A Cuban monument to Spanish soldiers who fought against Cuba’s freedom

WTF? Well may you ask. I’d never heard of this and it hit a nerve (which has been hit too often). It was erected in 1929, in a park near Santiago de Cuba on San Juan Hill–the site in 1898 of the famous battle which proved decisive in ending four centuries of Spanish colonial rule. There are separate monuments there to the American soldiers and Cuban soldiers who were involved, which make perfect sense, but the monument to the Spanish is another matter. 

An inscription on one side of the monument reads “The Republic of Cuba, by the will of its people and its army, dedicates this tribute to the Spanish soldier, who knew how to die heroically in the performance of his duty.” The same could be said of soldiers dying for their country for any cause, righteous or otherwise. Not surprisingly, during their 2019 visit to Cuba, the king of Spain and his ever-modish coat-hanger of a wife laid a wreath at the monument.

From a buenista (goody-goody) perspective (aka comemierda), the gesture is very pretty. Too pretty, like a Barbie type who wants to look deep and noble. But perhaps that’s too facile, as the matter is complicated. Cuba was the most Hispanic colony of the Spanish empire, and white Cubans were of heavily Spanish stock. Even after independence, they remained sentimentally hispanophilic, which translated into remarkable forbearance or rationalization of Spanish malfeasance, including a veritable genocide (General Weyler’s) during the war of independence. There’s also the little matter of allowing gallego Angel Castro, who fought for Spain during that war, to settle in Cuba and spawn Fidel.  

The Spanish government vowed that Spain would spend its last peseta coin and give the last drop of blood of its sons to hold on to Cuba. It wasn’t just pride in trying to keep what was left of its empire–Cuba was a major cash cow for its owner (which is how Spain saw itself, not as its “mother,” which is a Cuban fantasy). Even apart from the catastrophic consequences of Weyler’s deadly concentration camps, it was Spanish soldiers who killed many of Cuba’s finest men, notably José Martí, thus depriving it of their great potential to significantly contribute to the new republic. Nobody would question, for instance, that Martí would have been vastly superior to Estrada Palma as Cuba’s first president.

So, why make an issue of this now? Why not, like the Clinton woman, dismiss it as making no difference? Because too many Cubans are still giving Spain a pass no matter what it does, and our Mommy Dearest has continued to behave badly, not to say abominably, to this day. I find such weakness unseemly and infra dig, not to say pathetic–and you’d better believe the Spanish are aware of that weakness and exploit it. Hell, they openly, in mass media, say things like “Spain cannot lose Cuba twice” as if that were entirely reasonable and respectable.

It is absolutely NOT. Enough already. Basta.

P.S. A very apt complement to this post is one I wrote 10 years ago, which still applies and expands upon a number of points touched upon here. Pay special attention to what I quote from Carlos Ripoll, a major Cuban historian.

4 thoughts on “A Cuban monument to Spanish soldiers who fought against Cuba’s freedom”

  1. Part of our blandenguería (softness) with Spain is related to that of José Martí, who was a great man but not perfect. His parents were both Spanish immigrants, which could explain an emotional incapacity to see the Spanish more objectively, or a propensity to be too generous and make excuses for them.

  2. Asombra,

    I think that part of the problem is that pre-Castro Cubans unlike the vast majority of Latin Americans were in fact nothing more than transplanted Spaniards living in Cuba. Growing up, many of my little Cuban friends had Spanish grandparents. It was not uncommon at all to have at least one Spanish grandfather or mother. Under those circumstances, even though Spain has been HORRENDOUS to us, it’s hard to expect Cubans to hate Spaniards. Under Franco many Cubans in fact moved to Spain or used Spain as a temporary residence before coming to the US. Franco in fact said that to him Cubans were Spaniards.

    Yes, I know, its pretty screwed up, because Spain can be likened to Joan Crawford and Cubans to Cristina Crawford [and Spain loves to use that wire hanger], but it is what it is.

    Spain is never going to be seen as Mexico, another country that has been horrible to us, because Mexicans are a totally different people and it’s easy to despise them.

    • As I said, it’s complicated. I had a Spanish grandparent, and my blood is much more Spanish than that of the king of Spain, whose ancestry is very mixed. Still, to me, Spain is worse than Mexico, because it is much more closely related to Cubans and should have done far better by them than the Latrines have. But, again, Spain never saw Cuba as a daughter but as property, very profitable property, which is why it tried to keep it at all costs and felt robbed (by the US) when it lost it. It always saw Cubans as inferior and still feels entitled to profit off Cuba any way it can. Cubans have been too soft and too accepting–basically comemierdas, and this monument is a perfect example.

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