Sunday, August 21, 2011

Standing Up!

I first read anything about this guy Hatuey in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a wonderful novel by Junot Diaz which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008.

In the Sixteenth Century, Hatuey, a Chief on Hispaniola, fought the invading Spaniards; he eventually fled to Cuba, warning the natives there about the Spaniards. Showing them a basket of gold and jewels, he said, "Here is the God the Spaniards worship. 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."

He was eventually captured by Spaniards and burned at the stake. Before he was burned a priest asked him if he wanted to accept Jesus, thus assuring himself of a place in heaven. Junot Diaz reports Hatuey saying on the pyre: "Are there whites in heaven? Then I'd rather go to hell."

Considered Cuba's first national hero, the monument to him is in Baracoa, Cuba. 

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