Angelina Masque (Aunt Nina), my father’s sister, married Antonio Maceo Mackle, Uncle Bobby – short for Bubbles as his mother used to call him when he was a child. Uncle Bobby, the son of Antonio Maceo II and Alicia Mackle, was the grandson of Cuba’s independence leader, Antonio Maceo Grajales, also known as El Titan de Bronce (The Titan of Bronze). The Titan of Bronze, son of Marcos Maceo and Mariana Grajales liberated Cuba from the dominion of Spain during the Cuban Independence War in 1902.
Born on August 9, 1920 in Havana, Cuba, Antonio Maceo Mackle attended Colegio Mimó and Instituto de la Habana. After crossing the seas in a ship named Normandy, Maceo graduated from the Paris Sorbonne University Medical School in 1936 and the University of Havana in 1938 where he earned a Doctor of Medicine degree.
After graduation, Uncle Bobby offered medical services in emergency rooms in Havana. He worked as a surgeon in Havana’s General Hospital, in General Hospital of Freyre de Andrade and Maternity Hospital. He then joined the Army where he earned the rank of Captain. Later, he worked at Carlos Finlay Hospital. During the 1950s, he became Deputy to the Secretary of Health in Cuba.
Under his post as Deputy Secretary of Health, he founded the Mariana Grajales Rural Medicine program and Escuela Primaria Superior Mariana Grajales in Cuba. Following his grandmother steps, he offered training and medical services in the rural areas in Cuba during the 1950s.
Escuela Mariana Grajales San Luis Oriente, Cuba, 1950s
After their marriage, Aunt Nina and Uncle Bobby had one son, Antonio Maceo IV, my cousin Tony. On July 11, 1960, this trinity moved to Miami, Florida. Between 1961 and 1963, Uncle Bobby was a member of the Consejo Revolucionario Cubano. He also participated in a program of rehabilitation of the sick and injured members of Brigade 2506 offered by the Dade County Medical Association.
Cousin Tony received military training and joined the troops sent by John F. Kennedy to Cuba during the Bay of Pig Invasion. A mission that failed and became the preamble of the Missile Crises.
Maceo regularly appeared in a radio program aired in Cuba and Latin America called “El Medico y Usted” (The Doctor and You). In 1963, he joined the Department of Public Health of Dade County, and in 1971, the Center for Cuban Refugees and offered medical services to people in need. From 1976 to 1984, Maceo was in charge of infectious diseases in the Department of Public Health of Dade County.
A diplomat, a surgeon, and an activist, Uncle Bobby was invited by the Voice of America to deliver the “Welcome to Immigrants” speech at the Statue of Liberty during the sixties. A proud Mulatto descendant from the liberator who abolished slavery in Cuba, he fervently spoke in favor of equality, freedom, and justice for all. Like Martin Luther King Jr., Antonio Maceo Mackle had a dream, to restore peace to our island of sun and end the divisions among our people. He spoke and wrote in support of this cause in his three languages, Spanish, French, and English.
As a child, I had the opportunity to hear Uncle Bobby’s stories, more closely during the two years my mother and I lived in Miami as refugees and every time thereafter when we visited the family during the summers and holidays.
“There are two Cuba’s, Marilu,” highball in hand, he would look out the window and squint at the sun.
“The Cuba that you and I know and the mirage.”
A man of service, he lived a modest life with Aunt Nina in a one bedroom apartment on 10 Madeira Avenue, Coral Gables, Florida. A place I visited often, when my parents sent me overseas to spend summers with the family.
Uncle Bobby offered his memories to Alzheimers and died an unsung hero in exile.
Thanks to my great-grandfather on my mother’s side, Rafael Bencomo, a Mambi who fought with the Titan of Bronze in the Cuban Independence War, Mambi blood travels in my veins. A child delivered with a two-week expiration date, I grew up absorbed by Cuentos de Titanes, the title of one of my novels in progress.
This tree of life that is my legacy inspires me to write impeccable truths, not to recover the anguish of an unfathomable past, but as a way to rewrite my Personal Script from a perspective of strength, compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. I hope this may inspire others with similar life journeys to find inner peace. Peace is attained one heart at a time. And history tends to repeat itself when we choose to ignore it.
May humanity see the day when children ask with their foreheads wrinkled in a frown, “Mom, what is war?”
With love and gratitude,