A Cry for Freedom in Cuba
One-hundred-and-fifty-five years ago, the famous patriot Carlos Manuel de Cespedes y led the so-called Grito de Yara (Cry of Yara), that resounded all over the island of Cuba, thereby formally launching our independence wars. Let me explain why I say “formally”. Different uprisings were already happening across the island, against Spain’s colonial rule of Cuba and in pursuit of freedom for slaves.
Patriots like Salvador Cisneros Betancourt, Belisario Alvarez, Vicente Garcia Gonzalez, Francisco Maria Rubalcava, Felix Figueredo, Donato Marmol, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Jaime Santiesteban, Isaias Maso, Vicente Aguilera and Maceo Osorio, based at Masonic Lodges, that served as meeting spaces where they’d conspire against Spanish rule. From there they decided to resort to an armed insurrection to achieve Cuba’s independence, choosing December 24, 1868 as the day to start the rebellion.
Carlos Manuel de Cespedes was impatient and decided to move the date forward to October 14th. The discovery of the conspiracy and the arrest warrant issued against Carlos Manuel drove up the date even more.
On October 8th, Cespedes summoned the rest of the patriots to his ranch La Demajagua, where they met in large numbers. At that time, they were writing up the Manifesto of the Cuban Revolutionary Junta, in which they outlined the objectives of the uprising, and they declared the island’s sovereignty.
On October 10th, given the imminence of Spanish authorities acting, the cry “Viva Cuba Libre” was sounded, and slaves on this ranch were given their freedom. Leading 147 men, the honorable Cubans took up arms and began the 10 Years War.
The war that began in the east of the country in 1868 spread across the entire country and it ended ten years later, without having managed to achieve the objectives it had set out, as a result of different political malaises within rebel troops, such as regionalism, autocratic leadership and other internal divisions.
One of the conquests of the first Independence war was freedom for every slave that took part in this armed struggle, and freedom was gradually granted to every slave until the awful practice ended and some economic rights were granted to Cuban landowners.
Despite these conquests, they didn’t manage to achieve their main objective, and this resulted in patriots involved in the war continuing to conspire and prepare a new uprising. This happened in 1895, under the ideological leadership of Jose Marti. Marti managed to unite Cuban patriots that fought in the first wars, putting aside their differences, and focusing on the main objective. This second insurrectionary phase, called the ‘95 War, finally defeated the Spanish Empire’s rule in Cuba, thereby initiating Cuba’s Republican Era.
One-hundred-and-fifty-five-years after our revolutionary feats, Cuba is under a semi-slavery regime yet again. The only big difference between the island’s submission this time and that imposed in Spain, is that it isn’t a foreign state that is exercising its ruthless power over citizens… this time, the oppressive entity is the Cuban Communist Party, made up of Cubans who have taken ownership of economic, political, and social life on the island.
The Cuban regime is now selling the labor of its doctors, teachers, athletes, and other professionals to different countries. While it’s charging fair prices for the work of these Cuban professionals, the latter are being paid ridiculously low wages that are barely 20% of what the regime often collects.
Workers that work sweat, blood and tears in the country’s interior do so in precarious conditions and for wages that are a joke and aren’t even enough to feed them, to the extent that a Cuban today consumes fewer carbohydrates and protein today than a slave in Cuba in 1870.
Any attempt to protest the current slavery situation is brutally repressed by law enforcement forces (slaves too but paid a little better). In their never-ending hubris, the Cuban Government isn’t content with just physical repression, which include beatings from pro-government mobs, torture during detention and other violations of basic human rights, they also turn to criminal and legal persecution, locking up anyone who dares to raise their voice and sentence them to many years in prison for fabricated criminal charges. In doing so, violating their rights to freedom of speech, freedom of communication and even their freedom of movement both within the country and their ability to leave. Just like the Spanish regime in Cuba, there are quite a few Cuban patriots who are currently in exile against their will and without any legislative act that supports them.
But just like over a century ago, the cry for “freedom” has been sounded on our island again, with the words “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life). On July 11, 2021, a large group of slaves of the regime today were pushed by their hardship to take to the streets and demand the freedom they need for any country to prosper. Just like the Spanish Empire, the Cuban regime brutally repressed this libertarian cry and today, over a thousand Cubans are in jail and are being harassed for their views.
Just like 155 years ago, Cubans are divided by regionalisms, arguments, autocratic leaderships, or political movements, and despite there being so much of a longing for freedom, we can’t agree on the means and methods to get there. We already have a Father of the Homeland (Carlos Manuel de Cespedes), and we have a National Hero (Jose Marti), who taught us that nobody is going to give us the freedom we seek, and that we will only have a fighting chance of winning if we come together. It’s time to act our part.
The cry for freedom has already been sounded, we just need to unite… like 155 years ago, we will shout “Viva Cuba Libre” again, but from the Communist Party’s empire and tyranny this time.