Throughout history, there have been many attempts to rescue writings, documents and works referring to Antonio Maceo, one of the most important historical figures in Cuba.
The Bronze Titan, as he is also known, stood out as a military strategist and leader of the island’s independence wars, but also left a vast number of documents that are of great importance, not only to the history of Cuba but also that of Ibero-America.
Since 2015, the Cuban Institute of History (IHC) has been undertaking a highly ambitious project that aims to compile and publish the complete works of Antonio Maceo and Máximo Gómez. Various Cuban scientific and educational institutions, information centers, archives and libraries, as well as specialists and colleagues from other parts of the world, are working toward this comprehensive goal.
“We can refer to the year 1922, when Gonzalo Cabrales, the nephew of Maceo’s wife, published his epistolary of heroes; cite the works of prominent Cuban historians such as José Antonio Portuondo and Emeterio Santovenia. We can also mention the research and compilation of Havana City Historian, Emilio Roig, both from the City Historian's Office and the Cuban Society for International History Studies. However, there are still many unpublished documents,” explains Dr. Yoel Cordoví Núñez, IHC vice president.
Unlike other attempts that did not materialize due to the lack of funds or collaborative partners, today recognized specialists and institutions inside and outside the country have contributed to enriching the project with texts that recall Maceo’s travels through Latin America.
“For example, in Santiago de Cuba we have the University of Oriente and the Antonio Maceo Studies Center. There, we have authors of recognized works that cover a whole series of profiles and themes linked to his figure. Together with them we have colleagues, friends, diplomats, from Honduras, Puerto Rico and the United States, who have also contributed,” Dr. Cordoví adds.
BEYOND THE MILITARY STRATEGIST
In addition to the large volume of 900 texts complied so far, during the process more than a hundred unpublished letters linked to Antonio Maceo, and that go beyond his military career, have been found.
“We have discovered a Latin Americanist, Antillanist, anti-imperialist Maceo, which does not mean that these are different Maceos, but that it is the conception of the man as a whole. We process everything that we access, and it offers us other visions of this exceptional man,” the IHC vice president notes.
Texts written by Maceo in Honduras stand out among the new documentation. At the time, the country was led by Marco Aurelio Soto, and undergoing a process of liberal reform, in which many Cubans were involved. According to Dr. Cordoví, thanks to the Cuban researcher and journalist José Luciano Franco, there already existed significant amounts of information related to the presence of Maceo as Major General in Honduras.
“The interesting thing about this documentation is that it includes or provides a different perspective. We see a Maceo interested in his cultural development, a man who attends the theater, literary gatherings and evenings. It is a more encompassing, more integral dimension to a person who, on the one hand, is immersed in a revolutionary transformative project such as the struggle for Cuba’s independence.
“Although Maceo is far from Cuba, we can see in these texts how he is always aware of the possible preparations to resume the struggle. But that at the same time he is immersed in the daily life of a republic in constant transformation, which is making its mark on him. All that personal life that enriches the revolutionary, from the cultural point of view, is in this documentation,” Cordoví explains.
Other documents have come from Costa Rica, in which Maceo’s alliance with the revolutionary process in Latin America can also be appreciated. In this case, key texts on the relaunching of the Gran Colombia project were found, which relate to both Antonio Maceo and Eloy Alfaro, president of Ecuador between 1897-1901 and 1906-1911.
“All this new information allows us to delve into Maceo’s personality from a much broader perspective, where the revolutionary element is not just limited to Cuba, but Cuba within a Latin American context that provides the notion of that rigor and integrality within Maceo’s thought,” Dr. Cordoví adds.
In Cuba there is a strong tradition of very good historical document compilers. We can refer, for example, to Dr. Hortensia Pichardo, with her documents on the history of Cuba. And also to a whole series of historians who, linked to the study of great personalities and wars, published compilations that today are used across different levels of the country's education system and accessible to anyone who wants to consult them.
“This is one of the important points of this work. Publications of this kind facilitate scholars of Cuban history and, in particular, of Maceo’s political and revolutionary work, on offering a finished product that brings together a wealth of information that would otherwise be dispersed in vaults, archives and libraries, both inside and outside the country,” the ICH vice president emphasizes.
When referring to Cuba’s independence struggles, it is difficult to find a battle or military action that is not associated with the name of Maceo. However, his character is not only explained based on this military career, but on the ethical and political bases that can only be found in such documents.
“To the extent that we can learn in depth about that thought, both in the military and political-ethical senses, we will be in better conditions – researchers, teachers, students – to offer a much more pluralistic approach to the life of Antonio Maceo and a fairly broad perspective on the thought of the broadest groups, sectors and strata of society regarding war and revolution.
“It is a task for the teacher, the pedagogue and anyone who wants to have a product of this magnitude. It is also important for political work, because we are talking about founding men in the history of the Revolution and Maceo is an inherent part of that legacy,” Dr. Yoel Cordoví Núñez concludes.
Although this is still an ongoing project, the Cuban Institute of History is already preparing the first volume of the many books that will be published on Maceo. This will bring together the correspondence between Antonio Maceo and General Máximo Gómez, Dominican by birth and Cuban by heart, as Martí described him. Once more, the pages of Cuban history expand, this time with the texts of General Antonio Maceo.