It is virtually an unknown fact that a monument was erected in Cuba to
the victims of the MAINE explosion. The
monument still stands today.
The idea to erect a monument to the victims of the MAINE dates back to the era of the dewatering and raising of the wreckage of the MAINE. On December 6, 1913, the president of the Cuban Republic appointed a committee to head the efforts.
The design was the subject of a design competition, the winner of which was an engineer by the name of Felix Cabarrocas. Efforts to construct the monument first began in 1918. There were delays, but finally in 1924 Cabarrocas was also given the contract for the construction of the new memorial to be placed near the former Santa Clara Battery on Avenida Antonio Maceo.
The monument was inaugurated on March 8, 1925, and was attended by Cuban President Zayas, General John Pershing, Admiral Dayton and the minister of Spain. Miss Elvira Machado Machado had the honor of unveiling the plaque bearing the names of the MAINE’s victims.
The monument consisted of a large base holding two of the MAINE’s large ten inch guns, each facing outward in opposite directions from the center, each draped with what appears to be the MAINE’s anchor chain. In the center was an elaborate pedestal inscribed with the words “A Las Victimas del MAINE el Pueblo de Cuba” and “Joint Resolution: ‘The People of the Island of Cuba Are and of Right Ought to be Free and Independent’ Congress of the United States of America, April ??, 1898.” The pedestal featured statuary, the plaque with the names of the victims of the MAINE explosion and relief views of the tragedy. The pedestal was surmounted by two Corinthian columns supporting a short lintel with the word “Libertad” inscribed upon it. Atop the lintel was a large eagle with outspread wings.
The monument, and the island of Cuba, was soon struck with a tragedy. On October 20, 1926, a hurricane struck the island. The corinthian columns were toppled and broken, as were the eagle and lintel.
In November of the same year, fund were appropriated to repair the monument. The plaza around the monument was also expanded. On February 15, 1928, the thirtieth anniversary of the sinking of the MAINE, a ceremony was held at the monument. During the ceremony, the American Ambassador Henry B. Fletcher made the following statement:
“It is the altar of the firm and lasting friendship which joins Cuba to the United States. Here. Our spirit of comradeship is renewed and restrengthened evey year. Here while anniversaries go on in the coming years, the sacrifices of the martyrs and patriots, Cubans as well as Americans, for the cause of liberty, will be brought to mind; and here also shall be annotated the fruits of those sacrifices.”
The monument still exists in Havana, a tribute to an earlier day of mutual friendship.
Santovenia, Emeterio S., Memorial book of the Inauguration of the MAINE Plaza at Havana. (Havana, Cuba, 1928).121-124, 128, 129, 131, 146,147-149, 154.