The more than 1,500 hundred Cuban medical doctors willing to assist the Katrina hurricane victims in southern USA were organized in the Henry Reeve Brigade. This is the story of one of Americas great freedom fighters:


By Dr. Mildred de la Torre Molina

 Cubanow.- When people talk about the history of two or more countries, they usually think about their governments, political movements and common geography, but they rarely mention the presence of humans and their actions.

Specifically, between Cuba and the United States , that absence is quite evident due to the permanent crisis in the bilateral relations. However, not everything has been silenced: there are, for example, the Complete Works of Cuban poet and patriot Jose Marti, and his many volumes devoted to the cultural and political life in the US , among many other authors.

In 1973, Cuban historian Gilberto Toste Ballart published his interesting book Reeve, El Inglesito (Reeve, the Little Englishman), which turned out to be a great historical success due to its narrative quality and the personality he was researching: Henry Reeve, a fighter in Cuba s first war of independence.

In Cuba , some mistakenly believed him to be British, therefore, his nickname El Inglesito The Little Englishman, although he was born on April 4, 1850 in a middle-class Brooklyn family.

Henry Reeve arrived in Cuba on May 11, 1869 aboard the ship Perrit, as part of an expedition of revolutionary Cubans who had sailed from New York under the leadership of Thomas Jordan and Francisco Javier Cisneros. Reeve had joined the Cuban independence effort due to his abolitionist and anti-colonialist ideas, the same causes he had defended during the US Civil War.

His military experience and his ability to adapt to the island contributed to his promotion: in seven years and three months, Reeve reached the rank of Brigadier General in Cuba s Liberation Army. He took part in 400 battles and was wounded more than ten times.

He is remembered with awe and admiration for his being shot by a Spanish firing squad on May 27, 1869 near Las Calabazas, Holguin province, from which he surprisingly resulted unconscious but alive. He immediately returned to the struggle. His contemporaries said that, at that moment, Reeve, the Mambi (Cuban independence fighter), had been born.

In September of that year, he met Cuban independence leader Ignacio Agramonte, who admired him greatly because of his human and political qualities. In March of the following year, Agramonte named Reeve a member of his General Staff.

Reeve took part, alongside Agramonte, in the famous rescue operation of patriot Julio Sanguilly on October 8, 1871, one of the most daring war actions quoted in Cuban history.

He was also next to Agramonte when the enemy killed him in the battle of Jimaguayu, on May 11, 1873 . That is where he swore eternal loyalty to the Cuban cause and promised to avenge the death of Agramonte, considered one of Cuba s greatest patriots.

By then, Reeve was already a tireless fighter whose outstanding bravery was well known, independence leader Maximo Gomez wrote in his War Diary.

On August 4, 1876 , in the battle of Sabana de Yaguaramas, Cienfuegos province, Reeve was struck down with three bullet wounds and was not able to walk. He who had never been morally defeated, who had defended just and noble causes, never surrendered. It is said that he preferred to shoot himself with his own pistol.

Some sources say he was tall and others that he was short, thin, blond, with freckles and deep blue eyes, and that he limped from so many battles. They said he learned to speak Spanish as if he were a Cuban.

His name became a myth, a legend, in the peoples culture and no Cuban ever saw him as a foreigner.

September , 2005