Not very long ago, Havana was graced with a monument to a forefather of Spanish American independence, Venezuelan military leader Francisco de Miranda (l750-l8l6). I like the statue, situated at the entrance of Havana bay. It’s not very big; Miranda appears to be walking, as if advancing on the city, his sword dangling from his belt, and with an intense look in his eye. The sea is his backdrop.
I’m greatly drawn to this eminent individual of the history of “Our America.” I’m attracted because he was an incredible man for what was able to do, for his tragic destiny, and also – from what I’ve read of his Russian diaries – for his explicit masculinity.
The family of Miranda had a lot to do with Cuba, and he was very familiar with the island. But his conspiratorial work in support of a “Great Homeland” that would embrace all of Spanish America required that he also travel to Europe a great deal.
His escapades are those of a great 18th century adventurer. It is extremely interesting to study his relations with the European courts and politicians, to follow his thought, his political dealings and his work as a truly great diplomat.
His was a diplomat with the particularity of not representing any existing country; he was a true ambassador of a future nation. Once he appeared in the Russian court of Catherine the Great (1729-1796) wearing the uniform of a Spanish colonel. The Spanish ambassador protested to the empress alleging that Miranda was the enemy of his king, but Catherine magnanimously riposted saying that from that moment on Miranda would be the colonel of Her Majesty’s army of all Russia.
And Russia didn’t fail Miranda, except during the period of the war against France (Miranda was a partisan of France); there were always monies available for his projects in all the legations of the Eurasian empire (and also in America at that time, because Russia controlled Alaska). Miranda made generous use of those resources in his adventures. But he was always a man of Latin American blood.
So I was surprised when reading his diaries from Moscow and St. Petersburg (which I read specifically to find out what Miranda thought about Russia, where he was obligated to travel), that as the “Forerunner” he took careful notes not only of the operation of educational and governmental institutions, industries, the army and police of Catherine’s empire, but also of his nocturnal encounters with young Russian women.
Miranda communicated to us how through his associates he located women to share his bed after his daytime activities. The special abilities of some of the women received high evaluations by the Forerunner.
There also appear the monetary expenses that he had to make to finance those exploits. But from what he writes, at least, he was not a Casanova or Marquis de Sade; we find no further details about those affairs. In short, as an expert diplomat, Miranda hid the particulars of his characteristic ways of involving himself in the exercise of power.
It was the epoch of “divine reason,” and Miranda fought resolutely under its flag.
Some say that Catherine II (who was also kind of a goddess for Miranda, who equally shared her flag with him), an energetic woman of German ancestry who arrived to power through a type of conspiracy, didn’t scorn his masculine favors.
It must have been fascinating for the empress to share her bed with this Spanish subject who was an elusive and fervent republican (although, to be frank, it was a time when distinctions between the republic and the monarchy were not as clear as they are today, and probably nor were they that way in bed).
Miranda doesn’t speak of Catalina in his dairies beyond her official functions as a ruling Russian autocrat.
I’m attracted by the idea that the founders of our republics were also human beings, endowed with their respective gender roles. I take note of the changes that have occurred since their time; changes that I find fascinating.
I’m glad that today politics are not conducted like they were in the 18th century.
I wish that we had more people of the talent of Miranda. But it is no longer the age of political chicanery. And the roles of women are now breaking away from the patterns of autocracy and the bedroom.
Cubans know that “macho” is a concept that includes but transcends what is strictly sexual activity. Therefore, I ask: How “macho” is our politics? If women speak more and all of us listen to their voices, maybe we will find the answer that is sought.