Homeland or Death: A Patriotic Constant in Cuba since the 19th Century

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Havana, Mar 5 (Prensa Latina) The beginning of the war for independence (in Cuba), the National Anthem, poems and historical documents of the 19th century show today that the essence of the slogan “Homeland or Death” has more than 61 years in Cuba.

This was explained to Prensa Latina by historian Paula Ortiz, who also stressed that although the phrase was born in the burial of the victims after the sabotage of the steamship La Coubre (March 4, 1960), it responds to the feelings of the people since they decided to fight for their freedom in 1868.

In the war of independence the call was Liberty or Death, in the text of the National Anthem we find the verse: To die for the Homeland is to Live, and the work Abdala (1869) of the young José Martí refers: ‘For the Homeland to die rather than see it of the barbarian oppressor cowardly slave’, to cite examples.

In 1960, ‘Fidel Castro, at a time with very specific conditions of aggression by the United States, retakes and concentrates the motto of all our history of emancipation in the dilemma of Homeland or Death’, said the specialist.

The expert pointed out that currently there are those who distort history and give a wrong and opportunistic approach to the phrase as part of the strategy to decontextualize the national symbols.

We must be clear that it is not that people want to die, nor is death hyperbolized, the slogan states that to defend the Homeland, if necessary, even life is offered’, she emphasized.

In Ortiz’s opinion, in order to understand the birth of this slogan it is essential to contextualize the event, which goes beyond understanding the national indignation in the face of the terrorist act that a day before caused a hundred deaths during the explosion of La Coubre, in the port of Havana. ‘We have a genuine Revolution, made by and for Cubans, which is evidenced in all the social transformations after 1959, measures that are going to affect economic interests and the great monopolistic profits that still existed in the country’.

According to the historian, these prejudiced sectors, in alliance with Washington, ‘are going to try to destroy us by all means through economic, diplomatic and terrorist means’.

The French steamship La Coubre was bringing weapons from Belgium that would increase the island’s defenses, but two explosions on the ship during its stay in Havana prevented the unloading of all the ammunition, caused 101 deaths, more than 400 wounded, 34 missing and 82 children were left without a father.

The following day, during the funeral, Fidel Castro explained the facts and demonstrated that sabotage caused the explosion, years later other investigations would prove the link of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States in those events.

Once again we would have no other choice than the one with which we began the revolutionary struggle: freedom or death. Only now freedom means something even more: freedom means Homeland, and our dilemma would be Homeland or Death! […]’, said Fidel Castro.

Carmen del Busto recalled her participation in the funeral and the specific moment in which the Cuban leader pronounced those phrases before hundreds of thousands of people who spontaneously joined the funeral.

There were people crying, we were very indignant, the feeling of revolutionary effervescence was strong, we applauded Fidel’s speech constantly, there was no talk of anything else’, he commented to Prensa Latina.

In this regard, Ortiz explained that the massive reaction to the slogan was due to the higher degree of awareness, sovereignty, unity and identification that the people of the island had reached.
Three months and two days later, during the closing ceremony of the Congress of the National Federation of Barbers and Hairdressers in Havana, Fidel Castro joined for the first time to the immortal slogan of Homeland or Death, the answer: We shall overcome!

(Taken from PL)

 

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Radio Grito de Baire

Webmaster Jorge Luis Lora Moran Digital Edition Radio Grito de Baire, Contramaestre, Cuba.

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