Tomas Romay Chacon (1764-1849), an energetic man of delicate sensibility, a true catholic and consistent friend, was one of the great Cuban figures of the last part of the VXIII Century and first half of the XIX. He excelled as a medical doctor and hygienist, writer and poet, speaker and historian, as well as a university professor and lover of legal sciences. He participated in the foundation of Papel Periodico de La Habana (Periodical Paper of Havana) and of the Sociedad Economica Amigos del Pais (Friends of the Country Economic Society). He was professor of the Real y Pontificia Universidad de La Habana (Royal and Pontifical University of Havana) where he occupied the Faculty Chair of Philosophy and Medicine. He made contributions to Apiculture and to the beginning of the literary movement of his time. He was the director of the Junta Central de Vacuna (Central Vaccination Board) and was an advocate for free primary instruction. He also linked the study of Natural Sciences with the battle against Scholasticism.
As a politician, he was a man of his time and of his rank, defender of the established system and an admirer of the Spanish Monarchy. On May 20, 1820 he published Purga Urbem, an article in which he proclaimed himself to be an intransigent enemy of revolutionary liberalism and of the independence of the American Colonies, an irrefutable proof that one can move forward in science, culture and nationality, without being a revolutionary. History belongs to all those who contribute to it.
In spite of his exhaustive labor, it was in medicine -the first professional career that was a taught in the colony and which he considered the most beneficial for humanity- where he made his major contributions. It was in this science that he obtained the degree of Professor of Pathology and the degree of Doctor of Medicine after defending his thesis on the Spread of Tuberculosis, in 1792. Two years later, before the Junta Ordinaria de la Sociedad Patriotica de Amigos del Pais (The Ordinary Board of the Patriotic Society of Friends of the Country) -the first scientific meeting of Cuban doctors- he presented a Dissertation concerning the Malignant Fever, commonly known as Vomito Negro (Black Vomit),an epidemic illness in the Eastern Indies, an essay that initiated the medical bibliography in Cuba and for which he was designated Miembro Correspondiente de la Real Academia de Medicina de Madrid (Correspondent Member of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Madrid).
His major contribution was the introduction of the Chicken-Pox Vaccine in Cuba, three years before the discovery of the preventive inoculation against Chicken-Pox was announced by the British Dr. Edward Jenner in 1798. Romay had already published an article concerning this subject. It was after the colonial authorities decided to introduce the inoculation by means of the cow’s virus, that the Cuban scientist went throughout the Island seeking for the cow-pox with no avail. It was accidentally that he learned of the arrival of a family from Puerto Rico with three children who had been recently vaccinated against the Chicken-Pox and who were in active suppuration state. Romay contacted the children’s mother, took the pox from the children and inoculated dozens of persons of all ages, sex and conditions.
It was after the defamatory campaign carried out by the inoculation enemies that he proceeded to vaccinate two of his children and others in the presence of the Real Tribunal de Protomedicato (Board of Royal Physicians) with positive results. From that moment on and during more than thirty years he dedicated himself to the Chicken-Pox vaccination. In February of 1833, at the age of 69, Romay participated in the battle against cholera disease that appeared in Havana, an illness that killed more than 8,000 people in 54 days, his first born daughter among them.
Thanks to the influence he had over his own students that the development of medicine and science took place in Cuba. So was the case of Dr. Jose Esteves and Cantal, who, besides being the best chemist of his time, consolidated a new branch of Therapeutic: Medical Hydrology. Esteves performed an analysis of the waters of San Diego, the most famous of our miner-medicinal fountains for the utilization of its curative properties. It was through Esteves that Botanical, Chemical and Mineralogy were introduced in the Island, a major contribution to the development of the cultural and scientific reformed movement.
Romay stood out in the introduction of scientific methods in the practice of medical teaching. He became the first professor of the Medical Clinic class when it was officially inaugurated in 1834. His thesis consisted in that a Specialty had to be learned by the patients’ bed. He introduced the course of Anatomy using cadavers, and Clinical studies in the Hospital Ward. He took the students to the patients’ wards and also to the morgue for autopsy practices. It was after that moment that the regular and methodical Clinic teaching began in the hospitals.
As a doctor, his job had always a predominant social character. He was Assistant Doctor in the Marine hospitals; Assistant Doctor of the patients’ ward established in the Convento de Belen (Belen Convent); Doctor, since its foundation, of the Real Casa de Beneficiencia (Royal Charity Home); Doctor of the Religiousness of Santo Domingo; Doctor of the school for girls of San Francisco de Sales; Doctor of the Santa Catalina Monastery; Doctor of the Real Colegio Seminario de San Carlos (Royal Seminary College of San Carlos); General Assistant Doctor of the Military Hospital, established outside the city walls, and Chief Doctor of the Military Hospital of San Ambrosio.
Because of his contributions to the study of Yellow Fever, his activities in disease prevention which made him the first great Cuban Hygienist, the introduction of scientific methods in the teaching practice, his battle against scholasticism in education, his influence over students and the introduction of new methods of thinking, he laid the foundation of science principles in Cuba. Tomas Romay, one of the founders of our national culture is a vivid example that the service to the country is not limited to military battles. The country can also be served in any field, independently of political ideas: a lesson for all, especially for those in government.
Translated by David Fernandez
Parallel to the work of Arango y Parreño, the Priest Jose Agustin Caballero y de la Barrera (1762-1835) engaged in the reform of thought as a premise for the advancements of science and culture. Caballero, Philosopher and Theologian, headed the See of Philosophy at the Seminary and after, to the end of his life, the See of Holy Scripture and Moral Ethics. Endowed with encyclopedic knowledge, acute sensibility, ethical behavior and illustrious ideas, he confronted from the viewpoint of Catholicism, the scholastic prejudices that impeded the advancement of the Colony.
With the support of the Governor, Caballero pointed out that the main reason for the cultural stagnation in the Colony was the result of obsolete forms of thoughts. To achieve his objective, he re-directed his theoretical-practical activity exposing an innovative philosophical thought which led to the initiation of the reform of the old medieval philosophy. It was for that reason and for that purpose that, from the stand of Metaphysics, Physics and Ethics, he re-structured his Elective Philosophy (1797), being this the first intent in accommodating it to modern thoughts, and one of the first efforts to systematize the philosophical knowledge in the Island. The elected surname for his philosophy suggested the non-adaptation of absolute truths or the submission to the authorities in philosophic or scientific matters. He compared this method with the one through which a person, thinking for himself, remounts to the general principles, examining them, and then discussing and extracting his own conclusions, a method in which Scholastics was rendered useless.
On one opportunity, referring to those contributions, his maternal nephew Jose de la Luz y Caballero wrote: “…he was the first who echoed the doctrines of Locke and of Condillac, of Verulamio and Newton in our classrooms. He was the first to tell his students of experiments and experimental physics.”
According to Torres Cuevas, his solution to problems did not provoke rupture, but rather conciliation, between the old system of ideas and the new. “His pretension,” said Cuevas, “was to develop the criticism of Scholasticism, eliminating everything that was an obstacle to science, but without breaking the fundamental pillars of the system”. On the other hand, Temerovoi, in his La Filosofia en Cuba (Philosophy in Cuba) 1790-1878, established that “in logic as in all his philosophy, Caballero was consistent to the end, evading turbulent problems and coming closer to materialism and atheism.”
In reference to these criteria, I consider that when evaluating the conduct of any historic figure, one must take into consideration his time, space, interests and own formation. Caballero was a man of the Church, a Theologian, member of a social class in formation, and so, anyone who becomes a protagonist in a time of transition, assumes rupture or evolution, in other words, revolution or reform. Caballero opted for the second one. Formed as a Scholastic, he initiated his disavowal from it through reform. Temevoi judged Caballero from the viewpoint of Marxist philosophy as a person beyond his time, as if the lustrous Cuban was a simple Marxist professor, ignoring that his grandeur consisted in what he did with scholasticism and from the Seminary classrooms, long before the emergence of Marxism. His purpose, which he completely accomplished, was to create a method of knowledge in order to promote the scientific and social development. It was through his reformatory action that he became the last Cuban scholastic of the XVIII Century, and the first philosopher of the XIX, founder of philosophy and co-founder of science in Cuba. That is an indisputable merit, reason for which not only ought we to remember him and be thankful to him, but also to face, as he did, the challenges of our time.
In the matter of education, he was the first one to pronounce himself for the abolition of Latin, the implementation of Spanish in the schools, the generalization of the free primary education, and making education available to women, elements that constitute part of his work in the educational reform. He was also the first one to speak about physics experimentation in Cuba, a subject to which he dedicated various works and discourses, among them: “Discurso sobre la Fisica: (Discourse on Physics) 1791; “Educacion de los Hijos” (Children’s Education” (1791); Pensamientos sobre los Medios Violentos de que se valen los Maestros para Educar” (Thoughts about Violent ways used by Teachers to Educate” (1792); “Reflecciones sobre el Verdadero Filosofo” (“Reflexions about the True Philosopher”) (1792); “Ordenanzas para las Escuelas Gratuitas de La Habana” (“Statutes for Free Schools in Havana”) (1794); “Discurso sobre la Reforma de Estudios Universitarios” (“Discourse onReform of University Studies” (1795); and “Discurso sobre la Educacion de las Mujeres” (Discurse Concerning Women’s Education” (1802). His cultural activity extended to the rest of the institutions of his time, among them the Patriotic Society, called by Marti “the highest mentored of the Cuban societies”. He also realized innumerable contributions, ideas and projects produced by his pen which were disseminated through the society in Havana, through the pages of the Papel Periodico de La Habana (Paper Newspaper of Havana).
At the beginning of the XIX Century, Caballero conceived and prepared the first autonomous government project for Cuba, a legislation inspired by the English Public Right, the only document in which he shows his interpretation of the political doctrines. This was also a project of reforms by which he proposed to continue the modification of the Colonial system in correspondence with the interests of the creole oligarchy. In 1813 he took charge of his nephew’s education, Jose de la Luz y Caballero, which represented a new and valuable contribution. Had his work been limited to this last effort, it would have nevertheless taken a relevant place in our history.
Nevertheless, his main contribution consisted in understanding that the transformations of the XIX Century were not possible with the existing teaching methods and in acting accordingly. It is in this that the imperishable of his works consisted, for even if there are two centuries that separate us from his death, in today’s Cuba, as the one of yesterday, the education reforms in culture and in the society in general, constitute an imperious necessity. Jose Agustin Caballero constitute, by his legacy, one of the main functional cornerstone of our nationality.
Translated by David Fernandez
After the British withdrawal in 1763, Charles III abolished the commercial monopoly, fit out the Spanish ports for merchant traffic with Cuba, and contracted the import of slaves. These were a series of measures that offered the creole oligarchy the opportunity, to realize their dream of transforming Cuba into the world’s primary producer of sugar and coffee, an economic project — the best structured in our history — in which Francisco de Arango y Parreño (1765-1837), politician, lawyer and economist rose as its main figure.
His ideas concerning the promotion of the economy are essentially contained in two works: In Discourse on agriculture in Havana and ways to promote it (1792), he comprehensively analyzed the characteristics of an industrial enterprise beginning with its production, and continuing with the work force, its finance, distribution, and the markets; and in his 1794 report, How the refinery process done in Europe resulted in great detriment for Cuba (1794), he cited the mechanisms employed by the European cities for colonial domination. This was the first critique of mercantilism produced in a Spanish colony and is therefore a pioneering work of economic thought.
Haiti’s ruin and the soaring prices of sugar and coffee, caused by the revolution in neighboring island, created the conditions for Cuba to occupy its place in the international market. The main obstacle for the creole land-holders was in the slavery work force, and so they opted in a resolute way for a pure economy outside the boundaries of ethics. Thanks to his February 6, 1789 report, Arango, as Havana’s City Hall attorney, was able to bring before the Metropolitan Government the free import of slaves into the Island, first for two years and afterward for an additional six years. Fourteen Royal Cells, Orders and Decrees between 1789 and 1804, furthered the business of importing blacks which lead to the modern system of Black exploitation and the base for capitalistic growth. Sugar converted the Island in a great plantation that radically changed its geography, its economic structure and all aspects of the colonial society. In the decade of 1830, Cuba became the first global exporter of sugar, coffee, honey, rum and cooper, and was among the first in the world in wax, bee-honey and tobacco, at a time when the Black population was greater than the white.
Two consequences of Cuba’s new position were: 1.- The financial interests of the creole land-holders kept them away from the battle for independence that was taking place in the whole continent during the first quarter of the XIX Century. The war implicated their ruin as social class. They were trapped in a conflict that had no solution. They needed freedom for their ranks and slavery for the Blacks. 2.- Fear of the Blacks brought with it a major preoccupation concerning slave uprisings, bringing with it additional repressions. Facing such reality, Arango y Parreño made the slaves’ land-holders’ feelings known before the Spanish Courts, where more or less he stated: “Freedom only for his class before freedom for the slave; the Spanish before the Africans; the citizens before people of color.” These were the principles on which the Cuba of plantations, colonial, slavery and burgess were founded.
Subjected to slavery for life in the plantations, the slaves formed human associations, practically excluding women and breaking the family concept. It was a bit later, when the end of the Black trafficking was evident, that our noble statesman was able to attain the freedom to introduce slave women for reproductive purposes. In his Sugar Mill -the world’s largest of his time- during the decade of 1820 all the sugar cane was cut and lifted exclusively by Black women. The rearing of slaves was similar in image and style as that of animals, generating such horrible effects that the mothers of children chose infanticide as “acts of love” to eliminate their descendants, so that they would not have to suffer the horrors of slavery.
In order to dominate slaves’ disobedience, a series of punishments were used that generally were executed at the entrance of the hut as a wall to curb the rebelliousness spirit: The whipping, the face down, the novenary, the ladder and the bayonet were part of the repertoire. Of such infernal life conditions -more like death- the cimarron (runaway slave), the Palenque and the conspiracies emerged. Such violence manifested in all its nakedness during the slavery uprising. It is worth mentioning the insurrection led by Jose Antonio Aponte y Ulabarra, a free Black whose objective was to abolish slavery and defeat the Colonial Government. The escalated violence came to its peak in 1844 with the horrible repression known as “Conspiracion de la Escalera” (The Ladder Conspiracy). It was during the investigative processes of this conspiracy that more than four thousand Blacks and Whites were killed by shooting, 817 were incarcerated, 334 were deported and more than 300 resulted dead, not counting the many Black Cubans and Mulattoes exiled in Mexico.
The pragmatism of sugar profits constituted an intent to develop an economy based in the subordination of one-third of the Island’s population. It is in failing to remember the course of our history up to this day that the germs of the outcome are to be found. Arango spoke to the Cubans about “country”, but of a excluding country. One of Arango’s major and least mentioned contributions was to have demonstrated how pernicious and difficult the progress of any project for the advancement of a social group can be at the expense of another. It is possible to grow in the economic aspect or any other one for some time, but it is not possible to advance if a nation is built on ignoring the rights of its citizens. Cuba became the first sugar exporter in the world, but ended sunk in horror and blood, hate and racial prejudices that still exist today.
Translated by David Fernandez
What Cuba was from 1762 has much to do with the occupation of Havana by England. An event that not only divided our history into a before and after, but that set the future direction of the island
The War of Succession (1702-1714) began by the Bourbon dynasty in Spain culminated in the agreements signed at Utrecht and formed the basis of the first British colonial rule. Thanks to these agreements England got the privilege of importing black slaves and the introduction of hundreds of tons of British products in America. Some decades later, during the Seven Years War (1756-1763) between England and France, the Spanish Crown, linked by blood to the Gauls, participated in the contest and in response the British Army consummated an old imperial dream: occupy Havana, the marine and military center of the defense and communications of the Spanish empire, without which Caribbean naval dominance was incomplete.
The action — the greatest military and naval mobilization in American history until the nineteenth century — took place between 7 June and 12 August 1762. Its main event was the taking of Havana’s Morro. On the one side: the Earl Albermarle with 53 warships, over 200 transport and thousands of men who represented over 50% of English naval forces in the Caribbean. On the other: Marshall Juan del Prado with 14 ships in the bay, the strengths of the defense system and about 9 thousand troops, including militia of the neighborhood.
On 7 June the British began the attack on Cojimar and Bacuranao to take Guanabacoa, occupied La Cabana and the 27th of that month their first forces arrived at the pit. From that time developed a stubborn resistance. Two days after, a mine that had been placed by the sappers exploded and through the breach came five regiments that fought for an hour until the fortress was seized. On August 11 the attack on the city began and the next day the act of capitulation was signed. The balance: 5,000 deaths from the British side and 3,700 on the Spanish, of which about 800 were black slaves, many of whom were massacred in revenge for their bold action against the British. In the first of these actions, thirteen of the slaves suddenly left El Morro machetes in hand, jumped at the advancing enemy, killing one of its members, taking seven prisoners putting the rest to flight. In the second, another group left the Puerta de Tierra, killed a captain, a part of the troops and took 47 prisoners, occupying three flags.
On July 6, 1763 the British returned Havana in exchange for Florida, but nothing was the same as before. Once restored to Spanish rule, attempts to restore the old monopolistic controls were insufficient to stem the flow of trade between Santiago de Cuba and the Caribbean. Meanwhile the Santiago and Bayamese landowners raised cattle for producers of coffee, indigo and cotton from Santo Domingo. Hence the importance of the English occupation lies not just in the war but in its influence on the future of the island.
The British occupation suppressed the Royal Trading Company, the Royal Tobacco Factory and opened the port of Havana to international trade, particularly with the thirteen American colonies. According to estimates, within 11 months of occupation some 900 vessels entered the port of Havana. The occupation of Cuba completed its entrance into Western civilization to definitively mark the orientation of the island spirit. With it, Cubans acquired in a practical way the true extent of the geographical situation of the island with regards to maritime trade and found a more tolerant political and religious atmosphere. While the oligarchy remained in politics subject once again to the Spanish colonial power, it now could count on the ability to influence trade and transport more than previously.
Besides having to accept the opening of trade, the Spanish government put an end to some unfair privileges and initiated a public works program designed by Carlos III, the most genuine representative of the enlightened Spanish despotism, that embellished the capital. In a few years, Havana was filled with fountains and boulevards, the Palace of the Captains General and the Second Cape were built and the Cathedral of Havana completed. The Spanish monarch had come to the conclusion, of course after the British presence in Havana, that the best way to preserve the colony was to improve the quality of life of its subjects. A jump unthinkable without the impact of the occupation. The capture of Havana showed the importance of freedom of shipping and the need for shipping and that assured the lifestyle and the political and legal conceptions of the Creole intelligentsia. For example, Father Jose Agustin Caballero proposed, in 1781, local legislation modeled on English public law.
In economic terms, the emerging sugar-tobacco plantation had all the conditions for rapid development. The installed production capacity, the accumulated capital to purchase slaves, and free trade accelerated the plantation trend. The trade in human beings, a fundamental necessity of Havana’s oligarchy, began to be undertaken directly and more cheaply with the British slave trade. It is said that at the time that the surrender was signed, already waiting in Havana Bay to enter the port was the first boatload of “tools that talk.” However, the achievements of the oligarchy, as happened previously with Arrate Felix, were a great injustice to other social sectors, especially to the growing black population, free and slave. The British presence in Havana showed the critical importance of freedoms but also showed how useless and dangerous it is to make changes for one class at the expense of other sectors of society on the basis of “equality in inequality.”
Between approximately 1510 and 1550 the economy of the Island of Cuba was based on mining and the forced labor of the Aborigines. From that date on and to the end of the XVII Century, cattle raising and the military maritime prevailed, a period in which the development of the city of Havana was based in the maritime and construction services. In that context the figure of Jose Martin Felix de Arrate y Acosta (1701-1764), first ideologist of the Havana Oligarchy, emerged.
That sector of society, integrated by families with similar origins and common interests, adopted a sense of identity and destiny that needed a voice to represent it. Of that necessity Felix de Arrate, author of “Llave del Nuevo Mundo Antemural de las Indias Occidentales” (Key to the New World, Fort of the West Indies) emerged. It is here where he narrates the history of Havana, where his status as a citizen allowed him certain political participation that at the same time excluded the Blacks, Mulattoes and also the Whites engaged in manual labor. Here, he also revealed the demand for the expansion for power of his own social class.
“La Llave del Nuevo Mundo” gathers the history of Havana, beginning with the fundamental events that shaped it. It deals with a civic memory in which the social sector that it represents, appears as an agent of what is being remembered. In it, the identity of a person living in Havana as a man with a history of citizenship was defined. It also contained a discourse that, having been pronounced from the Colony, could not be considered other than subversive. Concluding a bit before the invasion of Havana by the British, Arrate’s work ends in an era where the historic values of the nobility started to be replaced by a Bourgeoisie that from the point of the plantation’s economy, concentrates its ascent in the production process of goods for the international market.
History is not there by accident, says Moreno Fraginals, it is there to uphold the country’s history. In other words, Havana’s history. Its purpose is to ascertain the continuity of the greatness of those born in it: Havana’s Creole, a history that stands out and praises the virtues of the Creole Spanish in relation to those in the Peninsula. With the word “Country,” he evokes the love for the city, the chunk of earth in which one is born, emphasizes the characteristics of the climate, the geography, the vegetative ambiance, the superiority of Havana’s wood, the best in the world, used in doors, windows and the carving of El Escorial, the fruits of delicate taste and splendid aromas. It is also here that he associates the term “Country” with the family, the society, with and happiness, an exaltation through which he introduces the conclusive idea that the Creole can only be distinguished from the Castilian by the place where he was born. In that exaltation of the Natural Medium and the Spanish born in Cuba, the fundamentals for the comparison of rights between the Peninsulars and Creoles are found.
In praising the native Havanan, Arrate generated a subversive discourse by exalting all the natives, including Indians and Blacks. Nevertheless, as a member of the Havana’s White Oligarchy inserted in the metropolitan culture, his sense of comparison did not imply a rupture. It was not the moment to oppose the established social order and its scale of values. What was arguable was the place that the Creole Oligarchy occupied in the hierarchical scale. The Spanish Creole was at the service of the Empire and his merits flowed precisely from those services. It was a contradiction-claim. For that reason, Moreno Fraginals said that there are only complaints and claims, because it is that from the comparison of merits that the equivalence of positions emerge.
Arrates’ concepts reveal the double character of the contradictions of the Havana oligarchy. In the first place, because of the Creole/Peninsular position at the top of society. Second, at the base, the antagonism between Whites and Blacks, rich and poor. The values of the nobility are fed from both negations, they proclaim to be equals to the Peninsular Spanish and for that reason they have the right to occupy the highest official positions. At the same time, being men of pure blood, they have the right to demand submission from Indians, Blacks and poor Whites. These are the contradictions for which solutions were sought in the century following the wars for independence.
His praise and commendation of Havana and all that is born in it: Indians, Blacks, fruits, trees, swine, generate a Creolism which, even if limited in the social aspect, contained values that were accepted in the surging Cuba and recognized by the dominated classes themselves. The virtues of the earth which he praises in his work are found later in the Creole poetry: “Oda a la Pina” (“Ode to the Pineapple”), of Manuel de Zequeiera y Arango (1764-1846); “La Silva Cubana” (The Cuban Silva) of Manuel Justo de Rubalcava (1769-1805) [Silva is a metric composition without method or order]; “La Flor de la Cana y del Cafe” (The Sugarcane and Coffe Flowers) of Placido (1808-1844); and “Rufina. Segunda Invitacion”, del Cucalambe” (“Rufina. Second Invitation”, of the Cucalambe” (1829-1862), just to cite some examples of the thematic affinity between the Arate’s Creole and the song to nature in the Cuban poetry.
The validity of Arrate’s work became evident starting in the decade of 1760, when the Oligarchy in Havana was in the process of attaining a new objective: making Cuba the world’s leading producer of sugar and coffee. At that time, the Friends of the Country Economic Society, dominated by the new native intelligentsia, founded a history committee, and edited his work and published everything useful about their heritage. His work was the first major political argument that only Cuban criollismo could be at that time and those conditions: aristocratic, colonialism, slavery and racism. It was an attempt at class comparison combined with the exclusion of the rest of society which is the first link in the Cuban political history, a story that holds important keys to the interpretation of the present.
TRANSLATED BY DAVID FERNANDEZ
The eighth month of the year constitutes an opportunity to reflect on the thought and actions of Eduardo Rene Chibas. Each August, his memory will always be present. August is the month in which he was born, made an attempt on his own life and the month of his physical disappearance. Born in Santiago and a lawyer by profession, he founded the first Student Directorate against Machado’s extension of power. He was co-founder of the Civic Union of Cuban Exiles in New York, and delegate to the Constituting Assembly in 1939. He was also founder of the Orthodox Party, candidate to the Presidency of the Republic in 1948 and was incarcerated in different occasions. He died in August 16, 1948, after making an attempt on his life on August 5.
Being convinced of the impossibility of progress in the nation without the appropriate civic conduct, he dedicated himself to combating political and administrative corruption. His political experience as a Senator and Speaker of the Partido Autentico (Authentic Party), brought him to the conclusion that “the Party’s fundamental ideas are of great importance, and so are the men who will put them into practice.” On October of 1944, he said: “When I came into power, I was called a millionaire and two years later, I came out of it poorer than when I first went in. Yet, those who said I was a millionaire who came into power without possessions or fortune, they enjoy today millions of pesos.” For him, the harmonic correspondence between conduct and ideas was precisely one of the things missing in the republic. That is why he distanced himself from the Authentic-ism and that is what made him found the Partido Ortodoxo (Orthodox Party) in 1947.
On another occasion he said: “You cannot build a nation on rotten foundations. Therefore, we must first cut down and destroy to drain the swamp and then build on a sound basis. That, he said, is what the Orthodox party is dealing with: “Shame Against Money!” These quotations, which express one and the same idea, are sufficient to substantiate the correlation between thought and action of the Orthodox leader and to understand the quixotic struggle he waged, armed with the word and pen against corrupt politicians and against the wave of crimes by the gangsters and their fans which shook the country.
Ethics, as a theory of conduct and component of culture, is a collective of values, present in all activity and therefore also in politics. Political ethics was an obsession for Chibas, who knew that wrongs, whether physical violence or verbal, and the use of the State as private property, was a manifestation of the fragile ethics in our present politics. For him, ethics was the main subject in politics included not only the members of his Party, but all citizens as well. His intention was to carry that ethical message to his people by denouncing political corruption.
Akin to his thoughts and action, he was determined to fight even to the point of offering his own life. Chibas was the extension of a family inheritance of absolute surrender to the country’s ideals. Referring to his ancestors he said: “I, like them, have given Cuba patrimony and peace. Less fortunate than my elders, I have not been able to offer my life.” And in another occasion: “In 1868, my family offered the country its fortune, peace and life.” His ancestors, the Agramontes, died for independence’s sake, and that, for Eduardo, was a predestination, an incubated concept throughout his life which demonstrates that there was not the existence of any accidental or unconscious act in him, but the effect of his conduct and character. That can only merit admiration and respect.
“El Ultimo Aldabonazo [the final blow] to the Cuban conscience” was the conclusion of the accusatory speeches against Aureliano Sanchez Arango, Minister of Education -regarding the acquisition of a residential area in Guatemala and the impossibility of presenting compelling proof to confirm it- was nothing more than a manifestation of the close relationship between conduct, thought and action of Eduardo Chibas.
The attempt against his own life was an immolation geared to lift the consciousness of the civil society about the seriousness of the corruption that was eroding the soul of the emerging nation. Its scheme was to demonstrate through a vivid example the impossibility of making essential social changes without the existence of a strong civic and democratic society, and also, to try do it through a personal lens.
Ethics is a dimension that at the threshold of time and geographical location, places man first, independently of his economic, political, ideological or religious culture. The first tribute to the person of Eduardo Chibas cannot be other than to fight against anything that may curtail the freedom of the Cuban people, and without which all that remain are mere statements. Cooperation, Equal Opportunities, Justice and Freedom come first as being moral and human, which emerge and develop in the civil society. That scope of associations is the foundation on which everyone can participate in the political, economic, social and cultural processes of their interests and rights to express their demands and citizenship participation.
Translated by David Fernandez