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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Death of Camagüey’s Greatest Man



By Lucilo Díaz.

On April 30, 1873 , Amalia Simoni, who was living in the exile, wrote to her husband, Major General of the Rebel Army Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz who was fighting for the independence of Cuba: "Those who come and write from Cuba assure that you expose too much, and your bravery is limitless (.) For Cuba, my Ignacio; take care of yourself much more"!.

Months earlier, on August 22, 1872, Major General Julio Sanguily, one of Agramonte’s brother in arms and personal friend sent him a letter warning the insurgent leader about his excessive temerity "Your audacity goes beyond the boundaries of courage; and it should not be this way, the Homeland needs that your life is not in danger for preserving its future."

Agramonte knew about General Sanguily’s warning, but did not know about that of his beloved wife: in the morning of May 11, 1873 a bullet of a Remington rifle hit his head and he fell dead of his horse Ballestilla.

The fateful event occurred in the fields of Jimaguayú, some 38 kilometres south of Puerto Principe (today Camagüey), in a combat between the Cuban forces and the Spanish colonialists.

For the Revolution, the loss of Agramonte, who had been born in Puerto Principe on December 23rd, 1841, was a devastating blow. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, who began the rebellion in Oriente province for the independence of Cuba and at the time President of the Republic in Arms, very highly appreciated the illustrious son of Camagüey.

On July 8th, 1873 Céspedes sent a respectful letter of condolence to María Filomena Loynaz, Ignacio’s mother: "Thou believe, lady. that never was I an enemy of thy child (.) malicious people put obstacles between us to create disagreements (.) Lady, I join your fair sorrow, and join the tribute that Cuba pays to your heroic son ". Agramonte, who had not still turned 32 years of age when died, had become a demanding and a radical boss, who loved discipline and example.

Commanding the Mambi army in Camagüey, he organized an active and hardened chivalry and infantry troopers that successfully confronted superior forces. His actions were based on the concept of the guerrilla war with an efficient exploration, and founded workshops, hospitals and plantations in the freed areas of his jurisdiction.
When he fell in Jimaguayú, he was getting ready to extend operations westward.
Beloved and respectable military leader, Agramonte – as a brilliant lawyer- had reached an unquestionable prestige in the political order among the Cuban revolutionaries; it was said that he would be in charge of the Rebel Army.

For the colonialists, his fall meant an important victory that unleashed the worst sentiments among the bad Spaniards and the traitors that tried to denigrate his image.

Eduardo Betancourt Agramonte, grandson of El Mayor (1), relates that the dead body was transported to Puerto Principe on the back of a mule and when the Spaniards entered the city, a colonialist commandant, Eduardo Aznar, whipped Agramonte’s lifeless body and exclaimed: --Come on, if you’re so brave, frighten me off now!, In spite of the loss of the insurgent paladin, the Revolution continued alive in Camagüey.

Afterwards, General Máximo Gómez, who took charge of the revolutionary forces in this region of Cuba, would undertake the unfinished work of Agramonte: he conducted the invasion toward Las Villas, and to the threshold of Matanzas.

Note of the translator:

(1) El Mayor, was the way the rebel soldiers in Camagüey respectfully called Major General Ignacio Agramonte, the greatest military and political leader of this territory during the Ten Years Independence War of Cuba.