CubaBrief: Eternal Hostility Against Tyrants, the Fourth of July and Cuban women

“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” – Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, September 23, 1800

The words of Thomas Jefferson resonates with free Cubans.

The history of Cuba and the United States are intertwined and stretch back over two hundred years. Frank Calzon in Americas Quarterly in 2010 wrote about a little known chapter of this shared history when Cuban women in Havana assisted the cause of American independence at a critical moment.

In 1781, things did not look good, when General Washington sent French Admiral Francois De Grasse to seek funds in the Caribbean. What happened is told by Charles Lee Lewis, in his Admiral De Grasse and the American Independence, published by the United States Naval Institute.

Unfortunately, as Jean-Jacques Antier writes in Admiral de Grasse: Hero of L’Independence Americaine, when De Grasse got to Havana the Spanish fleet had left for Spain.  There was no gold to be had, and the colonial government could not help. The Cubans, however, liked Washington and private contributions flowed in. “Ladies even offering their diamonds. The sum of 1,200,000 livres was delivered on board,” Antier wrote. De Grasse sailed back toward Philadelphia, where Rochambeau took a boat to Chester, Pennsylvania, in September 1781.

“We saw in the distance Gen. Washington, shaking his hat and a white handkerchief and showing signs of great joy” when he saw their boat approaching Chester, according to De Rochambeau’s account in J.J. Jusserands’s With Americans of Past and Present Days. “De Rochambeau had scarcely landed,” Jusserand wrote, “when Washington, usually cool and composed, fell into his arms; the great news had arrived, de Grasse had come.” And there was enough money to fund to continue fighting. .

The campaign in the fall of 1781—and the war—ended with Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. As Bonsal noted, “The million that was supplied by the ladies of Havana may be regarded as the ‘bottom dollars’ upon which the edifice of American independence was erected.”

Back in 1781, there was no United States, no United States Agency for International Development and no Cuba democracy program. While the worthiness of current U.S. efforts to promote a transition to democracy in Cuba are sometime questioned, on this Fourth of July let’s pray for our soldiers abroad, and remember the help given to George Washington by the  “Ladies of Havana” so long ago.

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, but independence was formally recognized six years later when King George III acknowledged American independence and ordered the end of hostilities on December 5, 1782.

Cuban independence was formally recognized on May 20, 1902.

Over a half century, Cuba developed a multiparty system, competitive elections, a free press, a modern public health system and a strong labor movement. This translated to social achievements placing pre-1959 Cuba at the top of Latin American indexes, outperforming what came afterward in Castro’s communist dictatorship.

This Cuban Republic on July 1, 1918 voted to make July 4th, American independence, a fiesta day on the island.

Today there is a tyranny in Cuba that has over 1,000 Cubans currently imprisoned for calling for freedom. This same dictatorship’s agents murdered Oswaldo Payá, an internationally recognized Cuban human rights icon, and his protégé, Harold Cepero a youth leader, on July 22, 2012.

Let us hope that in a future free Cuba, this July 4th celebration day be restored by free Cubans in a multiparty democracy where no one is imprisoned or murdered for advocating for freedom or human rights.

The Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2021

Cuba’s Old Republic Outshines Colonialism and Castroism

The island’s democratic period (1902-1952) saw impressive achievements.

Sept. 13, 2021 6:45 pm ET

Cuban teachers studying at Harvard University in the early 20th century Photo: Harvard University Archives

Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s review of “Cuba: An American History” by Ada Ferrer (Bookshelf, Sept. 4) offers insights into Cuba’s history under colonialism and Castroism, but it does a disservice to Cuba’s democratic period (1902-1952). During the Cuban Republic, the island’s leaders negotiated the return of the Isle of Pines and reduced the U.S. military presence from four bases to two and then to one. The Platt Amendment was the price for ending the four-year American occupation following the Spanish-American War, and ending Platt in 1934 ended formal U.S. interference in Cuban affairs.

Over 50 years, Cuba developed a multiparty system, competitive elections, a free press, a modern public health system and a strong labor movement. This translated to social achievements placing pre-1959 Cuba at the top of Latin American indexes, outperforming Castro’s Cuba.

Cuba even led in proposing, drafting and lobbying for the passage of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Language in the declaration was selected from Cuba’s 1940 constitution. Cuban diplomats presented nine proposals, five of which are in the UDHR.

The Cuban Republic wasn’t perfect, but its achievements over a half-century delivered for all Cubans. It offers a powerful contrast to Cuba today.

John Suarez

Center for a Free Cuba

Falls Church, Va.

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Appeared in the September 14, 2021, print edition as ‘Cuba’s Republic Outshines Colonialism and Castroism.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/cuba-colonialism-us-cuban-republic-castro-11631547002

Americas Quarterly, July 2, 2010

The Fourth of July and Cuban Women

By Frank Calzon | July 2, 2010

On the eve of this 4th of July, I think about our servicemen and women whose lives are at risk defending U.S. interests and the cause of freedom around the world. I also think about Cuba, so close to the United States, where a despotic regime continues to misrule; and about the Ladies in White, a group of women—mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives of Cuban political prisoners, punished for desiring the same freedoms that Americans will celebrate this weekend.

Again, this Sunday the Ladies in White will walk together to mass, all dressed in white, calling attention to the plight of their loved ones and the lack of freedom in Cuba.  The women have been harassed, spat upon and insulted by mobs organized by the regime. Their mistreatment, detention and abuse by Cuban police has earned the condemnation of  world leaders, including the First Lady of France, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and President Barack Obama.

Less known today, although they played a noble role in the war for American Independence, is another group of Cuban women, the “Ladies of Havana,” who helped George Washington at a most critical moment.

The battle of Yorktown was about to start, and the British General Charles Cornwallis, believed he would defeat the Americans. According to Washington’s aide, Count de Rochambeau, “the Continental troops [are] almost without clothes. The greater number [are] without socks or shoes. These people are at the very end of their resources. Washington will not have at his disposal half the number of troops he counts on having.” The story is told by historian Stephen Bonsal in the book When the French Were Here, published in 1945.

In 1781, things did not look good, when General Washington sent French Admiral Francois De Grasse to seek funds in the Caribbean. What happened is told by Charles Lee Lewis, in his Admiral De Grasse and the American Independence, published by the United States Naval Institute.

Unfortunately, as Jean-Jacques Antier writes in Admiral de Grasse: Hero of L’Independence Americaine, when De Grasse got to Havana the Spanish fleet had left for Spain.  There was no gold to be had, and the colonial government could not help. The Cubans, however, liked Washington and private contributions flowed in. “Ladies even offering their diamonds. The sum of 1,200,000 livres was delivered on board,” Antier wrote. De Grasse sailed back toward Philadelphia, where Rochambeau took a boat to Chester, Pennsylvania, in September 1781.

“We saw in the distance Gen. Washington, shaking his hat and a white handkerchief and showing signs of great joy” when he saw their boat approaching Chester, according to De Rochambeau’s account in J.J. Jusserands’s With Americans of Past and Present Days. “De Rochambeau had scarcely landed,” Jusserand wrote, “when Washington, usually cool and composed, fell into his arms; the great news had arrived, de Grasse had come.” And there was enough money to fund to continue fighting. .

The campaign in the fall of 1781—and the war—ended with Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. As Bonsal noted, “The million that was supplied by the ladies of Havana may be regarded as the ‘bottom dollars’ upon which the edifice of American independence was erected.”

Back in 1781, there was no United States, no United States Agency for International Development and no Cuba democracy program. While the worthiness of current U.S. efforts to promote a transition to democracy in Cuba are sometime questioned, on this Fourth of July let’s pray for our soldiers abroad, and remember the help given to George Washington by the  “Ladies of Havana” so long ago.

*Frank Calzon is a guest blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, which is based in Arlington, Va. Read his May AQ Web Exclusive on Cuban worker productivity.

https://www.americasquarterly.org/blog/the-fourth-of-july-and-cuban-women/

New York Times, July 2, 1918

Cuba Makes July 4 National Holiday.

HAVANA, July 1.–In both the Senate and House this afternoon a resolution was adopted declaring July 4. America’s Independence Day, and July 14, the anniversary of the fall of the Bastile in France, Cuban national holidays. The sum of $10,000 was appropriated to be expended in celebrating the new “fiesta” days.

https://www.nytimes.com/1918/07/02/archives/cuba-makes-july-4-national-holiday.html