Biography of Antonio Maceo Grajales (1845-1896)

Cuban independence leader, born in Santiago de Cuba on June 14, 1845 and died on December 7, 1896 in Punta Brava. One of the main leaders of the war of Cuban independence, was no doubt the highlight from the military point of view for his victories against the Spaniards. Along with José Martí, is considered one of the national heroes of Cuba.

Belonging to a humble family, his father, Marcos Maceo, was an immigrant hails from Venezuela; his mother, Mariana Grajales, was Cuban of Dominican origin. His childhood and his youth passed in Santiago of Cuba and its surroundings, where, among other trades, was caretaker of horses. In 1868 he married María Cabrales, and a few months later, joined the insurgent movement having Carlos Manuel Céspedes to proclaim the independence of Cuba in the famous "cry of Yara". On October 25, 1868 he joined, along with his brothers José and fair, a group of rebels commanded by Juan Bautista Rondón in the finca La Delicia, where then his father and other male members of the family Maceo would follow him.

It soon became famous among troops mambises for its value and its qualities as a strategist. On January 26, 1869 he was appointed commander and, the following year, became second of Máximo Gómez, leading military movement. In 1872, when he was the rank of Colonel, he was appointed general of division. Later he fought in the campaigns of Camaguey and was Chief of the military region of the East. He was wounded several times in combat, which increased his prestige among the revolutionaries, who began to call him the "bronze titan". However, some white nationalist leaders were wary of its growing influence, since they feared the black sector to take the reins of the independence movement.

Once Tomás Estrada Palma (President of the Republic in arms) and the Spanish general Arsenio Martínez Campos signed in 1878 the peace of Zanjón, which ended the first war of independence or the ten years war, Maceo was put at the head of the pro-independence sector that refused to assume the peace agreements, on the grounds that they did not conform to its essential objectivesi.e., the total independence of Cuba and the immediate abolition of slavery. After interview with Martínez Campos in Baragua to try to reach an agreement, Maceo took the path of exile, as well as other many freedom fighters. It made first landfall in Jamaica, to pass in 1879 to Haiti and Santo Domingo, from where departed again for Cuba to join the insurrection by Calixto García and Guillermo Moncada. The insurrectionary attempt - known as tiny war - failed and Maceo had to return to Jamaica.

He later settled in Honduras, where he became Commander of the Honduran military Tegucigalpa, Omoa and Puerto Cortes. In 1883, the fall of his protector, the Honduran President Marco Aurelio Soto, forced to go to the United States. The following year, Maceo met in New York with José Martí, who sought to unite nationalist groups to organize a mass movement that ended with the Spanish rule in Cuba. Since then, Maceo was given to an arduous campaign to raise funds in order to undertake a new insurrection. Finally, the exiles managed to launch an expedition - known as fernandina - to invade Cuba from three different fronts. However, his troops were quickly defeated. Maceo was then temporarily established in Panama, where he worked on the works of the Canal and running a small business. In February 1890 clandestinely visited Santiago de Cuba, to then go to Jamaica and, from there, to Costa Rica, where there was an important Cuban colony.

Maceo mobilized their compatriots in Nicoya (Costa Rica) to organize the exploitation of an agricultural colony, to which he gave the name of La Mansion. In it they cultivated tobacco, cane sugar, cotton, cocoa and coffee, on a cooperative basis. In Costa Rica, Maceo returned to meet with José Martí, who was trying to coordinate the forces of the various pro-independence leaders in exile (Calixto García in New York, Máximo Gómez in Santo Domingo) to launch a new uprising. It was agreed that Marti, from New York, would designate the precise moment in which Maceo break to Cuba to start the attack. On February 24, 1895 broke out the first pro-independence riots on the island and, a month later, Maceo went back to their homeland. Along with other twenty-five men, left Puerto Limon in an English steamer that the captain of the boat landed them in Baracoa on April 1, after a serious dispute with the crew that was killed. Nothing but dry land, the rebels suffered the attack of a Spanish detachment in the vicinity of Duaras, forcing them to retreat to knives Quibijan. The 11th came to Cuba Martí and Gómez, who met with Maceo the 5th of the following month on the farm La Mejorana to organize politically and to establish a plan of campaign. This basically consisted of conquering East to then invade the western part of the island through the trail or line between Jucaro and Moron. Already at this meeting were revealed important differences that separated to Maceo and Marti. This wanted to reduce the power of the generals to establish a civilian Government that was put in front of the insurrectional movement, which resisted Maceo.

The uprising suffered a setback to dying Martí on May 19 in a clash with Spanish troops in Dos Ríos. On 19 September, Gomez and Maceo met in Jimaguaya. Maceo received the command of the operations in the West and both leaders agreed to appoint President of the Republic in arms to Salvador Cisneros and promulgated a provisional Constitution, which was drafted in this same meeting. On 22 October, Maceo started in the sleeves of Baragua a March that would take you from one end to another of the island, in a westerly direction. On January 22, 1896 arrived with his men to the town of Mantua, in the Western Province of Pinar del Rio, after traveling throughout the island in three months, with an army improvised and poorly armed, thickened along the way by a multitude of Patriots. Maceo troops were harassed relentlessly by the Spaniards during their advance, but after making a false retreat manoeuvre, Maceo got disorganize the Spanish Defense and penetrate in the West. The success of the insurrection, which already extended around the country, forced the replacement of the Governor Martínez Campos by general Valeriano Weyler, who undertook a tough crackdown on the nationalist movement. Weyler managed to stem the advance of Maceo and Gomez in the Western provinces through a continuous attack of cavalry forces, which managed to keep separate the two bodies of the insurgent army. Maceo ventured in Pinar del Rio province, while Gomez was receding to Camagüey. Weyler directed the bulk of his army against the first, trying to reject him East.

Harassed relentlessly, Maceo had to continuously fight a withdrawal, but tried to rejoin the forces of Gómez close to Havana. On December 4, 1896 he spend in a boat the trail from Mariel-Majana, garnished by 12,000 Spaniards, to go with a small group of men in the province of Havana, where he suffered a series of setbacks against the Spaniards, far superior in number. In front of about two thousand men, moved to Punta Brava, in a new attempt to meet with Gomez. On the evening of December 7, his camp was attacked by surprise by a column of 480 Spanish soldiers led by Commander Francisco Cirujeda. After several hours of fighting, the Spaniards succeeded in gaining positions and Cirujeda launched a frontal attack against the center of the Cuban forces, where Maceo and his staff were. Maceo was hit by two bullet impacts causing instant death. Many Cuban officials were injured or dead, but insurgents managed to recover the body of Maceo and retire. His disappearance meant a hard blow to the Cuban independence movement, but the rebellion continued in command of Gómez.

See San Pedro de Abanto, action (1896).


DIEGO, e. of.: 1895: war in Cuba and the Spain of the restoration. Madrid. 1996.

MACEO, a.: Antonio Maceo, political ideology, letters and other documents. La Habana. 1950-1952.

MARQUINA, r.: Antonio Maceo, eponymous hero. La Habana. 1947.

PORTUONDO's Meadow, f.: history of Cuba. La Habana. 1965 vol. 1.