TAMPA — Her very name — Remember Maceo — summed up the reason they gathered at Jose Marti Park in Ybor City on Sunday.
Maceo, 85, is the grand-niece of the legendary Antonio Maceo, a black Cuban general who died in combat in 1896 during Cuba's fight for independence.
"Viva Cuba libre!" Maceo said after about two dozen people sang the Cuban national anthem Sunday. The group came together to rededicate a newly restored bust of the general that stands just feet from the statue of Marti in the park.
Maceo was "the greatest figure in Cuba's military struggle for independence against Spain," said Rolando Perez-Pedrero, past president of Circulo Cubano de Tampa and a member of the committee that restored the bust.
At 6-foot-6, Maceo was known as the "Titan of Bronze," Perez-Pedrero said. A calvary leader and expert in guerilla tactics, he led a rebel army known as the Mambis in a 750-mile campaign that began in the eastern province of Oriente and stretched to Punta Brava in the province of Havana, where he was killed.
Along with Cuban poet and patriot Jose Marti, Maceo led struggles for racial equality as well as Cuban independence.
"We believe we share a responsibility to carry on that legacy," said Aaron Smith, president of Sociedad La Union Marti-Maceo, the Ybor mutual aid society whose roots go back to 1900.
The bust of Maceo was first unveiled in 1996, but its bronze was weathered and its pedestal had been nicked. So supporters, including sculptor Steve Dickey and the Steward Mellon Co., came together for a $1,300 restoration.
Perez-Pedrero said $500 to $1,000 more is needed to give the statue a granite base.
As she introduced herself, Remember Marco said, "many people think I'm saying, 'Remember Antonio Maceo.' "
But her name actually comes from the love letters her father wrote his pregnant wife while he was on a business trip in the United States.
Each letter ended, "I remember you," said Remember Maceo, who taught Spanish at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago before retiring to Tampa. And when her father got home, his wife told him she had a name for their baby: "Remember."
Still, as she grew up, "my parents were always explaining to me, telling me … how proud the family was" of Antonio Maceo.
Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.