El Titan de Bronce falls before the finish, preserving his legacy in Cuba

A Cuban revolutionary general falls in battle before he can disappoint in office, So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to today’s offering from The Philatelist.

The stamp today features a Latin American General and was issued in 1910. From that you can visualize what the stamp looks like. Now look at the stamp in the picture. Pretty close to what you imagined, correct? The generic aspect of such stamp issues makes you wonder how like minded rulers of the time really were.

Todays stamp is issue A26, a 50 centavo stamp issued by the Cuban republic on February 1st, 1910. The stamp displays Cuban revolutionary General Antonio Maceo. It was part of an 8 stamp issue in various denominations that celebrated heroes of the revolution against Spanish rule in the 19th century. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $1.90 mint.

Antonio Maceo was born to a Venezuelan father and a mixed race mother of Dominican roots. That of course is not very Cuban and also unlike the vast bulk of the ruling class of Cuba, had dark skin. Cuba contained more Spanish colonists than many places in Latin America, but also many of African slave roots. Slavery lasted in Cuba until 1886 and Spanish rule lasted until 1898. This did not mean there was not a series of uprisings against slavery and Spain in 19th century Cuba.

From an early age, Maceo was part of the resistance to Spain. He fought in over 50 battles and rose to second in command of the revolutionary force. His dark skin and tall height earned him the nickname, El titan de bronce. After a failed 10 year war against Spain, he was banished to Costa Rica. After that war Spain finally ended slavery and initiated economic reforms. This proved not enough and in 1895 there was a new rebellion with Maceo back from exile to help lead it. The rebellion was of mixed success with the rebels controlling the countryside and Spain the cities. A Spanish politician quipped that we have sent 200,000 troops and don’t control much more land than we are standing on.

Spain changed tacks then with some success. Those in the countryside were ordered into concentration camps in the cities where many died. This then allowed the army to go hard after the rebels and many fell in battle, including General Maceo. America had been watching the carnage and sympathizing with the rebels. After the incident with the battleship Maine in Cuba, America invaded and quickly defeated a battle weary Spain. Though there was an American military occupation and some thought of annexation, Cuba was soon turned over to the leaders of the failed revolution. They proved to be bickering and incompetent.

Interestingly, General Maceo was asked what he thought of being annexed by the USA. He replied that on this one issue, his sword would be with Spain. None of his fellow revolutionaries sided with Spain when the USA invaded. They were too busy fighting for personal power.

Well my drink is empty and one wonders of an accounting of the costs on both sides in Cuba would have let people to come to a different end. Spain surely would have said good riddance long before and one might not see statues to Maceo still in Cuba. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

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