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Exile and Revolution

José D. Poyo, Key West, and Cuban Independence

Gerald E. Poyo

Publication Year: 2014

José Dolores Poyo (1836-1911) was an activist, publisher, social critic, fundraiser, and foundational figure in the campaign for Cuban independence from Spain. His leadership and his mantra--"adelante la revolución" (forward the revolution)--mobilized an insurrectionist movement in Key West. His multidimensional grassroots work and his newspaper El Yara, the longest-lived Cuban exile newspaper of the nineteenth century, gave hope to a people who aspired to be liberated from the bonds of colonialism.

In Exile and Revolution, Gerald Poyo provides a comprehensive account of how his great-great-grandfather spurred the working-class community of Key West to transform from supporting cast to critical actors in the struggle for Cuban independence. The book reveals the depth of Cuba's longtime ties to Florida, the cigar industry, and its workers; the experience of Cubans in the American South; and the diplomatic intrigues involving Spain, Cuba, and the United States.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

List of Figures

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

When I was a teenager living in Buenos Aires, my father, who rarely spoke of Cuba, told me that his great-grandfather, José Dolores Poyo, collaborated with José Martí in promoting Cuba’s independence war against Spain. Not having grown up in a Cuban community, I knew little about Martí, only that he was a well-known journalist across the Americas...

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pp. 1-8

Revolution and exile. This book is about a man and his exile community in Key West struggling against the odds during thirty years to achieve revolution and an independent Cuban republic dedicated to the welfare of all its citizens. “Adelante la revolución” (Forward the revolution) was his mantra; immediate armed action is what he meant. José de los Dolores...

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1. Community

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pp. 9-36

In late January 1869, 32-year-old José Dolores Poyo sat aboard a small fishing vessel with his wife and three daughters (the youngest just an infant) and his younger brother as it approached Key West, the last of a long string of isles that trail southwest some 150 miles into the Straits of Florida from the southern tip of the peninsula...

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2. Nationalism

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pp. 37-64

In late February 1870, shortly after the Castañon affair, José D. Poyo stood with a crowd at the Key West docks and greeted General Manuel de Quesada, the former commander in chief of the Cuban insurgent army, who was arriving on a steamer from Nassau on his way to New York.1 Manuel Quesada, a charismatic personality who was originally...

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3. Revolution

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pp. 65-94

On March 11, 1878, José D. Poyo, Carlos Manuel Céspedes y Céspedes, son of Cuba’s first president, and Martín Herrera organized a mass meeting in Key West to protest the Zanjón Pact. A revolutionary committee was organized at the meeting. Céspedes was elected as president and Poyo as secretary.1 This reaffirmation of revolution...

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4. Preservation

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pp. 95-117

In late 1888, Poyo warned about an imminent danger to Key West’s nationalist community. Building a revolutionary capability took time and determination, but defending its cohesion and integrity proved equally challenging. Although the tight-knit town and its cigar industry expanded substantially in the 1880s in response to a booming...

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5. Persistence

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pp. 118-136

One evening in late August 1887, José D. Poyo and Ten Years’ War veteran General Juan Fernández Ruz, a newcomer to Key West, met with a group of conspirators and made final preparations for a small expedition. In the name of the Key West revolutionary committee, Poyo and Ruz commissioned Manuel Beribén...

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6. Martí

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pp. 137-166

On Christmas Day 1892, José F. Lamadriz and José D. Poyo, president and vice-president respectively of the Convención Cubana, stood on the waterfront in Key West, accompanied by a young tobacco worker, Genaro Hernández, the head of the community’s organizing and invitations committee for this event. Other local revolutionary leaders...

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7. Crisis

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pp. 167-191

An angry multitude converged at the Key West docks on the morning of January 2, 1894. Leaders of a special crisis committee of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano comprised of José D. Poyo, Fernando Figueredo, Manuel Patricio Delgado, Teodoro Pérez, and Miguel A. Zaldívar led the crowd, which included Protestant ministers and their congregations...

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8. War

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pp. 192-225

On April 27, 1895, Máximo Gómez wrote Poyo, “Here come two lines from these liberated fields of Beautiful Cuba.” Gómez, Martí, and Maceo had reached Cuba with little challenge, and the day before Cuban forces had driven back a Spanish column. “From here,” Gómez declared, “you will see the brilliance of a beautiful aurora the day Cuba is redeemed.” “Do not weaken...

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9. Legacy

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pp. 226-250

José D. Poyo gathered a large PRC-affiliated multitude at San Carlos Institute on December 30, 1898 for a final meeting of the Cuerpo de Consejo. As the audience settled, he read aloud a communication from Tomás Estrada Palma. “Having achieved the goal of Cuban independence,” the delegado proposed the dissolution of the organization...


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pp. 251-280


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pp. 281-290


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pp. 291-302

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048659
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813049182

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 8 b/w photos
Publication Year: 2014

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Subject Headings

  • Cubans -- Florida -- Key West -- History.
  • Cuba -- History -- 1878-1895.
  • Poyo, José D. (José Dolores), 1837-1911.
  • Key West (Fla.) -- History.
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