The protagonists.

Photo: File.

the antagonist

His name was Alfredo Zayas.

He perfectly embodied the spirit of a republican era vitiated by robbery and patronage networks.

He was more of a poet than a warrior, more of an intellectual than a soldier;

but, above all, he was a clever and cunning politician.

He did tandem with the Shark, José Miguel Gómez, and before handing over his office he named himself Official Historian of Cuba, with a lavish salary.

Years later, he "divorced" José Miguel Gómez and with the support of his former rival, Mario García Menocal, won the presidency.

The first thing he did as president was to order a statue to be erected.

Growing up was his passion: they say that he appointed his son deputy director of the National Lottery and that he later turned out, by impressive fortune, to win a first prize.

It might not be so but it deserves to be true.

However, something that did happen was that Zayas approved an amnesty to release or pardon those accused of embezzlement associated with the lottery.

Between firefighters...

The protagonists

They were fifteen young people.

Two of them did not then sign the proclamation.

Its leader was called Rubén Martínez Villena and he was "a seed in a furrow of fire."

Villena was also more of a poet than a soldier, a neo-romantic poet (tuberculosis included) who abjured his verses while he embraced the cause of the Revolution;

an intellectual who exiled himself from the ivory tower that certain thinkers like so much to immerse himself in the people, in the masses of oppressed workers.

He was a Martí fan and a communist -the order of these factors is not important- who found in past glories the necessary strength to reach, despite his precarious health, new glories.

Villena marked one of the highest points of his generation and embodied the contempt with which those born in the Republic, the heirs of the mambises, looked at those survivors of the war, at the generals and doctors who had profited from the dream of Marti.

The generation of the first quarter of the Cuban century pointed a finger at the Zayas, the José Miguel Gómez, the Estrada Palma, and told them: "You have not known how to live up to your time, you have not known how to be up to the height of Cuba;

they have failed their homeland, their people.

They don't deserve any curule chair: it's up to us to make amends for their wrongs, to fight for the country we want and deserve."

That generation was defining itself on one side and on the other: Marinello continued to be active in the socialist cause;

Mañach was adopting increasingly reactionary positions.

But together they entered history.

The fact itself

The Zayas government had bought the Santa Clara Convent for a sum ten times its real value.

It was the straw that broke the camel's back.

In an act of homage to a foreign poetess, some young people raised their voices, interrupting the speaker and denouncing crimes against the public treasury, corruption, shamelessness...

It was a turning point in the history of Cuba: the generation of Villena, Mañach and Marinello slew the throats against the generals and doctors.

The Protest of the Thirteen was a clarion call against Zayas but, above all, against that neocolonial Republic, weighed down by the Platt Amendment and US interference.

It happened a hundred years ago and its echoes still reach us.