Profile of Alberto Ruz Lhuillier as a Young Man
The attitudes and beliefs that archaeologists bring to their profession can have important impacts upon the manner in which they approach their work; therefore, studying an archaeologist’s life can shed light on archaeological history. An investigation of the early life of the Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier provides fascinating evidence of just how life experiences can influence attitudes and theoretical approaches. Ruz was the archaeologist who, in 1952, discovered the magnificent tomb of the Classic Maya King of Palenque, Mexico, K’inich Janaab’ Pakal I. Research into Ruz’s early life sheds light on why he had negative opinions about the United States (US), and highlights the experiences that caused them, and explains how they changed. When Ruz moved to Cuba in the 1930s, and learned about the impact of American interference in Cuban affairs, he became deeply involved in the socialist revolution to oust Cuba’s US puppet dictators and to free his country from ‘yanqui’ imperialism. In addition, these early student life experiences exposed him to other students who espoused the theories and ideas of Karl Marx. Later Ruz would use some of these theories to explain the development and fall of ancient Maya civilization.
The archaeological historian, Douglas Givens, in his article The Role of Biography in Writing the History of Archaeology (Givens, 1992) makes a very good case for the importance of studying the lives of archaeologists in order to understand how they approach the fields of archaeology and anthropology. Biographical studies can also help scholars understand certain attitudes and beliefs held by a particular archaeologist, such as in the case of Alberto Ruz Lhuillier.
It is widely known that Ruz was a Mexican archaeologist of French/Cuban decent, who, in 1954, discovered the magnificent chamber and tomb of K’inich Janaab’ Pakal I, the Classic Maya King of Palenque, Mexico. Not so well-known are the events in Ruz’s early life that led to his decision to leave France and live in Cuba, and then subsequently, to leave Cuba and live and work in Mexico. As I will outline in this paper, the obscure events and details of Ruz’s life in France and in Cuba before he became an archaeologist, help to explain the so called ‘anti-gringo’ attitude that Michael Coe attributed to him in his book Breaking the Maya Code (Coe, 1999: 208). Coe believes that this attitude motivated Ruz to lead a Mexican boycott of the First Palenque Roundtable meeting in 1973, which was organized by North American scholars who were making advances in deciphering ancient Maya hieroglyphs. There were probably additional contributing factors behind this ‘boycott’, but Ruz’s negative feelings towards the United States were also documented in interviews I conducted with Ruz’s oldest son, Alberto Ruz Buenfil in 2010. In these interviews Ruz Buenfil remembered that there were times when his father would describe the USA as a capitalist ‘monster’ (Ruz Buenfil, 2010).
In addition to describing Ruz’s negative feelings about the US, Coe described Ruz as a Marxist, attributing this to the supposed fact that Ruz’s father was the cousin of Fidel Castro Ruz. Coe wrote that this relationship ‘may explain his [Ruz’s] political orientation’ (Coe, 1999: 208).
However, there is much more to understanding Ruz’s political and sociological leanings than an undocumented sanguine relationship. Living and studying in Cuba in the 1930s Ruz was exposed to the writings of Karl Marx. As a result of using Marx’s theories to understand the formation and growth of modern civilization, Ruz became interested in using them to understand the development of ancient societies. In at least two published articles, Ruz explained how the Asiatic mode of production (AMP), proposed by Marx in the early 1850s, could be usefully applied to studying the development and downfall of ancient Maya civilization. One of these papers was published after Ruz’s death, and the other was published in Havana, Cuba in 1973, in a magazine called El Caimán Barbudo (Ruz Lhuillier, 1973). The latter article is described as being one of twelve lectures that Ruz gave in Havana, Cuba, and which I have estimated took place between 1967 and 1973.
To better understand the sources of his theoretical leanings, and of his negative attitude toward the US, it is necessary to examine Ruz’s roots. His father and grandfather fought against Spanish colonial imperialism and tyranny in their homeland of Cuba. During the mid to late 1800s there were many acts of aggression by Spanish authorities toward the Cuban people, and among these were arrests for insignificant infractions (Thomas, 1971: 256). After being exiled to France Ruz’s forefathers continued their fight against Spanish imperialism by joining other Cuban exiles to write about and to publish their protests. Ruz learned from their example about the importance of justice for his homeland; and so when he moved to Cuba in the 1930s, and saw the impact of American interference in Cuban affairs, he became deeply involved in the revolution to oust the US puppet dictator, Gerardo Machado Morales, and to free his country from ‘yanqui’ imperialism (Ruz Buenfil, 2010).
The more complete story of Ruz’s life begins with his grandfather, José Francisco de Ruz Amores, who was born in Havana on November 20, 1830 (Estrade, 2001: 331). He was a wealthy land-owner with slaves, who grew sugarcane and coffee in Cuba in the nineteenth century (García Moll, 2007: 9). The family of José Francisco Ruz Amores participated in the founding of a Spanish colony in Cuba, and since then had been landed gentry in the area of Santiago de Cuba. In addition, Ruz’s grandfather was a distinguished doctor in Havana, and vice president of the Cuba’s Academy of Medicine and founder of Cuba’s Academy of Sciences in 1861. Ruz Amores was also described as a poet and had translated the works of the French poet, Giacomo Leopardi (Estrade, 2001: 332), presumably into Spanish. Alberto Ruz Lhuillier’s son, Alberto Ruz Buenfil confirms that this story is one that he heard directly from his father many times (Ruz Buenfil, 2010). Francisco Alberto Ruz y Mas, Ruz’s father, was the son of José and Micaela, and was born on July 17, 1863 in Cuba (Estrade, 2001: 409).
Five years later, on October 10, 1868, Cuba’s ‘Ten Years War’, otherwise known as Cuba’s ‘first war for independence’, began. This ‘first revolutionary war’ started when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and thirty-seven other landowners declared Cuba’s independence from Spain (Franklin, 1997: 5). The following year, 1869, is reported to be the year that the Ruz family left for exile in France (Estrade, 2001: 409). According to several sources, José Francisco Ruz Amores was the first Cuban landowner to free his slaves when the abolition of slavery was announced (de la Garza, 2004; Ruz Buenfil, 2010). After he did this, there was such a backlash from his peers, who were influential slave owners, that he and his entire family fled to New York City and then to Paris for their safety (Estrade, 2001: 331-332; Ruz Buenfil, 2010). Perhaps the turmoil associated with Cuba’s first war of independence also played a role in his decision to leave Cuba. Francisco Alberto Ruz y Mas was approximately six years of age at the time of the family’s departure. They eventually settled in Paris, living on Wagram Avenue, in the 17th arrondisement, where ‘Cubanolandia’, a neighborhood of Cuban exiles, was located.
It was here that they waited for, and received news of, the Cuban insurrection of 1895, the country’s ‘second revolutionary war’ (Estrade, 2001: 409). Ruz Amores remained a staunch supporter of Cuban independence and wrote articles in opposition to Spanish colonialism in the newspaper La República Cubana under the pseudonym of ‘Cubanacan’. When he became an adult, Francisco Alberto Ruz y Mas studied dentistry and became a dental surgeon. Both he and his father José were active in the Cuban community, and continued to denounce colonialism (Estrade, 2001: 410). Francisco became distinguished as one of the most active proponents of the Cuban revolution and through his writings he helped to inspire the ‘second revolution’. He published under the pseudonym of ‘Egmont y Sangrado’ and wrote thirty articles for the La Republique Cubana (Estrade, 2001: 410). Eventually he married a French woman named Louisa Lhuillier (Ruz Buenfil, 2010), and they had four children, two girls and two boys. Alberto, the oldest, was born in Paris, on January 27, 1906. His brothers and sisters, also born in France, were named Susanne, Lily and Miguel. Their grandfather, José Francisco de Ruz, died on June 9, 1904, two years before Alberto’s birth. (Estrade, 2001: 332). The family still owned land that they inherited from José Francisco in Cuba, but they feared that it was no longer recognized as being theirs (Ruz Buenfil, 2010).
Cuba’s Transition from Colonialism to Neocolonialism
Even though the family had left Cuba behind, the country and its history would one day play an important part in the life of the young Alberto Ruz Lhuillier. During the mid 1800s, while Cuba was still under Spanish colonial rule, the US continued to be an important influence on its affairs due to its close geographical proximity, and to US foreign policy, in its ‘sphere of influence’: ‘Throughout the history of the United States, Cuba has occupied a place of peculiar, if unrecognized importance in our foreign affairs. No other country has so continuously concerned our Department of State’ (Guggenheim, 1970: 1-2). Even as far back as the time of the presidency of the great liberal democrat Thomas Jefferson, Cuba was regarded by the new American republic as a very desirable US territorial acquisition (Guggenheim, 1970: 1-2). Such desire was created in part, by the island’s economic potential and future importance to trade, and also by its proximity to Florida. On the other hand, President James Madison, Jefferson’s successor, viewed Cuba as a potential ‘fulcrum’ from which others could do harm to US commerce and security (Guggenheim, 1970: 1-2). During this time, the Spanish imposition of trade restrictions on Cuba, caused substantial tension between the US and Spain, and planted the seeds of the Spanish American War in 1898.
That war began because of disputes between the US and Spain regarding Cuba and its ‘independence’. Although in the US, it is called ‘The Spanish American War’, the people of Cuba know it the ‘US Intervention in Cuba’s War of Independence’ (Franklin, 1997: 9). The war lasted only ten weeks, and on December 10, 1898, Spain and the US signed the Treaty of Paris, in which the US gained control of Spanish colonies in nearby Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the Philippines and Guam on the other side of the continent, and across the Pacific Ocean. However, ‘although the treaty officially grants Cuba independence, the US flag – not the Cuban flag – is raised over Havana’ (Franklin, 1997: 9). At the same time the US installed a government headed by General John R. Brooke, Cuba’s first US military governor. And for the next sixty years, the US would exercise military, legislative and economic control over Cuba and its people (Franklin, 1997). Between the years 1895 and 1921, as US neocolonialism became institutionalized and repressive, it was greatly resented by the Cuban people (Guerra, 2005: 3).
From 1922 until 1923 Alberto Ruz Lhuillier attended the Ecole Commerciale de Paris (Hilton, 1945: 108-109) in France, and then, in either 1925 or 1926, at age eighteen or nineteen, he moved from Paris back to Cuba (García Moll, 2007: 9; Izquierdo y de la Cueva, 2005; Ruz Buenfil, 2010). According to Celia Gutiérrez Ruz, surviving widow of Ruz’s last marriage (Bertrán, 2002), he had to learn to speak Spanish after he arrived, because his native tongue was French. His son, Alberto Ruz Buenfil relates that one of the major reasons for the move back to Cuba, was to reclaim the family property in Santiago de Cuba. Alberto Ruz Lhuillier was able to re-establish ownership of the family’s real estate situated within the city’s limits, but they had lost their rural land holdings. While completing this task, Ruz fell in love with Cuba, its music and its Latin American-Caribbean spirit. He decided to stay (Ruz Buenfil, 2010) and enrolled to study at the University of Havana.
Antecedents to the Student Movement of the 1930s
Ruz had arrived in Cuba at the beginning of a political upheaval that would last for at least thirty more years. General Gerardo Machado Morales had become president of Cuba in May 1925. He had the support of the US government and of the owners of Cuba’s very large sugar empire, on which Cuba’s economy was heavily dependent (Argenteri, 2003: 105). Over time Machado became an increasingly oppressive dictator, and the Cuban people regarded him as a US political puppet. Four years later, in 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. In addition to this crisis, the US Congress passed the Hawley-Smoot Act of 1930 that increased tariffs on the importation of Cuban sugar, causing the price of sugar to fall rapidly, thus radically decreasing the value of Cuban exports (Estrada, 2007: 171). For the Cuban people it must have been viewed as one more injustice suffered at the hands of the US government. Unemployment in Cuba went up, profits went down, and government workers received pay cuts. Since the entire world was in economic chaos, Cuban tourism also decreased. Cuba’s casinos and extravagant new hotels were empty, and the Pan American seaplanes no longer made regular trips into Havana (Estrada, 2007: 171).
On top of all of this trouble, Cuban students (among them the young Alberto Ruz) began to organize increasingly aggressive and angry protests against the Machado administration. Since the 1920s, there has been a tradition of student involvement in politics in Cuba (Suchlicki, 1968). In their efforts to try to find solutions to Cuba’s many problems, the students had tapped into the rhetoric and ideals that originated in the Córdoba Reform Movement of 1918 in Argentina, and they were inspired by the examples of the Mexican and Marxist-Leninist Russian Revolutions (Suchlicki, 1968). By the middle of 1927, a ‘Directorio Estudiantil Universitario’ (DEU) had formed, with one of its major platforms being opposition to the Machado regime (Franklin, 1997: 12). They accused Machado of selling their country to the US, and they wanted to liberate Cuba from the puppet dictator and from Yankee neocolonialism (Randall, 1974: 109; Suchlicki, 1968). They demonstrated in front of the university and criticized Machado’s continuing attempts to usurp more power. Machado then expelled most of the members of the Directorio from the University (Suchlicki, 1968). In September 1930, the Directorio again demonstrated; the police tried to break up the demonstration and in doing so killed the Directorio leader, Rafael Trejo, causing even greater anti-Machado sentiment. In response, Machado closed the university and many high schools. After the death of Trejo, ‘... the Cubans viewed the courageous student generation that battled Machado’s police with admiration and respect’ (Suchlicki, 1968).
Eventually the more affluent sections of the Cuban population looked to this younger generation to help to get rid of the despotic Machado regime, which was becoming increasingly oppressive. Since students could not attend classes, they could spend more time plotting, and demonstrating against, Machado. For the first time urban violence in Cuban politics became commonplace (Suchlicki, 1968). Between 1929 and 1935, a young leader named Antonio Guiteras Holmes emerged and transformed himself into what some considered him to be – the ‘Che Guevara’ of that era (Ruz Buenfil, 2010). Guiteras became Ruz’s brother-in-law sometime before 1932, when Ruz married his sister Calixta. Halperin has described Guiteras as Fidel Castro’s forerunner. In the 1950s Castro would eventually implement many of Guiteras’ proposed reforms (Halperin, 1972: 8-9). In 1935, in a story written after Guiteras’ violent death at the hands of the Batista military, the regime that followed Machado’s, Time Magazine described him as a ‘romantic figure’ who was ‘a little 28-year-old pharmacist with cross-eyes and freckles and his hair parted in the middle, with a childish, open smile and a vocabulary of violent radicalism’ (Time Magazine, 1935).
In the early 1930s Antonio Guiteras concentrated on collecting weapons to be used in the coming insurrection, that he hoped would lead to the overthrow of Gerardo Machado. He was also honing his skills as a political and revolutionary leader (Rosales García, 2004). During this same time Guiteras and his immediate family became an important part of Alberto Ruz’s life in Cuba.
Alberto Ruz and Life with the Guiteras Family
Despite all of the student turmoil, from 1933 to 1934 Ruz managed to attend school at the Escuela de Ingenieros Agrónomos y Químicos Azucareros (School of Agronomy and Sugar Engineering) at the University of Havana (Hilton, 1945: 108-109). As written in its brochure, the school’s purpose was to give young people the technical expertise needed to be competent managers of rural properties, able to implement and practice modern methods and procedures on agricultural and industrial crops (Universidad de La Habana, 1939: 1). There must have been a time in Ruz’s life when he wanted to specialize in this kind of work, but that would change.
Like so many other young people in Cuban universities during this era, Ruz became involved in the political protests against the Machado dictatorship. There are no documents that indicate whether Ruz became an activist before or after he met Antonio, Calixta and their mother María Terese Holmes. More specifically, there is no published record that indicates when Ruz first met Antonio’s sister and his future wife, Calixta Guiteras Holmes, although some evidence points to their meeting prior to 1932.
Calixta Guiteras Holmes was born February 10, 1905 in Philadelphia, into a family of Cuban-Catalans who were exiled in the United States. Her father’s name was Calixto Guiteras y Gener. He was an engineer, but he later became a professor of romance languages at Girard College in Philadelphia (Ignacio Taibo II, 2008: 18). Her mother, María Terese was born in North America and descended from a family of Scottish-Irish immigrants (Guiteras Holmes, 1984: 15) of great spiritual fortitude. Calixta’s friends called her ‘Cali’ (Guiteras Holmes, 1984: 15). Her brother, Antonio (Tony) was born November 22, 1906, also in Pennsylvania (Guiteras Holmes, 1960: 5). They had a younger sister named Margaret. They were an economically comfortable family and their mother was well-educated, and for that time, had very progressive ideas about the world. She had deep convictions and ‘strong feelings of independence forged by reading about far-off Ireland, the homeland of her ancestors’ (Rosales García, 2004). She told the children stories about their uncle, John Walsh, who was an important fighter for the independence of Ireland (Rosales García, 2004). Their father Calixto Guiteras loved his homeland, and instilled this love and admiration for Cuba and its heroes in his children. One of those heroes, José Julián Martí Pérez, would eventually become closely linked with the inception and development of the Cuban Republic (Font and Quiroz, 2006). In May of 1895, Martí died in Cuba while fighting the Spanish in the ‘Second Revolutionary War’. His two most important political causes were the abolition of racism and the obstruction of American imperialism. However Martí was not only a war hero – he was also a gifted poet and writer.
In 1913, the Guiteras-Holmes family moved from Pennsylvania to Matanzas, Cuba, in order to improve the health of the father. Both Calixta and her brother Antonio became students at the University of Havana. Antonio first enrolled in 1924 (Ignacio Taibo II, 2008: 25) to study in the Department of Pharmacy and Medicine (Guiteras Holmes, 1984: 15). Calixta enrolled in the Facultad de Filosofía y Ciencias in 1928 or 1929 (Ignacio Taibo II, 2008: 47). Antonio was expelled from the university in 1927 due to his anti-Machado activities (Randall, 1974: 106). After his expulsion, politics and revolutionary activities consumed most of his time.
On June 22, 1927 their father, Calixto Guiteras died. This meant that Antonio was now the head of the family. In January or February of 1929, the Guiteras-Holmes family decided to move from Pinar del Río to Havana so that Calixta could continue to study for her degree in Filosofía, and so that Antonio would have more opportunities for finding a job. Calixta stated that they rented a house at Calle B, No. 3, at the corner of 3rd and Vedado (Tabares del Real, 1973: 82). She and Antonio had joined other students in the struggle against Machado by also joining the Directorio Estudiantil Universitario (Tabares del Real, 1973: 128). In 1930 Calixta earned her Ph.D. from the University of Havana (Guiteras Holmes, 1984: 15). (Many years later Calixta would become a prominent anthropologist and write one of the first books on Maya ethnography called Los Peligros del Alma. Visión del Mundo de un Tzotzil.) Ruz also joined the revolutionary struggle against Machado, alongside his peers and his wife’s family. When Ruz wrote an article for the magazine Mundo Infantil, denouncing the misery of children in the neighborhood of Las Yaguas in Havana he was jailed (de la Garza, 2004: 9; Izquierdo y de la Cueva, 1987: 11). Izquierdo writes of Ruz that ‘the days of imprisonment invigorated his spiritual strength and gave him the secret to an indomitable soul’ (Izquierdo y de la Cueva, 1992).
Lorenzo Ochoa, one of Ruz’s biographers affectionately writes that after his incarceration, Ruz was no longer ‘the petty-minded young Parisian, bohemian, aspiring tango dancer from Marseilles, who came to Cuba in 1926’ (Ochoa, 1981: 395). Subsequently, over the next few years, both Ruz and Calixta were jailed several times and held in the El Castillo del Príncipe and El Morro (Ruz Buenfil, 2010). Each time, they were incarcerated with political prisoners instead of the ‘common’ ones, so at least they were in jail with people of similar ideas and attitudes. Thus, the revolutionaries were able to continue planning the revolution from ‘inside’. According to his son Ruz Buenfil (2010), Ruz became very close to this cadre of people, and it was during this time that he changed his political orientation towards the Cuban Communist Party, and away from Socialist ideals that Antonio had advocated (Ruz Buenfil, 2010).
The insurgent activities of Terese’s children must have been very hard on her. Calixta told Tabares del Real, one of Antonio’s biographers:
‘Toni’s [Antonio’s] exploits in the East, and the modest activities of mine, led to the police making life miserable for our mother, what with the forced inspections, searches and interrogations. So, in late 1932 or early 1933, Mom left the Third and B house, packed up and moved to Matanzas to live with Dad’s family’ (Tabares del Real, 1973: 129). Author’s translation.
Because of Antonio’s activities, Ruz and his wife, Calixta, were watched closely by members of the Machado regime (Ruz Buenfil, 2010), especially since all three frequently roomed together (Tabares del Real, 1973: 424). Calixta served time on several occasions at the women’s prison in Guanabacoa as well as in other prisons. She told Tabares del Real:
‘I participated in a plan to execute the dictator, was arrested and they gathered evidence against me. Toni, who had been underground in eastern Cuba came to Havana and spoke with the witnesses and he persuaded them not accuse me. Although the witnesses did not testify against me, I was sentenced to eight years in prison. Along with 13 other women, I was transferred to the jail in Nueva Gerona, Isla de Pinos’ (Tabares del Real, 1973: 123). Author’s translation.
On September 12, 1932 Calixta was released from the prison because she had ‘a bad lung’ and was exiled to France for over one year (Randall, 1974: 110) with her husband, Alberto Ruz (Guiteras Holmes, 1984: 19). They did not return to Cuba until September 1933 (Tabares del Real, 1973: 129). This visit to his original homeland was the first time that Ruz had returned to France for more than five or six years (Ruz Buenfil, 2010).
Deported to France
Calixta and Ruz were not the only Cubans who went to France during this time. The closing of the University of Havana in 1930, the economic crises, and the harassment of the Machado dictatorship caused many people, including other political activists, to leave the country for Paris (Herrera, 2007: 38).
During this time in Paris Ruz met fellow Cuban exile, and future professor of history, Julio le Riverend, and the two began their fifty-year friendship. Le Riverend would eventually attend university in México City, just as Ruz did, and study anthropology (Le Riverend, 1979: 167). In 1979, Le Riverend wrote an obituary for Ruz which was published in Revista de la Biblioteca Nacional José Martí. After Le Riverend returned to Cuba, he stated that he received letters from Ruz. It appears that even at this stage of Ruz’s life, he was interested in anthropology. Le Riverend wrote:
‘From far away, he wrote me with detailed information on the topic of the ‘noble savage’; incidentally he had a particular interest in the ancient historiography of eighteenth-century México. Furthermore, he stated that despite the cold and hunger, he purchased books for me that I received and that I now preserve as a lasting testimony of his friendship’ (Le Riverend, 1979: 167-168). Author’s translation.
Ruz returned to Cuba in 1933 (Le Riverend, 1979: 167) along with Calixta (Tabares del Real, 1973: 128). The Cuba that they were returning to was in a state of revolution. They were on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when they heard about Fulgencio Batista’s coup, otherwise known as the ‘Sergeants Coup’ (Randall, 1974: 110), which occurred September 5, 1933 (Franklin, 1997: 13). When Calixta arrived home in Cuba, she did not go back to school immediately, but helped her brother who had been appointed Minister of the Interior by the new administration. As she told Margaret Randall in an interview many years later, she worked with her brother ‘in every way I could’ (Randall, 1974: 110), since her brother was continuing to wage his battle against what he saw as US imperialism (Randall, 1974: 110). Ruz was recruited by his now powerful brother-in-law Antonio to participate in the new government as one of its officials.
The Sergeant’s Coup and the Government of a Hundred Days
There were several important events involving the US that led up to the ‘Sergeant’s Coup’. In July and August of 1933, there had been a general strike that spread throughout the country and then in August, a revolt of Machado’s army against him (Suchlicki, 1968). That same month, alarmed at the unfolding events, President Roosevelt sent Sumner Welles, the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, to Cuba as a special envoy. President Gerardo Machado’s government was divided and unstable. Welles’ mission was to negotiate a settlement between Machado and the unhappy leaders of the revolution. Under the umbrella of the Platt Amendment, a law passed by the US Congress in 1901, that allowed United States intervention in Cuban affairs, Welles was able to convince Machado to step down and leave the country (Suchlicki, 1968). Welles then installed Carlos Miguel de Céspedes as president of Cuba in an attempt to restore the country to normalcy. The student protestors regarded the Céspedes administration as a US puppet and the Student Directorate opposed him. They also saw him as someone who would slow down the revolution for change (Suchlicki, 1968).
On September 4, 1933, Sergeant Batista (thus the ‘Sergeant’s Coup’), leading an unhappy group of members of the Cuban military as well as students of the Directorio, conspired to overthrow the Céspedes administration and put into place a Pentarch (Pentarquía) or Executive Committee that would temporarily lead the nation (Suchlicki, 1968). It was made up of two university professors, a journalist, a banker, and a lawyer. This event marks the beginning of military rule in Cuba and ‘... Batista’s emergence as the arbiter of Cuba’s destiny for years to come’ (Suchlicki, 1968). Sergeant Batista was waiting patiently behind the committee, for the opportunity to usurp power. The Roosevelt administration panicked over the coup that overthrew the Céspedes administration and sent 49 warships to Cuba and Key West, and did not recognise the legitimacy of the executive committee (Franklin, 1997: 13; Suchlicki, 1968).
In addition to being the Secretary of the Interior of the Pentarquía, Antonio Guiteras Holmes was appointed the ‘governor of Oriente, the province where he was the indisputable leader of the revolutionary forces’ (Suchlicki, 1968). The creation of the Pentarquía was a remarkable event in Cuba’s history because it was the first and only time that the university, its students, and the military teamed-up to rule Cuba. However, for many reasons the Pentarquía was unable to maintain its rule (Suchlicki, 1968) and it fell apart. It was replaced by a government led by Ramón Grau San Martín and Antonio Guiteras Holmes. Dr. Grau San Martin, a doctor and professor of physiology at the University of Havana, became the president of Cuba by acclamation and appointed his cabinet, with Guiteras continuing as Secretary of the Interior (Thomas, 1971: 650). They began a program of social reform, although they would not be in power long enough to implement any of it adequately, partly because of US opposition to the coalition. According to Cuban historian Jules Benjamin (1977) there were three reasons for the US opposition to the Grau-Guiteras government. Grau’s administration:
‘(1) would not act with sufficient resolve to suppress the radical nationalist and Marxist insurgencies which were attacking US property, (2) passed legislation which inhibited the wealth-producing capacity of the US investments in the island, and (3) blocked the return to power of the conservative-moderate coalition which had formed the basis of the Céspedes regime and with which the United States hoped to arrange a new and closer economic relationship’.
Not only were the US opposed to the regime, but so were many other Cubans, including the Cuban Communists, other organized groups, and army officers who had lost their jobs in the last coup. The government also had internal factions that made it even more unstable; and these factions were led by students and even by Antonio Guiteras Holmes himself. The latter, who was considered ‘the real brains behind Grau’ (Suchlicki, 1968) wanted to push the government’s social reform programs even further. Guiteras was liberal, strong and incorruptible, and he had great public support, and was popularly known as ‘the man with only one suit’ (el hombre de un solo traje). The new government was called the ‘Grau-Guiteras coalition’ (Thomas, 1971: 650) but was labeled the ‘Government of One-Hundred Days’.
On September 12, 1933, at the age of 26, Guiteras began his duties as Interior Secretary, and eventually he would also be leader of the army and navy, and director of public works and communications (Tabares del Real, 1973: 225). He moved into the Hotel Pasaje in downtown Havana soon after taking office and his mother, María T. Holmes moved in with him. It was one or two weeks later that Calixta Guiteras and her husband Alberto Ruz returned to Cuba from France (Tabares del Real, 1973: 225).
Sometime during the month of September 1933, Ruz was appointed head of the Department of Municipal Affairs by his brother-in-law, Guiteras (Hilton, 1945: 108-109). According to Ruz Buenfil (2010), one of his father’s titles was Head of Culture in the Bellas Artes area, but ‘he was never part of the military side of the revolution, always on the social and cultural side’.
In November 1933, Antonio Guiteras met Dalia Rodríguez, a student at the Instituto de Segunda Enseñanza de La Habana and a member of the left wing student group. They eventually moved into an apartment together in a building called López Serrano, at 13 and L Streets. Here they stayed until January or February of 1934, along with María Theresa, Calixta Guiteras and Alberto Ruz. The whole family, including María Terese, a housewife, worked for the revolutionary process, regardless of whether they were on the payroll of a government agency (Tabares del Real, 1973: 336). Records show that Calixta taught at the Instituto de Matanzas at one time, but had to resign due to its distance from home. After this, she went to work for her brother, the Interior Secretary, full-time, doing whatever tasks he assigned her. Alberto Ruz was busy working as an administrator in the Grau-Guiteras government. Dalia also helped Antonio, fulfilling the tasks given to her by her partner, and María Terese did what she could to help (Tabares del Real, 1973: 335-336). This living arrangement would be the last time that the family would be together because after the fall of the Grau-Guiteras regime and Batista’s coup, Antonio Guiteras would primarily live underground and secretly, until May 8, 1935 (Tabares del Real, 1973: 335-336).
In December of 1933, as it looked as though the Grau administration was going to collapse, (the now Colonel) Batista began making plans to take over the government (Suchlicki, 1968). On January 14, 1934 he forced Grau to resign and installed another president of his own choosing. The strange coalition between the students and the military came to an end after lasting only four months. After Grau’s overthrow, many student activists were disenchanted with politics: ‘some abandoned their early idealism to find comfort in professional and business ventures. There were others that departed for foreign lands never to return to their tragic island’ (Suchlicki, 1968). For this generation of students, there were also strong feelings of anger primarily directed toward the US (Coltman 2003: 16).
Officially the fall of the ‘Government of a Hundred Days’ happened 3 months later on January 15, 1934. According to Tabares del Real (1973: 424), Antonio Guiteras did not receive a salary for the position he had held under President Grau, and Alberto Ruz was now unemployed. When Antonio left his job as the Secretary of the Interior, the whole family was experiencing economic hardship, and could no longer afford to live in the López Serrano apartment building. They moved to cheaper accommodation at 38 Jovellar Street on the second floor (Tabares del Real, 1973: 424). Or at least María Terese, Alberto Ruz, his wife Calixta, and Dalia Rodriguez took up residence there, but Antonio – trying to escape the persecution of the government – was only there from time to time when he could manage to visit the family. They lived modestly. María Terese received her late husband’s pension of $60.00 a month and that was their only steady income. Calixta was studying, and Dalia, Antonio’s partner, was stalked and watched by the authorities. She was arrested on several occasions, so she could not work regularly. Alberto Ruz was in a similar situation to that of Dalia (Tabares del Real, 1973: 424) unemployed and suspected of working against the new government. However, during the next year, in 1934, Ruz was able to get a teaching job. One of the places he taught was at the Instituto de Segunda Enseñanza, Matanzas (Hilton, 1945: 108-109; Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1981: 52).
The End for Antonio Guiteras
Even though Antonio was in hiding and the odds were against him, he managed to organize a paramilitary group of some six hundred members (Halperin, 1972: 10). However, according to Time Magazine (Time Magazine, 1935), the reason Batista was hunting him down was because of three alleged crimes:
‘“1) the shooting of a treacherous colleague; 2) the kidnapping of a rich Cuban idler for the fabulous ransom of $300,000; and 3) the engineering of the unsuccessful general strike of two months ago”. The $300,000 that his “Joven Cuba” organization extorted was intended for a planned invasion originating from México into Cuba. Their vision was to eventually ignite a Cuban revolt of the people, but neither the invasion nor the internal revolt was ever able to take place’ (Halperin, 1972: 10).
All of these alleged plans ended when Guiteras and several of his conspirators died in a gun battle with Batista’s army on May 8, 1935, at the abandoned Spanish Fort Morrill in the Valley of Matanzas. Guiteras was waiting there for a boat that was to take him and his companions across to México, where he would seek asylum and continue making plans for an invasion of Cuba (Halperin, 1972: 10). Ruz and Calixta, who were in prison at the time of the shooting (Ignacio Taibo II, 2008: 419), were subsequently given two choices by the Batista government – death or exile (Ruz Buenfil, 2010). In 1935 they left Cuba for a new life in México, and María Terese went with them. In 1938, Ruz enrolled in Mexico’s Departamento de Antropología de la Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Biológicas del Politécnico and began his career in anthropology and archaeology. The transition to a more normal and quiet life must have been welcome, but the memories of those years of struggle in Cuba would have been difficult to forget.
After personally experiencing and suffering the consequences of the actions of US puppet dictators in Cuba there is little wonder that Ruz harboured bad feelings against the US government and perhaps, its citizens. However, Ruz did eventually overcome these feelings. When he became Director of Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia’s (INAH) Pre-Hispanic Monuments of the Southeast (1949-1958), a geographic area that included the present-day states of Chiapas, Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán, he made friends with many anthropologists and archaeologists from North American institutions, including people such as Sylvanus Morley and Eric Thompson of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; Frans Blom of Tulane University; Gordon Ekholm of the American Museum of Natural History; Evon Vogt of Harvard University and many others (Ruz Buenfil, 2010). Additional evidence of these friendships were recorded in interviews with Ruz Buenfil, who related that each of these individuals was welcomed into the Ruz home as guests and stayed overnight, and when the Ruz family went to the United States, those same individuals were happy to return the hospitality by accommodating the Ruz’s. But perhaps the most interesting and ironic of all his friendships was the one that he developed with Nelson Rockefeller, a member of a great American capitalist family. Rockefeller eventually contributed a total of forty percent of the funds Ruz needed for the excavations he conducted from 1949 to 1959 at the Classic Maya site of Palenque, in Mexico.
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How to cite: Schele, E. 2012. Profile of Alberto Ruz Lhuillier as a Young Man. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology 22(2):4-11, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/bha.22202
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This article has been peer reviewed (journal peer review policy).
Published on 21 August 2012.