Gerardo Machado

Gerardo Machado
5th 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)28 September 1871
Manajanabo, Santa Clara, Spanish Cuba
Died 29 March 1939(1939-03-29) (aged 67)
Miami Beach, Florida, United States
Nationality Cuba 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 (28 September 1871 – 29 March 1939) was a general of the Cuban War of Independence and President of Cuba from 1925 to 1933.


Machado was born in the central Province of Las Villas (now Villa Clara). He had two younger siblings, a brother Carlos and a sister 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.

Cuban War of Independence

When the Cubans launched their war against Spain in 1895, Machado joined the rebel forces and rose to the rank of brigadier general.[2]

General Machado was one of the youngest Cuban generals in the Cuban War of Independence of 1895 to 1898.[3] He fought in the middle provinces.[4]

Post-war career

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 and returned to politics in the early 1920s.[2]

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[4] once the hacienda of Santiago Saura Orraque[5] and Juan Manuel Perez de la Cruz[6] on 8 March until his cause was unsustainable and surrendered.[7]

President Mario García Menocal had clearly won. Technically there was no U.S. intervention in this war,[8] and Cuban Army officers, notably Julio Sanguilí in Santiago,[9] regained control. Since in this war the Liberals were said to be pro-German, U.S. 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 7 April of that same year. John J. Pershing, less tactful than Funston, in the Cuban circumstance, would be sent first to Mexico and then Europe.

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 fifth president. He campaigned with the slogan, "Water, roads, and schools".[2]

First term as president

Machado took office as President of Cuba on 20 May 1925, and left office on 12 August 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."

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...[10] 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.[11]

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 term as president

Cosme de la Torriente y Peraza, Cuban statesman and President of the League of Nations in the 1920s, said:

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.[12]

His detractors claimed that he became despotic and forced his way into a second term.[13] 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.[14] Machado also faced backlash from university students after the formation of the Directorio Estudiantil Universitario in 1927. After various protests, and the death of the DEU members, most notably of Rafael Trejo, Machado closed the University in 1930.

U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote, in a telegram to incoming U.S. Ambassador to Cuba Sumner Welles on 1 May 1933, with respect 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 held 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.

Machado survived several attempts on his life. In the most famous, a violent opposition group, the ABC (abecedarios), assassinated the President of the Cuban Senate Clemente Vazquez Bello. They had constructed a tunnel to reach the Vazquez family crypt in Havana's Colón Cemetery and planted an explosive device there, anticipating that Machado would attend the funeral. The plan failed when the family decided to bury Vazquez in Santa Clara instead.[15]

There were numerous murders and assassinations committed by the police and army under Machado’s administration. The extent of his involvement in these is disputed. Writing to the U.S. Secretary of State, on 5 January 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.[16]

The following day Harry Frank Guggenheim reported 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.[17]

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

according to information furnished the Embassy from sources believed to be reliable, there were several killings in and near Habana on the night of 6 April.. 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.[18]

Revolution of 1933

Gerardo & Elvira Machado's crypt

In Cuba, Machado engaged in a long struggle with diverse insurgent groups, 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 he clung on for several years. In 1933 he was finally toppled in a bloodless coup engineered in part by U.S. Ambassador Sumner Welles,[19] 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 Ambassador Welles as mediator. One of the proposed solutions to the political crisis was the appointment of a vice president who would be impartial and acceptable to all parties, followed by a leave of absence for President Machado until the 1934 general election. This plan would ensure that Machado no longer had power and, most importantly, could not tamper with the 1934 general election, while still keeping within the country's constitutional framework. Eventually, as Machado resisted giving up power and the crisis escalated, the army revolted. Welles noted as follows on 12 August 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."[20] Machado left Cuba on a flight to the Bahamas on the afternoon of 12 August 1933.

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


Memoirs and papers

Machado y Morales, Gerardo (written in 1936 published in 1957 and later) Ocho años de lucha – memorias. Ediciones Universales, 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 online,[21] at the University of Miami. Selected materials from these papers have been digitized and are available elsewhere online.[22]


  1. 1 2 3 Jerry A. Sierra. "Gerardo Machado, from". The History of Cuba. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  2. 1 2 3 "Gerardo Machado y Morales Facts". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  3. "Generales del Ejército Libertador de Cuba". 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  4. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 July 2004. Retrieved 2006-01-04.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 June 2004. Retrieved 2006-01-04.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 February 2006. Retrieved 2006-01-04.
  8. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2006. Retrieved 2006-01-05.
  9. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2006. Retrieved 2006-01-05.
  10. Jerry A. Sierra. "Cuba's Central Highway". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  12. Noel, Katherine (1940-01-19). "Cuba, America and the War". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  13. Benjamin, Jules. "The Machadato and Cuban Nationalism, 1928-1932" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  14. Estrada, Alfredo José (2007). Havana: An Autobiography. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 174. ISBN 1-4039-7509-4.
  15. "The American Republics". Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers (PDF). V. 1933. p. 270.
  16. "The American Republics". Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers (PDF). V. 1933. p. 271.
  17. "The American Republics". Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers (PDF). V. 1933. p. 275.
  18. 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. doi:10.1017/S0022216X02006417.
  19. "The American Republics". Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers (PDF). V. 1933. p. 358.
  20. "Cuban Heritage Collection". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  21. "The Gerardo Machado y Morales Papers, Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries". Retrieved 2016-09-18.

General references

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Political offices
Preceded by
Alfredo Zayas
President of Cuba
Succeeded by
Alberto Herrera y Franchi
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