Sitios de Memoria
  Ruinas del Ingenio La Demajagua
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Commemorative Monument

October 10, 1868 is identified as the beginning of Cuba´s war of independence. On that day, the bell of La Demajagua sugar mill urged its slaves to fight for the freedom of Cuba. The owner of the mill, lawyer Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (1819-1874), also considered the Father of the Homeland, expressed his decision to free his slaves and invite them to participate in the struggle for independence. Other patriots supported this uprising, and this served as platform for the Manifesto named after him. It was the declaration of war against colonialism and it expressed the objectives of the war for the Cubans. Criollo landowners, peasants, slaves, black craftsmen and free mulatos put their forces together as protagonists of the armed struggle. It was like a current incorporating workers, tradesmen, freedom fighters who came back from abroad and even Spaniards who were convinced of the just character of the struggle. The communities of Manzanillo and Bayamo are the immediate bearers of a historic event which is part of the very birth of the nation, of the origin of the national anthem and the first flag of the insurrection. The idea of independence from the colony is linked to the freedom of the slaves and to a project to build a nation for all human groups without exceptions.

Cuba has places where history is always present, in some cases even with a bell tolling as symbol of liberation from the colony and struggle against slavery of Africans and their descendants.

And this is a characteristic example marking the beginning of the war known as the Ten Year War (1868-1878), the beginning of the struggle that brought about the decline of Spanish colonialism.

La Demajagua, a former sugar mill located near Manzanillo (in the current province of Granma), one of hundreds of small factories which existed on the island when sugar was only an industry, received of the unexpected honor of having a significant place in history.

That is the exact place, with its slaves and foremen who worked day in, day out, into huge cane fields, which bore witness to the popular uprising that led to the criollos armed struggle against the European metropolis.

There are only very few remains of the mill, for it has been destroyed by a number of factors, ranging from war to weather conditions. None of them has been able to completely destroy the huge indented wheels of its machinery, and they rest today under the shade of one of the majestic trees off the place.

The bell, witness and actor in the events, is considered a historical element of great importance for present generations, admired by thousands of visitors interested in the past of the island, it is perfect integrated into the natural environment.

La Demajagua, now a national park with the same name, is located in the eastern province of Granma, surrounded by mountains with the same name where traditions combine with nature. A very important part of Cuba’s insurrectional struggle took place in that region.

Traditions and oral expressions related to the October 10, 1868 uprising go beyond historical sciences and fuse with popular imagery, through patriotic short stories, songs and legends. Performing arts are present every year in the work of ensembles who visit the monument on each anniversary. On these occasions there are theatrical representations of the freeing of slaves and their massive participation in the Ten Year War. Social, ritual and festive customs are related to practices of espiritismo de cordon, a religious expression common to this area that also mentions Congo ancestors for healing rites. There is an in-depth knowledge of nature and the universe in the views of the cordoneros, especially in the use of energy attributed to the ancestors for healing purposes. Every year activities are held to celebrate these historical dates.

This cultural space is a place for patriotic visits: the 10th of October marks the beginning of the Ten Year War and the end of slavery for Africans and their descendants, proclaimed by those who started the insurrection. This event speeded up the final abolition of slavery in 1886. Against this background, La Casa de la Nacionalidad (the House of Nationality) in Bayamo holds an annual scientific conference and celebrates the Day of National Culture every October 20, the date when the Bayamo Anthem was first sung in public shortly after the struggle had begun. It is now Cuba’s National Anthem. The anthem was, according to oral tradition, an open secret told once and again down the grapevine without ever reaching colonial authorities. This site of memory is a symbolic link between the liberation from the colony, the creation of the nation and the liberation of African slaves. It expresses the reflection in this island of a whole independence movement for the entire continent and it is the materialization of the antislavery ideas put forth the most advanced Cuban intellectuals of the first half of the 19th century. This site of memory bears a huge content of ethical values for human condition, one of the most important treasures of our live cultural heritage. The small monument to Ingenio La Demajagua grows when the sense of national liberty is taught in Latin-American and Caribbean contexts.

Its geographic location does not encourage massive tourism; since the values of the site are basically historical, its interest resides in cultural tourism or tourism specialized in historical issues. The place does not have a tourist infrastructure, only a parking area and rather good accessibility.

This Museum of site works together with the elementary school of a small nearby community it welcomes students from several levels around the country, especially from the city of Manzanillo, which is only 12 kilometers away.