BY PEDRO DE LA HOZ
What lay behind the colonial authorities decision to carry out the horrendous crime of Nov. 27, 1871? Madness or calculated treachery? An irrational hatred for the emerging national sentiment that was taking shape in the countryside? Or a premeditated attempt to teach a lesson to those of rebellious spirit who sympathized with the movement for freedom?
That day, eight Cuban medical students received in their flesh a mortal salvo of rifle fire as punishment for supposedly desecrating the grave of a Spanish writer who had called, in a lampoon, for the extermination of everyone born on the island. It was soon learned that no such desecration had taken place; it was merely a pretext for carrying out the crime.
The first to be charged were five young people who had been found in the Espada cemetery November 23, the day on which the crime that had never taken place was alleged to have been committed. Three others were chosen at random. Thirty more received sentences of up to six years in prison in the frame-up trial.
Ángel Laborde, Anacleto Bermúdez, José de Marcos Medina, Juan Pascual Rodríguez, Alonso Álvarez de la Campa, Eladio González, Carlos Augusto de la Torre, and Carlos Verdugo were the victims. They ranged in age from 16 to 21.
Unrecorded, however, are the names of five other Cubans killed that same day, in an attempt to rescue the students on their way to the firing squad. They were five men of black skin, one of them a milk brother of Álvarez de la Campathat is, someone nursed by the same black nanny.
An account of the failed action was written by no less than Ramón López de Ayala, captain of volunteers in charge of the execution of the young people. In a letter to his brother, who worked in Madrids Ministry of Overseas Territories, he wrote: Blacks discharged their firearms at a group of artillery volunteers, killing their lieutenant. Those under attack responded immediately against the blacks, tearing to pieces the five authors of the aggression on the spot.
The blacks belonged to the Abakuá group Bakokó Efó, one of the associations under whose name African slaves and their descendants on Cuban soil organized to defend themselves physically and preserve their culture against the colonial oppressors. The action taken Nov. 27, 1871, has been preserved and passed down orally by the Abakuás as part of the most valuable patrimony of their revolt. Taken by force to be exploited in the plantations of the island, the Abakuás brought essential ethical values to the forging of the nation.
Those anonymous fighters merit the words our [José] Martí used to honor the murdered students, praising the capacity of the Cuban soul
to rise up in arms, sublimely and, at the moment of sacrifice, to face death without hesitation in the holocaust of the homeland.
Cubans answer slander of racism against revolution
Health group withdraws from anti-Cuba letter
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