Contributed by Larry Daley
This is a brief biography of the life of Cuban Lieutenant Colonel Nestor Aranguren y Martinez. He served in the Insurrection against Spain, being killed shortly before the beginning of the Spanish American War.
Nestor Aranguren y Martinez was born on Febuary 14, 1873 on Havana's Campanario Street, (later known as Nestor Aranguren y Martinez Street). His parents were Benito de Aranguren y Jimenez and Matilde Martinez Raoul.
In 1882, the family moved to Guanabacoa where its members resided until 1887. Aranguren attended the prestigious colegio (Preparatory School) Escolapios de Guanabacoa taught by the Escolapios religious order in that town. Here one of his fellow students was Adolfo del Castillo. Nestor then moved on to the Lyceum of Secondary Education of Havana, "Instituto de Segundo Enseñanza de la Habana"; however, because of financial difficulties he had to withdraw, before receiving the Bachillerato diploma.
He then worked as a navvy during the construction of the Albear Canal. Here he came to the attention of the Engineer Hector Simonetti, for his unflagging capacity and attention to detailed instructions.
Aranguren was an alert and daring young man. He was known to have used his horse to knock down the Spanish flags and banners placed on display on Muralla street during the 400th anniversary (1892) of the "Discovery of America."
The young man was a very much in favor of Cuban Independence. When the 1895 war of independence broke out he sailed east to Nuevitas, and placed himself at the orders of Salvador Cisneros Betancourt. Cisneros Betancourt sent him on an important mission to Havana. He returned to Nuevitas and joined the Camaguey Regiment on July 5, 1895.
Nestor Aranguren first operated in Camaguey province in Eastern Cuba, then went to the proximal westward province of Matanzas joining forces with Rafael de Cardenas. Aranguren and Cardenas asked permission of the Cuban Government in Arms to move further into the Western Provinces.
When this permission was given the two leaders joined with others to organize the much feared and very disciplined Havana Calvary Regiment which was lead by Lieutenant Colonel Aranguren. Later this forces was expanded to constitute the First Brigade of the Second Division of the 5th Cuban Corps. Cardenas was made Brigadier General of the Brigade.
Aranguren, although probably the youngest Lieutenant Colonel of the Cuba Armies of the times, was a much respected leader. Nestor's men, well trained for rapid guerrilla movements, had spectacular, skillfully fought encounters with the Spanish forces at such places as Canasi, Jiquiabo, Purgatorio, Escaleras de Jaruco, Cambute, Barreras, Paso de Camarones, Guines, Catalina, Pipian, Matanzas etc, and at the very doors of the city of Havana outside Guanabacoa.
On the 27th of January 1898, with the war reaching towards its climax,
and just barely 25, Nestor Aranguren was surprised by the enemy.
Aranguren's biographer, Gerardo G. Castellanos, stated (in translation):
'He was in a place called la Pita (near Campo Florido) dictating to his aide Felix Pereira, he is found, betrayed by Pio Romero, by Spanish troops guided by the villainous Bartolo Ramos, and dies of multiple rifle wounds.'
Nestor's body was carried by Spanish troops to the Havana and buried in the Cemetery of Colon in that City. Nestor's clothes taken at the time of his death are preserved in the National Museum of Cuba.
Fermin Peraza Sarausa, Diccionario Biografico Cubano. Volume 1 (Havana: Anuario Biografico Cubano, 1951). 20-21.