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Cuba - Second War for Independence - 1895-1902

Working for independence from early adolescence, José Martí Pérez, (born in Havana, 1853) suffered imprisonment and deportation during the Ten Years War. From his work with later conspiracies and revolutionary movements, he realized that the Cuban Revolution had to have new organizational and programmatic foundations. To this task, he devoted his work and his whole life. Marti's pilgrimage through the Americas in the 1880s and early 1890s helped to unite and organize the Cubans, and with Gomez and Maceo he worked tirelessly toward the realization of Cuban independence. So well had they organized the anti-Spanish forces that their order for the uprising on February 24, 1895, assured the ultimate expulsion of Spain from the island. The war, however, was not the quick and decisive struggle that Marti had sought. It took his life on May 19, 1895, dragged on for three more years, and eventually prompted the United States intervention (1899-1902) that he had feared.

Gifted with exquisite poetic sensibility and being a terrific and bright speaker, Martí also possessed a tremendous foresight and a profound political thought, enriched by the experience of the years he lived in Spain, the United States and other Latin American countries. All his work for the union of the Cuban revolutionaries, mainly among the Cuban emigrates in the United Sates, had an important repercussion in Cuba, and became a reality in 1892, when the Cuban Revolutionary Party was founded.

Conceived as the only and unique organization of all the Cubans in favor of independence, the Party had to find the means, both material and human, for the new liberation endeavor. At the same time, it should grant the military chiefs the indispensable political authority to carry out the "necessary war."

Jose Marti realized very early that independence from Spain was the only solution for Cuba and that this could only be achieved through a quick war that would at the same time prevent United States intervention in Cuba. His fear of a military dictatorship after independence led in 1884 to a break with Maximo Gomez and Antonio Maceo, who were at the time engaged in conspiratorial activities. He withdrew from the movement temporarily, but by 1887 the three men were working together, with Marti assuming political leadership. In 1892 he formed the Cuban Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Cubano-PRC) in the United States and directed his efforts toward organizing a new war against Spain.

The war started on February 24, 1895. Martí landed in Cuba with Máximo Gómez, General in Chief of the Liberation Army, and shortly after was killed in combat at Dos Ríos. After Marti's death, the leadership of the war fell to Gomez and Maceo, who were now ready to implement their plan to invade the western provinces. In repeated attacks, they undermined and defeated the Spanish troops and carried the war to the sugar heart of the island.

Though Martí's death was a terrible loss for the Revolution, the revolutionary movement became stronger and stronger in the province of Oriente, where Maceo - who had come in an expedition from Costa Rica - had taken command of the mambí troops. Systematically, Maceo extended the actions to the provinces of Camagüey and Las Villas. Delegates of the Liberation Army met in Jimaguayú to draft the constitution that would rule the destiny of the Republic in Arms. The Assembly elected Salvador Cisneros Betancourt, a patrician from Camagüey, for the Presidential post, and appointed Máximo Gómez General in Chief of the Liberation Army. And Maceo was appointed as Lieutenant General. Shortly after, Maceo would set out from Baraguá commanding a column that would carry out the invasion to the Western regions together with the forces under the command of Máximo Gómez, who was waiting for Maceo in Las Villas.

After the victories at Mal Tiempo, Coliseo and Calimete, the invading troops entered in the province of La Habana panicking the colonial authorities in the capital. Maceo's troops arrived in Mantua, the most Western town in Havana. The invasion had met its objectives: the war was making devastating effects in the whole territory, whose main productions dropped dramatically. This time, Spain was prevented from taking out from the Island the necessary resources to fight for her own independence.

From January to March of 1896, Maceo waged a bitter but successful campaign against larger Spanish forces in the provinces of Pinar del Rio and La Habana. By mid-1896 the Spanish troops were in retreat, and the Cubans seemed victorious throughout the island. Then came a change in the Spanish command: the more conciliatory Marshal Arsenio Martinez Campos was replaced by General Valeriano Weyler, a tough and harsh disciplinarian. To face generalized insurgency, the metropolis appointed Valeriano Weyler General Captain (Governor). Weyler arrived in Cuba with numerous refreshment troops to support his campaign and unleashed a bloody war of extermination.

In spite of the high cost this type of war represented - above all because of the reconcentration of the peasant population in towns and cities - Weyler was unable to stop insurgency, and the victories of the Cuban troops. Gómez's campaign in Havana, and Maceo's in Pinar del Río would keep the colonial army in a stress. Although the rebel forces also faced difficulties, they would receive with some regularity supplies sent by the Cuban emigrants in the United States and by the Cuban Revolutionary Party. This, together with the armament captured from the enemy would enable the Cuban Liberation Army to maintain its operational capabilities.

Weyler's policy of concentrating the rural population in garrisoned towns and increasing the number of Spanish troops allowed the Spaniards to regain the initiative after Maceo's death on December 7, 1896, in the battle of San Pedro - a minor battle. Yet they were unable to defeat the Cuban rebels or even to engage them in a major battle. G6mez retreated to the eastern provinces and from there carried on guerrilla operations. He rejected any compromise with Spain. In January 1898, when the Spanish monarchy introduced a plan that would have made Cuba a self-governing province within the Spanish empire, G6mez categorically opposed the plan.

In December 1896, after Maceo was killed, General Calixto García, another brilliant army leader from the time of the Ten Years War was appointed as 2nd Lieutenant and Assistant to the General in Chief of the Liberation Army. At this time, Gómez decided to concentrate against himself, as much as possible, Spanish elite troops and submitted them to a demolishing campaign in the central region of the Island. In this way, he left García free to fight important battles in Oriente and to take important and well fortified places in Las Tunas and Guisa. At the same time, in the Western side of the Island, the Liberation Army is fighting continuous small and medium size actions. The fate of Spanish colonial regime was cast.

The development of the Cuban Revolution, which had been gaining more and more sympathy from the American people, making the US government to take the decision of involving in the conflict in a manner favorable to American interests. Yielding in part to US pressures, Spain hands over grants autonomy to the Cubans, but the step was taken to late to have the desired effect. Then in February 1898 the US battleship Maine exploded in Havana harbor, an event Washington would use as a pretext to mobilize public opinion and involve directly in the war.

Formally admitting Cuban independence, but not recognizing its institutions, the United Sates entered in war against Spain and, with the cooperation and help of the rebel troops American troops landed in Cuba through the South coast of the Eastern region. Actions will take place in the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba. The Spanish fleet was trapped in the port of Santiago de Cuba, and on trying to sail to the open sea is annihilated by the superiority of the American naval forces. After the assault against the city defenses by Cuban-American troops, the Spanish command has no choice but to surrender. An important event then took place: Cuban troops, commanded by Calixto García were forbidden to enter the city. Several months after that, according to the Paris Treaty, Spain transferred Cuba to the control of the United States without taking into account the institutions established by the Cuban people.


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Page last modified: 31-03-2013 19:26:07 ZULU