It would be complicated, impossible perhaps, to refer to the history of Cuba without mentioning and stopping in the name of Máximo Gómez. He was not born in the Greater Antilles, but are more children of a land those who germinate in it than those who arrive and give everything of themselves?
The great irony of fate lies in the fact that a man who brandished weapons against the independence of his country – the Dominican Republic – ends up facing a nation alien to the same colonialism that, years ago, supported and passed into the pages of history as the last liberator from America.
In the face of such dichotomies, it is necessary to try to know the essences of the man in question. In the text Cuba: The Fascinating Island, Juan Bosch gets a bit closer to the personalities of the figure of the Generalissimo:
“Gomez was born with the genius of war. He was hard in the deal, sparing in speaking, short-sighted, regular in stature, short-tempered, haughty, and quick to think and of a safe and prudent value. No one had access to their privacy. Banished in Cuba, he began to feel the nostalgia of the homeland that he had not learned to love, and little by little he was putting on the Cuban soil the quiet and strong passion that he would have been capable of for his own (…) ”
Gómez arrived banished to Cuban lands in 1865, three years before the first libertarian deed in the archipelago began. The actions he led in the young Liberation Army quickly earned him a place of respect within it. The most remembered of those first feats was that of October 26, 1868, when a group of mambises assaulted the enemy squadron using the machete as a fundamental weapon.
The prestige of Máximo Gómez as a military strategist did not avail him to avoid deeply rooted evils in nineteenth-century Cubans, such as regionalism. Certain parts of the island did not allow them to be commanded by a chief of another region, much less a foreigner.
During the interwar period it remained linked to the constant Cuban independence plans. From the outside of the country, he maintained contact with figures such as Antonio Maceo and José Martí, together with whom he conspired for the definitive anticolonial deed.
The personality of a royal soldier, a general of barefoot troops armed with a machete, was combined in a poetic way with that of the sensitive man who was capable of suffering because of what he saw in the war process. The human miseries fell deep in “El Viejo”. “(…) That execrable Spanish hacks her to pieces with his machete brother José María, an eleven-year-old boy.
“The debt that Spain has contracted with Cuba is tremendous, because like this there are thousands of infamous and bloody episodes, which will record its war of independence. Hence, the Revolution, the War, “he said in his campaign diary.
His dismay was also evident in the loss of José Martí in combat: “The troop was harangued and Marti spoke with true ardor and a warrior spirit; ignoring that the enemy was marching on my trail and that misfortune was preparing us and for Martí, the greatest misfortune. (…)
“This sensitive loss of friend, companion and patriot; the laziness and little enthusiasm of the people, all this overwhelmed my spirit to such a term, that leaving some shooters on an enemy that surely could not defeat, I retired with a saddened soul.
“What a war this is! I thought about the night; that next to an instant of slight pleasure, another one of bitter pain appears. We already lack the best of the companions and the soul we can say of the uprising! …
” To remember Máximo Gómez Báez is to think about the styles of war he brought with him from the Dominican Republic. The war of attrition, the art of seeing in the summer months and the terrain their best allies, the ability to overwhelm psychologically a much superior enemy in terms of preparation, discipline and provisioning, the sagacity to do more with less, must score among the merits of the Generalissimo.
Deep regret sheltered the soul of Gómez before the final outcome of the armed campaign. Not even seeing the “panchos” go away comforted the disappointment of the one who fought his whole life for a stolen goal, just at the moment of reaching it.Thus he expressed in his diary:
“Peace has been signed, it is true, but it is also a pity, that the men of the North, for a long time indifferent, contemplated the murder of a people; noble, heroic, rich. Finally, Cuba is free and it is up to history to judge everyone (…)
“They have gone sad and we are sad; because a foreign power has replaced them. I dreamed of peace with Spain, I hoped to dismiss the brave Spanish soldiers with respect, with whom we are always face to face on the battlefields; but the word, Peace and Freedom, should inspire nothing but love and fraternity, on the morning of concord among the fierce combatants of the day before. But the Americans have embittered with their tutelage imposed by force, the joy of the victorious Cubans; and they did not know how to sweeten the punishment of the vanquished.
” Sad, in an occupied country, ended his days “The Old Man”.