The Story Behind the History / Regina Coyula

I share, here, a curious fact related to yesterday’s anniversary of Maceo’s death. Almost everyone believes that Panchito Gomez Toro fell fighting alongside him. Panchito was out of commission from having been wounded in an earlier battle. On learning of the death of his admired mentor, he abandoned the body of the Lieutenant General in the battlefield after all those who were with him were wounded. Panchito decided to go and recover the body, helped by Maximo Zertucha, Maceo’s doctor, who was at his side at the moment the fatal bullet destroyed his face and he was able to confirm the death in barely two minutes.

Between Panchito and Zertucha they tried to put the body on a horse and this is when Panchito received an enemy bullet. Badly wounded, he wrote a goodbye note to his family, where he explained that he preferred to commit suicide rather than fall prisoner. The texts on this point are confused, which is explained because suicide has never been looked on kindly by Christian morality, but even so, it seems Panchito didn’t kill himself; rather a party of Spanish guerrillas, having not the least idea of who the dead man was, approached and killed Panchito with a machete to later strip the corpses of their valuables.

As is well-known, the bodies were recovered the following day by Colonel Aranguren and interred in secret to avoid the Spaniards despoiling the corpses.

For a long time, the weight of the accusation of having murdered Maceo and Panchito as part of a plot fell on Zertucha, including taking the doctor to a council of war to give an account of the events of 7 December in San Pedro; he was exonerated but for his whole life (which he lived with decency and patriotism in his native Melena del Sur) he had to carry the weight of that accusation that took flight, magnified in the foreign press and among the exile right from the start.

I wrote about this curious and little-known passage motivated by hearing on the TV news yesterday talk of the “murder” of Maceo and Gomez Toro, from a journalist named Raiko Escalante. I don’t know what sources he relied on for his work, but it seems superficial and harmful to me to have such a slight knowledge of the history we have suffered.

8 December 2014

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