Political Violence, Liberal Revolution, and
the Martyrdom of Martí, 1904–1906
BETWEEN 1904 AND 1906, Liberal leaders achieved for the first time since the 1895 War a massive, cross-class, cross-racial alliance among popular and revolutionary nationalist sectors. To do so, they revived the flexible, discursive style and paternalistic political practice that had proved so effective during the 1895 War. As the 1906 Constitutional Revolution illustrates, revolutionary nationalist leaders of the Liberal Party consistently refused to trust their popular nationalist followers, from the political “rank and file” to midlevel reformists. These reformists formed a marginal political elite comprised of black leaders such as Quintín Banderas and other veterans-turned-labor-and-race-activists such as Evaristo Estenoz whose commitment to social change was more radical than that of revolutionary nationalist Liberals. These Liberals counted on the allegiance of this marginal elite to secure a broad, popular-class constituency for the emerging apparatus of the Liberals’ armed revolt against Tomás Estrada Palma’s regime. Once the victory of the 1906 Revolution was at hand, though, Liberal leaders came to fear the revolutionary potential of the popular classes and the marginal elites who had mobilized them. The result, in many ways reminiscent of events in 1898, was a second U.S. intervention and another fragmentation of alliances that had been forged along the road to armed revolt.
Largely unexplored by historians of Cuba, the two-year period of political repression on which this chapter focuses represented the first cycle of state violence, revolution, and foreign intervention that would repeat itself throughout the course of modern Cuban history in the twentieth century. Keeping this in mind, it is easy to see the propensity to violence as a solution and harbinger for change manifested in the First Republic. Here, violence began not only to take new forms but also to touch new groups of people. Previously, many of these