HAVANA._ In times when relations between Cuba and the United States are thawing from a long freezing process, not many on both sides of the Florida Strait know the surprising story that joined the then Spanish ‘posession’ with the struggle of the 13 North American colonies for its Independence.
Historic documents confirm that in the second half of the 18th Century insurgent militias had rebelled against the British crown in the war that extended from 1775 to 1783, commanded by George Washington.
The storming and occupation of Havana by the British in August, 1762 had a strong impact on the development of those links and although the redcoats left the city 11 months later, it paved the way for Spanish and creoles to support the claim for independence of the North American colonies.
In exchange for the strategic Cuban city that was given back to the Spanish, main enclave for communication between the Hispanic America and Europe, the pact signed at the end of the Seven-Year War, gave Florida to Great Britain. As compensation, France gave up the Louisiana region to Spain, which since then was controlled, managed, both militarily and in terms of trading operations by Havana.
In the essay titled “Cuba and the Independence of the United States: a forgotten aid”, doctor Eduardo Torres-Cuevas, director of the National Library of Cuba, referred to these events. During the almost 240 years of Independence of the United States, “the role played by the Cuban colony in the liberation of that nation began to fade until falling into oblivion”, affirmed the historian.
Those North American scholars who with objectivity and a wide span of analysis have approached the sizeable existing documents on the subject, were forced to admit that the Spanish contribution as well as the Cuban contribution was decisive to achieve US independence.
Of course, speaking of omissions, it would be necessary to admit that Cuban historiography, immersed in other problems it judged to be vital, did not give enough importance to such transcendent facts.
The financial and commercial supplies of clothing, food, arms and medicines, as well as the military group that covered the Caribbean, the Antillean coast of the North American sub-continent and all the wide strip of the Mississippi Banks that had its nucleus in Havana, present a much wider and decisive contribution.
The author remembers that in the yet obscure end of the 18th Century, amid the conflict of the empires, a bilateral relation was born between two peoples: the Cuban and that of North America.
To ignore the conditions in which that relation appeared and the conception that implied the theory of the Destiny Manifest, has probably thrown a shadow on the original characteristics of a troubled, yet unavoidable link.
According to the website mcn. biographies.com, Cuba played an important role in the fight between Spain and Great Britain. To this end, two Spanish generals born in America were selected to lead operations from Havana: the generals appointed were Bernardo Galvez and Gallardo, born in Mexico and Cuban Jose Manuel Cajigal, born in El Caney, Santiago de Cuba.
Havana dwellers, through public collection, gathered one million 800 pesos of eight reales, delivered personally by Galvez and Cajigal to the French general Rochambeau, giving him the possibility to resume his campaign when he was heading south, together with Washington (at Yorktown, Virginia) against the British forces.
Almost a century after that, the aid was reverted, when Americans traveled to Cuba with weapons, ammunition and men to fight for Cuban Independence from Spanish colonial rule. Major General Thomas Jordan, of Virginia, arrived in Cuba on 1869 as commander of the Perritexpedition. He soon became Chief of the General Staff.
Officers of Lincoln´s Union Army during the Civil War also came to fight for Cuban independence, as did Polish Charles RoloffMialofsky, who got to be Major General of the Liberating Army and fought for Cuban Independence for almost 30 years.
Henry M. Reeve, of Brooklyn, New York, legendary hero for Cuban patriots and one of the most admired and loved officers, died in combat in 1876, as Brigadier General.
Nine Americans fought as Mambi colonels, of which five died in combat.
Two Americans obtained the degree of lieutenant colonels; eight were commanders, 17 captains and eight lieutenants. Another 83 of those who fought reached different ranks.
When the fighters for Independence had almost won the war against Spain, there came an unsolicited aid, the “rough riders” of Theodore Roosevelt – US President. After the armistice in 1898, Spanish colonial rule left its previous colony in U.S. hands.
On April 19, 1898, the Congress of the Union approved the Joint Resolution in which the first article says, “the people of the island of Cuba is, and should be, free and independent”. What happened after was all the opposite.
Four years of military occupation and a neocolonial republic in which the government of the United States, protected by the Platt Amendment, assumed the right to intervention, every time it considered its interests in danger.
As former U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Earl T. Smith said in 1959: “until Castro, the United States were so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the U.S. ambassador was the second most important man on the island, sometimes more important than the Cuban president”.
THAW IN THE MAKING
At present, President Barack Obama, is taking distance from the failures of 10 administrations, in the policy toward the island, ¨that cannot be hostage to the previous U.S. policy“.On July 1, Obama announced the opening of both embassies in the two capitals, action he described as a “historic step forward in the way to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people.”
He acknowledged ¨the policy of isolation failed”. In that attempt to isolate Cuba, he said, “we became isolated from our neighbors in Latin America.“ Obama´s assertion was ratified the following day by Wayne Smith, who helped close the US embassy in Havana in 1961.
¨We have followed that policy, year after year. Oh, blessed God! That did not isolate Cuba, on the contrary it isolated us”, said Smith sitting at his desk in Washington.Share on FB Share on TT