Lieutenant-General Antonio de la Caridad Maceo y Grajales: A Dual Case Study in Cuban Self Determination and Common Core/ World History Teaching
J.F. Britto and Tom Mounkhall
This article has dual purposes. The first is to place the narrative of Jose Antonio de la Caridad Maceo y Grajales into its late 19th century World History context. The second is to use the data of Maceo's biography as the content for effective Global/World History lessons that address both the conceptual and Common Core skill requirements of New York State's new Global History 9/10 curriculum.
Attention to the Common Core program by Global History teachers is necessary and practical. As a result of the Obama Administration's "Race to the Top" initiative, the forty-five states that signed on to the program will have to address the rigorous literacy goals of the Common Core. New York State has signed on to the initiative and as a result, Global History teachers in this state will have to make significant changes to their instructional programs. Development of college entry level reading skills in all students and the use of complex texts as a primary teaching vehicle for Global History are privileged by the recently constructed New York State Global History 9/10 curriculum. The use of data from complex texts as evidence in written and oral history arguments and as tools for the development of sophisticated, domain specific thinking skills completes the Common Core mandate for New York State Global History teachers. Our intention is to present our biography as a model of a teacher written complex text.
In the second half of the 19th century, Cuban society was influenced by very precise colonial and imperial notions of class and race. At the top of the social and economic pyramid were the while elites. This group was divided into those born in Spain of Spanish parents and those of the same genetic parentage, who were born in Cuba. A great rivalry arose between these two groups primarily because the Spanish crown consistently favored the European born peninsulares over the Cuban born criollos. The class antagonisms of the island were exacerbated by the issue of race. There was a visceral hatred between black and white Cubans. In the minds of the Cuban white population, there was no distinction to be made between free blacks, mulattos- mixed black and white people and recently arrived West African slaves, who worked on the sugar plantations in eastern Cuba.
Maceo's early years reflected some of the more influential developments of the mid-19th century CE. Atlantic littoral. He was born in 1845 in the Province of Oriente, Cuba which had been a Spanish colony since the 16th century. His father, a white Venezuelan, fought with the Spanish versus Bolivar's independence movement in northern South America and he left his homeland and came to Cuba after Bolivar's victory over Spain in 1823. Antonio's mother's ancestors were forced to migrate across the Middle Passage from West Africa in chains. Consequently, the Spanish racial structure in Cuba classified Antonio as a mulatto, which placed him very far away from status positions of power that were held by the white peninsulares and criollos.
On the eve of the outbreak of the first Cuban war for independence, the people of the island had multiple reforms in mind relative to the relationship of Spain and its Caribbean colony. Peninsulares, from their elite position, were in favor of continuing Spanish imperial control. The criollos desired independence from the mother country because they desired to improve their economic and social status in society. Some of them, along with mulattoes and the African slaves were intent on emancipation of Cuban slaves. Antonio Maceo was both a Cuban nationalist and an ardent abolitionist.1
The independence war began in October 1868 when criollos led by Carlos de Cespedes declared a Cuban Republic. This event touched off a ten year self-determination struggle with Spain, which from the start witnessed a very complicated effort from the Cuban rebels. Not only did class separate the Cuban forces but the issue of emancipation was a huge divisive force. Effective Spanish propaganda, that suggested a "black uprising" at the war's end, fueled white prejudice and added to the Cuban disunity.2
The Afro-Cuban element of the rebel army was greatly influenced by Early Modern World History dynamics. Many of the Mambises or rebels carried West African genes as either free Blacks or people of mixed Spanish and African heritage. In addition to the impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on the rebel army, the Spanish plantation system was a major factor in the army's composition. The Spanish Conquistadores brought the sugar plantation project to Cuba from the Canary Islands in the 16th century it was from many of these Western and Central Cuban sugar plantations that slaves were incorporated into the military force of the Mambises. Even though the Cuban independence movement was divided from the start, it certainly was taken quite seriously by the Spanish imperial authorities. Militarily, the Iberians held quite a few advantages. They had a huge build-up of troops and war material on the island at the war's inception, which they could constantly re-supply by way of the Spanish fleets. The Cubans had no fleet to speak of and their eventual defeat was to a large extent a function of the importance of the oceans in Modern World History.3
The rise of Antonio Maceo in the Cuban military ranks from 1868 on was well earned and steady but it certainly was retarded by the influence of racist ideas.4 Maceo, his father and three brothers joined the rebel cause at the outbreak of the First War for Independence in 1868 CE. His leadership abilities were recognized quickly as he rapidly rose to officer status. However, it took five years for the rebel army leaders to designate Maceo a general. This length of time was much longer than normal for battlefield promotions. Obviously, negative views of Afro-Cuban intelligence held by some of the white rebel leaders contributed to the slow promotions for Maceo. Regardless of this racist impediment to his promotion in the ranks, Maceo became legendary during the war because of his victories over larger and better armed Spanish forces.
Maceo's approach to military tactics was a prime example of modern guerrilla warfare. Realizing that he was fighting a much superior force in the Spanish Army, the general used the forests in Eastern (Oriente) Cuba to great advantage.5 The Mambises lived in the woods and used them as effective cover. Maceo carefully picked the locations and enemy groups that he would attack. Following a battle, his troops would retreat to the forest for safety and physical recovery. The use of the machete in organized charges was their primary weapon. Although his campaigns disrupted much of the island's infrastructure, Maceo focused on destroying the sugar plantations in the western and central sections of Cuba, which were the main source of Spanish wealth. He also ignored orders from the rebel criollo leadership and freed slaves in the areas his troops conquered. The organization behind Maceo's campaigns reminds historians of the Levee en Masse from the French Revolution of the 1790's. Rebel soldiers' families lived with the men in Oriente's forests. Wives cooked meals, tended the wounded and prepared uniforms. The children of the fighting men did whatever small, helpful tasks that were necessary.
The Pact of Zanjon that ended the 10 Years War on 2/8/1878 was a mixed blessing for the Cuban rebels. It took the Spanish authorities two years to convince most of the disunited rebels to agree to a cessation of hostilities. The Mambises, who signed the pact, received financial payments from the Spanish government and pardons from Madrid if they had deserted from the colonial military. However, two main goals of the Cuban rebels, namely independence from Spain and emancipation of all Cuban slaves were not part of the agreement. Consequently, Antonio Maceo and his loyal soldiers did not accept the pact and this refusal is known in Cuban History as the Protest de Baragua.6
The decade of 1885 to 1895 was one in which Maceo balanced his personal and political responsibilities. He had many bills to pay and to address this practical need he pursued a few employment opportunities. In 1886, he constructed houses for the workers at the French Panama Canal project. By 1892, he was placed in charge of a rural farm project in Costa Rica. However, while his revolutionary activities were of secondary importance during this period, they weren't dead.7 In 1889, for example, the Spanish governor of the colony granted permission for Maceo to return to Cuba and sort out his financial obligations. As he was ostensibly paying off his creditors, Maceo's real activity was to sense the pulse of revolutionary fervor on the island. By 1894, Maceo's domestic role was over as he answered Jose Marti's call for a second war for Cuban independence. During this conflict, Maceo fought courageously and effectively until he was killed in action in December 1896.
Significance of Maceo for Cuban, Latin American and World History
Antonio Maceo's role in Cuban History is seminal for a few reasons. His activity as the champion of Afro-Cuban aspirations, especially the drive for freedom and equality in a 19th century racist Cuban society, puts him in a vaulted position in and of itself. He was also an ardent nationalist, which adds to his significance as a 19th century Cuban historical figure. In this context, his contributions rank equally with those of Jose Marti, Carlos Manuel Cespedes and others. He gave his life in pursuit of his two goals. This sacrifice had to have positive influence on the minds of the white Cuban nationalists, many of whom harbored racist views.8
In terms of Latin American History, Maceo deserves the same honorable status that figures such as Simon Bolivar, Jose de San Martin, Jose Sucre and Bernardo O'Higgins all enjoy, successful nationalist leaders all. It is interesting that Maceo's second great goal of emancipation, which followed a gradual development path in Cuba, seemed to follow a similar road in the newly independent countries of Gran Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador and Chile.
World historians will be quick to identify the similarities in Maceo's narrative with many of his global contemporaries. Figures such as Giuseppe Garibaldi in Italy, Louis Kossuth in Hungary and Emiliano Aguinaldo in the Philippines were all late 19th century nationalist leaders in their respective areas. They all shared with Maceo a strong desire to break free from European imperialism and establish a country for their own people. In a very real sense, all of these supporters of self-determination were inheritors of an Atlantic process successfully begun by Washington, L'Ouverture and Hidalgo in the previous one hundred years.
Global historians will also find it quite interesting to consider Maceo's career in the context of 19th century abolitionism. He was an exact contemporary of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison and Abraham Lincoln. The Cuban Ten Year War broke out in 1868, which was only three years after the ratification of the 13th amendment to the constitution that abolished slavery in the United States. As was the case with the movement of self-determination, Maceo and his abolitionist contemporaries stood on the shoulders of earlier advocates of freeing all slaves such as the 17th century Friends and 18th century CE. William Wilberforce in Great Britain and James Oglethorpe, who disallowed slavery in the British colony of Savannah, Georgia in 1733.
For teachers and students of World History, this short biography has much to recommend it. It certainly has been informed by the core thesis of the field set by William H. McNeill and others over fifty years ago, which holds that cross-regional encounters is a very powerful change agent in world history. Obviously, there have been many significant world history books written since McNeill's opus but almost all of them have responded to his thesis in one way or another. A second core world history understanding is that the discipline privileges a polycentric perspective over any example of centrism. With Western Europe, West Africa, North America and the Caribbean in the narrative, Maceo's life experience certainly fits this model. In addition, the piece places a segment of 19th century Cuban history in global context.
McNeill would be quick to point out the significant political events of transnational nature in Maceo's biography. The three hundred year legacy of Spanish imperialism and colonialism in Cuba is obvious as is the rebels' attempt at self-determination through armed revolution. A second transnational political development embedded in Maceo's narrative is the spread of the tactics of guerrilla warfare employed by the general's soldiers. It is our inference that these tactics were taught to Maceo by his commanding general, Maximo Gomez, who was educated at the Spanish Military Academy at Zaragoza in the first half of the 19th century and defended the Dominican Republic from Haitian incursions during the 1840's before he took part in the First War for Cuban Independence.
Global economic processes were certainly in play in Maceo's life. His own mother was a descendant of people forced into slavery by Portuguese and Dutch slave traders, who operated across the Middle Passage from the 16th century onward. The western and central Cuban sugar plantations to which most of these forced migrants were taken represented a system of coerced labor that can be traced back at least eight hundred years before Maceo to Muslim sugar plantations in the eastern Mediterranean region.
Maceo's life also witnessed a transnational human rights development dealing with the notion of abolition of slaves. This idea, which had its political origin in the anti-slavery position taken by 16th century English Quakers, was so strong in the general's value system that he was willing to die for it. In fact, it was the failure of Cuban abolitionism in the Pact of Zangon, which ended the Ten Years War, that caused Maceo and his supporters to reject the peace treaty.
Common Core World/Global History Teaching Applications
At last count, approximately forty-five states have signed on to the Common Core Educational Standards. New York State is one of these and the early description of a new Common Core/Global History course has led to a certain amount of uncertainty among New York State Social Studies teachers. The Common Core emphasis on the development of literacy skills is a set of obvious important educational objectives. However, for secondary history teachers, who already have many significant teaching responsibilities in their World History survey courses, the addition of the Common Core literacy focus may appear to be over -burdensome.
A closer look at the recently released New York State Framework for Common Core Global History should alleviate most of the teacher uncertainty. The Common Core requires an emphasis on the development of cogent essay writing skills and the teaching of sophisticated, domain specific thinking skills but neither of these is novel for the secondary Global History teachers. They have been fostering the ability to plan and write sophisticated historical arguments for the past fifty years at least.
The requirement to develop reading skills at the complex text level is new to many of the history educators and therefore presents a real challenge, especially when one considers that the majority of these teachers have little or no professional training in the development of reading skills. This legitimate concern should be ameliorated by the fact that all secondary departments are charged with this responsibility, including math and science. The real issue, however, is the never ending conflict in the minds of many Global History teachers as to whether to teach content or in this case nurture Common Core literacy skills. It is the considered view of the authors that this disconnect is based on a false dichotomy. The task is not to choose between content or skill development but to plan learning activities that accomplish both goals simultaneously. This technique requires careful planning and cumulative recordkeeping but it if followed properly, will allow secondary Global History educators to address the Common Core challenges and at the same time do what they love to do, which is the teaching of World History. What follows is a set of learning activities designed to accomplish both of these important objectives.
Maceo's early years reflected some of the more influential developments of the mid-19th century CE. Atlantic littoral. He was born in 1845 in the Province of Oriente, Cuba, which had been a Spanish colony since the 16th century. His father, a white Venezuelan, fought with the Spanish versus Bolivar's independence movement in northern South America and he left his homeland and came to Cuba after Bolivar's victory over Spain in 1823 Antonio's mother's ancestors were forced to migrate across the Middle Passage from West Africa in chains. Consequently, the Spanish racial structure in Cuba classified Antonio as a mulatto, which placed him very far away from status positions of power that were held by the white peninsulares and criollos.
Littoral-coastline, Structure- set up
Maceo's approach to military tactics was a prime example of modern guerrilla warfare. Realizing that he was fighting a much superior force in the Spanish Army, the general used the forests in Eastern Cuba to great advantage. The Mambises lived in the woods and used then as effective cover. Maceo carefully picked the locations and enemy groups that he would attack. Following a battle, his troops would retreat to the forest for safety and physical recovery. The use of the machete in organized charges was their primary weapon. Although his campaigns disrupted much of the island's infrastructure, Maceo focused on destroying the sugar plantations in the western and central sections of Cuba, which were the main source of Spanish wealth. He also ignored orders from the rebel criollo leadership and freed slaves in the areas his troops conquered. The organization behind Maceo's campaigns reminds historians of the Levee en Masse from the French Revolution of the 1790's. Rebel soldiers' families lived with them in Oriente's forests. Wives cooked meals, tended the wounded and prepared uniforms. The children of the fighting men did whatever small, helpful tasks that were necessary.
Tactics- Plan, Machete- Sharp Tool for Cutting Sugar Cane, Infrastructure- Roads, Railroads etc.
As we previously mentioned in the introduction to the teaching application section of this paper, it is of the upmost importance for the educator to keep a daily, cumulative record of the Common Core reading, writing, thinking and speaking skills developed in the learning activities of each class session. This record should supplement the similar cumulative record of World History themes, content and skills either taught and/or reinforced in learning sessions. This simple composite list directly allows the educator to teach World History and address the Common Core literacy and thinking requirements simultaneously. A complementary approach such as this is the key to teacher effectiveness and confidence in terms of being able to satisfy the dual requirements of teaching World History well while developing all of the mandated Common Core skills.
Once the cumulative lists are prepared by the educator at the beginning of the year and then filled in on a daily basis for about a month, they will provide an excellent source for teacher self- assessment and future lesson planning. For example, if the cumulative lists show that the teacher has really emphasized Common Core reading skills in the first month of the year to the detriment of developing Common Core writing, thinking and speaking skills, then obviously the three neglected skills areas should receive emphasis in lesson planning for a while in order to achieve a balanced program. Conversely, if the lists show a balanced approach to Common Core skill development, this will serve as positive reinforcement for the educator and incentive to continue along the same lines of instruction. The following is a model of a cumulative World History/Common Core list, which is based upon the five learning activities included in this article. For world history teachers, who are rightly concerned about sacrificing instructional time in History to Common Core skill development, please note the depth and breadth of World History themes and content taught in these five lessons on 19th century self- determination movements. Also, world history teachers will be happy to see the complementary nature of developing a sophisticated content specific list of vocabulary terms that will facilitate better reading and writing skills but at the same time serve as powerful tools for learning our discipline in depth.
Cumulative Content and Skill Building List – Five Learning Activities
Large Class Discussions on World History Based on Textual Evidence: 4
Peer Assistance- 2
Small Group Presentations- 1
Intra- Group Discussions- 1
Role Playing Discussions- 1
Antonio Maceo Grajales. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Maceo_Grajales.
Bethell, Leslie, ed. Cuba: A Short History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Ferrer, Ada. Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation and Revolution, 1868-1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
Foner, Philip S. Antonio Maceo: The Bronze Titan of Cuba's Struggle for Independence. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977.
______________. The Spanish-Cuban-Mexican War and the birth of American Imperialism, 1895-1902, 2 volumes. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972.
Lopez, Civeira, Francisca. Jose Marti ( 1853-1865). Michoacan: Universidad Michoacana de San Nicholas de Hidalgo, 1995.
Maceo, Jose Antonio. Ideologia Politica: Cartas y Obras Documentos. La Habana: Sociedad Cubana de Estudios Historicos e Internacionalses, 1950.
Stubbs, Jean. Tobacco on the Periphery, A Case Study in Cuban Labour History 1860-1958. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
THOMAS MOUNKHALL has taught World History at the secondary, undergraduate and graduate levels for the past forty-eight years. Presently, he develops in-service World History teachers through the Mid-Hudson Teacher Center at SUNY New Paltz. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
J.F. BRITTO has been an Adjunct Lecturer at SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Orange for the past twenty-seven years. His area of expertise is Latin America and World History. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 See Ada Ferrer, Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 7.
2 See Philip Foner, Antonio Maceo: The Bronze Titan of Cuba's Struggle for Independence (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977), 172.
3 See Philip Foner, Antonio Maceo: The Bronze Titan of Cuba's Struggle for Independence (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977), 22.
5 See Philip Foner, Antonio Maceo: The Bronze Titan of Cuba's Struggle for Independence ( New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977), entire chapter 1.
6 See Jose Antonio Maceo, Ideologia Politica: Cartas y Obras Documentos- 2 Volumes ( La Habana: Sociedad Cubana de Estudios Historicos e Internacionalses, 1950), xxxiv.
7 See Philip Foner, Antonio Maceo: The Bronze Titan of Cuba's Struggle for Independence (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977), 12.
8 See Jean Stubbs, Tobacco on the Periphery, A Case Study in Cuban Labour History 1860-1958 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 216. Maceo: The Bronze Titan of Cuba's Struggle for Independence (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977), 12.
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