November 27, colonial cruelty

November 27, colonial cruelty

Heritage & Traditions

By Alejandro Rodriguez Ruiz

Among the saddest days of commemoration in Cuba is November 27,  in the 19th century, when eight first-year medical students at the University of Havana were unjustly shot.

The date is a milestone, for the pain it evokes and for reflecting the height of arbitrariness, since young people who had to die were chosen by lottery and even one of them was not in the city at the time the events occurred.

On November 24, 1871, while waiting for the arrival of a teacher, several students walked through the Espada cemetery, in the vicinity of the teaching center; one took a flower from the garden, several got into the vehicle where corpses were transported to the dissection room, and were reported to the authorities by the cemetery guard.

Those juvenile actions were turned into the false accusation of having desecrated the grave of Spanish journalist Gonzalo Castañón, a fact that, as one of his sons recognized some time later, had not occurred.

In colonial Cuba at that time, the struggle for independence was advancing, even had a government of the Republic in Arms and a Constitution, before which the regime did not miss the opportunity to give an exemplary lesson.

At that time, the Volunteer Corps, a paramilitary body of the Spanish Army, with a violent and extremist nature, was strong in the cities, especially in Havana. On November 25, a quarantine of young people - an entire classroom - were imprisoned and subjected to a summary trial, the first, which issued decisions that did not satisfy the mutinous Spanish volunteers in front of the prison.

A second process, and despite the convincing defense of the Spanish captain Federico Capdevila, sentenced to death the student who plucked a flower, the four who played with the vehicle and another eight randomly chosen.

Of the remaining students, 11 received sentences of six years in prison, 20 of four years and another four of six months. Anacleto Bermúdez, Alonso Álvarez de la Campa, Marcos Medina, Eladio González, Carlos de la Torre, Carlos Verdugo, Ángel Laborde and Pascual Rodríguez were shot at 4:20 pm on the 27th by a picket of volunteers on the esplanade of Tip.

Their names appear in a sculptural set raised in commemoration of the murder, which contains a preserved sector of the firing squad and a plaque with the word Innocents. The site is the culmination of a commemorative student procession each year, which starts from the current headquarters of the University of Havana.