An Ambrosio musket in Cuba

An Ambrosio musket in Cuba

Heritage & Traditions

Alina Gómez

Although ancient and originally from Spain, the expression "Ambrosio's musket", applied to a useless object or frustrated in some purpose, has transcended time and distance, and is still heard in Cuba and other Latin American countries.

According to chroniclers, Ambrosio was a peasant from Seville at the beginning of the 19th century, with a reputation for being a candid man, who had failed to make his living from the fields and preferred to become a highway robber, but was not taken seriously by his victims. 

A setback that he attributed to the little respect that his musket or carbine infused.

Other sources indicate that the character was a robber, also Andalusian and from the same period, whose carbine was loaded with harmless seeds instead of gunpowder. Around this phrase, a little-known event occurred in the Cuban publishing world, as a result of a relative freedom of the press decreed by the colonial government to alleviate tensions after a revolutionary outbreak on October 10, 1868 in the east of the island, that in the long run was the beginning of the war of independence.

Under the name of La Carabina de Ambrosio, on January 31, 1869, the first and only issue of a newspaper, with a variety of topics, circulated, in whose presentation the author alluded to a weapon of that type which the shots were fired by the butt, inherited from his father and homonym of the character of popular expression.

The writer said he was repairing the carbine, which had ceased to be monarchical, moderate, conservative, and had become a republican. In addition to these political allusions, the publication inserted a leaflet which stated that days ago they had been eating candies and pionnos, adding: “But see what taste is! While we are throwing the soft potato, the Oriente family makes an exquisite cake composed of potash nitrate, sulfur and charcoal”.

The frank reference to the revolutionary outbreak raised welts in the authorities, who interpreted what was said as an exhortation in favor of the insurgents. They opened a criminal process and arrested printer José Villa, the editor Antonio María Aguilera and the author of the text, Manuel Hernández, who was the accused.

In his defense, the latter masked the meaning of the writing and the interpretation was finally in no man's land, for which he was acquitted. Hernández and Aguilera published a new newspaper, Los Derechos del Pueblo, with the subtitle Second Part of La Carabina de Ambrosio, also anti-colonial in nature and with a single edition.