Known as an exemplary mother, she was the mother of the Maceos brothers. She was born in the western province of Santiago, Cuba, on June 12, 1815 (although some sources indicate she was born in 1808), the daughter of José Grajales and Teresa Cuello, who were free, mixed-race people born in the Dominican Republic. Although she was not directly related to slaves, the era’s environment of slavery forged her proud character and brought out in her the political courage that earned her the name of the mother of the Maceos, the brave Cuban independence fighters.
Although little information is available about her childhood, Cuban historian Raúl Aparicio, states that Mariana Grajales’s education was the French style that was common on the island of Santo Domingo during the 19th century. At 23 years of age, she married Fructuoso Regüeiferos and they had four sons: Felipe, Fermín, Manuel and Justo. A decade after her husband’s death, she married for a second time with Marcos Maceo, a Venezuelan immigrant and Cuban patriot by conviction, and they had eight children: Antonio, Baldomero, Rafael, José Miguel, Julio, Dominga, Tomás and Marcos.
The political rule in Cuban in that era was despotic. Captain General Leopoldo O’Donnell was accused of perpetrating crimes and an order was issued requiring “free men of color from any country” to leave Cuba. Marcos Maceo evaded this order because when Antonio, his first son with Mariana, was born on June 14, 1845, he was recorded in the Ecclesiastical Registry as naturalized in Santiago de Cuba. In July of 1851, Marcos and Mariana legalized their union and the birth of their son.
After the Grito de Yara in 1868, Mariana gathered her sons to join the rebel ranks and remain active in the struggle for independence. She and her daughters did their patriotic duty working in the hospitals, helping the patients and encouraging them, once they were recovered, to return to the patriotic struggle. The work she did was often described as “civics lessons in constructive courage.” When the Ten Years War (1868-1878) ended with the Zanjón Treaty, Mariana encouraged her son, Antonio’s, unyielding position against the treaty in his Protest of Baraguá. When she realized that for the moment she could do no more, she left for Jamaica, where she died suddenly on November 28, 1893, struggling in exile for Cuba’s freedom up to her last moment.
Mariana Grajales is a legend in the struggle for Cuban independence. Described as an unbreakable woman, the death of her husband and sons on the battlefields of Cuba brought her great sorrow. She tended to the wounds of some of her sons and suffered poverty and persecution as she defended her ideals. It is said that while standing before the new grave of one of her sons, along with two others who had been gravely wounded, she told the youngest, Marco: “Now is the time to stand up and fight for your country.”
Author: Pablo Samuel Torres
Published: May 09, 2012.
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