It seems that violence was predestined to take root in Cuba. It arrived with the conquerors, took its first victims among the Aborigines, became its most bloody in the mistreatment of slaves and the resulting uprisings, was present in the devastating attacks of corsairs and pirates to our shores, in banditry that hit our fields, in multiple conspiracies and during the independence wars of the nineteenth century.
At the inauguration of the Republic, although still “under the protection” of another, but with its own government and constitution, it could be thought that those events, those mixtures of ignorance and cruelty, were a thing of the past. However, in August 1906, just at the end of the first presidential term, the Cubans in power denied to Cubans the ability to reclaim power, all armed with the worst of the nineteenth century utilitarian ethics and unable to settle national affairs in civilized ways, and staged one of the most ridiculous and painful pages of our history.
Don Tomás Estrada Palma, despite his honesty in handling public finances, decided together with his closest followers to reelect himself for a second term. The response of those waiting their turn to move into power, the insurgency, was christened the little war of August. An uprising, that took hold in Pinar del Rio, Havana and Las Villas, sparked an anti-governmental response: the seeking of the intervention of the United States.
The difference of this second U.S. intervention is that this time it came at the request of the Cubans. It was Don Thomas himself who asked the U.S. government to send two warships, one to Havana, another to Cienfuegos, and two or three thousand men. “Me or no one!” he said, which could be translated as “Me first, then the Republic”, a stubborn dilemma assumed in our history before and after these events. The first result was the needless loss of lives, including the veteran of three wars of independence, General Quintin Banderas, who was viciously murdered by other Cubans, which his enemies could not achieve before during 30 years of wars.
Estrada Palma’s refusal to discuss and negotiate the conflict with his opponents is proof of the inability of our leaders to put national issues above personal or party interests. This incapacity showed itself before taking power, but especially after taking power, in a custom-turned-into-culture: “resolve” differences with the machete and consider dialogue and negotiation as weak and sissy stuff.
The worst damage from these events has been the loss of self-esteem on the part of Cubans: a fatal outcome for our future. Given the alleged failure to settle and sort out our internal affairs, we decided to put these decisions in the hands of Northern neighbors. Precisely because of the little war of August, in a pamphlet, entitled The Two Protectorates, by D. T. Lainé and Jose de Armas y Cárdenas, is printed the motto expressive of clear incapacity: “Cuba should be for Cubans under the guarantee and protection of the United States.” If necessary, even, leave the country and come back when they have put us back in order. The stampede of the Cuban bourgeoisie after 1959 is the best illustration of that diminished self-esteem. It is interesting the answer Enrique José Varona gave to those behaviors in 1906. In his article, A Path Lost, he responded “that the remedy must be sought in changing our internal political organization”.
Violence and hatred in the twentieth century was not confined to the Little War of August, but was present at the murder of thousands of black Cubans in 1912 (the largest and most horrible of the massacres in Cuba), the Cubans executed for crimes and vandalism in the 30s, gangster gangs in the years 1940-50, and in staged acts of condemnation against Cuba since the 80’s and pervasive in our society as evidenced by the recent assassination of Father Mariano Arroyo. All these manifestations indicate our level of social deterioration and the distance that separates us from civilized ways of settling our affairs.
Right now Cuba is involved in a dangerous new conflict. In this context, characterized by social demands for change, for the opening of regional governments, for the suspension of European Union sanctions and for a change in U.S. policy towards our country, the totalitarian state, despite the record imposed during its permanence in power, without having fulfilled the promises of bread and freedom made in 1959 and without any viable plan to end the crisis, insists on a worn and exhausted discourse.
With the cumulative record of violence, with the threat of a conflict in which we will all be losers, it demands dialogue, negotiation and consensus, a road that historically we have refused to travel responsibly, but which is the only means of saving Cuban society. Before it’s too late, Cubans must choose this only possible way to a solution without blood and losers. Violence, enthroned in our culture, should be banished forever. One wrong step may be irreversible. That is the great responsibility of everyone, especially those who hold power “to those who gave their lives to be a country and nation for the good of all.”
Translated by: CIMF