The Myth of José Martí: Conflicting Nationalisms in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba

By Lillian Guerra | Go to book overview

TWO
Revolutionizing Cuba Libre, Civilizing
the Manigua, 1895–1898

ON THE AFTERNOON OF May 19, 1895, a column of Spanish soldiers under the command of José Ximénez de Sandoval approached the Cuban rebel camp near Dos Rios, Oriente. Earlier that day, General-in-Chief Máximo Gómez had ordered José Martí to remain in the rear flank of his troops.1 Stubborn as always, Martí defied Gómez’s orders. Venturing forth with only Colonel Angel de la Guardia at his side (a name ironically meaning “Guardian Angel”), he quickly paid the ultimate price. In his first encounter with the enemy, Major General and President of the Republic-in-Arms José Martí fell from his horse, mortally wounded under a hail of enemy gunfire. Exultant Spanish forces recovered the body and carried it on horseback to the town of Remanganaguas, where they buried it in a common grave, depriving Martí of even a simple coffin. Wishing to exploit their victory to the fullest, Spanish authorities in Havana commanded Ximénez de Sandoval to exhume the body and bring it to Santiago de Cuba where he should preside over a proper Christian burial.2

Months later, Gómez recalled these events with remorse, pain, and guilt. To him, Martí had died “so prematurely and so without glory.” That February, Gómez had traveled to Santo Domingo with Martí and Enrique Collazo, a veteran of the Ten Years’ Warand, until recently, Martí ‘s foremost critic. The cooperation of the three leaders was symbolic of the state of social unity they had called on patriots to achieve. Convinced that the cause of the Revolution would be better served with Martí at the helm of the PRC in New York, Gómez had persuaded Martí to abandon his plan to join rebels in the field. But just six days prior to Gómez’s embarkation for the island and Martí ‘s scheduled departure for New York, a copy of the PRC organ Patria arrived at Gómez’s home. Weeks ahead of schedule, Patria announced that Martí ‘s party had already made land

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