Machado y Morales, Gerardo, 1871-1939

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Machado y Morales, Gerardo, 1871-1939

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Gerardo Machado y Morales was the fifth president of the Republic of Cuba from 1925 to 1933. Born in Santa Clara, Las Villas, Cuba on 28 September 1871 to Gerardo Machado y Castellón and Lutgarda Morales Yanes, Machado was the youngest general of the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898), rising to the rank of brigadier general. After the war, he served as mayor of Santa Clara during the American occupation (1898-1902). Machado’s political activities led him to join the Liberal Party, and he was its candidate for governor of Las Villas province in 1908 but was defeated. Despite this defeat, Machado served in various posts under the government of José Miguel Gómez, including a stint as Secretary of the Interior until 1912. For the next 12 years, Machado remained an active member of the Liberal Party but was not did not run for any office. During this time he focused his attention on his business endeavors, which included a sugar mill, the Central Carmita, and interests in Cuba’s electrical industry, serving as vice president of the Compañía Cubana de Electricidad. It is also in these years that Machado married his cousin, Elvira Machado Nodal. Together they had three daughters: Laudelina (Nena), Angela Elvira, and Berta.

In 1924, Machado was elected president of the Republic of Cuba. During his first term from 1925 to 1928, Machado instituted a major public works program. This program included the construction of Cuba’s Central Highway, the Capitolio Nacional, and many new public buildings, schools, hospitals, and roads. Before the end of his term, the Constituent Assembly amended the Cuban Constitution to create a six-year presidential term. Machado was re-elected in 1928 and under the new law, he would serve as president until 1935. Machado’s second term was strife with internal conflict and economic turmoil. Sugar prices fell drastically and many Cubans became unemployed. With growing unrest, in 1930 Machado authorized police forces to break up political meetings and demonstrations, decreeing them illegal. The opposition to Machado and his government grew, and his repressive measures intensified. In 1932, Machado suspended the Constitution, and in 1933, US president Franklin D. Roosevelt instructed Ambassador Sumner Welles to mediate between Machado and opposition forces. Welles’ efforts failed, a general strike was called, and on 12 August 1933, Gerardo Machado was forced into exile.

Machado’s family took refuge in the United States. His wife Elvira and their three daughters and their families settled in New York. Machado went into exile in Nassau, the Bahamas. He could not immediately join his family in the US as there was the possibility that he would be extradited to Cuba. In the meantime, Machado traveled to the Dominican Republic, Europe, Bermuda, and Montreal. In 1936, Machado joined his family in New York, and the following year they moved to Miami Beach. On 29 March 1939, Gerardo Machado passed away. He is buried in Miami's Woodlawn Cemetery.

The Gerardo Machado y Morales Papers were donated to the Cuban Heritage Collection in 1992 by Machado’s great-grandson, Francisco X. Santeiro.


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