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Gerardo Machado

Gerardo Machado
President of Cuba
In office
20 May 1925 – 12 August 1933
Vice President Carlos de la Rosa
Preceded by Alfredo Zayas
Succeeded by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada
Personal details
Born Gerardo Machado y Morales
(1871-09-28)September 28, 1871
Manajanabo, Santa Clara, Spanish Cuba
Died March 29, 1939(1939-03-29) (aged 67)
Miami Beach, Florida, United States
Nationality Cuban
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Elvira Machado Nodal
Children Laudelina (Nena) Machado-Machado
Ángela Elvira Machado-Machado
Berta Machado-Machado
Gerardo Machado, Time, 1933

Gerardo Machado y Morales (September 28, 1871 – March 29, 1939) was President of Cuba (1925–1933) and a general of the Cuban War of Independence.


  • Family 1
  • Youth 2
  • War experience 3
  • Political life 4
  • Presidency 5
  • Public works program 6
  • Second presidential term and growing opposition 7
  • Assassination attempts 8
  • Assassination of Julio Antonio Mella 9
  • Assassinations of the opposition 10
  • Machado loses power 11
  • References 12
    • Memoirs and papers 12.1
    • General references 12.2
    • Chambelona 12.3


Machado was born in the central Province of Las Villas (now Villa Clara). He was the eldest child in his family and had a brother named Carlos and a sister named Consuelo. He married Elvira Machado Nodal (28 October 1868 in Villa Clara – 1968) and they had three daughters: Laudelina (Nena), Ángela Elvira and Berta.[1]


He spent his childhood on his family's cattle farm and in his early 20s engaged in growing and selling tobacco. During Cuba's Ten Years' War against Spain (1868-1878), Machado's father joined the Cuban rebels and attained the rank of major. Machado followed in his father's steps, and when the Cubans resumed the war in 1895, he enrolled in the ranks of the rebels and rose to the rank of brigadier general.[2]

After the war ended, Machado turned to politics and business. He became mayor of Santa Clara and during the administration of José Miguel Gómez (1909-1913), he was appointed inspector of the armed forces and later secretary of interior. Soon after, he engaged in farming and in business investing in public utilities. He grew wealthy, returning to politics in the early 1920s.[2]

War experience

General Machado was one of the youngest Cuban generals in the Negro Rebellion of 1912[8] and cruelly crush it.[9]

Machado, said to be the party's war leader in Las Villas province, fought on the defeated Liberal side in the "Little War of February 1917” La Chambelona (Chambelona War), with José Miguel Gómez, Alfredo Zayas and with Enrique Loynaz del Castillo. Calixto Enamorado fought on the Conservative side. After the initial victories of the Liberals, things turned for the worse, yet Machado continued to fight even after the Liberals lost to the machine guns of Colonel Rosendo Collazo at Caicaje[7] once the hacienda of Santiago Saura Orraque[10] and Juan Manuel Perez de la Cruz[11] on 8 March until his cause was unsustainable and surrendered.[12]

President Mario García Menocal had clearly won. Technically there was no US intervention in this war,[13] and Cuban Army officers, notably Julio Sanguilí in Santiago,[14] regained control. Since in this war the Liberals were said to be pro-German, US President Woodrow Wilson, worried about Mexico and Pancho Villa, and the loss of able general, Menocal's friend and Cuba hand Frederick Funston had one less distraction on his hands. Menocal declared war on Germany April 7 of that same year. John J. Pershing, less tactful than Funston, in the Cuban circumstance, would be sent first to Mexico and then Europe.

Political life

A political figure, he served as Interior Minister under José Miguel Gómez.[1] Allied with his predecessor outgoing president Alfredo Zayas and running as a Liberal Party candidate, he defeated Mario García Menocal of the Conservative Party by an overwhelming majority to become Cuba's 5th president. He campaigned with the slogan, "Water, roads, and schools".[2]


Machado took office as President of Cuba on May 20, 1925 and left office on August 12, 1933. He is noted for stating that at the end of his term he would ask for the abrogation of the Platt Amendment. Elected at the time of a fall in world sugar prices, he was a Cuban industrialist and member of the political elite of the Liberal Party. Machado's first term (1925-1929) coincided with a period of prosperity. Sugar production expanded, and the United States provided a close and ready market. Machado embarked on an ambitious public works program. He determined to make Cuba the "Switzerland of the Americas."

Public works program

Among the public works completed during Machado’s administration, there was the Carretera Central or Central Highway which ran practically the entire length of the island, from Pinar del Rio in the west to Santiago de Cuba, a distance of over 700 miles...[15] Machado was also responsible for the construction of El Capitolio (The Capitol), the elegant and former home of the Cuban Congress for thirty years from 1929 to 1959 during the island’s Republican era. The Capitolio was built between 1926 and 1929. The architects whose vision was chosen for the design of what would be the future home of Cuba’ Parliament were Raúl Otero and Eugenio Rayneri Piedra. The new building would have a neoclassical design that borrowed elements from the U.S. Capitol building and the Pantheon in Paris. Its purpose was to portray the optimism, confidence and elegance of the new democracy.[16]

Additionally he oversaw the enlargement of the University of Havana, and the expansion of health facilities. Other key buildings constructed under his administration include the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, the Asturia Center (today National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana), the Bacardi Building (Havana), Lopez Serrano and the Hotel Presidente. He also sponsored a tariff reform bill in 1927 providing protection to certain Cuban industries. Despite these accomplishments, Cuba's dependence on sugar continued, and United States influence and investments increased.

Second presidential term and growing opposition

His detractors claimed that he became despotic and forced his way into a second term. [17] Throughout his campaign leading to the 1924 general election, Machado stated numerous times that he did not aspire to be reelected, but only two years into his presidency he changed his mind. In 1927 Machado pushed a series of constitutional amendments in order to enable him to seek re-election, which he obtained in the 1928 presidential election. This act of continuismo, coupled with growing economic depression caused by a decline in sugar prices starting in 1925, its aggravation due to the crash of 1929, and political repression, led to significant political instability.[18] Machado also faced backlash from university students after the formation of the Directorio Estudiantil Universitario on 1927. After various protests, and the death of the DEU members, most notably of Rafael Trejo, Machado closed the University in 1930. Cosme de la Torriente y Peraza, Cuban statesman and President of the League of Nations in the 1920s, had the following to say,

"In 1925 General Machado succeeded Dr. Zayas as President. In spite of his promise not to stand for reelection, Machado sought to have the Constitution of 1901 modified so that he could maintain himself in power. As a result, a widespread state of public disorder became almost permanent. It was under these circumstances that Machado was reelected without opposition in 1928."[19]

U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull noted the following in a telegram to incoming U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Sumner Welles on May 1, 1933 with regards to Machado's constitutional reforms of 1927:

"Under the terms of the Cuban Constitution (1901 Constitution of Cuba), as promulgated in 1902, amendments to the Constitution proposed by the Congress did not become effective until approved by a constituent assembly specifically elected for that purpose. Consequently, after the project for constitutional reform had been enacted by the Cuban Congress, elections were hold for delegates to the constituent assembly and those delegates were elected a revised form of the so-called “Crowed Electoral Code”, the revisions selected, in their great majority, by members of the existing House and Senate, and in most instances the Senators and Representatives themselves served as delegates to the constituent assembly. It is obvious that the revision of the Electoral Code made possible at this time the election of delegates favorable to the proroguing of the terms of the President, of the members of the Senate and of the members of the House of Representatives, and that such delegates were by no means elected through the untrammeled vote of the Cuban people themselves. The constituent assembly so selected convened in the month of April, 1928. Under the terms of the then-existing Constitution, the duties of the constituent assembly were “limited either to approving or rejecting the amendment voted by the co-legislative bodies.” Notwithstanding this clear provision and the clear intent thereof, the constituent assembly revised completely several of the provisions of the project submitted by the Cuban Congress. It would seem that there was a reasonable measure of doubt that the constituent assembly acted “ultra vires”. The Supreme Court of Cuba has, however, consistently refrained from rending a decision upon this question."

The struggles against Machado have influenced both film[20] and literature. It was in these turbulent times, when Machado ruled, that Cuban links to the Stalinist Communist International were made for the first time by Fabio Grobart[21]

Assassination attempts

There were a series of assassination attempts against Machado, one of the most famous ones involved the death of Clemente Vazquez Bello, the President of the Cuban Senate. It is stated that the individual with the original idea for the plan was a gravedigger. The plan was to construct an underground tunnel to reach a cemetery where the grave of Truffin, the father-in-law of Vazquez Bello, was located. The death of Vazquez Bello, being President of the Cuban Senate, meant that Machado would attend the funeral. As the funeral was proceeding, explosives would be deployed in the tunnel which would be beneath or surrounding the funeral site and the explosion would kill Machado and hopefully other senior members of the government. The plan failed, however, when it was decided that the funeral would be conducted in Santa Clara, Vazquez Bello's home province and not in the Havana cemetery as originally planned.

Assassination of Julio Antonio Mella

Many scholars such as Rolando Rodriguez Garcia and members of the Directorio Estudiantil Universitario believe that Machado ordered the murder of defecting communist Julio Antonio Mella in Mexico. Others argue that the murder might have been carried out by the Stalinist faction of the Communist International who were in a death struggle with the followers of Leon Trotsky. It has been further stated that the actual assassination was probably done by an action group that included notorious communist assassin Vittorio Vidali. There remains no definitive answer to the mystery of the death of Julio Antonio Mella.

Assassinations of the opposition

There are numerous confirmed murders and assassinations committed by the police and army under Machado’s administration. While supporters of his administration might dispute the extent of his involvement in these, the following is a list of documented examples as noted by the U.S. embassy of Havana in 1933.

Writing to the U.S. Secretary of State, on January 5, 1933, U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Harry Frank Guggenheim noted as follows,

"Last night I personally called on the [Cuban] Secretary of State in regard to Hernandez and was assured there was no cause for apprehension in this or other cases. Hernandez or Alvarez died shortly after midnight in a hospital to which he had been brought with a bullet in his head. Ferrara [Cuban Secretary of State] this morning explained that he had ascertained last night that no person named Hernandez was under arrest. These killings of prisoners have deeply stirred public opinion and have strengthened belief that no person under arrest is safe from official vengeance."[22]

The following day Harry Frank Guggenheim reported the following to the U.S. Secretary of State

“I saw the President (Machado) this morning. He did not attempt to disclaim Government’s responsibility for recent murders of students which he characterized as a stupid mistake.”[23]

Writing to the U.S. Secretary of State, on April 8, 1933, The Chargee in Cuba, Edward Reed noted as follows,

“according to information furnished the Embassy from sources believed to be reliable, there were several killings in and near Habana on the night of April 6..the secret police arrested a young man named Carlos Manuel Fuertes outside of Payret Theatre in Habana. Fuertes is said to have been a member of the student directorate. Later in the night his body was found near the Eremita de las Catalinas on Ayesteran Street.”[24]

Machado loses power

Gerardo & Elvira Machado's crypt

In Cuba, Machado engaged in a long struggle with diverse insurgent groups which varied from the green shirts of the ABC to Blas Hernández, to the conservative veterans of the Cuban War of Independence to the radical Antonio Guiteras group, and clung on for several years. He was finally toppled in a bloodless coup in 1933 by US influence, Sumner Welles,[25] Cuban War of Independence veterans, Army officers and civic leaders in a general strike[1] (Alba, 1968). His government's collapse was followed by a revolution led by dissident students, labor activists, and non-commissioned military officers.

The collapse of Machado’s government can be traced to the beginning of negotiations between Machado’s government and opposition groups with the mediator role played by Sumner Welles in these proceedings. One of the proposed plans to a solution to the political crisis was the appointment of a Vice-President that was impartial and acceptable to all parties, followed by a leave-of-absence of President Machado until the 1934 general election. This plan would ensure on the one-hand that Machado would no longer have power and most importantly not tamper with the 1934 general elections, but also it would keep within the constitutional framework of the country. Eventually, as Machado resisted giving up power and the crisis increased, the army revolted. Sumner Welles noted as follows on August 12, 1933 at 3 a.m.

“Since the abortive revolt of the first battalion of artillery yesterday afternoon there have been several threatened revolts in divers portions of the Army insisting upon the immediate resignation of President Machado.”[26]

Machado left on the afternoon on August 12, 1933 on a flight to Bahamas.

Machado died in Miami Beach on 1939 and is entombed in Miami at Woodlawn Park Cemetery and Mausoleum (now Caballero Rivero Woodlawn North Park Cemetery and Mausoleum).


  1. ^ a b c Gerardo Machado, from The History of Cuba at
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ Generales del Ejército Libertador de Cuba at
  4. ^ Enamorado at
  5. ^ Enrique Loynaz del Castillo at
  6. ^ Enrique Loynaz del Castillo at
  7. ^ a b Noti-CUTC at
  8. ^ LA GUERRA RACIAL DE 1912 at
  9. ^ SSHL: Latin American Election Statistics: Cuba: Elections and events 1912-1929 at
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Cuba's Central Highway at
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Benjamin, Jules The Machadato and Cuban Nationalism, 1928-1932
  19. ^
  20. ^ DOc DVD Review: We Were Strangers (1949) at
  21. ^
  22. ^ Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1933. The American Republics: Volume V,p. 270
  23. ^ Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1933. The American Republics: Volume V,p. 271
  24. ^ Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1933. The American Republics: Volume V,p. 275
  25. ^ PHILIP, DUR; Gilcrease, Christopher (2002). "US Diplomacy and the Downfall of a Cuban Dictator: Machado in 1933". Journal of Latin American Studies (full text) 34 (2): 255.  
  26. ^ Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1933. The American Republics: Volume V,p. 358

Memoirs and papers

Machado y Morales, Gerardo (written in 1936 published in 1957 and later) Ocho años de lucha – memorias. Ediciones Universales, [3] and Ediciones Historicas Cubanas. Miami ISBN 0-89729-328-2 ISBN 0-89729-328-2

The papers of Gerardo Machado y Morales are available for research at the Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami. Selected materials from these papers have been digitized and are available online at

General references

  • Alba, Víctor 1968 Politics and the labor movement in Latin America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California . ASIN B0006BNYGK
  • Duarte Oropesa, José (1989) Historiología Cubana. Ediciones Universal Miami ISBN 84-399-2580-8
  • Carrillo, Justo 1985 Cuba 1933: Estudiantes, Yanquis y Soldados. University of Miami Iberian Studies Institute ISBN 0-935501-00-2 Transaction Publishers (January 1994) ISBN 1-56000-690-0
  • Masó, Calixto (1998) Historia de Cuba 3rd edition. Ediciones Universal, Miami. ISBN 0-89729-875-6
  • Perez, Louis A. Jr. "Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution." Third Edition. New York/Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2006
  • Perez-Stable, Marifeli (1999); The Cuban Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Riera Hernández, Mario. 1953. Cincuenta y dos años de política: Oriente, 1900-1952. La Habana.
  • Riera, Mario. 1955. Cuba política, 1899-1955. La Habana: Impresora Modelo, S.A.
  • Riera Hernández, Mario. 1968. Cuba libre: 1895-1958. Miami: Colonial Press of Miami, Inc.
  • Riera Hernández, Mario. 1974. Cuba repúblicana: 1899-1958. Miami: Editorial AIP.
  • Thomas, Hugh (1998) Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom. Da Capo Press; Updated edition (April, 1998) ISBN 0-306-80827-7
  • Perez-Stable, Marifeli (1999); The Cuban Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Otero, Juan Joaquin (1954). Libro De Cuba, Una Enciclopedia Ilustrada Que Abarca Las Artes, Las Letras, Las Ciencias, La Economia, La Politica, La Historia, La Docencia, Y ElProgreso General De La Nacion Cubana - Edicion Conmemorative del Cincuentenario de la Republica de Cuba, 1902-1952.  (Spanish)


  • Cano Vázquez, F. 1953: La Revolución de la Chambelona. Revista Bohemia. La Habana, May 1, 1953. 45 (19) 82-86, 184, 188.
  • González, Reynaldo 1978 Nosotros los liberales nos comimos la lechona. Editorial de Ciencias Sociales. Havana
  • Waldemar, León Caicaje: Batalla Final de una Revuelta. Bohemia pp. 100–103, 113
  • Carlos Alberto 1982 Cuba: claves para una conciencia en crisis Archived April 9, 2004 at the Wayback Machine.
  • Montaner, Carlos Alberto 1999 Viaje al Corazón de Cuba. Planes and Janés [4]
  • Morales y Morales, Vidal 1959 (printed 1962) Sobre la guerra civil de 1917. Documentos del Siglo XX, Boletín del Archivo Nacional. Volume 58 pp. 178–256.
  • Parker, William Belmont 1919 Cubans of Today Putnam's Sons, New York,
  • Portell Vila, Herminio La Chambelona en Oriente. Bohemia pp. 12–13, 112-125.
  • Primelles, L- 1955 Crónica cubana, 1915-1918: La reelección de Menocal y la Revolución de 1917. La danza de los millones - Editorial Lex, Havana.
Political offices
Preceded by
Alfredo Zayas
President of Cuba
Succeeded by
Alberto Herrera y Franchi

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