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Sunday, September 27, 2020
Monday, June 11, 2012

The Day Cuba’s National Anthem Was First Performed Publicly

By Lucilo Tejera Díaz/AIN

It appeared that an armed uprising against the Spanish colonialism was impending in 1867. The number of pro-independence conspirators was growing in leaps and bounds, and they gathered more frequently to make plans, analyze the situation prevailing in the island and form associations.

Bayamo, in the eastern portion of Cuba, was an important nest of separatists, and a place where there was a great Revolutionary fervor.

In the very early hours of August 13th in 1867, Pedro (Perucho) Figueredo Cisneros (1819-1870) was in his office together with Francisco Maceo Osorio and Francisco Vicente Aguilera. These three men were wealthy and determined to fight for the independence of Cuba.

Historian Ramiro Guerra tells the story that those present in that meeting spoke about the need to write an anthem like La Marseillaise for the war that was coming up.

They decided that “Perucho” would be responsible for writing the anthem because he had some musical knowledge. So, he went to his house, sat in front of his piano and began composing the music.

In the early morning hours he had already done it and later he handed out the score to musician Manuel Muñoz, who was a neighbour of his, so that he could arrange it for an orchestra.

Figueredo named that anthem La Bayamesa, just as previously José Fornaris and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes had named a famous ballad.

Once they played the anthem in Perucho’s house in front of some 70 people, many of whom were conspirators. They listened to the music with great pleasure, because it transmitted a fervent patriotism.

The only thing left to do now was playing it publicly. So they decided to play it for the first time during the celebration on the occasion of the Corpus Christi on June 11th, 1868.

In an article published in the blog La pupila insomne, the journalist says that for doing so they were helped by father Diego José Baptista, who was the priest of the Parochial Church of Bayamo and a fervent patriot.  

“… the music was played amid celebrations of the Corpus Christi in the pulpit of the Parochial Church, in front of Spanish officials and Bayamo’s governor, Lieutenant Colonel Julián Udaeta. Right after, the military termed the music as subversive and ordered to watch 'seditious' Perucho”.

Muñoz’ orchestration of La Bayamesa made all those present quiver, and each instrument of his orchestra seemed to burst with the war march that had been written by “Perucho”.

According to historians Eduardo Torres Cuevas and Oscar Loyola Vega, Lieutenant Colonel Udaeta told the Cuban patriot: "This march of yours has nothing to do with religion; instead it is a patriotic march. This music is completely irreverent”.

Figueredo answered: "Governor, I do not err in saying that you are not a musician. Thus, nothing backs you up with such a claim”.

In the days that followed, the march became more popular and everyone in town hummed it, as years later Patria – a newspaper founded by Jose Marti- reflected.  

Céspedes kindled the flame of war for the independence of Cuba on October 10th, and after suffering a defeat in Yara, he and his men headed to Bayamo seeking to seize the city.    

When “Perucho” heard that Céspedes was marching towards Bayamo he exclaimed: "I will go with Carlos Manuel either to glory or to gallows”.

Cuba’s patriotic forces took the city on October 20th and amid popular rejoicing because of the victory, it is said that Figueredo –who was killed by a Spanish shooting squad in 1870- took a sheet of paper and a pencil, and sitting on the saddle of his horse he wrote the lyrics for the Bayamo’s Anthem, later recognized as Cuba’s National Anthem.

This is the reason why, the people of this island nation regard October 20th as the Cuban Culture Day. (AIN/Radio Cadena Agramonte).