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Hatuey

Hatuey was a Taíno chief who lived on the island of Hispaniola in the early sixteenth century. He has attained legendary status for leading a group of natives in a fight against the invading Spanish, and thus becoming the first fighter against colonialism in the New World. He is celebrated as "Cuba's First National Hero."

In 1511, Diego Velasquez set out from Hispaniola to conquer the island of Cuba. He was preceded, however, by Hatuey, who fled Hispaniola via canoe with a party of four hundred natives and warned the Cuban natives about what to expect from the Spaniards.

Bartolome de Las Casas later attributed the following speech to Hatuey. He showed the Cubans a basket of gold and jewels, saying "Here is the God the Spaniards worship. For these they fight and kill; for these they persecute us and that is why we have to throw them into the sea... They tell us, these tyrants, that they adore a God of peace and equality, and yet they usurp our land and make us their slaves. They speak to us of an immortal soul and of their eternal rewards and punishments, and yet they rob our belongings, seduce our women, violate our daughters. Incapable of matching us in valor, these cowards cover themselves with iron that our weapons cannot break..."

Most of the Cubans could not believe Hatuey's message, and few joined him to fight. Hatuey resorted to guerilla tactics against the Spaniards, and was able to confine them to their fort at Baracoa. Eventually the Spaniards succeeded in capturing him. On February 2, 1512, he was tied to a stake and burned alive.

Before he was burned, a priest asked him if would accept Jesus Christ and go to heaven. Hatuey asked "Are there people like you in heaven?" When the priest assured him that there were, Hatuey replied that he wanted nothing to do with a God that allowed such cruelty to be perpetuated in His name.



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