By Gemma Cruz Araneta
“Is Cuba for sale?” This was the provocative title of an article that appeared in a certain democratic fortnightly entitled “La Solidaridad” (31 March 1889, No. 4, Year 1, Barcelona). The writer, an anonymous Juan, reported an alarming rumor that Cuba was for sale because it was on the verge of bankruptcy. Referring to a news item he had read in “The Sun,” a New York daily, Juan said Spanish Minister Sagasta was willing to accept 300 million pesos for the “sacrilegious sale” of Cuba.
Juan expounded: “What is happening in that beautiful country, which only recently was the emporium of opulence and which today is in complete bankruptcy? We answer categorically: What has happened is that the influential politicians have converted Cuba into an inexhaustible source of riches for their friends and relatives; what happens is that everyone offers and no one complies; and poor Cuba, despite its being beautiful, with its having been rich and its being in conditions of becoming so again is reaping the harvest in such a manner that her anemia is more like mortal tuberculosis.”
Columnist Juan reported that all the governments of Spain, whether liberal or conservative, have allowed the “politics of caciquism” to thrive in Cuba, and “if it is true that friars do not exist over there, the colonial administration wreaks of shameless favoritism, electoral wiles, conservatism, and the predisposition to be hostile to political administrative reforms…”
How strange that there was no “empire of friars” in Cuba.
After the 10-year anti-colonial war against Spain, Cuba was a “horrifying hecatomb” where nothing much had changed, according to Juan. “If the [colonial] government had granted justice to those who demanded it, they would have avoided those crises which we lament so much…so much blood spilt without benefit….”
I suppose that Juan’s article was the official stand of the Filipino community in Spain against the sale of Cuba. He wrote: “We protest that inequity…We do not tolerate, nor can we tolerate that a piece of land, small, yes, but large in the hearts of her sons, should be like any piece of merchandise put up [for sale] in the markets of European diplomacy…Bring to that country the reforms asked for by autonomist Liberal Party, organize for them the same laws that exist in the Peninsula [Spain], stop [Cuba’s] conversion into a factory of godsons and relatives, allow decentralization and self-government, dispel fears that there are government ministers in America trying to buy the country, or that a Peninsular government is capable of selling it.”
In its 15 April 1889 issue, “La Solidaridad” ran a motivating item about Porfirio Valiente, a native of Santiago de Cuba who was a medical student at the University of Barcelona. Porfirio loved to research and make painstaking scientific experiments. He invented a clinical thermometer, which won a bronze medal at the Barcelona Exposition.
“La Solidaridad” lionized Porfirio Valiente: “Among other Cubans who are not hesitant to following a difficult path, his name stands out [as] one of those endowed with intelligence above the common herd…The glory of a man is the glory of his country. We urge him to work hard in his endeavors because in raising himself, he honors his family and our dear Cuba.”
Porfirio Valiente went back to Cuba, joined the Ejército Libertador (Liberation Army) as a medical officer in August, 1895. He was side by side Major-General Jose Maceo at the Battle of Loma del Gato when the latter was killed in action. He became a representative in the Revolutionary Assembly of Cuba and passed away in March, 1900, while he was the mayor of Santiago, his birthplace. Porfirio Valiente del Monte lived up to the expectations of his Filipino friends.
(Source: La Solidaridad, Vol. 1, 1889, translated by Guadalupe Fores-Ganzon, FundacionSantiago )(firstname.lastname@example.org)