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Amongst Indian-Cuban leaders, our historiography contains no other chief so famous and brilliant as chief Guamá.

It is generally thought by historians that his origins were Taino, although his name is pure Arawak. We know nothing of his infancy or how he became a chief. Perhaps he heard about Hatuey and his struggles to defend the Cuban Indians.

Each day the Spaniards’ inhuman treatment of the Indians grew worse, a fact witnessed by Guamá, which undoubtedly provided the motivation for his struggle against the conquistadors, begun in 1522.

Guama Statue facing Fort La Punta in Baracoa

He hid himself in the most inaccessible places, the most impenetrable fastnesses of the mountains and hills of Baracoa. In these secret places only known by the natives, he put together a defensive force, always maintaining a careful guard to avoid being discovered.

Worried by the uprisings of the Indians, Diego Velásquez organised and sent groups of well armed Spaniards, supported by enslaved Indians and dogs, to persecute the rebels. Upon the death of Velásquez, Manuel Rojas took over the governorship of the island and continued the struggle against the Indians.

Those which were taken were beheaded (with their heads being publicly exhibited) if they were thought to have killed someone; others were enslaved.

But these cruel measures did not intimidate Chief Guamá, whose name was already famous. His actions were not only limited to the area of Baracoa but extended to Maisi y Sagua de Tánamo. He was probably connected with the Indian uprisings which took place in various places on the island between 1527-1530.

In February 1532 a group of colonists lamented the inefficiency of the Spanish in the face of the depredations committed by Chief Guamá. Their complaints resulted in the sacking of Gonzalo de Guzmán who until then had been governor of La Fernandina (Cuba) and Manuel Rojas once again took over the job. He proposed to eliminate Indian uprisings, especially those of Guamá and his followers.

At the beginning of November 1532 Manuel Rojas left Juan Rodríguez Obregón as deputy at Santiago in his stead and departed in the direction of the mountains of Baracoa. However due to the difficult terrain and Guamá’s careful guards it took the Spaniards many days to find the hideout of the intrepid Indian chief. In the final clash, some Indians escaped but seven were taken alive. One of them, named Alexo, said that Guamá’s brother had killed him.

Guama’s supporters tried to maintain the resistance after his death, but little is known of what happened to them under the chieftainship of Guamayry. We know nothing about him or his followers.

It seems that the wisdom and persistence of Chief Guamá was never matched by anyone else during the dying moments of the Cuban Indian rebellions.

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