I am indebted to him. Yesterday marked another anniversary of his physical death. There are over forty versions of how it occurred, but all concur on several details that are of great interest.


            Maceo was in the company of 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 travelled next to Maceo from one shore of the Mariel Bay to the other. With them were 17 brave officers from his general staff, a number of marines and only one escort.


            That day, the 7th, in the camp they had improvised in the vicinity of Punta Brava, Maceo and his officers heard the account of Miró Argenter, author of War Chronicles, on the events of the combat of Coliseo, where the invading column had defeated General Martínez Campos’ troops. For several days now, Maceo had been suffering a high epidemic fever and pains as a result of his wounds.


            At around 3 in the afternoon, heavy gunfire was heard some 200 kilometres away from the camp located to the west of Ciudad de La Habana, the capital of the Spanish colony. Maceo is angered by the surprise attack, as he had ordered constant exploratory efforts, which was the customary practice among his expert troops. He asks for a bugler in order to give new orders, but none was available at that moment.


            He mounts his horse quickly and rides towards the enemy. He orders that an opening be made on the wire fence standing between him and the attackers. Noting the enemy’s apparent retreat, he exclaims “things are looking up”, seconds before a bullet severs his carotid artery.


            Having heard the news, Panchito Gómez Toro arrives at the camp, resolved to die next to Maceo’s fallen body. He attempts to commit suicide when he finds himself surrounded and is about to be taken prisoner. Before this happens, he writes a very short and moving farewell note to his family. The small dagger, the one weapon he carried with him besides the 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 and nearly cut off his head.


            Maceo’s death greatly demoralizes the patriotic troops, made up, for the most part, of inexperienced soldiers.


            On hearing what had occurred, Mambí Colonel Juan Delgado, from the Santiago de las Vegas regiment, set off in search of Maceo.


            The enemy had been in possession of the body and had taken its personal belongings, unaware that it was Maceo, whose feats were known and admired the world over.


            The troops headed by Juan Delgado, in a show of courage, 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 the time, the Cuban patriots did not say a word that could give away this valuable secret.


            For every Cuban, Marti’s frowning countenance and Maceo’s withering look point to the arduous path of duty, not to a more comfortable life. We must read and reflect much on these ideas.


Fidel Castro Ruz

December 8, 2007

8:05 p.m.