Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
(Shorthand Versions – Office of the President of the Republic)
Dear Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President of the United Mexican States;
Thank you for the opportunity you give us to bring Cuba’s grateful embrace to your beautiful patriotic celebrations for that Grito de Dolores that aroused so much libertarian eagerness in our region more than 200 years ago.
Among all the brothers that Our America has given us, Mexico counts, for many reasons, as one of the most dear to Cuba.
That affection that unites our lands begins with the dazzle caused by its deep and diverse traces in the literature and history of America:
“How beautiful is the land inhabited by the brave Aztecs!” said the Cuban José María Heredia in the Teocalli of Cholula, opening a fascinating door to that Mundo Nuestro, much earlier than that of the terrible conquest that began centuries later, with unrestrained slaughter and destruction, the Spanish troops coming from Santiago de Cuba, under the command of Hernán Cortés.
But no one would tell us more about Mexico than José Martí. I quote excerpts from his memorable speech delivered at the evening in honor of this country at the Hispanic American Literary Society in 1891: “(…) today we gather to pay honor to the nation girded with palm trees and orange blossoms that raises, like a flourish of glory, to the blue sky, the free summits where the whistle of the railroad awakens, crowned with roses as yesterday, with the health of work on the cheek, the indomitable soul that sparkled in the embers in the ashes of Cuauhtémoc, never extinguished. We salute a people that melts, in the crucible of its own metal, the civilizations that were cast upon it to destroy it!”.
Later, referring to the significant date we commemorate today, Martí said: “Three hundred years later, a priest (…) summoned his village to war against the parents who denied the life of soul to their own children; it was the hour of the Sun, when the adobe huts of the poor Indians were shining through the mulberry trees; and never, although veiled a hundred times by blood, has the sun of Hidalgo stopped shining since then! They hung the heads of the heroes in iron cages; the heroes bit the dust, with a bullet in the heart; but on September 16 of every year, at dawn, the President of the Republic of Mexico cheers, before the people, the free homeland, waving the flag of Dolores”.
Due to its characteristics, the Mexican independence process, which began with the Grito de Dolores, led by Father Miguel Hidalgo on a day like today in 1810 and was consummated 11 years later with the entrance of the Trigarante Army in Mexico City. It had a notorious component of social and indigenous demands that differentiated it from other processes that typified the independence era. Its impact was, without a doubt, extraordinary in the libertarian and anti-colonialist struggle in our region and particularly in Cuba.
It gathered ancestral aspirations of entire peoples that inhabited the territory, not only in Mexico, but also in Central and South America and the Antilles. It vindicated all poor Creole sectors -white, black and mulatto- submerged in misery, hunger and exploitation, and opposed the slavery of the blacks.
The broad popular presence had a decisive influence in its radicalization and in the realization of important social and political demands, which constituted an immense inspiration and encouragement for our independence movement.
There are many notable Cubans who left their blood and their names in the history of Mexico. The Cuban solidarity in Mexico’s confrontation with the Texan invasions in 1835-1836 and the North American invasion of 1846-48 stands out, especially the generals Pedro Ampudia, Juan Valentín Amador, Jerónimo Cardona, Manuel Fernández Castrillón, Antonio Gaona, Pedro Lemus and Anastasio Parrodi.
In March 1854, Cubans Florencio Villareal and José María Pérez Hernández launched the historic Plan de Ayutla, which was decisive in the rupture of the Mexican army and society with the dictatorial government of General Santa Anna.
As confirmed by the prestigious researcher René González Barrios, several of those men held key positions in Mexican political-military life and were governors or military commanders in important places in the country.
Two of them, Major Generals Anastasio Parrodi and Pedro Ampudia Grimarest were Ministers of War and Navy in the government of Benito Juarez during the Reform War.
In the Congress, the Government, in exile or in the war at Juarez’s side there were always Cubans. Prominent compatriots such as General Domingo Goicuría y Cabrera, and poets Juan Clemente Zenea and Pedro Santacilia, who was his son-in-law, secretary and agent of the Republic of Cuba in Arms before the Mexican Government, praised his magnificent work.
In the war against the French, the brothers Manuel and Rafael de Quesada y Loynaz, general and colonel respectively, served the Mexican army; colonels Luis Eduardo del Cristo, Rafael Bobadilla and Francisco León Tamayo Viedman; doctor commander Rafael Argilagos Gimferrer and captain Félix Aguirre. All of them would return to Cuba at the beginning of the Ten Years’ War.
It was Mexico, then, the first country to recognize our armed struggle and to open its ports to ships flying the Lone Star flag. The Congress approved it, Juarez pronounced it and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, President of the Republic in Arms, thanked him in a memorable letter to his Mexican counterpart: “…[it is] highly satisfactory that Mexico has been the first Nation in America to have thus manifested its generous sympathies to the cause of independence and freedom of Cuba”.
One of the main tasks that Pedro Santacilia would then fulfill, with Juarez’s consent, was to send to Cuba a select group of Mexican soldiers to contribute to the formation and training of the nascent Liberation Army. Mexicans shone in the fields of Cuba and their prowess inspired the troops and all those who heard about them.
Once again, the Father of the Cuban Homeland left a record of that dedication in a letter to the “Benemérito de las Américas”. Céspedes wrote: “Some Mexican gentlemen have come here and have shed their generous blood on our soil and for our cause, and the whole country has shown its gratitude for their heroic action”.
Two of those brave Mexican soldiers, veterans of the Reform War and the battle against the French Empire, reached the rank of Brigadier General of the Cuban Liberation Army and were part of its main chiefs: José Inclán Risco and Gabriel González Galbán.
Because of that endearing memory that we share, we are moved and inspired by these acts that revere history and we return again and again to each line written for Mexico by José Martí, who forever links our two nations in all his work, but especially in his letters to his great Mexican friend Manuel Mercado.
It is also to that soul friend to whom he leaves in an unfinished letter, his resounding political testament: the will consecrated to the objective of “preventing in time, with the independence of Cuba, the United States from spreading through the Antilles and falling, with that force more, on our lands of America”.
Years before, on his way to Veracruz, Martí wrote: “O beloved Mexico, O adored Mexico, I see the dangers that surround you, I hear the clamor of a son of yours who was not born of you! From the North, an avid neighbor is curdling (…) You will be ordered; you will understand; you will be guided; I will have died, O Mexico for defending and loving you!”.
Here died for the Revolution, the young communist Julio Antonio Mella, assassinated in a street of this same city where Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro Ruz would meet, years later, through his brother Raul.
It was here that the young people of the Centennial Generation trained and organized their expedition. Here they forged friendships and affections that still endure and were immortalized in a song that is like a hymn of those epic times: La Lupe, by Juan Almeida Bosque.
From that Mexican period, among many others, the names of María Antonia González, Antonio del Conde, El Cuate, key in the acquisition of the Granma yacht; Arsacio Venegas and Kid Medrano, professional wrestlers who gave physical training to the troops; Irma and Joaquina Vanegas, who offered their house as a camp, will remain forever in Cuban history.
The passage of Fidel and his companions through Mexico left a deep impression on the future Granma expeditionaries and an accumulation of legends everywhere that are still spoken of with admiration and respect.
We will never forget that, thanks to the support of many Mexican friends, the Granma yacht set sail from Tuxpan, Veracruz, on November 25, 1956. From that historic vessel, seven days later, on December 2, the newborn Rebel Army landed to liberate Cuba.
Nor do we forget that, just a few months after the historic triumph of the Revolution in 1959, General Lázaro Cárdenas visited us. His willingness to stand by our people after the mercenary invasion of Bay of Pigs in 1961 marked the character of our relations.
Faithful to its best traditions, Mexico was the only Latin American country that did not break off relations with revolutionary Cuba when we were expelled from the OAS by an imperial mandate.
Throughout the years, we have never broken what history has indissolubly united. Our two countries have honored their sovereign policies, regardless of the closeness or distance between governments. A very Mexican principle prevails: respect for the rights of others is peace.
There is unquestionable merit in those who have dedicated life and energy, heart and soul, to nurture that brotherhood with the tenderness of peoples. I pay tribute here to the sustained, invariable, passionate and firm solidarity that we always find in this land, which all Cubans must love as our own.
It was said by the Cuban Apostle, who also drew with his colorful prose a faithful portrait of this generous people when he declared: “As from the root of the land comes to the Mexican that character of his, shrewd and stately, attached to the country he adores, where through the double work of magnificent Nature and the brilliant touch of the legend and the epic, the order of the real and the romantic feeling come together in their rare measure”.
From those words until today, the common heritage built by an infinite list of prestigious intellectuals and artists of both nations has not ceased to grow. We are united by literature, cinema, visual arts, bolero and mambo.
It could be said that the significant cultural exchange between Mexico and Cuba reaches all manifestations of culture in its broadest meaning, inasmuch as it is no less influential the relationship in sports, especially, baseball and boxing, where the connection is so natural and deep that at times the exact origin of works and facts is lost and we must conclude that it comes from both.
For these and other reasons, which do not fit in a necessarily brief speech, it is a great honor to participate in the military parade commemorating the beginning of the struggle for Mexico’s independence and to express our feelings before your Government and your people.
I do so conscious that it is a recognition of the historical ties and brotherhood existing between Mexico and Cuba, a genuine token of appreciation, affection and respect for which I am deeply grateful on behalf of my people.
The decision to invite us has an immeasurably greater value at a time when we are suffering the onslaught of a multi-dimensional war, with a criminal blockade, opportunistically intensified with more than 240 measures in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, which has such dramatic costs for everyone, but particularly for the less developed countries.
We are facing, in parallel, an aggressive campaign of hate, disinformation, manipulation and lies, mounted on the most diverse and influential digital platforms, which ignores all ethical limits.
Under the fire of that total war, Mexico’s solidarity with Cuba has awakened in our people a greater admiration and the deepest gratitude.
Allow me to tell you, dear President, that Cuba will always remember your expressions of support, your permanent demand for the lifting of the blockade and for the annual United Nations vote to be converted into concrete deeds, something that your country has fulfilled in an exemplary manner towards our people.
We are deeply grateful for the aid received in the form of medical supplies and food to alleviate the combined effects of the economic harassment and the pandemic.
Mexican sisters and brothers:
In the face of the complex epidemiological situation facing the world, solidarity and cooperation among our peoples takes on greater transcendence.
For this reason, our health professionals and technicians did not hesitate to accompany the Mexican people whenever necessary. And we will do it again whenever they need it.
We recognize the excellent work carried out by Mexico at the head of the pro tempore presidency of the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean States, a mechanism of genuine Latin American and Caribbean vocation aimed at defending the unity in the diversity of Our America against the neoliberal recolonization project that is trying to impose on us.
As Fidel expressed in an act of Cuban-Mexican friendship held on August 2, 1980: “We will not tolerate anything against Mexico! We will feel it as our own. We will know how to be faithful to the friendship forged by centuries of history and beautiful common principles!
Long live Mexico!
Long live the friendship between Cuba and Mexico! (Applause.)
Mexico was the only Latin American country that did not break relations with revolutionary Cuba when we were expelled from the OAS by an imperial mandate, said Díaz-Canel. Photo: Estudios Revolución
Parade for the 211th anniversary of the Grito de Independencia of Mexico. Photo: Estudios Revolución
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