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Tacajo: A Sedition of Holguin Combatants?
Mambises. Photo: radio Juvenil(archive)
In early 1869 in a place of today’s Cuban province of Holguin there happened an event that has called the attention of historians: the Mutiny of Tacajo as known in history; which has been seen from different scopes.

Let’s now see the insights of this political move and why it took place in the territory of Holguin.

In October 1868, independence fighters seized the city of Bayamo and established there a government presided over Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. The territory of Camaguey that had risen in arms on the fourth of November had also created a government, but not bound to that in Bayamo.

In January 1869 the Spanish forces reconquered Bayamo, but the heroic and proud city was burned down before falling into enemy hands again. After such event, the revolutionary government and its dwellers spread across the forest and countryside areas of the jurisdiction, thus bringing with it much hurdles for the revolutionary administration. Fair contact among the revolutionaries of the jurisdictions turned twisted, especially for Santiago de Cuba, Bayamo, Holguin, Jiguani, Tunas and Bayamo that had recognized Cespedes and his government.

The weak structures of the government created by the revolutionaries were hit by the new situation, and the vitality of the interests of regionalism and leadership showed up. Cespedes’ preponderant role among the regional leaders relied on his military successes. Soon after his resounding defeat, his figure went dimming before the eyes of his followers.

The first blow came from General Donato Marmol, the political and military leader of the jurisdictions of Santiago de Cuba and Jiguani.

General Marmol, supported by some officers, proclaimed himself a dictator in the sense of the Roman term. That is to say, he took the reins of the government to save the chaos caused by the defeats. On the causes for Marmol’s decision there are several criteria, according to General Maximo Gomez: “Eduardo Marmol, cultured and terrible, suggested the dictatorship to Donato Marmol.”

For historian and economist Cepero Bonilla: “Tacajo was not a mere incident determined by the ambition of a man or a group of men. It was the response to the interests of the popular classes that made up the largest majority of the Liberation Army in Oriente (Eastern Cuba).”

However, our goal today is not to write history from our viewpoint, but to assess the impact of such singular event on Holguin. We mean getting to know about the way the combatants Holguin thought and behaved on that move; which can provide an interesting vision on the conception reining in a side of the revolutionaries on the way to organize the newly born republic.

It is interesting to see that the move developed in its final stage in the jurisdiction of Holguin. The forces of Donato Marmol had spread to the west of the huge Nipe bag bay waiting for an expedition that sent by the emigration would land by El Ramon peninsula. Such concentration turned into the scene for the political move. Part of the troops stationed in Tacajo, an estate in the eastern region of Holguin.

The leaders from Holguin led by Julio Grave de Peralta kept in contact with Marmol and his men. Even Grave de Peralta and Donato Marmol sat and talked in Tacajo, but the combatants from Holguin did not join Marmol’s moves. The different conception over the organization of the revolution was the turning point. It is out of discussion that we are facing two different criteria. On one side the centralized leadership as proposed by Cespedes, on the other side the idea of choosing the government through elections with a parliament to become the counterpart of the executive power. The latter criteria triumphed in Camaguey.

The men from Holguin were in agreement with a centralized command, whose figure could either be Cespedes or Donato Marmol.

Although Holguin troops had to accept the type of government established by Cespedes, the form ruling in the eastern region was marked by the circumstances that led to the uprising. It was indeed the decision taken by a group of regionalists that chose the date of the rising without consenting with the other leaders. However, a decisive factor was the military victory of the seizing of Bayamo. Later, the Spanish failed attempts of reconquering the place in October and November 1868. Not less important were Cespedes’ capacity and intelligence, his flexibility and understanding towards the other regional leaders. Also, the acceptance of a group of foreign militaries in the newly born army that relatively achieved some successes, whose victories gave prestige to Carlos Manuel de Cespedes.

We may wonder if a truly substantial difference marked Cespedes’ and Marmol’s criteria on the way to govern. Without a doubt, no significant differences existed between the way of ruling as Marmol aspired in Tacajo and the one established by Cespedes in Bayamo. In both cases the leadership depended on a man and there was no chances of choosing him or removing him through voting. The men from Holguin expressed their disagreement with that way of governing. But due to the irony of history, the event is known as Mutiny or Moves of Tacajo.

Despite the fact Holguin men had nothing to do with the move; the importance of the event relies on the impulse it gave to the unity of the revolutionary forces that led to formation of the Republic of Cuba on April 1869. In fact, the expression of the discontent over the prevailing situation within the liberation forces due to the lack of unity. The move ended with the meeting of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Donato Marmol and other patriots in Tacajo on February 1869. For that reason, the event takes the name of the place, despite no local participated.

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