A prosperous and influential class of rural proprietors emerged. This new aristocracy of wealth feared a repetition in Cuba of the events in Haiti; they supported the Spanish monarchy and sought the army’s protection.
Cuba’s cultural life developed rapidly during the 19th century. Poets like Avellaneda and Heredia wrote about the beauty of the island and musicians like Manuel Saumell and Ignacio Cervantes produced beautiful music.
Cuba’s nationalist conscience emerged at this time under the intellectual influence of Felix Varela, José Antonio Saco, and José de la Luz y Caballero.
Cespedes’ call for independence in 1868 recorded him in history as the father of his nation. These men laid a solid foundation for Cuba’s national identity.
Although remaining on the Spanish fold “the ever faithful island” gradually grew away from the Spanish Crown. The views of Cuban criollos and Spanish peninsulares clashed. Some slave owning criollos wanted annexation to the U.S. but after the American Civil War and the end of slavery that movement declined. Others advocated reforms within the Spanish empire. When that movement went nowhere, those clamming for violence and independence grew.
One of the warriors who most valiantly fought for Cuba’s freedom and shared the ideals of independence was Antonio Maceo. A mulato born in Santiago de Cuba in 1845, he was the hero of the “mambises” as the Cubans fighting in the mountains against Spanish were known. He and Maximo Gomez led the Cubans in the famous machete charges that helped undermine Spanish power. Yet the most important leader of Cuba’s independence struggle was Jose Marti.