Cubans celebrated Wednesday 150 years since the beginning of the wars for independence, which many argue were successful only when the Cuban Revolution ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
The first uprising against Spanish colonial rule, led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the “father of the homeland” was on October 10, 1868.
In an official event in Bayamo, Cuba, President Miguel Diaz-Canel highlighted the importance of unity for the revolutionary process in the island.
“The revolution is the same and the challenges are also the same, Only one salvation: unity,” Diaz-Canel said during his speech.
The morning of October 10, 1868, Cespedes declared Cuba’s independence and drafted a new Constitution that enshrined the abolition of slavery and Cuba’s sovereignty. Shortly after Spanish forces were taken to Cuba to quash the rebellion. They temporarily succeeded 10 years after, when they held peace negotiations and Spain granted Cubans some concessions like allowing them to establish commerce with other powers.
Diaz-Canel also stressed that Cubans are heirs to the legacy of independence of heroes like Jose Marti, Antonio Maceo, Fidel Castro, and others who fought for the Cuban independence.
Marti and Maceo, who inspired the Cuban Revolution of the late 1950s, led a second attempt to gain independence in 1895.
With intervention from the United States for its own self-serving reasons, Cuban rebels defeated Spain in 1898 only to find themselves languishing under U.S. occupation.
In 1902, the U.S. gave Cuba its “independence” but only symbolically: it reserved the right, through the Platt Amendment, to intervene in Cuban affairs to protect its interests.
Cuban economic and political independence from the U.S. was not obtained until the guerrilla movement successfully took power with the support of the majority of the Cuban people who welcomed them to Havana on January 1, 1959.
A century and a half has passed since the cry for Cuban independence. It was the year 1868, and there was something new in the air at the La Demajagua sugar mill, where the atmosphere could be cut with a machete, the same tool that from October 10 became a symbol of struggle, and of liberty.
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, already alerted by a family friend that Spanish troops were heading to his farm to arrest him for his desire to be free or martyred, summoned all those who could hear him, all those who could identify with his vision of a new Cuba, for all Cubans.
To arrive to this historic, sacred site of the homeland today, to see that part of its sugar mill remains, that its bell continues to toll for independence, and watch the flags flutter in the wind, transports you back in time.
The good state of conservation of Céspedes’ house, now a museum, makes it a must see for all Cubans, to renew our commitment to our free homeland.