José Martí entrusted Juan Gualberto Gómez, a son and grandson of slaves, to re-launch the insurrection, with the independence forces better organized and more determined than ever
Every February 24, Juan Gualberto Gómez, son and grandson of slaves, raised a Cuban flag at Villa Manuela, his residence in the Mantilla neighborhood of Havana, after Spanish colonialism had been replaced by U.S. domination. Flying the lone star flag on this date was his way of saying that Cuba’s sovereignty was an aspiration that had not been forgotten.
Juan Gualberto Gómez’s devotion to Cuba’s independence led José Martí to see in him the man capable of preparing what he called the Necessary War, which would be re-initiated February 24, 1895, after the so-called “fruitful truce.”
They had met in Havana in 1878 and developed great mutual respect instantaneously. It would be this journalist and fervent patriot from Matanzas who would be named by Martí to give the order for simultaneous uprisings across the archipelago, February 24, 1895, bringing both veterans and new combatants back to the battlefield.
Historian Hortensia Pichardo described Martí’s wise tactical approach: a simultaneous uprising, so that the flame would be ignited throughout the island, and allow the Necessary War to be as brief and effective as a “lightning bolt.”
And so it happened. But Martí’s premature death and the opportunistic U.S. intervention, in 1898, dashed the dream of full independence.
Juan Gualberto openly opposed annexation by the United States and denounced the governments installed during the first years of military occupation. He condemned the Platt Amendment, added under pressure to the 1902 Constitution, giving the U.S. the right to intervene whenever it saw fit.
His granddaughter related that on one occasion, when he was raising the Cuban flag in the garden at Villa Manuela, he told the young woman, just 13 at the time, “You must defend this with your life.”
It was in Villa Manuela where Juan Gualberto Gómez died on March 5, 1933, a few days after his last February 24. His relatives say that his last words were dedicated to the longing that marked his entire existence: “Cuba, Martí, Cuba.”