Yes, but when one goes through the texts one can see that to them ‘class’ was above all ‘race’. Then, what happens? Maceo in this letter defends many things: the republican above the monarchical; the democratic above the dictatorial. Mind you, there is a difference between dictatorship and tyranny.   
We are speaking about a period in which both he and [Máximo] Gómez were accused by many of having dictatorial ideas. He confessed that he had them and that they were necessary to lead the war, but neither to make the revolutionary movement nor for the republic. Maceo was essentially a democratic man, of deep democratic thinking, of liberal thoughts in the best sense of the word. And he reveals it during all that period. In Honduras, which is his political university, he fully shared the ideas of the Honduran reformist movement. Both of Ramon Rosa and of Marco Evelio Soto and afterwards of Elibroa. In Jamaica, as Eugène stated correctly. In Costa Rica. In Honduras also he wanted to form a colony. A colony which would also would provide economic well –being for that region and for Honduras. The Cubans would then be together finding a way how to solve their economic needs and they would be ready for any revolutionary enterprise in Cuba. Precisely, as he did in Costa Rica. The reason why that Cuban colony did not come here much earlier and that its participation was not more decisive in the war is due, precisely, to the fact that Maceo’s project of coming with a larger expedition was not accomplished. And with his eyes on saving economically Martí followed Flor [Crombet] to make an expedition with 2000 pesos, which was a real failure. A failure that could have caused Antonio Maceo’s death, but miraculously his life was saved. Nobody knows how! It could have also brought the death of his brother José, whose life was saved miraculously as everybody knows by jumping down from some high rocks. It brought death to Flor. It could have brought death to Silverio Sanchez and to Agustín Cebreco. They had to feed themselves eating cayajabo, a poisonous fruit. That is how they survived. This is the only part that universal history considers. So, after all this we think that in all the life and in all the biography of Antonio Maceo, there is a permanent struggle for the improvement of the blacks without harm to any other race. In an address to black folks he once said : “I don’t want the black man to accept anything because of the color of his skin, but because of the exercise of his virtues”. He invites the blacks to the apprehension of human virtues and to the exercise of these human virtues. Also in the sense of unity of the Cuban people without distinction of races, as I told you before Eugène, with no harm to the rest of the races, because Maceo always distinguished the whites correctly. In another address to the blacks he said: “unite with the whites”, precisely in these clear terms, “together with them we will gain freedom, independence…”  We are living in an epoch in which despite the fact that the Ten Years War is over in which many Cubans were like Cisneros Correa, Santiagueros and always struggling for the blacks, for the improvement of the blacks, for the concession to the blacks not only of freedom, but of all their civil and political rights, then on the other hand one sees that independently of these men, there existed in that epoch many Cubans and patriots with great merits, who still were racists. I am not going to mention names. Some are known.   

EUGENE: 
  
You can mention some of them, it does not matter. 
  
JOEL: 
  
Maceo himself accuses Calixto García of racism. Ignacio Eve Pérez was also a racist. In 1887 he wrote a letter to [Máximo] Gómez acusing Maceo of one million defects, but the most inconceivable defects. At the end he says something revealing why in essence he was against Maceo. He says: “this man thinks that Cuba is Africa, that he can govern as a king”. That means to say that he cannot admit and it could not go through his head that Maceo could be free in a country like Cuba, or that Maceo a black man, could be free in a land like Cuba. Racism is also present with other men, like Cisneros Betancourt, who do not understand that Maceo too could be free among this people. And he says it frankly I must say in a letter of 1892. Maceo stood for unity of the Caribbean. Among the Cubans Maceo is without a doubt the man who lived the longest time in the Caribbean, but also the one who more loved and struggled for the development and happiness of the Caribbean. Each of the places he visited he saw each of those countries of the Caribbean as his own fatherland. 
  
EUGENE 
  
He felt the peoples of the Caribbean very closely and the people of the Caribbean will always be grateful to Antonio Maceo for his love for them, his visits, and opinions without prejudice to these peoples. Fine Joel we are coming to an end of this dialogue we will continue on another occasion, without any doubt, because there still are many topics to deal with. But, what will be in brief your message to our listening and reading friends from the bottom of your Maceísta heart? 
  
JOEL: 
  
Well, when Maceo died there was wide reaction from the world. I want you to know that one of the most illustrious Cubans who had more repercussionsin the world was Antonio Maceo. But I want to point out one detail. In the United States the blacks started to call their sons Antonio Maceo, name and surname just like that. I want you to know that this man is undoubtedly a source of virtues. That this man is undoubtedly a model, who all humanity, not only the Caribbean, all humanity could have with them to confront the world as it is today, in which spirituality is so much lost. In which material aspirations are converted into human objectives. In which so much struggles are waged for liberty and happiness of the human being. I believe that Maceo is really an example, whom we Caribbean ought to always have with us to go forward. 
  
EUGENE: 
  
Thank you Joel Mourlot Mercaderes, lots of success in your work as a journalist and researcher of the life of Antonio Maceo. That means at the same time the life of Caribbean. 
  
JOEL: 
  
Thanks to you Eugéne for this opportunity. As a flight of a bird we have been able to come closer to this extraordinary figure whom I don’t get tired repeating is one of the greatest men America, the Caribbean and Cuba.   
  
  
EUGENE: 
  
Many many thanks. 
  
Tivoli in SANTIAGO DE CUBA 
  
20 – 4 – 01   
  
FOTOREPORTERS 
  
Front page: Aldo 
Photo Joel Mourlot Mercaderes: Eugène Godfried 
Photo: Antonio Maceo Plaza: Luis Bennett Robinson 
Photo: Antonio Maceo, Professor Tony van der Meer Rafaela Savignon: Eugene Godfried 

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Antonio Maceo, "the Bronze Titan"
Entrepreneur, General
1845-1896

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