Candelaria Figueredo y Vazquez and Federico del Portillo

[her parents]                                    [parents not known]

 

 

Candelaria (Candello) Figueredo y Vazquez was born in Bayamo on December 11, 1852.  She was very close to her father and often accompanied him on horseback to visit his sugar mills and other properties.  She kept the household accounts and Perucho entrusted Candelaria and her cousin, Adriana de Castillo, with messages to his friends and co-conspirators.

 

In October 1868, Cuba was on the threshold of what was to be called the Ten Years’ War, following the Grito de Yara, the declaration of independance of Cuba, pronounced by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes on October 10.  Candelaria was 16.  On October 17, the day before the war began and the revolutionary forces attacked Bayamo, after Candelaria’s sister, Eulalia, had made a flag to be carried into the fight, it was suggested that a valiente cubana should be selected to carry the flag.  Perucho Figueredo, Candelaria’s father, immediately asked Candelaria if she would dare to do it.  She answered: “Nothing would make me happier than to give my life and my blood for the redemption of my homeland.”  And so it was decided.

 

The next day, the revolutionaries advanced on Bayamo and, astride a white horse and flanked by Gustavo, her brother, and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Céspedes, the husband of Eulalia, was Candelaria wearing a long white dress with a tricolor sash across her breast and a red Phrygian cap on her head, the flag held high for all to see.  Céspedes, impressed by her courage, conferred on her the honorary rank of coronel.

 

They took Bayamo on October 20, 1868, and on October 22, a Te Deum was held in the church El Santismo Salvador to give thanks for the victory.  When the service was over, the priest, Father Baptista, took the flag from Candelaria and after blessing it, presented it to Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.  Candelaria then joined the choir who sang La Bayamesa creating such emotion that Céspedes faced the crowd and cried:  “Bayameses, long live liberty!  Long live our independent homeland!”

 

The revolutionaries held Bayamo for almost three months until a large troop of Spanish soldiers under the General Valmaseda approached.  The defenders of Bayamo were ill equipped to withstand an attack by such a large force and resolved to burn the city to the ground rather than have it fall again into the hands of the Spanish.

 

On January 11, 1869, with Bayamo in flames, Candelaria took to the Sierra Maéstra with her family and the families of other Bayameses.  For nearly two years they existed, hiding from the Spanish, and often moving to avoid detection.  Then, at dawn on August 12, 1870, the family, who were at the country property Santa Rosa, were surprised by Spanish troops.  Candelaria’s mother and several of her sisters were captured but some managed to escape.  Candelaria, Perucho, and Perucho’s servant, Severino, were separated from the others and at dusk, when Candelaria left their hiding place to find water, she was seen by Spanish soldiers who ordered her to stop.  Instead, she ran as fast as she could until fatigue overcame her and she slept, exhausted, in the middle of a field.  The following night she met a colored woman who took her to the home of her uncle, Miguel Figueredo.  There, she was reunited with her siblings, Luz and Angelo.  They remained at the home of Miguel Figueredo for several months until, in April 1871, the Spanish again appeared.  Again Candelaria ran, this time with Luz and Angelo, and, after wandering aimlessly for several days, they happened to meet Francisco Javier de Céspedes.  They remained with Céspedes until, on July 15, 1871, the Spanish appeared yet again and she, along with her 14 year old sister, Luz and 12 year old brother, Angelo were finally captured.  They were taken to Guayabal, and from there to Manzanillo, where she and some of the others, including Borja de Céspedes, the sister of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes were interrogated.  The following day they were all  released - except for Borja de Céspedes and Candelaria.  They were imprisoned in the Fortress of Zaragoza in Manzanillo, where they were again interrogated.

 

Candelaria, Luz, and Angelo were finally ordered to leave Cuba by October 17, 1871, or face deportation to the island of Fernando Poo [now called Bioko] off the west coast of Africa.  They prepared to sail from Manzanillo on the schooner Annie bound for New York on October 13, but there was a hurricane in the vicinity and the captain of the Annie was reluctant to put to sea.  Candelaria is supposed to have said:  “It is a question of necessity.  I prefer a thousand times to be food for the sharks than that of the Spaniards”.  So they sailed and, although the Annie was seriously damaged by the hurricane, arrived safely in New York.  There they discovered that their mother and sisters were in Key West.  Francisco Vicente Aguilera and some other friends of the family made the necessary arrangements and soon they embarked for Florida where they reunited with the rest of the family after fourteen months of separation.2

 

There Candelaria first learned of the death of her father and of her brother, Gustavo.  She became very sick, in part because of this news, and in part because of the three years she had spent in the manigua with its inadequate diet and shelter.  She was sent to Nassua to rest and recover but soon returned to Key West to be with her family.

 

On December 26, 1872, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes wrote to his wife, Ana: “Emilio Céspedes, the son of Ramón Céspedes y Barrero who was committed to marry Candelaria Figueredo, left me to marry Mercedes Cancino, and yesterday I received the news that he has died from illness”.

Candelaria, instead, married Federico del Portillo on April 21, 1877, in Monroe County, FL, probably in Key West.  Federico had been a student of law at the University of Havana until 1871, when he was sent by his parents to Key West following the execution by the Spanish of eight medical students at the university.  Candelaria and Federico lived in Key West and as their family grew, Candelaria established a school for girls in order to support the Partido Revolucionario Cubano [Cuban Revolutionary Party] financially.

 

In 1901, following the Spanish-American War, Candelaria and Federico returned to Cuba and settled in Havana.  There they saw the Cuban flag finally wave over the Castillo del Morro on May 20, 1902.  They had nine children of their own including Rosalia, Zenayda, Federico, Lorenzo, Piedad, and Elisa, and also cared for three nieces, daughters of her younger sister, María Esther who died relatively young.

 

Candelaria died on January 19, 1914, and was buried, her coffin covered by the flag that she carried into Bayamo, 45 years earlier, with full military honors, in El Cementerio de Colón in Havana.

#  Children of Candelaria Figueredo and Federico del Portillo:

 

i               Lorenzo del Portillo y Figueredo attended the dedication of  the statue of Perucho Figueredo in Bayamo on January 12, 1956.  An account of the ceremony in the newspaper, Diaria de la Marina, referred to him as Dr. Lorenzo del Portillo, and said that he was accompanied by his wife, Amalia Lopez de del Portillo, and that they were residents of Havana, Cuba.  The article further stated that, also present at the dedication, were Miguel Angel Carbonell, and Angelo and María Figueredo of Bayamo, who were described as descendants of Perucho.

 

 

ii              Zenayda (or Zenaida) del Portillo y Figueredo was a teacher of English in Public School # 12 in Havana in 1913.  On October 23, 1954,1 Zenayda del Portillo y Figueredo “and her daughter Carmen” attended the wedding of Albert Parra and Lois Mitchell in Long Beach, CA.1  Albert added that Zenayda was then aged about 74 (and so born in about 1880) and that she and her daughter then “lived in a suburb of Los Angeles”.1  Tony Chaves related that his mother kept some school books from the time she lived in Key West, and on the last page of one of them Zenaida del Portillo had written “I have not spoken one word in class … but one million!”.

 

 

iii             Federico del Portillo y Figueredo

 

 

iv             Rosalia del Portillo y Figueredo.  Tony Chaves wrote of Rosalia,: “In the early 1940s, … Rosalia came several times to our house in El Vedado, Havana, to tutor Carlos Galan Cabrera, … then a child of about 7 or 8 years old”.

 

 

v              Piedad del Portillo y Figueredo

 

 

vi             Elisa del Portillo y Figueredo

 

 ____________________

 

1  Source: letter - Albert Parra - June 19, 2000

 

2 This scenario comes from ???.  Antonio Cacua Prada in his De Cuba a Boyaca por la Libertad says that Candelaria, María de la Luz, and Angel María arrived in New York in October 1870, not October 1871, and that they lived with their mother and sisters in New York for a little over a year before they all moved to Key West on December 11, 1871.

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