By Heather W. Austin
Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau was a successful Spanish general who served many prestigious posts throughout his military career. He gained fame in the Spanish- American War for his unsuccessful "Reconcentration Plan."
Valeriano Weyler was born in Palma de Mallorca, Spain in 1838. He received his education in his hometown and in Granada, Spain. At an early age, Valeriano decided to follow in his father's footsteps and build a career in the army. Weyler had established his career by the age of twenty and had already gained rank of lieutenant. This foreshadowed other quick advancements that he was to make further into his career, gaining respect and trust as a strong leader. He spent the early part of his career serving in the Ten-Year's War (1868-1878) in Santo Domingo and Cuba. Most Cubans wanted social reforms and the abolishment of slavery in Cuba, but hoped to remain under Spanish Rule. To bring some peace the Spanish signed a treaty that complied with most of the demands. The neglect of the Spanish to comply with the terms, stated in the treaty, later fueled the flame that ignited another Cuban rebellion, the final uprising in their quest for independence from Spain in the Spanish- American War.
Weyler did not fight the entire war and returned to Spain in 1873. During this time he fought against the Carlists who opposed liberalism and parliamentary government and were members of a royalist faction. In the next twenty-year period he made several prestigious advancements in his career, the first of which was being made general in 1878. While serving the as captain- general in the Canary Islands (1878-1883), he was created Marques de Tenerife and later became captain general in the Philippines (1888), where he was also serving a series of high posts. In 1895, he was awarded for his command of troops in the Philippines with the grand Cross of Maria Cristina. February 10, 1896, Weyler was given the title of governor of Cuba, replacing Martinez de Campos. Weyler was given the duty in hopes that he could repress the Liberation Army and restore political order in Cuba. Spain also had hopes of restoring the sugar industry in Cuba. Weyler was determined to carry out his duty and quickly addressed the problems that plagued the Spanish Army. Weyler quickly understood that the problems lay in the fighting tactics of each opposing force. The Spanish troops were unaccustomed to tropic heat and, more importantly, the guerrilla warfare. The rebels were also masters of disguise and blended in among the ordinary citizens, going unnoticed to Spanish troops.
Weyler attempting to serve his country and win the war, plotted the best ways to solve the problem. Out of this planning came Weyler's "Reconstruction Plan", a plan to separate the peasants from the insurgents. Unlike other camps, Weyler's reconcentration camps was to keep Cuban civilians alive and protected until the Rebels were defeated.
Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them women and children, were herded into the camps and lived in close confines. These camps were largely disorganized and unkempt and disease and malnutrition spread rapidly. In total 321,934 people had perished under the Reconcentration Policy.
Weyler's plan had backfired and anger over his conduct was expressed by many. In America, yellow journalism sensationalized Weyler's ruthless tactics and named him the "Butcher."
Weyler's ways were supported by the Spanish Conservative government, but the Liberals were angered by the destruction in Cuba. They passionately denounced his cruel treatment towards Cubans.
The Cuban civilians had quickly gained the support of many Americans. In 1897, with criticisms coming from Spain, the US, and Cuba, as well as the redeployment of Spanish troops from Cuba to the Philippines, Weyler was quickly recalled from his position. Situations further worsened when Weyler lost his principle supporter, Prime Minister Antonio Canovas, who was assinated.
Weyler returned to Europe in the later part of 1897. His career continued on in Spain, where he was made Prime Minister of War three different times between 1901-1907.
In 1909, while serving as Captain-General of Catalonia , Weyler aided in supressing an anarchist rebellion in Barcelona. The execution of Francisco Ferrer Guardia, an advocator of reform and democratization, ended the rebellion.
Weyler celebrated the 75th anniversary of his military career
on November 30, 1929. He died in 1930 at the age of 92.
Riera, Lilliman. The US Naval Blockade, a complement to Weyler's Concentration Policy. [Online] Available http://www.gramma.cu/1998/98mar4/2i.html, January 20th, 1999.
Library of Congress. Weyler y Nicolau, Valeriano. [Online] Availablehttp://lcweb.loc.infoplease.com/ce5/CE055520.html, December 18, 1998
Library of Congress. Reconstruction Policy. [Online] Available http://lcwb.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/reconstruction.html, December 18, 1998
Library of Congress. General Valeriano Weyler. [Online] Available
December 18, 1998