Mambí machete

Mambí machete

Simple work tool that was converted into the most fearsome combat weapon for the Spanish army in the 18th century and became a symbol of Cuba, a notoriety that was consolidated throughout the 150 years of struggle until independence.


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  • 1 History
  • 2 The machete as a weapon of war in Cuba
  • 3 Used by the Cuban Liberation Army
  • 4 First charge to the machete
  • 5 Mambí machete
  • 6 The guard, an object that turned a work tool into a weapon of war.
  • 7 Names of some machetes used in Cuba
  • 8 Sources


There is no agreement on the true origin of the machete. It is speculated that it comes from the bracamante, a broad-bladed, single-edged sword used in medieval and Renaissance Europe. It is also believed that it may have been derived from the machaira or from the weapons that the Arabs used and that the Iberians knew during the reconquest. The first machetes that arrived in Cuba traveled on the ships of the Spanish colonizers. From the ships’ supply holds they went to the plantations as work tools.

The machete as a weapon of war in Cuba

In 1741, Spanish settlers, along with parties of blacks and Indians, used these weapons to drive out English invaders in the town of San Anselmo de Tiguabos. In 1762, the Guanabacoa regidor, José Antonio Gómez – better known as Pepe Antonio – resisted a new English invasion with his militiamen armed with machetes. This time the English forces, more numerous, managed to reach Havana.

Used by the Cuban Liberation Army

The Cuban Liberation Army used machetes as weapons during the Cuban Wars of Independence. They were made in artisan armories and in local forges. The workers and the expeditionaries also supplied the Mambises in the jungle with weapons. The mocha cane, or cane machete, was the weapon of the most humble, used above all by former slaves incorporated into the Liberation Army.

First charge to the machete

Gómez author of the first charge to the machete

Although Pepe Antonio and other Cubans, Indians, and Maroons had used the machete as a weapon of war, the first charge on the machete, as such, occurred during the Ten Year War led by Máximo Gómez. Showing his military skills by profession, he prepares an ambush for a Spanish troop near the town of Baire, in the place known as Tienda del Pino. Accustomed to the techniques of regular warfare, the Iberians stupefied before the horde of mambises who shouted to Al Machete! They lunged at them, defying bullets, failed to recover, and more than a third of the troop was knocked out. The feat earned Gómez the rank of General of the Liberation Army.

Mambí machete

Machete preferred by mambises

Although there were several types of machetes, and each used what he could get, the mambises preferred single-edged ones, very heavy and long. Antonio Maceo was brandishing a 73-centimeter-long machete when he died on the San Pedro farm, near Old Havana. Máximo Gómez used a machete that measured 86 centimeters. However, José Guillermo «Guillermón» Moncada must have wielded the largest machete that may have been used in Cuba at the time of the Wars of Independence. Wilhelmon must have had a very powerful arm to quickly lift a 130-centimeter machete.

The guard, an object that turned a working tool into a weapon of war.

Guard variants

The machetes, as they are designed to be a working instrument, generally do not have a guard, so the mambises, so as not to be discovered in their conspiracy work, took it off and when they started the belligerency they put it back on.

Names of some machetes used in Cuba

  • Guanabacoa
  • Edge
  • Dungeon
  • Mistake
  • Collin
  • Quimbo
  • Yaguarama
  • Jobo tongue
  • Dungeon


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