GOSSIP GATHERED IN HOTEL LOBBIES
A Cuban Who Was There Tells the Story
Of How the Martyr Marti Was Shot Down,
And How Gomez Was Tricked Out of Speedy Vengeance.
Louisiana a Greater Hunting Ground
Than Many Resorts Offering
Sports as Attraction
F. Pantaleon is registered at the Grunewald Hotel, some months from Cuba, but bringing some interesting recitals of events that transpired while he was there. Pantaleon is not the full name of this patriot, but it is enough, he says, to designate him in writing about him.
“It is as well that too much personal publicity should not be given to any one man,” he said. Pantaleon is typical of his race. He is quick-eyed and black-eyed. He looks at once gentle and fearless. He has an impressive way of telling a story that makes it thrilling. He has witnessed many things in the trouble-ridden country, whence he claims his nativity, and he is careful not to tell too much.
Pantaleon witnessed the killing of Jose Marti by the Spaniards […] he was not very far away at the time.
“You see me,” he said, expressively, “I am not fond of talking, but since you are well introduced, and I know you to be an honorable newspaper man, I will tell you how Jose Marti died.
“Jose Marti, you know, was the first man to call the Cubans to the battle field, when our great struggle for freedom began. He was an old man, a fearless man, and one who would scorn to direct his people to go where he himself would not. Thus Marti, too, went to Cuba. He had been there some time. He had been directing affairs of importance, and when he was through he was persuaded to go back to the United States.
“Brave man that he was, he was not fated to get here.
“I recall the morning when he took his leave from Gomez. They were two brave men parting, possibly never to meet again.
“They fell upon each other’s necks and said farewell. Marti was given an escort of forty men, who were to see him safely through to the place of embarkation.
“They were strong and true men, selected from the forces of Castellanos. They went away, and we watched them while the sun shone and spread brightness, and we felt each one of us that it had been a solemn parting.
“There are two little streams that flow through Dos Rios. They are beautiful streams, and they are so clear that the white sand glistens through the bottoms and the rocks that choke them up are pulished by the action of the water. They are not deep, but the brush and leaves from the trees and the flowers dip down over the banks until they touch the surface of the rivers, and the shadows are cool and paceful and soothing.
“I know, for I have lain under them to rest on days when one needs not to be afraid of being shot by the dog Spaniards.
“There is a little path, too, a fatal little path that winds away from the main road. It is a short cut, and it leads to the coast.
“There, ten miles away from Gomez and his good men, Jose Marti was to meet his death, where the little rivers part company on their way to the sea, and where no man would dream that there is anything save peace and rest and beauty. The bushes that fringe the path and the trees that meet overhead were fatal to Marti.
“He and his escort took their way. They were watchful as are all good soldiers, but they watched not closely enough and destiny was against them.
“Four hundred Spaniards were hidden in the brush, and their 400 rifles were pointed at the little escort of forty men who little dreamed of their fate.
“Marti rode in the lead. He rode with his head up as he always did. He talked kindly and sometimes gayly with his men.
“But the old man’s hour had come.
“When the men who surrounded him recovered from their stupor of surprise, thay saw that their beloved leader, the patriot, the man of might and mercy, had been shot down from ambush like a dog. It makes me savage to tell of it.”
Pantaleon was sitting up straight and glaring like a beast.
“That is the story that they brought to General Gomez,” he continued, “as he sat waiting for the return of his escort. That was the story, I say, as the wounde man who first came in from the fatal Dos Rios told it in gasps.
“Gomez stood like a man in a dream. He looked at no one, spoke to no one for some minutes. Then, like a father or brother, mourning a lost one, he lifted up his hands to heaven and cried out: ‘My God, my God. Jose Marti is dead. They have killed Jose Marti!’
“Then we heard and knew what happened. It did not need a second word of command to tighten the girths and drive spurs home into the flanks of our horses; and we rode like madmen to the spot where our leader had been shot. He was not there. There were bodies all around. They had been shot down – hacked to pieces, mutilated horribly – and all that they possessed in life that was of any value had been taken away from them. It was a terrible sight, but Marti was not there. We rode on. Hope bagan to come to us. We hoped that he might be only a prisoner and that we might recapture him. But it was not to be.
“Sandoval, the Spanish colonel, who had donde the work, rode away somewhere in the underbrush or across the country. He knew that we would be after him and he set spurs to his horses and urged to his food soldiery that he might not be trapped by the Cubans. We followed desperately.
“But Gomez, for once, was duped.
“Riding through the forest, we came upon bits of paper nailed to the trees. They were plucked down and found to be notes from Colonel Sandoval.
“‘To Gomez,’ they read: ‘I have Jose Marti prisoner, and if you attack me I will kill him. SANDOVAL.’
“Gomez stopped to consider. He decided that the better course was to let Sandoval alone. ‘I would not have Jose Marti killed for a thousand victories,’ he said. We turned back silently. We did not know that Sandoval had with him only the lifeless clay of Jose Marti, or we would have reclaimed the body if it had cost us every man save one. It was not until afterward that we learned the truth – how Marti had fought until the last drop of life-blood was gone from his body; how they had feared our vengeance and taken the dead with them to perpetrate a lie upon the living; how they could not but honor the man, great as he was, and so, when they buried him, Colonel Sandoval took off his hat and saluted the corpse saying: ‘He died like a lion. He was a brave man.’ All this came to us long afterward, but we have had vengeance on a hundred battle fields since then, and we will build the foundation of a great nation over the corpse of Jose Marti.
“There, I have told you too much.”
Pantaleon refused to talk further. He believed that his country would win, he said; but he had been away too long to talk of what was doing in Cuba. Thus he ended his interview abruptly. He seemed sorry for even as much as he had let fall.
New Orleans, Times Picayune, January 9, 1897