This July 12 marks 204 years since the birth of a quintessential Cuban woman, Mariana Grajales Coello, Mother of all Cubans. She is recognized not only as the mother of heroes like Liberation Army Lieutentant General Antonio Maceo y Grajales, but also for establishing an exceptional example of human conduct under adverse conditions in her own home, educating all her children to take the road to freedom for Cuba under the yoke of Spanish colonialism.
She was great for this and much more: the mother of the Maceo and the Homeland.
She devoted her life to Cuba’s struggle for independence, to which she gave her children, with the love of a mother and pride of a patriot, and encouraged her husband to follow them, becoming an uncompromising Mambi patriot.
Cuba’s national hero, José Martí, was impressed by Mariana Grajales, who he met in Jamaica as an older woman, with the same mettle and memory of her youth, writing: “What is it about this woman, what glory and mystery is to found within this humble woman, what sanctity and devotion within the heart of a mother, what decorum and greatness within her simple life, so that when writing of her it is from the depths of the soul, with the serenity of a child and profoundly moved? She endures in history, smiling at the end of her life, surrounded by the sons who fought for their country, raising her grandchildren to fight.”
What good fortune that Martí left these words describing Mariana Grajales for posterity in the newspaper Patria, honoring her after her death in Kingston, Jamaica, November 27, 1893.
All Cubans know, or should know, that this woman was on war footing for ten years of fierce strife, climbing steep mountains, fording rivers, and healing the wounded, walking with bleeding feet through the bush. And above all, insisting that she did not want mourning, but rather a response for the enemy, when a son of hers, or any other Cuban, fell in battle or was shot by the enemy army.
It is well known that one day he said to the youngest of her sons, in the midst of dramatic circumstances that greatly hurt her as a mother: "And you, get going, because it is time you head to the camp!"