I am indebted to him. Yesterday marked another anniversary of his physical death. There are over forty different versions of how it occurred, but all coincide on several details that are of great interest.
Maceo was in the company of the young Francisco Gómez Toro, who had entered Cuba through the west of Pinar del Rio as part of the expedition headed by General Rius Rivera. Previously wounded in one arm, Panchito traveled together with Maceo from one shore of Mariel Bay to the other. With them were 17 brave officers from his general staff, a number of sailors and just one man from his escort.
That day, the 7th, in the camp they had improvised in the vicinity of Punta Brava, Maceo and his officers heard an account by Miró Argenter, the author of Crónicas de la Guerra (War Chronicles), of events of the combat of Coliseo, where the invading column had defeated General Martínez Campos’ troops. For several days, Maceo had been suffering a high epidemic fever and all of his wounds were hurting.
At around 3 in the afternoon, heavy gunfire was heard some 200 meters away from the camp situated west of the city of Havana, capital of the Spanish colony. Maceo was angered by the surprise attack, as he had ordered constant exploration, something his expert troops regularly did. He asked for a bugler in order to give orders; none was available at that moment.
He leapt onto his horse and rode toward the enemy. He ordered that an opening be made in the wire fence standing between him and the attackers. Noting the enemy’s apparent retreat, he exclaimed “this is going well” seconds before a bullet severed his carotid artery.
Panchito Gómez Toro, having learned what happened, arrived from the camp, ready to die next to Maceo’s fallen body. Gómez Toro tried to commit suicide after finding himself surrounded and about to be taken prisoner. First, he wrote a very short and dramatic farewell note to his family. The small dagger, the one weapon he carried with him for lack of a revolver, could not be driven in with enough force by the one hand he could still use. An enemy soldier, on seeing that someone was moving among the dead, slit his neck with a machete, nearly cutting off his head.
With Maceo’s death, demoralization spread among the patriotic troops, most of them inexperienced soldiers.
On learning what happened, Mambí Colonel Juan Delgado of the Santiago de las Vegas Regiment set off in search of Maceo.
The enemy had been in possession of the body, stripping it of personal belongings without realizing that it was Maceo, known and admired all over the world for his heroic feats.
The troops headed by Juan Delgado, in a valiant effort, rescued the lifeless bodies of the Titan and his young aide, son of Chief General Máximo Gómez. They buried them after long hours of marching along the heights of El Cacahual. At that time, the Cuban patriots did not say one word about this valuable secret.
Marti’s stern countenance and Maceo’s searing expression point, for every Cuban, to the arduous path of duty, not to a more comfortable life. There is much to read and meditate on in these ideas.
Fidel Castro Ruz
December 8, 2007