“THIS DAY IN CUBAN HISTORY – The Ríus Rivera Supplies Expedition”

THIS DAY  IN CUBAN HISTORY
The Ríus Rivera Supplies Expedition

On September 18, 1896, General Antonio Maceo secured the military supplies that came from the U.S. shores and landed on María la Gorda inlet at Cabo Corrientes 10 days before.  It was a dangerous clandestine military operation since it required a difficult march from the Cuban army bases in the Rubí Mountains to the westernmost region of Pinar del Río.

Maceo led a 300-elite force to welcome the needed reinforcements of war material and men, commanded by General Juan Ríus, (a native of Puerto Rico) and colonel Francisco Leyte Vidal, both veterans of the Ten Years’ War.  Among the new arrivals was Francisco Gómez Toro, Máximo Gómez’s eldest son. Ríus Rivera brought official word of José Maceo’s death, which deeply saddened his brother Antonio.

The military supply included one thousand rifles over 500,000 rounds of ammunition, two thousand pounds of dynamite, one cannon with 100 shells and over three dozen, mostly experienced fighters.  With the war material secured, Maceo began the march back to the Rubí Mountains. The topography of the region facilitated the Spanish army attempt to encircle the Cubans.  General Valeriano Weyler ordered several columns to trap General Maceo’s troops and military material before they reached these mountains strongholds.  More than 8,000 Spanish soldiers in four columns maneuvered to encircle the rebels.  The situation grew critical and, on October 4, the bloodiest encounter of the war was fought at “Ceja del Negro.”  In a ferocious battle, the Spaniards stood their ground with their ancestral fatalistic tenacity, their generals in the front ranks.  Only the battle-trained skills and sheer courage of Maceo’s veterans allowed them to break through the encirclement.  A few days later, the rebels were back in the mountains with most of the Ríus Rivera expedition and supplies.

*Pedro Roig is Executive Director of the Cuban Studies Institute. Roig is an attorney and historian that has written several books, including the Death of a Dream: A History of Cuba. He is a veteran of the Brigade 2506.