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Viva Hatuey!

On this day in 1512, the Spanish killed Hatuey, the Taíno chief.

He led an armed insurrection in Hispaniola for about 10 years, and then in 1511 he and 400 resistance fighters landed in Cuba, hoping to raise an armed insurrection against the Spanish.

The Dominican priest Bartolomé de Las Casas documented Hatuey’s motivation: “The intruders worship gold, fight and kill, usurp our land and makes us slaves. For gold, slaves, and land they fight and kill; for these they persecute us and that is why we have to throw them into the sea.”

Hatuey’s forces had little chance to get organized, when Spanish troops led by Diego Velásquez landed in Cuba. As well-organized and well armed as they were, Hatuey’s men managed to keep them contained in their fort at Baracoa for three months. After a season of containment, the Spanish broke out and captured Hatuey.

On Feb. 2, 1512, Hatuey was burned at the stake at Yara.

Before being put to death, a priest asked Hatuey if he would accept Jesus and go to heaven, informing him that if he accepted, he would be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven. Of course, if he declined, he would suffer eternal damnation and torment in a sea of fire.

Hatuey asked the priest if all Christians went to heaven. The priest assured him that they did.

Hatuey then contemplated the Christians he saw before him, and had encountered to date. Hatuey decided that if he would find Christians in heaven, that he preferred to go to hell.

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