Front Door to Cuba

President José Miguel Gómez

President Jose Miguel Gomez

"To provoke revolutions is to commit the worst crime and the greatest infamy."
- José Miguel Gómez, 1912

The spirit of revolution and Cuban independence from Spain were in the air when José Miguel Gómez was born in Sancti Spíritus, Santa Clara, on July 6 1858. Before his twentieth birthday he joined the Ten Year War, which ended in a stalemate, and he participated in the Little War of 1880, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In 1895 Gómez joined the War of Independence, making himself head of the Sancti Spíritus brigade. He quickly rose to the rank of major general, and spent most of the war in Santa Clara, where he became not only a political chief, but a renowned military leader.

After the war he became a member of the Cuban Assembly, and civil governor of Santa Clara under the U.S. military occupation. He also participated in the Constitutional Convention which gave the new Republic its first official constitution.

When the occupation ended, Gómez was elected governor of Santa Clara. The Governor seemed to have a knack for politics, and was considered very likeable and simpatico.

José Miguel Gómez became the second president of the Cuban Republic (after the 2nd U.S. military intervention) and was known as "the shark."

Many have concluded that Gómez made himself rich during his run as president. Some called him "the ruined planter who made himself a millionaire from night to morning, and not by the sweat of his brow." His presidency brought back the old Cuban tradition that "government existed for the benefit of office holders."

Gómez displayed a "Hispanic American tendency" to dominate all branches of the government. "Though at no time," wrote Chapman, "remotely approaching the extremes of some of the petty tyrants of the Caribbean mainland." Others just explain that Gómez was just following tradition.

Editors of La Prensa and El Gordo were jailed in February 1910 for articles in their papers that had been critical of President Gómez, even though the articles in question were written by congressmen. Gómez attempted legal ways to fight his critics, and his appointment of judges became an asset, but a law introduced in January 1910 that would "muzzle" the press for reasons of "national defense" was abandoned.

Important Dates in the Political Life of José Miguel Gómez

October 4, 1905. Fearing assassination, José Miguel Gómez sails to New York, where he denounces the Moderates and calls for U.S. intervention. "The United States has a direct responsibility concerning what is going on in Cuba," he says. "The United States is under the duty of putting an end to this situation…"

October 6, 1905. In New York, Gómez says "the moment has arrived for the United States and Cuba to give an authentic interpretation to the Platt Amendment."

November 4, 1908. General José Miguel Gómez (a liberal) is elected President. He goes on to usher an era of public corruption, and is nicknamed "the shark."

February 1, 1909. Manuel Lavastida, a captain in the rural guards, is fired, presumably for political opinions he expressed through the presidential campaign of 1908.

February 9, 1909. An article in the Havana Post charges that most political appointees are supporters of President Gómez.

February 25, 1909. Gómez goes before congress and asks for an increase in army funding. Under his administration, the army grows to about 5,000 men, and the president's budget jumps enormously over the previous administration. [For example, in 19905 the sum of $62,390 was allotted. In 1910 the Gomez budget was $148,120.] "Each of the four Gómez budgets was considerably larger than any of those of his predecessors," wrote Charles E. Chapman in A History of The Cuban Republic, "but expenditures far outran budgets."

March 15, 1909. Lavastida is arrested in Placetas, Santa Clara. He is killed the following night while "trying to escape."

April 5, 1909. Before congress, Gómez criticizes ex-President Estrada Palma for not going through with a railway project approved by Congress (on July 5, 1906). He proposes to build the first of the lines authorized. [Gómez offers the Cuba Railway company $6,000/per kilometer to build the line.] José Miguel Gómez also attacks the "evil" of "third parties" in Latin America. This is an attack on the Independent Party of Color, although he does refer to them by name. Gomez reports on the treasury: $2,809,479.08 in the treasury, with obligations in the amount of $11,920,824.54 (showing a deficit of $9,111,345.46).

November 1, 1909. Message to Congress: "In my program of government I put economic interests above every other public question."

October 22, 1910. As he leaves the palace, new commander-in-chief of the Cuban Army, General "Pino" Guerra, is attacked by assassins. He escapes with a leg wound. [It is suspected that President Gómez hired the assassins in order to put General Monteagudo (a close collaborator) in charge of the army. Guerra was a known supporter of Zayas]

January 28, 1911. "I wish to have the honor of being the first who is opposed to his own reelection; I wish to give that example to my people. This is what I understand to be prudent, foreseeing, and patriotic."

July 3, 1911. General Guillermo Acevedo attempts to rile up a revolution in the province of Havana.

September 5, 1911. The National Council of Veterans announces in a circular that "neither traitors nor guerrillas" should be allowed in government, pointing out that many political appointees were supporters of Spain during the War of Independence. Later, open threats are issued against said men, but the threats are not approved by the Veterans.

January 7, 1912. U.S. secretary of State Knox sends President José Miguel Gómez a note expressing "grave concern" over the "Veterans" situation. He warns that another intervention may become possible.

March, 1912. The National Council of Veterans agrees to drop the campaign against office holders who did not support the War of Independence.

April 25, 1912. In an open letter to General Machado, President Gómez asserts that he is not a candidate for reelection.

May 20, 1912. On the 10th anniversary of the Cuban Republic, a mass demonstration initiated by the Partido Nacional de Color takes place. The cry of the Negroes is "Down with the Morúa Law!"

May 25, 1912. A note delivered to the Cuban Secretary of State by the American minister warns of another military intervention if "American lives and property" can't be protected. [A group of marines are landed at Daiquirí, near Santiago on May 31.]

June 3, 1912. President Gómez asks Congress for the right to declare martial law. The request is granted on June 5.

July 18, 1912. After many Afro-Cubans are killed, the so-called "Race War" ends.

May 20, 1913. Gómez' presidential term comes to an end.

Return to 1912 | Race in Cuba | Marti | Maceo