THE IMAGE OF CÉSPEDES IN TODAY’S CUBA
by Alberto Bustamante
In 1963, as a medical student in Madrid, I visited for the first time the Alcázar of Toledo, living the moment with emotion while they showed us the telephone that General Moscardó used to say goodbye to his son, who gave up his life to the enemy but did not give up the Spanish people’s fight for liberty, symbolized by that Alcázar. I remember my pride in thinking that in Cuba we had had a similar episode, when Oscar de Céspedes, son of the Father of the Cuban Nation, had been taken prisoner and used by the Spaniards as a hostage to blackmail Céspedes. Céspedes’ response was: “Oscar is not my only son, I am the father of all the Cubans who have died for Cuba”. Oscar’s execution took place June 3, 1870.
We evoke, in the suffering of today’s Cuba, the image of the Father of the Cuban Nation.
We have had to pay a very high price for liberty, but we must understand and accept the designs of God, as that suffering will be our source and energy in the rebirth of the Cuban nation.
Tyranny, far from being the grave of free men, is their very cradle.
Recounting Céspedes’ life, we can appreciate his greatness and his example. From the Céspedes family, his brothers Francisco Javier and Pedro, and his two sons Carlos Manuel and Oscar, went off to war.
Pedro de Céspedes was executed by a firing squad with the 50 freedom fighters captured on the ship Virginius in 1893.
Francisco Javier became a Major General, survived two wars, and was the only brother who lived to see Cuban independence.
Carlos Manuel, his son, survived and moved to the United States, where he continued to serve the Fatherland.
In the same year of 1870, the first son from his second marriage, a child only a few months old whom they had also named Oscar, died of starvation in the jungle.
In his letters to his wife in exile after Oscar’s death, his narrations are heartrending… The present situation of the people of Cuba lives on in his words. He wrote in one of his letters:
“The future appears gloomy, my honor tarnished, my fatherland poor and enslaved. My children with beggar’s hat in hand or on the threshold of prostitution. Nevertheless, everyone cries their hardships to me, to whom shall I cry mine?”
In another letter he wrote to Ana: “It is impossible for you to come to Cuba, where no decent woman can live. Food is reduced to fruits and roots and, from time to time, jutía [a Cuban rodent] or horsemeat, never pork.”
Abandoned, persecuted and hungry, on February 27th, 1874, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes died from a Spanish bullet fired by a Cuban, Brígido Verdecia, who was serving as a volunteer for the Spanish forces, although he was a Cuban by birth!…
His death was the martyr’s coronation to complete his greatness. In the War of 1868-1878, one-third of the population of that time perished. The War of 1895, also left more than 250,000 Cubans dead.
As in the nineteenth century, today the holocaust of a people is being brought about by tyranny, but emulating the Father of the Nation, when he was waiting for an expedition headed by Francisco Vicente Aguilera bringing provisions, we can now declare: “Let rancor and revenge flee far from our hearts”.
In each and every one of those men of the Wars of 1868 and 1895, hate and vengeance never prevailed, and that made possible for the Republic to rise among Cubans and Spaniards.
The Father of the Cuban Nation freed the slaves in 1868, lost his wealth and his family, and gave up his life for the freedom of Cuba. The Tyrant of the Cuban Nation today enslaved his people, destroyed the family, and oppresses its people in poverty and hunger, and now he is trying to drown the Island of Cuba in a sea of blood in order not to give up his power.
In every corner, within and outside of Cuba, we see today how, faced with the imminence of total catastrophe, a feeling of national unity and salvation of the Cuban nation is growing.
Let us be firm now more than ever in our determination for freedom without conditions, in a democracy without limitations and in a nation free of oppressors; and to those who conspire to prolong the agony of our people, we say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!