In the article “Una mujer, una estrella” [one woman, one star] Juventud Rebelde reports that the remains of Emilia Margarita Teurbe Tolón y Otero (Matanzas, 1828), who sewed the first Cuban flag, were finally found in the Nuestra Señora de La Almudena Cemetery, in Madrid, Spain, after a long search. The article details the steps that in the painstaking quest to locate Teurbe Tolón’s grave.
The quest began with Teurbe Tolón’s biographer Clara Enma Chávez Álvarez’s insistence that her remains could be found in Madrid where the famed flag maker resided upon her death. The footwork was done by visual artist Ernesto Martínez Pérez who explored 22 cemeteries in Madrid, long-established funeral homes, the National Library, and the Civil Registry, to finally track down, not only Teurbe Tolón’s grave, but also additional details, such as cause of death (rheumatic fever). Martínez Pérez explains his excitement at the prospect of searching for Teurbe Tolón’s resting place because, as a child in elementary school, he had read about the heroic woman who put together the first Cuban flag. He says, “Finding the grave in the old section of the cemetery is another story. We cleaned more than 200 tombstones, and nothing. Suddenly, I found one with the barely visible letters—TEUR—and I said to myself, ‘Here it is!’”
Biographer Chávez explains that although everyone knows Teurbe Tolón as the one who actually put together the flag, she is virtually an unknown patriot because more attention was given to her husband, her second cousin Miguel Teurbe Tolón y de la Guardia, patriot and well-known poet, making it difficult to find information on her as an individual. In her book, Emilia Teurbe Tolón: Encarnación de la mujer cubana [Emilia Teurbe Tolón: Embodiment of the Cuban Woman], Chávez writes about the meeting in 1849, when the Teurbe Tolóns met Narciso López, Cirilo Villaverde, and other annexionists exiled in New York, to discuss the creation of an emblem of Cuba’s battle for independence from Spain. Although the flag was initially designed for the annexionist cause, it was to become a true symbol of Cuban independence.
In 1850, Emilia Teurbe Tolón was sent into exile to join her husband in New York, where she joined her husband in the political meetings to organize against Spanish rule. According to Cirilo Villaverde’s memoirs, it was at one of these meetings that Narciso López asked Emilia to create the flag that her husband had designed a year earlier. López took this flag to New Orleans to serve as the model for the larger flag that López raised after the Battle of Cárdenas on May 19, 1850. Although López was not victorious, this was the first instance of the flag being raised in Cuba.
The original flag sewn by Teurbe Tolón is now displayed at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana. In 1950, the flag’s 100-year anniversary, Cuban Congress officially named Emilia Teurbe Tolón as the Embodiment of the Cuban Woman.
For full article (in Spanish), see http://www.juventudrebelde.cu/cuba/2010-04-25/una-mujer-una-estrella-/
Commemorative stamp featuring Emilia Teurbe Tolón from http://shop.therealcuba.com/shop/item.asp?itemid=1597