Social and Political Motherhood of Cuba

Mariana Grajales Cuello
  • Jean Stubbs


In 1957 the Mayor of Havana, Justo Luis Pozo del Puerto, officially declared Doña Mariana Grajales de Maceo the ‘Mother of Cuba’. The occasion was recorded in a small book by Aída Rodríguez Sarabia entitled Mariana Grajales: Madre de Cuba. In it were reproduced the solemn words pronounced by Pozo, describing Mariana Grajales as the ‘symbol of abnegation and patriotism’, declaring a municipal government decision taken ‘in posthumous recognition of her virtues and tireless devotion to the Liberty of Cuba.’1


Slave Population Moral Rectitude Free Union Cuban Woman Mother Image 
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  1. 1.
    Aída Rodríguez Sarabia, Mariana Grajales: Madre de Cuba (Havana: Impresora Modelo, 1957), p. 5.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., p. 5.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gonzalo de Quesada in The War in Cuba. See also Arthur Schomburg ‘General Antonio Maceo’, The Crisis, 38 (May 1931).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Rodríguez Sarabia, Mariana Grajales, p. 8. This was presumably influenced by the American home economics movement which had started at the turn of the century, striving for both ‘scientific motherhood’ and ‘scientific home management’ — the ‘educate a woman and you educate a nation’ approach. It would seem to have predated the movement spreading to the British Caribbean, during the Second World War, outlined in Rhoda Reddock, ‘Feminism and Feminist Thought’ in Patricia Mohammed and Catherine Shepherd (eds), Gender in Caribbean Development, (Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies, 1988).Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    José Martí, ‘Mariana Grajales de Maceo’, Patria, 12 December 1893, in Antonio Maceo, Ideología Política, Cartas y Otros Documentos, Vol. I (Havana: Sociedad Cubana de Estudios Históricos y Internacionales, 1950), pp. 427–28. See also Julián Martínez Castells (ed.), Antonio Maceo, Documentos para su Vida, (Havana: Publicaciones del Archivo Nacional de Cuba, 1945).Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Quoted in Gonzalo Cabrales (ed.), Epístolario de Héroes, Cartas y Documentos Históricos (Havana: Imprenta El Siglo XX, 1922), pp. 30–31.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    Eusebio Hernández, Maceo: Dos Conferencias Históricas (1913 & 1930) (Havana: Instituto del Libro, 1968), pp. 33–35.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Emeterio S. Santovenia, Raíz y Altura de Antonio Maceo (Havana: Editorial Trópico, 1943), pp. 18–21.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    Fermín Peraza Sarausa, Infancia Ejemplar en la Vida Heróica de Antonio Maceo (Havana: Editorial Lex), p. 41.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    Leopoldo Horrego Estuch, Maceo, Héroe y Carácter (2nd extended edn.) (Havana: Editorial Luz-Hilo, 1944), pp. 17–18.Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    Octavio R. Costa, Antonio Maceo, el Héroe (Havana: Imp. El Siglo XX, 1947), pp. 86–90.Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    L. Griñan Peralta, Maceo: Análisis Carácterológico (Havana: Editorial Sánchez, 1953), p. 19.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    Ibid, p. 19–20.Google Scholar
  14. 26.
    The work of José Luciano Franco stands out in this respect: Antonio Maceo, Apuntes para una Historia de su Vida (1951–57), 3 Vols. (Havana: (Ciencias Sociales, 1975); Ruta de Antonio Maceo en el Caribe (Havana: Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad, 1961); La Vida Heroica y Ejemplar de Antonio Maceo, (Havana, 1963). Philip Foner, Antonio Maceo: The “Bronze Titan” of Cuba’s Struggle for Independence (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1977), is based largely on Franco. See also José Luciano Franco ‘Mariana and Maceo’ in Pedro Pérez Sarduy and Jean Stubbs (eds), AFROCUBA: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture (Melbourne, New York and London: Ocean Press, Center for Cuban Studies and Latin American Bureau, 1993).Google Scholar
  15. 27.
    Raúl Aparicio, Hombradía de Maceo (Havana: UNEAC, 1967), pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  16. 28.
    Ibid, p. 17.Google Scholar
  17. 29.
    Ibid, p. 22.Google Scholar
  18. 30.
    Ibid, p. 25.Google Scholar
  19. 31.
    Nydia Sarabia, Historia de una Familia Mambisa: Mariana Grajales, (Havana: Editorial Orbe, 1975), p. 79.Google Scholar
  20. 32.
    Ibid, p. 81.Google Scholar
  21. 33.
    Ibid, p. 83.Google Scholar
  22. 34.
    Matilde Danger and Delfina Rodríguez, Mariana Grajales (Santiago de Cuba: Editorial Oriente, 1977), pp. 3, 4, 8.Google Scholar
  23. 35.
    Marquina, Antonio Maceo, Héroe Eponimo (Havana: Editorial Lex, 1943), p. 9.Google Scholar
  24. 36.
    Ibid, pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  25. 37.
    G. Rodríguez Morejón, Maceo Héroe y Cuadillo (Havana: Imprenta Fernández y Cía, 1943), p. 7.Google Scholar
  26. 44.
    The stories are told in much greater detail in Abelardo Padrón Valdés, El General José: Apuntes Biográficos, (Havana: Instituto del Libro, 1973).Google Scholar
  27. 45.
    Sidney Mintz, Caribbean Transformations (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974).Google Scholar
  28. 46.
    Verena Martínez-Alier, Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth-Century Cuba, (Oxford: Cambridge University Press, 1974), and Verena Stolcke, ‘Women’s Labours: The Naturalisation of Social Inequality and Women’s Subordination’, in Kate Young et al., (eds), Of Marriage and the Market (London: Routledge, Kegan and Paul, 1984).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 47.
    This imagery is best developed in the great nineteenth-century Cuban literary classic Cirilo Villaverde, Cecilia Valdés or Angel’s Hill (1st edn.; 1879), (New York: Vantage Press, 1962). Cecilia is the beautiful, sensual woman, ‘all sex and no brain, vain from head to toe … who can be humble or haughty, scornful or seductive … born to be loved’. See Reynaldo González, Contradanzas y Látigazos, (Havana: Letras Cubanas, 1983); and ‘A White Problem: Interpreting Cecilia Valdés’ in Pérez Sarduy and Stubbs 1993, AFROCUBA, op. cit. It is interesting to note that the film of Cecilia made by Humberto Solás was not well-received in Cuba, among other things because it left out any suggestion of incest: in the book Cecilia and her wealthy young white lover Leonardo were, unbeknown to them, half-sister and brother. The film did, however, give Cecilia a brain and a cause: she used her intermediary status for the good of the abolition and independence struggle.Google Scholar
  30. 49.
    It is important to note that these are qualities that have also been central to the Africanist-feminist approach to black woman cross-culturally. See Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, ‘Black Women in Resistance: A Cross-Cultural Perspective’ in Gary Y. Okihiro (ed.), In Resistance, (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  31. 50.
    An excellent overview of the debate can be found in Stephan Palmié, ‘Ethnogenetic Processes and Cultural Transfer in Caribbean Slave Populations’, in Wolfgang Binder (ed), Slavery in the Americas (Wurzburg: Konighauser und Neumann, 1993). On the most recent phase of reconstituted culture, viz Cuban Santería in the United States, see Stephan Palmié, ‘Afro-Cuban Religion in Exile: Santería in South Florida’, Journal of Caribbean Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3, (1986) and ‘Against Syncretism: Africanising and Cubanising Discourses in North American Orisa-Worship’ in Richard Fardon (ed.), Counterworks: Managing Diverse Knowledge, (London: Routledge, forthcoming). See also Raúl Cañizares, Walking the Night: The Afro-Cuban World of Santería (Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books, 1993); David H. Brown, ‘Garden in the Machine: Afro-Cuban Sacred Art and Performance in Urban New Jersey and New York’ (PhD. thesis, Yale University, 1989); George Edward Brandon, ‘The Dead Sell Memories: An Anthropological Study of Santería in New York City’, (PhD. thesis, Rutgers University, 1983). For Haitian Vodún, see Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  32. 51.
    Philip Howard, ‘The Spanish Colonial Government’s Responses to the Pan-Nationalist Agenda of the Afro-Cuban Mutual Aid Societies, 1868–1895’, Revista/Review Interamericana, Vol. 22:1–2, (1992).Google Scholar
  33. 52.
    Judith Bettelheim, ‘Carnival in Santiago de Cuba’ and ‘La Tumba Francesa and Tajona of Santiago de Cuba’, in Judith Bettelheim (ed.), Cuban Festivals: An Anthology with Glossaries, (New York: Garland, 1993).Google Scholar
  34. 53.
    James O’Kelly, The Mambí-Land or Adventures of a Herald Correspondent in Cuba (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co, 1874). O’Kelly’s unique account of the ‘other Cuba’, Cuba Libre or the Mambi-Land of the insurrectional forces during the 1868–78 war vividly describes the fugitive patriots and their families, whom he affirms were overwhelmingly coloured, in the depths of the woods of eastern Cuba. His descriptions range from the simplicity yet gentle elegance of their settlements to their brotherhood of ‘El Silencio’ and Vodún ceremonies.Google Scholar
  35. 54.
    Robert Farris-Thompson, Flash of the Spirit (New York: Vintage Books, 1984), p. xv.Google Scholar
  36. 55.
  37. 56.
    This is developed in K. Lynn Stoner, From the House to the Streets: The Cuban Woman’s Movement for Legal Reform, 1898–1940 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Department of History, U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica 1995

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  • Jean Stubbs

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