Eduardo Dolz

La Discusion Newspaper

La Habana, Cuba

January 15, 1906

Don Antonio Gonzalez de Mendoza is dead.

In an intelligent and conscientious society the passing of a man such as this is an event that touches the very core of our emotions.

Not long ago, Theodore Roosevelt, with his typical eagle like tendency to lay to the high ground, admonished the members of the press not to pay so much attention to politics, lavish parties and other manifestation of universal wealth and power, and to give greater coverage to simple acts of virtue, to true merit, to austerity, to the truly superior members of the human species.

                And, not long ago, we, from the vantage point of this newspaper column, and following at a distance the funeral procession carrying the remains of Don Pedro Gonzalez Llorente, asked ourselves if the earth, the soil, which receives in its bosom so much filth that is surrendered to it, so much rotting flesh which when alive carried on in conviviality with so much that is low and rank, did not sense a special tremor upon opening its entrails to receive one of those social or human characters who, in and of themselves, constitute a vindication of the human condition.

                Today, we must halt and stand before the dead body of another great specimen of Cuban society.

                Gonzalez de Mendoza in his youth, in the circumstances that attended his marriage, in his professional practice, in his social life, in his public life and in his home, his great home, his truly model home, was always among the chosen few, among those who can be considered superior men.

                As a youth, he was a first class student; while marrying a young lady whose family name meant great wealth, he was able always to establish, as the suitor and young husband, his personal dignity and worth; at the head of one of the best, perhaps the best, law firms in Cuba, he never allowed his firm to become involved in any transaction that did not meet the highest moral standards; nor did he accept any monies not properly earned with the effort of his work; nor did he use influence or power of any sort to put it at the service of his own personal gain; nor did he allow his wealth and that of his family to grow or profit from anything other than his own honest effort.

                In his social life, he has been the perfect example of what is best, in gentility and affability, of the Cuban personality.  Thus, there has been, for over 60 years, no event, whether happy or sad, in the high circles of national society that has not seen his always cordial, courteous, tactful presence standing in the threshold to offer a word of condolence or of solidarity.

                As a public man he was always faithful in the discharge of his duties, always constrained in the evaluation of his own merits, a keeper and guardian of the social and moral values entrusted to him.

                And, in addition to all that has been said already, it can be said that his was a personality and countenance naturally aristocratic, distinguished, elegant and most gentle.  A handsome gentleman to his last days, when not even the weight of time was able to bend down or even slightly stoop, the natural elegance and uprightness of his posture, and accurate sign of his inner uprightness and moral rectitude.

                But, more than anything else, above everything else, Antonio Gonzalez de Mendoza was the head of a family.  This is his most salient trait, his most distinguishing mark.

                His home has been, because of its numbers, its fabric, its structure, and its inner unity, the First Home of Cuba.

                He founded a great family; he made the family into one of the most honorable and distinguished in the country.

                He broke with classical traditions in the upbringing of children among wealthy Cuban families, who in general, were spoiled and became parasites who could consume profusely but were unable to produce or to work.  They would spend entire fortunes while at the same time they soiled family tradition, history and reputation.  Not him.  He brought up his children in the same manner in which he was brought up, and in the process, and in the most authentic sense; he made them unto his likeness and image.

                His children are, all, well educated, sober, serious, hard working, respectable and respected.  They are all their own masters capable of conducting their own lives honorably as citizens and as human beings.

                His lineage has a family stamp; both physical and moral.

                All the Mendoza descendants, male or female, children or grandchildren, are similar; straight, distinguished, elegant, dashing.  All have good postures and all are of noble character.

                And, an extraordinary thing, in which lies the very center, the very core of this great achievement which is the family of Don Antonio Gonzalez de Mendoza, all these children and grandchildren, all these chain of families, ranching out from the same trunk, lived together under the same roof.

And, Don Antonio at the head of this family presided over it as the patriarch of that ancient type of family, the tribe; this one of the greatest and most refined culture.

There, in that unique household live together all the branches of the family, the sons with their respective wives, daughters-in-law, and the daughters with their respective husbands, sons-in-law, and forty five grandsons and granddaughters.

An army of servants: six cooks and their helpers, twenty nannies and maids, ten coachmen and pages and a world of supplies and services.

Two tables are set each noon and each evening, one for the children, and another one for the adults and hour later.

The rite of passage of a child from the “little table” to the “big table” is fraught with significance, announcing, within the family, that one of its members has come of age, and forecasting the introduction of that member to public or social life.

This is an event which is always greeted with great and heartfelt celebrations.

                The most beautiful, and the happiest thing in life, is the home: a regular home, any home, just as long as there is in it peace, love, harmony, honesty and ….children.

                Imagine, then, what must be a home the size of heaven and filled with a choir of singing angels!

                It is such a home, at Amargura Street, that the City of Havana has always looked at with the admiring gaze, that wonderment which is stirred in everyone by what is great and exceptional.

                And every Cuban, I believe, has felt somewhat related to such an exemplary home, the true polished model of what a home ought to be.  A home which functions as a sort of standard-bearer of all Cuban family life.  We all felt that something poured out of that home that touched and reached everyone.

                And this is an accurate belief.

                That is, precisely, in its fullest sense the concept of social and national solidarity.

                Gonzalez de Mendoza by constituting and edifying such a home enriched, honored and uplifted Cuban society and gave glory to the Fatherland.

                And so, now, Cuban society walks past that house, under its balconies, and lifts its hat; and the Cuban earth, the Cuban soil that has felt him fall in its eternal and silent bosom is shaken and cries… for the earth, mother of us all, must also have, like all mothers, its own silent and hidden tears of tenderness.

                We extend our condolences to the family.

                A very special feeling of condolence.

                When in the sanctuary which is the family, the head is fell by death, the trunk of the tree surrenders its life and the branches fall. 

                In this case, what has fallen is an imposing oak from which a whole forest has sprung.  From this house, its head felled by death, it is not branches that fall, but trunks.

                And the greater and deeper the blow, the greater the pain now, the greater will be the feeling of emptiness that follows it.  Too much is being lost.

                But, also, something remains: the rule of inheritance and example which in this case could be rightly called “the exemplary example”.

                And in this lies, and it is a lot, whatever compensation is to be found in life and in death.

                Receive it now and …cry.