José Quintino Bandera Betancourt, historically known as Quintín Bandera, was a Cuban general who fought in the three Wars of Independence.
On August 23, 1906, General Alejandro Rodriguez, chief of the Rural Guard informed President Tomas Estrada Palma of the fulfillment of his order to kill General Quintin Banderas, but his macabre task did not conclude when the president demanded that his remains be thrown into a common grave so that he would not have a tomb of his own where he would be remembered and flowers would be placed.
The reason for Estrada Palma’s hatred towards the brave mambi was that, besides being black, anti-annexionist and opposed to the Platt Amendment, he had risen up in the so-called “August War” in Havana, with members of the Liberal Party, against the politician’s pretensions to change the laws in order to continue in the presidency.
Quintín Banderas was not the only mortal victim of the president’s ambitions, directly involved in the assassination in 1905 of his youngest and most capable opponent, the Mambí colonel and lawyer Enrique Villuendas, who earned his ranks by dint of courage at only 21 years of age, and at 26 conquered a seat in the House, where he distinguished himself for his oratory and great charisma.
The omnipotence of Estrada Palma and his accomplices was so great that they did not worry too much about hiding the General’s crime, nor the identity of its material executors’ -a group of soldiers under the command of an officer subordinate to the head of the Rural Guard-, so the newspaper La Lucha published: “Captain Delgado arrived carrying the corpse of Quintín Banderas. This news has caused a magnificent effect in the Palace…”.
A comrade-in-arms of the outstanding mambí, General Enrique Loynaz del Castillo, also against the government, declared that when Quintín’s death was known, the government officials commented: “That one does not pass any more trochas”.
He had fought in the three wars of independence and was the legendary leader of the Mambo infantry that accompanied Lieutenant General Antonio Maceo and Generalissimo Gomez in the invasion of the west in the 1895-1898 war.
When the neo-colony was established in 1902, with no means of subsistence, he asked President Estrada Palma for a job, and the latter offered him a job as a garbage man and he could only support his family by becoming a traveling salesman of the soap brand Candado, in a cart that he drove with his worn general’s suit with all his decorations through the neighborhoods of Havana, where he was acclaimed by the people.
In 1906 in the presidential term of Estrada Palma was to end, who, with the support of a circle of sycophants and privileged members of his administration tried to change the Constitution in order to be reelected, which was opposed by the Liberal Party, who in August rose up against those pretensions.
Quintín Banderas, 71 years old, joined the movement in the region of Arroyo Arenas, El Cano, and Wajay to participate in several actions such as the assault to towns and a train, but when he realized the failure of the insurrection he sent a petition to the president for a safe-conduct that would allow him, with a guarantee for his life, to leave the weapons, and he waited for the answer on a farm in the area where he operated.
The president received the letter, but wishing to give a lesson to his political enemies, he unloaded all his hatred against the old mambi, who confidently saw an advance guard of the Rural Guard arrive on August 23 and, believing that they were complying with his request, told them: ” My friends this is over! I knew you were coming to get me with the Government paper. I have many friends!”.
Those were his last words before falling down shot by the soldiers, who finished him off with machetes, and the same fate befell several of his companions.
His corpse was taken in a wagon to the cemetery of Colón, where the priest Felipe Augusto Caballero placed an epitaph on the tomb for identification and then told Quintín’s widow: “Justice has been done to the General. His children will not lose the remains of their father”, according to versions of the time.
It would take 53 years for the true ideals of independence and a dignified homeland, for which the brave General Quintín Banderas had fought and given his life, to triumph on January 1, 1959, and put an end forever to that nightmare of a neocolonial republic.
translation Red en Defensa de la Humanidad