Maximo Gómez

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Maximo Gómez – Revolutionary. Generalismo of the Cuban War for Independence from Spain. Creator of The “Machete Charge”. The originator of guerilla warfare (chea). But most importantly–my great, great, great uncle!

Máximo Gómez was born in the small town of Baní, Dominican Republic on Nov. 18, 1836. The son of a lower-middle-class family, he entered a religious seminary, but his religious instruction was soon interrupted by a Haitian invasion of the Dominican Republic in the 1854. Rejecting the clerical career that his mother (a.k.a my great-great-great grandmother) desired for him, Gómez at age 16, joined the forces of Dominican patriots, where he fought bravely in the battle of Santomé in 1856 and in numerous subsequent battles. He later commanded Spanish reserve forces in Santo Domingo. He remained at his post as commander until the end of the Spanish domination in 1865, when he and his family moved to Santiago de Cuba.

While in Cuba, he started to conspire with Cuban revolutionaries, as a result of being unhappy with the treatment he and other Dominicans had received from Spain and horrified by the exploitation of the black slaves. Maximo Gómez joined the Cuban revolution against Spanish rule in 1868, rising quickly through the ranks to become second in command, then general and later commander of Oriente Province. During what is commonly referred to as “The Ten Years’ War”, he waged countless battles and excelled as a most gifted strategist and is credited as the teacher of a number of brilliant chiefs.

But he soon retired from the fight.

When hostilities broke out again in 1895, Jose Martí asked Gómez to lead the new struggle. Being a distinguished revolutionary and military leader of exceptional qualities, Maximo occupied the highest responsibilities within Cuba’s Liberation Army. He traveled to the United States and met with Martí, but the two had different approaches to the problem of Cuban liberation with Gómez favoring the military side.
Gomez’s tactics of hit and run and burning plantations used the kind of rapid mobility for which small well-trained guerrilla forces are especially suited. With his extraordinary military skills, he taught the Cuban forces what would be their most lethal tactic: the machete charge. The machete charge was particularly lethal because it involved firearms as well. With a handful of men simply armed with machetes, he annihilated two enemy companies in a matter of minutes.  He thus gave the first lesson on the use of what would become, until the end of the war, the most fearsome weapon of the Cuban combatants.
During Cuba’s War of Independence (1895-98) Gómez and Antonio Maceo, another noted Cuban general, were collectively known in the Spanish press as “the fox and the lion”. By war’s end, Gómez had spent more than half of his life dedicated to the liberation of Cuba. That’s gangsta!
After the war, Gómez–the most popular hero of the war–soon got into trouble. He was deeply frustrated after the United States’ military occupation and the establishment of Cuba; creating a republic nothing like that dreamt about by the founding fathers. He requested that the Americans pay the Cuban veterans for their services since 1895 and at a higher rate than American soldiers had received. The United States refused and offered $3 million, or an estimated $75 for each soldier who turned in his weapons. Gómez also clashed with the Cuban Assembly, composed of army delegates, over a proposed United States loan. Gómez opposed the loan and criticized the Assembly for considering it. The Assembly in turn resented Gómez’s high-handed manner and the secret conversations he held with representatives of the U.S. government to secure payment for the war veterans. The Assembly finally dismissed Gómez as commander in chief of the army.

Gómez’s dismissal only increased his popularity. As candidates emerged for the presidential election of 1901, Gómez was the most popular figure. Yet the old general refused to be considered, claiming, “I would much rather liberate men than govern them.”

Old and sick, Gen. Gómez went on a speaking tour but could do little, for he died on June 17, 1905 in Havana.

As far as family history goes, I’ve been told of a story about my great-great grandma riding into town on a donkey with her mother to a government office to collect residuals from Maximo’s military services. Hmmm….I wonder who’s collecting that today?

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I also know that there’s Maximo Gomez Park (a.k.a ‘domino park’) in Miami, and a statue of him in Havana. Also in Cuba is a home he lived in, a recently restored historical relic in Havana. The draft of the document proclaiming the independence of Cuba, known as “The Manifesto of Montecristi” was created there. I’ve also seen a host of stamps and photos (where, btw, I noticed that he, mi abuela y mi madre have the same EARS :-)). This man’s face is even on a banknote of ten pesos! I’m glad that a portion of my family history is preserved in such a way! I even hear there’s a park placed where his childhood home was in Bani, D.R., which means I have more access to my lineage! There is a bust of him, the Dominican and Cuban flags, and a mural with scenes depicting his life. WOW! I’m proud to say that we share the same blood. 🙂 Viva Maximo Gómez!



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3 responses »

  1. Wow! I am a history lover and was sooo excited reading this!!
    So I teach about the Cuban Revolution (and other independence movements of Latin America) and I am going to share this blog/pictures with my students when we return from spring break!
    Rich culture. Rich history. Keep shining queen!
    Thanks for sharing this : )

  2. Do you know if your his mother ( a.k.a. your great-great-great-grandmother) had any brothers or sisters and do you name of her parents?

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