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SENATOR JUAN GUALBERTO GOMEZ FERRER - AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED 03/16/1922 - HFSID 218097

 
JUAN GUALBERTO GOMEZ FERRER
The Cuban Senator and Afro-Cubans advocate writes a polite letter to businessman and activist Emilio Bacardi Moreau to inform him that due to a very important political responsibility in the senate regarding the constitution he could not accept his invitation to the patriotic act to be made in honor of the protector of the expeditionaries of the 'Virginius'
Autograph Letter Signed: "Manuel Gualberto Gomez" in iron gall ink. 6¼x7½ folded, 12¾x7½ flat. One page. Fully Translated in English: "Habana, March 16, 1922.Mr. Emilio Bacardi Moreau. President of the Committee 'Pro Estrada Palma' Santiago de Cuba. My dear compatriot and friend: I very much regret not to be able to accept the invitation to the very deserved homage to the Illustrious protector of the expeditionaries of 'Virginius'. At this time I cannot leave La Habana. The Senate will start discussing a reform project for our Constitution next Monday. I belong to the commission that wrote the dictum and I sustain points of view that I must defend in the debate that most likely will occur. My absent would be equal to the abandonment of ideas and principles that I have the obligation to defend because I consider them as saviors of the national interests. If it was not going on, you know I would go with so much satisfaction to the patriotic act, to which you with your usual devotion to the great servers of the cause of our independence, have contributed to its organization. But being myself absent with so much pain, know that you will be in my thoughts. I will appreciate if you communicate my feelings to the fellow , and a sincere hug for their initiative. Affectively, your old friend. Juan Gualberto Gomez." Juan Gualberto Gomez Ferrer (1854-1933) was born to Afro-Cuban slaves Fermin Gomez (Yeye) and Serafina Ferrer (Fina) who bought the freedom of their child before his birth. Since he was a free man he could learn to read and write and due to his literacy skills his parents sent him to school at Our Lady of the Forsaken in Habana, regardless the big financial sacrifice it meant. In 1868 the Ten Year's War started and the violence and intimidation prevailed, so after Gomez got caught up in a brawl between royalists and independence groups at Villanueva theater, his parents sent him to France, thanks to the financial help they obtained from plantation owner Catalina Gomez, to study the craft of building horse carriages, one of the few trades open to blacks and mestizos in the colonial period, and his success as an apprentice took him to study at engineering school. In July 1872, Francisco Vicente Aguilera and General Manuel de Quesada arrived in Paris in order to obtain funds for the independence of Cuba, and in the need of a translator, they hired Juan Gualberto. However, the political situation in France became more difficult and led to the defeat of the Second French Empire in the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent violence of the proletarian 'Paris Commune' amid the rocky founding of the Third French Republic. So, Gomez Ferrer soon had a difficult economic situation and in 1874 his parents struggled with money as well, so they told him they could no longer support his stay in Paris and advised him to return to Cuba. But Gualberto did not want to come back to Cuba and found low-paying jobs at newspapers as a reporter. Eventually, he suspended his studies to work as a journalist in the 'Revue et Gazette des Theatres' and that was the beginning of his journalistic career. At first he did not write anything related to finances or political convictions, but later engaged directly in politics. In 1877 his political personality was strongly formed as a journalist, debater and public speaker, and the next year he traveled to Mexico, where he met the abolitionist Nicolas Azcarate, who was a Cuban exile, and learned to defeat of the independence army in the island and the end of the Ten Year's War with the Pac of Zanjon. Given the new political situation, many exiles returned to Cuba and Gomez did the same by the end of 1878. So, once in La Habana, he met Jose Marti and began a long friendship founded on common ideals that united the revolution action of the two of them. In that year, Gomez and Marti began conspiring together the preparation for a new uprising and both were appointed secretary of different revolutionary groups in La Habana. In 1879, Juan Gualberto started the pro-racial justice newspaper The Brotherhood, but its publication was interrupted when he was deported to Spain along with other plotters of the Little War. In Spain, he spent ten years living in Madrid and wrote for many publications, such as Tribuna, El Pueblo, El Progreso-each organs of the Spanish Republican Movement, and other journals, like Abolitionism. After his returning to Cuba in 1890, Marti hatched the plot for the opening moves of the rebellion and told Gomez to be prepared for the upcoming uprising in La Habana province. On February 24, 1895 Marti ordered to start the battle and Gomez helped lead the failed uprising of Ibarra, Matanzas, and four months later the Spanish authorities captured Juan Gualberto and was sentenced to twenty years in prison in the dungeons of Ceuta and Valencia, but only spent three years as a prisoner. After being released, Gomez Ferrer moved to New York City and continued to work with fellow insurrects. In December 1898 he accompanied Major General Calixto Garcia to Washington, D,C as a member of the commission sent to negotiate for the necessary funds for the Cuban Liberation Army and recognition of the rebels. During the second U.S. military intervention (1906-1909) he was part of the Committee of Consultations, the Advisory Committee charged with amending the Cuban constitution, and a brilliant speaker for the anti-U.S. faction. He is also famous for having said: 'the Platt Amendment has reduced the independence and sovereignty of the Cuban Republic to a myth.' Gomez Ferrer held seats in the Cuban House of Representatives (1914-1917) and Senate (1917-1925), from the province of Habana. Juan Gualberto always campaigned to defend Afro-Cubans from discrimination, oppression and violence and always knew that one of the most important issues that Cubans had to resolve in order to unite and achieve their independence from Spain was the racism on the island. So, it was not enough to have abolished slavery, pro-independence groups also must abolish prejudice and conspicuous public discrimination if the really wanted to unite Afro-Cubans behind the cause of independence. Upon his return to La Habana in 1877, Gomez Ferrer started his life as a grassroots activist in earnest, fighting not only for the independence of Cuba but also for racial equality. In April 1879, his newspaper The Brotherhood made its debut with the banner 'General Journal for the defense of the colored race in Cuba'; through the newspaper he gave examples and pleas against the abuses and discrimination suffered by blacks and mulattos, and an article published in 1888 reminded the readers that 'yesterday we were slaves, today we are free, we want to participate in life, claim our rights, we want consideration and respect'. The Brotherhood also informed of living conditions: the main concerns and worries of the black community; and even published letters of people of color who wrote in about their misfortunes and experiences. His newspaper gained him more followers across the island and Juan Gualberto was recognized as Cuba's first true spokesman and defender of black people. In addition, Gomez Ferrer was a brilliant advocate for black veterans of the War of Independence, and fought to get them public benefits and recognition. The experience of combat service in Cuba's founding war for independence gave Afro-Cubans 'a new and distinct from of claiming the rights of citizenship'; and through the advocacy of groups like the 'Committee of Veterans and Association of the Colored Race', black veterans of the Cuban Liberation Army, decorated war heroes and inconspicuous rank and file troops alike, invoked their status as freedom fighters and citizen-soldiers in demanding anti-discrimination measures, voting rights and civil service jobs in the new government. Juan Gualberto defended the Committee of Veterans, and urged opponents to yield to their demands for compensation and treatment 'so that we do not forget the sacrifices of the petitioners in the very recent revolutionary past, a time when skin color was of no importance, but quality and individual virtues were of great importance'. For all that, Gomez Ferrer became the most notable Afro-Cuban leader in the island by the 1890s, when he presided over the Central Directorate of Societies of the Colored Race and started publishing the newspaper La Igualidad. The Central Directorate brought together approximately 100 black organizations , waged a successful civil rights campaign and gained Spanish colonial edicts 'outlawing restrictions on interracial marriage' and the ending of government segregation of schools and other public facilities. The Central Directorate also acquired Afro-Cuban insurrects important organizational and political experience, which facilitated black political involvement and influence for a generation. Unluckily, edicts from Spanish authorities on the island ending state-sponsored segregation had little real impact, with many towns and villages only opening public parks to blacks in subdivided 'separated but equal' areas, and plenty of businesses and storefronts were still labeled 'whites only'. As a consequence, most politically active Afro-Americans remained committed 'to break away from the Spanish government'. By the time the third war for independence emerged in 1895, the bulk of the activist groups shut their doors and the members took up the arms. Even after Cuba achieved its liberty, the anti-discrimination progress was more symbolic than real, and pressure grew to start and independent political party for Afro-Cubans. However, Juan Gualberto was always against the creation of a black party, a position he held for the rest of his political life, despite the growing controversy about it and that he was heavily criticized and lost popularity among fellow Afro-Cubans, especially in the years following the independence. After the first years of the Republic went by with nothing done to promote integration or end discrimination, and the elections of August 1908 ended and not one 'black candidate from the two traditional political parties resulted elected to office, political discontent among blacks and mulattos peaked. 'Following years of agitation and political upsets, it was clear that black Cubans could not depend on the existing party apparatus. As a result, prominent Afro-Cubans banded together to form the first black political party in Cuba, the Partido Independiente de Color (PIC)', without Gomez. So, Juan Gualberto and Martin Morua Delgado, who were the most brilliant black Cuban congressmen at the time, opposed the movement from the beginning and used Cuba's supposed history of racial harmony as a justification to put down the Independientes. Also, most notable Cuban politicians of Juan Gualberto's era, black and white, opposed the development of the PIC because they thought it would 'erode some of their power and popular base' and upset the balance they had built in years. Anyways, after Cuba was declared a Republic in May 20, 1901, Gomez Ferrer wrote under the pseudonym 'G' and was a skillful fighter against the first President of Cuba Tomas Estrada Palma and the Platt Amendment, which he thought had turned the island into almost a colony of the U.S.A. His articles attacking chronic graft and subservient, pro-annexation politicians kneeling before the United States power and influence highlighted the righteousness of the ones who remained true to Jose Marti's legacy. On March 5, 1933 Juan Gualberto Gomez Ferrer died in La Habana and in his memory the Union of Journalists of Cuba established the annual prize that bears his name and the Varadero International Airport was named after him. Sealed. Lightly toned. Pencil note on front (unknown hand), Small stains throughout. Otherwise, fine condition.


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SENATOR JUAN GUALBERTO GOMEZ FERRER  


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SENATOR JUAN GUALBERTO GOMEZ FERRER
Born: July 12, 1854 in Matanzas, Spanish Cuba
Died: March 5, 1933 in Habana, Cuba





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